Abbildungen der Seite
[blocks in formation]

M. S.

Qui Strenshamiæ in agro Vigorn. nat. 1612,
obiit Lond. 1690.

Vir doctus imprimis, acer, integer;
Operibus Ingenii, non item præmiis, felix
Satyrici apud nos Carminis Artifex egregius
Que simulata Religionis Larvam detraxit,
Et Perduellium scelera liberrimè exagitavit ;
Scriptorum in suo genere, Frimus et Postremus.
Ne, cui vivo decrant ferè omnia,
Deesset etiam mortuo Tumulus,
Hoc tandem posito marmore, curavit
Johannes Barber, Civis Londinensis, 1721.

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 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 Futler, 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.

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 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 knights-errant; 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 pedantic 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. tive of the Presbyterians, it is not easy to say why If Hudibras be considered as the representahis 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


Of the contexture of events planned by the The poem of "Hudibras" is one of those Author, which is called the action of the poem, compositions of which a nation may justly since it is left imperfect, no judgment can be boast; as the images which it exhibits are do- made. It is probable that the hero was to be led mestic, the sentiments unborrowed and unexthrough many luckless adventures, which would pected, and the strain of diction original and give occasion, like his attack upon the "bear peculiar. We must not, however, suffer the and fiddle," to expose the ridiculous rigour of pride, which we assume as the countrymen of the sectaries; like his encounter with Sidrophel Butler, to make any encroachment upon justice, and Whachum, to make superstition and credunor appropriate those honours which others ity contemptible; or, like his recourse to the have a right to share. The poem of "Hudi-low retailer of the law, discover the fraudulent bras" 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 familarised 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,

*They were collected into one, and published in 12mo. 1732.-14.

practices of different professions.

or in what manner he would have rewarded or What series of events he would have formed, 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 co-operate to any single


The discontinuity of the action might, however, have been easily forgiven, if there had been the paucity of events, and complains that in the action enough: but I believe every reader regrets 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 dramatic 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 disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting. For this impatience of the present, whoever would please must make provision. The skilful writer irritat, mulcet, makes a due distribution of the still and animated parts, It is for want of this artful intertexture, and those necessary changes, that the whole of a book may be tedious, though all the parts are praised.

If inexhaustible wit could give perpetual pleasure, no eye would ever leave half-read the work of Butler; for what poet has ever brought so many remote images so happily together? It is scarcely possible to peruse a page without finding some association of images that was never found before. By the first paragraph the reader is amused, by the next he is delighted, and by a few more strained to astonishment; but astonishment is a toilsome pleasure; he is soon weary of wondering, and longs to be diverted.

Omnia vult belle Matho dicere, die aliquando

Et bene, die neutrum, dic aliquando male.

verbial axioms to the general stock of practical knowledge.

When any work has been viewed and admired, the first question of intelligent curiosity is, how was it performed? "Hudibras" was not a hasty effusion; it was not produced by a sudden tumult of imagination, or a short paroxysm of violent labour. To accumulate such a mass of sentiments at the call of accidental desire, or of sudden necessity, is beyond the reach and power of the Lost active and comprehensive mind. I am informed by Mr. Thyer, of Manchester, that ex cellent editor of this author's relics, that he could show something like "Hudibras" in prose. He has in his possession the common-place book, in which Butler reposited not such events and pre cepts as are gathered by reading, but such remarks, similitudes, allusions, assemblages, or inferences, as occasion prompted, or meditation produced, those thoughts that were generated in his own mind, and might be usefully applied to some future purpose. Such is the labour of those who write for immortality.

But human works are not easily found without a perishable part. Of the ancient poets every reader feels the mythology tedious and oppressive, Of "Hudibras," the manners, being founded on opinions, are temporary and local, and therefore become every day less intelligible, and less strik ing. What Cicero says of philosophy is true likewise of wit and humour, that "time effaces the fictions of opinions, and confirms the determinations of Nature." Such manners as depend upon standing relations and general passions are co-extended with the race of man; but those modifications of life and peculiarities of practice, which are the progeny of error and perverseness, or at best of some accidental influence or transient persuasion, must perish with their parents.

Much therefore of that humour which trans ported the last century with merriment is lost to us, who do not know the sour solemnity, the sullen superstition, the gloomy moroseness, and the stubborn scruples of the ancient puritans; or, if we knew them, derive our information only from books, or from tradition, have never had them before our eyes, and cannot but by recollection and study understand the lines in which they are satirized. Our grandfathers knew the picture from the life; we judge of the life by contemplat

Imagination is useless without knowledge: nature gives in vain the power of combination, unless study and observation supply materials to be combined. Butler's treasures of knowledge ap-ing the picture. pear proportioned to his expense: whatever topic employs his mind, he shows himself qualified to expand and illustrate it with all the accessaries that books can furnish: he is found not only to have travelled the beaten road, but the by-paths of literature; not only to have taken general surveys, but to have examined particulars with minute inspection.

If the French boast the learning of Rabelais, we need not be afraid of confronting them with


But the most valuable parts of his performance are those which retired study and native wit canot supply. He that merely makes a book from oks may be useful, but can scarcely be great. atler had not suffered life to glide beside him seen or unobserved. He had watched with great diligence the operations of human nature, and traced the effects of opinion, humour, interest, and passion. From such remarks proceeded that great number of sententious distichs which have passed into conversation, and are added as pro

It is scarcely possible, in the regularity and composure of the present time, to image the tu mult of absurdity, and clamour of contradiction, which perplexed doctrine, disordered practice, and disturbed both public and private quiet, in that age when subordination was broken, and awe was hissed away; when any unsettled innovator, who could hatch a half-formed notion, produced it to the public; when every man might become a preacher, and almost every preacher could collect

a congregation.

The wisdom of the nation is very reasonably supposed to reside in the parliament. What can be concluded of the lower classes of the people, when, in one of the parliaments summoned by Cromwell, it was seriously proposed, that all the records in the tower should be burned, that all memory of things past should be effaced, and that the whole system of life should commence anew? We have never been witnesses of animosities

The sever.toeuth

excited by the use of mince-pies and plum-porridge; nor seen with what abhorrence those, who could eat them at all other times of the year, would shrink from them in December. An old puritan, who was alive in my childhood, being at one of the feasts 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 seasons, he should accept his kindness, but would have none of his superstitious 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 necessary, to prove that it was no crime to throw a die, or play at cards, or to hide a shilling for the reckoning.

The diction of this poem is grossly familiar and the numbers purposely neglected, except in a few places where the thoughts by their native excellence secure themselves from violation, being such as mean language cannot express. The mede of versification has been blamed by Dryden, who regrets that the heroic measure was not rather chosen. To the critical sentence of Dryden the highest reverence would be due, were not his decisions often precipitate, and his opinions im mature. When he wished to change the measure, he probably would have been willing to change more. If he intended that, when the numbers were heroic, the diction should still remain vulgar, he planned a very heterogeneous and unnatural composition. If he preferred a general stateliness both of sound and words, he can be only understood to wish Butler had undertaken a different work.

Astrology, however, against which so much of the satire is directed, was not more the folly of The measure is quick, sprightly, and colloquia., the puritans than of others. It had in that time suitable to the vulgarity of the words and the a very extensive dominion. Its predictions raised levity of the sentiments. But such numbers and hopes and fears in minds which ought to have such diction can gain regard only when they are rejected it with contempt. In hazardous under-used by a writer whose vigour of fancy and cotakings care was taken to begin under the influ-piousness of knowledge entitle him to contempt ence of a propitious planet; and, when the King of ornaments, and who, in consequence of the was prisoner in Carisbrook Castle, an astrologer was consulted what hour would be found most favourable to an escape.

novelty and justness of his conceptions, can afford to throw metaphors and epithets away. To another that conveys common thoughts in careless versification, it will only be said, Pauper videri Cinna vult, et est pauper. The meaning and diction will be worthy of each other, and criticism may justly doom them to perish together.

What effect this poem had upon the public, whether it shamed imposture, or reclaimed credulity, is not easily determined. Cheats can seldom stand long against laughter. It is certain that the credit of planetary intelligence wore fast away; though some men of knowledge, and Dryden among them, continued to believe that conjunc-would another "Hudibras" obtain the same retions and oppositions had a great part in the distribution of good or evil, and in the government of sublunary things.

Nor, even though another Butler should arise,

gard. Burlesque consists in a disproportion between the style and the sentiments, or between the adventitious sentiments and the fundamenta! Poetical action ought to be probable upon cer- subject. It, therefore, like all bodies compounded tain suppositions; and such probability as bur- of heterogeneous parts, contains in it a principle lesque requires is here violated only by one inci- of corruption. All disproportion is unnaturaldent. Nothing can show more plainly the neces- and from what is unnatural we can derive only sity of doing something, and the difficulty of find- the pleasure which novelty produces. We ading something to do, than that Butler was reduced mire it awhile as a strange thing; but when it is to transfer to his hero the flagellation of Sancho, no longer strange, we perceive its deformity. It not the most agreeable fiction of Cervantes; very is a kind of artifice, which by frequent repetition suitable indeed to the manners of that age and detects itself: and the reader, learning in time nation, which ascribed wonderful efficacy to vo- what he is to expect, lays down his book, as the luntary penances; but so remote from the prac-spectator turns away from a second exhibition of Lice and opinions of the Hudibrastic time, that those tricks, of which the only use is to show that judgment and imagination are alike offended. they can be played.


JOHN WILMOT, afterwards Earl of Rochester, the son of Henry, Earl of Rochester, better known by the title of Lord Wilmot, so often mentioned in Clarendon's History, was born April 10, 1647, at Ditchley, in Oxfordshire. After a grammatical education at the school of Burford, he entered a nobleman into Wadham College, in 1659, only twelve years old; and in 1661, at fourteen, was, with some other persons of high rank, made master of arts by Lord Clarendon in person.

He travelled afterwards into France and Italy; and at his return devoted himself to the court. In 1665, he went to sea with Sandwich, and distinguished himself at Bergen, by uncommon intrepidity; and the next summer served again on board Sir Edward Spragge, who, in the heat of the engagement, having a message of reproof to send to one of his captains, could find no man ready to carry it but Wilmot, who, in an open boat, went and returned amidst the storm of sh

But his reputation for bravery was not lasting; de was reproached with slinking away in street quarrels, and leaving his companions to shift as they could without him; and Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, has left a story of his refusal to fight him.

He died, July 26, 1680, before he had completed his thirty-fourth year; and was so worn away by a long illness, that life went out without a struggle.

Lord Rochester was eminent for the vigour of his colloquial wit, and remarkable for many wild He had very early an inclination to intemper- pranks and sallies of extravagance. The glare ance, which he totally subdued in his travels; of his general character diffused itself upon his but, when he became a courtier, he unhappily writings; the compositions of a man whose name addicted himself to dissolute and vicious com- was heard so often were certain of attention, and pany, by which his principles were corrupted, and from many readers certain of applause. This his manners depraved. He lost all sense of re- blaze of reputation is not yet quite extinguished; ligious restraint, and, finding it not convenient to and his poetry still retains some splendour beadmit the authority of laws, which he was re-yond that which genius has bestowed. solved not to obey, sheltered his wickedness behind infidelity.

Wood and Burnet give us reason to believe, that much was imputed to him which he did not As he excelled in that noisy and licentious mer- write. I know not by whom the original collecriment which wine excites, his companions eagerly tion was made, or by what authority its genuineencouraged him in excess, and he willingly in-ness was ascertained. The first edition was puhdulged it; till, as he confessed to Dr. Burnet, he lished in the year of his death, with an air of con was for five years together continually drunk, or cealment, professing in the title-page to be printed so much inflamed by frequent ebriety, as in no at Antwerp. interval to be master of himself.

In this state he played many frolics, which it is not for his honour that we should remember, and which are not now distinctly known. He often pursued low amours in mean disguises, and always acted with great exactness and dexterity the characters which he assumed.

He once erected a stage on Tower-hill, and harangued the populace as a mountebank; and, having made physic part of his study, is said to have practised it successfully.

He was so much in favour with King Charles, that he was made one of the gentlemen of the bed-chamber, and comptroller of Woodstock Park.

Having an active and inquisitive mind, he never, except in his paroxysms of intemperance, was wholly negligent of study; he read what is considered as polite learning so much, that he is mentioned by Wood, as the greatest scholar of all the nobility. Sometimes he retired into the country, and amused himself with writing libels, in which he did not pretend to confine himself to truth.

His favourite author in French was Boileau, and in English, Cowley.

Thus in a course of drunken gayety, and gross sensuality, with intervals of study perhaps yet more criminal, with an avowed contempt of all decency and order, a total disregard of every moral, and a resolute denial of every religious obligation, he lived worthless and useless, and blazed out his youth and his health in lavish voluptuousness; till, at the age of one-and-thirty, he had exhausted the fund of life, and reduced himself to a state of weakness and decay.

At this time he was led to an acquaintance with Dr. Burnet, to whom he laid open with great freedom the tenor of his opinions, and the course of his life, and from whom he received such conviction of the reasonableness of moral duty, and the truth of Christianity, as produced a total change both of his manners and opinions. The account of those salutary conferences is given by Burnet, in a book entitled, "Some Passages of the Life and Death of John, Earl of Rochester," which the critic ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the saint for its piety. It were an injury to the reader to offer him an abridgment.

Of some of the pieces, however, there is no doubt. The imitation of Horace's satire, the verses to Lord Mulgrave, satire against Man, the verses upon "Nothing," and perhaps some others, are I believe genuine, and perhaps most of those which the collection exhibits.*

As he cannot be supposed to have found leisure for any course of continued study, his pieces are commonly short, such as one fit of resolution would produce.

His songs have no particular character; they tell, like other songs, in smooth and easy language, of scorn and kindness, dismission and desertion, absence and inconstancy, with the common-places of artificial courtship. They are commonly smooth and easy; but have little nature, and little sentiment,

His imitation of Horace on Lucilius is not inelegant, or unhappy. In the reign of Charles the Second, began that adaption, which has since been very frequent, of ancient poetry to present times; and perhaps few will be found where the parallelism is better preserved than in this. The versification is indeed sometimes careless, but it is sometimes vigorous and weighty.

The strongest effort of his Muse is his poem upon "Nothing." He is not the first who has chosen this barren topic for the boast of his fertility. There is a poem called "Nihil," in Latin, by Passerat, a poet and critic of the sixteenth century, in France; who, in his own epitaph, ex presses his zeal for good poetry thus :

-Molliter ossa quiescent,

Sint modo carminibus non onerata malis. His works are not common, and therefore 1 shall subjoin his verses.

must be considered as having not only a negative, In examining this performance, "Nothing" but a kind of positive signification; as, I need not fear thieves; I have nothing; and nothing is a very powerful protector. In the first part of the sentence it is taken negatively, in the second it is taken positively, as an agent. In one of Boileau's

Dr. Johnson has made no mention of "Valentinian" (altered from Beaumont and Fletcher.) winch was published after his death, by a friend, who describes him in the preface, not only as being one of the greatest

geniuses, but one of the most virtuous men that ever existed. J. B.

ines it was a question, whether he should use à rien faire, or à ne rien faire; and the first was preferred, because it gave rien a sense in some sort positive. Nothing can be a subject only in its positive sense, and such a sense is given it in the first line:

Nothing, thou elder brother ev'n to shade.

In this line, I know not whether he does not allude to a curious book, "De Umbra," by Wowerus, which having told the qualities of shade, concludes with a poem in which are these lines:

Jam primum terram validis circumspice claustris
Suspensam totam, decus admirabile mundi
Terrasque tractusque maris, camposque liquentes
Eris et vasti laqueata palatia cœli―
Omnibus Umbra prior.

The positive sense is generally preserved with great skill through the whole poem; though, sometimes, in a subordinate sense, the negative nothing is injudiciously mingled. Passerat confounds the two senses.

Another of his most vigorous pieces is his lampoon on Sir Car Scrope, who, in a poem called "The Praise of Satire," had some lines like these:*

He who can push into a midnight fray
His brave companion, and then run away,
Leaving him to be murder'd in the street,
Then put it off with some buffoon conceit :
Him, thus dishonour'd, for a wit you own,
And court him as top fiddler of the town.

This was meant of Rochester, whose buffoon onceit was, I suppose, a saying often mentioned, that every man would be a coward if he durst; and drew from him those furious verses; to which Scrope made in reply an epigram, ending with these lines:

Thou canst hurt no man's fame with thy ill word; Thy pen is full as harmless as thy sword.

Of the satire against "Man," Rochester can only claim what remains when all Boileau's part is taken away.

In all his works there is sprightliness and vigour, and every where may be found tokens of a mind which study might have carried to excellence. What more can be expected from a life spent in ostentatious contempt of regularity, and ended before the abilities of many other men began to be displayed.t

I quote from memory.-Dr. J.

The late George Stephens, Esq. made the selection of Rochester's Poems, which appears in Dr. Johnson's edition; but Mr. Malone observes, that the same task had been performed in the early part of the last century, by Jacob Tonson.-C.



Regii in Academia Parisiensi Professoris,

Janus adest, festæ poscunt sua dona Kalendæ,
Munus abest festis quod possim offerre Kalendis.
Siccine Castalius nobis exaruit humor?
Usque adeo ingenii nostri est exhausta facultas,
Immunem ut videat redeuntis janitor anni?
Quod nusquam est, potius nova per vestigia quæram.
Invenit mea Musa mhil, ne despice munus.
Ecce autem partes dum sese versat in omnes
Nam nihil est gemmis, nihil est pretiosius auro.
Huc animum, huc igitur vultus adverte benignos
Res nova narratur quæ nulli audita priorum,
Ausonii et Graii dixerunt cætera vates,
Ausoniæ indictum nihil est Grecque Camanæ.

E cœlo quacunque Ceres sua prospicit arva
Aut genitor liquidis orbem complectitur ulnis
Oceanus, nihil interitus et originis expers.
Immortale nihil, nihil omni parte beatum.
Quod si hinc majestas et vis divina probatur,
Num quid honore deum, num quid dignabimur ar's '
Conspectu lucis nihil est jucundius almæ,
Vere nihil, nihil irriguo formosius horto,
Floridius pratis, Zephyri clementius aura;
In bello sanctum nihil est, Martisque tumultu:
Justum in pace nihil, nihil est in federe tutum.
Felix cui nihil est, (fuerant hae vota Tibullo,)
Non timet insidias: fures, incendia temnit
Solicitas sequitur nullo sub judice lites.
Ille ipse invictis qui subjicit omnia fatis
Zenonis sapiens, nihil admiratur et optat.
Socraticique gregis fuit ista scientia quondam,
Scire nihil, studio cui nunc incumbitur uni.
Nec quicquam in ludo mavult didicisse juventus,
Ad magnas quia ducit opes, et culmen honorum.
Nosce nihil, nosces fertur quod Pythagorea
Grano hærere fabe, cui vox adjuncta negantis
Multi Mercurio fretí duce viscera terræ
Pura liquefaciunt simul, et patrimonia miscent,
Arcano instantes operi, et carbonibus atris,
Qui tandem exhausti dannis, fractique labore,
Inveniunt atque inventum nihil usque requirunt.
Hoc dimetiri non ulla decempeda possit :
Nec numeret Libycæ numerum qui callet arence.
Et Phobo ignotum nihil est, nihil altius astris.
Tuque, tibi licet eximium sit mentis acumen,
Omnem in naturam penetrans, et in abdita rerum,
Pace tua, Memini, nihil ignorare videris.
Sole tamen nihil est, a puro clarius igne.
Tange nihil, dicesque nihil sine corpore tangi
Cerne nihil, cerni dices nihil absque colore.
Surdum audit loquiturque nihil sine voce, volatque
Absque ope pennarum, et graditur sine cruribus ulls.
Absque loco motuque nihil per inane vagatur.
Humano generi utilius nihil arte medendi.
Ne rhombos, igitur, neu Thessala murmura tentet
Idalia vacuum trajectus arundine pectus,
Neu legat Ideo Dicteum in vertice gramen
Vulneribus sævi nihil auxiliator amoris
Vexerit et quemvis trans mastas portitor undas,
Ad superos imo nihil hunc revocabit ab orco.
Inferni nihil inflectit præcordia regis.
Parcaruinque colos, et inexorabile pensum.
Obruta Phlegrais campis Titania pubes
Fulmineo sensit nihil esse potentius ictu :
Porrigitur magni nihil extra monia mundi:
Diique nihil metuunt. Quid longo carmine plura
Commemorem? Virtute nihil præstantius ipsa,
Splendidius nihil est; nihil est Jove denique maju
Sed tempus finem argutis imponere nugis
Ne tibi si multa laudem mea carmina charta,
De nihilo nihili pariant fastidia versus

« ZurückWeiter »