Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Samuel Butler wrote essays and prose in addition to verse. His best-known essay is “The Case of King Charles I Truly Stated,” which argues that the execution of Charles I was unjustified. Butler’s essay was published in Robert Thyer’s The Genuine Remains in Verse and Prose of Samuel Butler (1759), and it displays his excellent understanding of English law—an understanding that plays an important role in Hudibras—and his ability to pick apart a point of view, a trait manifested in his carefully reasoned satire.

Of greater literary significance are his “characters,” which were probably composed during 1667 to 1669, and nearly two hundred of which have been uncovered since Butler’s death. The most complete edition of his characters was edited by Charles W. Daves in 1970 as Samuel Butler, 1612-1680: Characters. As with Hudibras, Butler took a popular literary form of the seventeenth century and modified it to suit his satiric purposes. His “characters” feature politicians, judges, lovers, and zealots, and in each sketch, he demonstrates his abhorrence of immoderation, his contempt for hypocrisy, his disgust with irrational thought, and his willingness to expose fraud and ostentation wherever they might be found. Although some of the characters were intended for publication, others were probably intended to serve as raw material which Butler could mine for his poetry.