Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
How to meet Attacks
By William Warburton (16981779)
From Remarks on Several Occasional Reflections
AS to the manner in which I have answered some of my adversaries: their insufferable abuse, and my own love of quiet, made it necessary. I had tried all ways to silence an iniquitous clamour: by neglect of it; by good words; by an explanation of my meaning; and all without effect. The first volume of this obnoxious work had not been out many days, before I was fallen upon by a furious ecclesiastical news-writer, with the utmost brutality. All the return I then made, or then ever intended to make, was a vindication of my moral character, wrote with such temper and forbearance as seemed affectation to those who did not know that I only wanted to be quiet. But I reckoned without my host. The angry man became ten times more outrageous. What was now to be done? I tried another method with him. I drew his picture; I exposed him naked; and showed the public of what parts and principles this tumour was made up. It had its effect; and I never heard more of him. On this occasion, let me tell the reader a story. As a Scotch bagpiper was traversing the mountains of Ulster, he was, one evening, encountered by a hunger-starved Irish wolf. In this distress, the poor man could think of nothing better than to open his wallet, and try the effects of his hospitality. He did so: and the savage swallowed all that was thrown him with so improving a voracity, as if his appetite was but just coming to him. The whole stock of provision, you may be sure, was soon spent. And now, his only recourse was to the virtue of the bagpipe; which the monster no sooner heard, than he took to the mountains with the same precipitation that he had come down. The poor piper could not so perfectly enjoy his deliverance, but that, with an angry look at parting, he shook his head, and said, Ay! are these your tricks?Had I known your humour, you should have had your music before supper.
But though I had the caduceus of peace in my hands, yet it was only in cases of necessity that I made use of it. And therefore I chose to let pass, without any chastisement, such impotent railers as Dr. Richard Grey, and one Bate, a zany to a mountebank. On the other hand, when I happened to be engaged with such very learned and candid writers as Dr. Middleton and the Master of the Charter-house, I gave sufficient proof how much I preferred a different manner of carrying on a controversy, would my answerers but afford me the occasion. But alas! as I never should have such learned men long my adversaries, and never would have these other my friends, I found that, if I wrote at all, I must be condemned to a manner, which all, who know me, know to be most abhorrent to my natural temper. So, on the whole, I resolved to quit my hands of them at once; and turn again to nobler game, more suitable, as Dr. Stebbing tells me, to my clerical function, that pestilent herd of libertine scribblers, with which this island is overrun; whom I would hunt down, as good King Edgar did his wolves; from the mighty author of Christianity as old as the Creation,1 to the drunken blaspheming cobbler, who wrote against Jesus and the Resurrection.