THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS
AND OTHER SHORT PIECES.
CASSELL & COMPANY, Limited:
london, paris, new
york & melbourne.
Jonathan Swift was born in 1667, on the 30th of
November. His father was a Jonathan Swift, sixth of the ten
sons of the Rev. Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodrich, near Ross, in
Herefordshire, who had married Elizabeth Dryden, niece to the
poet Dryden’s grandfather. Jonathan Swift married, at
Leicester, Abigail Erick, or Herrick, who was of the family that
had given to England Robert Herrick, the poet. As their
eldest brother, Godwin, was prospering in Ireland, four other
Swifts, Dryden, William, Jonathan, and Adam, all in turn found
their way to Dublin. Jonathan was admitted an attorney of
the King’s Inns, Dublin, and was appointed by the Benchers
to the office of Steward of the King’s Inns, in January,
1666. He died in April, 1667, leaving his widow with an
infant daughter, Jane, and an unborn child.
Swift was born in Dublin seven months after his father’s
death. His mother after a time returned to her own family,
in Leicester, and the child was added to the household of his
uncle, Godwin Swift, who, by his four wives, became father to ten
sons of his own and four daughters. Godwin Swift sent his
nephew to Kilkenny School, where he had William Congreve among
his schoolfellows. In April, 1782, Swift was entered at
Trinity College as pensioner, together with his cousin Thomas,
son of his uncle Thomas. That cousin Thomas afterwards
became rector of Puttenham, in Surrey. Jonathan Swift
graduated as B.A. at Dublin, in February, 1686, and remained in
Trinity College for another three years. He was ready to
proceed to M.A. when his uncle Godwin became insane. The
troubles of 1689 also caused the closing of the University, and
Jonathan Swift went to Leicester, where mother and son took
counsel together as to future possibilities of life.
The retired statesman, Sir William Temple, at Moor Park, near
Farnham, in Surrey, was in highest esteem with the new King and
the leaders of the Revolution. His father, as Master of the
Irish Rolls, had been a friend of Godwin Swift’s, and with
his wife Swift’s mother could claim cousinship. After
some months, therefore, at Leicester, Jonathan Swift, aged
twenty-two, went to Moor Park, and entered Sir William
Temple’s household, doing service with the expectation of
advancement through his influence. The advancement he
desired was in the Church. When Swift went to Moor Park he
found in its household a child six or seven years old, daughter
to Mrs. Johnson, who was trusted servant and companion to Lady
Gifford, Sir William Temple’s sister. With this
little Esther, aged seven, Swift, aged twenty-two, became a
playfellow and helper in her studies. He broke his English
for her into what he called their “little language,”
that was part of the same playful kindliness, and passed into
their after-life. In July, 1692, with Sir William
Temple’s help, Jonathan Swift commenced M.A. in Oxford, as
of Hart Hall. In 1694, Swift’s ambition having been
thwarted by an offer of a clerkship, of £120 a year, in the
Irish Rolls, he broke from Sir William Temple, took orders, and
obtained, through other influence, in January, 1695, the small
prebendary of Kilroot, in the north of Ireland. He was
there for about a year. Close by, in Belfast, was an old
college friend, named Waring, who had a sister. Swift was
captivated by Miss Waring, called her Varina, and would have
become engaged to marry her if she had not flinched from
engagement with a young clergyman whose income was but a hundred
But Sir William Temple had missed Jonathan Swift from Moor
Park. Differences were forgotten, and Swift, at his wish,
went back. This was in 1696, when his little pupil, Esther
Johnson, was fifteen. Swift said of her, “I knew her
from six years old, and had some share in her education, by
directing what books she should read, and perpetually instructing
her in the principles of honour and virtue, from which she never
swerved in any one action or moment of her life. She was
sickly from her childhood until about the age of fifteen; but
then grew into perfect health, and was then looked upon as one of
the most beautiful, graceful, and agreeable young women in
London, only a little too fat. Her hair was blacker than a
raven, and every feature of her face in perfection.”
This was the Stella of Swift’s after-life, the one woman to
whom his whole love was given. But side by side with the
slow growth of his knowledge of all she was for him, was the slow
growth of his conviction that attacks of giddiness and deafness,
which first came when he was twenty, and recurred at times
throughout his life, were signs to be associated with that which
he regarded as the curse upon his life. His end would be
like his uncle Godwin’s. It was a curse transmissible
to children, but if he desired to keep the influence his genius
gave him, he could not tell the world why he refused to
marry. Only to Stella, who remained unmarried for his sake,
and gave her life to him, could all be known.
Returned to Moor Park, Swift wrote, in 1697, the “Battle
of the Books,” as well as the “Tale of the
Tub,” with which it was published seven years afterwards,
in 1704. Perrault and others had been battling in France
over the relative merits of Ancient and Modern Writers. The
debate had spread to England. On behalf of the Ancients,
stress was laid by Temple on the letters of Phalaris, tyrant of
Agrigentum. Wotton replied to Sir William for the
Moderns. The Hon. Charles Boyle, of Christ Church,
published a new edition of the Epistles of Phalaris, with
translation of the Greek text into Latin. Dr. Bentley, the
King’s Librarian, published a “Dissertation on the
Epistles of Phalaris,” denying their value, and arguing
that Phalaris did not write them. Christ Church replied
through Charles Boyle, with “Dr. Bentley’s
Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris examined.”
Swift entered into the war with a light heart, and matched the
Ancients in defending them for the amusement of his patron.
His incidental argument between the Spider and the Bee has
provided a catch-phrase, “Sweetness and Light,” to a
combatant of later times.
Sir William Temple died on the 27th of January, 1699.
Swift then became chaplain to Lord Berkeley in Dublin Castle, and
it was as a little surprise to Lady Berkeley, who liked him to
read to her Robert Boyle’s “Meditations,” that
Swift wrote the “Meditation on a Broomstick.”
In February, 1700, he obtained from Lord Berkeley the vicarage of
Laracor with the living of Rathbeggan, also in the diocese of
Meath. In the beginning of 1701 Esther Johnson, to whom Sir
William Temple had bequeathed a leasehold farm in Wicklow, came
with an elder friend, Miss Dingley, and settled in Laracor to be
near Swift. During one of the visits to London, made from
Laracor, Swift attacked the false pretensions of astrologers by
that prediction of the death of Mr. Partridge, a prophetic
almanac maker, of which he described the Accomplishment so
clearly that Partridge had much ado to get credit for being
The lines addressed to Stella speak for themselves.
“Cadenus and Vanessa” was meant as polite and
courteous admonition to Miss Hester Van Homrigh, a young lady in
whom green-sickness seems to have produced devotion to Swift in
forms that embarrassed him, and with which he did not well know
how to deal.
THE BOOKSELLER TO THE READER.
This discourse, as it is unquestionably of the same author, so
it seems to have been written about the same time, with
“The Tale of a Tub;” I mean the year 1697, when the
famous dispute was on foot about ancient and modern
learning. The controversy took its rise from an essay of
Sir William Temple’s upon that subject; which was answered
by W. Wotton, B.D., with an appendix by Dr. Bentley, endeavouring
to destroy the credit of Æsop and Phalaris for authors,
whom Sir William Temple had, in the essay before mentioned,
highly commended. In that appendix the doctor falls hard
upon a new edition of Phalaris, put out by the Honourable Charles
Boyle, now Earl of Orrery, to which Mr. Boyle replied at large
with great learning and wit; and the Doctor voluminously
rejoined. In this dispute the town highly resented to see a
person of Sir William Temple’s character and merits roughly
used by the two reverend gentlemen aforesaid, and without any
manner of provocation. At length, there appearing no end of
the quarrel, our author tells us that the BOOKS in St.
James’s Library, looking upon themselves as parties
principally concerned, took up the controversy, and came to a
decisive battle; but the manuscript, by the injury of fortune or
weather, being in several places imperfect, we cannot learn to
which side the victory fell.
I must warn the reader to beware of applying to persons what
is here meant only of books, in the most literal sense. So,
when Virgil is mentioned, we are not to understand the person of
a famous poet called by that name; but only certain sheets of
paper bound up in leather, containing in print the works of the
said poet: and so of the rest.
THE PREFACE OF THE AUTHOR.
Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally
discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief
reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and
that so very few are offended with it. But, if it should
happen otherwise, the danger is not great; and I have learned
from long experience never to apprehend mischief from those
understandings I have been able to provoke: for anger and fury,
though they add strength to the sinews of the body, yet are found
to relax those of the mind, and to render all its efforts feeble
There is a brain that will endure but one scumming; let the
owner gather it with discretion, and manage his little stock with
husbandry; but, of all things, let him beware of bringing it
under the lash of his betters, because that will make it all
bubble up into impertinence, and he will find no new
supply. Wit without knowledge being a sort of cream, which
gathers in a night to the top, and by a skilful hand may be soon
whipped into froth; but once scummed away, what appears
underneath will be fit for nothing but to be thrown to the
A FULL AND TRUE ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE FOUGHT LAST FRIDAY
BETWEEN THE ANCIENT AND THE MODERN BOOKS IN SAINT JAMES’S
Whoever examines, with due circumspection, into the annual
records of time, will find it remarked that War is the child of
Pride, and Pride the daughter of Riches:—the former of
which assertions may be soon granted, but one cannot so easily
subscribe to the latter; for Pride is nearly related to Beggary
and Want, either by father or mother, and sometimes by both: and,
to speak naturally, it very seldom happens among men to fall out
when all have enough; invasions usually travelling from north to
south, that is to say, from poverty to plenty. The most
ancient and natural grounds of quarrels are lust and avarice;
which, though we may allow to be brethren, or collateral branches
of pride, are certainly the issues of want. For, to speak
in the phrase of writers upon politics, we may observe in the
republic of dogs, which in its original seems to be an
institution of the many, that the whole state is ever in the
profoundest peace after a full meal; and that civil broils arise
among them when it happens for one great bone to be seized on by
some leading dog, who either divides it among the few, and then
it falls to an oligarchy, or keeps it to himself, and then it
runs up to a tyranny. The same reasoning also holds place
among them in those dissensions we behold upon a turgescency in
any of their females. For the right of possession lying in
common (it being impossible to establish a property in so
delicate a case), jealousies and suspicions do so abound, that
the whole commonwealth of that street is reduced to a manifest
state of war, of every citizen against every citizen, till some
one of more courage, conduct, or fortune than the rest seizes and
enjoys the prize: upon which naturally arises plenty of
heart-burning, and envy, and snarling against the happy
dog. Again, if we look upon any of these republics engaged
in a foreign war, either of invasion or defence, we shall find
the same reasoning will serve as to the grounds and occasions of
each; and that poverty or want, in some degree or other (whether
real or in opinion, which makes no alteration in the case), has a
great share, as well as pride, on the part of the aggressor.
Now whoever will please to take this scheme, and either reduce
or adapt it to an intellectual state or commonwealth of learning,
will soon discover the first ground of disagreement between the
two great parties at this time in arms, and may form just
conclusions upon the merits of either cause. But the issue
or events of this war are not so easy to conjecture at; for the
present quarrel is so inflamed by the warm heads of either
faction, and the pretensions somewhere or other so exorbitant, as
not to admit the least overtures of accommodation. This
quarrel first began, as I have heard it affirmed by an old
dweller in the neighbourhood, about a small spot of ground, lying
and being upon one of the two tops of the hill Parnassus; the
highest and largest of which had, it seems, been time out of mind
in quiet possession of certain tenants, called the Ancients; and
the other was held by the Moderns. But these disliking
their present station, sent certain ambassadors to the Ancients,
complaining of a great nuisance; how the height of that part of
Parnassus quite spoiled the prospect of theirs, especially
towards the east; and therefore, to avoid a war, offered them the
choice of this alternative, either that the Ancients would please
to remove themselves and their effects down to the lower summit,
which the Moderns would graciously surrender to them, and advance
into their place; or else the said Ancients will give leave to
the Moderns to come with shovels and mattocks, and level the said
hill as low as they shall think it convenient. To which the
Ancients made answer, how little they expected such a message as
this from a colony whom they had admitted, out of their own free
grace, to so near a neighbourhood. That, as to their own
seat, they were aborigines of it, and therefore to talk with them
of a removal or surrender was a language they did not
understand. That if the height of the hill on their side
shortened the prospect of the Moderns, it was a disadvantage they
could not help; but desired them to consider whether that injury
(if it be any) were not largely recompensed by the shade and
shelter it afforded them. That as to the levelling or
digging down, it was either folly or ignorance to propose it if
they did or did not know how that side of the hill was an entire
rock, which would break their tools and hearts, without any
damage to itself. That they would therefore advise the
Moderns rather to raise their own side of the hill than dream of
pulling down that of the Ancients; to the former of which they
would not only give licence, but also largely contribute.
All this was rejected by the Moderns with much indignation, who
still insisted upon one of the two expedients; and so this
difference broke out into a long and obstinate war, maintained on
the one part by resolution, and by the courage of certain leaders
and allies; but, on the other, by the greatness of their number,
upon all defeats affording continual recruits. In this
quarrel whole rivulets of ink have been exhausted, and the
virulence of both parties enormously augmented. Now, it
must be here understood, that ink is the great missive weapon in
all battles of the learned, which, conveyed through a sort of
engine called a quill, infinite numbers of these are darted at
the enemy by the valiant on each side, with equal skill and
violence, as if it were an engagement of porcupines. This
malignant liquor was compounded, by the engineer who invented it,
of two ingredients, which are, gall and copperas; by its
bitterness and venom to suit, in some degree, as well as to
foment, the genius of the combatants. And as the Grecians,
after an engagement, when they could not agree about the victory,
were wont to set up trophies on both sides, the beaten party
being content to be at the same expense, to keep itself in
countenance (a laudable and ancient custom, happily revived of
late in the art of war), so the learned, after a sharp and bloody
dispute, do, on both sides, hang out their trophies too,
whichever comes by the worst. These trophies have largely
inscribed on them the merits of the cause; a full impartial
account of such a Battle, and how the victory fell clearly to the
party that set them up. They are known to the world under
several names; as disputes, arguments, rejoinders, brief
considerations, answers, replies, remarks, reflections,
objections, confutations. For a very few days they are
fixed up all in public places, either by themselves or their
representatives, for passengers to gaze at; whence the chiefest
and largest are removed to certain magazines they call libraries,
there to remain in a quarter purposely assigned them, and
thenceforth begin to be called books of controversy.
In these books is wonderfully instilled and preserved the
spirit of each warrior while he is alive; and after his death his
soul transmigrates thither to inform them. This, at least,
is the more common opinion; but I believe it is with libraries as
with other cemeteries, where some philosophers affirm that a
certain spirit, which they call brutum hominis, hovers
over the monument, till the body is corrupted and turns to dust
or to worms, but then vanishes or dissolves; so, we may say, a
restless spirit haunts over every book, till dust or worms have
seized upon it—which to some may happen in a few days, but
to others later—and therefore, books of controversy being,
of all others, haunted by the most disorderly spirits, have
always been confined in a separate lodge from the rest, and for
fear of a mutual violence against each other, it was thought
prudent by our ancestors to bind them to the peace with strong
iron chains. Of which invention the original occasion was
this: When the works of Scotus first came out, they were carried
to a certain library, and had lodgings appointed them; but this
author was no sooner settled than he went to visit his master
Aristotle, and there both concerted together to seize Plato by
main force, and turn him out from his ancient station among the
divines, where he had peaceably dwelt near eight hundred
years. The attempt succeeded, and the two usurpers have
reigned ever since in his stead; but, to maintain quiet for the
future, it was decreed that all polemics of the larger size
should be hold fast with a chain.
By this expedient, the public peace of libraries might
certainly have been preserved if a new species of controversial
books had not arisen of late years, instinct with a more
malignant spirit, from the war above mentioned between the
learned about the higher summit of Parnassus.
When these books were first admitted into the public
libraries, I remember to have said, upon occasion, to several
persons concerned, how I was sure they would create broils
wherever they came, unless a world of care were taken; and
therefore I advised that the champions of each side should be
coupled together, or otherwise mixed, that, like the blending of
contrary poisons, their malignity might be employed among
themselves. And it seems I was neither an ill prophet nor
an ill counsellor; for it was nothing else but the neglect of
this caution which gave occasion to the terrible fight that
happened on Friday last between the Ancient and Modern Books in
the King’s library. Now, because the talk of this
battle is so fresh in everybody’s mouth, and the
expectation of the town so great to be informed in the
particulars, I, being possessed of all qualifications requisite
in an historian, and retained by neither party, have resolved to
comply with the urgent importunity of my friends, by writing down
a full impartial account thereof.
The guardian of the regal library, a person of great valour,
but chiefly renowned for his humanity, had been a fierce champion
for the Moderns, and, in an engagement upon Parnassus, had vowed
with his own hands to knock down two of the ancient chiefs who
guarded a small pass on the superior rock, but, endeavouring to
climb up, was cruelly obstructed by his own unhappy weight and
tendency towards his centre, a quality to which those of the
Modern party are extremely subject; for, being light-headed, they
have, in speculation, a wonderful agility, and conceive nothing
too high for them to mount, but, in reducing to practice,
discover a mighty pressure about their posteriors and their
heels. Having thus failed in his design, the disappointed
champion bore a cruel rancour to the Ancients, which he resolved
to gratify by showing all marks of his favour to the books of
their adversaries, and lodging them in the fairest apartments;
when, at the same time, whatever book had the boldness to own
itself for an advocate of the Ancients was buried alive in some
obscure corner, and threatened, upon the least displeasure, to be
turned out of doors. Besides, it so happened that about
this time there was a strange confusion of place among all the
books in the library, for which several reasons were
assigned. Some imputed it to a great heap of learned dust,
which a perverse wind blew off from a shelf of Moderns into the
keeper’s eyes. Others affirmed he had a humour to
pick the worms out of the schoolmen, and swallow them fresh and
fasting, whereof some fell upon his spleen, and some climbed up
into his head, to the great perturbation of both. And
lastly, others maintained that, by walking much in the dark about
the library, he had quite lost the situation of it out of his
head; and therefore, in replacing his books, he was apt to
mistake and clap Descartes next to Aristotle, poor Plato had got
between Hobbes and the Seven Wise Masters, and Virgil was hemmed
in with Dryden on one side and Wither on the other.
Meanwhile, those books that were advocates for the Moderns,
chose out one from among them to make a progress through the
whole library, examine the number and strength of their party,
and concert their affairs. This messenger performed all
things very industriously, and brought back with him a list of
their forces, in all, fifty thousand, consisting chiefly of
light-horse, heavy-armed foot, and mercenaries; whereof the foot
were in general but sorrily armed and worse clad; their horses
large, but extremely out of case and heart; however, some few, by
trading among the Ancients, had furnished themselves tolerably
While things were in this ferment, discord grew extremely
high; hot words passed on both sides, and ill blood was
plentifully bred. Here a solitary Ancient, squeezed up
among a whole shelf of Moderns, offered fairly to dispute the
case, and to prove by manifest reason that the priority was due
to them from long possession, and in regard of their prudence,
antiquity, and, above all, their great merits toward the
Moderns. But these denied the premises, and seemed very
much to wonder how the Ancients could pretend to insist upon
their antiquity, when it was so plain (if they went to that) that
the Moderns were much the more ancient of the two. As for
any obligations they owed to the Ancients, they renounced them
all. “It is true,” said they, “we are
informed some few of our party have been so mean as to borrow
their subsistence from you, but the rest, infinitely the greater
number (and especially we French and English), were so far from
stooping to so base an example, that there never passed, till
this very hour, six words between us. For our horses were
of our own breeding, our arms of our own forging, and our clothes
of our own cutting out and sewing.” Plato was by
chance up on the next shelf, and observing those that spoke to be
in the ragged plight mentioned a while ago, their jades lean and
foundered, their weapons of rotten wood, their armour rusty, and
nothing but rags underneath, he laughed loud, and in his pleasant
way swore, by ---, he believed them.
Now, the Moderns had not proceeded in their late negotiation
with secrecy enough to escape the notice of the enemy. For
those advocates who had begun the quarrel, by setting first on
foot the dispute of precedency, talked so loud of coming to a
battle, that Sir William Temple happened to overhear them, and
gave immediate intelligence to the Ancients, who thereupon drew
up their scattered troops together, resolving to act upon the
defensive; upon which, several of the Moderns fled over to their
party, and among the rest Temple himself. This Temple,
having been educated and long conversed among the Ancients, was,
of all the Moderns, their greatest favourite, and became their
Things were at this crisis when a material accident fell
out. For upon the highest corner of a large window, there
dwelt a certain spider, swollen up to the first magnitude by the
destruction of infinite numbers of flies, whose spoils lay
scattered before the gates of his palace, like human bones before
the cave of some giant. The avenues to his castle were
guarded with turnpikes and palisadoes, all after the modern way
of fortification. After you had passed several courts you
came to the centre, wherein you might behold the constable
himself in his own lodgings, which had windows fronting to each
avenue, and ports to sally out upon all occasions of prey or
defence. In this mansion he had for some time dwelt in
peace and plenty, without danger to his person by swallows from
above, or to his palace by brooms from below; when it was the
pleasure of fortune to conduct thither a wandering bee, to whose
curiosity a broken pane in the glass had discovered itself, and
in he went, where, expatiating a while, he at last happened to
alight upon one of the outward walls of the spider’s
citadel; which, yielding to the unequal weight, sunk down to the
very foundation. Thrice he endeavoured to force his
passage, and thrice the centre shook. The spider within,
feeling the terrible convulsion, supposed at first that nature
was approaching to her final dissolution, or else that Beelzebub,
with all his legions, was come to revenge the death of many
thousands of his subjects whom his enemy had slain and
devoured. However, he at length valiantly resolved to issue
forth and meet his fate. Meanwhile the bee had acquitted
himself of his toils, and, posted securely at some distance, was
employed in cleansing his wings, and disengaging them from the
ragged remnants of the cobweb. By this time the spider was
adventured out, when, beholding the chasms, the ruins, and
dilapidations of his fortress, he was very near at his
wit’s end; he stormed and swore like a madman, and swelled
till he was ready to burst. At length, casting his eye upon
the bee, and wisely gathering causes from events (for they know
each other by sight), “A plague split you,” said he;
“is it you, with a vengeance, that have made this litter
here; could not you look before you, and be d---d? Do you
think I have nothing else to do (in the devil’s name) but
to mend and repair after you?” “Good words,
friend,” said the bee, having now pruned himself, and being
disposed to droll; “I’ll give you my hand and word to
come near your kennel no more; I was never in such a confounded
pickle since I was born.” “Sirrah,”
replied the spider, “if it were not for breaking an old
custom in our family, never to stir abroad against an enemy, I
should come and teach you better manners.” “I
pray have patience,” said the bee, “or you’ll
spend your substance, and, for aught I see, you may stand in need
of it all, towards the repair of your house.”
“Rogue, rogue,” replied the spider, “yet
methinks you should have more respect to a person whom all the
world allows to be so much your betters.” “By
my troth,” said the bee, “the comparison will amount
to a very good jest, and you will do me a favour to let me know
the reasons that all the world is pleased to use in so hopeful a
dispute.” At this the spider, having swelled himself
into the size and posture of a disputant, began his argument in
the true spirit of controversy, with resolution to be heartily
scurrilous and angry, to urge on his own reasons without the
least regard to the answers or objections of his opposite, and
fully predetermined in his mind against all conviction.
“Not to disparage myself,” said he, “by the
comparison with such a rascal, what art thou but a vagabond
without house or home, without stock or inheritance? born to no
possession of your own, but a pair of wings and a
drone-pipe. Your livelihood is a universal plunder upon
nature; a freebooter over fields and gardens; and, for the sake
of stealing, will rob a nettle as easily as a violet.
Whereas I am a domestic animal, furnished with a native stock
within myself. This large castle (to show my improvements
in the mathematics) is all built with my own hands, and the
materials extracted altogether out of my own person.”
“I am glad,” answered the bee, “to hear you
grant at least that I am come honestly by my wings and my voice;
for then, it seems, I am obliged to Heaven alone for my flights
and my music; and Providence would never have bestowed on me two
such gifts without designing them for the noblest ends. I
visit, indeed, all the flowers and blossoms of the field and
garden, but whatever I collect thence enriches myself without the
least injury to their beauty, their smell, or their taste.
Now, for you and your skill in architecture and other
mathematics, I have little to say: in that building of yours
there might, for aught I know, have been labour and method
enough; but, by woeful experience for us both, it is too plain
the materials are naught; and I hope you will henceforth take
warning, and consider duration and matter, as well as method and
art. You boast, indeed, of being obliged to no other
creature, but of drawing and spinning out all from yourself; that
is to say, if we may judge of the liquor in the vessel by what
issues out, you possess a good plentiful store of dirt and poison
in your breast; and, though I would by no means lesson or
disparage your genuine stock of either, yet I doubt you are
somewhat obliged, for an increase of both, to a little foreign
assistance. Your inherent portion of dirt does not fall of
acquisitions, by sweepings exhaled from below; and one insect
furnishes you with a share of poison to destroy another. So
that, in short, the question comes all to this: whether is the
nobler being of the two, that which, by a lazy contemplation of
four inches round, by an overweening pride, feeding, and
engendering on itself, turns all into excrement and venom,
producing nothing at all but flybane and a cobweb; or that which,
by a universal range, with long search, much study, true
judgment, and distinction of things, brings home honey and
This dispute was managed with such eagerness, clamour, and
warmth, that the two parties of books, in arms below, stood
silent a while, waiting in suspense what would be the issue;
which was not long undetermined: for the bee, grown impatient at
so much loss of time, fled straight away to a bed of roses,
without looking for a reply, and left the spider, like an orator,
collected in himself, and just prepared to burst out.
It happened upon this emergency that Æsop broke silence
first. He had been of late most barbarously treated by a
strange effect of the regent’s humanity, who had torn off
his title-page, sorely defaced one half of his leaves, and
chained him fast among a shelf of Moderns. Where, soon
discovering how high the quarrel was likely to proceed, he tried
all his arts, and turned himself to a thousand forms. At
length, in the borrowed shape of an ass, the regent mistook him
for a Modern; by which means he had time and opportunity to
escape to the Ancients, just when the spider and the bee were
entering into their contest; to which he gave his attention with
a world of pleasure, and, when it was ended, swore in the loudest
key that in all his life he had never known two cases, so
parallel and adapt to each other as that in the window and this
upon the shelves. “The disputants,” said he,
“have admirably managed the dispute between them, have
taken in the full strength of all that is to be said on both
sides, and exhausted the substance of every argument pro
and con. It is but to adjust the reasonings of both
to the present quarrel, then to compare and apply the labours and
fruits of each, as the bee has learnedly deduced them, and we
shall find the conclusion fall plain and close upon the Moderns
and us. For pray, gentlemen, was ever anything so modern as
the spider in his air, his turns, and his paradoxes? he argues in
the behalf of you, his brethren, and himself, with many boastings
of his native stock and great genius; that he spins and spits
wholly from himself, and scorns to own any obligation or
assistance from without. Then he displays to you his great
skill in architecture and improvement in the mathematics.
To all this the bee, as an advocate retained by us, the Ancients,
thinks fit to answer, that, if one may judge of the great genius
or inventions of the Moderns by what they have produced, you will
hardly have countenance to bear you out in boasting of
either. Erect your schemes with as much method and skill as
you please; yet, if the materials be nothing but dirt, spun out
of your own entrails (the guts of modern brains), the edifice
will conclude at last in a cobweb; the duration of which, like
that of other spiders’ webs, may be imputed to their being
forgotten, or neglected, or hid in a corner. For anything
else of genuine that the Moderns may pretend to, I cannot
recollect; unless it be a large vein of wrangling and satire,
much of a nature and substance with the spiders’ poison;
which, however they pretend to spit wholly out of themselves, is
improved by the same arts, by feeding upon the insects and vermin
of the age. As for us, the Ancients, we are content with
the bee, to pretend to nothing of our own beyond our wings and
our voice: that is to say, our flights and our language.
For the rest, whatever we have got has been by infinite labour
and search, and ranging through every corner of nature; the
difference is, that, instead of dirt and poison, we have rather
chosen to till our hives with honey and wax; thus furnishing
mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and
It is wonderful to conceive the tumult arisen among the books
upon the close of this long descant of Æsop: both parties
took the hint, and heightened their animosities so on a sudden,
that they resolved it should come to a battle. Immediately
the two main bodies withdrew, under their several ensigns, to the
farther parts of the library, and there entered into cabals and
consults upon the present emergency. The Moderns were in
very warm debates upon the choice of their leaders; and nothing
less than the fear impending from their enemies could have kept
them from mutinies upon this occasion. The difference was
greatest among the horse, where every private trooper pretended
to the chief command, from Tasso and Milton to Dryden and
Wither. The light-horse were commanded by Cowley and
Despreaux. There came the bowmen under their valiant
leaders, Descartes, Gassendi, and Hobbes; whose strength was such
that they could shoot their arrows beyond the atmosphere, never
to fall down again, but turn, like that of Evander, into meteors;
or, like the cannon-ball, into stars. Paracelsus brought a
squadron of stinkpot-flingers from the snowy mountains of
Rhætia. There came a vast body of dragoons, of
different nations, under the leading of Harvey, their great aga:
part armed with scythes, the weapons of death; part with lances
and long knives, all steeped in poison; part shot bullets of a
most malignant nature, and used white powder, which infallibly
killed without report. There came several bodies of
heavy-armed foot, all mercenaries, under the ensigns of
Guicciardini, Davila, Polydore Vergil, Buchanan, Mariana, Camden,
and others. The engineers were commanded by Regiomontanus
and Wilkins. The rest was a confused multitude, led by
Scotus, Aquinas, and Bellarmine; of mighty bulk and stature, but
without either arms, courage, or discipline. In the last
place came infinite swarms of calones, a disorderly rout led by
L’Estrange; rogues and ragamuffins, that follow the camp
for nothing but the plunder, all without coats to cover them.
The army of the Ancients was much fewer in number; Homer led
the horse, and Pindar the light-horse; Euclid was chief engineer;
Plato and Aristotle commanded the bowmen; Herodotus and Livy the
foot; Hippocrates, the dragoons; the allies, led by Vossius and
Temple, brought up the rear.
All things violently tending to a decisive battle, Fame, who
much frequented, and had a large apartment formerly assigned her
in the regal library, fled up straight to Jupiter, to whom she
delivered a faithful account of all that passed between the two
parties below; for among the gods she always tells truth.
Jove, in great concern, convokes a council in the Milky
Way. The senate assembled, he declares the occasion of
convening them; a bloody battle just impendent between two mighty
armies of ancient and modern creatures, called books, wherein the
celestial interest was but too deeply concerned. Momus, the
patron of the Moderns, made an excellent speech in their favour,
which was answered by Pallas, the protectress of the
Ancients. The assembly was divided in their affections;
when Jupiter commanded the Book of Fate to be laid before
him. Immediately were brought by Mercury three large
volumes in folio, containing memoirs of all things past, present,
and to come. The clasps were of silver double gilt, the
covers of celestial turkey leather, and the paper such as here on
earth might pass almost for vellum. Jupiter, having
silently read the decree, would communicate the import to none,
but presently shut up the book.
Without the doors of this assembly there attended a vast
number of light, nimble gods, menial servants to Jupiter: those
are his ministering instruments in all affairs below. They
travel in a caravan, more or less together, and are fastened to
each other like a link of galley-slaves, by a light chain, which
passes from them to Jupiter’s great toe: and yet, in
receiving or delivering a message, they may never approach above
the lowest step of his throne, where he and they whisper to each
other through a large hollow trunk. These deities are
called by mortal men accidents or events; but the gods call them
second causes. Jupiter having delivered his message to a
certain number of these divinities, they flew immediately down to
the pinnacle of the regal library, and consulting a few minutes,
entered unseen, and disposed the parties according to their
Meanwhile Momus, fearing the worst, and calling to mind an
ancient prophecy which bore no very good face to his children the
Moderns, bent his flight to the region of a malignant deity
called Criticism. She dwelt on the top of a snowy mountain
in Nova Zembla; there Momus found her extended in her den, upon
the spoils of numberless volumes, half devoured. At her
right hand sat Ignorance, her father and husband, blind with age;
at her left, Pride, her mother, dressing her up in the scraps of
paper herself had torn. There was Opinion, her sister,
light of foot, hood-winked, and head-strong, yet giddy and
perpetually turning. About her played her children, Noise
and Impudence, Dulness and Vanity, Positiveness, Pedantry, and
Ill-manners. The goddess herself had claws like a cat; her
head, and ears, and voice resembled those of an ass; her teeth
fallen out before, her eyes turned inward, as if she looked only
upon herself; her diet was the overflowing of her own gall; her
spleen was so large as to stand prominent, like a dug of the
first rate; nor wanted excrescences in form of teats, at which a
crew of ugly monsters were greedily sucking; and, what is
wonderful to conceive, the bulk of spleen increased faster than
the sucking could diminish it. “Goddess,” said
Momus, “can you sit idly here while our devout worshippers,
the Moderns, are this minute entering into a cruel battle, and
perhaps now lying under the swords of their enemies? who then
hereafter will ever sacrifice or build altars to our
divinities? Haste, therefore, to the British Isle, and, if
possible, prevent their destruction; while I make factions among
the gods, and gain them over to our party.”
Momus, having thus delivered himself, stayed not for an
answer, but left the goddess to her own resentment. Up she
rose in a rage, and, as it is the form on such occasions, began a
soliloquy: “It is I” (said she) “who give
wisdom to infants and idiots; by me children grow wiser than
their parents, by me beaux become politicians, and schoolboys
judges of philosophy; by me sophisters debate and conclude upon
the depths of knowledge; and coffee-house wits, instinct by me,
can correct an author’s style, and display his minutest
errors, without understanding a syllable of his matter or his
language; by me striplings spend their judgment, as they do their
estate, before it comes into their hands. It is I who have
deposed wit and knowledge from their empire over poetry, and
advanced myself in their stead. And shall a few upstart
Ancients dare to oppose me? But come, my aged parent, and
you, my children dear, and thou, my beauteous sister; let us
ascend my chariot, and haste to assist our devout Moderns, who
are now sacrificing to us a hecatomb, as I perceive by that
grateful smell which from thence reaches my nostrils.”
The goddess and her train, having mounted the chariot, which
was drawn by tame geese, flew over infinite regions, shedding her
influence in due places, till at length she arrived at her
beloved island of Britain; but in hovering over its metropolis,
what blessings did she not let fall upon her seminaries of
Gresham and Covent-garden! And now she reached the fatal
plain of St. James’s library, at what time the two armies
were upon the point to engage; where, entering with all her
caravan unseen, and landing upon a case of shelves, now desert,
but once inhabited by a colony of virtuosos, she stayed awhile to
observe the posture of both armies.
But here the tender cares of a mother began to fill her
thoughts and move in her breast: for at the head of a troup of
Modern bowmen she cast her eyes upon her son Wotton, to whom the
fates had assigned a very short thread. Wotton, a young
hero, whom an unknown father of mortal race begot by stolen
embraces with this goddess. He was the darling of his
mother above all her children, and she resolved to go and comfort
him. But first, according to the good old custom of
deities, she cast about to change her shape, for fear the
divinity of her countenance might dazzle his mortal sight and
overcharge the rest of his senses. She therefore gathered
up her person into an octavo compass: her body grow white and
arid, and split in pieces with dryness; the thick turned into
pasteboard, and the thin into paper; upon which her parents and
children artfully strewed a black juice, or decoction of gall and
soot, in form of letters: her head, and voice, and spleen, kept
their primitive form; and that which before was a cover of skin
did still continue so. In this guise she marched on towards
the Moderns, indistinguishable in shape and dress from the divine
Bentley, Wotton’s dearest friend. “Brave
Wotton,” said the goddess, “why do our troops stand
idle here, to spend their present vigour and opportunity of the
day? away, let us haste to the generals, and advise to give the
onset immediately.” Having spoke thus, she took the
ugliest of her monsters, full glutted from her spleen, and flung
it invisibly into his mouth, which, flying straight up into his
head, squeezed out his eye-balls, gave him a distorted look, and
half-overturned his brain. Then she privately ordered two
of her beloved children, Dulness and Ill-manners, closely to
attend his person in all encounters. Having thus accoutred
him, she vanished in a mist, and the hero perceived it was the
goddess his mother.
The destined hour of fate being now arrived, the fight began;
whereof, before I dare adventure to make a particular
description, I must, after the example of other authors, petition
for a hundred tongues, and mouths, and hands, and pens, which
would all be too little to perform so immense a work. Say,
goddess, that presidest over history, who it was that first
advanced in the field of battle! Paracelsus, at the head of
his dragoons, observing Galen in the adverse wing, darted his
javelin with a mighty force, which the brave Ancient received
upon his shield, the point breaking in the second fold . . .
. . . . desunt
They bore the wounded aga on their shields to his
chariot . . .
Desunt . . .
nonnulla. . . .
Then Aristotle, observing Bacon advance with a furious mien,
drew his bow to the head, and let fly his arrow, which missed the
valiant Modern and went whizzing over his head; but Descartes it
hit; the steel point quickly found a defect in his head-piece; it
pierced the leather and the pasteboard, and went in at his right
eye. The torture of the pain whirled the valiant bow-man
round till death, like a star of superior influence, drew him
into his own vortex Ingens hiatus . . . .
hic in MS. . . . .
. . . . when Homer appeared at the head of the
cavalry, mounted on a furious horse, with difficulty managed by
the rider himself, but which no other mortal durst approach; he
rode among the enemy’s ranks, and bore down all before
him. Say, goddess, whom he slew first and whom he slew
last! First, Gondibert advanced against him, clad in heavy
armour and mounted on a staid sober gelding, not so famed for his
speed as his docility in kneeling whenever his rider would mount
or alight. He had made a vow to Pallas that he would never
leave the field till he had spoiled Homer of his armour: madman,
who had never once seen the wearer, nor understood his
strength! Him Homer overthrew, horse and man, to the
ground, there to be trampled and choked in the dirt. Then
with a long spear he slew Denham, a stout Modern, who from his
father’s side derived his lineage from Apollo, but his
mother was of mortal race. He fell, and bit the
earth. The celestial part Apollo took, and made it a star;
but the terrestrial lay wallowing upon the ground. Then
Homer slew Sam Wesley with a kick of his horse’s heel; he
took Perrault by mighty force out of his saddle, then hurled him
at Fontenelle, with the same blow dashing out both their
On the left wing of the horse Virgil appeared, in shining
armour, completely fitted to his body; he was mounted on a
dapple-grey steed, the slowness of whose pace was an effect of
the highest mettle and vigour. He cast his eye on the
adverse wing, with a desire to find an object worthy of his
valour, when behold upon a sorrel gelding of a monstrous size
appeared a foe, issuing from among the thickest of the
enemy’s squadrons; but his speed was less than his noise;
for his horse, old and lean, spent the dregs of his strength in a
high trot, which, though it made slow advances, yet caused a loud
clashing of his armour, terrible to hear. The two cavaliers
had now approached within the throw of a lance, when the stranger
desired a parley, and, lifting up the visor of his helmet, a face
hardly appeared from within which, after a pause, was known for
that of the renowned Dryden. The brave Ancient suddenly
started, as one possessed with surprise and disappointment
together; for the helmet was nine times too large for the head,
which appeared situate far in the hinder part, even like the lady
in a lobster, or like a mouse under a canopy of state, or like a
shrivelled beau from within the penthouse of a modern periwig;
and the voice was suited to the visage, sounding weak and
remote. Dryden, in a long harangue, soothed up the good
Ancient; called him father, and, by a large deduction of
genealogies, made it plainly appear that they were nearly
related. Then he humbly proposed an exchange of armour, as
a lasting mark of hospitality between them. Virgil
consented (for the goddess Diffidence came unseen, and cast a
mist before his eyes), though his was of gold and cost a hundred
beeves, the other’s but of rusty iron. However, this
glittering armour became the Modern yet worsen than his
own. Then they agreed to exchange horses; but, when it came
to the trial, Dryden was afraid and utterly unable to mount. . .
. . . . in MS.
Lucan appeared upon a fiery horse of admirable shape, but
headstrong, bearing the rider where he list over the field; he
made a mighty slaughter among the enemy’s horse; which
destruction to stop, Blackmore, a famous Modern (but one of the
mercenaries), strenuously opposed himself, and darted his javelin
with a strong hand, which, falling short of its mark, struck deep
in the earth. Then Lucan threw a lance; but
Æsculapius came unseen and turned off the point.
“Brave Modern,” said Lucan, “I perceive some
god protects you, for never did my arm so deceive me before: but
what mortal can contend with a god? Therefore, let us fight
no longer, but present gifts to each other.” Lucan
then bestowed on the Modern a pair of spurs, and Blackmore gave
Lucan a bridle. . . .
Pauca desunt. . . .
. . . .
Creech: but the goddess Dulness took a cloud, formed into the
shape of Horace, armed and mounted, and placed in a flying
posture before him. Glad was the cavalier to begin a combat
with a flying foe, and pursued the image, threatening aloud; till
at last it led him to the peaceful bower of his father, Ogleby,
by whom he was disarmed and assigned to his repose.
Then Pindar slew ---, and --- and Oldham, and ---, and Afra
the Amazon, light of foot; never advancing in a direct line, but
wheeling with incredible agility and force, he made a terrible
slaughter among the enemy’s light-horse. Him when
Cowley observed, his generous heart burnt within him, and he
advanced against the fierce Ancient, imitating his address, his
pace, and career, as well as the vigour of his horse and his own
skill would allow. When the two cavaliers had approached
within the length of three javelins, first Cowley threw a lance,
which missed Pindar, and, passing into the enemy’s ranks,
fell ineffectual to the ground. Then Pindar darted a
javelin so large and weighty, that scarce a dozen Cavaliers, as
cavaliers are in our degenerate days, could raise it from the
ground; yet he threw it with ease, and it went, by an unerring
hand, singing through the air; nor could the Modern have avoided
present death if he had not luckily opposed the shield that had
been given him by Venus. And now both heroes drew their
swords; but the Modern was so aghast and disordered that he knew
not where he was; his shield dropped from his hands; thrice he
fled, and thrice he could not escape. At last he turned,
and lifting up his hand in the posture of a suppliant,
“Godlike Pindar,” said he, “spare my life, and
possess my horse, with these arms, beside the ransom which my
friends will give when they hear I am alive and your
prisoner.” “Dog!” said Pindar, “let
your ransom stay with your friends; but your carcase shall be
left for the fowls of the air and the beasts of the
field.” With that he raised his sword, and, with a
mighty stroke, cleft the wretched Modern in twain, the sword
pursuing the blow; and one half lay panting on the ground, to be
trod in pieces by the horses’ feet; the other half was
borne by the frighted steed through the field. This Venus
took, washed it seven times in ambrosia, then struck it thrice
with a sprig of amaranth; upon which the leather grow round and
soft, and the leaves turned into feathers, and, being gilded
before, continued gilded still; so it became a dove, and she
harnessed it to her chariot. . . .
. . . . Hiatus valde de-
. . . . flendus in MS.
THE EPISODE OF BENTLEY AND WOTTON.
Day being far spent, and the numerous forces of the Moderns
half inclining to a retreat, there issued forth, from a squadron
of their heavy-armed foot, a captain whose name was Bentley, the
most deformed of all the Moderns; tall, but without shape or
comeliness; large, but without strength or proportion. His
armour was patched up of a thousand incoherent pieces, and the
sound of it, as he marched, was loud and dry, like that made by
the fall of a sheet of lead, which an Etesian wind blows suddenly
down from the roof of some steeple. His helmet was of old
rusty iron, but the vizor was brass, which, tainted by his
breath, corrupted into copperas, nor wanted gall from the same
fountain, so that, whenever provoked by anger or labour, an
atramentous quality, of most malignant nature, was seen to distil
from his lips. In his right hand he grasped a flail, and
(that he might never be unprovided of an offensive weapon) a
vessel full of ordure in his left. Thus completely armed,
he advanced with a slow and heavy pace where the Modern chiefs
were holding a consult upon the sum of things, who, as he came
onwards, laughed to behold his crooked leg and humped shoulder,
which his boot and armour, vainly endeavouring to hide, were
forced to comply with and expose. The generals made use of
him for his talent of railing, which, kept within government,
proved frequently of great service to their cause, but, at other
times, did more mischief than good; for, at the least touch of
offence, and often without any at all, he would, like a wounded
elephant, convert it against his leaders. Such, at this
juncture, was the disposition of Bentley, grieved to see the
enemy prevail, and dissatisfied with everybody’s conduct
but his own. He humbly gave the Modern generals to
understand that he conceived, with great submission, they were
all a pack of rogues, and fools, and confounded logger-heads, and
illiterate whelps, and nonsensical scoundrels; that, if himself
had been constituted general, those presumptuous dogs, the
Ancients, would long before this have been beaten out of the
field. “You,” said he, “sit here idle,
but when I, or any other valiant Modern kill an enemy, you are
sure to seize the spoil. But I will not march one foot
against the foe till you all swear to me that whomever I take or
kill, his arms I shall quietly possess.” Bentley
having spoken thus, Scaliger, bestowing him a sour look,
“Miscreant prater!” said he, “eloquent only in
thine own eyes, thou railest without wit, or truth, or
discretion. The malignity of thy temper perverteth nature;
thy learning makes thee more barbarous; thy study of humanity
more inhuman; thy converse among poets more grovelling, miry, and
dull. All arts of civilising others render thee rude and
untractable; courts have taught thee ill manners, and polite
conversation has finished thee a pedant. Besides, a greater
coward burdeneth not the army. But never despond; I pass my
word, whatever spoil thou takest shall certainly be thy own;
though I hope that vile carcase will first become a prey to kites
Bentley durst not reply, but, half choked with spleen and
rage, withdrew, in full resolution of performing some great
achievement. With him, for his aid and companion, he took
his beloved Wotton, resolving by policy or surprise to attempt
some neglected quarter of the Ancients’ army. They
began their march over carcases of their slaughtered friends;
then to the right of their own forces; then wheeled northward,
till they came to Aldrovandus’s tomb, which they passed on
the side of the declining sun. And now they arrived, with
fear, toward the enemy’s out-guards, looking about, if
haply they might spy the quarters of the wounded, or some
straggling sleepers, unarmed and remote from the rest. As
when two mongrel curs, whom native greediness and domestic want
provoke and join in partnership, though fearful, nightly to
invade the folds of some rich grazier, they, with tails depressed
and lolling tongues, creep soft and slow. Meanwhile the
conscious moon, now in her zenith, on their guilty heads darts
perpendicular rays; nor dare they bark, though much provoked at
her refulgent visage, whether seen in puddle by reflection or in
sphere direct; but one surveys the region round, while the other
scouts the plain, if haply to discover, at distance from the
flock, some carcase half devoured, the refuse of gorged wolves or
ominous ravens. So marched this lovely, loving pair of
friends, nor with less fear and circumspection, when at a
distance they might perceive two shining suits of armour hanging
upon an oak, and the owners not far off in a profound
sleep. The two friends drew lots, and the pursuing of this
adventure fell to Bentley; on he went, and in his van Confusion
and Amaze, while Horror and Affright brought up the rear.
As he came near, behold two heroes of the Ancient army, Phalaris
and Æsop, lay fast asleep. Bentley would fain have
despatched them both, and, stealing close, aimed his flail at
Phalaris’s breast; but then the goddess Affright,
interposing, caught the Modern in her icy arms, and dragged him
from the danger she foresaw; both the dormant heroes happened to
turn at the same instant, though soundly sleeping, and busy in a
dream. For Phalaris was just that minute dreaming how a
most vile poetaster had lampooned him, and how he had got him
roaring in his bull. And Æsop dreamed that as he and
the Ancient were lying on the ground, a wild ass broke loose, ran
about, trampling and kicking in their faces. Bentley,
leaving the two heroes asleep, seized on both their armours, and
withdrew in quest of his darling Wotton.
He, in the meantime, had wandered long in search of some
enterprise, till at length he arrived at a small rivulet that
issued from a fountain hard by, called, in the language of mortal
men, Helicon. Here he stopped, and, parched with thirst,
resolved to allay it in this limpid stream. Thrice with
profane hands he essayed to raise the water to his lips, and
thrice it slipped all through his fingers. Then he stopped
prone on his breast, but, ere his mouth had kissed the liquid
crystal, Apollo came, and in the channel held his shield betwixt
the Modern and the fountain, so that he drew up nothing but
mud. For, although no fountain on earth can compare with
the clearness of Helicon, yet there lies at bottom a thick
sediment of slime and mud; for so Apollo begged of Jupiter, as a
punishment to those who durst attempt to taste it with unhallowed
lips, and for a lesson to all not to draw too deep or far from
At the fountain-head Wotton discerned two heroes; the one he
could not distinguish, but the other was soon known for Temple,
general of the allies to the Ancients. His back was turned,
and he was employed in drinking large draughts in his helmet from
the fountain, where he had withdrawn himself to rest from the
toils of the war. Wotton, observing him, with quaking knees
and trembling hands, spoke thus to himself: O that I could kill
this destroyer of our army, what renown should I purchase among
the chiefs! but to issue out against him, man against man, shield
against shield, and lance against lance, what Modern of us dare?
for he fights like a god, and Pallas or Apollo are ever at his
elbow. But, O mother! if what Fame reports be true, that I
am the son of so great a goddess, grant me to hit Temple with
this lance, that the stroke may send him to hell, and that I may
return in safety and triumph, laden with his spoils. The
first part of this prayer the gods granted at the intercession of
his mother and of Momus; but the rest, by a perverse wind sent
from Fate, was scattered in the air. Then Wotton grasped
his lance, and, brandishing it thrice over his head, darted it
with all his might; the goddess, his mother, at the same time
adding strength to his arm. Away the lance went hizzing,
and reached even to the belt of the averted Ancient, upon which,
lightly grazing, it fell to the ground. Temple neither felt
the weapon touch him nor heard it fall: and Wotton might have
escaped to his army, with the honour of having remitted his lance
against so great a leader unrevenged; but Apollo, enraged that a
javelin flung by the assistance of so foul a goddess should
pollute his fountain, put on the shape of ---, and softly came to
young Boyle, who then accompanied Temple: he pointed first to the
lance, then to the distant Modern that flung it, and commanded
the young hero to take immediate revenge. Boyle, clad in a
suit of armour which had been given him by all the gods,
immediately advanced against the trembling foe, who now fled
before him. As a young lion in the Libyan plains, or Araby
desert, sent by his aged sire to hunt for prey, or health, or
exercise, he scours along, wishing to meet some tiger from the
mountains, or a furious boar; if chance a wild ass, with brayings
importune, affronts his ear, the generous beast, though loathing
to distain his claws with blood so vile, yet, much provoked at
the offensive noise, which Echo, foolish nymph, like her
ill-judging sex, repeats much louder, and with more delight than
Philomela’s song, he vindicates the honour of the forest,
and hunts the noisy long-eared animal. So Wotton fled, so
Boyle pursued. But Wotton, heavy-armed, and slow of foot,
began to slack his course, when his lover Bentley appeared,
returning laden with the spoils of the two sleeping
Ancients. Boyle observed him well, and soon discovering the
helmet and shield of Phalaris his friend, both which he had
lately with his own hands new polished and gilt, rage sparkled in
his eyes, and, leaving his pursuit after Wotton, he furiously
rushed on against this new approacher. Fain would he be
revenged on both; but both now fled different ways: and, as a
woman in a little house that gets a painful livelihood by
spinning, if chance her geese be scattered o’er the common,
she courses round the plain from side to side, compelling here
and there the stragglers to the flock; they cackle loud, and
flutter o’er the champaign; so Boyle pursued, so fled this
pair of friends: finding at length their flight was vain, they
bravely joined, and drew themselves in phalanx. First
Bentley threw a spear with all his force, hoping to pierce the
enemy’s breast; but Pallas came unseen, and in the air took
off the point, and clapped on one of lead, which, after a dead
bang against the enemy’s shield, fell blunted to the
ground. Then Boyle, observing well his time, took up a
lance of wondrous length and sharpness; and, as this pair of
friends compacted, stood close side by side, he wheeled him to
the right, and, with unusual force, darted the weapon.
Bentley saw his fate approach, and flanking down his arms close
to his ribs, hoping to save his body, in went the point, passing
through arm and side, nor stopped or spent its force till it had
also pierced the valiant Wotton, who, going to sustain his dying
friend, shared his fate. As when a skilful cook has trussed
a brace of woodcocks, he with iron skewer pierces the tender
sides of both, their legs and wings close pinioned to the rib; so
was this pair of friends transfixed, till down they fell, joined
in their lives, joined in their deaths; so closely joined that
Charon would mistake them both for one, and waft them over Styx
for half his fare. Farewell, beloved, loving pair; few
equals have you left behind: and happy and immortal shall you be,
if all my wit and eloquence can make you.
And now. . . .
A MEDITATION UPON A BROOMSTICK.
According to the Style and Manner of the Hon. Robert
This single stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in
that neglected corner, I once knew in a flourishing state in a
forest. It was full of sap, full of leaves, and full of
boughs; but now in vain does the busy art of man pretend to vie
with nature, by tying that withered bundle of twigs to its
sapless trunk; it is now at best but the reverse of what it was,
a tree turned upside-down, the branches on the earth, and the
root in the air; it is now handled by every dirty wench,
condemned to do her drudgery, and, by a capricious kind of fate,
destined to make other things clean, and be nasty itself; at
length, worn to the stumps in the service of the maids, it is
either thrown out of doors or condemned to the last use—of
kindling a fire. When I behold this I sighed, and said
within myself, “Surely mortal man is a
broomstick!” Nature sent him into the world strong
and lusty, in a thriving condition, wearing his own hair on his
head, the proper branches of this reasoning vegetable, till the
axe of intemperance has lopped off his green boughs, and left him
a withered trunk; he then flies to art, and puts on a periwig,
valuing himself upon an unnatural bundle of hairs, all covered
with powder, that never grew on his head; but now should this our
broomstick pretend to enter the scene, proud of those birchen
spoils it never bore, and all covered with dust, through the
sweepings of the finest lady’s chamber, we should be apt to
ridicule and despise its vanity. Partial judges that we are
of our own excellencies, and other men’s defaults!
But a broomstick, perhaps you will say, is an emblem of a tree
standing on its head; and pray what is a man but a topsy-turvy
creature, his animal faculties perpetually mounted on his
rational, his head where his heels should be, grovelling on the
earth? And yet, with all his faults, he sets up to be a
universal reformer and corrector of abuses, a remover of
grievances, rakes into every slut’s corner of nature,
bringing hidden corruptions to the light, and raises a mighty
dust where there was none before, sharing deeply all the while in
the very same pollutions he pretends to sweep away. His
last days are spent in slavery to women, and generally the least
deserving; till, worn to the stumps, like his brother besom, he
is either kicked out of doors, or made use of to kindle flames
for others to warm themselves by.
PREDICTIONS FOR THE YEAR 1708.
Wherein the Month, and Day of the Month
are set down, the Persons named, and the great Actions and Events
of next Year particularly related as will come to
Written to prevent the people of
England from being farther imposed on by vulgar
I have long considered the gross abuse of astrology in this
kingdom, and upon debating the matter with myself, I could not
possibly lay the fault upon the art, but upon those gross
impostors who set up to be the artists. I know several
learned men have contended that the whole is a cheat; that it is
absurd and ridiculous to imagine the stars can have any influence
at all upon human actions, thoughts, or inclinations; and whoever
has not bent his studies that way may be excused for thinking so,
when he sees in how wretched a manner that noble art is treated
by a few mean illiterate traders between us and the stars, who
import a yearly stock of nonsense, lies, folly, and impertinence,
which they offer to the world as genuine from the planets, though
they descend from no greater a height than their own brains.
I intend in a short time to publish a large and rational
defence of this art, and therefore shall say no more in its
justification at present than that it hath been in all ages
defended by many learned men, and among the rest by Socrates
himself, whom I look upon as undoubtedly the wisest of uninspired
mortals: to which if we add that those who have condemned this
art, though otherwise learned, having been such as either did not
apply their studies this way, or at least did not succeed in
their applications, their testimony will not be of much weight to
its disadvantage, since they are liable to the common objection
of condemning what they did not understand.
Nor am I at all offended, or think it an injury to the art,
when I see the common dealers in it, the students in astrology,
the Philomaths, and the rest of that tribe, treated by wise men
with the utmost scorn and contempt; but rather wonder, when I
observe gentlemen in the country, rich enough to serve the nation
in Parliament, poring in Partridge’s Almanack to find out
the events of the year at home and abroad, not daring to propose
a hunting-match till Gadbury or he have fixed the weather.
I will allow either of the two I have mentioned, or any other
of the fraternity, to be not only astrologers, but conjurers too,
if I do not produce a hundred instances in all their almanacks to
convince any reasonable man that they do not so much as
understand common grammar and syntax; that they are not able to
spell any word out of the usual road, nor even in their prefaces
write common sense or intelligible English. Then for their
observations and predictions, they are such as will equally suit
any age or country in the world. “This month a
certain great person will be threatened with death or
sickness.” This the newspapers will tell them; for
there we find at the end of the year that no month passes without
the death of some person of note; and it would be hard if it
should be otherwise, when there are at least two thousand persons
of note in this kingdom, many of them old, and the almanack-maker
has the liberty of choosing the sickliest season of the year
where he may fix his prediction. Again, “This month
an eminent clergyman will be preferred;” of which there may
be some hundreds, half of them with one foot in the grave.
Then “such a planet in such a house shows great
machinations, plots, and conspiracies, that may in time be
brought to light:” after which, if we hear of any
discovery, the astrologer gets the honour; if not, his prediction
still stands good. And at last, “God preserve King
William from all his open and secret enemies, Amen.”
When if the King should happen to have died, the astrologer
plainly foretold it; otherwise it passes but for the pious
ejaculation of a loyal subject; though it unluckily happened in
some of their almanacks that poor King William was prayed for
many months after he was dead, because it fell out that he died
about the beginning of the year.
To mention no more of their impertinent predictions: what have
we to do with their advertisements about pills and drink for
disease? or their mutual quarrels in verse and prose of Whig and
Tory, wherewith the stars have little to do?
Having long observed and lamented these, and a hundred other
abuses of this art, too tedious to repeat, I resolved to proceed
in a new way, which I doubt not will be to the general
satisfaction of the kingdom. I can this year produce but a
specimen of what I design for the future, having employed most
part of my time in adjusting and correcting the calculations I
made some years past, because I would offer nothing to the world
of which I am not as fully satisfied as that I am now
alive. For these two last years I have not failed in above
one or two particulars, and those of no very great moment.
I exactly foretold the miscarriage at Toulon, with all its
particulars, and the loss of Admiral Shovel, though I was
mistaken as to the day, placing that accident about thirty-six
hours sooner than it happened; but upon reviewing my schemes, I
quickly found the cause of that error. I likewise foretold
the Battle of Almanza to the very day and hour, with the lose on
both sides, and the consequences thereof. All which I
showed to some friends many months before they
happened—that is, I gave them papers sealed up, to open at
such a time, after which they were at liberty to read them; and
there they found my predictions true in every article, except one
or two very minute.
As for the few following predictions I now offer the world, I
forbore to publish them till I had perused the several almanacks
for the year we are now entered on. I find them all in the
usual strain, and I beg the reader will compare their manner with
mine. And here I make bold to tell the world that I lay the
whole credit of my art upon the truth of these predictions; and I
will be content that Partridge, and the rest of his clan, may
hoot me for a cheat and impostor if I fail in any single
particular of moment. I believe any man who reads this
paper will look upon me to be at least a person of as much
honesty and understanding as a common maker of almanacks. I
do not lurk in the dark; I am not wholly unknown in the world; I
have set my name at length, to be a mark of infamy to mankind, if
they shall find I deceive them.
In one thing I must desire to be forgiven, that I talk more
sparingly of home affairs. As it will be imprudence to
discover secrets of State, so it would be dangerous to my person;
but in smaller matters, and that are not of public consequence, I
shall be very free; and the truth of my conjectures will as much
appear from those as the others. As for the most signal
events abroad, in France, Flanders, Italy, and Spain, I shall
make no scruple to predict them in plain terms. Some of
them are of importance, and I hope I shall seldom mistake the day
they will happen; therefore I think good to inform the reader
that I all along make use of the Old Style observed in England,
which I desire he will compare with that of the newspapers at the
time they relate the actions I mention.
I must add one word more. I know it hath been the
opinion of several of the learned, who think well enough of the
true art of astrology, that the stars do only incline, and not
force the actions or wills of men, and therefore, however I may
proceed by right rules, yet I cannot in prudence so confidently
assure the events will follow exactly as I predict them.
I hope I have maturely considered this objection, which in
some cases is of no little weight. For example: a man may,
by the influence of an over-ruling planet, be disposed or
inclined to lust, rage, or avarice, and yet by the force of
reason overcome that bad influence; and this was the case of
Socrates. But as the great events of the world usually
depend upon numbers of men, it cannot be expected they should all
unite to cross their inclinations from pursuing a general design
wherein they unanimously agree. Besides, the influence of
the stars reaches to many actions and events which are not any
way in the power of reason, as sickness, death, and what we
commonly call accidents, with many more, needless to repeat.
But now it is time to proceed to my predictions, which I have
begun to calculate from the time that the sun enters into
Aries. And this I take to be properly the beginning of the
natural year. I pursue them to the time that he enters
Libra, or somewhat more, which is the busy period of the
year. The remainder I have not yet adjusted, upon account
of several impediments needless here to mention. Besides, I
must remind the reader again that this is but a specimen of what
I design in succeeding years to treat more at large, if I may
have liberty and encouragement.
My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I will mention it, to
show how ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in
their own concerns. It relates to Partridge, the
almanack-maker. I have consulted the stars of his nativity
by my own rules, and find he will infallibly die upon the 29th of
March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever; therefore I
advise him to consider of it, and settle his affairs in time.
The month of April will be observable for the death of
many great persons. On the 4th will die the Cardinal de
Noailles, Archbishop of Paris; on the 11th, the young Prince of
Asturias, son to the Duke of Anjou; on the 14th, a great peer of
this realm will die at his country house; on the 19th, an old
layman of great fame for learning, and on the 23rd, an eminent
goldsmith in Lombard Street. I could mention others, both
at home and abroad, if I did not consider it is of very little
use or instruction to the reader, or to the world.
As to public affairs: On the 7th of this month there will be
an insurrection in Dauphiny, occasioned by the oppressions of the
people, which will not be quieted in some months.
On the 15th will be a violent storm on the south-east coast of
France, which will destroy many of their ships, and some in the
The 11th will be famous for the revolt of a whole province or
kingdom, excepting one city, by which the affairs of a certain
prince in the Alliance will take a better face.
May, against common conjectures, will be no very busy
month in Europe, but very signal for the death of the Dauphin,
which will happen on the 7th, after a short fit of sickness, and
grievous torments with the strangury. He dies less lamented
by the Court than the kingdom.
On the 9th a Marshal of France will break his leg by a fall
from his horse. I have not been able to discover whether he
will then die or not.
On the 11th will begin a most important siege, which the eyes
of all Europe will be upon: I cannot be more particular, for in
relating affairs that so nearly concern the Confederates, and
consequently this kingdom, I am forced to confine myself for
several reasons very obvious to the reader.
On the 15th news will arrive of a very surprising event, than
which nothing could be more unexpected.
On the 19th three noble ladies of this kingdom will, against
all expectation, prove with child, to the great joy of their
On the 23rd a famous buffoon of the playhouse will die a
ridiculous death, suitable to his vocation.
June. This month will be distinguished at home by
the utter dispersing of those ridiculous deluded enthusiasts
commonly called the Prophets, occasioned chiefly by seeing the
time come that many of their prophecies should be fulfilled, and
then finding themselves deceived by contrary events. It is
indeed to be admired how any deceiver can be so weak to foretell
things near at hand, when a very few months must of necessity
discover the impostor to all the world; in this point less
prudent than common almanack-makers, who are so wise to wonder in
generals, and talk dubiously, and leave to the reader the
business of interpreting.
On the 1st of this month a French general will be killed by a
random shot of a cannon-ball.
On the 6th a fire will break out in the suburbs of Paris,
which will destroy above a thousand houses, and seems to be the
foreboding of what will happen, to the surprise of all Europe,
about the end of the following month.
On the 10th a great battle will be fought, which will begin at
four of the clock in the afternoon, and last till nine at night
with great obstinacy, but no very decisive event. I shall
not name the place, for the reasons aforesaid, but the commanders
on each left wing will be killed. I see bonfires and hear
the noise of guns for a victory.
On the 14th there will be a false report of the French
On the 20th Cardinal Portocarero will die of a dysentery, with
great suspicion of poison, but the report of his intention to
revolt to King Charles will prove false.
July. The 6th of this month a certain general
will, by a glorious action, recover the reputation he lost by
On the 12th a great commander will die a prisoner in the hands
of his enemies.
On the 14th a shameful discovery will be made of a French
Jesuit giving poison to a great foreign general; and when he is
put to the torture, will make wonderful discoveries.
In short, this will prove a month of great action, if I might
have liberty to relate the particulars.
At home, the death of an old famous senator will happen on the
15th at his country house, worn with age and diseases.
But that which will make this month memorable to all posterity
is the death of the French king, Louis the Fourteenth, after a
week’s sickness at Marli, which will happen on the 29th,
about six o’clock in the evening. It seems to be an
effect of the gout in his stomach, followed by a flux. And
in three days after Monsieur Chamillard will follow his master,
dying suddenly of an apoplexy.
In this month likewise an ambassador will die in London, but I
cannot assign the day.
August. The affairs of France will seem to suffer
no change for a while under the Duke of Burgundy’s
administration; but the genius that animated the whole machine
being gone, will be the cause of mighty turns and revolutions in
the following year. The new king makes yet little change
either in the army or the Ministry, but the libels against his
grandfather, that fly about his very Court, give him
I see an express in mighty haste, with joy and wonder in his
looks, arriving by break of day on the 26th of this month, having
travelled in three days a prodigious journey by land and
sea. In the evening I hear bells and guns, and see the
blazing of a thousand bonfires.
A young admiral of noble birth does likewise this month gain
immortal honour by a great achievement.
The affairs of Poland are this month entirely settled;
Augustus resigns his pretensions which he had again taken up for
some time: Stanislaus is peaceably possessed of the throne, and
the King of Sweden declares for the emperor.
I cannot omit one particular accident here at home: that near
the end of this month much mischief will be done at Bartholomew
Fair by the fall of a booth.
September. This month begins with a very
surprising fit of frosty weather, which will last near twelve
The Pope, having long languished last month, the swellings in
his legs breaking, and the flesh mortifying, will die on the 11th
instant; and in three weeks’ time, after a mighty contest,
be succeeded by a cardinal of the Imperial faction, but native of
Tuscany, who is now about sixty-one years old.
The French army acts now wholly on the defensive, strongly
fortified in their trenches, and the young French king sends
overtures for a treaty of peace by the Duke of Mantua; which,
because it is a matter of State that concerns us here at home, I
shall speak no farther of it.
I shall add but one prediction more, and that in mystical
terms, which shall be included in a verse out of
Alter erit jam Tethys, et altera
quæ vehat Argo
Upon the 25th day of this month, the fulfilling of this
prediction will be manifest to everybody.
This is the farthest I have proceeded in my calculations for
the present year. I do not pretend that these are all the
great events which will happen in this period, but that those I
have set down will infallibly come to pass. It will perhaps
still be objected why I have not spoken more particularly of
affairs at home, or of the success of our armies abroad, which I
might, and could very largely have done; but those in power have
wisely discouraged men from meddling in public concerns, and I
was resolved by no means to give the least offence. This I
will venture to say, that it will be a glorious campaign for the
Allies, wherein the English forces, both by sea and land, will
have their full share of honour; that Her Majesty Queen Anne will
continue in health and prosperity; and that no ill accident will
arrive to any in the chief Ministry.
As to the particular events I have mentioned, the readers may
judge by the fulfilling of them, whether I am on the level with
common astrologers, who, with an old paltry cant, and a few
pothooks for planets, to amuse the vulgar, have, in my opinion,
too long been suffered to abuse the world. But an honest
physician ought not to be despised because there are such things
as mountebanks. I hope I have some share of reputation,
which I would not willingly forfeit for a frolic or humour; and I
believe no gentleman who reads this paper will look upon it to be
of the same cast or mould with the common scribblers that are
every day hawked about. My fortune has placed me above the
little regard of scribbling for a few pence, which I neither
value nor want; therefore, let no wise man too hastily condemn
this essay, intended for a good design, to cultivate and improve
an ancient art long in disgrace, by having fallen into mean and
unskilful hands. A little time will determine whether I
have deceived others or myself; and I think it is no very
unreasonable request that men would please to suspend their
judgments till then. I was once of the opinion with those
who despise all predictions from the stars, till in the year 1686
a man of quality showed me, written in his album, that the most
learned astronomer, Captain H---, assured him, he would never
believe anything of the stars’ influence if there were not
a great revolution in England in the year 1688. Since that
time I began to have other thoughts, and after eighteen
years’ diligent study and application, I think I have no
reason to repent of my pains. I shall detain the reader no
longer than to let him know that the account I design to give of
next year’s events shall take in the principal affairs that
happen in Europe; and if I be denied the liberty of offering it
to my own country, I shall appeal to the learned world, by
publishing it in Latin, and giving order to have it printed in
THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE FIRST OF MR. BICKERSTAFF’S
PREDICTIONS; BEING AN ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH OF MR. PARTRIDGE THE
ALMANACK-MAKER, UPON THE 29TH INSTANT.
In a Letter to a Person of Honour; Written in the
My Lord,—In obedience to your lordship’s commands,
as well as to satisfy my own curiosity, I have for some days past
inquired constantly after Partridge the almanack-maker, of whom
it was foretold in Mr. Bickerstaff’s predictions, published
about a month ago, that he should die the 29th instant, about
eleven at night, of a raging fever. I had some sort of
knowledge of him when I was employed in the Revenue, because he
used every year to present me with his almanack, as he did other
gentlemen, upon the score of some little gratuity we gave
him. I saw him accidentally once or twice about ten days
before he died, and observed he began very much to droop and
languish, though I hear his friends did not seem to apprehend him
in any danger. About two or three days ago he grew ill, was
confined first to his chamber, and in a few hours after to his
bed, where Dr. Case and Mrs. Kirleus were sent for, to visit and
to prescribe to him. Upon this intelligence I sent thrice
every day one servant or other to inquire after his health; and
yesterday, about four in the afternoon, word was brought me that
he was past hopes; upon which, I prevailed with myself to go and
see him, partly out of commiseration, and I confess, partly out
of curiosity. He knew me very well, seemed surprised at my
condescension, and made me compliments upon it as well as he
could in the condition he was. The people about him said he
had been for some time delirious; but when I saw him, he had his
understanding as well as ever I knew, and spoke strong and
hearty, without any seeming uneasiness or constraint. After
I had told him how sorry I was to see him in those melancholy
circumstances, and said some other civilities suitable to the
occasion, I desired him to tell me freely and ingenuously,
whether the predictions Mr. Bickerstaff had published relating to
his death had not too much affected and worked on his
imagination. He confessed he had often had it in his head,
but never with much apprehension, till about a fortnight before;
since which time it had the perpetual possession of his mind and
thoughts, and he did verily believe was the true natural cause of
his present distemper: “For,” said he, “I am
thoroughly persuaded, and I think I have very good reasons, that
Mr. Bickerstaff spoke altogether by guess, and knew no more what
will happen this year than I did myself.” I told him
his discourse surprised me, and I would be glad he were in a
state of health to be able to tell me what reason he had to be
convinced of Mr. Bickerstaff’s ignorance. He replied,
“I am a poor, ignorant follow, bred to a mean trade, yet I
have sense enough to know that all pretences of foretelling by
astrology are deceits, for this manifest reason, because the wise
and the learned, who can only know whether there be any truth in
this science, do all unanimously agree to laugh at and despise
it; and none but the poor ignorant vulgar give it any credit, and
that only upon the word of such silly wretches as I and my
fellows, who can hardly write or read.” I then asked
him why he had not calculated his own nativity, to see whether it
agreed with Bickerstaff’s prediction, at which he shook his
head and said, “Oh, sir, this is no time for jesting, but
for repenting those fooleries, as I do now from the very bottom
of my heart.” “By what I can gather from
you,” said I, “the observations and predictions you
printed with your almanacks were mere impositions on the
people.” He replied, “If it were otherwise I
should have the less to answer for. We have a common form
for all those things; as to foretelling the weather, we never
meddle with that, but leave it to the printer, who takes it out
of any old almanack as he thinks fit; the rest was my own
invention, to make my almanack sell, having a wife to maintain,
and no other way to get my bread; for mending old shoes is a poor
livelihood; and,” added he, sighing, “I wish I may
not have done more mischief by my physic than my astrology;
though I had some good receipts from my grandmother, and my own
compositions were such as I thought could at least do no
I had some other discourse with him, which now I cannot call
to mind; and I fear I have already tired your lordship. I
shall only add one circumstance, that on his death-bed he
declared himself a Nonconformist, and had a fanatic preacher to
be his spiritual guide. After half an hour’s
conversation I took my leave, being half stifled by the closeness
of the room. I imagined he could not hold out long, and
therefore withdrew to a little coffee-house hard by, leaving a
servant at the house with orders to come immediately and tell me,
as nearly as he could, the minute when Partridge should expire,
which was not above two hours after, when, looking upon my watch,
I found it to be above five minutes after seven; by which it is
clear that Mr. Bickerstaff was mistaken almost four hours in his
calculation. In the other circumstances he was exact
enough. But, whether he has not been the cause of this poor
man’s death, as well as the predictor, may be very
reasonably disputed. However, it must be confessed the
matter is odd enough, whether we should endeavour to account for
it by chance, or the effect of imagination. For my own
part, though I believe no man has less faith in these matters,
yet I shall wait with some impatience, and not without some
expectation, the fulfilling of Mr. Bickerstaff’s second
prediction, that the Cardinal do Noailles is to die upon the 4th
of April, and if that should be verified as exactly as this of
poor Partridge, I must own I should be wholly surprised, and at a
loss, and should infallibly expect the accomplishment of all the
BAUCIS AND PHILEMON.
Imitated from the Eighth Book of Ovid.
In ancient times, as story tells,
The saints would often leave their cells,
And stroll about, but hide their quality,
To try good people’s hospitality.
It happened on a winter night,
As authors of the legend write,
Two brother hermits, saints by trade,
Taking their tour in masquerade,
Disguised in tattered habits, went
To a small village down in Kent;
Where, in the strollers’ canting strain,
They begged from door to door in vain;
Tried every tone might pity win,
But not a soul would let them in.
Our wandering saints in woeful state,
Treated at this ungodly rate,
Having through all the village passed,
To a small cottage came at last,
Where dwelt a good honest old yeoman,
Called, in the neighbourhood, Philemon,
Who kindly did these saints invite
In his poor hut to pass the night;
And then the hospitable Sire
Bid goody Baucis mend the fire;
While he from out the chimney took
A flitch of bacon off the hook,
And freely from the fattest side
Cut out large slices to be fried;
Then stepped aside to fetch ’em drink,
Filled a large jug up to the brink,
And saw it fairly twice go round;
Yet (what is wonderful) they found
’Twas still replenished to the top,
As if they ne’er had touched a drop
The good old couple were amazed,
And often on each other gazed;
For both were frightened to the heart,
And just began to cry,—What art!
Then softly turned aside to view,
Whether the lights were burning blue.
The gentle pilgrims soon aware on’t,
Told ’em their calling, and their errant;
“Good folks, you need not be afraid,
We are but saints,” the hermits said;
“No hurt shall come to you or yours;
But, for that pack of churlish boors,
Not fit to live on Christian ground,
They and their houses shall be drowned;
Whilst you shall see your cottage rise,
And grow a church before your eyes.”
They scarce had spoke; when fair and soft,
The roof began to mount aloft;
Aloft rose every beam and rafter,
The heavy wall climbed slowly after.
The chimney widened, and grew higher,
Became a steeple with a spire.
The kettle to the top was hoist,
And there stood fastened to a joist;
But with the upside down, to show
Its inclination for below.
In vain; for a superior force
Applied at bottom, stops its coarse,
Doomed ever in suspense to dwell,
’Tis now no kettle, but a bell.
A wooden jack, which had almost
Lost, by disuse, the art to roast,
A sudden alteration feels,
Increased by new intestine wheels;
And what exalts the wonder more,
The number made the motion slower.
The flyer, though ’t had leaden feet,
Turned round so quick, you scarce could see ’t;
But slackened by some secret power,
Now hardly moves an inch an hour.
The jack and chimney near allied,
Had never left each other’s side;
The chimney to a steeple grown,
The jack would not be left alone;
But up against the steeple reared,
Became a clock, and still adhered;
And still its love to household cares
By a shrill voice at noon declares,
Warning the cook-maid not to burn
That roast meat which it cannot turn.
The groaning chair began to crawl,
Like a huge snail along the wall;
There stuck aloft in public view;
And with small change a pulpit grew.
The porringers, that in a row
Hung high, and made a glittering show,
To a less noble substance changed,
Were now but leathern buckets ranged.
The ballads pasted on the wall,
Of Joan of France, and English Moll,
Fair Rosamond, and Robin Hood,
The Little Children in the Wood,
Now seemed to look abundance better,
Improved in picture, size, and letter;
And high in order placed, describe
The heraldry of every tribe.
A bedstead of the antique mode,
Compact of timber, many a load,
Such as our ancestors did use,
Was metamorphosed into pews:
Which still their ancient nature keep,
By lodging folks disposed to sleep.
The cottage, by such feats as these,
Grown to a church by just degrees,
The hermits then desired their host
To ask for what he fancied most.
Philemon having paused a while,
Returned ’em thanks in homely style;
Then said, “My house is grown so fine,
Methinks I still would call it mine:
I’m old, and fain would live at ease,
Make me the Parson, if you please.”
He spoke, and presently he feels
His grazier’s coat fall down his heels;
He sees, yet hardly can believe,
About each arm a pudding sleeve;
His waistcoat to a cassock grew,
And both assumed a sable hue;
But being old, continued just
As thread-bare, and as full of dust.
His talk was now of tithes and dues;
He smoked his pipe and read the news;
Knew how to preach old sermons next,
Vamped in the preface and the text;
At christenings well could act his part,
And had the service all by heart;
Wished women might have children fast,
And thought whose sow had farrowed last
Against Dissenters would repine,
And stood up firm for Right divine.
Found his head filled with many a system,
But classic authors,—he ne’er missed ’em.
Thus having furbished up a parson,
Dame Baucis next they played their farce on.
Instead of home-spun coifs were seen
Good pinners edg’d with colberteen;
Her petticoat transformed apace,
Became black satin flounced with lace.
Plain Goody would no longer down,
’Twas Madam, in her grogram gown.
Philemon was in great surprise,
And hardly could believe his eyes,
Amazed to see her look so prim;
And she admired as much at him.
Thus, happy in their change of life,
Were several years this man and wife;
When on a day, which proved their last,
Discoursing o’er old stories past,
They went by chance amidst their talk,
To the church yard to take a walk;
When Baucis hastily cried out,
“My dear, I see your forehead sprout!”
“Sprout,” quoth the man, “what’s this you
I hope you don’t believe me jealous,
But yet, methinks, I feel it true;
And really, yours is budding too—
Nay,—now I cannot stir my foot;
It feels as if ’twere taking root.”
Description would but tire my Muse;
In short, they both were turned to Yews.
Old Goodman Dobson of the green
Remembers he the trees has seen;
He’ll talk of them from noon till night,
And goes with folks to show the sight;
On Sundays, after evening prayer,
He gathers all the parish there,
Points out the place of either Yew:
Here Baucis, there Philemon grew,
Till once a parson of our town,
To mend his barn, cut Baucis down;
At which, ’tis hard to be believed
How much the other tree was grieved,
Grow scrubby, died a-top, was stunted:
So the next parson stubbed and burnt it.
THE LOGICIANS REFUTED.
Logicians have but ill defined
As rational, the human kind;
Reason, they say, belongs to man,
But let them prove it, if they can.
Wise Aristotle and Smiglesius,
By ratiocinations specious,
Have strove to prove with great precision,
With definition and division,
Homo est ratione præditum;
But, for my soul, I cannot credit ’em.
And must, in spite of them, maintain
That man and all his ways are vain;
And that this boasted lord of nature
Is both a weak and erring creature.
That instinct is a surer guide
Than reason-boasting mortals pride;
And, that brute beasts are far before ’em,
Deus est anima brutorum.
Whoever knew an honest brute,
At law his neighbour prosecute,
Bring action for assault and battery,
Or friend beguile with lies and flattery?
O’er plains they ramble unconfined,
No politics disturb their mind;
They eat their meals, and take their sport,
Nor know who’s in or out at court.
They never to the levée go
To treat as dearest friend a foe;
They never importune his grace,
Nor ever cringe to men in place;
Nor undertake a dirty job,
Nor draw the quill to write for Bob.
Fraught with invective they ne’er go
To folks at Paternoster Row:
No judges, fiddlers, dancing-masters,
No pickpockets, or poetasters
Are known to honest quadrupeds:
No single brute his fellows leads.
Brutes never meet in bloody fray,
Nor cut each others’ throats for pay.
Of beasts, it is confessed, the ape
Comes nearest us in human shape;
Like man, he imitates each fashion,
And malice is his ruling passion:
But, both in malice and grimaces,
A courtier any ape surpasses.
Behold him humbly cringing wait
Upon the minister of state;
View him, soon after, to inferiors
Aping the conduct of superiors:
He promises, with equal air,
And to perform takes equal care.
He, in his turn, finds imitators,
At court the porters, lacqueys, waiters
Their masters’ manners still contract,
And footmen, lords, and dukes can act.
Thus, at the court, both great and small
Behave alike, for all ape all.
THE PUPPET SHOW.
The life of man to represent,
And turn it all to ridicule,
Wit did a puppet-show invent,
Where the chief actor is a fool.
The gods of old were logs of wood,
And worship was to puppets paid;
In antic dress the idol stood,
And priests and people bowed the head.
No wonder then, if art began
The simple votaries to frame,
To shape in timber foolish man,
And consecrate the block to fame.
From hence poetic fancy learned
That trees might rise from human forms
The body to a trunk be turned,
And branches issue from the arms.
Thus Dædalus and Ovid too,
That man’s a blockhead have confessed,
Powel and Stretch  the hint pursue;
Life is the farce, the world a jest.
The same great truth South Sea hath proved
On that famed theatre, the ally,
Where thousands by directors moved
Are now sad monuments of folly.
What Momus was of old to Jove
The same harlequin is now;
The former was buffoon above,
The latter is a Punch below.
This fleeting scene is but a stage,
Where various images appear,
In different parts of youth and age
Alike the prince and peasant share.
Some draw our eyes by being great,
False pomp conceals mere wood within,
And legislators rang’d in state
Are oft but wisdom in machine.
A stock may chance to wear a crown,
And timber as a lord take place,
A statue may put on a frown,
And cheat us with a thinking face.
Others are blindly led away,
And made to act for ends unknown,
By the mere spring of wires they play,
And speak in language not their own.
Too oft, alas! a scolding wife
Usurps a jolly fellow’s throne,
And many drink the cup of life
Mix’d and embittered by a Joan.
In short, whatever men pursue
Of pleasure, folly, war, or love,
This mimic-race brings all to view,
Alike they dress, they talk, they move.
Go on, great Stretch, with artful hand,
Mortals to please and to deride,
And when death breaks thy vital band
Thou shalt put on a puppet’s pride.
Thou shalt in puny wood be shown,
Thy image shall preserve thy fame,
Ages to come thy worth shall own,
Point at thy limbs, and tell thy name.
Tell Tom he draws a farce in vain,
Before he looks in nature’s glass;
Puns cannot form a witty scene,
Nor pedantry for humour pass.
To make men act as senseless wood,
And chatter in a mystic strain,
Is a mere force on flesh and blood,
And shows some error in the brain.
He that would thus refine on thee,
And turn thy stage into a school,
The jest of Punch will ever be,
And stand confessed the greater fool.
CADENUS AND VANESSA.
Written Anno 1713.
The shepherds and the nymphs were seen
Pleading before the Cyprian Queen.
The counsel for the fair began
Accusing the false creature, man.
The brief with weighty crimes was charged,
On which the pleader much enlarged:
That Cupid now has lost his art,
Or blunts the point of every dart;
His altar now no longer smokes;
His mother’s aid no youth invokes—
This tempts free-thinkers to refine,
And bring in doubt their powers divine,
Now love is dwindled to intrigue,
And marriage grown a money-league.
Which crimes aforesaid (with her leave)
Were (as he humbly did conceive)
Against our Sovereign Lady’s peace,
Against the statutes in that case,
Against her dignity and crown:
Then prayed an answer and sat down.
The nymphs with scorn beheld their foes:
When the defendant’s counsel rose,
And, what no lawyer ever lacked,
With impudence owned all the fact.
But, what the gentlest heart would vex,
Laid all the fault on t’other sex.
That modern love is no such thing
As what those ancient poets sing;
A fire celestial, chaste, refined,
Conceived and kindled in the mind,
Which having found an equal flame,
Unites, and both become the same,
In different breasts together burn,
Together both to ashes turn.
But women now feel no such fire,
And only know the gross desire;
Their passions move in lower spheres,
Where’er caprice or folly steers.
A dog, a parrot, or an ape,
Or some worse brute in human shape
Engross the fancies of the fair,
The few soft moments they can spare
From visits to receive and pay,
From scandal, politics, and play,
From fans, and flounces, and brocades,
From equipage and park-parades,
From all the thousand female toys,
From every trifle that employs
The out or inside of their heads
Between their toilets and their beds.
In a dull stream, which, moving slow,
You hardly see the current flow,
If a small breeze obstructs the course,
It whirls about for want of force,
And in its narrow circle gathers
Nothing but chaff, and straws, and feathers:
The current of a female mind
Stops thus, and turns with every wind;
Thus whirling round, together draws
Fools, fops, and rakes, for chaff and straws.
Hence we conclude, no women’s hearts
Are won by virtue, wit, and parts;
Nor are the men of sense to blame
For breasts incapable of flame:
The fault must on the nymphs be placed,
Grown so corrupted in their taste.
The pleader having spoke his best,
Had witness ready to attest,
Who fairly could on oath depose,
When questions on the fact arose,
That every article was true;
Nor further those deponents knew:
Therefore he humbly would insist,
The bill might be with costs dismissed.
The cause appeared of so much weight,
That Venus from the judgment-seat
Desired them not to talk so loud,
Else she must interpose a cloud:
For if the heavenly folk should know
These pleadings in the Courts below,
That mortals here disdain to love,
She ne’er could show her face above.
For gods, their betters, are too wise
To value that which men despise.
“And then,” said she, “my son and I
Must stroll in air ’twixt earth and sky:
Or else, shut out from heaven and earth,
Fly to the sea, my place of birth;
There live with daggled mermaids pent,
And keep on fish perpetual Lent.”
But since the case appeared so nice,
She thought it best to take advice.
The Muses, by their king’s permission,
Though foes to love, attend the session,
And on the right hand took their places
In order; on the left, the Graces:
To whom she might her doubts propose
On all emergencies that rose.
The Muses oft were seen to frown;
The Graces half ashamed look down;
And ’twas observed, there were but few
Of either sex, among the crew,
Whom she or her assessors knew.
The goddess soon began to see
Things were not ripe for a decree,
And said she must consult her books,
The lovers’ Fletas, Bractons, Cokes.
First to a dapper clerk she beckoned,
To turn to Ovid, book the second;
She then referred them to a place
In Virgil (vide Dido’s case);
As for Tibullus’s reports,
They never passed for law in Courts:
For Cowley’s brief, and pleas of Waller,
Still their authority is smaller.
There was on both sides much to say;
She’d hear the cause another day;
And so she did, and then a third,
She heard it—there she kept her word;
But with rejoinders and replies,
Long bills, and answers, stuffed with lies
Demur, imparlance, and essoign,
The parties ne’er could issue join:
For sixteen years the cause was spun,
And then stood where it first begun.
Now, gentle Clio, sing or say,
What Venus meant by this delay.
The goddess, much perplexed in mind,
To see her empire thus declined,
When first this grand debate arose
Above her wisdom to compose,
Conceived a project in her head,
To work her ends; which, if it sped,
Would show the merits of the cause
Far better than consulting laws.
In a glad hour Lucina’s aid
Produced on earth a wondrous maid,
On whom the queen of love was bent
To try a new experiment.
She threw her law-books on the shelf,
And thus debated with herself:—
“Since men allege they ne’er can find
Those beauties in a female mind
Which raise a flame that will endure
For ever, uncorrupt and pure;
If ’tis with reason they complain,
This infant shall restore my reign.
I’ll search where every virtue dwells,
From Courts inclusive down to cells.
What preachers talk, or sages write,
These I will gather and unite,
And represent them to mankind
Collected in that infant’s mind.”
This said, she plucks in heaven’s high bowers
A sprig of Amaranthine flowers,
In nectar thrice infuses bays,
Three times refined in Titan’s rays:
Then calls the Graces to her aid,
And sprinkles thrice the now-born maid.
From whence the tender skin assumes
A sweetness above all perfumes;
From whence a cleanliness remains,
Incapable of outward stains;
From whence that decency of mind,
So lovely in a female kind.
Where not one careless thought intrudes
Less modest than the speech of prudes;
Where never blush was called in aid,
The spurious virtue in a maid,
A virtue but at second-hand;
They blush because they understand.
The Graces next would act their part,
And show but little of their art;
Their work was half already done,
The child with native beauty shone,
The outward form no help required:
Each breathing on her thrice, inspired
That gentle, soft, engaging air
Which in old times adorned the fair,
And said, “Vanessa be the name
By which thou shalt be known to fame;
Vanessa, by the gods enrolled:
Her name on earth—shall not be told.”
But still the work was not complete,
When Venus thought on a deceit:
Drawn by her doves, away she flies,
And finds out Pallas in the skies:
Dear Pallas, I have been this morn
To see a lovely infant born:
A boy in yonder isle below,
So like my own without his bow,
By beauty could your heart be won,
You’d swear it is Apollo’s son;
But it shall ne’er be said, a child
So hopeful has by me been spoiled;
I have enough besides to spare,
And give him wholly to your care.
Wisdom’s above suspecting wiles;
The queen of learning gravely smiles,
Down from Olympus comes with joy,
Mistakes Vanessa for a boy;
Then sows within her tender mind
Seeds long unknown to womankind;
For manly bosoms chiefly fit,
The seeds of knowledge, judgment, wit,
Her soul was suddenly endued
With justice, truth, and fortitude;
With honour, which no breath can stain,
Which malice must attack in vain:
With open heart and bounteous hand:
But Pallas here was at a stand;
She know in our degenerate days
Bare virtue could not live on praise,
That meat must be with money bought:
She therefore, upon second thought,
Infused yet as it were by stealth,
Some small regard for state and wealth:
Of which as she grew up there stayed
A tincture in the prudent maid:
She managed her estate with care,
Yet liked three footmen to her chair,
But lest he should neglect his studies
Like a young heir, the thrifty goddess
(For fear young master should be spoiled)
Would use him like a younger child;
And, after long computing, found
’Twould come to just five thousand pound.
The Queen of Love was pleased and proud
To we Vanessa thus endowed;
She doubted not but such a dame
Through every breast would dart a flame;
That every rich and lordly swain
With pride would drag about her chain;
That scholars would forsake their books
To study bright Vanessa’s looks:
As she advanced that womankind
Would by her model form their mind,
And all their conduct would be tried
By her, as an unerring guide.
Offending daughters oft would hear
Vanessa’s praise rung in their ear:
Miss Betty, when she does a fault,
Lets fall her knife, or spills the salt,
Will thus be by her mother chid,
“’Tis what Vanessa never did.”
Thus by the nymphs and swains adored,
My power shall be again restored,
And happy lovers bless my reign—
So Venus hoped, but hoped in vain.
For when in time the martial maid
Found out the trick that Venus played,
She shakes her helm, she knits her brows,
And fired with indignation, vows
To-morrow, ere the setting sun,
She’d all undo that she had done.
But in the poets we may find
A wholesome law, time out of mind,
Had been confirmed by Fate’s decree;
That gods, of whatso’er degree,
Resume not what themselves have given,
Or any brother-god in Heaven;
Which keeps the peace among the gods,
Or they must always be at odds.
And Pallas, if she broke the laws,
Must yield her foe the stronger cause;
A shame to one so much adored
For Wisdom, at Jove’s council-board.
Besides, she feared the queen of love
Would meet with better friends above.
And though she must with grief reflect
To see a mortal virgin deck’d
With graces hitherto unknown
To female breasts, except her own,
Yet she would act as best became
A goddess of unspotted fame;
She knew, by augury divine,
Venus would fail in her design:
She studied well the point, and found
Her foe’s conclusions were not sound,
From premises erroneous brought,
And therefore the deduction’s nought,
And must have contrary effects
To what her treacherous foe expects.
In proper season Pallas meets
The queen of love, whom thus she greets
(For Gods, we are by Homer told,
Can in celestial language scold),
“Perfidious Goddess! but in vain
You formed this project in your brain,
A project for thy talents fit,
With much deceit, and little wit;
Thou hast, as thou shalt quickly see,
Deceived thyself instead of me;
For how can heavenly wisdom prove
An instrument to earthly love?
Know’st thou not yet that men commence
Thy votaries, for want of sense?
Nor shall Vanessa be the theme
To manage thy abortive scheme;
She’ll prove the greatest of thy foes,
And yet I scorn to interpose,
But using neither skill nor force,
Leave all things to their natural course.”
The goddess thus pronounced her doom,
When, lo, Vanessa in her bloom,
Advanced like Atalanta’s star,
But rarely seen, and seen from far:
In a new world with caution stepped,
Watched all the company she kept,
Well knowing from the books she read
What dangerous paths young virgins tread;
Would seldom at the park appear,
Nor saw the play-house twice a year;
Yet not incurious, was inclined
To know the converse of mankind.
First issued from perfumers’ shops
A crowd of fashionable fops;
They liked her how she liked the play?
Then told the tattle of the day,
A duel fought last night at two
About a lady—you know who;
Mentioned a new Italian, come
Either from Muscovy or Rome;
Gave hints of who and who’s together;
Then fell to talking of the weather:
Last night was so extremely fine,
The ladies walked till after nine.
Then in soft voice, and speech absurd,
With nonsense every second word,
With fustian from exploded plays,
They celebrate her beauty’s praise,
Run o’er their cant of stupid lies,
And tell the murders of her eyes.
With silent scorn Vanessa sat,
Scarce list’ning to their idle chat;
Further than sometimes by a frown,
When they grew pert, to pull them down.
At last she spitefully was bent
To try their wisdom’s full extent;
And said, she valued nothing less
Than titles, figure, shape, and dress;
That merit should be chiefly placed
In judgment, knowledge, wit, and taste;
And these, she offered to dispute,
Alone distinguished man from brute:
That present times have no pretence
To virtue, in the noble sense
By Greeks and Romans understood,
To perish for our country’s good.
She named the ancient heroes round,
Explained for what they were renowned;
Then spoke with censure, or applause,
Of foreign customs, rites, and laws;
Through nature and through art she ranged,
And gracefully her subject changed:
In vain; her hearers had no share
In all she spoke, except to stare.
Their judgment was upon the whole,
—That lady is the dullest soul—
Then tipped their forehead in a jeer,
As who should say—she wants it here;
She may be handsome, young, and rich,
But none will burn her for a witch.
A party next of glittering dames,
From round the purlieus of St. James,
Came early, out of pure goodwill,
To see the girl in deshabille.
Their clamour ’lighting from their chairs,
Grew louder, all the way up stairs;
At entrance loudest, where they found
The room with volumes littered round,
Vanessa held Montaigne, and read,
Whilst Mrs. Susan combed her head:
They called for tea and chocolate,
And fell into their usual chat,
Discoursing with important face,
On ribbons, fans, and gloves, and lace:
Showed patterns just from India brought,
And gravely asked her what she thought,
Whether the red or green were best,
And what they cost? Vanessa guessed,
As came into her fancy first,
Named half the rates, and liked the worst.
To scandal next—What awkward thing
Was that, last Sunday, in the ring?
I’m sorry Mopsa breaks so fast;
I said her face would never last,
Corinna with that youthful air,
Is thirty, and a bit to spare.
Her fondness for a certain earl
Began, when I was but a girl.
Phyllis, who but a month ago
Was married to the Tunbridge beau,
I saw coquetting t’other night
In public with that odious knight.
They rallied next Vanessa’s dress;
That gown was made for old Queen Bess.
Dear madam, let me set your head;
Don’t you intend to put on red?
A petticoat without a hoop!
Sure, you are not ashamed to stoop;
With handsome garters at your knees,
No matter what a fellow sees.
Filled with disdain, with rage inflamed,
Both of herself and sex ashamed,
The nymph stood silent out of spite,
Nor would vouchsafe to set them right.
Away the fair detractors went,
And gave, by turns, their censures vent.
She’s not so handsome in my eyes:
For wit, I wonder where it lies.
She’s fair and clean, and that’s the most;
But why proclaim her for a toast?
A baby face, no life, no airs,
But what she learnt at country fairs.
Scarce knows what difference is between
Rich Flanders lace, and Colberteen.
I’ll undertake my little Nancy,
In flounces has a better fancy.
With all her wit, I would not ask
Her judgment, how to buy a mask.
We begged her but to patch her face,
She never hit one proper place;
Which every girl at five years old
Can do as soon as she is told.
I own, that out-of-fashion stuff
Becomes the creature well enough.
The girl might pass, if we could get her
To know the world a little better.
(To know the world! a modern phrase
For visits, ombre, balls, and plays.)
Thus, to the world’s perpetual shame,
The queen of beauty lost her aim,
Too late with grief she understood
Pallas had done more harm than good;
For great examples are but vain,
Where ignorance begets disdain.
Both sexes, armed with guilt and spite,
Against Vanessa’s power unite;
To copy her few nymphs aspired;
Her virtues fewer swains admired;
So stars, beyond a certain height,
Give mortals neither heat nor light.
Yet some of either sex, endowed
With gifts superior to the crowd,
With virtue, knowledge, taste, and wit,
She condescended to admit;
With pleasing arts she could reduce
Men’s talents to their proper use;
And with address each genius hold
To that wherein it most excelled;
Thus making others’ wisdom known,
Could please them and improve her own.
A modest youth said something new,
She placed it in the strongest view.
All humble worth she strove to raise;
Would not be praised, yet loved to praise.
The learned met with free approach,
Although they came not in a coach.
Some clergy too she would allow,
Nor quarreled at their awkward bow.
But this was for Cadenus’ sake;
A gownman of a different make.
Whom Pallas, once Vanessa’s tutor,
Had fixed on for her coadjutor.
But Cupid, full of mischief, longs
To vindicate his mother’s wrongs.
On Pallas all attempts are vain;
One way he knows to give her pain;
Vows on Vanessa’s heart to take
Due vengeance, for her patron’s sake.
Those early seeds by Venus sown,
In spite of Pallas, now were grown;
And Cupid hoped they would improve
By time, and ripen into love.
The boy made use of all his craft,
In vain discharging many a shaft,
Pointed at colonels, lords, and beaux;
Cadenus warded off the blows,
For placing still some book betwixt,
The darts were in the cover fixed,
Or often blunted and recoiled,
On Plutarch’s morals struck, were spoiled.
The queen of wisdom could foresee,
But not prevent the Fates decree;
And human caution tries in vain
To break that adamantine chain.
Vanessa, though by Pallas taught,
By love invulnerable thought,
Searching in books for wisdom’s aid,
Was, in the very search, betrayed.
Cupid, though all his darts were lost,
Yet still resolved to spare no cost;
He could not answer to his fame
The triumphs of that stubborn dame,
A nymph so hard to be subdued,
Who neither was coquette nor prude.
I find, says he, she wants a doctor,
Both to adore her, and instruct her:
I’ll give her what she most admires,
Among those venerable sires.
Cadenus is a subject fit,
Grown old in politics and wit;
Caressed by Ministers of State,
Of half mankind the dread and hate.
Whate’er vexations love attend,
She need no rivals apprehend
Her sex, with universal voice,
Must laugh at her capricious choice.
Cadenus many things had writ,
Vanessa much esteemed his wit,
And called for his poetic works!
Meantime the boy in secret lurks.
And while the book was in her hand,
The urchin from his private stand
Took aim, and shot with all his strength
A dart of such prodigious length,
It pierced the feeble volume through,
And deep transfixed her bosom too.
Some lines, more moving than the rest,
Struck to the point that pierced her breast;
And, borne directly to the heart,
With pains unknown, increased her smart.
Vanessa, not in years a score,
Dreams of a gown of forty-four;
Imaginary charms can find,
In eyes with reading almost blind;
Cadenus now no more appears
Declined in health, advanced in years.
She fancies music in his tongue,
Nor farther looks, but thinks him young.
What mariner is not afraid
To venture in a ship decayed?
What planter will attempt to yoke
A sapling with a falling oak?
As years increase, she brighter shines,
Cadenus with each day declines,
And he must fall a prey to Time,
While she continues in her prime.
Cadenus, common forms apart,
In every scene had kept his heart;
Had sighed and languished, vowed and writ,
For pastime, or to show his wit;
But time, and books, and State affairs,
Had spoiled his fashionable airs,
He now could praise, esteem, approve,
But understood not what was love.
His conduct might have made him styled
A father, and the nymph his child.
That innocent delight he took
To see the virgin mind her book,
Was but the master’s secret joy
In school to hear the finest boy.
Her knowledge with her fancy grew,
She hourly pressed for something new;
Ideas came into her mind
So fact, his lessons lagged behind;
She reasoned, without plodding long,
Nor ever gave her judgment wrong.
But now a sudden change was wrought,
She minds no longer what he taught.
Cadenus was amazed to find
Such marks of a distracted mind;
For though she seemed to listen more
To all he spoke, than e’er before.
He found her thoughts would absent range,
Yet guessed not whence could spring the change.
And first he modestly conjectures,
His pupil might be tired with lectures,
Which helped to mortify his pride,
Yet gave him not the heart to chide;
But in a mild dejected strain,
At last he ventured to complain:
Said, she should be no longer teased,
Might have her freedom when she pleased;
Was now convinced he acted wrong,
To hide her from the world so long,
And in dull studies to engage
One of her tender sex and age.
That every nymph with envy owned,
How she might shine in the Grande-Monde,
And every shepherd was undone,
To see her cloistered like a nun.
This was a visionary scheme,
He waked, and found it but a dream;
A project far above his skill,
For Nature must be Nature still.
If she was bolder than became
A scholar to a courtly dame,
She might excuse a man of letters;
Thus tutors often treat their betters,
And since his talk offensive grew,
He came to take his last adieu.
Vanessa, filled with just disdain,
Would still her dignity maintain,
Instructed from her early years
To scorn the art of female tears.
Had he employed his time so long,
To teach her what was right or wrong,
Yet could such notions entertain,
That all his lectures were in vain?
She owned the wand’ring of her thoughts,
But he must answer for her faults.
She well remembered, to her cost,
That all his lessons were not lost.
Two maxims she could still produce,
And sad experience taught her use;
That virtue, pleased by being shown,
Knows nothing which it dare not own;
Can make us without fear disclose
Our inmost secrets to our foes;
That common forms were not designed
Directors to a noble mind.
Now, said the nymph, I’ll let you see
My actions with your rules agree,
That I can vulgar forms despise,
And have no secrets to disguise.
I knew by what you said and writ,
How dangerous things were men of wit;
You cautioned me against their charms,
But never gave me equal arms;
Your lessons found the weakest part,
Aimed at the head, but reached the heart.
Cadenus felt within him rise
Shame, disappointment, guilt, surprise.
He know not how to reconcile
Such language, with her usual style:
And yet her words were so expressed,
He could not hope she spoke in jest.
His thoughts had wholly been confined
To form and cultivate her mind.
He hardly knew, till he was told,
Whether the nymph were young or old;
Had met her in a public place,
Without distinguishing her face,
Much less could his declining age
Vanessa’s earliest thoughts engage.
And if her youth indifference met,
His person must contempt beget,
Or grant her passion be sincere,
How shall his innocence be clear?
Appearances were all so strong,
The world must think him in the wrong;
Would say he made a treach’rous use.
Of wit, to flatter and seduce;
The town would swear he had betrayed,
By magic spells, the harmless maid;
And every beau would have his jokes,
That scholars were like other folks;
That when Platonic flights were over,
The tutor turned a mortal lover.
So tender of the young and fair;
It showed a true paternal care—
Five thousand guineas in her purse;
The doctor might have fancied worst,—
Hardly at length he silence broke,
And faltered every word he spoke;
Interpreting her complaisance,
Just as a man sans consequence.
She rallied well, he always knew;
Her manner now was something new;
And what she spoke was in an air,
As serious as a tragic player.
But those who aim at ridicule,
Should fix upon some certain rule,
Which fairly hints they are in jest,
Else he must enter his protest;
For let a man be ne’er so wise,
He may be caught with sober lies;
A science which he never taught,
And, to be free, was dearly bought;
For, take it in its proper light,
’Tis just what coxcombs call a bite.
But not to dwell on things minute,
Vanessa finished the dispute,
Brought weighty arguments to prove,
That reason was her guide in love.
She thought he had himself described,
His doctrines when she fist imbibed;
What he had planted now was grown,
His virtues she might call her own;
As he approves, as he dislikes,
Love or contempt her fancy strikes.
Self-love in nature rooted fast,
Attends us first, and leaves us last:
Why she likes him, admire not at her,
She loves herself, and that’s the matter.
How was her tutor wont to praise
The geniuses of ancient days!
(Those authors he so oft had named
For learning, wit, and wisdom famed).
Was struck with love, esteem, and awe,
For persons whom he never saw.
Suppose Cadenus flourished then,
He must adore such God-like men.
If one short volume could comprise
All that was witty, learned, and wise,
How would it be esteemed, and read,
Although the writer long were dead?
If such an author were alive,
How all would for his friendship strive;
And come in crowds to see his face?
And this she takes to be her case.
Cadenus answers every end,
The book, the author, and the friend,
The utmost her desires will reach,
Is but to learn what he can teach;
His converse is a system fit
Alone to fill up all her wit;
While ev’ry passion of her mind
In him is centred and confined.
Love can with speech inspire a mute,
And taught Vanessa to dispute.
This topic, never touched before,
Displayed her eloquence the more:
Her knowledge, with such pains acquired,
By this new passion grew inspired.
Through this she made all objects pass,
Which gave a tincture o’er the mass;
As rivers, though they bend and twine,
Still to the sea their course incline;
Or, as philosophers, who find
Some fav’rite system to their mind,
In every point to make it fit,
Will force all nature to submit.
Cadenus, who could ne’er suspect
His lessons would have such effect,
Or be so artfully applied,
Insensibly came on her side;
It was an unforeseen event,
Things took a turn he never meant.
Whoe’er excels in what we prize,
Appears a hero to our eyes;
Each girl, when pleased with what is taught,
Will have the teacher in her thought.
When miss delights in her spinnet,
A fiddler may a fortune get;
A blockhead, with melodious voice
In boarding-schools can have his choice;
And oft the dancing-master’s art
Climbs from the toe to touch the heart.
In learning let a nymph delight,
The pedant gets a mistress by’t.
Cadenus, to his grief and shame,
Could scarce oppose Vanessa’s flame;
But though her arguments were strong,
At least could hardly with them wrong.
Howe’er it came, he could not tell,
But, sure, she never talked so well.
His pride began to interpose,
Preferred before a crowd of beaux,
So bright a nymph to come unsought,
Such wonder by his merit wrought;
’Tis merit must with her prevail,
He never know her judgment fail.
She noted all she ever read,
And had a most discerning head.
’Tis an old maxim in the schools,
That vanity’s the food of fools;
Yet now and then your men of wit
Will condescend to take a bit.
So when Cadenus could not hide,
He chose to justify his pride;
Construing the passion she had shown,
Much to her praise, more to his own.
Nature in him had merit placed,
In her, a most judicious taste.
Love, hitherto a transient guest,
Ne’er held possession in his breast;
So long attending at the gate,
Disdain’d to enter in so late.
Love, why do we one passion call?
When ’tis a compound of them all;
Where hot and cold, where sharp and sweet,
In all their equipages meet;
Where pleasures mixed with pains appear,
Sorrow with joy, and hope with fear.
Wherein his dignity and age
Forbid Cadenus to engage.
But friendship in its greatest height,
A constant, rational delight,
On virtue’s basis fixed to last,
When love’s allurements long are past;
Which gently warms, but cannot burn;
He gladly offers in return;
His want of passion will redeem,
With gratitude, respect, esteem;
With that devotion we bestow,
When goddesses appear below.
While thus Cadenus entertains
Vanessa in exalted strains,
The nymph in sober words intreats
A truce with all sublime conceits.
For why such raptures, flights, and fancies,
To her who durst not read romances;
In lofty style to make replies,
Which he had taught her to despise?
But when her tutor will affect
Devotion, duty, and respect,
He fairly abdicates his throne,
The government is now her own;
He has a forfeiture incurred,
She vows to take him at his word,
And hopes he will not take it strange
If both should now their stations change
The nymph will have her turn, to be
The tutor; and the pupil he:
Though she already can discern
Her scholar is not apt to learn;
Or wants capacity to reach
The science she designs to teach;
Wherein his genius was below
The skill of every common beau;
Who, though he cannot spell, is wise
Enough to read a lady’s eyes?
And will each accidental glance
Interpret for a kind advance.
But what success Vanessa met
Is to the world a secret yet;
Whether the nymph, to please her swain,
Talks in a high romantic strain;
Or whether he at last descends
To like with less seraphic ends;
Or to compound the bus’ness, whether
They temper love and books together;
Must never to mankind be told,
Nor shall the conscious muse unfold.
Meantime the mournful queen of love
Led but a weary life above.
She ventures now to leave the skies,
Grown by Vanessa’s conduct wise.
For though by one perverse event
Pallas had crossed her first intent,
Though her design was not obtained,
Yet had she much experience gained;
And, by the project vainly tried,
Could better now the cause decide.
She gave due notice that both parties,
Coram Regina prox’ die Martis,
Should at their peril without fail
Come and appear, and save their bail.
All met, and silence thrice proclaimed,
One lawyer to each side was named.
The judge discovered in her face
Resentments for her late disgrace;
And, full of anger, shame, and grief,
Directed them to mind their brief;
Nor spend their time to show their reading,
She’d have a summary proceeding.
She gathered under every head,
The sum of what each lawyer said;
Gave her own reasons last; and then
Decreed the cause against the men.
But, in a weighty case like this,
To show she did not judge amiss,
Which evil tongues might else report,
She made a speech in open court;
Wherein she grievously complains,
“How she was cheated by the swains.”
On whose petition (humbly showing
That women were not worth the wooing,
And that unless the sex would mend,
The race of lovers soon must end);
“She was at Lord knows what expense,
To form a nymph of wit and sense;
A model for her sex designed,
Who never could one lover find,
She saw her favour was misplaced;
The follows had a wretched taste;
She needs must tell them to their face,
They were a senseless, stupid race;
And were she to begin again,
She’d study to reform the men;
Or add some grains of folly more
To women than they had before.
To put them on an equal foot;
And this, or nothing else, would do’t.
This might their mutual fancy strike,
Since every being loves its like.
But now, repenting what was done,
She left all business to her son;
She puts the world in his possession,
And let him use it at discretion.”
The crier was ordered to dismiss
The court, so made his last O yes!
The goddess would no longer wait,
But rising from her chair of state,
Left all below at six and seven,
Harnessed her doves, and flew to Heaven.
STELLA’S BIRTHDAY, 1718.
Stella this day is thirty-four
(We shan’t dispute a year or more)
However, Stella, be not troubled,
Although thy size and years are doubled
Since first I saw thee at sixteen,
The brightest virgin on the green.
So little is thy form declined;
Made up so largely in thy mind.
Oh, would it please the gods to split
Thy beauty, size, and years, and wit,
No age could furnish out a pair
Of nymphs so graceful, wise, and fair:
With half the lustre of your eyes,
With half your wit, your years, and size.
And then, before it grew too late,
How should I beg of gentle fate,
(That either nymph might lack her swain),
To split my worship too in twain.
STELLA’S BIRTHDAY, 1720.
All travellers at first incline
Where’er they see the fairest sign;
And if they find the chambers neat,
And like the liquor and the meat,
Will call again and recommend
The Angel Inn to every friend
What though the painting grows decayed,
The house will never lose its trade:
Nay, though the treach’rous tapster Thomas
Hangs a new angel two doors from us,
As fine as daubers’ hands can make it,
In hopes that strangers may mistake it,
We think it both a shame and sin,
To quit the true old Angel Inn.
Now, this is Stella’s case in fact,
An angel’s face, a little cracked
(Could poets, or could painters fix
How angels look at, thirty-six):
This drew us in at first, to find
In such a form an angel’s mind;
And every virtue now supplies
The fainting rays of Stella’s eyes.
See, at her levee, crowding swains,
Whom Stella freely entertains,
With breeding, humour, wit, and sense;
And puts them but to small expense;
Their mind so plentifully fills,
And makes such reasonable bills,
So little gets for what she gives,
We really wonder how she lives!
And had her stock been less, no doubt,
She must have long ago run out.
Then who can think we’ll quit the place,
When Doll hangs out a newer face;
Or stop and light at Cloe’s Head,
With scraps and leavings to be fed.
Then Cloe, still go on to prate
Of thirty-six, and thirty-eight;
Pursue your trade of scandal picking,
Your hints that Stella is no chicken.
Your innuendoes when you tell us,
That Stella loves to talk with fellows;
And let me warn you to believe
A truth, for which your soul should grieve:
That should you live to see the day
When Stella’s locks, must all be grey,
When age must print a furrowed trace
On every feature of her face;
Though you and all your senseless tribe,
Could art, or time, or nature bribe
To make you look like beauty’s queen,
And hold for ever at fifteen;
No bloom of youth can ever blind
The cracks and wrinkles of your mind;
All men of sense will pass your door,
And crowd to Stella’s at fourscore.
A great bottle of wine, long buried, being that day dug
Resolved my annual verse to pay,
By duty bound, on Stella’s day;
Furnished with paper, pens, and ink,
I gravely sat me down to think:
I bit my nails, and scratched my head,
But found my wit and fancy fled;
Or, if with more than usual pain,
A thought came slowly from my brain,
It cost me Lord knows how much time
To shape it into sense and rhyme;
And, what was yet a greater curse,
Long-thinking made my fancy worse
Forsaken by th’ inspiring nine,
I waited at Apollo’s shrine;
I told him what the world would sa
If Stella were unsung to-day;
How I should hide my head for shame,
When both the Jacks and Robin came;
How Ford would frown, how Jim would leer,
How Sh---r the rogue would sneer,
And swear it does not always follow,
That Semel’n anno ridet Apollo.
I have assured them twenty times,
That Phœbus helped me in my rhymes,
Phœbus inspired me from above,
And he and I were hand and glove.
But finding me so dull and dry since,
They’ll call it all poetic licence.
And when I brag of aid divine,
Think Eusden’s right as good as mine.
Nor do I ask for Stella’s sake;
’Tis my own credit lies at stake.
And Stella will be sung, while I
Can only be a stander by.
Apollo having thought a little,
Returned this answer to a tittle.
Tho’ you should live like old Methusalem,
I furnish hints, and you should use all ’em,
You yearly sing as she grows old,
You’d leave her virtues half untold.
But to say truth, such dulness reigns
Through the whole set of Irish Deans;
I’m daily stunned with such a medley,
Dean W---, Dean D---l, and Dean S---;
That let what Dean soever come,
My orders are, I’m not at home;
And if your voice had not been loud,
You must have passed among the crowd.
But, now your danger to prevent,
You must apply to Mrs. Brent, 
For she, as priestess, knows the rites
Wherein the God of Earth delights.
First, nine ways looking, let her stand
With an old poker in her hand;
Let her describe a circle round
In Saunder’s  cellar on the ground
A spade let prudent Archy  hold,
And with discretion dig the mould;
Let Stella look with watchful eye,
Rebecea, Ford, and Grattons by.
Behold the bottle, where it lies
With neck elated tow’rds the skies!
The god of winds, and god of fire,
Did to its wondrous birth conspire;
And Bacchus for the poet’s use
Poured in a strong inspiring juice:
See! as you raise it from its tomb,
It drags behind a spacious womb,
And in the spacious womb contains
A sovereign med’cine for the brains.
You’ll find it soon, if fate consents;
If not, a thousand Mrs. Brents,
Ten thousand Archys arm’d with spades,
May dig in vain to Pluto’s shades.
From thence a plenteous draught infuse,
And boldly then invoke the muse
(But first let Robert on his knees
With caution drain it from the lees);
The muse will at your call appear,
With Stella’s praise to crown the year.
STELLA’S BIRTHDAY, 1724.
As when a beauteous nymph decays,
We say she’s past her dancing days;
So poets lose their feet by time,
And can no longer dance in rhyme.
Your annual bard had rather chose
To celebrate your birth in prose;
Yet merry folks who want by chance
A pair to make a country dance,
Call the old housekeeper, and get her
To fill a place, for want of better;
While Sheridan is off the hooks,
And friend Delany at his books,
That Stella may avoid disgrace,
Once more the Dean supplies their place.
Beauty and wit, too sad a truth,
Have always been confined to youth;
The god of wit, and beauty’s queen,
He twenty-one, and she fifteen;
No poet ever sweetly sung.
Unless he were like Phœbus, young;
Nor ever nymph inspired to rhyme,
Unless like Venus in her prime.
At fifty-six, if this be true,
Am I a poet fit for you;
Or at the age of forty-three,
Are you a subject fit for me?
Adieu bright wit, and radiant eyes;
You must be grave, and I be wise.
Our fate in vain we would oppose,
But I’ll be still your friend in prose;
Esteem and friendship to express,
Will not require poetic dress;
And if the muse deny her aid
To have them sung, they may be said.
But, Stella say, what evil tongue
Reports you are no longer young?
That Time sits with his scythe to mow
Where erst sat Cupid with his bow;
That half your locks are turned to grey;
I’ll ne’er believe a word they say.
’Tis true, but let it not be known,
My eyes are somewhat dimish grown;
For nature, always in the right,
To your decays adapts my sight,
And wrinkles undistinguished pass,
For I’m ashamed to use a glass;
And till I see them with these eyes,
Whoever says you have them, lies.
No length of time can make you quit
Honour and virtue, sense and wit,
Thus you may still be young to me,
While I can better hear than see:
Oh, ne’er may fortune show her spite,
To make me deaf, and mend my sight.
STELLA’S BIRTHDAY, MARCH 13, 1726.
This day, whate’er the Fates decree,
Shall still be kept with joy by me;
This day, then, let us not be told
That you are sick, and I grown old,
Nor think on our approaching ills,
And talk of spectacles and pills;
To-morrow will be time enough
To hear such mortifying stuff.
Yet, since from reason may be brought
A better and more pleasing thought,
Which can, in spite of all decays,
Support a few remaining days:
From not the gravest of divines
Accept for once some serious lines.
Although we now can form no more
Long schemes of life, as heretofore;
Yet you, while time is running fast,
Can look with joy on what is past.
Were future happiness and pain
A mere contrivance of the brain,
As Atheists argue, to entice,
And fit their proselytes for vice
(The only comfort they propose,
To have companions in their woes).
Grant this the case, yet sure ’tis hard
That virtue, styled its own reward,
And by all sages understood
To be the chief of human good,
Should acting, die, or leave behind
Some lasting pleasure in the mind.
Which by remembrance will assuage
Grief, sickness, poverty, and age;
And strongly shoot a radiant dart,
To shine through life’s declining part.
Say, Stella, feel you no content,
Reflecting on a life well spent;
Your skilful hand employed to save
Despairing wretches from the grave;
And then supporting with your store,
Those whom you dragged from death before?
So Providence on mortals waits,
Preserving what it first creates,
You generous boldness to defend
An innocent and absent friend;
That courage which can make you just,
To merit humbled in the dust;
The detestation you express
For vice in all its glittering dress:
That patience under to torturing pain,
Where stubborn stoics would complain.
Must these like empty shadows pass,
Or forms reflected from a glass?
Or mere chimæras in the mind,
That fly, and leave no marks behind?
Does not the body thrive and grow
By food of twenty years ago?
And, had it not been still supplied,
It must a thousand times have died.
Then, who with reason can maintain
That no effects of food remain?
And, is not virtue in mankind
The nutriment that feeds the mind?
Upheld by each good action past,
And still continued by the last:
Then, who with reason can pretend
That all effects of virtue end?
Believe me, Stella, when you show
That true contempt for things below,
Nor prize your life for other ends
Than merely to oblige your friends,
Your former actions claim their part,
And join to fortify your heart.
For virtue in her daily race,
Like Janus, bears a double face.
Look back with joy where she has gone,
And therefore goes with courage on.
She at your sickly couch will wait,
And guide you to a better state.
O then, whatever heav’n intends,
Take pity on your pitying friends;
Nor let your ills affect your mind,
To fancy they can be unkind;
Me, surely me, you ought to spare,
Who gladly would your sufferings share;
Or give my scrap of life to you,
And think it far beneath your due;
You to whose care so oft I owe
That I’m alive to tell you so.
Visiting me in my sickness, October, 1727.
Pallas, observing Stella’s wit
Was more than for her sex was fit;
And that her beauty, soon or late,
Might breed confusion in the state;
In high concern for human kind,
Fixed honour in her infant mind.
But (not in wranglings to engage
With such a stupid vicious age),
If honour I would here define,
It answers faith in things divine.
As natural life the body warms,
And, scholars teach, the soul informs;
So honour animates the whole,
And is the spirit of the soul.
Those numerous virtues which the tribe
Of tedious moralists describe,
And by such various titles call,
True honour comprehends them all.
Let melancholy rule supreme,
Choler preside, or blood, or phlegm.
It makes no difference in the case.
Nor is complexion honour’s place.
But, lest we should for honour take
The drunken quarrels of a rake,
Or think it seated in a scar,
Or on a proud triumphal car,
Or in the payment of a debt,
We lose with sharpers at piquet;
Or, when a whore in her vocation,
Keeps punctual to an assignation;
Or that on which his lordship swears,
When vulgar knaves would lose their ears:
Let Stella’s fair example preach
A lesson she alone can teach.
In points of honour to be tried,
All passions must be laid aside;
Ask no advice, but think alone,
Suppose the question not your own;
How shall I act? is not the case,
But how would Brutus in my place;
In such a cause would Cato bleed;
And how would Socrates proceed?
Drive all objections from your mind,
Else you relapse to human kind;
Ambition, avarice, and lust,
And factious rage, and breach of trust,
And flattery tipped with nauseous fleer,
And guilt and shame, and servile fear,
Envy, and cruelty, and pride,
Will in your tainted heart preside.
Heroes and heroines of old,
By honour only were enrolled
Among their brethren in the skies,
To which (though late) shall Stella rise.
Ten thousand oaths upon record
Are not so sacred as her word;
The world shall in its atoms end
Ere Stella can deceive a friend.
By honour seated in her breast,
She still determines what is best;
What indignation in her mind,
Against enslavers of mankind!
Base kings and ministers of state,
Eternal objects of her hate.
She thinks that Nature ne’er designed,
Courage to man alone confined;
Can cowardice her sex adorn,
Which most exposes ours to scorn;
She wonders where the charm appears
In Florimel’s affected fears;
For Stella never learned the art
At proper times to scream and start;
Nor calls up all the house at night,
And swears she saw a thing in white.
Doll never flies to cut her lace,
Or throw cold water in her face,
Because she heard a sudden drum,
Or found an earwig in a plum.
Her hearers are amazed from whence
Proceeds that fund of wit and sense;
Which, though her modesty would shroud,
Breaks like the sun behind a cloud,
While gracefulness its art conceals,
And yet through every motion steals.
Say, Stella, was Prometheus blind,
And forming you, mistook your kind?
No; ’twas for you alone he stole
The fire that forms a manly soul;
Then, to complete it every way,
He moulded it with female clay,
To that you owe the nobler flame,
To this, the beauty of your frame.
How would ingratitude delight?
And how would censure glut her spite?
If I should Stella’s kindness hide
In silence, or forget with pride,
When on my sickly couch I lay,
Impatient both of night and day,
Lamenting in unmanly strains,
Called every power to ease my pains,
Then Stella ran to my relief
With cheerful face and inward grief;
And though by Heaven’s severe decree
She suffers hourly more than me,
No cruel master could require,
From slaves employed for daily hire,
What Stella by her friendship warmed,
With vigour and delight performed.
My sinking spirits now supplies
With cordials in her hands and eyes,
Now with a soft and silent tread,
Unheard she moves about my bed.
I see her taste each nauseous draught,
And so obligingly am caught:
I bless the hand from whence they came,
Nor dare distort my face for shame.
Best pattern of true friends beware,
You pay too dearly for your care;
If while your tenderness secures
My life, it must endanger yours.
For such a fool was never found,
Who pulled a palace to the ground,
Only to have the ruins made
Materials for a house decayed.
While Dr. Swift was at Sir William Temple’s,
after he left the University of Dublin, he contracted a
friendship with two of Sir William’s relations, Mrs.
Johnson and Mrs. Dingley, which continued to their
deaths. The former of these was the amiable
Stella, so much celebrated in his works. In
the year 1727, being in England, he received the
melancholy news of her last sickness, Mrs. Dingley having
been dead before. He hastened into Ireland,
where he visited her, not only as a friend, but
a clergyman. No set form of prayer could express the
sense of his heart on that occasion. He drew up the
following, here printed from his own
handwriting. She died Jan. 28, 1727.
THE FIRST HE WROTE OCT. 17, 1727.
Most merciful Father, accept our humblest prayers in behalf of
this Thy languishing servant; forgive the sins, the frailties,
and infirmities of her life past. Accept the good deeds she
hath done in such a manner that, at whatever time Thou shalt
please to call her, she may be received into everlasting
habitations. Give her grace to continue sincerely thankful
to Thee for the many favours Thou hast bestowed upon her, the
ability and inclination and practice to do good, and those
virtues which have procured the esteem and love of her friends,
and a most unspotted name in the world. O God, Thou
dispensest Thy blessings and Thy punishments, as it becometh
infinite justice and mercy; and since it was Thy pleasure to
afflict her with a long, constant, weakly state of health, make
her truly sensible that it was for very wise ends, and was
largely made up to her in other blessings, more valuable and less
common. Continue to her, O Lord, that firmness and
constancy of mind wherewith Thou hast most graciously endowed
her, together with that contempt of worldly things and vanities
that she hath shown in the whole conduct of her life. O
All-powerful Being, the least motion of whose Will can create or
destroy a world, pity us, the mournful friends of Thy distressed
servant, who sink under the weight of her present condition, and
the fear of losing the most valuable of our friends; restore her
to us, O Lord, if it be Thy gracious Will, or inspire us with
constancy and resignation to support ourselves under so heavy an
affliction. Restore her, O Lord, for the sake of those
poor, who by losing her will be desolate, and those sick, who
will not only want her bounty, but her care and tending; or else,
in Thy mercy, raise up some other in her place with equal
disposition and better abilities. Lessen, O Lord, we
beseech thee, her bodily pains, or give her a double strength of
mind to support them. And if Thou wilt soon take her to
Thyself, turn our thoughts rather upon that felicity which we
hope she shall enjoy, than upon that unspeakable loss we shall
endure. Let her memory be ever dear unto us, and the
example of her many virtues, as far as human infirmity will
admit, our constant imitation. Accept, O Lord, these
prayers poured from the very bottom of our hearts, in Thy mercy,
and for the merits of our blessed Saviour. Amen.
THE SECOND PRAYER WAS WRITTEN NOV. 6, 1727.
O Merciful Father, who never afflictest Thy children but for
their own good, and with justice, over which Thy mercy always
prevaileth, either to turn them to repentance, or to punish them
in the present life, in order to reward them in a better; take
pity, we beseech Thee, upon this Thy poor afflicted servant,
languishing so long and so grievously under the weight of Thy
Hand. Give her strength, O Lord, to support her weakness,
and patience to endure her pains, without repining at Thy
correction. Forgive every rash and inconsiderate expression
which her anguish may at any time force from her tongue, while
her heart continueth in an entire submission to Thy Will.
Suppress in her, O Lord, all eager desires of life, and lesson
her fears of death, by inspiring into her an humble yet assured
hope of Thy mercy. Give her a sincere repentance for all
her transgressions and omissions, and a firm resolution to pass
the remainder of her life in endeavouring to her utmost to
observe all thy precepts. We beseech Thee likewise to
compose her thoughts, and preserve to her the use of her memory
and reason during the course of her sickness. Give her a
true conception of the vanity, folly, and insignificancy of all
human things; and strengthen her so as to beget in her a sincere
love of Thee in the midst of her sufferings. Accept and
impute all her good deeds, and forgive her all those offences
against Thee, which she hath sincerely repented of, or through
the frailty of memory hath forgot. And now, O Lord, we turn
to Thee in behalf of ourselves, and the rest of her sorrowful
friends. Let not our grief afflict her mind, and thereby
have an ill effect on her present distemper. Forgive the
sorrow and weakness of those among us who sink under the grief
and terror of losing so dear and useful a friend. Accept
and pardon our most earnest prayers and wishes for her longer
continuance in this evil world, to do what Thou art pleased to
call Thy service, and is only her bounden duty; that she may be
still a comfort to us, and to all others, who will want the
benefit of her conversation, her advice, her good offices, or her
charity. And since Thou hast promised that where two or
three are gathered together in Thy Name, Thou wilt be in the
midst of them to grant their request, O Gracious Lord, grant to
us who are here met in Thy Name, that those requests, which in
the utmost sincerity and earnestness of our hearts we have now
made in behalf of this Thy distressed servant, and of ourselves,
may effectually be answered; through the merits of Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.
THE BEASTS’ CONFESSION (1732).
When beasts could speak (the learned say
They still can do so every day),
It seems, they had religion then,
As much as now we find in men.
It happened when a plague broke out
(Which therefore made them more devout)
The king of brutes (to make it plain,
Of quadrupeds I only mean),
By proclamation gave command,
That every subject in the land
Should to the priest confess their sins;
And thus the pious wolf begins:
Good father, I must own with shame,
That, often I have been to blame:
I must confess, on Friday last,
Wretch that I was, I broke my fast:
But I defy the basest tongue
To prove I did my neighbour wrong;
Or ever went to seek my food
By rapine, theft, or thirst of blood.
The ass approaching next, confessed,
That in his heart he loved a jest:
A wag he was, he needs must own,
And could not let a dunce alone:
Sometimes his friend he would not spare,
And might perhaps be too severe:
But yet, the worst that could be said,
He was a wit both born and bred;
And, if it be a sin or shame,
Nature alone must bear the blame:
One fault he hath, is sorry for’t,
His ears are half a foot too short;
Which could he to the standard bring,
He’d show his face before the king:
Then, for his voice, there’s none disputes
That he’s the nightingale of brutes.
The swine with contrite heart allowed,
His shape and beauty made him proud:
In diet was perhaps too nice,
But gluttony was ne’er his vice:
In every turn of life content,
And meekly took what fortune sent:
Enquire through all the parish round,
A better neighbour ne’er was found:
His vigilance might seine displease;
’Tis true, he hated sloth like pease.
The mimic ape began his chatter,
How evil tongues his life bespatter:
Much of the cens’ring world complained,
Who said his gravity was feigned:
Indeed, the strictness of his morals
Engaged him in a hundred quarrels:
He saw, and he was grieved to see’t,
His zeal was sometimes indiscreet:
He found his virtues too severe
For our corrupted times to bear:
Yet, such a lewd licentious age
Might well excuse a stoic’s rage.
The goat advanced with decent pace:
And first excused his youthful face;
Forgiveness begged, that he appeared
(’Twas nature’s fault) without a beard.
’Tis true, he was not much inclined
To fondness for the female kind;
Not, as his enemies object,
From chance or natural defect;
Not by his frigid constitution,
But through a pious resolution;
For he had made a holy vow
Of chastity, as monks do now;
Which he resolved to keep for ever hence,
As strictly, too, as doth his reverence. 
Apply the tale, and you shall find
How just it suits with human kind.
Some faults we own: but, can you guess?
Why?—virtue’s carried to excess;
Wherewith our vanity endows us,
Though neither foe nor friend allows us.
The lawyer swears, you may rely on’t,
He never squeezed a needy client:
And this he makes his constant rule,
For which his brethren call him fool;
His conscience always was so nice,
He freely gave the poor advice;
By which he lost, he may affirm,
A hundred fees last Easter term.
While others of the learned robe
Would break the patience of a Job;
No pleader at the bar could match
His diligence and quick despatch;
Ne’er kept a cause, he well may boast,
Above a term or two at most.
The cringing knave, who seeks a place
Without success, thus tells his case:
Why should he longer mince the matter?
He failed because he could not flatter:
He had not learned to turn his coat,
Nor for a party give his vote.
His crime he quickly understood;
Too zealous for the nation’s good:
He found the ministers resent it,
Yet could not for his heart repent it.
The chaplain vows he cannot fawn,
Though it would raise him to the lawn:
He passed his hours among his books;
You find it in his meagre looks:
He might, if he were worldly-wise,
Preferment get, and spare his eyes:
But owned he had a stubborn spirit,
That made him trust alone in merit:
Would rise by merit to promotion;
Alas! a mere chimeric notion.
The doctor, if you will believe him,
Confessed a sin, and God forgive him:
Called up at midnight, ran to save
A blind old beggar from the grave:
But, see how Satan spreads his snares;
He quite forgot to say his prayers.
He cannot help it, for his heart,
Sometimes to act the parson’s part,
Quotes from the Bible many a sentence
That moves his patients to repentance:
And, when his medicines do no good,
Supports their minds with heavenly food.
At which, however well intended,
He hears the clergy are offended;
And grown so bold behind his back,
To call him hypocrite and quack.
In his own church he keeps a seat;
Says grace before and after meat;
And calls, without affecting airs,
His household twice a day to prayers.
He shuns apothecaries’ shops;
And hates to cram the sick with slops:
He scorns to make his art a trade,
Nor bribes my lady’s favourite maid.
Old nurse-keepers would never hire
To recommend him to the Squire;
Which others, whom he will not name,
Have often practised to their shame.
The statesman tells you with a sneer,
His fault is to be too sincere;
And, having no sinister ends,
Is apt to disoblige his friends.
The nation’s good, his Master’s glory,
Without regard to Whig or Tory,
Were all the schemes he had in view;
Yet he was seconded by few:
Though some had spread a thousand lies,
’Twas he defeated the Excise.
’Twas known, though he had borne aspersion,
That standing troops were his aversion:
His practice was, in every station,
To serve the king, and please the nation.
Though hard to find in every case
The fittest man to fill a place:
His promises he ne’er forgot,
But took memorials on the spot:
His enemies, for want of charity,
Said he affected popularity:
’Tis true, the people understood,
That all he did was for their good;
Their kind affections he has tried;
No love is lost on either side.
He came to court with fortune clear,
Which now he runs out every year;
Must, at the rate that he goes on,
Inevitably be undone.
Oh! if his Majesty would please
To give him but a writ of ease,
Would grant him license to retire,
As it hath long been his desire,
By fair accounts it would be found,
He’s poorer by ten thousand pound.
He owns, and hopes it is no sin,
He ne’er was partial to his kin;
He thought it base for men in stations
To crowd the court with their relations:
His country was his dearest mother,
And every virtuous man his brother:
Through modesty or awkward shame
(For which he owns himself to blame),
He found the wisest men he could,
Without respect to friends or blood;
Nor never acts on private views,
When he hath liberty to choose.
The sharper swore he hated play,
Except to pass an hour away:
And well he might; for to his cost,
By want of skill, he always lost.
He heard there was a club of cheats,
Who had contrived a thousand feats;
Could change the stock, or cog a dye,
And thus deceive the sharpest eye:
No wonder how his fortune sunk,
His brothers fleece him when he’s drunk.
I own the moral not exact;
Besides, the tale is false in fact;
And so absurd, that, could I raise up
From fields Elysian, fabling Æsop;
I would accuse him to his face,
For libelling the four-foot race.
Creatures of every kind but ours
Well comprehend their natural powers;
While we, whom reason ought to sway,
Mistake our talents every day:
The ass was never known so stupid
To act the part of Tray or Cupid;
Nor leaps upon his master’s lap,
There to be stroked, and fed with pap:
As Æsop would the world persuade;
He better understands his trade:
Nor comes whene’er his lady whistles,
But carries loads, and feeds on thistles;
Our author’s meaning, I presume, is
A creature bipes et implumis;
Wherein the moralist designed
A compliment on human-kind:
For, here he owns, that now and then
Beasts may degenerate into men.
AN ARGUMENT TO PROVE THAT THE ABOLISHING OF CHRISTIANITY IN
ENGLAND MAY, AS THINGS NOW STAND, BE ATTENDED WITH SOME
INCONVENIENCES, AND PERHAPS NOT PRODUCE THOSE MANY GOOD EFFECTS
Written in the year 1708.
I am very sensible what a weakness and presumption it is to
reason against the general humour and disposition of the
world. I remember it was with great justice, and a due
regard to the freedom, both of the public and the press,
forbidden upon several penalties to write, or discourse, or lay
wagers against the --- even before it was confirmed by
Parliament; because that was looked upon as a design to oppose
the current of the people, which, besides the folly of it, is a
manifest breach of the fundamental law, that makes this majority
of opinions the voice of God. In like manner, and for the
very same reasons, it may perhaps be neither safe nor prudent to
argue against the abolishing of Christianity, at a juncture when
all parties seem so unanimously determined upon the point, as we
cannot but allow from their actions, their discourses, and their
writings. However, I know not how, whether from the
affectation of singularity, or the perverseness of human nature,
but so it unhappily falls out, that I cannot be entirely of this
opinion. Nay, though I were sure an order were issued for
my immediate prosecution by the Attorney-General, I should still
confess, that in the present posture of our affairs at home or
abroad, I do not yet see the absolute necessity of extirpating
the Christian religion from among us.
This perhaps may appear too great a paradox even for our wise
and paxodoxical age to endure; therefore I shall handle it with
all tenderness, and with the utmost deference to that great and
profound majority which is of another sentiment.
And yet the curious may please to observe, how much the genius
of a nation is liable to alter in half an age. I have heard
it affirmed for certain by some very odd people, that the
contrary opinion was even in their memories as much in vogue as
the other is now; and that a project for the abolishing of
Christianity would then have appeared as singular, and been
thought as absurd, as it would be at this time to write or
discourse in its defence.
Therefore I freely own, that all appearances are against
me. The system of the Gospel, after the fate of other
systems, is generally antiquated and exploded, and the mass or
body of the common people, among whom it seems to have had its
latest credit, are now grown as much ashamed of it as their
betters; opinions, like fashions, always descending from those of
quality to the middle sort, and thence to the vulgar, where at
length they are dropped and vanish.
But here I would not be mistaken, and must therefore be so
bold as to borrow a distinction from the writers on the other
side, when they make a difference betwixt nominal and real
Trinitarians. I hope no reader imagines me so weak to stand
up in the defence of real Christianity, such as used in primitive
times (if we may believe the authors of those ages) to have an
influence upon men’s belief and actions. To offer at
the restoring of that, would indeed be a wild project: it would
be to dig up foundations; to destroy at one blow all the wit, and
half the learning of the kingdom; to break the entire frame and
constitution of things; to ruin trade, extinguish arts and
sciences, with the professors of them; in short, to turn our
courts, exchanges, and shops into deserts; and would be full as
absurd as the proposal of Horace, where he advises the Romans,
all in a body, to leave their city, and seek a new seat in some
remote part of the world, by way of a cure for the corruption of
Therefore I think this caution was in itself altogether
unnecessary (which I have inserted only to prevent all
possibility of cavilling), since every candid reader will easily
understand my discourse to be intended only in defence of nominal
Christianity, the other having been for some time wholly laid
aside by general consent, as utterly inconsistent with all our
present schemes of wealth and power.
But why we should therefore cut off the name and title of
Christians, although the general opinion and resolution be so
violent for it, I confess I cannot (with submission) apprehend
the consequence necessary. However, since the undertakers
propose such wonderful advantages to the nation by this project,
and advance many plausible objections against the system of
Christianity, I shall briefly consider the strength of both,
fairly allow them their greatest weight, and offer such answers
as I think most reasonable. After which I will beg leave to
show what inconveniences may possibly happen by such an
innovation, in the present posture of our affairs.
First, one great advantage proposed by the abolishing of
Christianity is, that it would very much enlarge and establish
liberty of conscience, that great bulwark of our nation, and of
the Protestant religion, which is still too much limited by
priestcraft, notwithstanding all the good intentions of the
legislature, as we have lately found by a severe instance.
For it is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of real
hopes, bright wit, and profound judgment, who, upon a thorough
examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of
natural abilities, without the least tincture of learning, having
made a discovery that there was no God, and generously
communicating their thoughts for the good of the public, were
some time ago, by an unparalleled severity, and upon I know not
what obsolete law, broke for blasphemy. And as it has been
wisely observed, if persecution once begins, no man alive knows
how far it may reach, or where it will end.
In answer to all which, with deference to wiser judgments, I
think this rather shows the necessity of a nominal religion among
us. Great wits love to be free with the highest objects;
and if they cannot be allowed a god to revile or renounce, they
will speak evil of dignities, abuse the government, and reflect
upon the ministry, which I am sure few will deny to be of much
more pernicious consequence, according to the saying of Tiberius,
deorum offensa diis curœ. As to the particular
fact related, I think it is not fair to argue from one instance,
perhaps another cannot be produced: yet (to the comfort of all
those who may be apprehensive of persecution) blasphemy we know
is freely spoke a million of times in every coffee-house and
tavern, or wherever else good company meet. It must be
allowed, indeed, that to break an English free-born officer only
for blasphemy was, to speak the gentlest of such an action, a
very high strain of absolute power. Little can be said in
excuse for the general; perhaps he was afraid it might give
offence to the allies, among whom, for aught we know, it may be
the custom of the country to believe a God. But if he
argued, as some have done, upon a mistaken principle, that an
officer who is guilty of speaking blasphemy may, some time or
other, proceed so far as to raise a mutiny, the consequence is by
no means to be admitted: for surely the commander of an English
army is like to be but ill obeyed whose soldiers fear and
reverence him as little as they do a Deity.
It is further objected against the Gospel system that it
obliges men to the belief of things too difficult for
Freethinkers, and such who have shook off the prejudices that
usually cling to a confined education. To which I answer,
that men should be cautious how they raise objections which
reflect upon the wisdom of the nation. Is not everybody
freely allowed to believe whatever he pleases, and to publish his
belief to the world whenever he thinks fit, especially if it
serves to strengthen the party which is in the right? Would
any indifferent foreigner, who should read the trumpery lately
written by Asgil, Tindal, Toland, Coward, and forty more, imagine
the Gospel to be our rule of faith, and to be confirmed by
Parliaments? Does any man either believe, or say he
believes, or desire to have it thought that he says he believes,
one syllable of the matter? And is any man worse received
upon that score, or does he find his want of nominal faith a
disadvantage to him in the pursuit of any civil or military
employment? What if there be an old dormant statute or two
against him, are they not now obsolete, to a degree, that Empson
and Dudley themselves, if they were now alive, would find it
impossible to put them in execution?
It is likewise urged, that there are, by computation, in this
kingdom, above ten thousand parsons, whose revenues, added to
those of my lords the bishops, would suffice to maintain at least
two hundred young gentlemen of wit and pleasure, and
free-thinking, enemies to priestcraft, narrow principles,
pedantry, and prejudices, who might be an ornament to the court
and town: and then again, so a great number of able [bodied]
divines might be a recruit to our fleet and armies. This
indeed appears to be a consideration of some weight; but then, on
the other side, several things deserve to be considered likewise:
as, first, whether it may not be thought necessary that in
certain tracts of country, like what we call parishes, there
should be one man at least of abilities to read and write.
Then it seems a wrong computation that the revenues of the Church
throughout this island would be large enough to maintain two
hundred young gentlemen, or even half that number, after the
present refined way of living, that is, to allow each of them
such a rent as, in the modern form of speech, would make them
easy. But still there is in this project a greater mischief
behind; and we ought to beware of the woman’s folly, who
killed the hen that every morning laid her a golden egg.
For, pray what would become of the race of men in the next age,
if we had nothing to trust to beside the scrofulous consumptive
production furnished by our men of wit and pleasure, when, having
squandered away their vigour, health, and estates, they are
forced, by some disagreeable marriage, to piece up their broken
fortunes, and entail rottenness and politeness on their
posterity? Now, here are ten thousand persons reduced, by
the wise regulations of Henry VIII., to the necessity of a low
diet, and moderate exercise, who are the only great restorers of
our breed, without which the nation would in an age or two become
one great hospital.
Another advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity
is the clear gain of one day in seven, which is now entirely
lost, and consequently the kingdom one seventh less considerable
in trade, business, and pleasure; besides the loss to the public
of so many stately structures now in the hands of the clergy,
which might be converted into play-houses, exchanges,
market-houses, common dormitories, and other public edifices.
I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word if I call this a
perfect cavil. I readily own there hath been an old custom,
time out of mind, for people to assemble in the churches every
Sunday, and that shops are still frequently shut, in order, as it
is conceived, to preserve the memory of that ancient practice;
but how this can prove a hindrance to business or pleasure is
hard to imagine. What if the men of pleasure are forced,
one day in the week, to game at home instead of the
chocolate-house? Are not the taverns and coffee-houses
open? Can there be a more convenient season for taking a
dose of physic? Is not that the chief day for traders to
sum up the accounts of the week, and for lawyers to prepare their
briefs? But I would fain know how it can be pretended that
the churches are misapplied? Where are more appointments
and rendezvouses of gallantry? Where more care to appear in
the foremost box, with greater advantage of dress? Where
more meetings for business? Where more bargains driven of
all sorts? And where so many conveniences or incitements to
There is one advantage greater than any of the foregoing,
proposed by the abolishing of Christianity, that it will utterly
extinguish parties among us, by removing those factious
distinctions of high and low church, of Whig and Tory,
Presbyterian and Church of England, which are now so many mutual
clogs upon public proceedings, and are apt to prefer the
gratifying themselves or depressing their adversaries before the
most important interest of the State.
I confess, if it were certain that so great an advantage would
redound to the nation by this expedient, I would submit, and be
silent; but will any man say, that if the words, whoring,
drinking, cheating, lying, stealing, were, by Act of Parliament,
ejected out of the English tongue and dictionaries, we should all
awake next morning chaste and temperate, honest and just, and
lovers of truth? Is this a fair consequence? Or if
the physicians would forbid us to pronounce the words pox, gout,
rheumatism, and stone, would that expedient serve like so many
talismen to destroy the diseases themselves? Are party and
faction rooted in men’s hearts no deeper than phrases
borrowed from religion, or founded upon no firmer
principles? And is our language so poor that we cannot find
other terms to express them? Are envy, pride, avarice, and
ambition such ill nomenclators, that they cannot furnish
appellations for their owners? Will not heydukes and
mamalukes, mandarins and patshaws, or any other words formed at
pleasure, serve to distinguish those who are in the ministry from
others who would be in it if they could? What, for
instance, is easier than to vary the form of speech, and instead
of the word church, make it a question in politics, whether the
monument be in danger? Because religion was nearest at hand
to furnish a few convenient phrases, is our invention so barren
we can find no other? Suppose, for argument sake, that the
Tories favoured Margarita, the Whigs, Mrs. Tofts, and the
Trimmers, Valentini, would not Margaritians, Toftians, and
Valentinians be very tolerable marks of distinction? The
Prasini and Veniti, two most virulent factions in Italy, began,
if I remember right, by a distinction of colours in ribbons,
which we might do with as good a grace about the dignity of the
blue and the green, and serve as properly to divide the Court,
the Parliament, and the kingdom between them, as any terms of art
whatsoever, borrowed from religion. And therefore I think
there is little force in this objection against Christianity, or
prospect of so great an advantage as is proposed in the
abolishing of it.
It is again objected, as a very absurd, ridiculous custom,
that a set of men should be suffered, much less employed and
hired, to bawl one day in seven against the lawfulness of those
methods most in use towards the pursuit of greatness, riches, and
pleasure, which are the constant practice of all men alive on the
other six. But this objection is, I think, a little
unworthy so refined an age as ours. Let us argue this
matter calmly. I appeal to the breast of any polite
Free-thinker, whether, in the pursuit of gratifying a
pre-dominant passion, he hath not always felt a wonderful
incitement, by reflecting it was a thing forbidden; and therefore
we see, in order to cultivate this test, the wisdom of the nation
hath taken special care that the ladies should be furnished with
prohibited silks, and the men with prohibited wine. And
indeed it were to be wished that some other prohibitions were
promoted, in order to improve the pleasures of the town, which,
for want of such expedients, begin already, as I am told, to flag
and grow languid, giving way daily to cruel inroads from the
’Tis likewise proposed, as a great advantage to the
public, that if we once discard the system of the Gospel, all
religion will of course be banished for ever, and consequently
along with it those grievous prejudices of education which, under
the names of conscience, honour, justice, and the like, are so
apt to disturb the peace of human minds, and the notions whereof
are so hard to be eradicated by right reason or free-thinking,
sometimes during the whole course of our lives.
Here first I observe how difficult it is to get rid of a
phrase which the world has once grown fond of, though the
occasion that first produced it be entirely taken away. For
some years past, if a man had but an ill-favoured nose, the deep
thinkers of the age would, some way or other contrive to impute
the cause to the prejudice of his education. From this
fountain were said to be derived all our foolish notions of
justice, piety, love of our country; all our opinions of God or a
future state, heaven, hell, and the like; and there might
formerly perhaps have been some pretence for this charge.
But so effectual care hath been since taken to remove those
prejudices, by an entire change in the methods of education, that
(with honour I mention it to our polite innovators) the young
gentlemen, who are now on the scene, seem to have not the least
tincture left of those infusions, or string of those weeds, and
by consequence the reason for abolishing nominal Christianity
upon that pretext is wholly ceased.
For the rest, it may perhaps admit a controversy, whether the
banishing all notions of religion whatsoever would be
inconvenient for the vulgar. Not that I am in the least of
opinion with those who hold religion to have been the invention
of politicians, to keep the lower part of the world in awe by the
fear of invisible powers; unless mankind were then very different
from what it is now; for I look upon the mass or body of our
people here in England to be as Freethinkers, that is to say, as
staunch unbelievers, as any of the highest rank. But I
conceive some scattered notions about a superior power to be of
singular use for the common people, as furnishing excellent
materials to keep children quiet when they grow peevish, and
providing topics of amusement in a tedious winter night.
Lastly, it is proposed, as a singular advantage, that the
abolishing of Christianity will very much contribute to the
uniting of Protestants, by enlarging the terms of communion, so
as to take in all sorts of Dissenters, who are now shut out of
the pale upon account of a few ceremonies, which all sides
confess to be things indifferent. That this alone will
effectually answer the great ends of a scheme for comprehension,
by opening a large noble gate, at which all bodies may enter;
whereas the chaffering with Dissenters, and dodging about this or
t’other ceremony, is but like opening a few wickets, and
leaving them at jar, by which no more than one can get in at a
time, and that not without stooping, and sideling, and squeezing
To all this I answer, that there is one darling inclination of
mankind which usually affects to be a retainer to religion,
though she be neither its parent, its godmother, nor its
friend. I mean the spirit of opposition, that lived long
before Christianity, and can easily subsist without it. Let
us, for instance, examine wherein the opposition of sectaries
among us consists. We shall find Christianity to have no
share in it at all. Does the Gospel anywhere prescribe a
starched, squeezed countenance, a stiff formal gait, a
singularity of manners and habit, or any affected forms and modes
of speech different from the reasonable part of mankind?
Yet, if Christianity did not lend its name to stand in the gap,
and to employ or divert these humours, they must of necessity be
spent in contraventions to the laws of the land, and disturbance
of the public peace. There is a portion of enthusiasm
assigned to every nation, which, if it hath not proper objects to
work on, will burst out, and set all into a flame. If the
quiet of a State can be bought by only flinging men a few
ceremonies to devour, it is a purchase no wise man would
refuse. Let the mastiffs amuse themselves about a
sheep’s skin stuffed with hay, provided it will keep them
from worrying the flock. The institution of convents abroad
seems in one point a strain of great wisdom, there being few
irregularities in human passions which may not have recourse to
vent themselves in some of those orders, which are so many
retreats for the speculative, the melancholy, the proud, the
silent, the politic, and the morose, to spend themselves, and
evaporate the noxious particles; for each of whom we in this
island are forced to provide a several sect of religion to keep
them quiet; and whenever Christianity shall be abolished, the
Legislature must find some other expedient to employ and
entertain them. For what imports it how large a gate you
open, if there will be always left a number who place a pride and
a merit in not coming in?
Having thus considered the most important objections against
Christianity, and the chief advantages proposed by the abolishing
thereof, I shall now, with equal deference and submission to
wiser judgments, as before, proceed to mention a few
inconveniences that may happen if the Gospel should be repealed,
which, perhaps, the projectors may not have sufficiently
And first, I am very sensible how much the gentlemen of wit
and pleasure are apt to murmur, and be choked at the sight of so
many daggle-tailed parsons that happen to fall in their way, and
offend their eyes; but at the same time, these wise reformers do
not consider what an advantage and felicity it is for great wits
to be always provided with objects of scorn and contempt, in
order to exercise and improve their talents, and divert their
spleen from falling on each other, or on themselves, especially
when all this may be done without the least imaginable danger to
And to urge another argument of a parallel nature: if
Christianity were once abolished, how could the Freethinkers, the
strong reasoners, and the men of profound learning be able to
find another subject so calculated in all points whereon to
display their abilities? What wonderful productions of wit
should we be deprived of from those whose genius, by continual
practice, hath been wholly turned upon raillery and invectives
against religion, and would therefore never be able to shine or
distinguish themselves upon any other subject? We are daily
complaining of the great decline of wit among as, and would we
take away the greatest, perhaps the only topic we have
left? Who would ever have suspected Asgil for a wit, or
Toland for a philosopher, if the inexhaustible stock of
Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with
materials? What other subject through all art or nature
could have produced Tindal for a profound author, or furnished
him with readers? It is the wise choice of the subject that
alone adorns and distinguishes the writer. For had a
hundred such pens as these been employed on the side of religion,
they would have immediately sunk into silence and oblivion.
Nor do I think it wholly groundless, or my fears altogether
imaginary, that the abolishing of Christianity may perhaps bring
the Church in danger, or at least put the Senate to the trouble
of another securing vote. I desire I may not be mistaken; I
am far from presuming to affirm or think that the Church is in
danger at present, or as things now stand; but we know not how
soon it may be so when the Christian religion is repealed.
As plausible as this project seems, there may be a dangerous
design lurk under it. Nothing can be more notorious than
that the Atheists, Deists, Socinians, Anti-Trinitarians, and
other subdivisions of Freethinkers, are persons of little zeal
for the present ecclesiastical establishment: their declared
opinion is for repealing the sacramental test; they are very
indifferent with regard to ceremonies; nor do they hold the
Jus Divinum of episcopacy: therefore they may be intended
as one politic step towards altering the constitution of the
Church established, and setting up Presbytery in the stead, which
I leave to be further considered by those at the helm.
In the last place, I think nothing can be more plain, than
that by this expedient we shall run into the evil we chiefly
pretend to avoid; and that the abolishment of the Christian
religion will be the readiest course we can take to introduce
Popery. And I am the more inclined to this opinion because
we know it has been the constant practice of the Jesuits to send
over emissaries, with instructions to personate themselves
members of the several prevailing sects amongst us. So it
is recorded that they have at sundry times appeared in the guise
of Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Independents, and Quakers,
according as any of these were most in credit; so, since the
fashion hath been taken up of exploding religion, the Popish
missionaries have not been wanting to mix with the Freethinkers;
among whom Toland, the great oracle of the Anti-Christians, is an
Irish priest, the son of an Irish priest; and the most learned
and ingenious author of a book called the “Rights of the
Christian Church,” was in a proper juncture reconciled to
the Romish faith, whose true son, as appears by a hundred
passages in his treatise, he still continues. Perhaps I
could add some others to the number; but the fact is beyond
dispute, and the reasoning they proceed by is right: for
supposing Christianity to be extinguished the people will never
he at ease till they find out some other method of worship, which
will as infallibly produce superstition as this will end in
And therefore, if, notwithstanding all I have said, it still
be thought necessary to have a Bill brought in for repealing
Christianity, I would humbly offer an amendment, that instead of
the word Christianity may be put religion in general, which I
conceive will much better answer all the good ends proposed by
the projectors of it. For as long as we leave in being a
God and His Providence, with all the necessary consequences which
curious and inquisitive men will be apt to draw from such
promises, we do not strike at the root of the evil, though we
should ever so effectually annihilate the present scheme of the
Gospel; for of what use is freedom of thought if it will not
produce freedom of action, which is the sole end, how remote
soever in appearance, of all objections against Christianity? and
therefore, the Freethinkers consider it as a sort of edifice,
wherein all the parts have such a mutual dependence on each
other, that if you happen to pull out one single nail, the whole
fabric must fall to the ground. This was happily expressed
by him who had heard of a text brought for proof of the Trinity,
which in an ancient manuscript was differently read; he thereupon
immediately took the hint, and by a sudden deduction of a long
Sorites, most logically concluded: why, if it be as you say, I
may safely drink on, and defy the parson. From which, and
many the like instances easy to be produced, I think nothing can
be more manifest than that the quarrel is not against any
particular points of hard digestion in the Christian system, but
against religion in general, which, by laying restraints on human
nature, is supposed the great enemy to the freedom of thought and
Upon the whole, if it shall still be thought for the benefit
of Church and State that Christianity be abolished, I conceive,
however, it may be more convenient to defer the execution to a
time of peace, and not venture in this conjuncture to disoblige
our allies, who, as it falls out, are all Christians, and many of
them, by the prejudices of their education, so bigoted as to
place a sort of pride in the appellation. If, upon being
rejected by them, we are to trust to an alliance with the Turk,
we shall find ourselves much deceived; for, as he is too remote,
and generally engaged in war with the Persian emperor, so his
people would be more scandalised at our infidelity than our
Christian neighbours. For they are not only strict
observers of religions worship, but what is worse, believe a God;
which is more than is required of us, even while we preserve the
name of Christians.
To conclude, whatever some may think of the great advantages
to trade by this favourite scheme, I do very much apprehend that
in six months’ time after the Act is passed for the
extirpation of the Gospel, the Bank and East India stock may fall
at least one per cent. And since that is fifty times more
than ever the wisdom of our age thought fit to venture for the
preservation of Christianity, there is no reason we should be at
so great a loss merely for the sake of destroying it.
HINTS TOWARDS AN ESSAY ON CONVERSATION.
I have observed few obvious subjects to have been so seldom,
or at least so slightly, handled as this; and, indeed, I know few
so difficult to be treated as it ought, nor yet upon which there
seemeth so much to be said.
Most things pursued by men for the happiness of public or
private life our wit or folly have so refined, that they seldom
subsist but in idea; a true friend, a good marriage, a perfect
form of government, with some others, require so many
ingredients, so good in their several kinds, and so much niceness
in mixing them, that for some thousands of years men have
despaired of reducing their schemes to perfection. But in
conversation it is or might be otherwise; for here we are only to
avoid a multitude of errors, which, although a matter of some
difficulty, may be in every man’s power, for want of which
it remaineth as mere an idea as the other. Therefore it
seemeth to me that the truest way to understand conversation is
to know the faults and errors to which it is subject, and from
thence every man to form maxims to himself whereby it may be
regulated, because it requireth few talents to which most men are
not born, or at least may not acquire without any great genius or
study. For nature bath left every man a capacity of being
agreeable, though not of shining in company; and there are a
hundred men sufficiently qualified for both, who, by a very few
faults that they might correct in half an hour, are not so much
I was prompted to write my thoughts upon this subject by mere
indignation, to reflect that so useful and innocent a pleasure,
so fitted for every period and condition of life, and so much in
all men’s power, should be so much neglected and
And in this discourse it will be necessary to note those
errors that are obvious, as well as others which are seldomer
observed, since there are few so obvious or acknowledged into
which most men, some time or other, are not apt to run.
For instance, nothing is more generally exploded than the
folly of talking too much; yet I rarely remember to have seen
five people together where some one among them hath not been
predominant in that kind, to the great constraint and disgust of
all the rest. But among such as deal in multitudes of
words, none are comparable to the sober deliberate talker, who
proceedeth with much thought and caution, maketh his preface,
brancheth out into several digressions, findeth a hint that
putteth him in mind of another story, which he promiseth to tell
you when this is done; cometh back regularly to his subject,
cannot readily call to mind some person’s name, holdeth his
head, complaineth of his memory; the whole company all this while
in suspense; at length, says he, it is no matter, and so goes
on. And, to crown the business, it perhaps proveth at last
a story the company hath heard fifty times before; or, at best,
some insipid adventure of the relater.
Another general fault in conversation is that of those who
affect to talk of themselves. Some, without any ceremony,
will run over the history of their lives; will relate the annals
of their diseases, with the several symptoms and circumstances of
them; will enumerate the hardships and injustice they have
suffered in court, in parliament, in love, or in law.
Others are more dexterous, and with great art will lie on the
watch to hook in their own praise. They will call a witness
to remember they always foretold what would happen in such a
case, but none would believe them; they advised such a man from
the beginning, and told him the consequences just as they
happened, but he would have his own way. Others make a
vanity of telling their faults. They are the strangest men
in the world; they cannot dissemble; they own it is a folly; they
have lost abundance of advantages by it; but, if you would give
them the world, they cannot help it; there is something in their
nature that abhors insincerity and constraint; with many other
unsufferable topics of the same altitude.
Of such mighty importance every man is to himself, and ready
to think he is so to others, without once making this easy and
obvious reflection, that his affairs can have no more weight with
other men than theirs have with him; and how little that is he is
Where company hath met, I often have observed two persons
discover by some accident that they were bred together at the
same school or university, after which the rest are condemned to
silence, and to listen while these two are refreshing each
other’s memory with the arch tricks and passages of
themselves and their comrades.
I know a great officer of the army, who will sit for some time
with a supercilious and impatient silence, full of anger and
contempt for those who are talking; at length of a sudden demand
audience; decide the matter in a short dogmatical way; then
withdraw within himself again, and vouchsafe to talk no more,
until his spirits circulate again to the same point.
There are some faults in conversation which none are so
subject to as the men of wit, nor ever so much as when they are
with each other. If they have opened their mouths without
endeavouring to say a witty thing, they think it is so many words
lost. It is a torment to the hearers, as much as to
themselves, to see them upon the rack for invention, and in
perpetual constraint, with so little success. They must do
something extraordinary, in order to acquit themselves, and
answer their character, else the standers by may be disappointed
and be apt to think them only like the rest of mortals. I
have known two men of wit industriously brought together, in
order to entertain the company, where they have made a very
ridiculous figure, and provided all the mirth at their own
I know a man of wit, who is never easy but where he can be
allowed to dictate and preside; he neither expecteth to be
informed or entertained, but to display his own talents.
His business is to be good company, and not good conversation,
and therefore he chooseth to frequent those who are content to
listen, and profess themselves his admirers. And, indeed,
the worst conversation I ever remember to have heard in my life
was that at Will’s coffee-house, where the wits, as they
were called, used formerly to assemble; that is to say, five or
six men who had written plays, or at least prologues, or had
share in a miscellany, came thither, and entertained one another
with their trifling composures in so important an air, as if they
had been the noblest efforts of human nature, or that the fate of
kingdoms depended on them; and they were usually attended with a
humble audience of young students from the inns of courts, or the
universities, who, at due distance, listened to these oracles,
and returned home with great contempt for their law and
philosophy, their heads filled with trash under the name of
politeness, criticism, and belles lettres.
By these means the poets, for many years past, were all
overrun with pedantry. For, as I take it, the word is not
properly used; because pedantry is the too front or unseasonable
obtruding our own knowledge in common discourse, and placing too
great a value upon it; by which definition men of the court or
the army may be as guilty of pedantry as a philosopher or a
divine; and it is the same vice in women when they are over
copious upon the subject of their petticoats, or their fans, or
their china. For which reason, although it be a piece of
prudence, as well as good manners, to put men upon talking on
subjects they are best versed in, yet that is a liberty a wise
man could hardly take; because, beside the imputation of
pedantry, it is what he would never improve by.
This great town is usually provided with some player, mimic,
or buffoon, who hath a general reception at the good tables;
familiar and domestic with persons of the first quality, and
usually sent for at every meeting to divert the company, against
which I have no objection. You go there as to a farce or a
puppet-show; your business is only to laugh in season, either out
of inclination or civility, while this merry companion is acting
his part. It is a business he hath undertaken, and we are
to suppose he is paid for his day’s work. I only
quarrel when in select and private meetings, where men of wit and
learning are invited to pass an evening, this jester should be
admitted to run over his circle of tricks, and make the whole
company unfit for any other conversation, besides the indignity
of confounding men’s talents at so shameful a rate.
Raillery is the finest part of conversation; but, as it is our
usual custom to counterfeit and adulterate whatever is too dear
for us, so we have done with this, and turned it all into what is
generally called repartee, or being smart; just as when an
expensive fashion cometh up, those who are not able to reach it
content themselves with some paltry imitation. It now
passeth for raillery to run a man down in discourse, to put him
out of countenance, and make him ridiculous, sometimes to expose
the defects of his person or understanding; on all which
occasions he is obliged not to be angry, to avoid the imputation
of not being able to take a jest. It is admirable to
observe one who is dexterous at this art, singling out a weak
adversary, getting the laugh on his side, and then carrying all
before him. The French, from whom we borrow the word, have
a quite different idea of the thing, and so had we in the politer
age of our fathers. Raillery was, to say something that at
first appeared a reproach or reflection, but, by some turn of wit
unexpected and surprising, ended always in a compliment, and to
the advantage of the person it was addressed to. And surely
one of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing
which any of the company can reasonably wish we had rather left
unsaid; nor can there anything be well more contrary to the ends
for which people meet together, than to part unsatisfied with
each other or themselves.
There are two faults in conversation which appear very
different, yet arise from the same root, and are equally
blamable; I mean, an impatience to interrupt others, and the
uneasiness of being interrupted ourselves. The two chief
ends of conversation are, to entertain and improve those we are
among, or to receive those benefits ourselves; which whoever will
consider, cannot easily run into either of those two errors;
because, when any man speaketh in company, it is to be supposed
he doth it for his hearers’ sake, and not his own; so that
common discretion will teach us not to force their attention, if
they are not willing to lend it; nor, on the other side, to
interrupt him who is in possession, because that is in the
grossest manner to give the preference to our own good sense.
There are some people whose good manners will not suffer them
to interrupt you; but, what is almost as bad, will discover
abundance of impatience, and lie upon the watch until you have
done, because they have started something in their own thoughts
which they long to be delivered of. Meantime, they are so
far from regarding what passes, that their imaginations are
wholly turned upon what they have in reserve, for fear it should
slip out of their memory; and thus they confine their invention,
which might otherwise range over a hundred things full as good,
and that might be much more naturally introduced.
There is a sort of rude familiarity, which some people, by
practising among their intimates, have introduced into their
general conversation, and would have it pass for innocent freedom
or humour, which is a dangerous experiment in our northern
climate, where all the little decorum and politeness we have are
purely forced by art, and are so ready to lapse into
barbarity. This, among the Romans, was the raillery of
slaves, of which we have many instances in Plautus. It
seemeth to have been introduced among us by Cromwell, who, by
preferring the scum of the people, made it a court-entertainment,
of which I have heard many particulars; and, considering all
things were turned upside down, it was reasonable and judicious;
although it was a piece of policy found out to ridicule a point
of honour in the other extreme, when the smallest word misplaced
among gentlemen ended in a duel.
There are some men excellent at telling a story, and provided
with a plentiful stock of them, which they can draw out upon
occasion in all companies; and considering how low conversation
runs now among us, it is not altogether a contemptible talent;
however, it is subject to two unavoidable defects: frequent
repetition, and being soon exhausted; so that whoever valueth
this gift in himself hath need of a good memory, and ought
frequently to shift his company, that he may not discover the
weakness of his fund; for those who are thus endowed have seldom
any other revenue, but live upon the main stock.
Great speakers in public are seldom agreeable in private
conversation, whether their faculty be natural, or acquired by
practice and often venturing. Natural elocution, although
it may seem a paradox, usually springeth from a barrenness of
invention and of words, by which men who have only one stock of
notions upon every subject, and one set of phrases to express
them in, they swim upon the superficies, and offer themselves on
every occasion; therefore, men of much learning, and who know the
compass of a language, are generally the worst talkers on a
sudden, until much practice hath inured and emboldened them;
because they are confounded with plenty of matter, variety of
notions, and of words, which they cannot readily choose, but are
perplexed and entangled by too great a choice, which is no
disadvantage in private conversation; where, on the other side,
the talent of haranguing is, of all others, most
Nothing hath spoiled men more for conversation than the
character of being wits; to support which, they never fail of
encouraging a number of followers and admirers, who list
themselves in their service, wherein they find their accounts on
both sides by pleasing their mutual vanity. This hath given
the former such an air of superiority, and made the latter so
pragmatical, that neither of them are well to be endured. I
say nothing here of the itch of dispute and contradiction,
telling of lies, or of those who are troubled with the disease
called the wandering of the thoughts, that they are never present
in mind at what passeth in discourse; for whoever labours under
any of these possessions is as unfit for conversation as madmen
I think I have gone over most of the errors in conversation
that have fallen under my notice or memory, except some that are
merely personal, and others too gross to need exploding; such as
lewd or profane talk; but I pretend only to treat the errors of
conversation in general, and not the several subjects of
discourse, which would be infinite. Thus we see how human
nature is most debased, by the abuse of that faculty, which is
held the great distinction between men and brutes; and how little
advantage we make of that which might be the greatest, the most
lasting, and the most innocent, as well as useful pleasure of
life: in default of which, we are forced to take up with those
poor amusements of dress and visiting, or the more pernicious
ones of play, drink, and vicious amours, whereby the nobility and
gentry of both sexes are entirely corrupted both in body and
mind, and have lost all notions of love, honour, friendship, and
generosity; which, under the name of fopperies, have been for
some time laughed out of doors.
This degeneracy of conversation, with the pernicious
consequences thereof upon our humours and dispositions, hath been
owing, among other causes, to the custom arisen, for some time
past, of excluding women from any share in our society, further
than in parties at play, or dancing, or in the pursuit of an
amour. I take the highest period of politeness in England
(and it is of the same date in France) to have been the peaceable
part of King Charles I.’s reign; and from what we read of
those times, as well as from the accounts I have formerly met
with from some who lived in that court, the methods then used for
raising and cultivating conversation were altogether different
from ours; several ladies, whom we find celebrated by the poets
of that age, had assemblies at their houses, where persons of the
best understanding, and of both sexes, met to pass the evenings
in discoursing upon whatever agreeable subjects were occasionally
started; and although we are apt to ridicule the sublime Platonic
notions they had, or personated in love and friendship, I
conceive their refinements were grounded upon reason, and that a
little grain of the romance is no ill ingredient to preserve and
exalt the dignity of human nature, without which it is apt to
degenerate into everything that is sordid, vicious, and
low. If there were no other use in the conversation of
ladies, it is sufficient that it would lay a restraint upon those
odious topics of immodesty and indecencies, into which the
rudeness of our northern genius is so apt to fall. And,
therefore, it is observable in those sprightly gentlemen about
the town, who are so very dexterous at entertaining a vizard mask
in the park or the playhouse, that, in the company of ladies of
virtue and honour, they are silent and disconcerted, and out of
There are some people who think they sufficiently acquit
themselves and entertain their company with relating of facts of
no consequence, nor at all out of the road of such common
incidents as happen every day; and this I have observed more
frequently among the Scots than any other nation, who are very
careful not to omit the minutest circumstances of time or place;
which kind of discourse, if it were not a little relieved by the
uncouth terms and phrases, as well as accent and gesture peculiar
to that country, would be hardly tolerable. It is not a
fault in company to talk much; but to continue it long is
certainly one; for, if the majority of those who are got together
be naturally silent or cautious, the conversation will flag,
unless it be often renewed by one among them who can start new
subjects, provided he doth not dwell upon them, but leaveth room
for answers and replies.
THOUGHTS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS.
We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough
to make us love one another.
Reflect on things past as wars, negotiations, factions,
etc. We enter so little into those interests, that we
wonder how men could possibly be so busy and concerned for things
so transitory; look on the present times, we find the same
humour, yet wonder not at all.
A wise man endeavours, by considering all circumstances, to
make conjectures and form conclusions; but the smallest accident
intervening (and in the course of affairs it is impossible to
foresee all) does often produce such turns and changes, that at
last he is just as much in doubt of events as the most ignorant
and inexperienced person.
Positiveness is a good quality for preachers and orators,
because he that would obtrude his thoughts and reasons upon a
multitude, will convince others the more, as he appears convinced
How is it possible to expect that mankind will take advice,
when they will not so much as take warning?
I forget whether Advice be among the lost things which Aristo
says are to be found in the moon; that and Time ought to have
No preacher is listened to but Time, which gives us the same
train and turn of thought that older people have tried in vain to
put into our heads before.
When we desire or solicit anything, our minds run wholly on
the good side or circumstances of it; when it is obtained, our
minds run wholly on the bad ones.
In a glass-house the workmen often fling in a small quantity
of fresh coals, which seems to disturb the fire, but very much
enlivens it. This seems to allude to a gentle stirring of
the passions, that the mind may not languish.
Religion seems to have grown an infant with age, and requires
miracles to nurse it, as it had in its infancy.
All fits of pleasure are balanced by an equal degree of pain
or languor; it is like spending this year part of the next
The latter part of a wise man’s life is taken up in
curing the follies, prejudices, and false opinions he had
contracted in the former.
Would a writer know how to behave himself with relation to
posterity, let him consider in old books what he finds that he is
glad to know, and what omissions he most laments.
Whatever the poets pretend, it is plain they give immortality
to none but themselves; it is Homer and Virgil we reverence and
admire, not Achilles or Æneas. With historians it is
quite the contrary; our thoughts are taken up with the actions,
persons, and events we read, and we little regard the
When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by
this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against
Men who possess all the advantages of life, are in a state
where there are many accidents to disorder and discompose, but
few to please them.
It is unwise to punish cowards with ignominy, for if they had
regarded that they would not have been cowards; death is their
proper punishment, because they fear it most.
The greatest inventions were produced in the times of
ignorance, as the use of the compass, gunpowder, and printing,
and by the dullest nation, as the Germans.
One argument to prove that the common relations of ghosts and
spectres are generally false, may be drawn from the opinion held
that spirits are never seen by more than one person at a time;
that is to say, it seldom happens to above one person in a
company to be possessed with any high degree of spleen or
I am apt to think that, in the day of Judgment, there will be
small allowance given to the wise for their want of morals, nor
to the ignorant for their want of faith, because both are without
excuse. This renders the advantages equal of ignorance and
knowledge. But, some scruples in the wise, and some vices
in the ignorant, will perhaps be forgiven upon the strength of
temptation to each.
The value of several circumstances in story lessens very much
by distance of time, though some minute circumstances are very
valuable; and it requires great judgment in a writer to
It is grown a word of course for writers to say, “This
critical age,” as divines say, “This sinful
It is pleasant to observe how free the present age is in
laying taxes on the next. Future ages shall talk of
this; this shall be famous to all posterity.
Whereas their time and thoughts will be taken up about present
things, as ours are now.
The chameleon, who is said to feed upon nothing but air, hath,
of all animals, the nimblest tongue.
When a man is made a spiritual peer he loses his surname; when
a temporal, his Christian name.
It is in disputes as in armies, where the weaker side sets up
false lights, and makes a great noise, to make the enemy believe
them more numerous and strong than they really are.
Some men, under the notions of weeding out prejudices,
eradicate virtue, honesty, and religion.
In all well-instituted commonwealths, care has been taken to
limit men’s possessions; which is done for many reasons,
and among the rest, for one which perhaps is not often
considered: that when bounds are set to men’s desires,
after they have acquired as much as the laws will permit them,
their private interest is at an end, and they have nothing to do
but to take care of the public.
There are but three ways for a man to revenge himself of the
censure of the world: to despise it, to return the like, or to
endeavour to live so as to avoid it. The first of these is
usually pretended, the last is almost impossible; the universal
practice is for the second.
I never heard a finer piece of satire against lawyers than
that of astrologers, when they pretend by rules of art to tell
when a suit will end, and whether to the advantage of the
plaintiff or defendant; thus making the matter depend entirely
upon the influence of the stars, without the least regard to the
merits of the cause.
The expression in Apocrypha about Tobit and his dog following
him I have often heard ridiculed, yet Homer has the same words of
Telemachus more than once; and Virgil says something like it of
Evander. And I take the book of Tobit to be partly
I have known some men possessed of good qualities, which were
very serviceable to others, but useless to themselves; like a
sun-dial on the front of a house, to inform the neighbours and
passengers, but not the owner within.
If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics,
religion, learning, etc., beginning from his youth and so go on
to old age, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions
would appear at last!
What they do in heaven we are ignorant of; what they do not we
are told expressly: that they neither marry, nor are given in
It is a miserable thing to live in suspense; it is the life of
The Stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our
desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.
Physicians ought not to give their judgment of religion, for
the same reason that butchers are not admitted to be jurors upon
life and death.
The reason why so few marriages are happy, is, because young
ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages.
If a man will observe as he walks the streets, I believe he
will find the merriest countenances in mourning coaches.
Nothing more unqualifies a man to act with prudence than a
misfortune that is attended with shame and guilt.
The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable; for
the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.
Ambition often puts men upon doing the meanest offices; so
climbing is performed in the same posture with creeping.
Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being
Although men are accused for not knowing their own weakness,
yet perhaps as few know their own strength. It is, in men
as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the
owner knows not of.
Satire is reckoned the easiest of all wit, but I take it to be
otherwise in very bad times: for it is as hard to satirise well a
man of distinguished vices, as to praise well a man of
distinguished virtues. It is easy enough to do either to
people of moderate characters.
Invention is the talent of youth, and judgment of age; so that
our judgment grows harder to please, when we have fewer things to
offer it: this goes through the whole commerce of life.
When we are old, our friends find it difficult to please us, and
are less concerned whether we be pleased or no.
No wise man ever wished to be younger.
An idle reason lessens the weight of the good ones you gave
The motives of the best actions will not bear too strict an
inquiry. It is allowed that the cause of most actions, good
or bad, may he resolved into the love of ourselves; but the
self-love of some men inclines them to please others, and the
self-love of others is wholly employed in pleasing
themselves. This makes the great distinction between virtue
and vice. Religion is the best motive of all actions, yet
religion is allowed to be the highest instance of self-love.
Old men view best at a distance with the eyes of their
understanding as well as with those of nature.
Some people take more care to hide their wisdom than their
Anthony Henley’s farmer, dying of an asthma, said,
“Well, if I can get this breath once out, I’ll
take care it never got in again.”
The humour of exploding many things under the name of trifles,
fopperies, and only imaginary goods, is a very false proof either
of wisdom or magnanimity, and a great check to virtuous
actions. For instance, with regard to fame, there is in
most people a reluctance and unwillingness to be forgotten.
We observe, even among the vulgar, how fond they are to have an
inscription over their grave. It requires but little
philosophy to discover and observe that there is no intrinsic
value in all this; however, if it be founded in our nature as an
incitement to virtue, it ought not to be ridiculed.
Complaint is the largest tribute heaven receives, and the
sincerest part of our devotion.
The common fluency of speech in many men, and most women, is
owing to a scarcity of matter, and a scarcity of words; for
whoever is a master of language, and hath a mind full of ideas,
will be apt, in speaking, to hesitate upon the choice of both;
whereas common speakers have only one set of ideas, and one set
of words to clothe them in, and these are always ready at the
mouth. So people come faster out of a church when it is
almost empty, than when a crowd is at the door.
Few are qualified to shine in company; but it is in most
men’s power to be agreeable. The reason, therefore,
why conversation runs so low at present, is not the defect of
understanding, but pride, vanity, ill-nature, affectation,
singularity, positiveness, or some other vice, the effect of a
To be vain is rather a mark of humility than pride. Vain
men delight in telling what honours have been done them, what
great company they have kept, and the like, by which they plainly
confess that these honours were more than their due, and such as
their friends would not believe if they had not been told:
whereas a man truly proud thinks the greatest honours below his
merit, and consequently scorns to boast. I therefore
deliver it as a maxim, that whoever desires the character of a
proud man, ought to conceal his vanity.
Law, in a free country, is, or ought to be, the determination
of the majority of those who have property in land.
One argument used to the disadvantage of Providence I take to
be a very strong one in its defence. It is objected that
storms and tempests, unfruitful seasons, serpents, spiders,
flies, and other noxious or troublesome animals, with many more
instances of the like kind, discover an imperfection in nature,
because human life would be much easier without them; but the
design of Providence may clearly be perceived in this
proceeding. The motions of the sun and moon—in short,
the whole system of the universe, as far as philosophers have
been able to discover and observe, are in the utmost degree of
regularity and perfection; but wherever God hath left to man the
power of interposing a remedy by thought or labour, there he hath
placed things in a state of imperfection, on purpose to stir up
human industry, without which life would stagnate, or, indeed,
rather, could not subsist at all: Curis accuunt mortalia
Praise is the daughter of present power.
How inconsistent is man with himself!
I have known several persons of great fame for wisdom in
public affairs and counsels governed by foolish servants.
I have known great Ministers, distinguished for wit and
learning, who preferred none but dunces.
I have known men of great valour cowards to their wives.
I have known men of the greatest cunning perpetually
I knew three great Ministers, who could exactly compute and
settle the accounts of a kingdom, but were wholly ignorant of
their own economy.
The preaching of divines helps to preserve well-inclined men
in the course of virtue, but seldom or never reclaims the
Princes usually make wiser choices than the servants whom they
trust for the disposal of places: I have known a prince, more
than once, choose an able Minister, but I never observed that
Minister to use his credit in the disposal of an employment to a
person whom he thought the fittest for it. One of the
greatest in this age owned and excused the matter from the
violence of parties and the unreasonableness of friends.
Small causes are sufficient to make a man uneasy when great
ones are not in the way. For want of a block he will
stumble at a straw.
Dignity, high station, or great riches, are in some sort
necessary to old men, in order to keep the younger at a distance,
who are otherwise too apt to insult them upon the score of their
Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old.
Love of flattery in most men proceeds from the mean opinion
they have of themselves; in women from the contrary.
If books and laws continue to increase as they have done for
fifty years past, I am in some concern for future ages how any
man will be learned, or any man a lawyer.
Kings are commonly said to have long hands; I wish they
had as long ears.
Princes in their infancy, childhood, and youth are said to
discover prodigious parts and wit, to speak things that surprise
and astonish. Strange, so many hopeful princes, and so many
shameful kings! If they happen to die young, they would
have been prodigies of wisdom and virtue. If they live,
they are often prodigies indeed, but of another sort.
Politics, as the word is commonly understood, are nothing but
corruptions, and consequently of no use to a good king or a good
ministry; for which reason Courts are so overrun with
A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.
Apollo was held the god of physic and sender of
diseases. Both were originally the same trade, and still
Old men and comets have been reverenced for the same reason:
their long beards, and pretences to foretell events.
A person was asked at court, what he thought of an ambassador
and his train, who were all embroidery and lace, full of bows,
cringes, and gestures; he said, it was Solomon’s
importation, gold and apes.
Most sorts of diversion in men, children, and other animals,
is an imitation of fighting.
Augustus meeting an ass with a lucky name foretold himself
good fortune. I meet many asses, but none of them have
If a man makes me keep my distance, the comfort is he keeps
his at the same time.
Who can deny that all men are violent lovers of truth when we
see them so positive in their errors, which they will maintain
out of their zeal to truth, although they contradict themselves
every day of their lives?
That was excellently observed, say I, when I read a passage in
an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we
differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.
Very few men, properly speaking, live at present, but are
providing to live another time.
Laws penned with the utmost care and exactness, and in the
vulgar language, are often perverted to wrong meanings; then why
should we wonder that the Bible is so?
Although men are accused for not knowing their weakness, yet
perhaps as few know their own strength.
A man seeing a wasp creeping into a vial filled with honey,
that was hung on a fruit tree, said thus: “Why, thou
sottish animal, art thou mad to go into that vial, where you see
many hundred of your kind there dying in it before
you?” “The reproach is just,” answered
the wasp, “but not from you men, who are so far from taking
example by other people’s follies, that you will not take
warning by your own. If after falling several times into
this vial, and escaping by chance, I should fall in again, I
should then but resemble you.”
An old miser kept a tame jackdaw, that used to steal pieces of
money, and hide them in a hole, which the cat observing, asked
why he would hoard up those round shining things that he could
make no use of? “Why,” said the jackdaw,
“my master has a whole chest full, and makes no more use of
them than I.”
Men are content to be laughed at for their wit, but not for
If the men of wit and genius would resolve never to complain
in their works of critics and detractors, the next age would not
know that they ever had any.
After all the maxims and systems of trade and commerce, a
stander-by would think the affairs of the world were most
There are few countries which, if well cultivated, would not
support double the number of their inhabitants, and yet fewer
where one-third of the people are not extremely stinted even in
the necessaries of life. I send out twenty barrels of corn,
which would maintain a family in bread for a year, and I bring
back in return a vessel of wine, which half a dozen good follows
would drink in less than a month, at the expense of their health
A man would have but few spectators, if he offered to show for
threepence how he could thrust a red-hot iron into a barrel of
gunpowder, and it should not take fire.
Two puppet-show men.
The priest his confessor.