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In the reign of Queen ANNE, (which, notwithstanding those happy times which succeeded, every Englishman may remember,) thou mayest possibly, gentle reader, have seen a certain venerable person who frequented the outside of the palace of St. James's, and who, by the gravity of his deportment and habit, was generally taken for a decayed gentleman of Spain. His stature was tall, his visage long, his complexion olive, his brows were black and even, his eyes hollow yet piercing, his nose inclined to aquiline, his beard neglected and mixed with grey: all this contributed to spread a solemn melancholy over his countenance. Pythagoras was not more silent, Pyrrho more motionless, nor Zeno more austere. His wig was black and smooth as the plumes of a raven, and hung as straight as the hair of a river god rising from the water. His cloak so completely covered his whole person, that whether or no he had any other clothes (much less any linen) under it, I shall not say; but his sword appeared a full yard behind him, and his manner of wearing it was so stiff, that it seemed grown to his thigh. His whole figure was so utterly unlike any thing of this world, that it was not natural for any man to ask him a question without blessing himself first. Those who never
saw a Jesuit, took him for one, and others believed him some High Priest of the Jews.
But under this macerated form was concealed a mind replete with science, burning with a zeal of benefiting his fellow-creatures, and filled with an honest conscious pride, mixed with a scorn of doing or suffering the least thing beneath the dignity of a Philosopher. Accordingly he had a soul that would not let him accept of any offers of charity, at the same time that his body seemed but too much to require it. His lodging was in a small chamber up four pair of stairs, where he regularly paid for what he had when he eat or drank; and he was often observed wholly to abstain from both. He declined speaking to any one, except the Queen, or her first Minister, to whom he attempted to make some applications; but his real business or intentions were utterly unknown to all men. Thus much is certain, that he was obnoxious to the Queen's Ministry; who, either out of jealousy or envy, had him spirited away, and carried abroad as a dangerous person, without any regard to the known laws of the kingdom.
One day, as this gentleman was walking about dinner-time alone in the Mall, it happened that a manuscript dropt from under his cloak, which my servant picked up, and brought to me. It was written in the Latin tongue, and contained many most profound secrets, in an unusual turn of reasoning and style. The first leaf was inscribed with these words, Codicillus, seu Liber Memorialis,
The book was of so wonderful a nature, that it is incredible what a desire I conceived that moment to be acquainted with the author, who I clearly perceived was some great philosopher in disguise. I several times endeavoured to speak to him, which he as often industriously avoided. At length I found an opportunity (as he stood under the Piazza by the Dancing-room in St. James's) to acquaint him in the Latin tongue, that his manuscript was fallen into my hands; and saying this, I presented it to him, with great encomiums on the learned author. Hereupon he took me aside, surveyed me over with a fixed attention, and opening the clasps of the parchment cover, spoke (to my great surprize) in English, as follows:
"Courteous stranger, whoever thou art, I embrace thee as my best friend; for either the stars and my art are deceitful, or the destined time is come which is to manifest Martinus Scriblerus to the world, and thou the person chosen by fate for this task. What thou seest in me is a body exhausted by the labours of the mind. I have found in Dame Nature not indeed an unkind, but a very coy mistress: watchful nights, anxious days, slender meals, and endless labours, must be the lot of all who pursue her through her labyrinths and meanders. My first vital air I drew in this island (a soil fruitful of philosophers,) but my complexion is become adust, and my body arid, by visiting lands (as the poet has it) alio sub sole calentes. I
have, through my whole life, passed under several disguises and unknown names, to screen myself from the envy and malice which mankind express against those who are possessed of the Arcanum Magnum. But at present I am forced to take sanctuary in the British Court, to avoid the revenge of a cruel Spaniard, who has pursued me almost through the whole terraqueous globe. Being about four years ago in the city of Madrid in quest of natural knowledge, I was informed of a lady who was marked with a pomegranate upon the inside of her right thigh, which blossomed, and, as it were, seemed to ripen in the due season. Forthwith was I possessed with an insatiable curiosity to view this wonderful phenomenon. I felt the ardour of my passion increase as the season advanced, till, in the month of July, I could no longer contain. I bribed her Duenna, was admitted to the bath, saw her undressed, and the wonder displayed. This was soon after discovered by the husband, who finding some letters I had written to the Duenna, containing expressions of a doubtful meaning, suspected me of a crime most alien from the purity of my thoughts. Incontinently I left Madrid by the advice of friends, have been pursued, dogged, and way-laid through several nations, and even now scarce think myself secure within the sacred walls of this Palace. It has been my good fortune to have seen all the grand phenomena of nature, excepting an earthquake, which I waited for in Naples three years in vain; and now by
means of some British ship (whose colours no Spaniard dare approach*) I impatiently expect a safe passage to Jamaica, for that benefit. To thee, my friend, whom fate has marked for my historiographer, I leave these my commentaries, and others of my works. No more-be faithful and impartial."
He soon after performed his promise, and left me the commentaries, giving me also further lights by many conferences; when he was unfortunately snatched away (as I before related) by the jealousy of the queen's ministry.
Though I was thus to my eternal grief deprived of his conversation, he for some years continued his correspondence, and communicated to me many of his projects for the benefit of mankind. He sent me some of his writings, and recommended to my care the recovery of others, straggling about the world, and assumed by other men. The last time I heard from him was on occasion of his strictures on the Dunciad: since when, several years being elapsed, I have reason to believe this excellent person is either dead, or carried by his vehement thirst of knowledge into some remote, or perhaps undiscovered region of the world. In either case, I think it a debt no longer to be delayed, to reveal what I know of this prodigy of science, and to give the history of his life, and of his extensive merits
*This marks the time when the introduction was written.