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THIS admirable poet was born at Strensham in Worcestershire, according to some in 1612, and to others in 1600. His father was a farmer who rented an estate of about three hundred pounds a year. The son received a good education at the free school of Worcester, after which he resided for some time at Cambridge, but was never matriculated in that University. He next became clerk to an eminent justice of peace in his pative county, and after residing with him about four years, he was recommended to the patronage of Elizabeth Countess of Kent, where he had the good fortune to become a kind of amanuensis to the learned Selden who greatly assisted him in his studies. His next removal was to the service of Sir Samuel Luke, a gentleman of good estate in Bedfordshire, but a rigid presbyterian, and the original from whence the poet drew his Hudibras. There Butler had abundant opportunities of making himself acquainted with the characters of the prevailing party. At the restoration of Charles the second he became secretary to the Earl of Carbury, who appointed bim steward of Ludlow Castle, and about this time he married Mis. Herbert, who had a good jointure, but it
was unfortunately lost by being put out on bad securities. The poem of Hudibras which has immortalized his name, was published at three different times. The first part carne out in 1663, in octavo, the next year came out the second part, and both were printed together with several additions and annotations. At length the third and last part was published in 1678. On its first appearance it was read with avidity, and applauded as its great merits deserved : but it produced to the author hardly any thing more than universal praise. King Charles always carried Hudibras about with him, but he never gave Butler any mark of his favour except once, when it is said he made him a present of three hundred pounds.
At last, after having contributed to the entertainment of the nation more than any man in his time, this incomparable satirist died in poverty at his apartments in Rose Street, Covent Garden, in the Church-yard of which parish he was buried at the expense of a friend in 1680. No monument was erected to his memory till the year 1721, when Alderman Barber, the printer, set up one in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey.*
* The ingenious Mr. Samuel Wesley, elder brother of the celebrated founder of methodism, and at that time one of the ushers of Westminster-school, wrote the following Epigram on the setting up of this monument;
The neglect of such a man was a deep disgrace to that profligate reign, and it was keenly resented by some of his fellow bards, particularly Oldham, who in his satire against poetry has these strong
« On Butler who can think without just rage
where with welcomes of renown:
Butler was a man of a reserved disposition and very select in his choice of company, which unobtrusiveness of manners might probably be one cause of his poverty.
While Butler, needy wretch ! was yet alive,
Butler, however, though neglected in a shameful manner, was not starved to death.
One of his principal friends was the Earl of Dorset, the Mecenas of his age, of whom this anecdote is told ;
His lordship having a great desire to spend an evening as a private gentleman with the author of Hudibras, prevailed with Mr. Fleetwood Shepherd to introduce him into his company at a tavern which they used, in the character only of a cominon friend; this being done, Mr. Butler, while the first bottle was drinking, appeared very flat and heavy; at the second bottle brisk and lively, full of wit and learning, and a most pleasant agreeable companion ; but before the third bottle was finished, he sunk again into such deep stupidity and dulness that hardly any body could have believed him to be the author of a book which abounded with so much wit, learning, and pleasantry. Next morning Mr. Shepherd asked his lordship's opinion of Mr. Butler, who answered, “ He is like a nine-pin, little at both ends, but great in the middle.”
An attempt was made to obtain for Butler the patronage of George Villiers Duke of Buckingham, but it failed. The story is as follows:
“Mr.Wycherley had always laid hold of any opportunity which offered, to represent to his grace . how well Mr. Butler had deserved of the royal family by writing his iniinitable Hudibras; and that it was a reproach to the court that a person