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Samuel Butler

In the east aisle of Poets' Corner is a memorial to satirist Samuel Butler. This was originally floor standing but was reduced and moved up onto the wall when the memorial to Thomas Gray was put in (it had already been moved from its original location in the main aisle when John Gay's monument took its place). The monument includes a wreathed bust, probably by J.M. Rysbrack. The Latin inscription can be translated:

Sacred to the memory of Samuel Butler, who was born at Strensham in Worcestershire 1612 and died in London 1680. A man of extraordinary learning, wit and integrity. Peculiarly happy in his writings, not so in the encouragement of them; the curious inventor of a kind of satire among us, by which he plucked the mask from pious hypocrisy, and plentifully exposed the villainy of rebels: the first and last of writers in this way. Lest he, who, when alive, was destitute in all things, should, when dead, want likewise a monument John Barber, citizen of London, hath taken care by placing this stone over him 1721.

The date of his birth is given in Old Style dating which is now called 1613. Barber became Lord Mayor of London in 1733. Butler was buried at St Paul's church, Covent Garden as there was no money to pay the Abbey burial fees.

He was a son of Samuel Butler, a yeoman farmer (died 1626) and his wife Mary and was educated in Worcester. He became a clerk and was a servant to the Countess of Kent and later to the Duke of Buckingham. His popular work was Hudibras. He died in poverty on 25th September 1680.

Samuel Wesley wrote the following lines about the setting up of the monument:

While Butler, needy wretch!, was yet alive, no generous patron would a dinner give: see him, when starved to death and turned to dust, presented with a monumental bust! The poet's fate is here in emblem shown: he asked for bread, and he received a stone.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Died

25th September 1680

Field

Poet

Location

South Transept; Poets' Corner

Memorial Type

Bust

Samuel Butler
Samuel Butler monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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