Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 The Scriblerus Club


"The Brothers," as we have already seen, was a political Club, which, having, in great measure served its purpose, was broken up. Next year, 1714, Swift was again in London, and in place of "the Brothers," formed the celebrated "Scriblerus Club," an association rather of a literary than a political character. Oxford and St. John, Swift, Arbuthnot, Pope, and Gay, were members. Satire upon the abuse of human learning was their leading object. The name originated as follows. Oxford used playfully to call Swift Martin, and from this sprung Martinus Scriblerus. Swift, as is well known, is the name of one species of swallow, (the largest and most powerful flier of the tribe,) and Martin is the name of another species, the wall-swallow, which constructs its nest in buildings.

Part of the labours of the Society has been preserved in P. P., Clerk of the Parish, the most memorable satire upon Burnet's History of his Own Time, and part has been rendered immortal by the Travels of Lemuel Gulliver; but, says Sir Walter Scott, in his Life of Swift, "the violence of political faction, like a storm that spares the laurel no more than the cedar, dispersed this little band of literary brethren, and prevented the accomplishment of a task for which talents so various, so extended, and so brilliant, can never again be united."

Oxford and Bolingbroke, themselves accomplished scholars, patrons and friends both of the persons and to genius thus associated, led the way, by their mutual animosity, to the dissolution of the confraternity. Their discord had now risen to the highest pitch. Swift tried the force of humorous expostulation in his fable of the Fagot, where the ministers are called upon to contribute their various badges of office, to make the bundle strong and secure. But all was in vain; and, at length, tired with this scene of murmuring and discontent, quarrel, misunderstanding, and hatred, the Dean, who was almost the only common friend who laboured to compose these differences, made a final effort at reconciliation; but his scheme came to nothing, and Swift retreated from the scene of discord, without taking part with either of his contending friends, and went to the house of the Reverend Mr. Gery, at Upper Letcombe, Berkshire, where he resided for some weeks, in the strictest seclusion. This secession of Swift, from the political world excited the greatest surprise: the public wondered,—the party writers exulted in a thousand ineffectual libels against the retreating champion of the high church,—and his friends conjured him in numerous letters to return and reassume the task of a peacemaker; this he positively declined.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. I
London, 1866