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rank as a writer has long since been established. In originality and strength, he has no superior, and in wit and irony-the latter of which
He was born to introduce
Refined it first, and shewed its usehe shines equally pre-eminent. He was deficient in purity of taste and loftiness of imagination. The frequency with wlich he dwells on gross and disgusting images, betrays a callousness of feeling that wholly debarred him from the purer regions of romance. He could
Laugh and shake in Rabelais' easy-chair ; though it was still, as Coleridge has remarked, “the soul of Rabelais dwelling in a dry place. Of the 'serious air' of Cervantes, which Pope has also bestowed on his friend, the traces are less frequent and distinct. We can scarcely conceive him to have ever read the Faery Queen' or · Midsummer Night's Dream.' The palpable and familiar, objects of life were the sources of his inspiration, and in fictitious narrative, he excels, like Richardson and Defoe, by painting and grouping minute particulars, that impart to his most extravagant conceptions an air of sober truth and reality. Always full of thought and observation, his clear, perspicuous style never tires in the perusal. When exhausted by the works of imaginative writers, or the ornate periods of statesmen and philosophers, the plain, earnest, manly pages of Swist, his strong sense, keen observation, and caustic wit, are felt to be a legacy of inestimable value. The following are extracts from the · Tale of a Tub;'
Ludicrous Image of Fanaticism. It is recorded of Mahomet, that upon a visit he was going to pay in Paradise, he had an offer of several vehicles to conduct him upwards; as fiery chariots, winged horges, and celestial sedans; but he refused them all, and would be borne to heaven on nothing but his ass. Now, this inclination of Mahomet, as singular as it seems, hath since been taken up by a great number of devout Christians, and doubtless with good reason. For since that Arabian is known to have borrowed a moiety of his religious system from the Christian faith, it is but just he should pay reprisals to such as would challenge them; wherein the good people of England, to do them all right, have not been backward. But though there is not any other nation in the world so plentifully provided with carriages for that journey, either as to safety or ease, yet there are abundance of us who will not be satisfied with any other machine besides this of Mahomet.
Satire upon Dress and Fashion. About this time it happened a sect arose whose tenets obtained and spread very far, especially in the grande monde, and among everybody of good fashion. They worshipped a sort of idol, who, as their doctrine delivered, did daily create men by a kind of manufactory operation. This idol they placed in the highest part of the house, on an altar erected about three foot; he was shewn in the posture of a Persian emperor, sitting on a superficies, with his legs interwoven under him. This god had a goose for his ensign; whence it is that some learned men pretend to deduce his original from Jupiter Capitolinus.
The worshippers of this deity had also a system of their belief, which seemed to turn upon the following fundamentals. They held the universe to be a large suit of clothes, which invests everything; that the earth is invested by the air; the air is
invested by the stars; and the stars are invested by the primum mobile. Look on this globe of earth, you wil: find it to be a very complete and fashionable dress. What is that which some call land but a fine coat faced with green? or the sea, but a waistcoat of water-tabby? Proceed to the particular works of the creation, you will find how curious a journeyman Nature has been to trim up the vegetable beaux; observe how sparkish a periwig adorns the head of a beech, and what a fine doublet of white satin is worn by the birch. To conclude from all, what is man himself, but a micro-coat, or rather a complete suit of clothes with all its trimmings? As 'to his body there can be no dispute; but examine even the acquirements of his mind, you will find them all contribute in their order towards furnishing out an exact dress. To instance no more, is not religion a cloak, honesty a pair of shoes worn out in the dirt, self-love a surtout, vanity a shirt, and conscience a pair of breeches easily slipt down?
Characteristics of Modern Critics. I shall conclude with three maxims, which may serve both as characteristics to distinguish a true modern critic from a pretender, and will be also of admirable use to those worthy spirits who engage in so useful and honourable an art. The first is, that criticism, contrary to all other faculties of the intellect, is ever held the truest and best when it is the very first result of the critic's mind; as fowlers reckon the first aim for the surest, and seldom fail of missing the mark if they stay not for a second. Secondly, the true critics are known by their talent of swarming about the noblest writers, to which they are carried merely by instinct, as a rat to the best cheese, or as a wasp to the fairest fruit. So when the king is on horseback, he is sure to be the dirtiest person of the company; and they that make their court best are such as bespatter him most. Lastly, a true critic, in the perusal of a book, is like & dog at a feast, whose thoughts and stomach are wholly set upon what the guests fling away, and consequently is apt to snarl most when there are the fewest bones.
On Books and Learning. The society of writers would quickly be reduced to a very inconsiderable number if men were put upon making books with the fatal confinement of delivering nothing beyond what is to the purpose. It is acknowledged that were the case the same among us as with the Greeks and Romans, when learning was in its cradle, to be reared and fed and clothed by invention, it would be an easy task to fill up volumes upon particular occasions, without further expatiating from the subjects than by moderate excursions, helping to advance or clear the main design. But with knowledge it has fared as with a numerous army encamped in a fruitful country, which, for a few days, maintains itself by the product of the soil it is on; till provisions being spent, they are sent to forage many a mile, among friends or enemies it matters not. Meanwhile, the neighbouring fields, trampled and beaten down, become barrer. and dry, affording no sustenance but clouds of dust.
The whole course of things being thus entirely changed between us and the ancients, and the moderns wisely sensible of it, we of this age have discovered a shorter and more prudent method to become scholars and wits, without the fatigue of reading or of thinking. The most accomplished way of using books at present is twofold; either, first, to serve them as some men do lords, learn their titles exactly, and then brag of their acquaintance. Or, secondly, which is indeed the choicer, the profounder, and politer method, to get a thorough insight into the index, by which the whole book is governed and turned, like fishes by the tail. For to enter the palace of learning at the great gate requires an expense of time and forms; therefore men of much haste and little ceremony are content to get in by the back door. For the arts are all in flying march, and therefore more easily subdued by attacking them in the rear. Thus men catch knowledge by throwing their wit into the posteriors of a book, as boys do sparrows with flinging salt upon their tails. Thus human life is best understood by the wise man's rule of regarding the end. Thus are the sciences found, like Hercules's oxen, by tracing them backwards. Thus are old sciences unravelled, like old stockings, by beginning at the foot. Beside all this, the army of the sciences has been of late, with a world of martial discipline, drawn into its close order, so that a view or a muster may be taken of it with abundance of expedition. For this great blessing we are wholly indebted to systems and abstracts, in which the modern fathers of learning, like prudent usurers, spent their sweat for the ease
of us, their children. For labour is the seed of idleness, and it is the peculiar happiness of our noble age to gather the fruit. A Meditation upon a Broomstick, according to the Style and Manner
of the Hon. Robert Boyle's Meditations.* 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 her things clean, and be nasty itself; at length, worn out to the stumps in the service of the maids, it is either tbrown out of doors, or condemned to the last use of kindling a fire. When I beheld 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, until 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, though 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 excellences, and other men defaults !
But a broomstick, perhaps you will say, .s an emplem of a tree standing on its head; and pray, what is 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.
Inconveniences likely to result from the Abolition of Christianity.
I am very sensible how much the gentlemen of wit and pleasure are apt to murmur and be shocked at the sight of so many daggle-tail parsons, who happen to fall in their way, and offend their eyes; but at the same time, those 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 their persons. Aid 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 eubject 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, be never able to shine or distinguish themselves on any other subject? We are daily complaining of the great decline of wit among us, and would we take away the greatest, perhaps the only topic we have left? Who would ever have suspected Asgill for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher,
the of it in a way to in the volume: the witty chaplatella that the Deat was well kn
* When chaplain to Lord Berkeley, Swift was accustomed to read to Lady Berkeley the Reflections or Meditations of Boyle, Growing weary of the task, he resolved to get rid of it in a way that might occasion some mirth in the family. Accordingly he inserted the above parody in the volume, and read it to the lady as a genuine production of Boyle's. The joke was successful: the witty chaplain was not asked to proceed any further with the Meditations. When some one said to Stella that the Dean must have loved Vanessa very much to write of her so beautifully, she replied, that it was well known the Dean could write beautifully on a broomstick!
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 adorneth and distinguisheth the writer. For had a hundred such pens as these been employed on the side of religion, they would immediately have 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 scnate to the trouble of another securing vote. I desire I may not be misunderstood; 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 a dangerous design Jurk under it. Nothing can be more notorious than that the atheists, deists, Socinians, anti-trinitarians, and other sul divisions 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. Th refore this may be intended as one politic step towards altering the constitution of the church established, and setting up presbytery in its stead; which I leave to be further considered by those at the helm.
And therefore if, notwithstanding all I have said, it shall 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 euds 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 inqrisit.ve men will be apt to draw from such premises, we do not strike at the root of the evil, although we should ever so eff.ctually 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 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.
Diversions of the Court of Lilliput. The emperor had a mind one day to entertain me with several of the country shows, wherein they exceed all nations I have known, both for dexterity and magnificence. I was diverted with none so much as that of the rope-dancers, performed with a slender white thread extended about two feet, and twelve inches from the ground. Upon which shall desire liberty, with the reader's patience, to enlarge ? little.
This diversion is oniy practised by those persons who are candidates for great employments and high favour at court. They are trained in this art from their youth, and are not always of noble birth or liberal education. When a great office is vacant, either by death or dis rrace (which often happens), five or six of those candidates petition the emperor to entertain his majesty and the court with a dance on the rope; and whoever jumps the highest, without falling, succeeds in the office. Very o.ten the chief ministers themselves are commanded to shew their skill, and to convince the emperor that they have not lost their faculty. Flimnap, the treasurer,* is allowed to cut a caper on the straight rope at least an inch higher than any other lord in the whole empire. I have seen him do the summerset several times together upon a trencher fixed on a rope which is no thicker than a common packthread in England. My friend Reldresal, principal secretary for private affairs, is, in my opinion, if I am not partial, the second after the treasurer; the rest of the great officers are much upon a par.
These diversions are often attended with fatal accidents, whereof great numbers are on record. I myself have seen two or three candidates break a limb. But the danger is much greater when the ministers themselves are commanded to shew their dexterity; for, by contending to excel themselves and their fellows, they strain 80 far, that there is hardly one of them who has not received a fall, and some of them
* Doubtless Sir Robert Walpole, then prime minister,
two or three. I was assured that, a year or two before my arrival, Flimpap would infallibly have broke his neck, if one of the king's cushions that accidentally lay on the ground, had not weakened the force of his fall.*
There is likewise another diversion, which is only shewn before the emperor and empress and first minister, upon particular occasions. The emperor lays on the table three fine silken threads, of six inches long; one is blue, the other red, and the third green. These threads are proposed as prizes for those persons whom the emperor has a mind to distinguish by a peculiar mark of his favour. The ceremony is perfarminos
y pechar no Tavouring the ceremony 18 per formed in his majesty's great chamber of state, where the candidates are to undergo a trial of dexterity, very different from the former, and such as I have not observed the least resemblance of in any other country of the new or old world. The emperor holds a stick in his hands, both ends parallel to the horizon, while the candidates, advancing one by one, sometimes leap over the stick, sometimes creep under it, backward and forward, several times, according as the stick is advanced or depressed. Sometimes the emperor holds one end of the stick, and his first minister the other ; sometimes the minister has it entirely to himself. Whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue-coloured silk; the red is given to the next, and the green to the third, which they all wear girt twice round about the middle, and you see few great persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these girdles.
Satire on Pretended Philosophers and Projectors. In the description of his fancied Academy of Lagado in Gulliver's Travels,' Swift ridicules those quack pretenders to science and knavish projectors who were 80 common in his day, and whose schemes sometimes led to ruinous and distressing consequences.
I was received very kindly by the warden, and went for many days to the academy. Every room hath in it one or more projectors, and I believe I could not be in fewer than five hundred rooms.
The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin were all of the same colour. He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me he did not doubt in eight years more that he should be able to supply the governor's gardens with sunshine at a reasonable rate; but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers. I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them.
I saw another at work to calcine ice into gunpowder, who likewise shewed me a treatise he had written concerning the malleability of fire, which he intended to publish.
There was a most ingenious architect, who had contrived a new method for building houses, by beginning at the roof, and working downwards to the foundation; waich he justified to me by the like practice of those two prudent insects, the bee and the spider. There was an astronomer who had undertaken to place a sun-dial upon the great
ercock on the town-house, by adjusting the annual and diurna) motions of the earth and sun, so as to answer and coincide with all accidental turning of the winds.
We crossed a walk to the other part of the academy, where, as I have already said, the projectors in speculative learning resided.
The first professor I saw was in a very large room, with forty pupils about him. After salutation, observing me to look earnestly upon a frame which took up the greatest part of both the length and breadth of the room, he said, perhaps I migh wonder to see him employed in a project for improving speculative knowledge by
* This alludes to his dismissal in 1717 through the intrigues of Sunderland and Stanhope. The cushion was no doubt Sir Robert's great interest with the Duchess of Kendal, the favourite of George I.
+ Walpole was distinguished by the orders of the Garter and the Bath, both here ridi. culed,