Butler, Samuel (1612-1680)
English poet and satirist, famous as the author of Hudibras, son of Worcestershire farmer, was baptized at Strensham, in that country, on Feb. 8, 1612..
He was educated at the King’s school, Worcester, under Henry Bright, the record of whose zeal as a teacher in preserved by Fuller (Worthies, Worcestershire).
After leaving school he served a Mr.Jeffereys of Earl’s Croome, Worcestershire, in the capacity of justice’s clerk.
Later on he was recommended to Elizabeth, countess of Kent. At her home at Wrest, Bedfordshire, he had access to a good library, and there, too, he met Selden, who sometimes employed him and his secretary. But his third sojourn, with Sir Samuel Luke at Cople Hoo, Bedfordshire, was not only apparently the longest, but also much the most important in its effects on his career and works.
We are nowhere informed in what capacity Butler served Sir Samuel Luke, or how he came to reside in the house of a noted Puritan and Parliament man.
In the family of this “valiant Mamaluke”, who, whether he was or was not the original of Hudibras, was certainly a rigid Presbyterian, “a colonel in the army of the Parliament, scoutmaster-general for Bedfordshire and governor of Newport Pagnell”.
Butler must have had the most abundant opportunities of studying from the live those who were to be the victims of his satire; he is supposed to have taken some hints for his caricature from Sir Henry Rosewell of Ford abbey, Devonshire.
We know nothing positive of him until the Restoration, when he was appointed secretary to Richard Vaughan, 2nd earl of Carbery, lord president of the principality of Wales, who made him steward of Ludlow castle, which office he held from Jan. 1661 to Jan. 1662.
About this time he married a rich lady variously described as a Miss Herbert and as a widow named Morgan. His wife’s fortune was afterward lost.
Early in 1663 Hudibras: The First Part: written in the Time of Late Wars was published, but this, the first genuine edition, had been preceded in 1662 by unauthorized one. On Dec. 26 Pepys bought, and though neither then nor afterward could be see the wit of “so silly an abuse of the Presbyter knight going to the wars”, he repeatedly testifies to its extraordinary popularity.
A spurious second part appeared within the year. This determined the poet to bring out the second part (licensed on Nov. 7, 1663; printed 1664), which if possible exceeded the first in popularity.
From this time until 1678, the date of the publication of the third part, we hear nothing certain of Butler.
On the publication of Hudibras he was sent for by Lord Chancellor Hyde (Clarendon), says Aubrey, and received many promises, none of which was fulfilled. He is said to have received a gift of f300 from Charles II, and to have been secretary to George Villiers, 2nd duke of Buckingham, when the latter was chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Butler’s satire on Buckingham in his characters (Remains, 1759) shows such and intimate knowledge that it is probable the second story is true.
Two years after the publication of the third part of Hudibras he died, on Sept. 25, 1680, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden.