Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/424

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


who were troubled with a morbid desire to make converts. He translated from the Latin translation part of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, and appended to it notes of which the flippant profaneness called forth the severe censure of an unbeliever of a very different order, the illustrious Bayle.[385] Blount also attacked Christianity in several original treatises, or rather in several treatises purporting to be original; for he was the most audacious of literary thieves, and transcribed, without acknowledgment, whole pages from authors who had preceded him. His delight was to worry the priests by asking them how light existed before the sun was made, how Paradise could be bounded by Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates, how serpents moved before they were condemned to crawl, and where Eve found thread to stitch her figleaves. To his speculations on these subjects he gave the lofty name of the Oracles of Reason; and indeed whatever he said or wrote was considered as oracular by his disciples. Of those disciples the most noted was a bad writer named Gildon, who lived to pester another generation with doggrel and slander, and whose memory is still preserved, not by his own voluminous works, but by two or three lines in which his stupidity and venality have been contemptuously mentioned by Pope.[386]

Little as either the intellectual or the moral character of Blount may seem to deserve respect, it is in a great measure to him that we must attribute the emancipation of the English press. Between him and the licensers there was a feud of long standing. Before the Revolution one of his heterodox treatises had been grievously mutilated by Lestrange, and at last suppressed by orders from Lestrange's superior the Bishop of London.[387] Bohun was a scarcely less severe critic than Lestrange. Blount therefore began to make war on the censorship and the censor. The hostilities were commenced by a tract which came forth