The Scriblerus Club

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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