By Michael Brown

John Toland used to be infamous. Condemned by means of the Middlesex Grand Jury and the Irish parliament for authoring Christianity now not Mysterious (1696), he was once to spend a lot of his occupation at the heterodox fringes of highbrow lifestyles in Britain and past. but he was once additionally an intimate of a sequence of influential politicians and performed a very important half within the Hanoverian succession of 1714. A pamphleteer, a polemicist and a prankster of the 1st order, sleek scholarship has struggled to put his writings in the debates of his day. This research is the 1st to completely recount his striking biography, and to situate his writings totally in the controversies that formed them.

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Extra info for A Political Biography of John Toland (Eighteenth-Century Political Biographies)

Sample text

It is as much beyond my Reason, as the Glory of God is beyond my Sight; and any Man who strives to conceive it himself, or takes pains to explain it to others, is guilty of such a folly that I can’t think of any action in nature extravagant enough to match it. 31 Toland, who repeatedly took notice of his antagonists, ironically praised himself for making Browne a prelate. It was Browne who brought Christianity Not Mysterious to the attention of public magistrate in Ireland. He was not alone however in thinking the book required official sanction.

Through Furly, Toland met John Locke (to whom he was asked to deliver some letters by Furly upon returning to England). 65 Toland had come to Ireland under the protection of John Methuen, himself reputed to have dubious religious views and moral practices – too much of a libertine eye for women being a central charge. 66 Archbishop William King of Derry certainly sensed that the scandal surrounding Christianity Not Mysterious 32 A Political Biography of John Toland had as much to do with local antagonisms towards Methuen as it did to do with a fear that Toland was promulgating heresy.

That Toland took notice of his title page can be shown by his remarks in the subsequent Defence of Mr Toland in a Letter to Himself that ‘the chief complaint I have met with is against the Title and Design of the book [his emphasis]. 78 Yet that is not how the title page actually looks: Toland is once again mocking his opponents, who have not, he implies, so much as seen the book, at the same time as he is drawing attention to his visual gag. Indeed it is only the four key words identified above that appear in capital letters, the actual title is in standard layout, albeit in italics.

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