Samuel Butler, 1612-1680

Biographical note

Satirist, was the son of a Worcestershire farmer. In early youth he was page to the Countess of Kent, and thereafter clerk to various Puritan justices, some of whom are believed to have suggested characters in Hudibras. After the Restoration he became Sec. to the Lord Pres. of Wales, and about the same time married a Mrs. Herbert, a widow with a jointure, which, however, was lost. In 1663 the first part of Hudibras was published, and the other two in 1664 and 1668 respectively. This work, which is to a certain extent modelled on Don Quixote, stands at the head of the satirical literature of England, and for wit and compressed thought has few rivals in any language. It is directed against the Puritans, and while it holds up to ridicule the extravagancies into which many of the party ran, it entirely fails to do justice to their virtues and their services to liberty, civil and religious. Many of its brilliant couplets have passed into the proverbial commonplaces of the language, and few who use them have any idea of their source. Butler, notwithstanding the popularity of his work, was neglected by the Court, and died in poverty.

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