By Michael Brown
John Toland used to be infamous. Condemned by way of the Middlesex Grand Jury and the Irish parliament for authoring Christianity no longer Mysterious (1696), he used to be to spend a lot of his profession at the heterodox fringes of highbrow existence in Britain and past. but he used to be additionally an intimate of a chain of influential politicians and performed a vital 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 learn is the 1st to totally recount his striking biography, and to situate his writings totally in the controversies that formed them.
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Extra resources for A Political Biography of John Toland (Eighteenth-Century Political Biographies)
Having irked his elders he could not help but gain credit for it; the cheeky boy who took pride in his misdemeanour. The other possibility is that this revelation of authorship was intended from the start, and was part of the jape in which Toland’s book was complicit. It was after all a revelation of the truth – a solving of the mystery of authorship in just the fashion that Toland had contended scripture treated of mysteries of faith. In Christianity Not Mysterious Toland argued that mystery was used solely to indicate something that was once hidden, a truth obscured until revelation illuminated it: this stood in opposition to the assertion by those guilty of priestcraft that a revealed truth might itself be mysterious, incomprehensible to the intellect of a fallen man, and hence necessitating an act of unthinking faith (the most obvious and controversial case of this being the doctrine of the Trinity).
4 Moreover, con- – 41 – 42 A Political Biography of John Toland temporary enemies were quick to link Toland to the coterie, as in a particularly nasty piece of political slander penned by Edward Ward, A Secret History of the Calves Head Club. This vitriolic assault picked up on the idea of a republican association to propose Toland’s involvement in a club devoted to celebrating the anniversary of the execution of Charles I on 30 January each year from 1693. ’5 As Ward rendered the meetings of this club, which he claimed dated back to Milton, and had traditionally met in secret but now ‘meet almost in a Publick Manner’, the antics were offensive and heavily politically charged.
Toland’s life was thereby shaped by a commitment to overthrow the clerical conspiracy he identified at play within the church, and thus to complete the political revolution he associated with the Williamite War by extending it to spiritual affairs. In this, Toland was committed to a broad-based republican heritage that he did much to recover and rehabilitate. He also contributed to an anti-clerical Enlightenment that challenged the hegemony of the Church of England as much as it did Roman Catholic authority elsewhere in Europe.
A Political Biography of John Toland (Eighteenth-Century Political Biographies) by Michael Brown