Home  »  Volume VIII: English THE AGE OF DRYDEN  »  § 5. Penury of his Later Days

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

II. Samuel Butler

§ 5. Penury of his Later Days

It is recorded that Butler contracted a marriage with a wealthy widow, but that they lost their property by unfortunate speculations. Another story attributes this loss to the rascality of lawyers and accounts thus for the exceeding bitterness with which the poet assails them. But this is an obscure point; even the lady’s name is not known for certain. If the question could be satisfactorily determined, light would possibly be thrown on the relations of Hudibras and the widow in the third part of the poem. It seems, however, tolerably certain that Butler passed the rest of his days in needy circumstances and died in abject penury. This is attested by an epigram full of bitterness on the subject of a monument erected to his memory in Westminster abbey in 1720:

  • While Butler, needy Wretch, was yet alive
  • No Generous Patron would a Dinner give.
  • See him when starv’d to death and turn’d to Dust
  • Presented with a monumental Bust.
  • The Poet’s Fate is here an Emblem show’n;
  • He asked for Bread and he receiv’d a Stone.