The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 2/Advertisement

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The following Historical Particulars were originally communicated to Mr. Nichols in 1777 by the Rev. Samuel Salter, D. D. then Master of the Charter-house.

THE Tale of a Tub was planned and composed about 1692, by Jonathan Swift, afterwards D. D. and Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin; but whether by him alone, or in concert and conjunction with another of his family and name, is not quite so clear; as it is, that great part of it was designed in favour and in honour of sir William Temple, on whom the Swifts were dependent in some sort, and under obligations to him. When the Tale, &c. was first printed, Mr. Wotton speaks of it, as generally believed to have been written, or published however, by a brother of Jonathan's; which brother, he adds, was preferred by lord Somers, at sir W. Temple's request, to a very good benefice[1], in one of the most delicious parts of one of the pleasantest counties of England. This is invidiously aggravated; because Mr. Wotton conceived lord Somers was indecently played upon, in the dedication addressed to him: and is besides false; at least in part: for Jonathan had no brother. His first cousin, Thomas Swift, one year only senior to him, though the son of a much elder brother, was presented by lord Somers, and probably at sir W. Temple's request, to a crown living; which he held sixty years, and quitted but with life, in May 1752, in the eighty-seventh year of his age. The same lord Somers recommended Jonathan to lord Wharton; but without success. Thomas preached a sermon in November 1710 (it is not specified where); which he printed, and prefixed to it a dedication to Mr. Harley, chancellor of the exchequer, afterward earl of Oxford. It is on Is. xi. 13, 14. and is entitled, "Noah's Dove; an earnest Exhortation to Peace; set forth in a Sermon, preached on the 7th of November 1710, a Thanksgiving-day, by Thomas Swift, A. M. formerly chaplain to sir William Temple, now rector of Puttenham in Surrey. I will open my mouth in parables, Ps. lxxviii. 2. Quo propiùs stes, te capiet magis. Hor." Mr. Deane Swift says: T. S. was a man of learning, and abilities; but unfortunately bred up, like his father and grandfather, with an abhorrence and contempt for all the Puritanical sectaries:" whence he seems to infer, that he neither had, nor could well have, the least hope of rising in the church. [What not in sixty years; between 1690 and 1750! How came Atterbury, Sacheverell, and hundreds more, to rise?] In fact, this Sermon and its Dedication (stand as near as you please, or as you can) will not be found to carry with them any marks of superior parts: nor did T. S. attempt giving any other proof, that I ever saw or heard of, to the world. So that, although he certainly put in his claim to a share here, it appears to have been little regarded: and Jonathan has as certainly the whole credit.

In March 1766, a copy of the first edition of the Tale of a Tub was sold (for 5s. 6d. only) at an auction of books, by S. Baker: this copy had, it seems, belonged to Sheffield duke of Bucks; with whom dean Swift does not appear either to have had, or to have wished for, any intimacy[2]. In the first blank leaf the duke (as is believed and there affirmed) had written these words: "What follows here written, is all by the hand of Mr. Thomas Swift:" or something of this tenour. In the next page T. S. has given the following anecdotes[3]:

"The preface of the Bookseller, before the Battle of the Books, shows the cause and design of the whole work: which was performed by a couple of young Clergymen in the year 1697; who, having been domestic chaplains to sir William Temple, thought themselves obliged to take up his quarrel; in relation to the controversy then in dispute between him and Mr. Wotton, concerning Ancient and Modern Learning.

"The one of them began a defence of sir William, under the title of a Tale of a Tub; under which he intended to couch the general history of Christianity: showing the rise of all the remarkable errours of the Roman church, in the same order they entered; and how the Reformation endeavoured to root them out again: with the different temper of Luther from Calvin (and those more violent spirits), in the way of his reforming. His aim is to ridicule the stubborn errours of the Romish church, and the humours of the fanatic party; and to show that their superstition has something very fantastical in it, which is common to both of them; notwithstanding the abhorrence they seem to have for one another.

"The author intended to have it very regular; and withal so particular, that he thought not to pass by the rise of any one single errour, or its reformation. He designed at last to show the purity of the Christian Church, in the primitive times; and consequently, how weakly Mr. Wotton passed his judgement, and how partially; in preferring the modern divinity before the ancient; with a confutation of whose book he intended to conclude. But when he had not yet gone half-way, his companion borrowing the manuscript to peruse, carried it with him to Ireland; and, having kept it seven years, at last published it imperfect: for indeed he was not able to carry it on, after the intended method; because Divinity, though it chanced to be his profession, had been the least of his study. However, he added to it the Battle of the Books; wherein he effectually pursues the main design, of lashing Mr. Wotton: and having added a jocose epistle dedicatory to lord Somers, and another to Prince Posterity, with a pleasant preface; and interlarded it with one digression concerning critics, and another in the modern kind; a third in praise of digressions, and a fourth in praise of madness; (with which he was not unacquainted;) concludes the book with a fragment, which the first author made, and intended should have come in about the middle of the Tale, as a preliminary to Jack's character.

"Having thus shown the reasons of the little order observed in the book, and the imperfectness of the Tale: it is so submitted to the reader's censure.

"Thomas Swift is grandson to sir William Davenant[4]; Jonathan Swift is cousin-german to Thomas; both retainers to sir W. Temple."

Early in 1710 a new edition of the Tale of a Tub was in great forwardness. The Author's Apology, dated June 3, 1709, had been some time in the bookseller's possession; and the cuts (then first added) were delayed, for sir Andrew Fountaine's approbation of the designs. In a letter to Ben Tooke from Dublin, June 29, 1710, Jonathan complains much of the liberty taken with his character in the Key; talks of trying to obtain redress; and adds, "I cannot but think, that little Parson Cousin of mine is at the bottom of this; for, having lent him a copy of some parts of, &c. [N. B.] and he showing it, after I was gone for Ireland, and the thing abroad; he affected to talk suspiciously, as if he had some share in it. If he should happen to be in town, and you light on him; I think you ought to tell him gravely; that if he be the Author, he should set his name to the &c. and railly him a little upon it, and tell him; if he can explain some things, you will (if he pleases) set his name to the next edition. I should be glad to see how far the foolish impudence of a Dunce could go. I shall, at the end, take a little contemptible notice of the thing you sent me." This he performed; in a single page of Postscript to the Apology. To Dr. Swift's letter, B. Tooke answered, July 10; "As to that Cousin of yours, which you speak of: I neither know him; nor ever heard of him, till the Key mentioned him." Thus, we see, Thomas envied his Cousin the reputation of this performance; and speaks of him contemptuously enough; as knowing little of his own profession, Divinity; and as little better than mad: but Jonathan is even with him. And the world seems to be of Jonathan's side; and to know nothing of Thomas. Lord Oxford, when he wanted to teaze or provoke Jonathan, affected to call him Thomas. The latter seems to have had no correspondence with the former.

  1. Puttenham, near Guilford, in Surrey. As this is a crown-living, Mr. Swift's presentation to it seems another exception to his relation Mr. Deane Swift's persuasion; "that no solicitation was ever made to the Crown by one of the name, from the Restoration to this day, for any the least favour whatsoever; that was either worth the Crown's refusal, or any of the family's acceptance: except, &c."
  2. Consult on this head the Journal to Stella, Dec. 19, 1710; May 19, and Sept. 8, 1711. Swift says himself, he never was in the duke's company above once; or twice at the most. In a Life of Mr. Pope, printed in 1769, it is observed; that Dr. Arbuthnot took Pope to task, for being so much acquainted with John of Bucks: [which was the cant and familiar name his Grace was called by.] "He has neither esteem nor love for you," said the Doctor; "and only wants to cheat you;" and Pope soon found the truth of this; but, though he fell into the snare, and bought an annuity of the duke, being over-persuaded by him; yet in the end his Grace over-reached himself; for he suppposed, from the delicacy of Mr. Pope's constitution, that he would live but a short time.
  3. These are, word for word, the same as what appear in a pamphlet printed for Curll in 1710, with this title; "A complete Key to the Tale of a Tub; with some account of the Authors, the occasion and design of writing it, and Mr. Wotton's Remarks examined. London, printed for Edmund Curll, &c. Price 6d. Where may be had, A Meditation upon a Broomstick, and somewhat beside, utile dulci; by one of the authors of the Tale of a Tub, Price 6d." "I had long a design upon the ears of that Curll, when I was in credit; but the rogue would never allow me a fair stroke at them, although my pen-knife was drawn and sharp." Swift, Lett. to Pope, Aug. 30, 1760. "What gave this edge to the Dean's penknife was, A Key to the Tale of a Tub, by Ralph Noden, Esq." Curll, Annot. in loc.
  4. The celebrated author of Gondibert. He was born in 1605; succeeded Ben Jonson as poet-laureat in 1637; was knighted in 1643; was, for his loyalty, imprisoned in The Tower in 1651, and saved his life by the intercession of Milton and some others. After the Restoration, he obtained a patent for a play-house; and died April 17, 1668.