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At the request of Dunton our author wrote some Pindaric verses in honour of the Athenian Society,' whose labours were communicated to the world in 1691 and some following years : they were prefixed to Mr Gildon's History of its proceedings, and reprinted in the second volume of “The Athenian Oracle. Dunton, with whom the Athenian Society was a favourite project, “ glories in the thought that it has elicited poems written by the chief wits of the age, viz., Mr Motteux, Mr Foe, Mr Richardson, and, in particular, Mr Tate, now poet laureat.” Some bickerings of a private nature seem to have passed between our author and Dunton, and they are glanced at by the latter in the narrative of his life ; but his account of De Foe is, upon the whole, favourable : “Mr Daniel De Foe,” says he, “is a man of good parts and clear sense : his conversation is ingenious and brisk enough. The world is well satisfied that he's enterprising and bold; but, alas ! had his prudence only weighed a few grains more, he'd certainly have writ his “Shortest Way' a little more at length. There have been some men in all ages, who have taken that of Juvenal for their motto:
• Aude aliquid brevibus Gyaris et carcere dignum
Si vis esse aliquis.' Had he writ no more than his True-Born Englishman,' and spared some particular characters that are too vicious for the very originals, he had certainly deserved applause.”
The month of January 1701 produced the far-famed poem of the 'True-Born Englishman, a satire, printed in quarto, without a bookseller's name, of which the author himself published nine editions, and which was printed twelve times by other persons without his concurrence ; for at this period authors had not even the limited protection which they now enjoy. A work once printed was at the mercy of any Tegg of the day who chose to appropriate it. Of the cheap editions no fewer than 80,000 were disposed of.
The True-Born Englishman' was always a favourite production with De Foe, who associates himself with it in the title-page of various of his writings. Its publication had a favourable effect upon our author's fortunes, as it recommended him to the personal favour of King William ; for though his royal patron was no great lover or judge of poetry, he had discernment enough to perceive that De Foe would be a valuable ally, and he immediately expressed a desire to become acquainted with the author, who, on being sent for to the palace, conversed with the king, and had repeated interviews with him afterwards. The manners and sentiments of De Foe appear to have made such a favourable impression upon his Majesty that he ever afterwards regarded him with kindness, and employed him in many secret services, to which he alludes occasionally in his writings, though he nowhere specifies the particular nature of them, and the omission is not supplied by all the researches that have been made among the works of his contemporaries, whether friends or foes to the Government of King William. De Foe's next publication was “The Succession to the Throne of England Considered. London: 1701 ;' arising out of the death of the Duke of Gloucester, son of the Princess Anne, a circumstance which rendered it necessary to provide otherwise for the Protestant succession in England. Next followed the celebrated ‘Legion Letter,' and 'The History of the Kentish Petition ;' after which came “The Original Power of the Collective Body of the People of England Examined and Asserted,' a very powerful performance, the main argument of which is irresistible, as its language is forcible, and which produced a considerable impression upon the public mind. The subject is discussed with a gravity suited to its importance, and the illustrations are pointed and appropriate. It is a treatise of standing value, and worthy of an attentive perusal.
Upon the death of James II, (16th Sept. 1701,) the French king caused his son to be proclaimed King of England, Holland, and Ireland, and prevailed upon the King of Spain, the Pope, and the Duke of Savoy to follow his example. Indignant at this proceeding, the British monarch ordered his ambassador, the Earl of Manchester, to leave France, and directions were given for the removal of Monsieur Poussin, the French agent, from England. Louis published a memorial in justification of his conduct, and dispersed it in all the courts of Europe ; but it was far from satisfying either King William or his subjects, who were indignant at the interference of a foreign power in prescribing to them a king against their consent. Everything now indicated a speedy war, which seemed to have the concurrence of all parties here.
Although our author had a proper sense of the indignity offered to his sovereign by the acknowledgment of the Pretender, yet he did not think it amounted to a legitimate ground for war. Conceiving this, however, a favourable time for inviting the Jacobites to transfer their allegiance, he addressed them with that view in a pamphlet, entitled, “The Present State of Jacobitism Considered, &c. London : 1701 ;' which was followed, shortly afterwards, by “Reasons against a War with France. London : 1701,'one of the finest and most useful political tracts in the English language. It is distinguished for temperate discussion, for solid reasoning, and for well-pointed ridicule ; its arguments are applied with judgment, and they are such as would proceed from a man whose mind was well stored with political knowledge. King William having resolved upon a war, De Foe, notwithstanding the opinion he had expressed on the general question, was consulted by his sovereign upon several points relating to the impending hostilities, as he himself relates in one of his • Reviews' (1711), in the following terms : “I gave you an instance of a proposal which I had the honour to lay before his late majesty, at the beginning of the last war, for the sending a strong fleet to the Havannah, to seize that part of the island in which it is situated, and from thence to seize and secure the possession of at least the coast, if not by consequence, the Terra Firma of the empire of Mexico, and thereby entirely cut off the Spanish commerce, and the return of their plate fleets, by the immense riches whereof, and by which only, both France and Spain have been enabled to support this war. But the king died, in whose hands this glorious scheme was in a fair way of being concerted, and which, had it gone on, I had had the honour to have been not the first proposer only, but to have had some share in the performance.” The death of William, however, which occurred 8th of March, 1702, put a stop to these projects. By the demise of this excellent monarch, “more mortally wounded with the pointed rage of divided parties and an ungrateful people, than by the fall from his horse,” as De Foe expresses it, our author lost a kind friend and a powerful protector. In various parts of his writings he takes occasion to cherish his memory, and to embalm his name with the affection of a faithful servant for the best of masters, whilst, in the stinging language of reproof, he reminds the nation of the baseness and ingratitude of those who had so deeply wounded him by their conduct.
The unmanly conduct of a base faction towards the departed hero of England vented itself in the most indecent manner, before the breath was departed from his body, and afterwards in the most malignant speeches, toasts, and lampoons. As well to show his sense of a conduct so unnatural, as to testify his admiration for departed excellency, De Foc now produced • The Mock Mourners ; a Satire, by way of Elegy on King William. London : 1701 :' a work which met with the most favourable reception, and ran through five large editions in a few weeks.
Towards the latter end of this reign, De Foe took up his abode at Hackney, and resided there several years. Here some of his children were born and buried.
QUEEN ANNE, who succeeded to the crown on the death of William, was placed in no very graceful or dutiful position, as keeping lier brother from the throne, which she occupied as the next Protestant heir, but to which, in the opinion of many, and perhaps in her own, he had a prior indefeasible right. She had been brought up with bigoted notions of religion ; and in proportion as she felt the political ground infirm under her feet, she wished to stand well with the Church. There was, through her whole reign, therefore, a strong increasing bias to High Church principles. The promise of toleration to the Dissenters soon sunk into an indulgence, and ended in the threat and the intention of putting in force the severest laws against them, under pretence that the Church was in danger. The clergy sung the same song as the Queen, adding a burden of their own to it; breathing nothing in their sermons but abject submission to the throne, and suspicion and hatred of the Dissenters, reviving and inflaming old animosities, and encouraging their parishioners to proceed even to open violence against the frequenters of conventicles. Their services in bringing about the revolution were forgotten, and nothing was insisted on but their share in the great rebellion, and the beheading of Charles I. A university preacher (Sacheverell) talked of “ hoisting the bloody flag against the Dissenters, and treated all those of the moderate party and Low Church as false brethren who did not enlist under the banner,” Another proposed shutting up not only the Dissenters' meeting-houses, but their academies, thus taking from them the education of their children. A third was for using gentle violence with the Queen, to urge her to severe and salatary measures against Nonconformists, and considered her as under duresse in not being allowed to give full scope to the sentiments labouring in her bosom in favour of the Church of England.
De Foe perceived all this with quick and anxious eye ; he saw the storm of persecution gathering, and ready to burst with ten-fold vengeance from its having been so long delayed, and he thought it high time to warn his brethren of the impending mischief. His first attack upon the High Church party was in a pamphlet called 'A New Test of the Church of England's Loyalty; or, Whiggish Loyalty and Church Loyalty compared. London : 1702 ;'-in which he makes excellent use of the slavish tone of the sermons of the High Church clergy; and he next proceeded to point out to the government, in a terrible and palpable way, the dangerous and mad career to which the zealots of a party were urging them headlong ; “50 should his anticipation prevent their discovery.” He collected all the poisoned missiles and combustible materials he could lay his hands on, and patting them together in one heap, brought out his ‘Shortest Way with the Dissenters; a Proposal for the Establishment of the Church. London : 1702 ;-one of the finest, ablest, and most seasonable pamphlets ever published.
Knowing the nature of the game played by the High Church party, and the little impression that was to be made by sober argument, De Foe here resolved to change his mode of attack. The course of his studies, no less than taste and inclination, led him to acquaint himself with the writings of his opponents; and seeing the absurd lengths to which their intemperate zeal urged them, it occurred to him that, by personating the character of a High Church-man, and judiciously wielding the weapon of irony, he should have a fine opportunity of exposing their folly, and the wickedness of the cause they were so furious in promoting ; and he so artfully concealed his design, that, strange to tell, no one, either among those he wrote for, or among those he wrote against, had wit enough to comprehend it ; and yet one cannot peruse the ‘Shortest Way with the Dissenters' at this distance of time without being astonished with the extent of their stupidity. Every argument of intolerance and bigotry is therein set forth with the most laborious assumption of gravity, and such an invincible air of earnestness, that the zealots of both sides were alike taken in. The High Flyers, as he called them, did not dare to espouse openly the cause of one whom they considered in the light of a too bold and incautious adherent; while the deceived Dissenters, and their friends in Parliament, were loud in their cries of revenge against the best writer their cause could then boast.
« Such is the fate of too much wit,
Mistook and cursed by those that most are served by it." And their conduct added not a little to his sufferings. De Foe, in his explanation of his pamphlet, published immediately afterwards, seems, very naturally, particularly hurt with the Dissenters for continuing to misunderstand him, even after he had fully declared his meaning. Indeed, of their behaviour to De Foe, it is impossible to speak in terms creditable to their understandings ; for even after it was discovered that his arrows were shot at the 'High Flyers,' they united with their adversaries in attempting to crush him.
When the author and his design became fully known, and he was threatened with the vengeance of those whom he had so successfully opposed, he complained, “How hard it was that his intentions should not have been perceived by all the town, and that not one man could see it, either Churchman or Dissenter.” Mr Chalmers observes, “ This is one of the strongest proofs how much the minds of men were inflamed against each other, and how little the virtues of mutual forbearance and personal kindness existed amidst the clamour of contradiction which then shook the kingdom, and gave rise to some of the most remarkable events in our annals.” “That De Foe,” remarks Mr Hazlitt, “should have incurred the hatred, and been consigned to the vengeance of the High Church party for thus honestly exposing their designs against the Dissenters, is but natural ; the wonderful part is that he equally excited the indignation and reproaches of the Dissenters themselves; who disclaimed his work as a scandalous and inflammatory performance, and called loudly, in concert with their bitterest foes, for the condign punishment of the author. They almost with one voice, and as if seized with a contagion of folly, cried shame upon it, as an underhand and designing attempt to make a premature breach between them and the Established Church ; to sow the seeds of groundless jealousy and ill-will, and to make them indirectly participators in, and the sufferers by, a scurrilous attack on the reverence due to religion and authority. De Foe was made the scape-goat of this paltry and cowardly policy, and was given up to the tender mercies of the opposite party, without succour and sympathy. This extreme blindness to their own interests can only be explained by the consideration that the Dissenters, as a body, were at this time in a constant state of probation and suffering ; they had enough to do with the evils they actually endured, without “ Aying to others that they knew not of;" they stood in habitual awe and apprehension of their spiritual lords and masters ;would not be brought to suspect their further designs lest it should provoke them to realise their fears ; and as they had not strength nor spirit to avert the blow, did not wish to see till they felt it. The alacrity and prowess of De Foe was a reproach to their backwardness; the truth of his appeal implied a challenge to meet it; and they answered with the old excuse, “Why troublest thou us before our time.” The Dissenters, too, at this period, were men of a formal and limited scope of mind, not much versed in the general march of human affairs ; they required literal and positive proof for everything, as well as for the points of faith on which they held out so manfully; and their obstinacy in maintaining these, and suffering for them, was matched by their timid circumspection and sluggish impracticability with respect to everything else. Their deserting De Foe, who marched on at the head of the battle,-pushed forward by his keen fore
sight and natural impatience of wrongs, is not out of character, though equally repugnant to sound policy or true spirit. They fixed a stigma on him, therefore, of a breeder of strife, a false prophet, and a dangerous member of the community ; and what is certainly inexcusable, when, afterwards, his jest was turned to melancholy earnest ; when everything he had foretold was verified to the very letter ; when the whole force of the Government was arrayed against them, and Sacheverell in person unfurled his “bloody flag," and paraded the streets with a mob at his heels, pulling down their meeting-houses, burning their private dwellings, and making it unsafe for a Dissenter to walk the streets : they did not take off the stigma they had affixed to the author of "The Shortest Way with the Dissenters; did not allow that he was right and they were wrong, but kept up their unjust and illiberal prejudices, and even aggravated them in some instances, as if to prove that they were well founded. Bodies of men seldom retract or atone for the injuries they have done to individuals.*
The first detection of our author is said to have been owing to the industry of the Earl of Nottingham, one of the secretaries of state, whose vigilance and perseverance in the affair are highly lauded by Leslie. When his name became generally known, people were at no loss to decipher his object ; and all parties now concurred in pouring vengeance upon him for his unlucky wit, which no one had the charity to advance in his extenuation. As the party in power was inimical to the man, rather than to the principles of his book, it was resolved to crush him by a state prosecution. During the first ebullition of fury, De Foe, in contemplation of the rigour he was likely to meet with, sought concealment from the gathering tempest. A proclamation was issued by the government, offering a reward of fifty pounds for the discovery of his retreat, and advertised in the London Gazette,' for January 10, 1702-3. It ran as follows:
“Whereas Daniel De Foe, alias De Fooe, is charged with writing a scandalous and seditious pamphlet, entitled, “The Shortest Way with the Dissenters ;' he is a middlesized spare man, about forty years old, of a brown complexion, and dark brown-coloured
• “ De Foe had before this given violent offence to the Dissenters by dissenting from and disobliging them on a number of technical and doubtful points-a difference of which they seemed more tenacious than of the greatest affronts or deadliest injuries. Among other things, he had opposed the principle of occasional conformity, that is, the liberty practised by some Dissenters of going to church during their appointment to any public office, as they were prohibited from attending their own places of worship in their official costume. Nothing could be clearer than that, if it was a point of conscience with these persons not to conform to the service of the Established Church, their being chosen Mayor, Sheriff, or Aldermen, did not give them a dispensation to that purpose. But many of the demure and purse-proud citizens of London (among whom Mr Auditor Benson, his persecutor in after years, was a leader and shining light) resented their not being supposed at liberty to appear at church in their gold chains and robes of office, though contrary to their usual principles of non-conformity; as children think they have a right to visit fine places in their new clothes on holidays. Their rage against De Foe was at its height, when he had nothing to say against Harley's Tory Administration for bringing in The Occasional Con. furmity Bill, to debar Dissenters of this puerile and contradictory privilege. It was to the kindness and generosity of Harley, on this as well as on former occasions, in affording our author pecuniary aid, of which he was in the utmost need (being without means, friends, and in prison), and in rescuing him from the grasp of his own party, that we owe his silence on political and public questions during the last years of Queen Anne, and a line of conduct that, in the present day, seems wavering and equivocal. His gratitude for private benefits hardly condemned him to withhold bis opinions on public matters; but, at that time personal and private ties bore greater sway over general and public duties than is the case at present. We entirely acquit De Foe of dishonest or unworthy motives. He might easily have gone quite over to the other side if he had been inclined to make a market of himself; but of this he never betrayed the remotest intention, and merely refused to join in the hue and cry against a man who had twice saved him from starving in a