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centuries, and those of later times, generally agree in the same principle, of improving spiritual into carnal ejaculations, &c.
THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS.
THE Preface informs us, this piece was written in 1697, on account of a famous dispute about Ancient and Modern Learning, between Sir William Temple and the Earl of Orrery on the one side, and Mr. Wotton and Bentley on the other.
War and Invasions generally proceed from the attacks of Want and Poverty upon Plenty and Riches. The Moderns quarrel with the Ancients, about the possession of the highest top of Parnassus; and desire them to surrender it, or to let it be levelled. The answer of the Ancients not accepted. A war ensues; in which rivulets of ink are spilt; and both parties hang out their trophies, books of controversy. These books haunted with disorderly spirits; though often bound to the peace in Libraries. The Author's advice in this case neglected; which occasions a terrible fight in St. James's Library. Dr. Bentley, the Library-keeper, a great enemy to the Ancients. The Moderns, finding themselves 50,000 strong, give the Ancients ill language. Temple, a favourite of the Ancients. An incident of a quarrel between a Bee and a Spider; with their arguments on both sides. Æsop applies them to the present dispute. The order of battle of the Moderns, and names of their leaders. The leaders of the Ancients. Jupiter calls a council of the Gods, and consults the books of Fate; and then sends his orders below. Momus brings the news to Criticism; whose habitation and company is described. She arrives; and sheds her influence
on her son Wotton. The battle described. Paracelsus engages Galen; Aristotle aims at Bacon, and kills Descartes; Homer overthrows Gondibert, kills Denham and Wesley,* Perrault † and Fontenelle.† Encounter of Virgil and Dryden; of Lucan and Blackmore; of Creech and Horace; of Pindar and Cowley. The episode of Bentley and Wotton. Bentley's armour. His speech to the modern generals. Scaliger's answer. Bentley and Wotton march together. Bentley attacks Phalaris and Æsop. Wotton attacks Temple in vain. Boyle pursues Wotton; and, meeting Bentley in his way, he pursues and kills them both.
* Samuel Wesley, rector of Ormesby and Epworth, in Lincolnshire. He died April 25, 1735.
† Charles Perrault, author of a poem, entitled "Le Siècle de Louis le Grand," in which the modern authors are exalted above the ancient; and of several other curious works. He was born in 1626, and died in 1703. He had three brothers, who were all likewise writers of eminence.
The celebrated author of the "Plurality of Worlds;" who died in 1756, when he wanted only a few days of completing his hundredth year.
F good and ill nature equally operated upon mankind, I might have saved myself the trouble of this apology; for it is manifest by the reception the following discourse has met with, that those who approve it, are a great majority among the men of taste yet there have been two or three treatises written expressly against it, beside many others that have flirted at it occasionally, without one syllable 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 discourse between a Deist and a Socinian.
Therefore, since the book seems calculated to live, at least as long as our language and our taste admit no great alterations, I am content to convey some apology along with it.
The greatest part of that book was finished about thirteen years since, 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 assistance of some thinking, and much conversation, he had endeavoured to strip himself of as many real prejudices as he could;
I say real ones, because, under the notion of prejudices, he knew to what dangerous heights some men have proceeded. Thus prepared, he thought the numerous and gross corruptions in religion and learning might furnish matter for a satire, that would be useful and diverting. He resolved to proceed in a manner that should be altogether new, the world having been already too long nauseated with endless repetitions upon every subject. The abuses in religion, he proposed to set forth in the allegory of the coats, and the three brothers, which was to make up the body of the discourse; those in learning, he chose to introduce by way of digressions. He was 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 gave a liberty to his pen, which might not suit with maturer years, or graver characters, and which he could have easily 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 judgment by the ill-placed cavils of the sour, the envious, the stupid, and the tasteless, which he mentions with disdain. He acknowledges there are several youthful sallies, which, from the grave and the wise, may deserve a rebuke. But he desires to be answerable 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 candour to suppose good meanings, nor palate to distinguish true ones. After which, he will forfeit his life, if any one opinion can be fairly
* Swift resided at Moor-park in 1696; and unquestionably the companion of Sir William Temple must be considered as "living in the world."
deduced from that book, which is contrary to religion or morality.
Why should any clergyman of our church be angry to see the follies of fanaticism and superstition exposed, though in the most ridiculous manner; since that is perhaps the most probable way to cure them, or at least to hinder them from farther spreading? Besides, though it was not intended for their perusal, it rallies nothing but what they preach against. It contains nothing to provoke them, by the least scurrility upon their persons or their functions. It celebrates the church of England, as the most perfect of all others, in discipline and doctrine; it advances no opinion they reject, nor condemns any they receive. If the clergy's resentment lay upon their hands, in my humble opinion they might have found more proper objects to employ them on; nondum tibi defuit hostis: I mean those heavy, illiterate scribblers, prostitute in their reputations, vicious in their lives, and ruined in their fortunes, who, to the shame of good sense as well as piety, are greedily read, merely upon the strength of bold, false, impious assertions, mixed with unmannerly reflections upon the priesthood, and openly intended against all religion: in short, full of such principles as are kindly received, because they are levelled to remove those terrors, that religion tells men will be the consequence of immoral lives. Nothing like which is to be met with in this discourse, though some of them are pleased so freely to censure it. And I wish there were no other instance of what I have too frequently observed, that many of that reverend body are not always very nice in distinguishing between their enemies and their friends.
Had the author's intentions met with a more candid interpretation from some, whom out of respect he forbears to name, he might have been