The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.
§ 12. Difference of Treatment in Part
This is the conclusion of the first and second parts of the poem, published respectively in 1663 and 1664. The third part, which takes up the story, was not published till 1678, and shows considerable difference in the treatment of the subject.
Unlike the earlier parts, it contains very few classical allusions, and these are of the most obvious kind, such as the Trojan horse and Cerberus; the style, too, is smoother and requires less explanation. This may be the result of experience and of hints received by the writer in the intervening years. But the thread of the story is taken up without interruption. The knight, having determined to abjure Ralpho, makes his way to the widow’s house; but, unfortunately for him, the squire had formed the same resolution and forestalled him. When Hudibras appears, the lady is found fully informed on all points, and is able to oppose a true account to all his false claims of suffering on her behalf. The controversy for and against marriage again betrays the knight’s unscrupulous selfishness, and a finishing stroke has set forth his contemptible character, when a low knocking is heard at the gate, and, flying in terror into a neighbouring room, he hides under a table. He is ignominiously drawn out and cudgelled by (as he supposes) Sidrophel’s diabolical agents. Under the influence of superstitious terrors, he confesses the motives that impelled him in his suit, and answers to a catechism which divulges all his iniquities; and, that nothing may be wanting to complete his humiliation, he mistakes his squire Ralpho, who has been similarly beaten and left in the same dark room, for a more or less friendly spirit; whereupon, the pair make confession of the enormities perpetrated by the rival sects in the civil wars.
The final act of the burlesque follows in the third canto of this part, the second being a satirical account of the death of Cromwell and of the intrigues of the various parties before the restoration. The knight, having been withdrawn from his place of torture on Ralpho’s shoulders, is induced by the squire to consult a lawyer. At first, he cries down this scheme, in order to adopt it afterwards as his own. He adopts it ungraciously “since he has no better course” and consoles himself with the, often misquoted, couplet
Butler now has an opportunity of exhibiting a lawyer in what he probably considered a true light. The advice this person gives exemplifies the use that was made in the older jurisprudence of cautelae, or methods of getting round legal enactments, and Hudibras is instructed to ply the widow with love-letters and
The second canto of the third part stands quite by itself and has nothing to do with the fortunes of Hudibras. It is merely an account, more or less detailed, of the principles and politics of the presbyterians, independents and republicans during the anarchy before the restoration. Rebellion had slackened for want of plunder, and presbyterian and independent were now at loggerheads. The presbyterians were turned out, and were glad to become itinerant preachers; they were served as they had treated the cavaliers, and decried the anabaptists and fanatics as much as they had done the papists and the prelatists before. Now, the independents were prepared to pull down everything that the war had spared and to intrigue among themselves. Meantime, the royalists, true to church and crown, notwithstanding their sufferings, came together again on seeing their foes divided;
“Cromwell had given up his reign, Tossed in a furious hurricane”; his feeble son had sunk under the burden of state, and now the “saints” began their rule, but could not agree among themselves. Some were for a king, others wished to set up the fifth monarchy; some were for the Rump parliament, others for a general council of officers; some were for gospel government, others for pulling down presbyterian synods and classes; some, for opposing the papacy, putting down saints’ days and demolishing churches; some, for having regular ministers, others, for soldier preachers. Some would abolish surplices and the use of the ring in the marriage service, while re-establishing the Judaic law, and putting an end to the use of the cross in baptism and to giving the names of saints to churches or streets. Others disallowed the idea of limbus patrum, where the souls of holy men rest till the judgment.
Meantime, the “quacks of government,” such as Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper and John Lilburne, who saw the necessity of a restoration, were discussing matters in secret conclave. Butler gives a wonderful description of Cooper (which should be compared with Dryden’s Achitophel) and of John Lilburne, who both make long speeches on present events and the way they should be met, but ultimately go off into violent recriminations as representatives of the presbyterians and the independents; till they are suddenly interrupted by a messenger who brings the news of the burning of the members of the Rump in effigy. This gives an opportunity for some rough banter on the explanation of the word rump (especially on its Hebrew equivalent luz), which is to be found in Butler’s character entitled “An Hermetic Philosopher.” But, soon, the mob appear with the purpose of hauling out the members of this assembly and burning them. They beat an ignominious retreat, and this ends the second canto, which has been treated last, because it is disconnected with the main story of Hudibras.