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Good Hope, commonly known unto us by the name of the Hottentots.
I am, however, well aware that there are many objections to this opinion. First, that these Hottentots are supposed not to have any knowledge of religion at all, nor ever to have heard the name of the divinity ; whereas it appears manifestly that the Robinhoodians had some kind of religion even established in their country, and that the name of G— was at least known among them.
It is unnecessary to observe, likewise, that the members of this society had more of the use of letters, and were better skilled in the rules of oratory than the Hottentots can be conceived to have been ; for as to the speech of Mr. Mac Flourish, as well for the matter as for the eloquence of it, it might be spoken with great applause in many of our politest assemblies.
Upon the whole, therefore, I must confess self entirely at a loss in forming any probable conjecture as to what part of the earth these Robinhoodians inhabited; not being able to trace the least footsteps of them in any history I have ever
As to the time in which they flourished, the fragment itself will lend us some little assistance. It is dated 1 51; which figures, I make no doubt, should be all joined together, and then the only doubt will be from what æra this reckoning begun.
And here, I think, there can be no doubt, but that the æra intended was that of the general flood in the time of Noah, and that the Robinhoodians were some party of those people, who are said, after the dispersion at Babel, to have been scattered over the face of the earth.
Those imperfect notions of religion which they appear to have entertained, admirably well agree with this opinion ; for it is very reasonable to suppose that such immediate interpositions of provi
dence, or, to speak more adequately, such denunciations of divine vengeance, as were exemplified in the deluge, and the dispersion at Babel, could scarce be so immediately eradicated as not to leave some little impression, some small sparks of religious veneration in the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who had been spectators of such dreadful scenes; as, on the other hand, both sacred and profane history assures us, that these sparks were very faint, and not sufficient to kindle any true devotion among them.
Again, as the fragment rery plainly appears to have been translated by several hands, so may we very reasonably infer that it was translated out of as many various languages: another reason to fix the date of this assembly soon after the above-nientioned dispersion.
Lastly, the name of Robinhood puts the matter beyond all doubt or question ; this word being, as a learned etymologist observed to me, clearly derived from the Tower of Babel; for the first, Robin and Bobin are allowed to be the same word ; the first syllable then is Bob, change o into a, which is only a metathesis of one vowel for another, and
have Bab; then supply the termination el instead of in (for both are only terminations) and you have clearly the word Babel.
As for h in hood, it is known to be no letter at all, and therefore an etymologist may there place what letter he pleases, and why not a t as well as any other. Then change the final d into an r, and you have toor, which hath a better pretence, than the known word, tor, to signify tower.-Thus, by a few inconsiderable changes, the Robin-hood and Babel-Tower, appear to be one and the same word.
Two objections have been made to the great antiquity of this fragment ; the first is, that Ireland is mentioned in it, which, as Camden and others would make us believe, was not peopled till many ages after the æra I have above mentioned ; but these learned men are certainly in a mistake ; for I am well assured that several Irish beggars, whose ancestors were dispossessed in the wars of the last century, are after having now in their possession the title-deeds of their said estates from long before the times of Noah.
The other objection is, that the Dutch are likewise mentioned in the fragment, a people, as they are generally supposed, of a much later rise in the world, than the period of time which I have endeavoured to assign to this society.
To this I answer, that though that body of people who threw off the Spanish yoke in the time of the Duke of Alva, are extremely modern, yet are the Dutch themselves of very great antiquity, as hath been well proved by the learned Goropius Becanus from the history of Herodotus.
That historian tells us, that one of the Assyrian kings, being desirous to discover who were the most antient people, confined two children, a boy and a girl, till they were at the age of maturity, without suffering either of them to hear one articulate sound; having determined, I know not for what reason, that whatever language could claim their first word, the people speaking that language should be deemed the most antient.
The word which was first pronounced by one of them was Beher, which in the Phænician tongue signifies bread; the Phænicians were therefore concluded to have been the first planters of mankind.
Under this mistake the world continued many ages, ill at last the learned Goropius discorered that the word Beker, which in the Phænician tongue signifies bread, did in the Dutch language signify a baker, and that before bread was, a baker was.
And here I cannot help observing, that this quotation, as it proves the antiquity of the Dutch,
so it proves the great antiquity of bakers, to whose honour we may likewise read in Diodorus, that Isis the wife of Osyris was immortalized among the Egyptians, for having taught them the art of baking
Succeeding ages being unwilling to ascribe so great an honour to a woman, transferred it from her to her husband, and called hiin Bacchus, or, as it is more commonly by modern authors writ, Bakkus, and Bakus, which being literally done into English by the change of the Latin termination, is Baker.
Indeed, it is very reasonable to imagine that before the invention of cookery, the bakers were held in the highest honours, as the people derived from their art the greatest dainty of which their simple taste gave them any idea. And the great esteem in which cookery is held now, may very well account for the preference given to bakers in those early ages, when these were the only cooks.
But if none of these reasons should be thought satisfactory to fix, with any absolute certainty, the exact æra of this assembly, the following conclusions must be, I think, allowed by every reader :
First, That some religion had a kind of establishment amongst these people.
Secondly, That this religion, whatever it was, could not have the least sway over their morals or practice.
Thirdly, That this society, in which the first principles of religion and government were debated, was the chief assembly in this country, and Mr. Whitebread, the baker, the greatest man in it.
And lastly, I think it can create no manner of surprise in any one, that such a nation as this hath been long since swept away from the face of the earth, and the very name of such a people expunged put of the memory of man.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 1752.
At nostri proavi Plautinos et numeros, et
present age seems pretty well agreed in an opinion, that the utmost scope and end of reading is amusement only; and such, indeed, are now the fashionable books, that a reader can propose no more than mere entertainment, and it is sometimes very
well for him if he finds even this in his studies. Letters, however, were sure intended for a much more noble and profitable purpose than this. Writers are not, I presume, to be considered as mere jackpuddings, whose business it is only to excite laughter : this, indeed, may sometimes be intermixed, and served up, with graver matters, in order to titillate the palate, and to recommend wholesome food to the mind; and, for this purpose, it hath been used by many excellent authors : · for why, as
i should not any one promulgate <truth with a smile on his countenance ? Ridicule, - indeed, as he again intimates, is commonly a
stronger and better method of attacking vice ir than the severer kind of satire.'
When wit and humour are introduced for such good purposes, when the agreeable is blended with the useful, then is the writer said to have succeeded in every point. Pleasantry (as the ingenious author of Clarissa says of a story) should be made only the vehicle of instruction, and thus romances themselves, as well as epic poems, may become worthy