1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Butler

Henry Neele, in Russell Institution Lectures on English Poetry (1827); Remains (New York, 1829) 117-18.



Butler's Hubibras is a production of matchless wit and fancy; but the construction of the story, and the delineations of the characters, have been praised far beyond their merits. In these particulars it has very slender claims to originality. Cervantes is evidently the model which Butler followed; and Hudibras is Don Quixote turned puritan. He has exchanged the helmet of Malbrino for the close cap of Geneva. Instead of encountering giants and enchanters; he wages war with papists and prelatists. Instead of couching his lance at tilts and tournaments; he mounts the pulpit, and harangues the "long-eared" multitude. When his own interest is concerned, his apprehension becomes wonderfully keener. Like Hamlet, he is but "mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly, he knows a hawk from a hand-saw." Ralpho, in like manner, is but a conventicle edition of Sancho; but who can wonder that Butler should have failed in copying from such models as these?