...But of these sophisms and elenchs of merchandise I skill not...
Milton, Areopagitica

Except he had found the
standing sea-rock that even this last
Temptation breaks on; quieter than death but lovelier; peace
that quiets the desire even of praising it.

Jeffers, Meditation On Saviors



from the epilogue to A Maggot:

I have long concluded that established religions of any kind are in general the supreme example of forms created to meet no longer existing conditions. If I were asked what the present and future world could best lose or jettison for its own good, I should have no hesitation: all established religion. But its past necessity I do not deny. Least of all do I deny (what novelist could?) that founding stage or moment in all religions, however blind, stale and hidebound they later become, which saw a superseded skeleton must be destroyed, or at least adapted to a new world. We grow too clever now to change; too selfish and too multiple, too dominated by the Devil's great I, in Shaker terminology; too self-tyrannized, too pledged to our own convenience, too tired, too indifferent to others, too frightened.
I mourn not the outward form, but the lost spirit, courage and imagination of Mother Ann Lee's word, her Logos; its almost divine maggot.
John Fowles
Maggot, Maggoty.

Whimsical, full of whims and fancies. Fancy tunes used to be called maggots, hence we have "Barker's maggots," "Cary's maggots," "Draper's maggots," etc. (Dancing Master, 1721.)

When the maggot bites. When the fancy takes us. Swift tells us that it was the opinion of certain virtuosi that the brain is filled with little worms or maggots, and that thought is produced by these worms biting the nerves. "If the bite is hexagonal it produces poetry; if circular, eloquence; if conical, politics, etc. (Mechanical Operation of the Spirit.)

Instead of maggots the Scotch say, "His head is full of bees;" the French, "Il a des rats dans la tete;" and in Holland, "He has a mouse's nest in his head." (See BEE.)

E. Cobham Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898.

An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity
I am very sensible what a weakness and presumption it is, to reason against the general humour and disposition of the world. I remember it was with great justice, and a due regard to the freedom both of the public and the press, forbidden upon several penalties to write, or discourse, or lay wagers against the Union, even before it was confirmed by parliament, because that was looked upon as a design, to oppose the current of the people, which, besides the folly of it, is a manifest breach of the fundamental law that makes this majority of opinion the voice of God. In like manner, and for the very same reasons, it may perhaps be neither safe nor prudent to argue against the abolishing of Christianity, at a juncture when all parties appear so unanimously determined upon the point, as we cannot but allow from their actions, their discourses, and their writings. However, I know not how, whether from the affectation of singularity, or the perverseness of human nature, but so it unhappily falls out, that I cannot be entirely of this opinion. Nay, though I were sure an order were issued for my immediate prosecution by the Attorney-General, I should still confess that in the present posture of our affairs at home or abroad, I do not yet see the absolute necessity of extirpating the Christian religion from among us.
This perhaps may appear too great a paradox even for our wise and paradoxical age to endure; therefore I shall handle it with all tenderness, and with the utmost deference to that great and profound majority which is of another sentiment.
And yet the curious may please to observe, how much the genius of a nation is liable to alter in half an age. I have heard it affirmed for certain by some very old people, that the contrary opinion was even in their memories as much in vogue as the other is now; and, that a project for the abolishing of Christianity would then have appeared as singular, and been thought as absurd, as it would be at this time to write or discourse in its defence.
Therefore I freely own that all appearances are against me.
Swift's Writings on Religion and the Church, Vol. I.
The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. III

Blog Archive