Several Paltry Scriblers and Declaimers have done me the Honour to be dull upon me in Reflections of this Nature; but notwithstanding my Name has been sometimes traduced by this contemptible Tribe of Men, I have hitherto avoided all Animadversions upon ’em. The Truth of it is, I am afraid of making them appear considerable by taking Notice of them, for they are like those imperceptible Insects which are discover’d by the Microscope, and cannot be made the Subject of Observation without being magnified.
Having mentioned those few who have shewn themselves the Enemies of this Paper, I should be very ungrateful to the Publick, did not I at the same time testifie my Gratitude to those who are its Friends, in which Number I may reckon many of the most distinguished Persons of all Conditions, Parties and Professions in the Isle of Great-Britain. I am not so vain as to think this Approbation is so much due to the Performance as to the Design. There is, and ever will be, Justice enough in the World, to afford Patronage and Protection for those who endeavour to advance Truth and Virtue, without regard to the Passions and Prejudices of any particular Cause or Faction. If I have any other Merit in me, it is that I have new-pointed all the Batteries of Ridicule. They have been generally planted against Persons who have appeared Serious rather than Absurd; or at best, have aimed rather at what is Unfashionable than what is Vicious. For my own part, I have endeavoured to make nothing Ridiculous that is not in some measure Criminal. I have set up the Immoral Man as the Object of Derision: In short, if I have not formed a new Weapon against Vice and Irreligion, I have at least shewn how that Weapon may be put to a right Use, which has so often fought the Battels of Impiety and Profaneness.
[Footnote 1: The Stamp Act was to take effect from the first of August. Censorship of the press began in the Church soon after the invention of printing. The ecclesiastical superintendence introduced in 1479 and 1496 was more completely established by a bull of Leo X. in 1515, which required Bishops and Inquisitors to examine all books before printing, and suppress heretical opinions. The Church of Rome still adheres to the ‘Index Librorum Prohibitorum’ begun by the Council of Trent in 1546; and there is an Index Expurgatorius for works partly prohibited, or to be read after expurgation. In accordance with this principle, the licensing of English books had been in the power of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his delegates before the decree of the Star Chamber in 1637, which ordered that all books of Divinity, Physic, Philosophy, and Poetry should be licensed either by the Archbishop of Canterbury or by the Bishop of London personally or through their appointed substitutes. The object of this decree was to limit the reprint of old books of divinity, &c. Thus Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was denied a license. In 1640