« PreviousContinue »
A TALE OF A TUB.
Written for the universal improvement of mankind.
Diu multumque defideratum.
To which are added,
An Account of a BATTLE between the AxCIENT and MODERN BOOKS in St. James's Library; and,
A Discourse concerning the MECHANICAL OPERATION of the SPIRIT.
With the Author's APOLOGY; and
Explanatory notes, by W. Wotton, B. D. and others.
Bafyma cacabafa, eanaa irraum ifta diarbada caeota
Iren. lib. 1. cap. 18.
-Fuvatque novas decerpere flores,
Infignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam,,
kind, I might have faved myfelf the trouble of this apology; for it is manifeft, by the reception the following difcourfe has met with, that those who approve it, are a great majority among the men of tafte. Yet there have been two or three treatifes written expressly against it; befides many others that have flirted at it occafionally, without one fyllable having been ever published in its defence, or even quotation to its advantage, that I can remember; except by the polite author of a late difcourfe between a Deift and a Socinian,
Therefore, fince the book feems calculated to live at leaft as long as our language and our taste admit no great alterations, I am content to convey fome apology along with it.
The greatest part of that book was finished about
thirteen years fince, 1696; which is eight years before it was published. The author was then young, his invention at the height, and his reading fresh in his head, By the affiftance of fome thinking, and much converfation, he had endeavoured to ftrip himself of as many real prejudices as he could: I fay, real ones; because under the notion of prejudices, he knew to what dangerous heights fome men have proceeded. Thus prepared, he thought the numerous and grofs corruptions in religion and learning might furnish matter for a fatire, that would be useful and diverting. He refolved to proceed in a manner that should be altogether new; the world having been already too long naufeated with endless repetitions upon every fubject. The abufes in religion he proposed to fet forth in the allegory of the coats, and the three brothers: which was to make up the body of the difcourfe; thofe in learning he chofe to introduce by way of digreffions. then a young gentleman much in the world; and wrote to the taste of those who were like himself; therefore, in order to allure them, he give a liberty to his pen, which might not fuit with maturer years,or graver characters; and which he could not eafily have corrected with a very few blots, had he been master of his papers for a year or two before their publication.
Not that he would have governed his judgement by the ill-placed cavils of the four, the envious, the stupid, and the tastelefs; which he mentions with dif dain. He acknowledges there are several youthful fallies, which, from the grave and the wife, may deserve a rebuke. But he defires to be anfwerable no farther than he is guilty; and that his faults may not be multiplied by the ignorant, the unnatural, and uncharitable applications of those who have neither candor to fuppofe good meanings, nor palate to distinguish After which, he will forfeit his life, if any one opinion can be fairly deduced from that book, which is contrary to religion or morality.
Why fhould any clergyman of our church be angry to fee the follies of Fanaticism and Superftition exposed, tho' in the most ridiculous manner? fince that is perhaps the most probable way to cure them, or at lealt to hinder
hinder them from farther fpreading. Befides, though it was not intended for their perufal, it rallies nothing but what they preach againft. It contains nothing to provoke them by the leaft fcurrility upon their perfons or their functions. It celebrates the church of England as the most perfect of all others in difcipline and doctrine; it advances no opinion they reject, nor condemns any they receive. If the clergy's refentments lay upon their hands, in my humble opinion, they might have found more proper objects to employ them on. Nondum tibi defuit hoftis; I mean thofe heavy, illiterate fcribblers, prostitute in their reputations, vicious in their lives, and ruined in their fortunes; who, to the fhame of good fenfe, as well as piety, are greedily read, merely upon the ftrength of bold, false, impious affertions, mixed with unmannerly reflexions upon the priesthood, and openly intended against all religion; in fhort, full of fuch principles as are kindly received, because they are levelled to remove thofe terrors, that religion tells men will be the confequence of immoral lives. Nothing like which is to be met with in this difcourfe, though fome of them are pleafed fo freely to cenfure it. And I wish there were no other inftance of what I have too frequently obferved, that many of that Reverend body are not always very nice in diftinguishing between their enemies and their friends.
Had the author's intentions met with a more candid interpretation from fome, whom out of respect he forbears to name, he might have been encouraged to an examination of books written by fome of thofe authors above defcribed; whofe errors, ignorance, dulnefs, and villany, he thinks he could have detected and expofed in fuch a manner, that the perfons who are most conceived to be infected by them, would foon lay them afide, and be afhamed. But he has now given over those thoughts; fince the weightiest men in the weightiest ftations, are pleased to think it a more dangerous point, to laugh at thofe corruptions in religion, which they themfelves muft difapprove, than to endeavour pulling
Alluding to Dr. Sharp. the Archifhop of York's reprefentation of the author. Hawkefworth.
up thofe very foundations wherein all Chriftians have agreed.
He thinks it no fair proceeding, that any perfon fhould offer determinately to fix a name upon the author of this difcourfe, who hath all along concealed himself from most of his nearest friends: yet feveral have gone a farther ftep, and pronounced another book* to have been the work of the fame hand with this; which the author directly affirms to be a thorough miftake, he having yet never fo much as read that difcourfe: A plain inftance how little truth there often is in general furmifes, or in conjectures drawn from a fimilitude of style, or way of thinking.
Had the author written a book to expose the abuses in law, or in phyfic, he believes the learned profeffors in either faculty would have been fo far from refenting it, as to have given him thanks for his pains; efpecially if he had made an honourable refervation for the true practice of either fcience. But religion, they tell us, ought not to be ridiculed; and they tell us truth: yet furely the corruptions in it may; for we are taught by the triteft maxim in the world, that religion being the beft of things, its corruptions are likely to be the worst.
There is one thing which the judicious reader cannot but have obferved, that fome of thofe paffages in this difcourfe, which appear most liable to objection, are what they call parodies, where the author perfonates the ftyle and manner of other writers, whom he has a mind to expofe. I fhall produce one inftance; it is in fect. 1. parag. 3. from the end, p. 47. Dryden, L'Eftrange, and fome others I fhall not name, are here levelled at; who, having spent their lives in faction, and apoftafies, and all manner of vice, pretended to be fufferers for loyalty and religion. So Dryden tells us, in one of his prefaces, of his merits and fufferings; thanks God, that he poffeffes his foul in patience; in other places he talks at the fame rate; and L'Eftrange often uses the like style; and I believe the reader may find more perfons to give that paffage an application. But this is enough to direct those who may have overlooked the author's intention.
*Letter concerning enthusiasm.
There are three or four other paffages, which prejudiced or ignorant readers have drawn, by great force, to hint at ill meanings; as if they glanced at fome tencts in religion. In anfwer to all which, the author folemnly protefts he is entirely innocent; and never had it once in his thoughts, that any thing he said would in the least be capable of fuch interpretations; which he will engage to deduce full as fairly from the most innocent book in the world. And it will be obvious to every reader, that this was not any part of his fcheme or defign; the abufes he notes, being fuch as all church-of-England men agree in nor was it proper for his fubject to meddle with other points, than fuch as have been perpetually controverted fince the reformation.
To infance only in that paffage about the three wooden machines mentioned in the introduction: In the original manufcript there was a defcription of a fourth, which those who had the papers in their power, blotted out, as having fomething in it of fatire, that, I fuppofe, they thought was too particular; and therefore they were forced to change it to the number three; from whence fome have endeavoured to squeeze out a dangerous meaning, that was never thought on. And indeed the conceit was half fpoiled by changing the numbers; that of four being much more cabalistic, and therefore better exposing the pretended virtue of numbers; a superstition there intended to be ridiculed.
Another thing to be obferved, is, that there generally runs an irony through the thread of the whole book which the men of talte will obferve and distinguish, and which will render fome objections that have been made, very weak and infignificant.
This apology being chiefly intended for the fatisfaction of future readers, it may be thought unneceffary to take any notice of such treatises as have been written against the enfuing difcourfe; which are already funk into wafte paper and oblivion, after the ufual fate of common anfwerers to books which are allowed to have any merit. They are indeed like annuals, that grow about a young tree, and seem to vie with it for a summer; but fall and die with the leaves in autumn, and are never heard of any more. When Dr. Eachard writ his book about the con