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HAD the author written a book to expose the abufes 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; especially 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 those paffages in this difcourfe, which appear moft liable to objection, are what they call parodies, where the author perfonates the style and manner of other writers whom he has a mind to expofe. I fhall produce one inftance; it is in the 29th page. 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 ftyle: 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.
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 tenets in religion. In answer to all which, the author folemnly protefts he is entirely innocent, and never had it once in his thoughts, that any thing he faid 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 abuses 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 inftance 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 spoiled by changing the numbers; that of four being much more cabalistic, and therefore better expofing 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 taste will obferve and distinguish, and which will render some 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 fuch treatifes as have been written against the enfuing difcourfe; which are already funk into waste 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 fummer, but fall and die with the leaves in autumn, and are never heard of any more. When Dr. Eachard writ his book about the contempt of the clergy, numbers of those anfwerers immedi ately 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 pleasure, tho' the book it answers be funk long
* Parker, afterwards Bishop of Oxford, wrote many trea tifes against the Diffenters, with infolence and contempt, fays Burnet, that enraged them beyond measure; for which he was chaftifed by Andrew Marvel, Under Secretary to Milton, in a little book called the Rehearsal tranfpofed.
long ago; fo the Earl of Orrery's remarks will be read with delight, when the differtation he exposes will neither be fought nor found *. But these are no enterprizes 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 skill, more wit, learning and judgment, than were employed in the writing it. And the author affures those gentlemen who have given themselves 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 dirtpellets, however envenomed 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 perfon †, who upon fome occafions hath discovered no ill vein of humour. "Tis a pity any occafion fhould put him under a neceffity of being fo hafty in his productions, which otherwife might often be entertaining. But there were 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 cost so much time, and met with fo much fuccefs in ridiculing others. The manner how he handled his fubject, I have now forgot; ha'ving juft looked it over when it firft came out, as others did, merely for the fake of the title.
Boyle's remarks upon Bentley's differtation on the epistles of
+ Supposed to be Doctor 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.
This we cannot recover at prefent, it being fo abfolutely forgotten, the oldest booksellers in trade remember nothing of it,
THE other anfwer is from a perfon of a graver chara&ter, 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 amiss to draw in readers to his pamphlet; feveral having appeared defirous that there might be 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 anfwerer 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 accomplished perfon. It was obferved, how he was pleafed and affected to have that noble writer called his adverfary; and it was point of fatire well directed; for I have been told Sir William Temple was fufficiently mortified at the term. All the men of wit and politeness were immediately up in arms, through indignation 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 Lordship 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 occafioned that discourse 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.
Wotton's defence of his reflections upon antient and modern learning: from the annotation are felected the notes figned W. Wotton; thus Wotton appears bufied to illuftrate a work, which he laboured to condemn, and adds force to a fatire pointed against himself; as captives were bound to the chariotwheel of the victor, and compelled to increase the pomp of his. triumph, whom they had in vain attempted to defeat.
† Bentley, concerning Phalaris and
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 mistaken, 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 delivered unwarily; for which he defires to plead the excufe offered already, of his youth, and frankness of speech, and his papers being out of his power at the time they were published.
BUT this anfwerer infifts; and fays, what he chiefly dif likes, is the defign. 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 else, but to expose the abuses 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 ally of perfonal animofity, at least mixed with the defign of ferving the public by so useful a difcovery; 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, that would never have been one. He conceived it was never disputed to be an original, whatever faults it might have. However, this anfwerer produces three inftances to prove this author's wit is not his own in many places. The 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 same 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, tho' they should happen to be the fame; which however is