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RAPIN (in his Reflections) speaking of the necessary qualities of a poet, tells us, he must have a genius extraordinary; great natural gifts ; 'a wit just, fruitful, piercing, solid, and universal; an understanding clear and distinct; an imagination neat and pleasant; an elevation of soul, that depends not on art or study, but is purely the gift of heaven, which must be sustained by a lively sense and vivacity; judgment to consider wisely of things, and vivacity for the beautiful expression of them, &c.
How justly this character is due to our Author --we leave it to the impartial and intelligent reader to decide.
Dr. Johnson, speaking of this incomparable poem, says, If inexhaustible wit could give perpetual pleasure, no eye would ever leave halfread the work of Butler ; for what poet has ever
brought so many remote images so happily together? It is scarcely possible to peruse a page without finding some association of images that was never found before. By the first paragraph the reader is amused, by the next he is delighted, and by a few more strained to astonishment. If the French boast the learning of Rabelais, we need not be afraid of confronting them with Butler.”
Voltaire, also, in his Letters concerning the English Nation, says, “ There is one English Poem, the title whereof is Hudibras ;-it is Don Quixote, it is our Satire Merippée blended together. I never met with so much wit in one single book as in this.”
To say more of this admirable Poem would be superfluous, if not impertinent. We shall therefore only observe, in regard to the advantages which the present edition of our humorous English Classic possesses over preceding ones, that the notes and illustrations comprehend not merely the best notes and explanations of Dr. Grey and former editors, but a very large accession of new matter has been made, the result of months' careful researches at the library of the British Museum, and a diligent perusal of all the modern writers whose labours have thrown
any light on the history of the times of which Butler treats. Among the modern works which have been consulted with the greatest advantage, may be mentioned, particularly, Hume's and Smollett's Histories of England, the Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson, Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates, and Mr. Fox's Introductory Chapter to his History of the Reign of James the Second.
The Preliminary Discourse on the Civil War and Usurpation, compiled for the most part from sources of authority which were not in existence when Dr. Grey published his edition of our poet, will, it is confidently hoped, not only be found extremely useful to facilitate the understanding of our author, by freeing his work at the threshold from many of its obscurities, but will likewise be considered valuable as conveying a new and interesting picture of the most remarkable era in our history.
To conclude, there are at this time many editions of Hudibras on sale ; but Hudibras without copious, explanatory Notes, must be in a great measure lost to a reader of the present day, for, as Dr. Johnson says,
“6 Much of that humour which transported the 17th century is lost to us, who do not know the sour solemnity—the sullen superstition--the gloomy moroseness--and the stubborn scruples of the ancient Puritans. We have never been witnesses of animosities excited by the use of mince-pies and plumb-porridge ; nor seen with abhorrence those who could eat them at all times of the year, shrink from them in December. An old Puritan who was alive in my childhood, being at one of the feasts of the church invited by a neighbour to partake his cheer, told him, that if he would treat him at an alehouse with beer brewed at all times and seasons, he should accept his kindness, but would have none of his superstitious meats and drinks."