Samuel Butler 

1613-1680

'The poet's fate is here in emblem shown: he asked for bread, and he received a stone'

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Samuel Butler is buried in St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, London, England. (There is also a memorial to him in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.)



Samuel Butler


Samuel Butler's Memorial in Westminster Abbey

Butler was born in Strensham south of Worcester - the son of a farmer. He was educated at King's School Worcester and then found work as a clerk to a local justice of the peace. He later secured the role of secretary to the countess of Kent.

Butler's fame rests almost entirely upon his long satirical poem Hudibras - which was published in 1663 and was based upon Don Quixote by Cervantes. It concerns the adventures of a knight called Sir Hudibras and his squire Ralpho and was written in three parts. In the first part the twosome set out on horseback and soon meet a bear-baiting mob who imprison them in the stocks. In part two, a widow who Hudibras hopes to marry agrees to release them from the stocks on the assumption that Sir Hudibras whips himself. In part three, Hudibras returns to the widow to claim he has fulfilled his promise but is interrupted by a gang he mistakes for Sidrophel's supernatural agents.

The poem, which contains many learned allusions, is written in rhyming octosyllabic couplets and rattles along at a good pace. The adventures of Hudibras are comic but the digressions are what the poem is probably best known for. The poem owes something to the work of John Skelton.

The success of the poem enabled Butler to gain the position as secretary to the second Duke of Buckingham. In 1677 Butler was awarded a 100 annual pension by Charles II - but he died in poverty on 25th September 1680.

Most of Butler's other writings did not make it into print until Robert Thyer published a collection in the next century in 1759.

When civil dudgeon first grew high,
And men fell out they knew not why?
When hard words, jealousies, and fears,
Set folks together by the ears,
And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
For Dame Religion, as for punk;
Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
Though not a man of them knew wherefore:
When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded
With long-ear'd rout, to battle sounded,
And pulpit, drum ecclesiastick,
Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;
Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling,
And out he rode a colonelling.

(From Hudibras Part 1)
 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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