Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works, and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus

Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works, and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus

Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works, and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus

Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works, and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus

Excerpt

An account of the Scriblerus Club and its scheme must cover a long period of time and deal with many complex matters involving the personal, political, and literary activities of the six notable figures who formed its membership. From their earliest beginning to the publication of the principal piece, the activities which may be labeled Scriblerian spanned a period of almost three decades. During this time the fortunes of the scheme swelled and ebbed several times and its influence worked itself out in many different ways through the individual and collective productions of the members of the club. Because of its many ramifications and secondary effects, definite limits and boundaries are difficult to establish. Scriblerus was only one factor in the long and fruitful association of the men and it merges insensibly into other literary and social factors. By following the central thread of Scriblerus activity, however, we can trace the germination and development of the scheme and note some of its principal results.

The story of the club itself is a familiar one. Each of the biographers of the half dozen men involved has repeated the principal known facts and quoted from the famous letters exchanged by the members during the summer of 1714. But our knowledge of the club is still meager and even in the work of recent scholars there has been confusion about such fundamental matters as the date of its founding and the names of its members. Moreover, the relatively brief existence of the club is only a part of the Scriblerus story; much happened to bring the club about, much resulted from it. In an account of the Scriblerus association and its project, the club period therefore tends to take the form of a focal point toward which forces worked and from which complex consequences followed.

The founding of the club was far from a simple, spontaneous matter. Social clubs and literary associations were commonplace in the early eighteenth century, but the Scriblerus group was not a typical gathering of like-minded men. It was the result of a merger of two literary groups, one led by Swift and the other by Pope. These groups were very different in their character, and the motives of their leaders in joining forces were by no means similar. The elder group, consisting of Swift, Dr. Arbuthnot, Parnell, and the Earl of Oxford, brought to the common project prestige, experience, learning, humor -- and a very strong Tory coloring; the other section, composed of Pope and Gay, brought wit, youth, and ambition. To understand how the association of these men came about and why the club took the form it did, we need to trace . . .

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