Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE

LIF E

O F

SAMUEL BUTLER, Esq

SAMUEL

AMUEL BUTLER, the Author of this excellent Poem, was born in the parish of Strenfham, in the county of Worcester, and baptized there the 13th of February 1612. His father, who was of the fame name, was an ho neft country farmer, who had fome small eftate of his own, but rented a much greater of the Jord of the manor where he lived. However, perceiving in this fon of his an early inclination to learning, he made a fhift to have him educated in the free fchool at Worcester, under Mr Henry Bright; where having paffed the ufual time, and being become an excellent scholar,

he went for fome little time to Cambridge, but was never matriculated into that University, his father's abilities not being fufficient to be at the charge of an academical education: so that our Author returned foon into his native county, and became clerk to one Mr Jefferys of Earlfcroom, an eminent Juftice of the Peace of that county, with whom he lived fome years, in an eafy and no contemptible fervice. Here, by the indulgence of a kind mafter, he had fufficient leifure to apply himself to whatever learning his inclinations led him, which were chiefly Hiftory and Poetry; to which, for his diverfion, he joined Mufic and Painting; and I have feen fome pictures, faid to be of his drawing, which remained in that family; which I mention, not for the excellency of them, but to fatisfy the reader of his early inclinations to that noble art; for which also he was afterwards entirely beloved by Mr Samuel Cooper, one of the moft eminent painters of his time.

He was, after this, recommended to that great encourager of learning, Elifabeth Countess of Kent; where he had not only the opportunity to confult all manner of learned books, but to converse alfo with that living library of learning, the great Mr Selden.

Our Author lived fome time alfo with Sir Samuel Luke, who was of an ancient family in Bedfordshire; but, to his dishonour, an eminent commander under the ufurper Oliver Cromwell; and then it was, as I am informed, he composed

this loyal Poem. For though Fate, more than choice, feems to have placed him in the fervice of a Knight fo notorious, both in his perfon and politics; yet, by the rule of contraries, one may obferve throughout his whole Poem, that he was moft orthodox, both in his religion and loyalty. And I am the more induced to believe he wrote it about that time, because he had then the opportunity to converse with thofe living characters of rebellion, nonfenfe, and hypocrify, which he fo lively and pathetically exposes throughout the whole Work.

After the restoration of King Charles the Second, thofe who were at the helm minding money more than merit, our Author found those verfes of Juvenal to be exactly verified in himfelf;

Haud facile emergunt, quorum virtutibus obftat Res angufta domi :

And being endued with that innate modefty which rarely finds promotion in princes' courts, he became fecretary to Richard Earl of Carbury, Lord Prefident of the principality of Wales, who made him fteward of Ludlow Caftle, when the court there was revived. About this time he married one Mrs Herbert, a gentlewoman of a very good family, but no widow, as our Oxford Antiquary has reported: she had a competent fortune, but it was moft of it unfortunately loft, by being put out on ill fecurities, so that it was

little advantage to him. He is reported, by our Antiquary, to have been fecretary to his Grace George Duke of Buckingham, when he was chancellor to the university of Cambridge: but whether that be true or no, 'tis certain the Duke had a great kindness for him, and was often a benefactor to him. But no man was a more generous friend to him, than that Mecenas of all learned and witty men, Charles Lord Buckhurft, the late Earl of Dorfet and Middlesex, who was the first that introduced HUDIBRAS into reputation at court; for Mr Prior fays (dedicat. to his Poems) it was owing to him that the court tafted that Poem; it soon became the chief entertainment of the King, who often pleasantly quoted it in converfation. From this fair profpect, therefore, we might rationally conclude, that the Poet tafted plentifully of royal munifi cence, and that he was cherished by the Great, as well as his Poem. I am fure his wit and his loyalty equally merited reward and encouragement: but alas! upon the ftricteft enquiry, we fhall find, that he met with neglect instead of re gard; and empty delufive promifes, in the room of real performances. A difregard of his friends was what King Charles has been highly blamed for; and we cannot have a ftronger instance of that difregard, than his being unmindful of Mr Butler, whofe Works had done eminent fervice to the Royal Caufe, and honour to his country. It is ftrange that King Charles should be thus

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »