1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Butler

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 269.



The merit of Hudibras, excellent as it is, certainly lies in the its style and execution, and by no means in the structure of the story. The action of the poem as it stands, and interrupted as it is, occupies but three days; and it is clear from the opening line, "When civil dudgeon first grew high," that it was meant to bear date with the civil wars. Yet after two days and nights are completed, the poet skips at once, in the third part, to Oliver Cromwell's death, and then returns to retrieve his hero, and conduct him through the last canto. Before the third part of Hudibras appeared, a great space of time had elapsed since the publication of the first. Charles II. had been fifteen years asleep on the throne, and Butler seems to have felt that the ridicule of the sectaries had grown a stale subject. Then final interest of the piece, therefore, dwindles into the widow's repulse of Sir Hudibras, a topic which has been suspected to allude, not so much to the Presbyterians, as to the reigning monarch's dotage upon his mistresses.