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at length, almost like special pleading; it has nothing to confirm it in the apparent good humour or impartiality of the writer. It is something revolting to see an author persecute his characters, the cherished offspring of his brain, in this manner, without mercy. Hudibras and Ralpho have immortalised Butler; and what has he done for them in return, but set them up to be “pilloried on infamy's high and lasting stage ?" This is ungrateful!
The rest of the characters have, in general, little more than their names and professions to distinguish them. We scarcely know one from another, Cerdon, or Orsin, or Crowdero, and are often obliged to turn back, to connect their several adventures together. In fact, Butler drives only at a sect of obnoxious opinions, and runs into general declamations. His poem
in its essence is a satire, or didactic poem. . It is not virtually dramatic or narrative. It is composed of digressions by the author. He instantly breaks off in the middle of a story, or incident, to comment upon and turn it into ridicule. He does not give characters but topics, which would do just as well in his own mouth without agents, or machinery of any kind. The long digression in Part III., in which no mention is made of the hero, is just as good and as much an integrant part of the poem as the rest. The conclusion is lame and impotent, but that is saying nothing; the beginning and middle are equally so as to historical merit. There is no keeping in his characters, as in Don Quixote; nor any enjoyment of the ludicrousness of their situations, as in Hogarth. Indeed, it requires a considerable degree of sympathy to enter into and describe to the life even the ludicrous eccentricities of others, and there is no appearance of sympathy or liking to his subject in Butler. His humour is to his wit, “ as one grain of wheat in a bushel of chaff: you shall search all day, and when
find it, it is not worth the trouble." Yet there are exceptions. The most decisive is, I think, the description of the battle between Bruin and his foes, Part I., Canto iii., and again of the triumphal procession in Part II., Canto ii., of which the principal features are copied in Hogarth's election print, the Chairing of the Successful Candidate. The account of Sidrophel and Whackum is
another instance, and there are some few others, but rarely sprinkled up and down.*
* The following are nearly all I can remember:
"Thus stopp'd their fury and the basting
The beginning of the account of the procession in Part II. is as follows :
“Both thought it was the wisest course
The widow, the termagant heroine of the poem, is still more disagreeable than her lover: and her sarcastic account of the passion of love, as consisting entirely in an attachment to land and houses, goods and chattels, which is enforced with all the rhetoric the author is master of, and hunted down through endless similes, is evidently false. The vulgarity and meanness of sentiment which Butler complains of in the Presbyterians, seems at last, from long familiarity and close contemplation, to have tainted his own mind. Their worst vices appear to have taken root in his imagination. Nothing but what was selfish and groveling sunk into his memory, in the depression of a menial situation under his supposed hero. He has, indeed, car. ried his private grudge too far into his general speculations. He even makes out the rebels to be cowards and well beaten, which does not accord with the history of the times. In an excess of. zeal for church and state, he is too much disposed to treat religion as a cheat and liberty as a farce. It was the cant of that day (from which he is not free) to cry down sanctity and sobriety as marks of disaffection, as it is the cant of this to hold them up as proofs of loyalty and staunch monarchical principles. Religion and morality are, in either case, equally subservient to the spirit of party, and a stalking-horse to the love of power. Finally, there is a want of pathos and humour, but no want of interest in Hudibras. It is difficult to lay it down. One thought is inserted into another; the links in the chain of reasoning are so closely rivetted, that the attention seldom flags, but is kept alive (without any other assistance) by the mere force of writing. There are occasional indications of poetical fancy, and an eye for natural beauty; but these are kept under or soon discarded, judiciously enough, but it should seem, not for lack of power, for they are certainly as masterly as they are rare. Such is the burlesque description of the stocks, or allegorical prison, in which first Crowdero and then Hudibras are confined: the passage beginning
"As when an owl that's in a barn,
Sees a mouse creeping in the corn,
And the description of the moon going down in the early morning, which is as pure, original, and picturesque as possible :
“The queen of night, whose large command
Rules all the sea and half the land,
Butler is sometimes scholastic, but he makes his learning tell to good account; and for the purposes of burlesque, nothing can be better fitted than the scholastic style.
Butler's 'Remains' are nearly as good and full of sterling genius as his principal poem. Take the following ridicule of the plan of the Greek tragedies as an instance:
“Reduce all tragedy, by rules of art,
Back to its ancient theatre, a cart,
His ridicule of Milton's Latin style is equally severe, but not so well founded.
I have only to add a few words respecting the dramatic writers about this time, before we arrive at the golden period of our comedy. Those of Etherege* are good for nothing, except
The Man of Mode,' or 'Sir Fopling Flutter,' which is, I think, a more exquisite and airy picture of the manners of that age than any other extant. Sir Fopling himself is an inimitable coxcomb, but pleasant withal. He is a suit of clothes personified. Dorimant (supposed to be Lord Rochester) is the genius of grace, gallantry, and gaiety. The women in this courtly play have very much the look and air (but something more demure and significant) of Sir Peter Lely's beauties. Harriet, the mistress of Dorimant, who “tames his wild heart to her loving hand," is the flower of the piece. Her natural, untutored grace and spirit, her meeting with Dorimant in the Park, bowing and mimicking him, and the luxuriant description which is given of her fine person, altogether form one of the chefs-d'æuvre of dramatic painting. I should think this comedy would bear reviving; and if Mr. Liston were to play Sir Fopling, the part would shine out with double lustre, “like the morn risen on mid-noon.” Dryden's comedies have all the point that there is in ribaldry, and all the humour that there is in extravagance. I am sorry
I can say nothing better of them. He was not at home in this kind of writing, of which he was himself conscious. His play was horse-play. His wit (what there is of it) is ingenious and scholar-like, rather than natural and dramatic. Thus Burr, in the Wild Gallant,' says to Failer, “She shall sooner cut an atom than part us." His plots are pure voluntaries in absurdity, that bend and shift to his purpose without any previous notice or reason, and are governed by final causes. Sir Martin Marall, which was taken from the Duchess of Newcastle, is the best of his plays, and the origin of the Busy Body.' Otway's comedies do no sort of credit to him: on the contrary, they are as desperate as his fortunes. The Duke of Buckingham's famous "Rehearsal,' which has made, and deservedly, so much noise in the world, is in a great measure taken from Beaumont and Fletcher's 'Knight of the Burning Pestle,' which
* Love in a Tub,' and 'She Would if She Could.'