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other vultures besides those which have winys-other beasts
besides those which roar. A noble fine old state is degraded by the sins and the incapacities of its rulers ; straightway there appeareth the moral owl, the prophet who hoots and hisses, and who sits on the seat of the satirist, if not of the scorner. But the discipline of satire is of the most multiform kind. It may excoriate, cauterise, almost grind to powder the poor mortal who is submitted to it; or it may be nothing more than a bland, gentle stimulant, just enough to rouse a creature out of slumber, and put him on his mettle. It is difficult to define satire. Delicate and subtle are the tints it wears--shifting with the hue of the ink which writes it, with the glance and the look of him who utters it. The events of the fleeting hour give it a currency and a force which perhaps it can never have again. Some of its qualities are so evanescent that they can no more be recalled than the past can be made present, or the present future. The most polished satire has an aroma, a bouquet, like the produce of a sunny vintage; and yet withal it possesses some imperishable flavour, which makes it as much relished to-day as it was in the Roman Forum and in the Academy of Athens.
Satire is as old as literature as old as man. The sacred writings contain many examples of it. attest its value when used as a moral weapon to stir men up from sloth and selfishness, to suggest more righteous deeds, and to point a nobler way. Beginning with our own times, we fancy we know precisely what functions in the art of moral satire have been fulfilled by Dickens and Thackeray. The great tribe of modern novelists have, in their own estimation, done a good deal towards setting us all to rights; and it is scarcely too much to say, that almost every recent writer of note has flourished the satiric whip. Crack it goes-crack, crack! How we wince under it, and vow every 31st of December that if we live as long as the 1st of January we will turn over a new leaf with the new year, serve God better, and Mammon less. Sometimes the pulpit takes up the tale of satire : but one Syduey Smith is perhaps quite enough for a century. Tom Moore stands at the head of rhyming political satirists, and poor Tom Hood at the head of those poets who flog hypocrisies and shams. The melancholy Cowper knew how to be angry with the whited sepulchres of his day; and Mr. Young,
the man who thought by night, epigrammatised you into a laughing-stock and a fool. Don't forget what Landor says of Young—“All his day thoughts and all his night thoughts hung on mitres." Then the British essayists, with the roaring, honest, old Samuel Johnson at their head, take us back and link us with those two men whom I may be allowed to call monsters of satire—the one of the 18th century, Jonathan Swift; the other of the 17th, John Dryden. Of the former it may be said, with almost absolute truth, that he was the greatest satirist that has ever lived; of the latter, though living and writing within the era prescribed by the title of my paper, it would take an essay, and a great deal more than an essay, to give you merely an outline, and even then you would know but little of that man of whom Coleridge says ("Table Talk”) -“Dryden's genius was of that sort which catches fire by its own motion; his chariot wheels get hot by driving fast.”
We have now come by easy, and I hope not tiresome stages, to the central decades of the 17th century. It would be easy to enumerate and describe a great many persons who lived and wrote about the middle of the 17th century, and who qualified themselves to be satirists in one sense or other, by sharply criticising men and manners, and by condemning much oftener than they praised. The catalogue of men would be much smaller if only those are to be included who may properly take the liberty of preaching to their neighbours, because they were wiser and better than those neighbours. Under this narrower restriction we may fairly place Dr. Donne, Robert Burton, Thomas Dekker, Joseph Hall, bishop of Norwich (one of the literary princes of the century), Sir Thomas Overbury, John Earle, bishop of Salisbury, Peter Heylin, Abraham Cowley, Samuel Butler (another prince), Dr. Robert South, and lastly, though not by any means leastly, John Locke and John Bunyan. From this brilliant company I select two names-Samuel Butler and Bishop Hall. Two names are quite enough ; and long before I have exhausted them you will probably consider that I have attempted too much. But these two men will have something in common which I will soon attempt to explain ; first saying a word about the aim and tendency of satire, that there may be po misunderstanding about what I profess to do. A pleasant writer says, that the “satirist is related to the poet only when he beautifies the exhibition of real life with the lights of fancy, and ennobles invective into allegory; when he puts the crown on some martyr of learning, or immortalises a moral malefactor in fire." Less true than this, is the sentiment that, “viewed in its happiest form as a work of art, satire has one defect which seems to be incurable—its uniformity of censure." This I conceive, is taking too limited a view of the subject. Humour is really a delicate form of satire-a tender instrument, because wielded by a kind and tender hand. Let me illustrate my doctrine from Cowley. He speaks of the sun as the “old drudging sun. Now, most poets exalt the sun above all creation, and sing of him as almost a physical deity. For there are different kinds of worship of the sun: there is the agricultural worship, on behalf of seed-time and harvest; there is the astronomical worship, for we hear about eclipses and solar spots ; and there is the nautical worship, by which the mariner saves himself from perils at sea and perils of quicksand. Now, Cowley, in his sly quiet way, sweeps off the stage all these worships, and brings the sun down to the level of an old donkey, very much worn with age, and decrepit with a long and faithful routine of service. But there is no malice here; and indeed if there were, we should all take the sun's part ; for he still drudges on, and is likely to do so long after we have drudged our little lives and gone to rest.
It is now time to trot out the candidates for literary fame, whom I have promised to bring before you this evening. We all know Samuel Butler as one of the greatest satirical poets of his own or of any other age. Perhaps some of us associate him almost exclusively with that wonderful knight-errant, Sir Hudibras, who, as representing the Presbyterians, was the object of Butler's concentrated and ironie scorn. But every one can run and read Hudibras ; indeed, we need not run at all, for if we have not the poem on our own shelves, we have but to walk to the nearest bookseller's. So I shall say nothing about Butler as a poet, but speak only of that interesting compilation of
Characters” in which he follows a peculiar fashion of his day, and draws a number of cabinet pictures, which are certainly likenesses of living men-men whose moral lineaments he had studied, and who were types almost always of distinet classes of knaves and fools. All this is after the
manner of Sir Thomas Overbury, Bishop Earle, and De la Bruyère. I hold in my hand two precious volumes, the "Genuine Remains, in Prose and Verse, of Mr. Samuel Butler.” These were published from the original manuscripts, nearly one hundred years after Butler's death, by Mr. Thyer, keeper of the Public Library at Manchester. The second volume contains the celebrated “Characters." I open the book, and we are introduced to the “Modern Politician”--this, of course, means a Commonwealth man, probably holding a petty office under Cromwell. one “holds it his duty to betray any man that shall take hím for so much a fool as one fit to be trusted.” He believes “conscience” to be “effect of ignorance, and the same with that foolish fear which some men feel when they are in the dark and alone;" he thinks “the easiest way to purchase a reputation of wisdom and knowledge, is to slight and undervalue it,--as the readiest way to buy cheap is to bring down the price ;” and the sordid wretch maintains that “when a man comes to wealth or preferment,
his first business is to put off all his old friendships and acquaintances as things below him; especially such as may have occasion to make use of him, or have reason to expect any civil returns from him; for requiting of obligations received in man’s necessity is the same thing with paying of debts contracted in his minority, for which he is not accountable by the laws of the land.” Finally, "he believes that a man's words and his meaning should never agree together;" and that “no men are so fit to be trusted as fools or knaves, for the first understand no right, the other regard none." Such are a few fragments from a chapter of exquisite satire; and it is an illustration of the sort of warfare which politicians of that day waged against one another. A hypocrite (a Presbyterian, of course) is drawn with savage force, and is said to make “longer prayers than a Pharisee ; but if the treason, sedition, nonsense, and blasphemy were left out, shorter than a Publican’s." There is a famous aphorism by Sir James Mackintosh, to the effect that “ constitutions are not made, but grow.” Who would have thought that Mackintosh owed his wise saw to Samuel Butler ? Butler is photographing a Republican, and one of his indictments against him is, that "he forgets that no government was ever made by model ; for they are not built as houses are, but grow as trees do."
But how, it may be asked, could a “State quack” (to quote Butler's synonym for a Republican) ever find out such wisdom as this ? A “ degenerate noble” is defined to be “like a turnip, as there is nothing good of him but that which is underground ;” or he is like “rhubarb, a contemptible shrub, that springs from a noble root. He has no more title to the worth or virtue of his ancestors than the worms that were engendered in their dead bodies, and yet he believes that he has enough to exempt himself and his posterity from all things of that nature for ever.” But Butler had a quiver full of arrows for the Court, as well as for Republicans and Presbyterians. He had not far to go to find a “huffing courtier” (as he terms him), whom he calls a
“ cypher, that has no value in himself, but from the place he stands in. His clothes are but his tailor's livery, which he gives him, for 'tis ten to one he never pays for them. His tailor is his creator, and makes him of nothing: by faith he lives in his tailor.” It throws some light on the condition and social habits of the rural gentry in Butler's day, to be told that a country squire is “a clown of rank and degree, who has but one way of making all men welcome that come to his house, and that is by making himself and them drunk.” Any antiquarian present to-night will excuse being described as one who “honours his forefathers and foremothers, but condemns his parents as too modern, and no better than upstarts. He neglects himself, because he was born in his own time, and so far off antiquity, which he so much admires. He has so strong an affection to anything that is old, that he may truly say to dust and worms, you are my father, and to rottenness, thou art my mother." A proud man is described as a "fool in fermentation.' A henpecked man “rides behind his wife, and lets her wear the spurs and govern the reins."
(To be continued.)
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