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Are half fo fweet as Alexander's breast !
From every pore of him a perfume falls,
Even when the joy he figh'd for is poffefs'd,
Vows with fuch paffion, fwears with fo much grace
That 'tis a kind of Heaven to be deluded by him.
If I but mention him the tears will fall,
His Tragedy of Theodofius, or the Force of Love, is the only play of Lee's that at present keeps poffeffion of the ftage, an argument, in my opinion, not much in favour of our tafte, that a Genius should be fo neglected.
It is faid, that Lee died in the night, in the ftreets, upon a frolic, and that his father never affifted him in his frequent and preffing neceffity, which he was able to do. It appears that tho' Lee was a player, yet, for want of execution, he did not much fucceed, though Mr. Cibber fays, that he read excellently, and that the players used to tell him, unless they could act the part as he read it, they could not hope fuccefs, which, it feems, was not the cafe with Dryden, who could hardly read to be understood. Lee was certainly a man of great genius; when it is confidered how young he died, he performed miracles, and had he lived 'till his fervour cooled, and his judgment ftrengthened, which might have been the confequence of years, he would have made a greater figure in poetry than fome of his contemporaries, who are now placed in a fuperior rank.
HE celebrated author of Hudibras, was born at Strenfham in Worcestershire, 1612; His father, a reputable country farmer, perceiving in his fon an early inclination to learning, fent him for education to the free-school of Worcester, under the care of Mr. Henry Bright, where having laid the foundation of grammar learning, he was fent for fome time to Cambridge, but was never matriculated in that univerfity *. After he had refided there fix or feven years, he returned to his native country, and became clerk to Mr. Jefferys of Earl's-Croom, an eminent juftice of for peace for that county, with whom he lived years, in an eafy, though, for fuch a genius, no very reputable fervice; during which time, through the indulgence of a kind mafter, he had fufficient leifure to apply himself to his favourite ftudies, hiftory and poetry, to which, for his diverfion, he added mufic and painting.
The anonymous author of Butler's Life tells us, that he had feen fome pictures of his drawing, which were preferved in Mr. Jefferys's family, which I mention not (fays he) for the excellency of them, but to fatisfy the reader of his early inclination to that noble art; for which also he was afterwards entirely loved by Mr. Samuel
Life of Butler, p 6.
Cooper, one of the moft eminent Painters of his time. Wood places our poet's improvement in mufic and painting, to the time of his fervice under the countess of Kent, by whofe patronage he had not only the opportunity of confulting all kinds of books, but converfing alfo with the great Mr. Selden, who has juftly gained the epithet of a living library of learning, and was then converfant in that lady's family, and who often employed our poet to write letters beyond fea, and tranflate for him. He lived fome time alfo with Sir Samuel Luke, a gentleman of a good family in Bedfordshire, and a famous commander under Oliver Cromwel.
Much about this time he wrote (fays the author of his Life) the renowned Hudibras, as he then had opportunities of converfing with the leaders of that party, whofe religion he calls hypocrify, whofe politics rebellion, and whofe fpeeches ⚫ nonfenfe;' he was of an unfhaken loyalty, though he was placed in the house of a rebel, and it is generally thought, that under the character of Hudibras, he intended to ridicule Sir Samuel Luke. After the restoration of Charles II. he was made fecretary to the earl of Carbury, lord prefident of the principality of Wales, who appointed him fteward of Ludlow Caffle, when the court was revived there; and about this time he married one Mrs. Herbert, a gentlewoman of very good family. Anthony Wood fays, fhe was a widow, and that Butler fupported himself by her jointure; for though in his early years he had ftudied the common law, yet he had made no advantage by the practice of it; but others affert, that the was not a widow, and that though the had a competent fortune, it proved of little or no advantage to Butler, as most of it was unfortunately loft by being put out on bad fecurity. Mr. Wood likewife fays, that he was fecretary to the
duke of Buckingham, when that lord was chancellor of the univerfity of Cambridge, and the life writer affures us he had a great kindness for him : but the late ingenious major Richardfon Pack tells a ftory, which, if true, overthrows both their affertions, and as it is fomewhat particular, we fhall give it a place here. Mr. Wycherley had taken every opportunity to reprefent to his grace the duke of Buckingham, how well Mr. Butler had deferved of the Royal Family, by writing his inimitable Hudibras, and that it was a reproach to the court, that a perfon of his loyalty and wit fhould languish in obfcurity, under fo many wants. The duke feemed always to hearken to him with attention, and, after fome time, undertook to recommend his pretenfions to his Majefty. Mr. Wycherly, in hopes to keep him fteady to his word, obtained of his Grace to name a day, when he might introduce that modeft, unfortunate poet' to his new patron; at laft an appointment was made, Mr. Butler and his friend attended accord- ́ ingly, the duke joined them. But, as the devil would have it (fays the major) the door of the room, where he fat, was open, and his Grace, who had feated himself near it, obferving a pimp of his acquaintance (the creature too was a knight) trip by with a brace of ladies, immediately quitted his engagement to follow another kind of bufinefs, at which he was more ready, than at doing good offices to men of defert, though no one was better qualified than he, both in regard to his fortune, and underftanding to protect them, and from that hour to the day of his death, poor Butler never found the leaft effect of his promife, and defcended to the grave oppreffed with want and poverty.'
The excellent lord Buckhurft, the late earl of Dorfet and Middlefex, was a friend to our poet, who, as he was a man of wit and parts himself,
knew how to fet a juft value on those who excelled. He had alfo promises of places and employment from lord chancellor Clarendon, but, as if poor Butler had been doomed to misfortunes, thefe proved * meer court promifes. Mr. Butler in fhort, affords a remarkable inftance of that coldness and neglect, which great genius's often experience from the court and age in which they live; we are told indeed by a gentleman, whose father was intimate with Butler, Charles. Longueville, Efq; that Charles II. once gave him a gratuity of three hundred pounds, which had this compliment attending it, that it paffed all the offices without any fee, lord Danby being at that time high treasurer, which feems to be the only court favour he ever received; a ftrange inftance of neglect! when we confider King Charles was fo exceffive fond of this poem of Hudibras; that he carried it always in his pocket, he quoted it almost on every occafion, and never mentioned it, but with raptures.
This is movingly reprefented in a poem of our author's, publifhed in his remains called Hudibras. at Court. He takes occafion to juftify his poem, by hinting its excellences in general, and paying a few modeft compliments to himself, of which we fhall tranfcribe the following lines.
Now you must know, fir Hudibras,
That all that faw him did him honour;
This prince, whofe ready wit, and parts
* Posthumous Works of Wycherly, published by Mr. Theobald,