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plaints of Oldham, and by the reproaches of Dryden; and, I am afraid, will never be confirmed.
About sixty years afterwards, Mr. Barber, a printer, mayor of London, and a friend to Butler's principles, bestowed on him a monument in Westminster Abbey, thus inscribed:
obijt Lond. 1680.
Quo simulatæ religionis larvam detraxit,
Ne, cui vivo deerant fere omnia,
Deesset etiam mortuo tumulus,
After his death were published three small volumes of his posthumous works; I know not by whom collected, or by what authority ascertained" ; and, lately, two volumes more have been printed by Mr. Thyer, of Manchester, indubitably genuine. From none of these pieces can his life be traced, or his character discovered. Some verses, in the last collection, show him to have been among those who ridiculed the institution of the Royal Society, of which the enemies were, for some time, very numerous and very acrimonious; for what reason it is hard to conceive, since the philosophers professed not to advance doctrines, but to produce facts: and the 4 They were collected into one, and published in 12mo. 1732. H.
most zealous enemy of innovation must admit the gradual progress of experience, however he may oppose hypothetical temerity.
In this mist of obscurity passed the life of Butler, a man whose name can only perish with his language. The mode and place of his education are unknown; the events of his life are variously related; and all that can be told with certainty is, that he was poor.
The poem of Hudibras is one of those compositions of which a nation may justly boast; as the images which it exhibits are domestick, the sentiments unborrowed and unexpected, and the strain of diction original and peculiar.
We must not, however, suffer the pride, which we assume as the countrymen of Butler, to make any encroachment upon justice, nor appropriate those honours which others have a right to share. The poem of Hudibras is not wholly English; the original idea is to be found in the history of Don Quixote; a book to which a mind of the greatest powers may be indebted without disgrace.
Cervantes shows a man, who having, by the incessant perusal of incredible tales, subjected his understanding to his imagination, and familiarized his mind by pertinacious meditation to trains of incredible events, and scenes of impossible existence; goes out, in the pride of knighthood, to redress wrongs, and defend virgins, to rescue captive princesses, and tumble usurpers from their thrones; attended by a squire, whose cunning, too low for the suspicion of
a generous mind, enables him often to cheat his master.
The hero of Butler is a presbyterian justice, who, in the confidence of legal authority and the rage of zealous ignorance, ranges the country to repress superstition, and correct abuses, accompanied by an independent clerk, disputatious and obstinate, with whom he often debates, but never conquers him.
Cervantes had so much kindness for Don Quixote, that, however he embarrasses him with absurd distresses, he gives him so much sense and virtue as may preserve our esteem; wherever he is, or whatever he does, he is made, by matchless dexterity, commonly ridiculous, but never contemptible.
But for poor Hudibras, his poet had no tenderness; he chooses not that any pity should be shown, or respect paid him; he gives him up at once to laughter and contempt, without any quality that can dignify or protect him.
In forming the character of Hudibras, and describing his person and habiliments, the author seems to labour with a tumultuous confusion of dissimilar ideas. He had read the history of the mock knightserrant; he knew the notions and manners of a presbyterian magistrate, and tried to unite the absurdities of both, however distant, in one personage. Thus he gives him that pedantick ostentation of knowledge which has no relation to chivalry,and loads him with martial encumbrances that can add nothing to his civil dignity. He sends him out a “colonelling,” and yet never brings him within sight of war.
If Hudibras be considered as the representative of the presbyterians, it is not easy to say why his weapons should be represented as ridiculous or useless; for, whatever judgment might be passed upon their knowledge or their arguments, experience had sufficiently shown that their swords were not to be despised.
The hero, thus compounded of swaggerer and pedant, of knight and justice, is led forth to action, with his squire Ralpho, an independent enthusiast.
Of the contexture of events planned by the author, which is called the action of the poem, since it is left imperfect, no judgment can be made. It is probable, that the hero was to be led through many luckless adventures, which would give occasion, like his attack upon the “bear and fiddle,” to expose the ridiculous rigour of the sectaries; like his encounter with Sidrophel and Whacum, to make superstition and credulity contemptible; or, like his recourse to the low retailer of the law, discover the fraudulent practices of different professions.
What series of events he would have formed, or in what manner he would have rewarded or punished his hero, it is now vain to conjecture. His work must have had, as it seems, the defect which Dryden imputes to Spenser; the action could not have been one; there could only have been a succession of incidents, each of which might have happened without the rest, and which could not all cooperate to any single conclusion. The discontinuity of the action might, however,
have been easily forgiven, if there had been action enough; but, I believe, every reader regrets the paucity of events, and complains that, in the poem of Hudibras, as in the history of Thucydides, there is more said than done. The scenes are too seldom changed, and the attention is tired with long conversation.
It is, indeed, much more easy to form dialogues than to contrive adventures. Every position makes way for an argument, and every objection dictates an answer. When two disputants are engaged upon a complicated and extensive question, the difficulty is not to continue, but to end the controversy. But whether it be that we comprehend but few of the possibilities of life, or that life itself affords little variety, every man, who has tried, knows how much labour it will cost to form such a combination of circumstances as shall have, at once, the grace of novelty and credibility, and delight fancy without violence to reason.
Perhaps the dialogue of this poem is not perfect. Some power of engaging the attention might have been added to it by quicker reciprocation, by seasonable interruptions, by sudden questions, and by a nearer approach to dramatick sprightliness; without which, fictitious speeches will always tire, however sparkling with sentences, and however variegated with allusions.
The great source of pleasure is variety. Uniformity must tire at last, though it be uniformity of excellence. We love to expect; and, when expectation is