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and diverting. He resolved to proceed in a manner that should be altogether new, the world having been already too long nauseated with endless repetitions upon every subject. The abuses in religion, he proposed to set forth in the allegory of the coats, and the three brothers, which was to make up the body of the discourse : those in learning, he chose to introduce by way of digressions. He was then a young gentleman much in the world, * and wrote to the taste of those who were like himself; therefore, in order to allure them, he gave a liberty to his pen, which might not suit with maturer years, or graver characters, and which he could have easily corrected with a very few blots, had he been master of his papers, for a year or two before their publication.
Not that he would have governed his judgment by the ill-placed cavils of the sour, the envious, the stupid, and the tasteless, which he mentions with disdain. He acknowledges there are several youthful sallies, which, from the grave and the wise, may deserve a rebuke. But he desires to be answerable no farther than he is guilty, and that his faults may not be multiplied by the ignorant, the unnatural, and uncharitable applications of those who have neither candour to suppose good meanings, nor palate to distinguish true ones. After which, he will forfeit his life, of any one opinion can be fairly deduced from that book, which is contrary to religion or mo. rality.
Why should any clergyman of our church, be angry
to see the follies of fanaticism and superstition exposed, though in the most ridiculous
* Swift resided at Moor-park, in 1696; and unquestionably the companion of sir William Temple must be considered as
living in the world.”
manner; since that is perhaps the most probable way to cure them, or at least to hinder them from farther spreading ? Besides, though it was not intended for their perusal, it rallies nothing but what they preach against. It contains nothing to provoke them, by the least scurrility upon their persons or their functions.
It celebrates the church of England, as the most perfect of all others, in discipline and doctrine; it advances no opinion they reject, nor condemns any they receive. If the clergy's resentment lay upon their hands, in my humble opinion, they might have found more proper objects to employ them on; nondum tibi defuit hostis; I mean those heavy, illiterate scribblers, prostitute in their reputations, vicious in their lives, and ruined in their fortunes, who, to the shame of good sense as well as piety, are greedily read, merely upon the strength of bold, false, impious assertions, mixed with unmannerly reflections upon the priesthood, and openly intended against all religion : in short, full of such principles as are kindly received, because they are levelled to remove those terrors, that religion tells men will be the consequence of immoral lives. Nothing like which is to be met with in this discourse, though some of them are pleased so freely to censure it. And I wish there were no other instance of what I have too frequently observed, that many of that reverend body are not always very nice in distinguishing between their enemies and their friends.
Had the author's intentions met with a more candid interpretation from some, whom out of respect he forbears to name, he might have been encouraged to an examination of books written by some of those authors above described, whose errors, ignorance, dulness, and villainy he thinks he could have detected and exposed in such a manner, that the persons, who are most conceived to be affected by them, would soon lay them aside and be ashamed: but he has now given over those thoughts; since the weightiest men, in the weightiest stations, are pleased to think it a more dangerous point, to laugh at those corruptions in religion, which they themselves must disapprove, than to endeavour pulling up those very foundations, wherein all Christians have agreed.
He thinks it no fair proceeding, that any person should offer determinately to fix a name upon the author of this discourse, who hath all along concealed himself from most of his nearest friends: yet several have gone a step farther, and pronounced another book to have been the work of the same hand with this, which the author directly affirms to be a thorough mistake; * he having yet never so much as read that discourse : a plain instance how little truth there often is in general surmises, or in conjectures drawn from a similitude of style, or way of thinking.
Had the author written a book to expose the abuses in Law, or in Physic, he believes the learned professors in either faculty would have been so far from resenting it, as to have given him thanks for his pains : especially if he had made an honourable reservation for the true practice of either science: but Religion, they tell us, ought not to be ridiculed; and they tell us truth: yet surely the corruptions in it may; for we are taught by the tritest maxim in the world, that Religion being the best of things, its corruptions are likely to be the worst.
* The celebrated Letter on Enthusiasm, published in 1708. It had been submitted by Lord Shaftesbury, to the revisal of Lord Somers, and others; but appeared anonymously.
There is one thing which the judicious reader cannot but have observed, that some of those passages in this discourse, which appear most liable to objection, are what they call parodies, where the author personates the style and manner of other writers, whom he has a mind to expose. I shall produce one instance of a passage in which Dryden, L'Estrange, and some others I shall not name, are levelled at, who, having spent their lives in faction, and apostacies, and all manner of vice, pretended to be sufferers for loyalty and religion. So Dryden tells us, in one of his prefaces, of his merits and sufferings, and thanks God that he possesses his soul in patience ; * in other places he talks at the same rate ; and L'Estrange often uses the like style; and I believe the reader may find more persons to give that passage an application : but this is enough to direct those, who may have overlooked the author's intention.
* In the Tale of a Tub, Dryden is repeatedly mentioned with great disrespect, not only as a translator and original author, but a mean-spirited sycophant of the great. The passage here alluded to occurs in the Essay on Satire, which Dryden prefaced to his version of Juvenal." More libels have been written against me, than almost any man now living ; and I had reason on my side, to have defended my own innocence. I speak not of my poetry, which I have wholly given up to the critics : let them use it as they please : posterity, perhaps, may be more favourable to me; for interest and passion will lie buried in another
and partiality and prejudice be forgotten. I speak of my morals, which have been sufficiently aspersed: that only sort of reputation ought to be dear to every honest man, and is to me. But let the world witness for me, that I have been often wanting to myself in that particular ; I have seldom answered any scurrilous lampooni
, when it was in my power to have exposed my enemies : and, being naturally vindicative, have suffered in silence, and possessed my soul in quiet."
The recollection of his contemned Odes still rankled in Swift's bosom, though Dryden died four years before publication of the Tale of a Tub.
There are three or four other passages, which prejudiced or ignorant readers have drawn by great force to hint at ill meanings; as if they glanced at some tenets in religion. In answer to all which, the author solemnly protests, he is entirely innocent; and never had it once in his thoughts, that any thing he said would in the least be capable of such interpretations, which he will engage to deduce full as fairly from the most innocent book in the world. And it will be obvious to every reader, that this was not any part of his scheme or design, the abuses he notes being such as all church-of-England men agree in; nor was it proper for his subject to meddle with other points, than such as have been perpetually controverted since the Reformation.
To instance only in that passage about the three wooden machines, mentioned in the introduction: in the original manuscript there was a description of a fourth, which those, who had the papers in their power, blotted out, as having something in it of satire, that I suppose they thought was too particular; and therefore they were forced to change it to the number three, whence some have endeavoured to squeeze out a dangerous meaning, that was never thought on. And indeed the conceit was half spoiled by changing the numbers; that of four being much more cabalistic, and therefore better
pretended virtue of numbers, a superstition there intended to be ridiculed. *
* It is difficult to form a guess what the fourth machine may have been, by which the quaternion was completed, and the author saved from the accusation of intending to ridicule one of the most solemn parts of our creed. But the fancies of mystical au. thors, in favour of particular numbers, were as capricious as those of the fancies of lucky numbers in the lottery : “ Not only the