Page images

tical and villainous ! Nor was either of these pretenders disappointed in his aim, as will presently be seen. But before we proceed with the narrative, it may not be improper here to take notice, that this pious Mr. (afterwards Dr.] Innes, was the worthy Gentleman whose name stands with honourable diftinction in the title-page of a well-esteemed book, entitled A modeft Enquiry after moral Virtue; which he had the impudence to publifh as the production of his own pen, and for which, befide the credit of the work, and the profits of the sale, he was rewarded, by the Bishop of London, with a good living in Essex. The fraud, however, did not pass undetected. The real Author, a Scotch Divine, obliged him publicly to disclaim the performance in print; and also to compromise with him for the profits of the edition.

We have mentioned the hurry in which Innes prepared, with impious mockery, to baptise his pretended Convert. "The ceremony was accordingly performed in the presence of the Governor, and several other Officers and Gentlemen, in the public chapel; and the name given him was George Lauder, in compliment to the Governor, whose name it was, and who was prevailed on to stand Godfather, on this folemn occafion.

Soon after this, arrived the Bishop of London's answer to Innes's letter. It was full of commendations of the Chaplain's zeal, befides a very kind invitation to George, to repair to England. On this, the Governor was induced to get his hopeful godson a discharge; while Innes took care to procure a certificate, signed by that Gentleman, and a number of other Officers of the garrison, and even by several Ministers, much more in the Convert's commendation than he deserved: after which this righteous pair set out together for Rotterdam. Here George was introduced to some persons eminent for their piety and learning, particularly the celebrated Mr. Basnage, Author of the Continuation of the Jewish History; likewise to some of the Ministers and Gentlemen of the English church, and to several of the French Protestants there: among whom he was so much caressed, that he began to look upon himself as a very considerable personage.--Yet in the midit of all this, he was not a little mortified by the shrewd questions put to him by several Gentlemen, which convinced him, that they did not give entire credit to his account of himself. But as to any real remorse or shame, for the fraudulent part he was acting, he found it, he fays, sit lighter on his mind, in proportion to the many things he met with to encourage his scheme and Hatter his vanity.

At this time it was, that his genius for imposture led him to a whimsical expedient, in order to increase the peculiarity of his


character, character, and the public amazement, viz. that of living upon raw flesh, roots, and herbs,

• And it is surprising, says he, how soon I habituated myself to this new and strange food, without the least prejudice to my health ; but I was blessed with a good conftitution, and I took care to use 'a good deal of pepper, and other spices, for a concoctor, while my vanity, and the people's surprize at my diet, served for a relishing sauce.'

On their arrival at London, Innes introduced his Convert to the Bishop; by whom he was received with great humanity; and he soon after gained a number of friends among the clergy and laity; many of them persons of worth and piety. Nevertheless, it was not long ere he had a greater number of oppofers to combat with, who put him under a necessity of having his senses and memory about him more than ever, to avoid detection. Among others, that arch Sceptic, Dr. Halley, together with Dr. Mead, and Dr. Woodward, were very active in endeavouring to discover his imposture; but their eagerness to expose him, produced the common effect in such cases, only ferving to make others think the better of him, and to espouse his cause with the more zeal. In short, the opposition of the three learned Gentlemen above-named, was generally imputed, not to the true caufe, but to their supposed disregard for Christianity; the honour of which, some thought, was not a little concerned in this notable conversion. It was, therefore, the luckiest thing that could have happened for George, that the Free-thinkers were his first declared opposers.

Those opposers, however, were much at a loss how to find out his real country, either by his idiom or his pronunciation of the Latin, French, Italian, or any other language he was master of; for his idiom and pronunciation were, designedly, so mixed and blended by the various languages he had learned, and the

(many nations he had been conversant with, that it was iinpossible for the most curious judge to discover in it any thing like an uniform resemblance to any European tongue whatever. They were also as unsuccessful in the conjectures drawn from his complexion; and, on the whole, he declares, he never met, nor heard of, any person who guessed right, or any thing near it, with respect to his native country.

Mean while his friends were ready to take every advantage for him, that could be drawn from the specious regularity of his behaviour. Fortunately for him, many falsehoods were spread abroad concerning him, in order to defame his character ; such as his being a drunkard, gamester, fornicator, &c. and these reports, which by no means hit upon his real vices, being eafily refuted, operated greatly in his favour. At the same time,


the plainness of his dress and diet, the little trouble he appeared to give himself about wealth, preferment, or even securing a bare competency, his good natured and charitable demeanour, his averfion to drinking and the company of lewd women, the warmth he always expreffed for religion, and the delight he feemed to take in its public offices,-altogether seemed such convincing proofs of his fincerity, that those of his friends to whom he was most intimately known, were the most impatient and displeased to have it called in question. For, who could imagine, as they often urged, that a youth of so much sense and learning, for his years, fo seemingly free from ambition, and other vices, could be so abandoned as to be guilty of such abominable imposture and impiety, for the sake of a little plain, homely, food and raiment, beyond which he neither makes the leaft effort, or seems to have the least with?'—These friends of our Author went ftill farther; they even challenged his accusers, by several advertisements in the Gazette, to prove any of the aspersions thrown out against him, or to produce any one folid proof or objection against the account he had given of himfelf. And thus, by such charitable efforts on his behalf, and the Candid Vindication they printed some months afterwards, did this Impostor triumph in his impious deceit, and defy the whole world to detect him! But instances of such flagrant imposition on the credulous public are not rare, even in these infidel times; and we have seen how difficult it is to come at the truth of such tales as that of Elizabeth Canning, the case of Athley and the Jew, and the Cock-lane Ghost.

There was likewise a variety of judgments formed about our Convert, by those who thought him a cheat. Those of the church of Rome said, that he was bribed by some English Ministers, on purpose to expose their church. The Protestants in Holland said, he was bired to expose their doctrine of Predeftination, and cry up the Episcopacy of the Church of England, in derogation of their presbyterian government. Here some represented him as a Jesuit or Priest in disguise, others as a Tool of the Non-jurors, among whom Mr. Innes had introduced him, and of whole principles he had conceived a favourable opinion.-As to his good friend Innes, he wisely disregarded these rumours, and fedulously followed his own plan. Píalmanazar, for that was the name our Convert still went by, had not been above two months in London, before Innes persuaded him to translate the Church Catechism into his pretended Formoran language,

and then made him present it to the unsuspecting Bishop of London; who received it with candour, rewarded it wich generosity, and carefully laid it up among his other curious manuscripts. The Catechifin was wrote in one column, in Roman


character, with an interlineal Latin version, in Italick, and in the invented character on the opposite column.

As Innes saw him succeed so well in this Catechism, he next prevailed on his Disciple to write the History of Formosa; as a thing which would bring both credit and profit to the writer, and be very acceptable to the public.

One might have imagined, that a task so arduous and dangerous would have startled such a raw young fellow, then scarce twenty years old, and an absolute stranger to all that part of the world. But he was an enterprising Genius, and not to be daunted by difficulties. He had picked up some imperfect notions of those countries, from a few books which had fallen in his way, as well as from conversation with people who had either been in those parts, or had read more about them than he had. One thing greatly relieved him. We had then no accounts of the iland of Formofa that could be at all depended upon. The latest was a book written by one Candidus, a Dutch Clergyman, who had been there ; but even his work being stuffed with absurdities and monstrous details, was found worthy of no regard; so that Psalmanazar was left quite at large to exercise his rare talent at inventing, and to batch whatever he pleased out of his own fertile fancy: for the place, upon the whole, was so totally unknown to the Europeans, even to those who had been in China and Japan, that he might easily make whatever he should say of it, pass current with the generality of mankind. In thort, without much hesitation, he undertook the work, resolving to give such a description of his pretended native country, as would be wholly new and surprizing; and Thould, in most particulars, clash with all the accounts other Writers had given of it. And this he was left to hammer out of his own brain, with no other affistance than Varenius's defcription of Japan, which Inncs put into his hands.

The greatest difficulty he had to struggle with, was the eagerness with which both Innes and the Booksellers pressed him to dispatch the work, while the town was hot in expectation of it; so that he was scarcely allowed two months to write the whole : notwithstanding his many interruptions from frequent visitors, and invitations abroad. Hence it is no wonder that the book came out in so crude and imperfect a manner as the first edition appeared in; and the Author tells us, that it would have abounded with more absurdities, had not the person who Englished it from his Latin, aslifted him to correct the more glaring improbabilities; but the Translator also was so hurried by the Booksellers, that he had not fufficient time for consulting his original "Vriter. However, when the book appeared, the most weighty Rey, Dec. 1764.

objection objection to it arose, not from its imperfe&tions, but from the very contrary circumstance, viz. how such a stripling as he must have been when he left that country, could give so large and particular account of it, as could hardly have been expected from a man of twice his age! To obviate, in some degree, this difficulty, honest Dr. Innes advised him to assume three years more than belonged to him, and to pretend that he was nineteen when he came away, and near twenty-three at the writing of the book. However,

However, it gave him much trouble to vindicate these monstrosities, as he himself juftly calls them, both in company and in a new preface to the second edition of the book, which was foon called for, and in which he made such improvements as were most likely to increase the fale, and satisfy the public.

While he was preparing the fecond edition, he was sent, by the good Bishop of London, and other friends, to Oxford, in order to pursue such studies as he was fit for, or inclined to. When he arrived there, he found that learncd univerfity divided into two parties, with respect to his performance; one for, and the other against him ; and among the latter, he fays, were men of the best character, for candour, probity, and learning. Our Author had an apartment assigned him, in one of the most confiderable colleges. He was not, indeed, matriculated, but had all the other advantages of learning which the university could afford him, either by access to the libraries, or by acquaintance with the learned. A Tutor was afligned him, who not only gave him leave to attend all the lectures he read to his other Pupils, fome of whom were Gentlemen of high birth and fortune, and greatly advanced in learning, but invited him to make such objections as occurred to his mind, or even to chuse the subject vihether the Newtonian philofopby, logic, poetry, or divinity ; which last, he tells us, was, of all others, his favourite study.

His stay at Oxford was not above fix months. At his return to his old lodgings in Pall-mall, he learned, that his worthy friend, Dr. Innes, was departed for Portugal, being appointed Chaplain-general to the English forces in that kidgdom, through the means of Dr. Compton, the good Bishop of London, on whoin he had fo egregiously imposed, and at whose hands he thus obtained but too great a reward for his unrighteous induftry. I had no realon, fays Pfalmanazar, to regret his abfence, for he had, before I went to Oxford, been guilty of such notorious and bare-faced immoralities, as well in this as in a former lodging in the Strand, both in sober and reputable families, that his character had greatly suffered by it.-He had almost ar unsurmountable propensity to wine and women, and when fraught wish the former, fell immoderately fout on the latter,


« PreviousContinue »