Samuel Butler

John Aubrey, in Brief Lives, 1669-1696; ed. Clark (1898) 1:135-38.

Mr. Samuel Butler was borne at Pershore in Worcestershire, as we suppose: his brother lives there.

He went to schoole at Worcester — from Mr. Hill.

His father < was > a man but of slender fortune, and to breed him at schoole was as much education as he was able to reach to. When but a boy he would make observations and reflections on every thing one sayd or did, and censure it to be either well or ill. He never was at the university, for the reason alledged.

He came when a young man to be a servant to the countesse of Kent, whom he served severall yeares. Here, besides his study, he employed his time much in painting and drawing, and also in musique. He was thinking once to have made painting his profession — from Dr. Duke. His love to and skill in painting made a great friendship between him and Mr. Samuel Cowper (the prince of limners of this age).

He then studyed the Common Lawes of England, but did not practise. He maried a good jointuresse, the relict of .... Morgan, by which meanes he lives comfortably.

After the restauration of his majestie when the court at Ludlowe was againe sett-up, he was then the king's steward at the castle there.

He printed a witty Poeme called Hudibras, the first part anno 166.. which tooke extremely; so that the king and Lord Chancellor Hyde would have him sent for, and accordingly he was sent for. They both promised him great matters, but to this day he haz got no employment, only the king gave him ... li.

He is of a middle stature, strong sett, high coloured, a head of sorrell haire, a severe and sound judgement: a good fellowe. He haz often sayd that way (e.g. Mr. Edmund Waller's) of quibling with sence will hereafter growe as much out of fashion and be as ridicule as quibling with words — quod N.B. He haz been much troubled with the gowt, and particularly 1679, he stirred not out of his chamber from October till Easter.

Obiit { Anno Domini 1680 circiter 70 }.

He dyed of a consumption September 25; and buried 27, according to his appointment, in the churchyard of Convent Garden; scil. in the north part next the church at the east end. His feet touch the wall. His grave, 2 yards distant from the pillaster of the dore, (by his desire) 6 foot deepe.

About 25 of his old acquaintance at his funerall. I myself being one [of the eldest, helped to carry the pall with Tom Shadwell, at the foot, Sir Robert Thomas and Mr. Saunders, esq., at the head; Dr. Cole and Dr. Davenant, middle]. His coffin covered with black bayes; S. B. 1680.

Insert in vita Sam. Butler his verses of the Jesuites, not printed, which I gave to you [Anthony Wood] about 12 or 14.

No Jesuite ever took in hand,
To plant a church in barren land
Or ever thought it worth his while
A Swede or Russe to reconcile;
For where there is not store of wealth,
Souls are not worth the charge of health.
Spaine and America had two designes
To sell their Ghospell for their mines;
For had the Mexicans been poore,
No Spaniard twice had landed on their shore.
'Twas gold the Catholick Religion planted,
Which, had they wanted gold, they still had wanted.

He had made very sharp reflexions upon the court in his last part:—

Did not the learned Glynne and Maynard
To prove true subjects traytors straine hard?

Mr. Saunders (the countesse of Kent's kinsman) sayd that Mr. John Selden much esteemed him for his partes, and would sometimes employ him to write letters for him beyond sea, and to translate for him. He was secretarie to the duke of Bucks, when he was Chancellor of Cambridge. He might have had preferments at first; but he would not accept any but very good ones, so at last he had none at all, and dyed in want.

He painted well and made it (sometime) his profession.

He wayted some yeares on the countess of Kent: she gave her gentlemen 20 per annum a-piece. Mr. John Selden tooke notice of his partes and would many times make him write or translate for him.

Obiit sine prole.

Samuel Butler writt my lord [John] Rosse's Answer to [Robert] the marquesse of Dorchester.

Memorandum: — satyricall witts disoblige whom they converse with, etc.; and consequently make to themselves many enemies and few friends; and this was his manner and case. He was of a leonine-coloured haire, sanguino-cholerique, middle sized, strong.