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comprehensive discourse. I shall venture to affirm that, whatever difference may be found in their several conjectures, they will be all, without the least distortion, manifestly deducible from the text. Meantime, it is my earnest request that so useful an undertaking may be entered upon, if their majesties please, with all convenient speed; because I have a strong inclination, before I leave the world, to taste a blessing which we mysterious writers can seldom reach till we have gotten into our graves: whether it is that fame, being a fruit grafted on the body, can hardly grow, and much less ripen, till the stock is in the earth; or whether she be a bird of prey, and is lured, among the rest, to pursue after the scent of a carcase; or whether she conceives her trumpet sounds best and farthest when she stands on a tomb, by the advantage of a rising ground and the echo of a hollow vault.










Swift's patron, Sir William Temple, had been drawn into a dispute "by a silly question raised in France on the respective merits of ancient and modern writers, wherein somebody having declared Corneille to be as much superior to Æschylus as Pascal was to Plato, Temple took up the cudgels for the ancients, on whose behalf he made assertions quite as preposterous, and incidentally declared the Epistles of Phalaris to be one of the triumphs of antiquity. Then came Wotton, a so-styled youthful prodigy of learning in those days, defending the moderns against Temple; then a new edition of Phalaris produced on behalf of Temple by Charles Boyle, afterwards Lord Orrery, his tutor Atterbury, and other Oxford scholars; and then from the other university the scornful challenge of Richard Bentley, first of scholars, who in a second edition of Wotton's book, declared the Phalaris epistles to be the egregious forgery which they too truly were. At this stage of the conflict, while Boyle, Atterbury and Smallridge were preparing the reply that elicited Bentley's crushing rejoinder, Swift came to the protection of Temple with the Battle of the Books [1697], and of all that constituted once the so famous controversy, its prodigious learning and its furious abuse, this triumphant piece of humour alone survives. It was circulated widely before Temple died, and not until four years later [1704] appeared in print."-Forster.

A history of the rivalry long subsisting between ancient and modern books, and an account of the manner in which it was revived among the volumes in the St. James's Library, of which Bentley was "regent" or curator, leads up to the allegory of the Spider and the Bee; after which the interposition of the Goddess Criticism, mother of Wotton, is described, and then the fray begins in earnest in a series of Homeric contests between the classics and their translators and commentators.


HINGS were at this crisis when a material accident


fell out. For upon the highest corner of a large window there dwelt a certain spider, swollen up to the first magnitude by the destruction of infinite numbers of flies, whose spoils lay scattered before the gates of his palace, like human bones before the cave of some giant. The avenues to his castle were guarded with turnpikes and palisadoes, all after the modern way of fortification. After you had passed several courts you came to the centre, wherein you might behold the constable himself in his own lodgings, which had windows fronting to each avenue, and ports to sally out upon all occasions of prey or defence. In this mansion he had for some time dwelt in peace and plenty, without danger to his person by swallows from above, or to his palace by brooms from below: when it was the pleasure of fortune to conduct thither a wandering bee, to whose curiosity a broken pane in the glass had discovered itself, and in he went; where, expatiating a while, he at last happened to alight upon one of the outward walls of the spider's citadel; which, yielding to the unequal weight, sunk down to the very foundation. Thrice he endeavoured to force his passage, and thrice the centre shock. The spider within, feeling the terrible con


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