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The Scriblerus Club

Irish Humour Home

Before Swift retired to Ireland, Mr. Pope, Dr. Arbuthnot, Mr. Gay, Mr.
Parnell, Mr. Jervas, and Swift formed themselves into a society called
the Scriblerus Club. They wrote a good many things in conjunction, and,
according to Goldsmith, Gay was usually the amanuensis. The connection
between these wits advanced the fame and interest of them all. They
submitted their several productions to the review of their friends, and
readily adopted alterations dictated by taste and judgment, unmixed with
envy, or any sinister motive.

When the members of the Scriblerus Club were in town, they were
generally together, and often made excursions into the country. They
generally preferred walking to riding, and all agreed once to walk down
to Lord Burlington's about twelve miles from town. It was Swift's custom
in whatever company he might visit to travel, to endeavor to procure the
best bed for himself. To secure that, on the present occasion, Swift,
who was an excellent walker, proposed, as they were leaving town, that
each should make the best of his way. Dr. Parnell, guessing the Dean's
intentions, pretended to agree; but as his friend was out of sight, he
took a horse, and arrived at his Lordship's by another way, before
Swift. Having acquainted his noble host with the other's design, he
begged of him to disappoint it. It was resolved that Swift should be
kept out of the house. Swift had never had the small-pox, and was, as
all his friends knew, very much afraid of catching that distemper. A
servant was despatched to meet him as he was approaching the gate, and
to tell him that the small-pox was raging in the house, that it would be
unsafe for him to enter the doors, but that there was a field-bed in the
summer house in the garden, at his service. Thither the Dean was under
the necessity of betaking himself. He was forced to be content with a
cold supper, whilst his friends, whom he had tried to outstrip, were
feasting in the house. At last after they thought they had sufficiently
punished his too eager desire for his own accommodation, they requested
his lordship to admit him into the company. The Dean was obliged to
promise he would not afterwards, when with his friends, attempt to
secure the best bed to himself. Swift was often the butt of their
waggery, which he bore with great good humor, knowing well, that though
they laughed at his singularities, they esteemed his virtues, admired
his wit, and venerated his wisdom.

Many were the frolics of the Scriblerus Club. They often evinced the
truth of an observation made by the poet, dulce est desipere in

The time for wits to play the fool, is when they are met together, to
relax from the severity of mental exertion. Their follies have a degree
of extravagance much beyond the phlegmatic merriment of sober dulness,
and can be relished by those only, who having wit themselves, can trace
the extravagance to the real source.

This society carefully abstained from their frolics before the stupid
and ignorant, knowing that on no occasion ought a wise man to guard his
words and actions more than when in the company of fools.

How long the Scriblerus Club lasted is not exactly ascertained, or
whether it existed during the intimacy between Swift and Addison,
previous to the Doctor's connection with the Tory ministry.

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