1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Butler

John Aikin, in Letters to a Young Lady (1806) 237-38.



From the grave and the sportive employment of wit, we may naturally proceed to the use of it in satire and burlesque; and in BUTLER'S Hudibras we shall find an example of this kind which stands unrivalled in the poetic art. The purpose of this work was to throw ridicule upon that party which subverted the monarchy and church of England in the time of Charles I. Their reign, indeed, was over before the appearance of the poem, and it might seem unnecessary to attack a humiliated faction; yet their principles were far from being extinct, and to expose them to contempt was no mean service to the opposite cause. Accordingly, Hudibras become a great favourite with the court and royalists: it was relished by a king who was himself a man of wit, and its severity gratified the party animosity of those who perhaps valued it on no other account. At this distance of time it is read merely as a literary performance; and its merits are fairly estimated without scrutinizing the justice of its satire, or the motives of its author.