« PreviousContinue »
tempt of the clergy, numbers of thofe anfwerers immediately started up, whofe memory if he had not kept alive by his replies, it would now be utterly unknown, that he were ever answered at all. There is indeed an exception, when any great genius thinks it worth his while to expofe a foolish piece. So we ftill read Marvel's anfwer to Parker with pleafure, though the book it anfwers be funk long ago; fo the Earl of Orrery's remarks will be read with delight, when the differtation he expofes will neither be fought nor found t. But these are no enterprifes for common hands, nor to be hoped for above once or twice in an age. Men would be more cautious of lofing their time in fuch an undertaking, if they did but confider, that to answer a book effectually, requires more pains and fkill, more wit, learning, and judgment, than were employed in the writing it. And the author affures thofe gentlemen who have given themfelves that trouble with him, that his difcourfe is the product of the study, the obfervation, and the invention of feveral years; that he often blotted out much more than he left; and if his papers had not been a long time out of his poffeffion, they must have ftill undergone more fevere corrections, And do they think fuch a building is to be battered with dirt-pellets, however invenomed the mouths may be that difcharge them? He hath feen the productions but of two anfwerers; one of which at first appeared as from an unknown hand, but fince avowed by a perfont, who up on fome occafions hath difcovered no ill vein of humour. It is a pity any occafion fhould put him under a neceflity of being fo hafty in his productions, which otherwife might often be entertaining. But there were
Parker, afterwards Bishop of Oxford, wrote many treatifes against the diffenters, with infolence and contempt, fays Burnet, that enraged them beyond measure; for which he was chaftifed by Andrew Marvel, under-fecretary to Milton, in, a little book called, The Rehearsal tranfprofed. Hawkef.
+ Boyle's remarks upon Bentley's differtation on the epiftles of Phalaris. Hawkef.
Suppofed to be Dr. William King, the civilian, author of an account of Denmark, a differtation on, famplars, and other pieces of burlefque on the Royal Society, and the art of cookery, in imitation of Horace's art of poetry, &c. Hawkef.
other reasons obvious enough for his miscarriage in this : he writ against the conviction of his talent, and entered upon one of the wrongest attempts in nature, to turn into ridicule, by a week's labour, a work, which had coft fo much time, and met with fo much fuccefs in ridi culing others. The manner how he handled his subject, I have now forgot; having juft looked it over, when it first came out, as others did, merely for the fake of the title *
The other answer is from a perfon of a graver character, and is made up of half invective, and half annotation ; in the latter of which he hath generally fucceeded well enough. And the project, at that time, was not amifs to draw in readers to his pamphlet; feveral ha→ ving appeared defirous, that there might he fome explication of the more difficult paffages. Neither can he be altogether blamed for offering at the invective part; because it is agreed on all hands, that the author had given him fufficient provocation. The great objection is against his manner of treating it, very unfuitable to one of his function: It was determined by a fair majority, that this answerer had, in a way not to be pardoned, drawn his pen against a certain great man then alive, and univerfally reverenced for every good quality that could poffibly enter into the compofition of the most ac-complished perfon. It was obferved, how he was plea fed, and affected, to have that noble writer called his adversary; and it was a point of fatire well directed;, for I have been told, Sir William Temple was fufficient ly mortified at the term. All the men of wit and po litenefs were immediately up in arms through indigna-
* This we cannot recover at prefent, it being fo abfolutely forgotten, the oldest booksellers in trade remember nothing of it. Hawkef.
+ Wotton's defence of his reflections upon ancient and mo dern learning. From the annotations are selected the notes figned, W. Wotton. Thus Wotton appears bufied to illustrate a work, which he laboured to condemn, and adds force to a fatire pointed against himself: as captives were bound to the chariot wheel of the victor, and compelled to increase the pomp of his triumph, whom they had in vain attempted to› defeat.. Hawkef.
tion, which prevailed over their contempt, by the confequences they apprehended from fuch an example; and it grew Porfenna's cafe; idem trecenti juravimus. In fhort, things were ripe for a general infurrection, till my Lord Orrery had a little laid the fpirit, and fettled the ferment. But, his Lordfhip being principally engaged with another antagonist *, it was thought neceffary, in order to quiet the minds of men, that this oppofer fhould receive a reprimand, which partly occa fioned that difcourfe of the Battle of the books; and the author was farther at the pains to infert one or two remarks on him in the body of the book.
This anfwerer has been pleased to find fault with about a dozen paffages, which the author will not be at the trouble of defending, farther than by affuring the reader, that, for the greater part, the reflecter is entirely miftaken, and forces interpretations which never once entered into the writer's head, nor will (he is fure) into that of any reader of taste and candour. He allows two or three at moft, there produced, to have been deliver ed unwarily; for which he defires to plead the excuse offered already, of his youth, and franknefs of fpeech, and his papers being out of his power at the time they were published.
But this anfwerer infifts, and fays, what he chiefly diflikes, is the design. What that was, I have already told; and I believe there is not a person in England who can understand that book, that ever imagined it to have been any thing elfe, but to expofe the abufes and corruptions in learning and religion.
But it would be good to know what defign this reflecter was ferving, when he concludes his pamphlet with a caution to the reader, to beware of thinking the author's wit was entirely his own. Surely this must have had fome allay of perfonal animofity, at least mixed with the design of ferving the public by fo useful a dif covery; and it indeed touches the author in a tender point; who infifts upon it, that, through the whole book, he has not borrowed one fingle hint from any writer in the world; and he thought, of all criticisms,
Bentley, concerning Phalaris and fop. Hawkef.
that would never have been one. He conceived, it was never difputed to be an original, whatever faults it might have. However, this answerer produces three inftances to prove this author's wit is not his own in many plaThe first is, that the names of Peter, Martin, and Jack, are borrowed from a letter of the late Duke of Buckingham *. Whatever wit is contained in those three names, the author is content to give it up, and defires his readers will fubtract as much as they placed. upon that account; at the fame time protesting folemnly, that he never once heard of that letter, except in this paffage of the answerer: fo that the names were not borrowed, as he affirms, though they fhould happen to be the fame; which, however, is odd enough, and what he hardly believes; that of Jack being not quite fo obvious as the other two. The fecond instance to fhew the author's wit is not his own, is Peter's banter (as he calls it in his Alfatia phrafe) upon tranfubftantiation, which is taken from the fame Duke's conference with an Irish priest, where a cork is turned into a horfe. This the author confeffes to have seen about ten years after his book was written, and a year or two after it was published. Nay, the anfwerer overthrows this himfelf; for he allows the tale was written in 1697; and, I think, that pamphlet was not printed in many years after. It was neceffary, that corruption fhould have fome allegory as well as the reft; and the author invented the propereft he could, without enquiring what other people had written; and the commoneft reader will find, there is not the leaft resemblance between the two stories. The third instance is in these words: Į I have been affured, that the battle in St. James's library is, mutatis mutandis, taken out of a French book, intitled, Combat des livres, if 1 mifremember not. In which paffage there are two clauses obfervable: I have been affured; and, if I mifremember not. I defire first to know, whether, if that conjecture proves an utter falfehood, thofe two claufes will be a fufficient excufe for this worthy critic. The matter is a trifle but would he venture to pronounce at this rate upon one of greater moment? I know nothing more contemptible in a writer, * Villers..
than the character of a plagiary; which he here fixes as a venture; and this not for a paffage, but a whole difcourfe, taken out from another book, only mutatis mutandis. The author is as much in the dark about this, as the anfwerer; and will imitate him by an affirmation at random; that if there be a word of truth in this reflection, he is a paultry, imitating pedant, and the anfwerer is a perfon of wit, manners, and truth. He takes his boldness, from never having feen any fuch treatise in his life, nor heard of it before; and he is fure it is impoffible for two writers of different times and countries, to agree in their thoughts after fuch a manner, that two continued difcourfes fhall be the fame, only mutatis mutandis. Neither will he infift upon the mistake in the title. But let the anfwerer and his friend produce any book they please, he defies them to fhew one fingle particular, where the judicious reader will affirm he has been obliged for the smallest hint; giving only allowance for the accidental encountering of a fingle thought, which he knows may fometimes happen; though he has never yet found it in that difcourfe, nor has heard it objected by any body elfe.
So that, if ever any defign was unfortunately executed,. it must be that of this answerer; who, when he would have it obferved, that the author's wit is none of his own, is able to produce but three inftances, two of them mere trifles, and all three manifeftly falfe. If this be the way these gentlemen deal with the world in those criticisms where we have not leisure to defeat them, their readers had need be cautious, how they rely upon their credit; and whether this proceeding can be reconciled to humanity or truth, let those who think it worth their while, determine.
It is agreed, this anfwerer would have fucceeded much better, if he had ftuck wholly to his bufinefs, as a commentator upon the Tale of a tub, wherein it can not be denied, that he hath been of fome fervice to the public, and hath given very fair conjectures towards clearing up fome difficult paffages. But it is the frequent error of those men, (otherwise very commendable for their labours), to make excurfions beyond their talent and their office, by pretending to point out the beauties