And in every country, however enlightened, there are always minds inclined to grovelling superstition—minds fond of eating dust and swallowing clay—minds never at rest, save when prostrate before some fellow in a surplice; and these Popish emissaries found always some weak enough to bow down before them, astounded by their dreadful denunciations of eternal woe and damnation to any who should refuse to believe their Romania; but they played a poor game—the law protected the servants of Scripture, and the priest with his beads seldom ventured to approach any but the remnant of those of the eikonolatry—representatives of worm-eaten houses, their debased dependants, and a few poor crazy creatures amongst the middle classes—he played a poor game, and the labour was about to prove almost entirely in vain, when the English legislature, in compassion or contempt, or, yet more probably, influenced by that spirit of toleration and kindness which is so mixed up with Protestantism, removed almost entirely the disabilities under which Popery laboured, and enabled it to raise its head and to speak out almost without fear.
And it did raise its head, and, though it spoke with some little fear at first, soon discarded every relic of it; went about the land uttering its damnation cry, gathering around it—and for doing so many thanks to it—the favourers of priestcraft who lurked within the walls of the Church of England; frightening with the loudness of its voice the weak, the timid, and the ailing; perpetrating, whenever it had an opportunity, that species of crime to which it has ever been most partial—Deathbed robbery; for as it is cruel, so is it dastardly. Yes, it went on enlisting, plundering, and uttering its terrible threats till—till it became, as it always does when left to itself, a fool, a very fool. Its plunderings might have been overlooked, and so might its insolence, had it been common insolence, but it—, and then the roar of indignation which arose from outraged England against the viper, the frozen viper, which it had permitted to warm itself upon its bosom.
But thanks, Popery, you have done all that the friends of enlightenment and religious liberty could wish; but if ever there were a set of foolish ones to be found under heaven, surely it is the priestly rabble who came over from Rome to direct the grand movement—so long in its getting up.
But now again the damnation cry is withdrawn, there is a subdued meekness in your demeanour, you are now once more harmless as a lamb. Well, we shall see how the trick—’the old trick’—will serve you.
Birth—My father—Tamerlane—Ben Brain—French Protestants—East Anglia—Sorrow and troubles—True peace—A beautiful child—Foreign grave—Mirrors—Alpine country—Emblems—Slow of speech—The Jew—Strange gestures.
On an evening of July, in the year 18—, at East D—–, a beautiful little town in a certain district of East Anglia, I first saw the light.