« AnteriorContinuar »
Another thing to be observed is, that there generally runs an irony through the thread of the whole book, which the man of taste will observe and distinguish; and which will render some objections, that have been made, very weak and insignificant.
This Apology being chiefly intended for the satisfaction of future readers, it may be thought unnecessary to take any notice of such treatises as have been written against the ensuing discourse, which are already sunk into waste paper and oblivion, after the usual fate of common answerers to books which are allowed to have any merit: they are indeed like annuals, that grow about a young tree, and seem to vie with it for a summer, but fall and die with the leaves in autumn, and are
number of 7 and 9, from considerations abstruse, have been extol. Jed by most; but all, or most of the other digits, have been as mystically applauded; for the number of one and three have not been only admired by the heathens, but, from adorable grounds, the unity of God, and mystery of the Trinity, admired by many Chris. tians. The number of four stands much admired, not only in the quaternity of the elements, which are the principles of bodies, but in the letters of the name of God, which, in the Greek, Arabian, Persian, Hebrew, and Scythian, consisteth of that i.umber; and was so venerable among the Pythagoreans, that they swore by the number four. That of six hath found many leaves in its favour, not only for the days of the creation, but its natural consideration, as being a perfect number, and the first that is compleated by its parts; thatis, the sixth, the half, and the third, 1. 2. 3. which, drawn in a summe, make six. The number of ten hath been as highly extolled, as containing even, odd, long and plain, quadrate and cubical numbers; and Aristotle observed with admiration, that barbarians as well as Greeks did use a numeration into ten, which, being so general, was not to be judged casual, but to have a foundation in nature. So that not only 7 and 9, but all the rest, have their elogies, as may be observed at large in Rhodiginus, and in several writers since: every one extolling a number according to his subject, and as it advantaged the present discourse in hand."Brown's Vulgar Errors, Lond. 1650, p. 178.
never heard of more. When Dr Eachard writ his book about the contempt of the clergy, numbers of these answerers immediately started up, whose memory if he had not kept alive by his replies, it would now be utterly unknown that he was ever answered at all. There is indeed an exception, when any great genius thinks it worth his while to expose a foolish piece; so we still read Marvell's answer to Parker * with pleasure, though the book it answers be sunk long ago; so the earl of Orrery's remarks will be read with delight, when the dissertation he exposes will neither be sought nor found: f but these are no enterprises for common hands, nor to be hoped for above once or twice in an age. Men would be more cautious of losing their time in such an undertaking, if they did but consider, that, to answer a book effectually, requires more pains and skill, more wit, learning, and judgment, than were employed in the writing of it. And the author assures those gentlemen, who have given themselves that trouble with him, that his discourse is the product of the study, the observation, and the invention of several years; that he often blotted out much more than he left, and if his papers had not been a long time out of his possession, they must have still undergone more severe corrections: and do they think such a building is to be battered with
* Parker, afterwards bishop of Oxford, wrote many treatises against the dissenters, with insolence and contempt, says Burnet, that enraged them beyond measure ; for which he was chastised by Andrew Marvell, under-secretary to Milton, in a little book called the Rehearsal transprosed.
+ Boyle's Remarks, upon Bentley's Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris.
dirt-pellets, however envenomed the mouths may be that discharge them ? He has seen the productions but of two answerers, one of which at first appeared as from an unknown hand, but since avowed by a person, * who, upon some occasions, has discovered no ill vein of humour. It is a pity any occasion should put him under a necessity of being so hasty in his productions, which, otherwise, might be entertaining. But there were other reasons obvious enough for his miscarriage in this; he writ against the conviction of his talent, and entered upon one of the wrongest attempts in nature, to turn into ridicule, by a week's labour, a work which had cost so much time, and met with so much success in ridiculing others : the manner how he handled his subject I have now forgot, having just looked it over, when it first came out, as others did, merely for the sake of the title. +
* Dr William King, the civilian, author of an Account of Denmark, a Dissertation on Samplers, and other pieces of burlesque on the Royal Society, and the Art of Cookery, in imitation of Horace's Art of Poetry.
+ A specimen of King's humour may entertain the reader, although it must be admitted that, as Dryden says of Collier, there is much horse play in his raillery :-"A certain gentleman, that is the nearest to you of any person, was mentioned, upon supposition, that the book had wit and learning in it; but when I had displayed it in its proper colours, I must do the company that justice, that there was not one but acquitted you. That matter being dispatched, every one was at their liberty of guessing. One-said, he believed it was a journeyman taylor, in Billeter-lane, that was an idle sort of a fellow, and loved writing more than stitching, that was the author; his reason was, ' because here he is so desirous to mention his goose and his garret;' but it was answered, that he was a member of the society; and so he was excused. “But why then, says another, since he makes such a parable upon coats, may it not be Mr Amy the coat seller, who is a poet and a wit? To which it was replied, that that gentleman's loss had been bewailed
The other answer is from a person of a graver character, and is made up of half invective, and halfannotation ; * in the latter of which he has generally succeeded well enough. And the project
in an elegy some years ago. "Why may it not be Mr Gumly the rag-woman's husband, in Turnbull-street?' Says another, He is kept by her, and having little to do, and having been an officer in Monmouth's army, since the defeat at Sedgemore has always been a violent Tory.' But it was urged that his style was harsh, rough, and unpolished; and that he did not understand one word of Latin. Why then,' cries another, · Oliver's porter had an amanuensis at Bedlam, that used to transcribe what he dictated : and may not these be some scattered notes of his master's ?' To which all replied, that though Oliver's porter was crazed, yet his misfortune never let him forget that he was a Christian). One said, it was a surgeon's man, that had married a midwife's nurse: but though by the style it might seem probable that two such persons bad a hand in it; yet, since he could not name the persons, his fancy was rejected. I coujecture,' says another, that it may be a lawyer, that
When, on a sudden, he was interrupted by Mr Markland the scrivener, ' No, rather, by the oaths, it should be an Irish evidence.” At last there stood up a sprant young man, that is secretary to a scavenger, and cried, “What if, after all, it should be a parson! for who may make more free with their trade? What if I know him, describe him, name him, and how he and his friends talk of it, admire it, are proud of it.' - Hold, cry all the company ; that function must not be mentioned without respect. We have enough of the dirty subject; we had better drink our coffee, and talk our politicks." --Remarks on the Tale of a Tub, apud Dr King's Works, 1776. 1. 217.
It must be remembered to Swift's honour, that this rude and malignant criticism did not prevent his befriending King, when his intimacy with Harley gave him an opportunity of conferring benefits.
* Wotton's Defence of his Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning. From the annotations are selected the notes signed W. Wotton. Thus Wotton appears busied to illustrate a work, which he laboured to condemn, and adds force to a satire pointed against himself; as captives were bound to the chariot-wheel of the victor, and compelled to increase the pomp of his triumph, whom they had in vain attempted to defeat
at that time was not amiss to draw in readers to his pamphlet, several having appeared desirous that there might be some explication of the more difficult passages. Neither can he be altogether blamed for offering at the invective part, because it is agreed on all hands, that the author had given him sufficient provocation. The great objection is against his manner of treating it, very unsuitable to one of his function. It was determined by a fair majority, that this answerer had, in a way not to be pardoned, drawn his pen against a certain great man then alive, and universally reverenced for every good quality that could possibly enter into the composition of the most accomplished person; it was observed, how he was pleased, and affected to have that noble writer called his adversary; and it was a point of satire well directed; for I have been told sir William Temple was sufficiently mortified at the term. All the men of wit and politeness were immediately up in arms through indignation, which prevailed over their contempt by the consequences they apprehended from such an example; and it grew Porsenna's case; idem trecenti juravimus. In short, things were ripe for a general insurrection, till my lord Orrery had a little laid the spirit, and settled the ferment. But, his lordship being principally engaged with another antagonist, * it was thought necessary, in order to quiet the minds of men, that this opposer should receive a reprimand, which partly occasioned that discourse of the Battle of the Books; and the author was farther at the pains to insert one or two remarks on him in the body of the book.
* Bentley concerning Phalaris and Æsop,