Vol. 3: Boyle, Frank T.

Type: Article

Boyle, Frank T. ‘Profane and Debauched Deist: Swift in the Contemporary Response to A Tale of A Tub’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 3 (1988), pp 25-38.

Boyle maintains that A Tale of A Tub, represents just “one battle in a continuing war over opposing views of human nature and reason”. Anglican divines regarded the satirical work as ‘profane’, accusing the author of deism, atheism, and misanthropy. The article mentions the criticisms of William King, William Wotton, and Francis Gastrell, but sees Samuel Clarke’s 1704 and 1705 Boyle lectures as “the most considerable attack on A Tale”, an attack which has “long been overlooked”. Though Toland was the Clarke’s main target, Boyle quotes sections of Clarke’s text attacking A Tale. Swift regarded his contemporary critics as “dunces, unable to distinguish between the rational fantasies of ‘brother modernists’ and the voice of the classical satirist who had risen to ridicule them”, and Boyle suggests that his rejection of the rational attitudes of his day was a rejection not only of freethinking rationalists like Toland, but also of modern Anglican divines like Clarke. Boyle stresses the importance of the renaissance and classical thinking which lay behind Swift’s criticisms of the modern world and reminds the reader that we, the intellectual descendents of Swift’s brother modernists, are in danger of not seeing our own faces in his satiric mirror.