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When this wild work first raised the attention of the publick, Sacheverell, meeting Smalridge, tried to flatter him, by seeming to think him the author; but Smalridge answered with indignation, “ Not all that you " and I have in the world, nor all that ever
we shall have, should hire me to write the “ Tale of a Tub.”
The digressions relating to Wotton and Bentley must be confessed to discover want of knowledge, or want of integrity; he did not understand the two controversies, or he willingly misrepresented them. But Wit can stand its ground against Truth only a little while. The honours due to learning have been justly distributed by the decision of posterity,
The Battle of the Books is so like the Combat des Livres, which the same question concerning the Ancients and Moderns had produced in France, that the improbability of fuch a coincidence of thoughts without communication is not, in my opinion, balanced by the anonymous protestation prefixed, in which all knowledge of the French book is peremptorily difowned,
For some time after Swift was probably employed in solitary study, gaining the qualifications requisite for future eminence. How often he visited England, and with what diligence he attended his parishes, I know not. It was not till about four years afterwards that he became a professed author, and then one year (1708) produced The Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man; the ridicule of Astrology, under the name of Bickerstaff; the Argument against abolishing Christianity; and the defence of the Sacramental Test.
The Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man is written with great coolness, moderation, ease, and perspicuity. The Argument against abolishing Christianity is a very happy and judicious irony. One passage in it deserves to be selected.
“ If Christianity were once abolished, how “ could the free-thinkers, the strong reason
ers, and the men of profound learning, be « able to find another subject so calculated, “ in all points, whereon to display their abi" lities? What wonderful productions of wit “ Theuld 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 o be able to shine, or distinguish themselves,
upon any other subject? We are daily complaining of the great decline of wit among us, and would take
great“ est, perhaps the only, topick we have left.
Who would ever have suspected Afgill for
a wii, or Toland for a philosopher, if the * inexhaustible stock of Christianity had not “ been at hand to provide them with mate“ rials? What other subject, through all art
or nature, could have produced Tindal for
a profound author, or furnished him with 66 readers? It is the wife choice of the sub“ ject that alone adorns and distinguishes the u writer. For had an hundred such pens as “ these been employed on the fide of reli“ gion, they would have immediately sunk “ into silence and oblivion."
The reasonableness of a Test is not hard to be proved; but perhaps it must be allowed that the proper test has not been chosen.
The attention paid to the papers published under the name of Bickerstaff, induced Steele,
when he projected the Tatler, to assume an appellation which had already gained poffeffion of the reader's notice.
In the year following he wrote a Project for the Advancement of Religion, addressed to Lady Berkley; by whose kindness it is not unlikely that he was advanced to his benefices. To this project, which is formed with great purity of intention, and displayed with spriteliness and elegance, it can only be objected, that, like many projects, it is, if not generally impracticable, yet evidently hopeless, as it supposes more zeal, concord, and perseverance, than a view of mankind gives reason for expecting.
He wrote likewise this year a Vindication of Bickerstaff; and an explanation of an Ancient Prophecy, which, though not completed in all its parts, cannot be read without amazement.
Soon after began the busy and important part of Swift's life. He was employed (1710) by the Primate of Ireland to solicit the Queen for a remission of the First Fruits and Twentieth parts to the Irish Clergy. With this
purpose he had recourse to Mr. Harley, to whom he was mentioned as a man neglected and oppressed by the last ministry, because he had refused to co-operate with some of their schemes. What he had refused, has never been told; what he had suffered was, I suppose, the exclusion from a bishoprick by the remonftrances of Sharpe, whom he defcribes as the harmless tool of others bate, and whom he represents as afterwards suing for pardon.
Harley's designs and situation were such as made him glad of an auxiliary so well qualified for his service; he therefore soon admitted him to familiarity, whether ever to confidence some have made a doubt; but it would have been difficult to excite his zeal without persuading him that he was trusted, and not very easy to delụde him by false perfuaficns.
He was certainly admitted to those meetings in which the first hints and original planı of action are supposed to have been formed; and was one of the sixteen Ministers, or agents of the Ministry, who
met weekly at 6