An Introduction to: A Letter Concerning the Sacramental Test
- Abbreviated title
- A letter concerning the sacramental test
- JSA Identification Number
- Teerink/Scouten Number
- 25 (1a)
- ESTC Number
- Copy and its Location
- CUL , Williams 138
- Publisher and Printer
- Miscellanies in prose and verse, Vol. i., pp 215-248.
- London, Motte, Benjamin, 1727.
This Letter is one of the most heavily revised of Swift’s pieces. This edition follows the Miscellanies of 1711 by excluding two passages. A third is marked for deletion in one of Swift’s copies of this miscellany. The passage marked for deletion comes after a famous sentence in which Swift dismisses two writers: the first ‘the Fellow that was Pillor’ d, I forget his Name’ is Daniel Defoe; the second the writer of the Observator. Swift originally went on to condemn attacks on the archbishops of Canterbury and Dublin, generously praising the latter, but he marked the passage for deletion in a copy of the 1727 Miscellanies and deleted it in 1735. The two omitted passages are: (1) an attack on Broderick that carries with it a suggestion that he and his family would be better hanged; (2) a critique of three clergymen that had its omission explained in 1711. ‘I have taken Leave to omit about a Page which was purely Personal, and of no use to the Subject’.
Benjamin Motte inherited Tooke’s business and when Pope and Swift planned new volumes of miscellanies in the mid-1720s, they decided to use Motte as their bookseller and begin with what was mainly a reprint of the 1711 volume. The plan to produce volumes of miscellanies modelled on 1711 seems to have been hatched during Swift’s stay with Pope at Twickenham in the spring and summer of 1726. The basic plan had been for the first volume to reprint 1711, the second to focus on prose by Arbuthnot and Swift, and the third to contain verse by Swift and Pope. The third was called the ‘Final’ volume, but Pope then decided on a fourth one, unfortunately called the third. The volumes were to be published in London, by Motte, who had become Swift’s bookseller, and Pope, because he was on the spot (and liked doing that sort of thing) was to take charge of revising and editing. Tensions eventually arose because of Pope’s attitude to Swift’s poetry and Swift’s willingness to publish elsewhere; but surprisingly little evidence has emerged so far of Pope’s distorting the text of Swift’s work.
Benjamin Motte, Jr.’s father was a printer and a friend of Swift’s bookseller, Benjamin Tooke. He had intellectual interests, like his son, who was to publish an Abridgement of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Societ y. He died in 1710 and Motte took over the printing business from his mother when he came of age in 1715. He became a bookseller at the end of 1723 or the beginning of 1724, becoming a partner in the Tooke business. When Benjamin Tooke, Jr., died in May 1723, he left his bookselling business to his brother Samuel but a controlling interest to an older brother, Revd. Andrew Tooke, who was soon to become the censor of Gulliver’s Travels. Benjamin Motte joined Samuel Tooke in partnership shortly afterwards; perhaps he was helping out family friends, but it proved an expensive move. Samuel Tooke died in December 1724, leaving Motte in charge of the business, but when Andrew Tooke died in January 1732, Motte owed him £1,645. Motte’s financial problems with Gulliver’s Travels and the Miscellanies should be seen against this background. Motte gave up his Aldersgate printing house in 1726; in 1727 he bound Charles Bathurst as apprentice for the large sum of £80; he took Bathurst into partnership in 1734; he died intestate in April 1738; Bathurst carried on the business until he died in 1786. All my information on Motte comes from the innovative research of Michael Treadwell.
References: The Prose Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis and others, 16 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1939-74), vol. ii, pp. 109-25, 281-4; Irvin Ehrenpeis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age (London: Methuen, 1962-83), vol. ii, p. 266-75; vol. iii, pp. 736-49; Michael Treadwell, ‘Benjamin Motte, Jr’, in Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 154, The British Literary Book Trade, 1700-1820, ed. James E. Bracken and Joel Silver (Detroit, MI: Gale, 1995).