Page:Books Condemned to be Burnt - James Anson Farrer.djvu/163

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Book-Fires of the Revolution.

be hanged." Asgill clearly wrote in all honesty and sincerity, though the contrary has been suggested; and his defence was not without spirit or point: "Pray what is this blasphemous crime I here stand charged with? A belief of what we all profess, or at least of what no one can deny. If the death of the body be included in the fall, why is not this life of the body included in the redemption? And if I have a firmer belief in this than another, am I therefore a blasphemer?" But the House thought that he was; and to impugn the right of the majority to decide such a point would be to impugn a fundamental principle of the British Constitution. I therefore refrain from an opinion, and leave the matter to the reader's judgment.

Among the many books that have owed an increase of popularity, or any popularity at all, to the fire that burnt them, may be instanced the two works of Dr. Coward, which were burnt by order of the House of Commons in Palace Yard on March 18th, 1704. Dr. Coward had been a Fellow of Merton, and he wrote poetry as well as books of medicine, but in 1702 he ventured on metaphysical ground, and under the pseudonym of "Estibius Psychalethes" dedicated to the clergy his