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Burlesque Poetry.


SHALL not enter into the Detail of the Original of Burlesque Poetry, as considering it as a modern Invention: For all Ways of Travestie, Parodies, and turning

Things into Ridicule, are by no Means to be confined to the Moderns, as the Learned very well know. How far the Macaronicks, made up of half Latin and half Vulgar Languages, without Regard to Grammar or Rules of any kind

-how far the Epistola obfcurorum Virorum-and, above all, Rabelais, which is a Mixture of all kinds of Languages may have influenced the Style, I shall not now examine. How extremely fond all Nations were of it, may be seen in the History of French Poetry (a Book very commonly known): And I think Mr. Rbymer has touch'd upon it in English.

I shall go no higher than to say that a little before Butler's Time arose an extraordinary Genius in France, famous far entertaining the Court with good Sayings, and the World with his Produ&tions:--Scarron I mean :-A Man, who, to divert the tedious Hours of constant and racking Infirmities, and make his Mind the more strongly agreeable, the less his Body was so, fell upon this Miethod of turning all serious Things to Laughter and Ridicule.

His Way was new, and different from the Burlesque that was written before; and even some of the Learned esteem · it, as may be seen in Huetius, De Rebus ad se pertinentibus.


Balzac was at the same Time in mighty Repute for the Sweetness of his periods, and his high-flown and laboured Eloquence; as much overstrained in the serious Way, as the other was too vulgar and mean in the comic: Yet one improved the Language, and the other debased it. Balzas soon got the Learned on his Side : Very fine Books were written on the various Kinds of Wit and Style among the Antients: And, in short, the Learned at last combined together against the Burlesque, and contrived to batter it down.

In this Way Things stood, when Butler took up the Cudgels against the Anti-Royalists. Burlesque, though declining in France, was coming into Fashion here:

The civil Wars were just over, or turning towards the Restoration : And it appears that the Author was a zealous Cavalier, and that there was before him a Bank of twenty such Years, that furnish'd (not only a very serious and bloody Tragedy, but) a great many Interludes of Madness; Folly; public Knavery and private: In short, a Ridicule, which, when the Mote was taken out of People's Eyes, was clear enough to be seen ; but which, in the A&ing, led them blindfold to a terrible Destruction.

Malbranch fays, that Nations with Nations, Families with Families, and Parties with Parties, often fall into the Horrors of War and Bloodshed, for Things; the Ridicule of which is not perceived 'till a hundred Years afterwards.

So great à Genius as Butler coming so early, many Peoa ple's Eyes were opened much soonet, especially with Relation to one Party, which had for many Years been the reigning Party, and, indeed, in many Things the most peccant. He must be considered as the Champion of the Royalifts, and, indeed, of the late distress’d, now triumphant Church of England.

Now, as, in France, the Satyr Menippér, by exposing, in the Burlesque Way, the Hypocrites of those Times (the Spaa nisb Party, the Authors of that dreadful League of Confufion) contributed to bring People to their Senses; fo likewise diá this Writer, by unveiling that dark Scene of Hypocrisy and Madness (which was one of the chief Reasons why the political Differences were no sooner accommodated) confiderable Service to his Country, arid drove Enthusiasm before him.

But it is not my Design at present to enter into this Mata ter: I am endeavouring to shew why He chose This Style He who, as Mr. Dryden observes, was capable of Any: [A3]

I bali


I shall quote two unexceptionable Authors for this: In the first Place, Milton, who, in his * History of the Times before the Conquest, says, That the Reason of his employing himself in Things so remote was to chase out of his Thoughts the present Times, which were not worthy of his Pen; Their Actions, he says, were so petty, so beneath all Hiftory, that he could not bear to treat of them. Sir William Temple too says, That the public Affairs before 1660 were so full of Madness, that he could not think of engaging in them.

Now, if; by the Testimony of these two Authors, which no Party will refuse upon this Occasion, the Times we are speaking of were so petty, so beneath all History, so full of Madness, were they not a fit Subject for a Travestie? Were they not the proper Object of Burlesque? Was is not a proper Burial for a Scene of Pettiness, Putidness, Madness, and Inconsistency?

I come now to the Faults attributed to his Style: And,

First, as to the Matter, there are chiefly three Things, very blameable indeed, that are attributed to it, and have been pretty much the Practice of this Sort of Writers, viz. Obscenity, Evil-Speaking, and Profaneness.

As to Obscenity, I cannot say our Author is wholly free: But, whatever there is of that Kind, it is very decently and remotely wrapt up; and, except a little merry DoubleMeaning between Hudibras and the Widow, and two ugly. Verses about Platonic Bardashing, few Authors are so free from it: And, indeed, he knew too well the Dignity of his pretended Hero to make (as he says in another Poem) a Pimp of a Knight-Errant: For, truly, Obscenity, at that Time of Day, in that Party, would scarce have been thought fit for People of any other Profession: It could not have purchased him a Thanksgiving-Day in the Churches as bad as they

Now, as to Evil-Speaking, you must consider the Poem as a Satyr made to expose Vice: And, so far as all Satyrs are chargeable with something of Ill-Nature, this must come in for its Share.

He did, indeed, rip up all the Faults of the adverse Party to such a Degree, that he quite put them out of the Vogue of the World: They never gained any Ground of the Church of England after : He may be truly said to have written them down, to have taken them by Head and Shoul


* See History of England, Part I. Quarto Edit. P. 2.


[7] ders, and shoved them out of the polite World, where they have never since made any Figure.

But then the Faults he found were real, and the Hypocrisy and Knavery notorious, before he fet Pen to Paper : It was owned (as has been observed) by Milton himself, the Champion of the other Side.

There are some Things, I confess, a little too hard upon some People, and the whole Epistle to Sidropbel shews some Spleen against a learned and rising Body of acute and venerable Philofopbers.

But, in the main, a great Number of those he writes against were a Generation of Vipers, very little short of their Predecessors, the Pbarisees of pious Memory.

Now, as to Profaneness, the greatest of all Objections, it is to be considered, that, in the preceding Times, fo great a Spirit of Religion, say fome, or, as others say, of Enthusiasm, prevailed, that all the most sacred Expreslions of the Scriptures, all the folemn Denunciations of the Propbets, the Phrases of all parts of the Bible, were then in such common Use, and frequently in such scandalous Abuse, that it could not be, but, in ridiculing such Monsters of Impiety, the Author must turn fome Passages into Řidicule, which otherwise ought to be treated with the utmost Reverence ; especially, about the Operations of the Spirit, of which they made a most scandalous Use and Traffic. Yet our Author has nothing of this Kind half so profane as the Tale of a Tub: Neither is the Profaneness in the Author, but in the Tartuff's that used it.

I think there is nothing that shews a bad Heart in himself, nothing, or next to nothing, that has any Taste of the Licence, which, under the false Notion of Wit, or true Name of Blafphemy, so much infected and disgraced the Reign of King Cbarles the Second : If I had met with any Thing of this Kind, by any Slip of the Author, I should have set it down amongst his most criminal Enormities, and put as black a * Theta upon it as I could.

I would not have it tho' taken for granted, because this bantering Style was employed by the first Reformers against the childish Superstitions of Popery, and was a masqued Battery, that did considerable Execution, that therefore it is to be called profane, as I find in Popish Writers.


Nigrum Vitio præfigere Theta.

Perf. Sat. 4, 13. [ A 4 ]


But real Profaneness against God and true Religion is a Crime that no Man can approve of in his Heart, no Body ought to vindicate, no Degree of Wit can apologize for : It is one of those private Vices, so bad, that I believe it would have puzzled even Mr. Mandeville himself to have founded any public Benefit upon it.

. These three Vices are indeed plentifully sown in Rabelais, and some of his Successors.

The Objections to the Burlesque Language are chiefly these four:

1. Old Language revived, and then it is obsolete.
2. Pedantry, in mixing learned Languages with it.
3. Plebeian, or vulgar Language.
4. * Alfatian, or made Language.

First, as to the old, or obsolete Language, there is little to be charged to him on that Score. Wbilom, and OnNaught, and other Words that were not so much out of Use then, as they are now, may be brought perhaps.

As to the learned Languages, it must be confess’d, he has a little darkened his Poem, by mixing more Learning in it than there needed to be ; not, indeed, by affected Scraps of Latin, without Humour or Necessity, as Scarron and others of those Writers do: But, as those Times he writes about were Times of great Pedantry, it was necessary, for his Drama, to turn those Things into Ridicule; for Hudibras is to be considered as a Dramatic Performance, where all the Parts are to act in Character.

If Trulla, indeed, had made a Parade of her University Education, and argued dvadexlixis, it would have been blameable : But, when Hudibras talks so, he talks right; and the as right, when she bids him kiss her

The Latin he has brought in is little, and easy to be understood, and not half so much as was expected by a Country Audience in every Sermon, under the Charge of being no Latiner, as they said of Dr. † Pocock.

* I don't mean, by the Alsatian Language, new Words, brought from other polite Languages to embellish or improve our own; but I mean a Sort of Beggars Gibberish, coined without any

Foundation of Sense or Etymology, like some of Ancient Pistols in Shakespear, or the Alsatians in Shadwell: For Example, Rino

, Rinocerical, Coney for Money: This last is used by Butler in Hudi. bras. + See Dr. Twells's Life of Dr. Pocock.


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