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A Tale Of A Tub - The Tale of a Tub - Section XI - A Tale Of A Tub Post by :piano Category :Nonfictions Author :Jonathan Swift Date :July 2011 Read :2806

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A Tale Of A Tub - The Tale of a Tub - Section XI - A Tale Of A Tub

Section XI - A Tale Of A Tub

After so wide a compass as I have wandered, I do now gladly overtake
and close in with my subject, and shall henceforth hold on with it
an even pace to the end of my journey, except some beautiful
prospect appears within sight of my way, whereof, though at present
I have neither warning nor expectation, yet upon such an accident,
come when it will, I shall beg my reader's favour and company,
allowing me to conduct him through it along with myself. For in
writing it is as in travelling. If a man is in haste to be at home
(which I acknowledge to be none of my case, having never so little
business as when I am there), if his horse be tired with long riding
and ill ways, or be naturally a jade, I advise him clearly to make
the straightest and the commonest road, be it ever so dirty; but
then surely we must own such a man to be a scurvy companion at best.
He spatters himself and his fellow-travellers at every step. All
their thoughts, and wishes, and conversation turn entirely upon the
subject of their journey's end, and at every splash, and plunge, and
stumble they heartily wish one another at the devil.

On the other side, when a traveller and his horse are in heart and
plight, when his purse is full and the day before him, he takes the
road only where it is clean or convenient, entertains his company
there as agreeably as he can, but upon the first occasion carries
them along with him to every delightful scene in view, whether of
art, of Nature, or of both; and if they chance to refuse out of
stupidity or weariness, let them jog on by themselves, and be d--
n'd. He'll overtake them at the next town, at which arriving, he
rides furiously through, the men, women, and children run out to
gaze, a hundred noisy curs run barking after him, of which, if he
honours the boldest with a lash of his whip, it is rather out of
sport than revenge. But should some sourer mongrel dare too near an
approach, he receives a salute on the chaps by an accidental stroke
from the courser's heels, nor is any ground lost by the blow, which
sends him yelping and limping home.

I now proceed to sum up the singular adventures of my renowned Jack,
the state of whose dispositions and fortunes the careful reader
does, no doubt, most exactly remember, as I last parted with them in
the conclusion of a former section. Therefore, his next care must
be from two of the foregoing to extract a scheme of notions that may
best fit his understanding for a true relish of what is to ensue.

Jack had not only calculated the first revolution of his brain so
prudently as to give rise to that epidemic sect of AEolists, but
succeeding also into a new and strange variety of conceptions, the
fruitfulness of his imagination led him into certain notions which,
although in appearance very unaccountable, were not without their
mysteries and their meanings, nor wanted followers to countenance
and improve them. I shall therefore be extremely careful and exact
in recounting such material passages of this nature as I have been
able to collect either from undoubted tradition or indefatigable
reading, and shall describe them as graphically as it is possible,
and as far as notions of that height and latitude can be brought
within the compass of a pen. Nor do I at all question but they will
furnish plenty of noble matter for such whose converting
imaginations dispose them to reduce all things into types, who can
make shadows--no thanks to the sun--and then mould them into
substances--no thanks to philosophy--whose peculiar talent lies in
fixing tropes and allegories to the letter, and refining what is
literal into figure and mystery.

Jack had provided a fair copy of his father's will, engrossed in
form upon a large skin of parchment, and resolving to act the part
of a most dutiful son, he became the fondest creature of it
imaginable. For although, as I have often told the reader, it
consisted wholly in certain plain, easy directions about the
management and wearing of their coats, with legacies and penalties
in case of obedience or neglect, yet he began to entertain a fancy
that the matter was deeper and darker, and therefore must needs have
a great deal more of mystery at the bottom. "Gentlemen," said he,
"I will prove this very skin of parchment to be meat, drink, and
cloth, to be the philosopher's stone and the universal medicine."
In consequence of which raptures he resolved to make use of it in
the most necessary as well as the most paltry occasions of life. He
had a way of working it into any shape he pleased, so that it served
him for a nightcap when he went to bed, and for an umbrella in rainy
weather. He would lap a piece of it about a sore toe; or, when he
had fits, burn two inches under his nose; or, if anything lay heavy
on his stomach, scrape off and swallow as much of the powder as
would lie on a silver penny--they were all infallible remedies.
With analogy to these refinements, his common talk and conversation
ran wholly in the praise of his Will, and he circumscribed the
utmost of his eloquence within that compass, not daring to let slip
a syllable without authority from thence. Once at a strange house
he was suddenly taken short upon an urgent juncture, whereon it may
not be allowed too particularly to dilate, and being not able to
call to mind, with that suddenness the occasion required, an
authentic phrase for demanding the way to the back, he chose rather,
as the more prudent course, to incur the penalty in such cases
usually annexed; neither was it possible for the united rhetoric of
mankind to prevail with him to make himself clean again, because,
having consulted the will upon this emergency, he met with a passage
near the bottom (whether foisted in by the transcriber is not known)
which seemed to forbid it {145a}.

He made it a part of his religion never to say grace to his meat,
nor could all the world persuade him, as the common phrase is, to
eat his victuals like a Christian {145b}.

He bore a strange kind of appetite to snap-dragon and to the livid
snuffs of a burning candle {146a}, which he would catch and swallow
with an agility wonderful to conceive; and by this procedure
maintained a perpetual flame in his belly, which issuing in a
glowing steam from both his eyes, as well as his nostrils and his
mouth, made his head appear in a dark night like the skull of an ass
wherein a roguish boy hath conveyed a farthing-candle, to the terror
of his Majesty's liege subjects. Therefore he made use of no other
expedient to light himself home, but was wont to say that a wise man
was his own lanthorn.

He would shut his eyes as he walked along the streets, and if he
happened to bounce his head against a post or fall into the kennel
(as he seldom missed either to do one or both), he would tell the
gibing apprentices who looked on that he submitted with entire
resignation, as to a trip or a blow of fate, with whom he found by
long experience how vain it was either to wrestle or to cuff, and
whoever durst undertake to do either would be sure to come off with
a swingeing fall or a bloody nose. "It was ordained," said he
{146b}, "some few days before the creation, that my nose and this
very post should have a rencounter, and therefore Providence thought
fit to send us both into the world in the same age, and to make us
countrymen and fellow-citizens. Now, had my eyes been open, it is
very likely the business might have been a great deal worse, for how
many a confounded slip is daily got by man with all his foresight
about him. Besides, the eyes of the understanding see best when
those of the senses are out of the way, and therefore blind men are
observed to tread their steps with much more caution, and conduct,
and judgment than those who rely with too much confidence upon the
virtue of the visual nerve, which every little accident shakes out
of order, and a drop or a film can wholly disconcert; like a
lanthorn among a pack of roaring bullies when they scour the
streets, exposing its owner and itself to outward kicks and buffets,
which both might have escaped if the vanity of appearing would have
suffered them to walk in the dark. But further, if we examine the
conduct of these boasted lights, it will prove yet a great deal
worse than their fortune. It is true I have broke my nose against
this post, because Providence either forgot, or did not think it
convenient, to twitch me by the elbow and give me notice to avoid
it. But let not this encourage either the present age of posterity
to trust their noses unto the keeping of their eyes, which may prove
the fairest way of losing them for good and all. For, O ye eyes, ye
blind guides, miserable guardians are ye of our frail noses; ye, I
say, who fasten upon the first precipice in view, and then tow our
wretched willing bodies after you to the very brink of destruction.
But alas! that brink is rotten, our feet slip, and we tumble down
prone into a gulf, without one hospitable shrub in the way to break
the fall--a fall to which not any nose of mortal make is equal,
except that of the giant Laurcalco {147a}, who was Lord of the
Silver Bridge. Most properly, therefore, O eyes, and with great
justice, may you be compared to those foolish lights which conduct
men through dirt and darkness till they fall into a deep pit or a
noisome bog."

This I have produced as a scantling of Jack's great eloquence and
the force of his reasoning upon such abstruse matters.

He was, besides, a person of great design and improvement in affairs
of devotion, having introduced a new deity, who has since met with a
vast number of worshippers, by some called Babel, by others Chaos,
who had an ancient temple of Gothic structure upon Salisbury plain,
famous for its shrine and celebration by pilgrims.

When he had some roguish trick to play, he would down with his
knees, up with his eyes, and fall to prayers though in the midst of
the kennel. Then it was that those who understood his pranks would
be sure to get far enough out of his way; and whenever curiosity
attracted strangers to laugh or to listen, he would of a sudden
bespatter them with mud.

In winter he went always loose and unbuttoned, and clad as thin as
possible to let in the ambient heat, and in summer lapped himself
close and thick to keep it out {147b}.

In all revolutions of government, he would make his court for the
office of hangman-general, and in the exercise of that dignity,
wherein he was very dexterous, would make use of no other vizard
than a long prayer.

He had a tongue so musculous and subtile, that he could twist it up
into his nose and deliver a strange kind of speech from thence. He
was also the first in these kingdoms who began to improve the
Spanish accomplishment of braying; and having large ears perpetually
exposed and erected, he carried his art to such a perfection, that
it was a point of great difficulty to distinguish either by the view
or the sound between the original and the copy.

He was troubled with a disease the reverse to that called the
stinging of the tarantula, and would run dog-mad at the noise of
music, especially a pair of bagpipes {148a}. But he would cure
himself again by taking two or three turns in Westminster Hall, or
Billingsgate, or in a boarding-school, or the Royal Exchange, or a
state coffee-house.

He was a person that feared no colours, but mortally hated all, and
upon that account bore a cruel aversion to painters, insomuch that
in his paroxysms as he walked the streets, he would have his pockets
loaded with stones to pelt at the signs {148b}.

Having from his manner of living frequent occasions to wash himself,
he would often leap over head and ears into the water, though it
were in the midst of the winter, but was always observed to come out
again much dirtier, if possible, than he went in {148c}.

He was the first that ever found out the secret of contriving a
soporiferous medicine to be conveyed in at the ears {148d}. It was
a compound of sulphur and balm of Gilead, with a little pilgrim's

He wore a large plaister of artificial caustics on his stomach, with
the fervour of which he could set himself a groaning like the famous
board upon application of a red-hot iron.

He would stand in the turning of a street, and calling to those who
passed by, would cry to one, "Worthy sir, do me the honour of a good
slap in the chaps;" to another, "Honest friend, pray favour me with
a handsome kick in the rear;" "Madam, shall I entreat a small box in
the ear from your ladyship's fair hands?" "Noble captain, lend a
reasonable thwack, for the love of God, with that cane of yours over
these poor shoulders." And when he had by such earnest
solicitations made a shift to procure a basting sufficient to swell
up his fancy and his sides, he would return home extremely
comforted, and full of terrible accounts of what he had undergone
for the public good. "Observe this stroke," said he, showing his
bare shoulders; "a plaguy janissary gave it me this very morning at
seven o'clock, as, with much ado, I was driving off the Great Turk.
Neighbours mine, this broken head deserves a plaister; had poor Jack
been tender of his noddle, you would have seen the Pope and the
French King long before this time of day among your wives and your
warehouses. Dear Christians, the Great Moghul was come as far as
Whitechapel, and you may thank these poor sides that he hath not--
God bless us--already swallowed up man, woman, and child."

It was highly worth observing the singular effects of that aversion
or antipathy which Jack and his brother Peter seemed, even to
affectation, to bear towards each other. Peter had lately done some
rogueries that forced him to abscond, and he seldom ventured to stir
out before night for fear of bailiffs. Their lodgings were at the
two most distant parts of the town from each other, and whenever
their occasions or humours called them abroad, they would make
choice of the oddest, unlikely times, and most uncouth rounds that
they could invent, that they might be sure to avoid one another.
Yet, after all this, it was their perpetual fortune to meet, the
reason of which is easy enough to apprehend, for the frenzy and the
spleen of both having the same foundation, we may look upon them as
two pair of compasses equally extended, and the fixed foot of each
remaining in the same centre, which, though moving contrary ways at
first, will be sure to encounter somewhere or other in the
circumference. Besides, it was among the great misfortunes of Jack
to bear a huge personal resemblance with his brother Peter. Their
humour and dispositions were not only the same, but there was a
close analogy in their shape, their size, and their mien; insomuch
as nothing was more frequent than for a bailiff to seize Jack by the
shoulders and cry, "Mr. Peter, you are the king's prisoner;" or, at
other times, for one of Peter's nearest friends to accost Jack with
open arms: "Dear Peter, I am glad to see thee; pray send me one of
your best medicines for the worms." This, we may suppose, was a
mortifying return of those pains and proceedings Jack had laboured
in so long, and finding how directly opposite all his endeavours had
answered to the sole end and intention which he had proposed to
himself, how could it avoid having terrible effects upon a head and
heart so furnished as his? However, the poor remainders of his coat
bore all the punishment. The orient sun never entered upon his
diurnal progress without missing a piece of it. He hired a tailor
to stitch up the collar so close that it was ready to choke him, and
squeezed out his eyes at such a rate as one could see nothing but
the white. What little was left of the main substance of the coat
he rubbed every day for two hours against a rough-cast wall, in
order to grind away the remnants of lace and embroidery, but at the
same time went on with so much violence that he proceeded a heathen
philosopher. Yet after all he could do of this kind, the success
continued still to disappoint his expectation, for as it is the
nature of rags to bear a kind of mock resemblance to finery, there
being a sort of fluttering appearance in both, which is not to be
distinguished at a distance in the dark or by short-sighted eyes, so
in those junctures it fared with Jack and his tatters, that they
offered to the first view a ridiculous flaunting, which, assisting
the resemblance in person and air, thwarted all his projects of
separation, and left so near a similitude between them as frequently
deceived the very disciples and followers of both . . . Desunt
nonnulla, . . .

The old Sclavonian proverb said well that it is with men as with
asses; whoever would keep them fast must find a very good hold at
their ears. Yet I think we may affirm, and it hath been verified by
repeated experience, that -

"Effugiet tamen haec sceleratus vincula Proteus." {151a}

It is good, therefore, to read the maxims of our ancestors with
great allowances to times and persons; for if we look into primitive
records we shall find that no revolutions have been so great or so
frequent as those of human ears. In former days there was a curious
invention to catch and keep them, which I think we may justly reckon
among the artes perditae; and how can it be otherwise, when in these
latter centuries the very species is not only diminished to a very
lamentable degree, but the poor remainder is also degenerated so far
as to mock our skilfullest tenure? For if only the slitting of one
ear in a stag hath been found sufficient to propagate the defect
through a whole forest, why should we wonder at the greatest
consequences, from so many loppings and mutilations to which the
ears of our fathers and our own have been of late so much exposed?
It is true, indeed, that while this island of ours was under the
dominion of grace, many endeavours were made to improve the growth
of ears once more among us. The proportion of largeness was not
only looked upon as an ornament of the outward man, but as a type of
grace in the inward. Besides, it is held by naturalists that if
there be a protuberancy of parts in the superior region of the body,
as in the ears and nose, there must be a parity also in the
inferior; and therefore in that truly pious age the males in every
assembly, according as they were gifted, appeared very forward in
exposing their ears to view, and the regions about them; because
Hippocrates {151b} tells us that when the vein behind the ear
happens to be cut, a man becomes a eunuch, and the females were
nothing backwarder in beholding and edifying by them; whereof those
who had already used the means looked about them with great concern,
in hopes of conceiving a suitable offspring by such a prospect;
others, who stood candidates for benevolence, found there a
plentiful choice, and were sure to fix upon such as discovered the
largest ears, that the breed might not dwindle between them.
Lastly, the devouter sisters, who looked upon all extraordinary
dilatations of that member as protrusions of zeal, or spiritual
excrescences, were sure to honour every head they sat upon as if
they had been cloven tongues, but especially that of the preacher,
whose ears were usually of the prime magnitude, which upon that
account he was very frequent and exact in exposing with all
advantages to the people in his rhetorical paroxysms, turning
sometimes to hold forth the one, and sometimes to hold forth the
other; from which custom the whole operation of preaching is to this
very day among their professors styled by the phrase of holding

Such was the progress of the saints for advancing the size of that
member, and it is thought the success would have been every way
answerable, if in process of time a cruel king had not arose, who
raised a bloody persecution against all ears above a certain
standard {152a}; upon which some were glad to hide their flourishing
sprouts in a black border, others crept wholly under a periwig; some
were slit, others cropped, and a great number sliced off to the
stumps. But of this more hereafter in my general "History of Ears,"
which I design very speedily to bestow upon the public.

From this brief survey of the falling state of ears in the last age,
and the small care had to advance their ancient growth in the
present, it is manifest how little reason we can have to rely upon a
hold so short, so weak, and so slippery; and that whoever desires to
catch mankind fast must have recourse to some other methods. Now he
that will examine human nature with circumspection enough may
discover several handles, whereof the six {152b} senses afford one
apiece, beside a great number that are screwed to the passions, and
some few riveted to the intellect. Among these last, curiosity is
one, and of all others affords the firmest grasp; curiosity, that
spur in the side, that bridle in the mouth, that ring in the nose of
a lazy, an impatient, and a grunting reader. By this handle it is
that an author should seize upon his readers; which as soon as he
hath once compassed, all resistance and struggling are in vain, and
they become his prisoners as close as he pleases, till weariness or
dulness force him to let go his grip.

And therefore I, the author of this miraculous treatise, having
hitherto, beyond expectation, maintained by the aforesaid handle a
firm hold upon my gentle readers, it is with great reluctance that I
am at length compelled to remit my grasp, leaving them in the
perusal of what remains to that natural oscitancy inherent in the
tribe. I can only assure thee, courteous reader, for both our
comforts, that my concern is altogether equal to thine, for my
unhappiness in losing or mislaying among my papers the remaining
part of these memoirs, which consisted of accidents, turns, and
adventures, both new, agreeable, and surprising, and therefore
calculated in all due points to the delicate taste of this our noble
age. But alas! with my utmost endeavours I have been able only to
retain a few of the heads. Under which there was a full account how
Peter got a protection out of the King's Bench, and of a
reconcilement between Jack and him, upon a design they had in a
certain rainy night to trepan brother Martin into a spunging-house,
and there strip him to the skin. How Martin, with much ado, showed
them both a fair pair of heels. How a new warrant came out against
Peter, upon which Jack left him in the lurch, stole his protection,
and made use of it himself. How Jack's tatters came into fashion in
court and city; how he got upon a great horse and ate custard {153}.
But the particulars of all these, with several others which have now
slid out of my memory, are lost beyond all hopes of recovery. For
which misfortune, leaving my readers to condole with each other as
far as they shall find it to agree with their several constitutions,
but conjuring them by all the friendship that has passed between us,
from the title-page to this, not to proceed so far as to injure
their healths for an accident past remedy, I now go on to the
ceremonial part of an accomplished writer, and therefore by a
courtly modern least of all others to be omitted.

Content of Section XI (Jonathan Swift's ebook: A Tale of a Tub)

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