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In the author's original copy, there were not so many chasms as appear in the book; and why some of them were left, he knows not: had the publication been trusted to him, he would have made several corrections of passages, against which nothing has been ever objected. He would likewise have altered a few of those, that seem with any reason to be excepted against; but, to deal freely, the greatest number he should have left untouched, as never suspecting it possible any wrong interpretations could be made of them.
The author observes, at the end of the book there is a discourse called a Fragment, which he more wondered to see in print than all the rest, having been a most imperfect sketch, with the addition of a few loose hints, which he once lent a gentleman, who had designed a discourse on somewhat the same subject; he never thought of it afterwards; and it was a sufficient surprise to see it pieced up together, wholly out of the method and scheme he had intended ; for it was the ground-work of a much larger discourse; and he was sorry to observe the materials so foolishly employed.
There is one farther objection made by those who have answered this book, as well as by some others, that Peter is frequently made to repeat oaths and curses. Every reader observes, it was necessary to know that Peter did swear and curse. The oaths are not printed out, but only supposed; and the idea of an oath is not immoral, like the idea of a prophane or immodest speech. A man may laugh at the popish folly of cursing people to hell, and imagine them swearing, without any crime; but lewd words, or dangerous opinions, though printed by halyes, fill the reader's mind with ill ideas; and of these the author cannot be accused. For the judicious reader will find, that the severest strokes of satire in his book are levelled against the modern custom of employing wit upon those topics ; of which there is a remarkable instance in the 156th, 157th pages, as well as in several others, though perhaps once or twice expressed in too free a manner, excusable only for the reasons already alleged. Some overtures have been made, by a third hand, to the bookseller, for the author's altering those passages which he thought might require it; but it seems the bookseller will not hear of any such thing, being apprehensive it might spoil the sale of the book.
The author cannot conclude this apology without making this one reflection ; that, as wit is the noblest and most useful gift of human nature, $0 humour is the most agreeable; and where these two enter far into the composition of any work, they will render it always acceptable to the world. Now, the great part of those who have no share or taste of either, but by their pride, pedantry, and ill manners, lay themselves bare to the lashes of both, think the blow is weak, because they are insensible; and where wit has any mixture of raillery, it is but calling it banter, and the work is done. This polite word of theirs was first borrowed from the bullies in White-Friars; then fell among the footmen; and at last retired to the pedants; by whom it is applied as properly to the production of wit, as if I should apply it to sir Isaac Newton's mathematics. But, if this bantering, as they call it, be so despiseable a thing, whence comes it to pass they have such a perpetual itch toward it themselves ? To instance only in the answerer already mentioned: it is grievous to see him, in some of his writings, at every turn going out of his way to be waggish, to tell us of a cow that pricked up her tail ; and in his answer to this discourse, he says, it is all a farce and a Jadle; with other passages equally shining. One may say of these impedimenta literarum, that wit owes them a shame; and they cannot take wiser counsel, than to keep out of harm's way, or at least, not to come till they are sure they are called.
To conclude : with those allowances above required, this book should be read; after which, the author conceives, few things will remain which may not be excused in a young writer. He wrote only to the men of wit and taste; and he thinks he is not mistaken in his accounts, when he says they have been all of his side, enough to give him the vanity of telling his name; wherein the world, with all its wise conjectures, is yet very much in the dark; which circumstance is no disagreeable amusement either to the public or himself.
The author is informed, that the bookseller has prevailed on several gentlemen to write some explanatory notes ; for the goodness of which he is not to answer, having never seen any of them, nor intending it
, till they appear in print; when it is not unlikely he may have the pleasure to find twenty meanings which never entered into his imagination.
June 3, 1709.
Since the writing of this, which was about a year ago, a prostitute bookseller has published a foolish paper, under the name of Notes on the Tale of a Tub, with some account of the author; and, with an insolence which I suppose is punishable by law, has presumed to assign certain names. It will be enough for the author to assure the world, that the writer of that paper
is utterly wrong in all his conjectures upon that affair. The author farther asserts, that the whole work is entirely of one hand, which every reader of judgment will easily discover; the gentleman, who gave the copy to the bookseller, being a friend of the author, and using no other liberties, beside that of expunging certain passages,
where now the chasms appear under the name of desiderata. But, if any person will prove his claim to three lines in the whole book, let him step forth and tell his name and titles ; upon which, the bookseller shall have orders to prefix them to the next edition, and the claimant shall from henceforward be acknowledged the undisputed author. Treatises written by the same Author, most of them
mentioned in the following Discourses ; which will be speedily published.
A CHARACTER of the present Set of Wits in this Island.
A panegyrical Essay upon the Number Three.
A Dissertation upon the principal Productions of Grub-street.
Lectures upon a Dissection of Human Nature. A Panegyrick upon the World.
An analytical Discourse upon Zeal, histori-theophysi-logically considered.
A general History of Ears.
A modest Defence of the Proceedings of the Rabble in all Ages.
A Description of the Kingdom of Absurdities.
A Voyage into England, by a Person of Quality in terra australis incognita, translated from the Original.
A critical Essay upon the Art of Canting, philophically, physically, and musically considered.