The Battle of the Books And Other Short Pieces
Part 2 out of 3
Then calls the Graces to her aid,
And sprinkles thrice the now-born maid.
From whence the tender skin assumes
A sweetness above all perfumes;
From whence a cleanliness remains,
Incapable of outward stains;
From whence that decency of mind,
So lovely in a female kind.
Where not one careless thought intrudes
Less modest than the speech of prudes;
Where never blush was called in aid,
The spurious virtue in a maid,
A virtue but at second-hand;
They blush because they understand.
The Graces next would act their part,
And show but little of their art;
Their work was half already done,
The child with native beauty shone,
The outward form no help required:
Each breathing on her thrice, inspired
That gentle, soft, engaging air
Which in old times adorned the fair,
And said, "Vanessa be the name
By which thou shalt be known to fame;
Vanessa, by the gods enrolled:
Her name on earth - shall not be told."
But still the work was not complete,
When Venus thought on a deceit:
Drawn by her doves, away she flies,
And finds out Pallas in the skies:
Dear Pallas, I have been this morn
To see a lovely infant born:
A boy in yonder isle below,
So like my own without his bow,
By beauty could your heart be won,
You'd swear it is Apollo's son;
But it shall ne'er be said, a child
So hopeful has by me been spoiled;
I have enough besides to spare,
And give him wholly to your care.
Wisdom's above suspecting wiles;
The queen of learning gravely smiles,
Down from Olympus comes with joy,
Mistakes Vanessa for a boy;
Then sows within her tender mind
Seeds long unknown to womankind;
For manly bosoms chiefly fit,
The seeds of knowledge, judgment, wit,
Her soul was suddenly endued
With justice, truth, and fortitude;
With honour, which no breath can stain,
Which malice must attack in vain:
With open heart and bounteous hand:
But Pallas here was at a stand;
She know in our degenerate days
Bare virtue could not live on praise,
That meat must be with money bought:
She therefore, upon second thought,
Infused yet as it were by stealth,
Some small regard for state and wealth:
Of which as she grew up there stayed
A tincture in the prudent maid:
She managed her estate with care,
Yet liked three footmen to her chair,
But lest he should neglect his studies
Like a young heir, the thrifty goddess
(For fear young master should be spoiled)
Would use him like a younger child;
And, after long computing, found
'Twould come to just five thousand pound.
The Queen of Love was pleased and proud
To we Vanessa thus endowed;
She doubted not but such a dame
Through every breast would dart a flame;
That every rich and lordly swain
With pride would drag about her chain;
That scholars would forsake their books
To study bright Vanessa's looks:
As she advanced that womankind
Would by her model form their mind,
And all their conduct would be tried
By her, as an unerring guide.
Offending daughters oft would hear
Vanessa's praise rung in their ear:
Miss Betty, when she does a fault,
Lets fall her knife, or spills the salt,
Will thus be by her mother chid,
"'Tis what Vanessa never did."
Thus by the nymphs and swains adored,
My power shall be again restored,
And happy lovers bless my reign -
So Venus hoped, but hoped in vain.
For when in time the martial maid
Found out the trick that Venus played,
She shakes her helm, she knits her brows,
And fired with indignation, vows
To-morrow, ere the setting sun,
She'd all undo that she had done.
But in the poets we may find
A wholesome law, time out of mind,
Had been confirmed by Fate's decree;
That gods, of whatso'er degree,
Resume not what themselves have given,
Or any brother-god in Heaven;
Which keeps the peace among the gods,
Or they must always be at odds.
And Pallas, if she broke the laws,
Must yield her foe the stronger cause;
A shame to one so much adored
For Wisdom, at Jove's council-board.
Besides, she feared the queen of love
Would meet with better friends above.
And though she must with grief reflect
To see a mortal virgin deck'd
With graces hitherto unknown
To female breasts, except her own,
Yet she would act as best became
A goddess of unspotted fame;
She knew, by augury divine,
Venus would fail in her design:
She studied well the point, and found
Her foe's conclusions were not sound,
From premises erroneous brought,
And therefore the deduction's nought,
And must have contrary effects
To what her treacherous foe expects.
In proper season Pallas meets
The queen of love, whom thus she greets
(For Gods, we are by Homer told,
Can in celestial language scold),
"Perfidious Goddess! but in vain
You formed this project in your brain,
A project for thy talents fit,
With much deceit, and little wit;
Thou hast, as thou shalt quickly see,
Deceived thyself instead of me;
For how can heavenly wisdom prove
An instrument to earthly love?
Know'st thou not yet that men commence
Thy votaries, for want of sense?
Nor shall Vanessa be the theme
To manage thy abortive scheme;
She'll prove the greatest of thy foes,
And yet I scorn to interpose,
But using neither skill nor force,
Leave all things to their natural course."
The goddess thus pronounced her doom,
When, lo, Vanessa in her bloom,
Advanced like Atalanta's star,
But rarely seen, and seen from far:
In a new world with caution stepped,
Watched all the company she kept,
Well knowing from the books she read
What dangerous paths young virgins tread;
Would seldom at the park appear,
Nor saw the play-house twice a year;
Yet not incurious, was inclined
To know the converse of mankind.
First issued from perfumers' shops
A crowd of fashionable fops;
They liked her how she liked the play?
Then told the tattle of the day,
A duel fought last night at two
About a lady - you know who;
Mentioned a new Italian, come
Either from Muscovy or Rome;
Gave hints of who and who's together;
Then fell to talking of the weather:
Last night was so extremely fine,
The ladies walked till after nine.
Then in soft voice, and speech absurd,
With nonsense every second word,
With fustian from exploded plays,
They celebrate her beauty's praise,
Run o'er their cant of stupid lies,
And tell the murders of her eyes.
With silent scorn Vanessa sat,
Scarce list'ning to their idle chat;
Further than sometimes by a frown,
When they grew pert, to pull them down.
At last she spitefully was bent
To try their wisdom's full extent;
And said, she valued nothing less
Than titles, figure, shape, and dress;
That merit should be chiefly placed
In judgment, knowledge, wit, and taste;
And these, she offered to dispute,
Alone distinguished man from brute:
That present times have no pretence
To virtue, in the noble sense
By Greeks and Romans understood,
To perish for our country's good.
She named the ancient heroes round,
Explained for what they were renowned;
Then spoke with censure, or applause,
Of foreign customs, rites, and laws;
Through nature and through art she ranged,
And gracefully her subject changed:
In vain; her hearers had no share
In all she spoke, except to stare.
Their judgment was upon the whole,
- That lady is the dullest soul -
Then tipped their forehead in a jeer,
As who should say - she wants it here;
She may be handsome, young, and rich,
But none will burn her for a witch.
A party next of glittering dames,
From round the purlieus of St. James,
Came early, out of pure goodwill,
To see the girl in deshabille.
Their clamour 'lighting from their chairs,
Grew louder, all the way up stairs;
At entrance loudest, where they found
The room with volumes littered round,
Vanessa held Montaigne, and read,
Whilst Mrs. Susan combed her head:
They called for tea and chocolate,
And fell into their usual chat,
Discoursing with important face,
On ribbons, fans, and gloves, and lace:
Showed patterns just from India brought,
And gravely asked her what she thought,
Whether the red or green were best,
And what they cost? Vanessa guessed,
As came into her fancy first,
Named half the rates, and liked the worst.
To scandal next - What awkward thing
Was that, last Sunday, in the ring?
I'm sorry Mopsa breaks so fast;
I said her face would never last,
Corinna with that youthful air,
Is thirty, and a bit to spare.
Her fondness for a certain earl
Began, when I was but a girl.
Phyllis, who but a month ago
Was married to the Tunbridge beau,
I saw coquetting t'other night
In public with that odious knight.
They rallied next Vanessa's dress;
That gown was made for old Queen Bess.
Dear madam, let me set your head;
Don't you intend to put on red?
A petticoat without a hoop!
Sure, you are not ashamed to stoop;
With handsome garters at your knees,
No matter what a fellow sees.
Filled with disdain, with rage inflamed,
Both of herself and sex ashamed,
The nymph stood silent out of spite,
Nor would vouchsafe to set them right.
Away the fair detractors went,
And gave, by turns, their censures vent.
She's not so handsome in my eyes:
For wit, I wonder where it lies.
She's fair and clean, and that's the most;
But why proclaim her for a toast?
A baby face, no life, no airs,
But what she learnt at country fairs.
Scarce knows what difference is between
Rich Flanders lace, and Colberteen.
I'll undertake my little Nancy,
In flounces has a better fancy.
With all her wit, I would not ask
Her judgment, how to buy a mask.
We begged her but to patch her face,
She never hit one proper place;
Which every girl at five years old
Can do as soon as she is told.
I own, that out-of-fashion stuff
Becomes the creature well enough.
The girl might pass, if we could get her
To know the world a little better.
(TO KNOW THE WORLD! a modern phrase
For visits, ombre, balls, and plays.)
Thus, to the world's perpetual shame,
The queen of beauty lost her aim,
Too late with grief she understood
Pallas had done more harm than good;
For great examples are but vain,
Where ignorance begets disdain.
Both sexes, armed with guilt and spite,
Against Vanessa's power unite;
To copy her few nymphs aspired;
Her virtues fewer swains admired;
So stars, beyond a certain height,
Give mortals neither heat nor light.
Yet some of either sex, endowed
With gifts superior to the crowd,
With virtue, knowledge, taste, and wit,
She condescended to admit;
With pleasing arts she could reduce
Men's talents to their proper use;
And with address each genius hold
To that wherein it most excelled;
Thus making others' wisdom known,
Could please them and improve her own.
A modest youth said something new,
She placed it in the strongest view.
All humble worth she strove to raise;
Would not be praised, yet loved to praise.
The learned met with free approach,
Although they came not in a coach.
Some clergy too she would allow,
Nor quarreled at their awkward bow.
But this was for Cadenus' sake;
A gownman of a different make.
Whom Pallas, once Vanessa's tutor,
Had fixed on for her coadjutor.
But Cupid, full of mischief, longs
To vindicate his mother's wrongs.
On Pallas all attempts are vain;
One way he knows to give her pain;
Vows on Vanessa's heart to take
Due vengeance, for her patron's sake.
Those early seeds by Venus sown,
In spite of Pallas, now were grown;
And Cupid hoped they would improve
By time, and ripen into love.
The boy made use of all his craft,
In vain discharging many a shaft,
Pointed at colonels, lords, and beaux;
Cadenus warded off the blows,
For placing still some book betwixt,
The darts were in the cover fixed,
Or often blunted and recoiled,
On Plutarch's morals struck, were spoiled.
The queen of wisdom could foresee,
But not prevent the Fates decree;
And human caution tries in vain
To break that adamantine chain.
Vanessa, though by Pallas taught,
By love invulnerable thought,
Searching in books for wisdom's aid,
Was, in the very search, betrayed.
Cupid, though all his darts were lost,
Yet still resolved to spare no cost;
He could not answer to his fame
The triumphs of that stubborn dame,
A nymph so hard to be subdued,
Who neither was coquette nor prude.
I find, says he, she wants a doctor,
Both to adore her, and instruct her:
I'll give her what she most admires,
Among those venerable sires.
Cadenus is a subject fit,
Grown old in politics and wit;
Caressed by Ministers of State,
Of half mankind the dread and hate.
Whate'er vexations love attend,
She need no rivals apprehend
Her sex, with universal voice,
Must laugh at her capricious choice.
Cadenus many things had writ,
Vanessa much esteemed his wit,
And called for his poetic works!
Meantime the boy in secret lurks.
And while the book was in her hand,
The urchin from his private stand
Took aim, and shot with all his strength
A dart of such prodigious length,
It pierced the feeble volume through,
And deep transfixed her bosom too.
Some lines, more moving than the rest,
Struck to the point that pierced her breast;
And, borne directly to the heart,
With pains unknown, increased her smart.
Vanessa, not in years a score,
Dreams of a gown of forty-four;
Imaginary charms can find,
In eyes with reading almost blind;
Cadenus now no more appears
Declined in health, advanced in years.
She fancies music in his tongue,
Nor farther looks, but thinks him young.
What mariner is not afraid
To venture in a ship decayed?
What planter will attempt to yoke
A sapling with a falling oak?
As years increase, she brighter shines,
Cadenus with each day declines,
And he must fall a prey to Time,
While she continues in her prime.
Cadenus, common forms apart,
In every scene had kept his heart;
Had sighed and languished, vowed and writ,
For pastime, or to show his wit;
But time, and books, and State affairs,
Had spoiled his fashionable airs,
He now could praise, esteem, approve,
But understood not what was love.
His conduct might have made him styled
A father, and the nymph his child.
That innocent delight he took
To see the virgin mind her book,
Was but the master's secret joy
In school to hear the finest boy.
Her knowledge with her fancy grew,
She hourly pressed for something new;
Ideas came into her mind
So fact, his lessons lagged behind;
She reasoned, without plodding long,
Nor ever gave her judgment wrong.
But now a sudden change was wrought,
She minds no longer what he taught.
Cadenus was amazed to find
Such marks of a distracted mind;
For though she seemed to listen more
To all he spoke, than e'er before.
He found her thoughts would absent range,
Yet guessed not whence could spring the change.
And first he modestly conjectures,
His pupil might be tired with lectures,
Which helped to mortify his pride,
Yet gave him not the heart to chide;
But in a mild dejected strain,
At last he ventured to complain:
Said, she should be no longer teased,
Might have her freedom when she pleased;
Was now convinced he acted wrong,
To hide her from the world so long,
And in dull studies to engage
One of her tender sex and age.
That every nymph with envy owned,
How she might shine in the GRANDE-MONDE,
And every shepherd was undone,
To see her cloistered like a nun.
This was a visionary scheme,
He waked, and found it but a dream;
A project far above his skill,
For Nature must be Nature still.
If she was bolder than became
A scholar to a courtly dame,
She might excuse a man of letters;
Thus tutors often treat their betters,
And since his talk offensive grew,
He came to take his last adieu.
Vanessa, filled with just disdain,
Would still her dignity maintain,
Instructed from her early years
To scorn the art of female tears.
Had he employed his time so long,
To teach her what was right or wrong,
Yet could such notions entertain,
That all his lectures were in vain?
She owned the wand'ring of her thoughts,
But he must answer for her faults.
She well remembered, to her cost,
That all his lessons were not lost.
Two maxims she could still produce,
And sad experience taught her use;
That virtue, pleased by being shown,
Knows nothing which it dare not own;
Can make us without fear disclose
Our inmost secrets to our foes;
That common forms were not designed
Directors to a noble mind.
Now, said the nymph, I'll let you see
My actions with your rules agree,
That I can vulgar forms despise,
And have no secrets to disguise.
I knew by what you said and writ,
How dangerous things were men of wit;
You cautioned me against their charms,
But never gave me equal arms;
Your lessons found the weakest part,
Aimed at the head, but reached the heart.
Cadenus felt within him rise
Shame, disappointment, guilt, surprise.
He know not how to reconcile
Such language, with her usual style:
And yet her words were so expressed,
He could not hope she spoke in jest.
His thoughts had wholly been confined
To form and cultivate her mind.
He hardly knew, till he was told,
Whether the nymph were young or old;
Had met her in a public place,
Without distinguishing her face,
Much less could his declining age
Vanessa's earliest thoughts engage.
And if her youth indifference met,
His person must contempt beget,
Or grant her passion be sincere,
How shall his innocence be clear?
Appearances were all so strong,
The world must think him in the wrong;
Would say he made a treach'rous use.
Of wit, to flatter and seduce;
The town would swear he had betrayed,
By magic spells, the harmless maid;
And every beau would have his jokes,
That scholars were like other folks;
That when Platonic flights were over,
The tutor turned a mortal lover.
So tender of the young and fair;
It showed a true paternal care -
Five thousand guineas in her purse;
The doctor might have fancied worst, -
Hardly at length he silence broke,
And faltered every word he spoke;
Interpreting her complaisance,
Just as a man sans consequence.
She rallied well, he always knew;
Her manner now was something new;
And what she spoke was in an air,
As serious as a tragic player.
But those who aim at ridicule,
Should fix upon some certain rule,
Which fairly hints they are in jest,
Else he must enter his protest;
For let a man be ne'er so wise,
He may be caught with sober lies;
A science which he never taught,
And, to be free, was dearly bought;
For, take it in its proper light,
'Tis just what coxcombs call a bite.
But not to dwell on things minute,
Vanessa finished the dispute,
Brought weighty arguments to prove,
That reason was her guide in love.
She thought he had himself described,
His doctrines when she fist imbibed;
What he had planted now was grown,
His virtues she might call her own;
As he approves, as he dislikes,
Love or contempt her fancy strikes.
Self-love in nature rooted fast,
Attends us first, and leaves us last:
Why she likes him, admire not at her,
She loves herself, and that's the matter.
How was her tutor wont to praise
The geniuses of ancient days!
(Those authors he so oft had named
For learning, wit, and wisdom famed).
Was struck with love, esteem, and awe,
For persons whom he never saw.
Suppose Cadenus flourished then,
He must adore such God-like men.
If one short volume could comprise
All that was witty, learned, and wise,
How would it be esteemed, and read,
Although the writer long were dead?
If such an author were alive,
How all would for his friendship strive;
And come in crowds to see his face?
And this she takes to be her case.
Cadenus answers every end,
The book, the author, and the friend,
The utmost her desires will reach,
Is but to learn what he can teach;
His converse is a system fit
Alone to fill up all her wit;
While ev'ry passion of her mind
In him is centred and confined.
Love can with speech inspire a mute,
And taught Vanessa to dispute.
This topic, never touched before,
Displayed her eloquence the more:
Her knowledge, with such pains acquired,
By this new passion grew inspired.
Through this she made all objects pass,
Which gave a tincture o'er the mass;
As rivers, though they bend and twine,
Still to the sea their course incline;
Or, as philosophers, who find
Some fav'rite system to their mind,
In every point to make it fit,
Will force all nature to submit.
Cadenus, who could ne'er suspect
His lessons would have such effect,
Or be so artfully applied,
Insensibly came on her side;
It was an unforeseen event,
Things took a turn he never meant.
Whoe'er excels in what we prize,
Appears a hero to our eyes;
Each girl, when pleased with what is taught,
Will have the teacher in her thought.
When miss delights in her spinnet,
A fiddler may a fortune get;
A blockhead, with melodious voice
In boarding-schools can have his choice;
And oft the dancing-master's art
Climbs from the toe to touch the heart.
In learning let a nymph delight,
The pedant gets a mistress by't.
Cadenus, to his grief and shame,
Could scarce oppose Vanessa's flame;
But though her arguments were strong,
At least could hardly with them wrong.
Howe'er it came, he could not tell,
But, sure, she never talked so well.
His pride began to interpose,
Preferred before a crowd of beaux,
So bright a nymph to come unsought,
Such wonder by his merit wrought;
'Tis merit must with her prevail,
He never know her judgment fail.
She noted all she ever read,
And had a most discerning head.
'Tis an old maxim in the schools,
That vanity's the food of fools;
Yet now and then your men of wit
Will condescend to take a bit.
So when Cadenus could not hide,
He chose to justify his pride;
Construing the passion she had shown,
Much to her praise, more to his own.
Nature in him had merit placed,
In her, a most judicious taste.
Love, hitherto a transient guest,
Ne'er held possession in his breast;
So long attending at the gate,
Disdain'd to enter in so late.
Love, why do we one passion call?
When 'tis a compound of them all;
Where hot and cold, where sharp and sweet,
In all their equipages meet;
Where pleasures mixed with pains appear,
Sorrow with joy, and hope with fear.
Wherein his dignity and age
Forbid Cadenus to engage.
But friendship in its greatest height,
A constant, rational delight,
On virtue's basis fixed to last,
When love's allurements long are past;
Which gently warms, but cannot burn;
He gladly offers in return;
His want of passion will redeem,
With gratitude, respect, esteem;
With that devotion we bestow,
When goddesses appear below.
While thus Cadenus entertains
Vanessa in exalted strains,
The nymph in sober words intreats
A truce with all sublime conceits.
For why such raptures, flights, and fancies,
To her who durst not read romances;
In lofty style to make replies,
Which he had taught her to despise?
But when her tutor will affect
Devotion, duty, and respect,
He fairly abdicates his throne,
The government is now her own;
He has a forfeiture incurred,
She vows to take him at his word,
And hopes he will not take it strange
If both should now their stations change
The nymph will have her turn, to be
The tutor; and the pupil he:
Though she already can discern
Her scholar is not apt to learn;
Or wants capacity to reach
The science she designs to teach;
Wherein his genius was below
The skill of every common beau;
Who, though he cannot spell, is wise
Enough to read a lady's eyes?
And will each accidental glance
Interpret for a kind advance.
But what success Vanessa met
Is to the world a secret yet;
Whether the nymph, to please her swain,
Talks in a high romantic strain;
Or whether he at last descends
To like with less seraphic ends;
Or to compound the bus'ness, whether
They temper love and books together;
Must never to mankind be told,
Nor shall the conscious muse unfold.
Meantime the mournful queen of love
Led but a weary life above.
She ventures now to leave the skies,
Grown by Vanessa's conduct wise.
For though by one perverse event
Pallas had crossed her first intent,
Though her design was not obtained,
Yet had she much experience gained;
And, by the project vainly tried,
Could better now the cause decide.
She gave due notice that both parties,
CORAM REGINA PROX' DIE MARTIS,
Should at their peril without fail
Come and appear, and save their bail.
All met, and silence thrice proclaimed,
One lawyer to each side was named.
The judge discovered in her face
Resentments for her late disgrace;
And, full of anger, shame, and grief,
Directed them to mind their brief;
Nor spend their time to show their reading,
She'd have a summary proceeding.
She gathered under every head,
The sum of what each lawyer said;
Gave her own reasons last; and then
Decreed the cause against the men.
But, in a weighty case like this,
To show she did not judge amiss,
Which evil tongues might else report,
She made a speech in open court;
Wherein she grievously complains,
"How she was cheated by the swains."
On whose petition (humbly showing
That women were not worth the wooing,
And that unless the sex would mend,
The race of lovers soon must end);
"She was at Lord knows what expense,
To form a nymph of wit and sense;
A model for her sex designed,
Who never could one lover find,
She saw her favour was misplaced;
The follows had a wretched taste;
She needs must tell them to their face,
They were a senseless, stupid race;
And were she to begin again,
She'd study to reform the men;
Or add some grains of folly more
To women than they had before.
To put them on an equal foot;
And this, or nothing else, would do't.
This might their mutual fancy strike,
Since every being loves its like.
But now, repenting what was done,
She left all business to her son;
She puts the world in his possession,
And let him use it at discretion."
The crier was ordered to dismiss
The court, so made his last O yes!
The goddess would no longer wait,
But rising from her chair of state,
Left all below at six and seven,
Harnessed her doves, and flew to Heaven.
CHAPTER IX - STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, 1718.
STELLA this day is thirty-four
(We shan't dispute a year or more)
However, Stella, be not troubled,
Although thy size and years are doubled
Since first I saw thee at sixteen,
The brightest virgin on the green.
So little is thy form declined;
Made up so largely in thy mind.
Oh, would it please the gods to split
Thy beauty, size, and years, and wit,
No age could furnish out a pair
Of nymphs so graceful, wise, and fair:
With half the lustre of your eyes,
With half your wit, your years, and size.
And then, before it grew too late,
How should I beg of gentle fate,
(That either nymph might lack her swain),
To split my worship too in twain.
STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, 1720.
ALL travellers at first incline
Where'er they see the fairest sign;
And if they find the chambers neat,
And like the liquor and the meat,
Will call again and recommend
The Angel Inn to every friend
What though the painting grows decayed,
The house will never lose its trade:
Nay, though the treach'rous tapster Thomas
Hangs a new angel two doors from us,
As fine as daubers' hands can make it,
In hopes that strangers may mistake it,
We think it both a shame and sin,
To quit the true old Angel Inn.
Now, this is Stella's case in fact,
An angel's face, a little cracked
(Could poets, or could painters fix
How angels look at, thirty-six):
This drew us in at first, to find
In such a form an angel's mind;
And every virtue now supplies
The fainting rays of Stella's eyes.
See, at her levee, crowding swains,
Whom Stella freely entertains,
With breeding, humour, wit, and sense;
And puts them but to small expense;
Their mind so plentifully fills,
And makes such reasonable bills,
So little gets for what she gives,
We really wonder how she lives!
And had her stock been less, no doubt,
She must have long ago run out.
Then who can think we'll quit the place,
When Doll hangs out a newer face;
Or stop and light at Cloe's Head,
With scraps and leavings to be fed.
Then Cloe, still go on to prate
Of thirty-six, and thirty-eight;
Pursue your trade of scandal picking,
Your hints that Stella is no chicken.
Your innuendoes when you tell us,
That Stella loves to talk with fellows;
And let me warn you to believe
A truth, for which your soul should grieve:
That should you live to see the day
When Stella's locks, must all be grey,
When age must print a furrowed trace
On every feature of her face;
Though you and all your senseless tribe,
Could art, or time, or nature bribe
To make you look like beauty's queen,
And hold for ever at fifteen;
No bloom of youth can ever blind
The cracks and wrinkles of your mind;
All men of sense will pass your door,
And crowd to Stella's at fourscore.
A GREAT BOTTLE OF WINE, LONG BURIED, BEING THAT DAY DUG UP. 1722.
Resolved my annual verse to pay,
By duty bound, on Stella's day;
Furnished with paper, pens, and ink,
I gravely sat me down to think:
I bit my nails, and scratched my head,
But found my wit and fancy fled;
Or, if with more than usual pain,
A thought came slowly from my brain,
It cost me Lord knows how much time
To shape it into sense and rhyme;
And, what was yet a greater curse,
Long-thinking made my fancy worse
Forsaken by th' inspiring nine,
I waited at Apollo's shrine;
I told him what the world would sa
If Stella were unsung to-day;
How I should hide my head for shame,
When both the Jacks and Robin came;
How Ford would frown, how Jim would leer,
How Sh-r the rogue would sneer,
And swear it does not always follow,
That SEMEL'N ANNO RIDET Apollo.
I have assured them twenty times,
That Phoebus helped me in my rhymes,
Phoebus inspired me from above,
And he and I were hand and glove.
But finding me so dull and dry since,
They'll call it all poetic licence.
And when I brag of aid divine,
Think Eusden's right as good as mine.
Nor do I ask for Stella's sake;
'Tis my own credit lies at stake.
And Stella will be sung, while I
Can only be a stander by.
Apollo having thought a little,
Returned this answer to a tittle.
Tho' you should live like old Methusalem,
I furnish hints, and you should use all 'em,
You yearly sing as she grows old,
You'd leave her virtues half untold.
But to say truth, such dulness reigns
Through the whole set of Irish Deans;
I'm daily stunned with such a medley,
Dean W-, Dean D-l, and Dean S-;
That let what Dean soever come,
My orders are, I'm not at home;
And if your voice had not been loud,
You must have passed among the crowd.
But, now your danger to prevent,
You must apply to Mrs. Brent,
For she, as priestess, knows the rites
Wherein the God of Earth delights.
First, nine ways looking, let her stand
With an old poker in her hand;
Let her describe a circle round
In Saunder's cellar on the ground
A spade let prudent Archy hold,
And with discretion dig the mould;
Let Stella look with watchful eye,
Rebecea, Ford, and Grattons by.
Behold the bottle, where it lies
With neck elated tow'rds the skies!
The god of winds, and god of fire,
Did to its wondrous birth conspire;
And Bacchus for the poet's use
Poured in a strong inspiring juice:
See! as you raise it from its tomb,
It drags behind a spacious womb,
And in the spacious womb contains
A sovereign med'cine for the brains.
You'll find it soon, if fate consents;
If not, a thousand Mrs. Brents,
Ten thousand Archys arm'd with spades,
May dig in vain to Pluto's shades.
From thence a plenteous draught infuse,
And boldly then invoke the muse
(But first let Robert on his knees
With caution drain it from the lees);
The muse will at your call appear,
With Stella's praise to crown the year.
STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, 1724.
As when a beauteous nymph decays,
We say she's past her dancing days;
So poets lose their feet by time,
And can no longer dance in rhyme.
Your annual bard had rather chose
To celebrate your birth in prose;
Yet merry folks who want by chance
A pair to make a country dance,
Call the old housekeeper, and get her
To fill a place, for want of better;
While Sheridan is off the hooks,
And friend Delany at his books,
That Stella may avoid disgrace,
Once more the Dean supplies their place.
Beauty and wit, too sad a truth,
Have always been confined to youth;
The god of wit, and beauty's queen,
He twenty-one, and she fifteen;
No poet ever sweetly sung.
Unless he were like Phoebus, young;
Nor ever nymph inspired to rhyme,
Unless like Venus in her prime.
At fifty-six, if this be true,
Am I a poet fit for you;
Or at the age of forty-three,
Are you a subject fit for me?
Adieu bright wit, and radiant eyes;
You must be grave, and I be wise.
Our fate in vain we would oppose,
But I'll be still your friend in prose;
Esteem and friendship to express,
Will not require poetic dress;
And if the muse deny her aid
To have them sung, they may be said.
But, Stella say, what evil tongue
Reports you are no longer young?
That Time sits with his scythe to mow
Where erst sat Cupid with his bow;
That half your locks are turned to grey;
I'll ne'er believe a word they say.
'Tis true, but let it not be known,
My eyes are somewhat dimish grown;
For nature, always in the right,
To your decays adapts my sight,
And wrinkles undistinguished pass,
For I'm ashamed to use a glass;
And till I see them with these eyes,
Whoever says you have them, lies.
No length of time can make you quit
Honour and virtue, sense and wit,
Thus you may still be young to me,
While I can better hear than see:
Oh, ne'er may fortune show her spite,
To make me deaf, and mend my sight.
STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, MARCH 13, 1726.
THIS day, whate'er the Fates decree,
Shall still be kept with joy by me;
This day, then, let us not be told
That you are sick, and I grown old,
Nor think on our approaching ills,
And talk of spectacles and pills;
To-morrow will be time enough
To hear such mortifying stuff.
Yet, since from reason may be brought
A better and more pleasing thought,
Which can, in spite of all decays,
Support a few remaining days:
From not the gravest of divines
Accept for once some serious lines.
Although we now can form no more
Long schemes of life, as heretofore;
Yet you, while time is running fast,
Can look with joy on what is past.
Were future happiness and pain
A mere contrivance of the brain,
As Atheists argue, to entice,
And fit their proselytes for vice
(The only comfort they propose,
To have companions in their woes).
Grant this the case, yet sure 'tis hard
That virtue, styled its own reward,
And by all sages understood
To be the chief of human good,
Should acting, die, or leave behind
Some lasting pleasure in the mind.
Which by remembrance will assuage
Grief, sickness, poverty, and age;
And strongly shoot a radiant dart,
To shine through life's declining part.
Say, Stella, feel you no content,
Reflecting on a life well spent;
Your skilful hand employed to save
Despairing wretches from the grave;
And then supporting with your store,
Those whom you dragged from death before?
So Providence on mortals waits,
Preserving what it first creates,
You generous boldness to defend
An innocent and absent friend;
That courage which can make you just,
To merit humbled in the dust;
The detestation you express
For vice in all its glittering dress:
That patience under to torturing pain,
Where stubborn stoics would complain.
Must these like empty shadows pass,
Or forms reflected from a glass?
Or mere chimaeras in the mind,
That fly, and leave no marks behind?
Does not the body thrive and grow
By food of twenty years ago?
And, had it not been still supplied,
It must a thousand times have died.
Then, who with reason can maintain
That no effects of food remain?
And, is not virtue in mankind
The nutriment that feeds the mind?
Upheld by each good action past,
And still continued by the last:
Then, who with reason can pretend
That all effects of virtue end?
Believe me, Stella, when you show
That true contempt for things below,
Nor prize your life for other ends
Than merely to oblige your friends,
Your former actions claim their part,
And join to fortify your heart.
For virtue in her daily race,
Like Janus, bears a double face.
Look back with joy where she has gone,
And therefore goes with courage on.
She at your sickly couch will wait,
And guide you to a better state.
O then, whatever heav'n intends,
Take pity on your pitying friends;
Nor let your ills affect your mind,
To fancy they can be unkind;
Me, surely me, you ought to spare,
Who gladly would your sufferings share;
Or give my scrap of life to you,
And think it far beneath your due;
You to whose care so oft I owe
That I'm alive to tell you so.
CHAPTER X - TO STELLA,
VISITING ME IN MY SICKNESS, OCTOBER, 1727.
PALLAS, observing Stella's wit
Was more than for her sex was fit;
And that her beauty, soon or late,
Might breed confusion in the state;
In high concern for human kind,
Fixed honour in her infant mind.
But (not in wranglings to engage
With such a stupid vicious age),
If honour I would here define,
It answers faith in things divine.
As natural life the body warms,
And, scholars teach, the soul informs;
So honour animates the whole,
And is the spirit of the soul.
Those numerous virtues which the tribe
Of tedious moralists describe,
And by such various titles call,
True honour comprehends them all.
Let melancholy rule supreme,
Choler preside, or blood, or phlegm.
It makes no difference in the case.
Nor is complexion honour's place.
But, lest we should for honour take
The drunken quarrels of a rake,
Or think it seated in a scar,
Or on a proud triumphal car,
Or in the payment of a debt,
We lose with sharpers at piquet;
Or, when a whore in her vocation,
Keeps punctual to an assignation;
Or that on which his lordship swears,
When vulgar knaves would lose their ears:
Let Stella's fair example preach
A lesson she alone can teach.
In points of honour to be tried,
All passions must be laid aside;
Ask no advice, but think alone,
Suppose the question not your own;
How shall I act? is not the case,
But how would Brutus in my place;
In such a cause would Cato bleed;
And how would Socrates proceed?
Drive all objections from your mind,
Else you relapse to human kind;
Ambition, avarice, and lust,
And factious rage, and breach of trust,
And flattery tipped with nauseous fleer,
And guilt and shame, and servile fear,
Envy, and cruelty, and pride,
Will in your tainted heart preside.
Heroes and heroines of old,
By honour only were enrolled
Among their brethren in the skies,
To which (though late) shall Stella rise.
Ten thousand oaths upon record
Are not so sacred as her word;
The world shall in its atoms end
Ere Stella can deceive a friend.
By honour seated in her breast,
She still determines what is best;
What indignation in her mind,
Against enslavers of mankind!
Base kings and ministers of state,
Eternal objects of her hate.
She thinks that Nature ne'er designed,
Courage to man alone confined;
Can cowardice her sex adorn,
Which most exposes ours to scorn;
She wonders where the charm appears
In Florimel's affected fears;
For Stella never learned the art
At proper times to scream and start;
Nor calls up all the house at night,
And swears she saw a thing in white.
Doll never flies to cut her lace,
Or throw cold water in her face,
Because she heard a sudden drum,
Or found an earwig in a plum.
Her hearers are amazed from whence
Proceeds that fund of wit and sense;
Which, though her modesty would shroud,
Breaks like the sun behind a cloud,
While gracefulness its art conceals,
And yet through every motion steals.
Say, Stella, was Prometheus blind,
And forming you, mistook your kind?
No; 'twas for you alone he stole
The fire that forms a manly soul;
Then, to complete it every way,
He moulded it with female clay,
To that you owe the nobler flame,
To this, the beauty of your frame.
How would ingratitude delight?
And how would censure glut her spite?
If I should Stella's kindness hide
In silence, or forget with pride,
When on my sickly couch I lay,
Impatient both of night and day,
Lamenting in unmanly strains,
Called every power to ease my pains,
Then Stella ran to my relief
With cheerful face and inward grief;
And though by Heaven's severe decree
She suffers hourly more than me,
No cruel master could require,
From slaves employed for daily hire,
What Stella by her friendship warmed,
With vigour and delight performed.
My sinking spirits now supplies
With cordials in her hands and eyes,
Now with a soft and silent tread,
Unheard she moves about my bed.
I see her taste each nauseous draught,
And so obligingly am caught:
I bless the hand from whence they came,
Nor dare distort my face for shame.
Best pattern of true friends beware,
You pay too dearly for your care;
If while your tenderness secures
My life, it must endanger yours.
For such a fool was never found,
Who pulled a palace to the ground,
Only to have the ruins made
Materials for a house decayed.
CHAPTER XI - THE FIRST HE WROTE OCT. 17, 1727.
MOST merciful Father, accept our humblest prayers in behalf of this
Thy languishing servant; forgive the sins, the frailties, and
infirmities of her life past. Accept the good deeds she hath done
in such a manner that, at whatever time Thou shalt please to call
her, she may be received into everlasting habitations. Give her
grace to continue sincerely thankful to Thee for the many favours
Thou hast bestowed upon her, the ability and inclination and
practice to do good, and those virtues which have procured the
esteem and love of her friends, and a most unspotted name in the
world. O God, Thou dispensest Thy blessings and Thy punishments,
as it becometh infinite justice and mercy; and since it was Thy
pleasure to afflict her with a long, constant, weakly state of
health, make her truly sensible that it was for very wise ends, and
was largely made up to her in other blessings, more valuable and
less common. Continue to her, O Lord, that firmness and constancy
of mind wherewith Thou hast most graciously endowed her, together
with that contempt of worldly things and vanities that she hath
shown in the whole conduct of her life. O All-powerful Being, the
least motion of whose Will can create or destroy a world, pity us,
the mournful friends of Thy distressed servant, who sink under the
weight of her present condition, and the fear of losing the most
valuable of our friends; restore her to us, O Lord, if it be Thy
gracious Will, or inspire us with constancy and resignation to
support ourselves under so heavy an affliction. Restore her, O
Lord, for the sake of those poor, who by losing her will be
desolate, and those sick, who will not only want her bounty, but
her care and tending; or else, in Thy mercy, raise up some other in
her place with equal disposition and better abilities. Lessen, O
Lord, we beseech thee, her bodily pains, or give her a double
strength of mind to support them. And if Thou wilt soon take her
to Thyself, turn our thoughts rather upon that felicity which we
hope she shall enjoy, than upon that unspeakable loss we shall
endure. Let her memory be ever dear unto us, and the example of
her many virtues, as far as human infirmity will admit, our
constant imitation. Accept, O Lord, these prayers poured from the
very bottom of our hearts, in Thy mercy, and for the merits of our
blessed Saviour. AMEN.
CHAPTER XII - THE SECOND PRAYER WAS WRITTEN NOV. 6, 1727.
O MERCIFUL Father, who never afflictest Thy children but for their
own good, and with justice, over which Thy mercy always prevaileth,
either to turn them to repentance, or to punish them in the present
life, in order to reward them in a better; take pity, we beseech
Thee, upon this Thy poor afflicted servant, languishing so long and
so grievously under the weight of Thy Hand. Give her strength, O
Lord, to support her weakness, and patience to endure her pains,
without repining at Thy correction. Forgive every rash and
inconsiderate expression which her anguish may at any time force
from her tongue, while her heart continueth in an entire submission
to Thy Will. Suppress in her, O Lord, all eager desires of life,
and lesson her fears of death, by inspiring into her an humble yet
assured hope of Thy mercy. Give her a sincere repentance for all
her transgressions and omissions, and a firm resolution to pass the
remainder of her life in endeavouring to her utmost to observe all
thy precepts. We beseech Thee likewise to compose her thoughts,
and preserve to her the use of her memory and reason during the
course of her sickness. Give her a true conception of the vanity,
folly, and insignificancy of all human things; and strengthen her
so as to beget in her a sincere love of Thee in the midst of her
sufferings. Accept and impute all her good deeds, and forgive her
all those offences against Thee, which she hath sincerely repented
of, or through the frailty of memory hath forgot. And now, O Lord,
we turn to Thee in behalf of ourselves, and the rest of her
sorrowful friends. Let not our grief afflict her mind, and thereby
have an ill effect on her present distemper. Forgive the sorrow
and weakness of those among us who sink under the grief and terror
of losing so dear and useful a friend. Accept and pardon our most
earnest prayers and wishes for her longer continuance in this evil
world, to do what Thou art pleased to call Thy service, and is only
her bounden duty; that she may be still a comfort to us, and to all
others, who will want the benefit of her conversation, her advice,
her good offices, or her charity. And since Thou hast promised
that where two or three are gathered together in Thy Name, Thou
wilt be in the midst of them to grant their request, O Gracious
Lord, grant to us who are here met in Thy Name, that those
requests, which in the utmost sincerity and earnestness of our
hearts we have now made in behalf of this Thy distressed servant,
and of ourselves, may effectually be answered; through the merits
of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN,
CHAPTER XIII - THE BEASTS' CONFESSION (1732).
WHEN beasts could speak (the learned say
They still can do so every day),
It seems, they had religion then,
As much as now we find in men.
It happened when a plague broke out
(Which therefore made them more devout)
The king of brutes (to make it plain,
Of quadrupeds I only mean),
By proclamation gave command,
That every subject in the land
Should to the priest confess their sins;
And thus the pious wolf begins:
Good father, I must own with shame,
That, often I have been to blame:
I must confess, on Friday last,
Wretch that I was, I broke my fast:
But I defy the basest tongue
To prove I did my neighbour wrong;
Or ever went to seek my food
By rapine, theft, or thirst of blood.
The ass approaching next, confessed,
That in his heart he loved a jest:
A wag he was, he needs must own,
And could not let a dunce alone:
Sometimes his friend he would not spare,
And might perhaps be too severe:
But yet, the worst that could be said,
He was a wit both born and bred;
And, if it be a sin or shame,
Nature alone must bear the blame:
One fault he hath, is sorry for't,
His ears are half a foot too short;
Which could he to the standard bring,
He'd show his face before the king:
Then, for his voice, there's none disputes
That he's the nightingale of brutes.
The swine with contrite heart allowed,
His shape and beauty made him proud:
In diet was perhaps too nice,
But gluttony was ne'er his vice:
In every turn of life content,
And meekly took what fortune sent:
Enquire through all the parish round,
A better neighbour ne'er was found:
His vigilance might seine displease;
'Tis true, he hated sloth like pease.
The mimic ape began his chatter,
How evil tongues his life bespatter:
Much of the cens'ring world complained,
Who said his gravity was feigned:
Indeed, the strictness of his morals
Engaged him in a hundred quarrels:
He saw, and he was grieved to see't,
His zeal was sometimes indiscreet:
He found his virtues too severe
For our corrupted times to bear:
Yet, such a lewd licentious age
Might well excuse a stoic's rage.
The goat advanced with decent pace:
And first excused his youthful face;
Forgiveness begged, that he appeared
('Twas nature's fault) without a beard.
'Tis true, he was not much inclined
To fondness for the female kind;
Not, as his enemies object,
From chance or natural defect;
Not by his frigid constitution,
But through a pious resolution;
For he had made a holy vow
Of chastity, as monks do now;
Which he resolved to keep for ever hence,
As strictly, too, as doth his reverence.
Apply the tale, and you shall find
How just it suits with human kind.
Some faults we own: but, can you guess?
Why? - virtue's carried to excess;
Wherewith our vanity endows us,
Though neither foe nor friend allows us.
The lawyer swears, you may rely on't,
He never squeezed a needy client:
And this he makes his constant rule,
For which his brethren call him fool;
His conscience always was so nice,
He freely gave the poor advice;
By which he lost, he may affirm,
A hundred fees last Easter term.
While others of the learned robe
Would break the patience of a Job;
No pleader at the bar could match
His diligence and quick despatch;
Ne'er kept a cause, he well may boast,
Above a term or two at most.
The cringing knave, who seeks a place
Without success, thus tells his case:
Why should he longer mince the matter?
He failed because he could not flatter:
He had not learned to turn his coat,
Nor for a party give his vote.
His crime he quickly understood;
Too zealous for the nation's good:
He found the ministers resent it,
Yet could not for his heart repent it.
The chaplain vows he cannot fawn,
Though it would raise him to the lawn:
He passed his hours among his books;
You find it in his meagre looks:
He might, if he were worldly-wise,
Preferment get, and spare his eyes:
But owned he had a stubborn spirit,
That made him trust alone in merit:
Would rise by merit to promotion;
Alas! a mere chimeric notion.
The doctor, if you will believe him,
Confessed a sin, and God forgive him:
Called up at midnight, ran to save
A blind old beggar from the grave:
But, see how Satan spreads his snares;
He quite forgot to say his prayers.
He cannot help it, for his heart,
Sometimes to act the parson's part,
Quotes from the Bible many a sentence
That moves his patients to repentance:
And, when his medicines do no good,
Supports their minds with heavenly food.
At which, however well intended,
He hears the clergy are offended;
And grown so bold behind his back,
To call him hypocrite and quack.
In his own church he keeps a seat;
Says grace before and after meat;
And calls, without affecting airs,
His household twice a day to prayers.
He shuns apothecaries' shops;
And hates to cram the sick with slops:
He scorns to make his art a trade,
Nor bribes my lady's favourite maid.
Old nurse-keepers would never hire
To recommend him to the Squire;
Which others, whom he will not name,
Have often practised to their shame.
The statesman tells you with a sneer,
His fault is to be too sincere;
And, having no sinister ends,
Is apt to disoblige his friends.
The nation's good, his Master's glory,
Without regard to Whig or Tory,
Were all the schemes he had in view;
Yet he was seconded by few:
Though some had spread a thousand lies,
'Twas he defeated the Excise.
'Twas known, though he had borne aspersion,
That standing troops were his aversion:
His practice was, in every station,
To serve the king, and please the nation.
Though hard to find in every case
The fittest man to fill a place:
His promises he ne'er forgot,
But took memorials on the spot:
His enemies, for want of charity,
Said he affected popularity:
'Tis true, the people understood,
That all he did was for their good;
Their kind affections he has tried;
No love is lost on either side.
He came to court with fortune clear,
Which now he runs out every year;
Must, at the rate that he goes on,
Inevitably be undone.
Oh! if his Majesty would please
To give him but a writ of ease,
Would grant him license to retire,
As it hath long been his desire,
By fair accounts it would be found,
He's poorer by ten thousand pound.
He owns, and hopes it is no sin,
He ne'er was partial to his kin;
He thought it base for men in stations
To crowd the court with their relations:
His country was his dearest mother,
And every virtuous man his brother:
Through modesty or awkward shame
(For which he owns himself to blame),
He found the wisest men he could,
Without respect to friends or blood;
Nor never acts on private views,
When he hath liberty to choose.
The sharper swore he hated play,
Except to pass an hour away:
And well he might; for to his cost,
By want of skill, he always lost.
He heard there was a club of cheats,
Who had contrived a thousand feats;
Could change the stock, or cog a dye,
And thus deceive the sharpest eye:
No wonder how his fortune sunk,
His brothers fleece him when he's drunk.
I own the moral not exact;
Besides, the tale is false in fact;
And so absurd, that, could I raise up
From fields Elysian, fabling AEsop;
I would accuse him to his face,
For libelling the four-foot race.
Creatures of every kind but ours
Well comprehend their natural powers;
While we, whom reason ought to sway,
Mistake our talents every day:
The ass was never known so stupid
To act the part of Tray or Cupid;
Nor leaps upon his master's lap,
There to be stroked, and fed with pap:
As AEsop would the world persuade;
He better understands his trade:
Nor comes whene'er his lady whistles,
But carries loads, and feeds on thistles;
Our author's meaning, I presume, is
A creature BIPES ET IMPLUMIS;
Wherein the moralist designed
A compliment on human-kind:
For, here he owns, that now and then
Beasts may degenerate into men.
CHAPTER XIV - AN ARGUMENT TO PROVE THAT THE
ABOLISHING OF CHRISTIANITY IN ENGLAND
MAY, AS THINGS NOW STAND, BE ATTENDED WITH
SOME INCONVENIENCES, AND PERHAPS NOT PRODUCE
THOSE MANY GOOD EFFECTS PROPOSED THEREBY.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1708.
I AM very sensible what a weakness and presumption it is to reason
against the general humour and disposition of the world. I
remember it was with great justice, and a due regard to the
freedom, both of the public and the press, forbidden upon several
penalties to write, or discourse, or lay wagers against the - even
before it was confirmed by Parliament; because that was looked upon
as a design to oppose the current of the people, which, besides the
folly of it, is a manifest breach of the fundamental law, that
makes this majority of opinions the voice of God. In like manner,
and for the very same reasons, it may perhaps be neither safe nor
prudent to argue against the abolishing of Christianity, at a
juncture when all parties seem so unanimously determined upon the
point, as we cannot but allow from their actions, their discourses,
and their writings. However, I know not how, whether from the
affectation of singularity, or the perverseness of human nature,
but so it unhappily falls out, that I cannot be entirely of this
opinion. Nay, though I were sure an order were issued for my
immediate prosecution by the Attorney-General, I should still
confess, that in the present posture of our affairs at home or
abroad, I do not yet see the absolute necessity of extirpating the
Christian religion from among us.
This perhaps may appear too great a paradox even for our wise and
paxodoxical age to endure; therefore I shall handle it with all
tenderness, and with the utmost deference to that great and
profound majority which is of another sentiment.
And yet the curious may please to observe, how much the genius of a
nation is liable to alter in half an age. I have heard it affirmed
for certain by some very odd people, that the contrary opinion was
even in their memories as much in vogue as the other is now; and
that a project for the abolishing of Christianity would then have
appeared as singular, and been thought as absurd, as it would be at
this time to write or discourse in its defence.
Therefore I freely own, that all appearances are against me. The
system of the Gospel, after the fate of other systems, is generally
antiquated and exploded, and the mass or body of the common people,
among whom it seems to have had its latest credit, are now grown as
much ashamed of it as their betters; opinions, like fashions,
always descending from those of quality to the middle sort, and
thence to the vulgar, where at length they are dropped and vanish.
But here I would not be mistaken, and must therefore be so bold as
to borrow a distinction from the writers on the other side, when
they make a difference betwixt nominal and real Trinitarians. I
hope no reader imagines me so weak to stand up in the defence of
real Christianity, such as used in primitive times (if we may
believe the authors of those ages) to have an influence upon men's
belief and actions. To offer at the restoring of that, would
indeed be a wild project: it would be to dig up foundations; to
destroy at one blow all the wit, and half the learning of the
kingdom; to break the entire frame and constitution of things; to
ruin trade, extinguish arts and sciences, with the professors of
them; in short, to turn our courts, exchanges, and shops into
deserts; and would be full as absurd as the proposal of Horace,
where he advises the Romans, all in a body, to leave their city,
and seek a new seat in some remote part of the world, by way of a
cure for the corruption of their manners.
Therefore I think this caution was in itself altogether unnecessary
(which I have inserted only to prevent all possibility of
cavilling), since every candid reader will easily understand my
discourse to be intended only in defence of nominal Christianity,
the other having been for some time wholly laid aside by general
consent, as utterly inconsistent with all our present schemes of
wealth and power.
But why we should therefore cut off the name and title of
Christians, although the general opinion and resolution be so
violent for it, I confess I cannot (with submission) apprehend the
consequence necessary. However, since the undertakers propose such
wonderful advantages to the nation by this project, and advance
many plausible objections against the system of Christianity, I
shall briefly consider the strength of both, fairly allow them
their greatest weight, and offer such answers as I think most
reasonable. After which I will beg leave to show what
inconveniences may possibly happen by such an innovation, in the
present posture of our affairs.
First, one great advantage proposed by the abolishing of
Christianity is, that it would very much enlarge and establish
liberty of conscience, that great bulwark of our nation, and of the
Protestant religion, which is still too much limited by
priestcraft, notwithstanding all the good intentions of the
legislature, as we have lately found by a severe instance. For it
is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of real hopes,
bright wit, and profound judgment, who, upon a thorough examination
of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural abilities,
without the least tincture of learning, having made a discovery
that there was no God, and generously communicating their thoughts
for the good of the public, were some time ago, by an unparalleled
severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law, broke for
blasphemy. And as it has been wisely observed, if persecution once
begins, no man alive knows how far it may reach, or where it will
In answer to all which, with deference to wiser judgments, I think
this rather shows the necessity of a nominal religion among us.
Great wits love to be free with the highest objects; and if they
cannot be allowed a god to revile or renounce, they will speak evil
of dignities, abuse the government, and reflect upon the ministry,
which I am sure few will deny to be of much more pernicious
consequence, according to the saying of Tiberius, DEORUM OFFENSA
DIIS CUROE. As to the particular fact related, I think it is not
fair to argue from one instance, perhaps another cannot be
produced: yet (to the comfort of all those who may be apprehensive
of persecution) blasphemy we know is freely spoke a million of
times in every coffee-house and tavern, or wherever else good
company meet. It must be allowed, indeed, that to break an English
free-born officer only for blasphemy was, to speak the gentlest of
such an action, a very high strain of absolute power. Little can
be said in excuse for the general; perhaps he was afraid it might
give offence to the allies, among whom, for aught we know, it may
be the custom of the country to believe a God. But if he argued,
as some have done, upon a mistaken principle, that an officer who
is guilty of speaking blasphemy may, some time or other, proceed so
far as to raise a mutiny, the consequence is by no means to be
admitted: for surely the commander of an English army is like to
be but ill obeyed whose soldiers fear and reverence him as little
as they do a Deity.
It is further objected against the Gospel system that it obliges
men to the belief of things too difficult for Freethinkers, and
such who have shook off the prejudices that usually cling to a
confined education. To which I answer, that men should be cautious
how they raise objections which reflect upon the wisdom of the
nation. Is not everybody freely allowed to believe whatever he
pleases, and to publish his belief to the world whenever he thinks
fit, especially if it serves to strengthen the party which is in
the right? Would any indifferent foreigner, who should read the
trumpery lately written by Asgil, Tindal, Toland, Coward, and forty
more, imagine the Gospel to be our rule of faith, and to be
confirmed by Parliaments? Does any man either believe, or say he
believes, or desire to have it thought that he says he believes,
one syllable of the matter? And is any man worse received upon
that score, or does he find his want of nominal faith a
disadvantage to him in the pursuit of any civil or military
employment? What if there be an old dormant statute or two against
him, are they not now obsolete, to a degree, that Empson and Dudley
themselves, if they were now alive, would find it impossible to put
them in execution?
It is likewise urged, that there are, by computation, in this
kingdom, above ten thousand parsons, whose revenues, added to those
of my lords the bishops, would suffice to maintain at least two
hundred young gentlemen of wit and pleasure, and free-thinking,
enemies to priestcraft, narrow principles, pedantry, and
prejudices, who might be an ornament to the court and town: and
then again, so a great number of able [bodied] divines might be a
recruit to our fleet and armies. This indeed appears to be a
consideration of some weight; but then, on the other side, several
things deserve to be considered likewise: as, first, whether it
may not be thought necessary that in certain tracts of country,
like what we call parishes, there should be one man at least of
abilities to read and write. Then it seems a wrong computation
that the revenues of the Church throughout this island would be
large enough to maintain two hundred young gentlemen, or even half
that number, after the present refined way of living, that is, to
allow each of them such a rent as, in the modern form of speech,
would make them easy. But still there is in this project a greater
mischief behind; and we ought to beware of the woman's folly, who
killed the hen that every morning laid her a golden egg. For, pray
what would become of the race of men in the next age, if we had
nothing to trust to beside the scrofulous consumptive production
furnished by our men of wit and pleasure, when, having squandered
away their vigour, health, and estates, they are forced, by some
disagreeable marriage, to piece up their broken fortunes, and
entail rottenness and politeness on their posterity? Now, here are
ten thousand persons reduced, by the wise regulations of Henry
VIII., to the necessity of a low diet, and moderate exercise, who
are the only great restorers of our breed, without which the nation
would in an age or two become one great hospital.
Another advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity is the
clear gain of one day in seven, which is now entirely lost, and
consequently the kingdom one seventh less considerable in trade,
business, and pleasure; besides the loss to the public of so many
stately structures now in the hands of the clergy, which might be
converted into play-houses, exchanges, market-houses, common
dormitories, and other public edifices.
I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word if I call this a perfect
cavil. I readily own there hath been an old custom, time out of
mind, for people to assemble in the churches every Sunday, and that
shops are still frequently shut, in order, as it is conceived, to
preserve the memory of that ancient practice; but how this can
prove a hindrance to business or pleasure is hard to imagine. What
if the men of pleasure are forced, one day in the week, to game at
home instead of the chocolate-house? Are not the taverns and
coffee-houses open? Can there be a more convenient season for
taking a dose of physic? Is not that the chief day for traders to
sum up the accounts of the week, and for lawyers to prepare their
briefs? But I would fain know how it can be pretended that the
churches are misapplied? Where are more appointments and
rendezvouses of gallantry? Where more care to appear in the
foremost box, with greater advantage of dress? Where more meetings
for business? Where more bargains driven of all sorts? And where
so many conveniences or incitements to sleep?
There is one advantage greater than any of the foregoing, proposed
by the abolishing of Christianity, that it will utterly extinguish
parties among us, by removing those factious distinctions of high
and low church, of Whig and Tory, Presbyterian and Church of
England, which are now so many mutual clogs upon public
proceedings, and are apt to prefer the gratifying themselves or
depressing their adversaries before the most important interest of
I confess, if it were certain that so great an advantage would
redound to the nation by this expedient, I would submit, and be
silent; but will any man say, that if the words, whoring, drinking,
cheating, lying, stealing, were, by Act of Parliament, ejected out
of the English tongue and dictionaries, we should all awake next
morning chaste and temperate, honest and just, and lovers of truth?
Is this a fair consequence? Or if the physicians would forbid us
to pronounce the words pox, gout, rheumatism, and stone, would that
expedient serve like so many talismen to destroy the diseases
themselves? Are party and faction rooted in men's hearts no deeper
than phrases borrowed from religion, or founded upon no firmer
principles? And is our language so poor that we cannot find other
terms to express them? Are envy, pride, avarice, and ambition such
ill nomenclators, that they cannot furnish appellations for their
owners? Will not heydukes and mamalukes, mandarins and patshaws,
or any other words formed at pleasure, serve to distinguish those
who are in the ministry from others who would be in it if they
could? What, for instance, is easier than to vary the form of
speech, and instead of the word church, make it a question in
politics, whether the monument be in danger? Because religion was
nearest at hand to furnish a few convenient phrases, is our
invention so barren we can find no other? Suppose, for argument
sake, that the Tories favoured Margarita, the Whigs, Mrs. Tofts,
and the Trimmers, Valentini, would not Margaritians, Toftians, and
Valentinians be very tolerable marks of distinction? The Prasini
and Veniti, two most virulent factions in Italy, began, if I
remember right, by a distinction of colours in ribbons, which we
might do with as good a grace about the dignity of the blue and the
green, and serve as properly to divide the Court, the Parliament,
and the kingdom between them, as any terms of art whatsoever,
borrowed from religion. And therefore I think there is little
force in this objection against Christianity, or prospect of so
great an advantage as is proposed in the abolishing of it.
It is again objected, as a very absurd, ridiculous custom, that a
set of men should be suffered, much less employed and hired, to
bawl one day in seven against the lawfulness of those methods most
in use towards the pursuit of greatness, riches, and pleasure,
which are the constant practice of all men alive on the other six.
But this objection is, I think, a little unworthy so refined an age
as ours. Let us argue this matter calmly. I appeal to the breast
of any polite Free-thinker, whether, in the pursuit of gratifying a
pre-dominant passion, he hath not always felt a wonderful
incitement, by reflecting it was a thing forbidden; and therefore
we see, in order to cultivate this test, the wisdom of the nation
hath taken special care that the ladies should be furnished with
prohibited silks, and the men with prohibited wine. And indeed it
were to be wished that some other prohibitions were promoted, in
order to improve the pleasures of the town, which, for want of such
expedients, begin already, as I am told, to flag and grow languid,
giving way daily to cruel inroads from the spleen.
'Tis likewise proposed, as a great advantage to the public, that if
we once discard the system of the Gospel, all religion will of
course be banished for ever, and consequently along with it those
grievous prejudices of education which, under the names of
conscience, honour, justice, and the like, are so apt to disturb
the peace of human minds, and the notions whereof are so hard to be
eradicated by right reason or free-thinking, sometimes during the
whole course of our lives.
Here first I observe how difficult it is to get rid of a phrase
which the world has once grown fond of, though the occasion that
first produced it be entirely taken away. For some years past, if
a man had but an ill-favoured nose, the deep thinkers of the age
would, some way or other contrive to impute the cause to the
prejudice of his education. From this fountain were said to be
derived all our foolish notions of justice, piety, love of our
country; all our opinions of God or a future state, heaven, hell,
and the like; and there might formerly perhaps have been some
pretence for this charge. But so effectual care hath been since
taken to remove those prejudices, by an entire change in the
methods of education, that (with honour I mention it to our polite
innovators) the young gentlemen, who are now on the scene, seem to
have not the least tincture left of those infusions, or string of
those weeds, and by consequence the reason for abolishing nominal
Christianity upon that pretext is wholly ceased.
For the rest, it may perhaps admit a controversy, whether the
banishing all notions of religion whatsoever would be inconvenient
for the vulgar. Not that I am in the least of opinion with those
who hold religion to have been the invention of politicians, to
keep the lower part of the world in awe by the fear of invisible
powers; unless mankind were then very different from what it is
now; for I look upon the mass or body of our people here in England
to be as Freethinkers, that is to say, as staunch unbelievers, as
any of the highest rank. But I conceive some scattered notions
about a superior power to be of singular use for the common people,
as furnishing excellent materials to keep children quiet when they
grow peevish, and providing topics of amusement in a tedious winter
Lastly, it is proposed, as a singular advantage, that the
abolishing of Christianity will very much contribute to the uniting
of Protestants, by enlarging the terms of communion, so as to take
in all sorts of Dissenters, who are now shut out of the pale upon
account of a few ceremonies, which all sides confess to be things
indifferent. That this alone will effectually answer the great
ends of a scheme for comprehension, by opening a large noble gate,
at which all bodies may enter; whereas the chaffering with
Dissenters, and dodging about this or t'other ceremony, is but like
opening a few wickets, and leaving them at jar, by which no more
than one can get in at a time, and that not without stooping, and
sideling, and squeezing his body.
To all this I answer, that there is one darling inclination of
mankind which usually affects to be a retainer to religion, though
she be neither its parent, its godmother, nor its friend. I mean
the spirit of opposition, that lived long before Christianity, and
can easily subsist without it. Let us, for instance, examine
wherein the opposition of sectaries among us consists. We shall
find Christianity to have no share in it at all. Does the Gospel
anywhere prescribe a starched, squeezed countenance, a stiff formal
gait, a singularity of manners and habit, or any affected forms and
modes of speech different from the reasonable part of mankind?
Yet, if Christianity did not lend its name to stand in the gap, and
to employ or divert these humours, they must of necessity be spent
in contraventions to the laws of the land, and disturbance of the
public peace. There is a portion of enthusiasm assigned to every
nation, which, if it hath not proper objects to work on, will burst
out, and set all into a flame. If the quiet of a State can be
bought by only flinging men a few ceremonies to devour, it is a
purchase no wise man would refuse. Let the mastiffs amuse
themselves about a sheep's skin stuffed with hay, provided it will
keep them from worrying the flock. The institution of convents
abroad seems in one point a strain of great wisdom, there being few
irregularities in human passions which may not have recourse to
vent themselves in some of those orders, which are so many retreats
for the speculative, the melancholy, the proud, the silent, the
politic, and the morose, to spend themselves, and evaporate the
noxious particles; for each of whom we in this island are forced to
provide a several sect of religion to keep them quiet; and whenever
Christianity shall be abolished, the Legislature must find some
other expedient to employ and entertain them. For what imports it
how large a gate you open, if there will be always left a number
who place a pride and a merit in not coming in?
Having thus considered the most important objections against
Christianity, and the chief advantages proposed by the abolishing
thereof, I shall now, with equal deference and submission to wiser
judgments, as before, proceed to mention a few inconveniences that
may happen if the Gospel should be repealed, which, perhaps, the
projectors may not have sufficiently considered.
And first, I am very sensible how much the gentlemen of wit and
pleasure are apt to murmur, and be choked at the sight of so many
daggle-tailed parsons that happen to fall in their way, and offend
their eyes; but at the same time, these wise reformers do not
consider what an advantage and felicity it is for great wits to be
always provided with objects of scorn and contempt, in order to
exercise and improve their talents, and divert their spleen from
falling on each other, or on themselves, especially when all this
may be done without the least imaginable danger to their persons.
And to urge another argument of a parallel nature: if Christianity
were once abolished, how could the Freethinkers, the strong
reasoners, and the men of profound learning be able to find another
subject so calculated in all points whereon to display their
abilities? What wonderful productions of wit should we be deprived
of from those whose genius, by continual practice, hath been wholly
turned upon raillery and invectives against religion, and would
therefore never be able to shine or distinguish themselves upon any
other subject? We are daily complaining of the great decline of
wit among as, and would we take away the greatest, perhaps the only
topic we have left? Who would ever have suspected Asgil for a wit,
or Toland for a philosopher, if the inexhaustible stock of
Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with materials?
What other subject through all art or nature could have produced
Tindal for a profound author, or furnished him with readers? It is
the wise choice of the subject that alone adorns and distinguishes
the writer. For had a hundred such pens as these been employed on
the side of religion, they would have immediately sunk into silence
Nor do I think it wholly groundless, or my fears altogether
imaginary, that the abolishing of Christianity may perhaps bring
the Church in danger, or at least put the Senate to the trouble of
another securing vote. I desire I may not be mistaken; I am far
from presuming to affirm or think that the Church is in danger at
present, or as things now stand; but we know not how soon it may be
so when the Christian religion is repealed. As plausible as this
project seems, there may be a dangerous design lurk under it.
Nothing can be more notorious than that the Atheists, Deists,
Socinians, Anti-Trinitarians, and other subdivisions of
Freethinkers, are persons of little zeal for the present
ecclesiastical establishment: their declared opinion is for
repealing the sacramental test; they are very indifferent with
regard to ceremonies; nor do they hold the JUS DIVINUM of
episcopacy: therefore they may be intended as one politic step
towards altering the constitution of the Church established, and
setting up Presbytery in the stead, which I leave to be further
considered by those at the helm.
In the last place, I think nothing can be more plain, than that by
this expedient we shall run into the evil we chiefly pretend to
avoid; and that the abolishment of the Christian religion will be
the readiest course we can take to introduce Popery. And I am the
more inclined to this opinion because we know it has been the
constant practice of the Jesuits to send over emissaries, with
instructions to personate themselves members of the several
prevailing sects amongst us. So it is recorded that they have at
sundry times appeared in the guise of Presbyterians, Anabaptists,
Independents, and Quakers, according as any of these were most in
credit; so, since the fashion hath been taken up of exploding
religion, the Popish missionaries have not been wanting to mix with
the Freethinkers; among whom Toland, the great oracle of the Anti-
Christians, is an Irish priest, the son of an Irish priest; and the
most learned and ingenious author of a book called the "Rights of
the Christian Church," was in a proper juncture reconciled to the
Romish faith, whose true son, as appears by a hundred passages in
his treatise, he still continues. Perhaps I could add some others
to the number; but the fact is beyond dispute, and the reasoning
they proceed by is right: for supposing Christianity to be
extinguished the people will never he at ease till they find out
some other method of worship, which will as infallibly produce
superstition as this will end in Popery.
And therefore, if, notwithstanding all I have said, it still be
thought necessary to have a Bill brought in for repealing
Christianity, I would humbly offer an amendment, that instead of
the word Christianity may be put religion in general, which I
conceive will much better answer all the good ends proposed by the
projectors of it. For as long as we leave in being a God and His
Providence, with all the necessary consequences which curious and
inquisitive men will be apt to draw from such promises, we do not
strike at the root of the evil, though we should ever so
effectually annihilate the present scheme of the Gospel; for of
what use is freedom of thought if it will not produce freedom of
action, which is the sole end, how remote soever in appearance, of
all objections against Christianity? and therefore, the
Freethinkers consider it as a sort of edifice, wherein all the
parts have such a mutual dependence on each other, that if you
happen to pull out one single nail, the whole fabric must fall to
the ground. This was happily expressed by him who had heard of a
text brought for proof of the Trinity, which in an ancient
manuscript was differently read; he thereupon immediately took the
hint, and by a sudden deduction of a long Sorites, most logically
concluded: why, if it be as you say, I may safely drink on, and
defy the parson. From which, and many the like instances easy to
be produced, I think nothing can be more manifest than that the
quarrel is not against any particular points of hard digestion in
the Christian system, but against religion in general, which, by
laying restraints on human nature, is supposed the great enemy to
the freedom of thought and action.
Upon the whole, if it shall still be thought for the benefit of
Church and State that Christianity be abolished, I conceive,
however, it may be more convenient to defer the execution to a time
of peace, and not venture in this conjuncture to disoblige our
allies, who, as it falls out, are all Christians, and many of them,
by the prejudices of their education, so bigoted as to place a sort
of pride in the appellation. If, upon being rejected by them, we
are to trust to an alliance with the Turk, we shall find ourselves
much deceived; for, as he is too remote, and generally engaged in
war with the Persian emperor, so his people would be more
scandalised at our infidelity than our Christian neighbours. For
they are not only strict observers of religions worship, but what
is worse, believe a God; which is more than is required of us, even
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