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of the lower claffes of the people, when in one of the parliaments fummoned by Cromwell it was ferioufly propofed, that all the records in the Tower fhould be burnt, that all memory of things paft fhould be effaced, and that the whole fyftem of life fhould commence anew?
We have never been witneffes of animofities excited by the ufe of minced pies and plumb porridge; nor feen with what abhorrence those who could eat them at all other times of the year would fhrink from them in December. An old Puritan, who was alive in my childhood, being at one of the feafts of the church invited by a neighbour to partake his cheer, told him, that, if he would treat him at an alehouse with
beer, brewed for all times and feafons, he fhould accept his kindness, but would have none of his fuperftitious meats or drinks.
One of the puritanical tenets was the illegality of all games of chance; and he that reads Gataker upon Lots, may see how much learning and reason one of the first scholars of his age thought neceffary, to prove that it was no crime to throw a die, or play at cards, or tc hide a fhilling for the reckoning.
Aftrology however, against which fo much of this fatire is directed, was not more the folly of the Puritans than of others. It had in that time a very extenfive dominion. Its predictions raised hopes and fears in minds which ought d
to have rejected it with contempt. In hazardous undertakings, care was taken to begin under the influence of a propitious planet; and when the king was prifoner in Carifbrook Caftle, an aftrologer was confulted what hour would be found most favourable to an escape. What effect this poem had upon the publick, whether it fhamed imposture or reclaimed credulity, is not easily determined. Cheats can feldom ftand long against laughter. It is certain that the credit of planetary intelligence wore faft away; though fome men of knowledge, and Dryden among them, continued to believe that conjunctions and oppofitions had a great part in the dif
tribution of good or evil, and in the government of fublunary things.
Poetical Action ought to be probable upon certain fuppofitions, and fuch probability as burlefque requires is here violated only by one incident. Nothing can fhew more plainly the neceffity of doing fomething, and the difficulty of finding fomething to do, than that Butler was reduced to transfer to his hero the flagellation of Sancho, not the most agreeable fiction of Cervantes; very fuitable indeed to the manners of that age and nation, which afcribed wonderful efficacy to voluntary penances; but fo remote from the practice and opinions of the Hudibraftick time, that judgement and imagination are alike offended.
The Diction of this poem is grofly familiar, and the numbers purpofely neglected, except in a few places where the thoughts by their native excellence fecure themselves from violation, being fuch as mean language cannot exprefs. The mode of verfification has been blamed by Dryden, who regrets that the heroic measure was not rather chofen. To the critical fentence of Dryden the higheft reverence would be due, were not his decifions often precipitate, and his opinions immature. When he wifhed to change the meafure, he probably would have been willing to change more. If he intended. that, when the numbers were heroick, the diction fhould ftill remain vulgar, he