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LIFE OF SAMUEL BUTLER.
BY THE REV. JOHN MITFORD.
SAMUEL BUTLER, the author of Hudibras, was born in the parish of Strensham, in Worcestershire, in 1612,1 and christened February the 14th. A. Wood says, that his father was competently wealthy; but the anonymous author of a life prefixed to his Poems describes him as in the condition of a yeoman, possessing a very small estate, and renting another; who with difficulty found means to educate his son at the grammarschool at Worcester, under Mr. Henry Bright, a man of high reputation as a scholar, and a Prebendary of the Cathedral. Butler is said to have gone from thence to Cambridge, 3 with the cha
1 This date is contradicted by Charles Longueville, the son of Butler's friend, and who declared that the poet was born in 1600. Nash dates his baptism February 8, 1612, and says it is entered in the writing of Nash's father, who was churchwarden: he had four sons and three daughters; the three daughters and one son older than the poet.
2 Dr. Nash discovered that his father was owner of a house and a little land, worth about 101. a year, still called Butler's tenement, of which he has given an engraving in the title page of his first volume. A. Wood affirms that he had a competent estate of nearly 3001. a . year, but held on lease of William Russell, lord of the manor of Strensbam.
3 A. Wood had his information from Butler's brother ; some of his neighbours sent him to Oxford. Mr. Longueville asserted that Butler never resided at Oxford. VOL. I,
racter of a good scholar; but the period and place of his residence seem alike unknown, and indeed it appears doubtful whether he ever received the advantages of an academical education.
For some time he was clerk to Mr. Jefferys, of Earls Croomb, in Worcestershire, an eminent justice of the peace. He employed the ample leisure which his situation afforded in study ; while he also cultivated the arts of painting and music. ,
“The Hogarth of Poetry,” says Walpole, was a painter too :” his love of the pencil introduced him to the acquaintance of the celebrated Samuel Cooper. Some pictures were shown by the family as his, but we presume of no great excellence, as they were subsequently employed to stop broken windows. Dr. Nash says that he heard of a portrait of Oliver Cromwell by him. After this, he was recommended to the notice of the Countess of Kent, living at Wrest, in Bedfordshire, where he had not only the advantage of a library, 5 but enjoyed the conversation of the most learned man of his age, the great Selden. Why he subsequently left so advantageous and honourable a situation does not appear, but we find him domesticated under the roof of Sir Samuel Luke, at Cople, or Wood end, a gentleman of a very ancient family in Bedfordshire, one of Cromwell's officers, and a rigid Presbyterian. It is in this place and at this
4 Of our English poets, Flatman and George Dyer were painters. Pope also used the brush under the tuition of Jervas. I recollect no further union of the arts.
5 « Butler was not acquainted with the Italian poets. Of Ruggiero he might have truly asserted what he has falsely told of Rinaldo."- See Neve on the English Poets, p. 79.
time that he is said to have commenced his celebrated poem. His patron's house afforded him a gallery of living portraits, and he was fortunately permitted to see Puritanism in one of its strong holds. The keenness of his observation secured the fidelity of his descriptions, and enabled him to fill up his outline with those rich and forcible details, which a familiar acquaintance with the originals afforded.
At the restoration of the exiled monarch, when loyalty expected the reward of its fidelity and the recompense of its losses, Butler appears to have suffered the same disappointment that met other claimants; and silently and unobtrusively retreating from the conflict of avarice and importunity,6 he accepted the Secretaryship to Richard,
6 It is supposed that Sir Samuel Luke is ridiculed under the character of Hudibras : the reason of the conjecture is founded on Hudib. P. i.c. 1. ver. 904:
'Tis sung, there is a valiant Mamaluke,
In foreign land yclep'd -; and the ballad entitled “ A Tale of the Cobbler and Vicar of Bray,” in the posthumous works, p. 285, but this ballad is not proved to be genuine. Nash says, “ he was informed by a bencher of Gray's Inn, who had it from an acquaintance of Butler's, that the person intended was Sir Henry Rosewell, of Torr Abbey, in Devonshire,” but adds,“these would be probable reasons to deprive Bedfordshire of the Hero, did not Butler, in his Memoirs of 1649, give the same description of Sir Samuel Luke, and in his Dunstable Downs, expressly style Sir Samuel Luke, Sir Hudibras;" the name was borrowed from Spenser, F. Q. 11. i. 17.
He that made love unto the eldest dame
Was hight Sir Hudibras, an hardy man. It is supposed that Lilly the astrologer was represented under the person of Sidrophel; though Sir Paul Neal, who denied Butler to be the author of Hudibras, has been mentioned as the person intended. Vide Grey's Hudibras, ii.
Earl of Carbury, Lord President of the Principality of Wales, who made him Steward of Ludlow Castle, where the court of the marches was removed. About this time, he married Mrs. Herbert,7 a gentlewoman of good family, but who had lost most of her fortune, by placing it on bad securities, in those very dangerous and uncertain times. A. Wood says, that he was Secretary to George, Duke of Buckingham, when he was Chancellor of Cambridge, that the Duke treated him with kindness and generosity; and that in common with almost all men of wit and learning, he enjoyed the friendship of the celebrated Earl of Dorset. The author of his Life, prefixed to his Poems, says, that the integrity of his life, the acuteness of his wit, and the easiness of his conversation, rendered him acceptable to all; but that he avoided a multiplicity of acquaintance. The accounts both of the patronage of the Duke of Buckingham and the Secretaryship are disbelieved by Dr. Johnson, on the following grounds : -“Mr. Wycherley," says Major Packe, “had always laid hold of an opportunity which offered of representing to the Duke of Buckingham how well Mr. Butler had deserved of the royal family, by writing his inimitable Hudibras, and that it was a reproach to the Court that a person of his
388. 105. 1st edit.; and Nash's Hudibras, vol. ii. p. 308. that Whachum was meant for Sir George Wharton, does not appear to rest on any proof; v. Biographia, Art. Sherborne, note (B).
? A. Wood says, that she was a widow, and that Butler supported himself by her jointure, deriving nothing from the practice of the law.
loyalty and wit, should suffer in obscurity, and under the wants he did. The duke always seemed to hearken to him with attention enough, and after some time undertook to recommend his pretensions to his Majesty. Mr. Wycherley, in hopes to keep him steady to his word, obtained of his Grace to name a day, when he might introduce that modest and unfortunate poet to his new patron. At last an appointment was made, and the place of meeting was agreed to be the Roebuck. Mr. Butler and his friend attended accordingly; the duke joined them, but as the devil would have it, the door of the room where they sat was open, and his Grace, who had seated himself near it, observing a pimp of his acquaintance (the creature too was a knight) trip by with a brace of ladies, immediately quitted his engagement to follow another kind of business, at which he was more ready than to do good offices to those of desert, though no one was better qualified than he, both in regard to his fortune and understanding, to protect them; and from that time to the day of his
h death, poor Butler never found the least effect of his promise."
This story may be believed or not; to me, I confess, it appears more like a well-dressed fiction of Wycherley's than the truth; why the accidental interruption of the interview should never after have been repaired, does not appear; but there is a better testimony in some verses of Butler, which were published by Mr. Thyer : “ which are written (says Johnson) with a degree of acrimony, such as neglect and disappointment might naturally excite, and such as it would be hard to ima