Download A Political Biography of John Toland (Eighteenth-Century by Michael Brown PDF

By Michael Brown

John Toland was once infamous. Condemned by means of the Middlesex Grand Jury and the Irish parliament for authoring Christianity now not Mysterious (1696), he used to be to spend a lot of his occupation at the heterodox fringes of highbrow lifestyles in Britain and past. but he was once additionally an intimate of a chain of influential politicians and performed an important half within the Hanoverian succession of 1714. A pamphleteer, a polemicist and a prankster of the 1st order, sleek scholarship has struggled to place his writings in the debates of his day. This examine is the 1st to completely recount his extraordinary biography, and to situate his writings absolutely in the controversies that formed them.

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However, this is to read the text through the prism of its reception (or through the lens of reader reception theory to be more theoretical about it), to recall the hostility of the establishment to its appearance and to thereby concede to its opponents the primacy of interpretation which they asserted as their right. They get to determine the manner of its memory, and to propose its correct reading. Yet something of the peculiarity of Christianity not Mysterious may be lost by ceding such ground to its clerical detractors.

As S. J. Barnett writes: ‘Traditionally, John Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious has been understood as a Deist work. 33 Surprising as this might seem, Toland had returned to Glasgow after his receipt of the Edinburgh MA to gain a certificate of orthodoxy; he was very fond of collecting such testimonials to intellectual fidelity. This read: We the magistrates of Glasgow under-subscribing, do hereby testify and declare to all whom these presents may concern that the bearer, John Toland, Master of Arts, did reside here for some years at the University in this city, during which time he behaved himself as a true Protestant and loyal subject, as witness our hands the penult day of June one thousand six hundred and ninety years … John Lecke I.

Certainly both types of reader considered it as a canonical text in the radical tradition of subversion and heterodoxy. 22 While this was a matter of praise for the anticlerical Frenchman, for the Irish Anglican John Leland, writing in the same period, this was the cause of distress. 23 The notoriety of this tract rests not on its critique of language, but on the positive construction of a rationalist faith. 24 Toland’s stance was an avowedly extreme position, one which left Locke himself wary of fraternizing with the Irishman.

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