Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Dryden > Samuel Butler > His Learning in Letters and Law
  Penury of his Later Days Imitations of his Prose and Verse: The Posthumous Works  

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

II. Samuel Butler.

§ 6. His Learning in Letters and Law.


We have seen that he was well taught in Latin and Greek; but we learn from one of his Contradictions that he gave up his Greek studies after he had left school as “unnecessary except to Dunces and Schoolmasters,” and, in his Thoughts on Learning and Knowledge, 5  he repeats that Greek is “of little use in our times unless to serve Pedants and mountebanks to smatter withal”; there is, however, considerable evidence that he kept up his Latin, especially in the satirists Horace, Juvenal and Persius, from whom he derives many thoughts and similes; Lucan, also, he parodies in a notable passage. 6  In his prose writings (Reflections, etc.) he shows that he had read Lucretius carefully; he employs that poet’s language in illustrating remarks aimed at the newly formed Royal Society or, as they were styled, the “Virtuosi of Gresham College.” He freely showers ridicule on Sir Paul Neale, probably the original of the astrologer Sidrophel (perhaps a parody of “Astrophil”) and on Lord Brounker, president of the Society, who, in the poem entitled The Elephant in the Moon, is dubbed “Virtuoso in chief.”   9
  A knowledge of English law and legal phraseology is conspicuous in his writings, but, as might be expected, it is the technical law appertaining to the office of a justice of the peace rather than that of a constitutional lawyer, though his intercourse with Selden may have procured for him some acquaintance with that department of legal study.   10

Note 5. p. 280 (ed. 1908). [ back ]
Note 6I, 2, 493–502. [ back ]

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  Penury of his Later Days Imitations of his Prose and Verse: The Posthumous Works  
 
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