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the first, it is said, to show the human form in motion. Isolated remarks in Butler's essays are frequently very shrewd and pregnant; as when he says of the newsmonger, He would willingly bear his share in any public calamity to have the pleasure of hearing and telling it;' or of the hunter, 'Let the bare take which way she will, she seldom fails to lead him at long-running to the alehouse;' or the description of a prince's unworthy favourite as 'a fog raised by the sun to obscure his own brightness. Many of Butler's miscellaneous thoughts, appended to the Characters, are highly acute, and exhibit a happy talent for illustrating abstract ideas by comparison with sensible objects, as for instance: Oaths and obligations in the affairs of the world are like ribands and knots in dressing, that seem to tie something, but do not.' In politics Butler is, of course, a loyalist, and one whose loyalty is intensified by his æsthetic dislike to Puritanism, in which he was constitutionally incapable of seeing anything but cant. At the same time, the contempt which as a man of understanding he could not help entertaining for the conduct of affairs under the Restoration, and disappointment at the neglect with which he was himself treated, seem to have almost reduced him to a condition of political scepticisin • The worst governments are the best when they light in good hands; and the best the worst, when they fall into bad ones'—a remark condensed into a famous couplet by Pope, who appears to have become acquainted with Butler's MS. through Atterbury. It is worth observing that Butler not only prefers Ben Jonson to Shakespeare, but seems to take his superiority for granted: Virgil, who wanted much of that natural easiness of wit that Ovid had, did nevertheless with hard labour and long study arrive at a higher perfection than the other with all his dexterity of wit, but less industry, could attain to.
The same we may
observe of Jonson and Shakespeare; for he that is able to think long and judge well will be sure to find out better things than another man can hit upon suddenly, though of more quick and ready parts, which is commonly but chance, and the other art and judgment.' One special distinction of Butler's is to have been perhaps the first English satirist of mark who made parody a political weapon, or at least showed its capabilities for this purpose, as it does not appear that any of his political parodies were printed in his lifetime. Jack Cade's speeches in Shakespeare are, indeed, a sufficient model, but Butler worked out the hint elaborately in his fictitious speeches in the Rump Parliament; his mock eulogium of this body or segment of a body in the oration supposed to be delivered at Harrington's Rota; and the parody of Prynne's style in the imaginary correspondence between him and John Audland, the Quaker.
Butler's remains were only partially printed in 1759, but the MSS. from which Thyer's publication was drawn were acquired in 1885 by the British Museum. His selection seems to have been in general exceedingly judicious, but the opportunity may be taken of giving some examples of Butler's unpublished thoughts:
“There is no better argument to prove that the Scriptures were written by divine inspiration than that excellent saying of our Saviour, If any man will go to law with thee for thy cloak, give him thy coat also.
* Birds are taken with pipes that imitate their own voices, and men with those sayings that are most agreeable to their own opinions.
'If the French nobility should follow our fashions, and send their children over to learn our language, and receive their education from us, we should have as glorious an opinion of ourselves, and as mean a value of them, as they have of us; and therefore we have no reason to blame them, but our own folly for it.'
It is interesting to learn Butler's opinion of Dryden as a critic:
• Dryden weighs poets in his virtuoso's scales that will weigh to the hundredth part of a grain, as curiously as Juvenal's lady pedantess
“Committit vates, et comparat inde Maronem,
He complained of Ben Jonson for stealing scenes out of Plautus. Set a thief to find out a thief.'
George Savile, Marquis of Halifax, who ranks with Shaftesbury and Temple among the few politicians of that age entitled to the appellation of statesman, enriched English literature with a small volume of essays, the most important of which are his vindication of his own political course and principles in The Character of a Trimmer and The Anatomy of an Equivalent. Of these Macaulay justly says: What particularly strikes us is the writer's passion for generalization. He was treating of the most exciting subjects in the most agitated times; he was himself placed in the very thick of the civil conflict; yet there is no acrimony, nothing inflammatory, nothing personal. He treats every question as an abstract question, begins with the widest propositions, argues these propositions on general grounds, and often, when he has brought out his theorem, leaves the reader to make the application, without adding an allusion to particular men or to passing events.' The effect of this remarkable breadth of view was not with Halifax, as so frequently the case, to paralyze energy, and render the comprehensive mind unfit for practical action. He was
not retained in equilibrium by the difficulty of deciding between two courses, but was an enthusiast for the via media, as great a zealot for compromise as zealots commonly are for strong measures; and, though sometimes too yielding or too speculative for the unquiet times in which his lot was cast, would have made an almost ideal prime minister for the nineteenth century. His praise of trimming, which to more fiery spirits must have seemed an ignoble policy, rings with the eloquence and passion of the most genuine conviction :
• Our Trimmer adores the Goddess Truth, though in all ages she has been scurvily used, as well as those that worshipped her. 'Tis of late become such a ruining virtue that mankind seems to be agreed to commend and avoid it; yet the want of practice, which repeals the other laws, has no influence upon the law of truth, because it has root in heaven, and an intrinsic value in itself that can never be impaired. She shows her greatness in this, that her enemies, even when they are successful, are ashamed to own it. Nothing but power full of truth has the prerogative of triumphing, not only after victories, but in spite of them, and to put conquest herself out of countenance. She may be kept under and suppressed, but her dignity still remains with her, even when she is in chains. Falsehood with all her impudence has not enough to speak ill of her before her face. Such majesty she carries about her that her most prosperous enemies are fain to whisper their treason, all the power upon the earth can never extinguish her. She has lived in all ages, and let the mistaken zeal of prevailing authority christen any opposition to her with what name they please, she makes it not only an ugly and an unmannerly, but a dangerous thing to persist. She has lived very retired indeed, nay, sometimes so buried that only some few of the discerning part of mankind could have a glimpse of her; with all that, she has eternity in her, she knows not how to die, and from the darkest clouds that shade and cover her she breaks from time to time with triumph for her friends, and terror to her enemies.
Our Trimmer, therefore, inspired by this divine virtue,
thinks fit to conclude with these assertions, That our climate is a trimmer between that part of the world where men are roasted and that part where they are frozen : That our Church is a trimmer between the phrenzy of phanatic? visions and the lethargic ignorance of Popish dreams: That our laws are trimmers between the excess of unbounded power and the extravagance of liberty not enough restrained: That true virtue has ever been thought a trimmer, and to have its dwelling in the middle between the two extremes : That even God Almighty himself is divided between his two great attributes, his mercy and his justice.
'In such company our Trimmer is not ashamed of his name, and willingly leaves to the bold champions of either extreme the honour of contending with no less adversaries than nature, religion, liberty, prudence, humanity, and common sense.'
Burnet might well be puzzled by a man who seemed to have his head full of Commonwealth notions,' and yet concurred in the worst measures of Charles II.
The most important of Halifax's other essays are his advice to his daughter, excellent for sense and curious as an illustration of the manners of the age, and his character of Charles II., nicely balanced between half-sincere censure and half-sarcastic apology. There is nothing in Charles's history to refute Halifax's view of him as a man whose master passion was the selfish love of ease; but much to prove that his abilities and discernment were far greater than Halifax chooses to allow. Halifax's aphorisms, as usual, are too numerous to attain a uniformly high standard, but some are exceedingly good.
'A fool hath no dialogue within himself.
Malice may be sometimes out of breath, Envy never. man may make peace with hatred, but never with envy.
1 All the editions have Platonic, but this must be a misprint.