Secret Texts, 3



Science, Magic and Masonry :

Swift's Secret Texts

Marie Mulvey Roberts

97 ad 113


3. (pp. 97-113) Marie Mulvey Roberts : "Science, Magic and Masonry : Swift's Secret Texts".

pp. 97, 111 secretiveness

p. 97

"In the case of Jonathan Swift ... he was the ... guardian of textual secrets and magical sub-texts which he mirrored in his own writings. ... when engaging in the discourse of secrecy, he ... excelled in erudition ... and ... embraced the supremely iconic."

p. 111, n. 2

"See Sissela Bok, Secrets : Concealment and Revelation (... Oxford University Press, 1984), 1 ... . For a study of textual secrecy see Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy on the Interpretation of Narrative (Mass : Harvard University Press, 1979)."

p. 98 Jonathan Swift's Rosicrucianism

"The extent to which Swift drew directly on Rosicrucian sources for some of his most cryptic passages in A Tale of a Tub (1704) and Gulliver's Travels (1726) has never been fully appreciated. ...

Swift's mentor, William Temple[,] had noted, that even a servant had immersed himself in Rosicrucian lore. [MEWT, p. 201 -- citing THE SPECTATOR, 15 May 1712, no. 379]

In a letter to Bolingbroke, Swift refers to "a learned Rosycrucian of my acquanitance, who is ... of as much knowledge & as much wit as ever I knew in my life" who speaks of a "natural and theurgick magick" and insists that

"... the sages ... are to his knowledge many of them in Ireland."" (CJS, 2:472-3)

{May it be implied that Jonathan Swift himself is one of these Irish "sages"?}

MEWT = Samuel Holt Monk (ed.) : Miscellaneous Essays by Sir William Temple. Ann Arbor : U of MI Pr, 1963.

CJS = Harold Williams (ed.) : The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift. 5 voll. Oxford : Clarendon Pr, 1963-5.

pp. 98-100 Jonathan Swift's allusions (in A Tale of a Tub) to Christian Rosenkreutz

p. 98

"The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross originated in ... the manifestos, Fama Fraternitatis (1612) and Confessio Fama Fraternitatis (1614) ... . One of the ... announcements was that the tomb of their founder, Christian Rosencreutz, had been discovered ... . In The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, Frances Yales ... allegorizes the legend surrounding this vault.

... we can now interpret the highly cryptic ending to section ten of Swift's A Tale of a Tub (1704) as ... that allegory. ["TTRC"; "SOTT"] Published a hundred years after the ... discovery of the Rosicrucian tomb, it marks the centenary ... and celebrates the memory of the founder of a Brotherhood ... . ...

p. 99

In A Tale of a Tub, Swift ... describes Christian Rosencreutz in death clutching the book of life. His epitaph ... : "This compendium of the universe I made in my lifetime to be my tomb.""

[quoted from Tale of a Tub, p. 186 :] "Whether it is, that Fame ... conceives, her Trumpet sounds best and farthest, when she stands on a Tomb, by

"Fama ... to "fame" and ... to ... a trumpet. The Confessio refers to the Rosicrucian clamor as "our trumpet [which] shall publicly sound with a loud sound, and great noise ... ." [RE, p. 300]

In the Rosicrucian emblematic engraving, Theophilus Schweighardt's Speculum Sophicum Rhodo-Stauroticum (1618), the Fama is represented iconographically as a trumpet."

the Advantage of ... the Echo ... .""

{Like Swift's Latin Fama, Hellenic Ekhoi is a goddess.}

p. 100

"In the Tale, Swift compares the words of ... Rosicrucian interpreters to seeds which ... on fertile ground will multiply ... . ... The Rosicrucians who are named in the Tale as the "true illuminated ..." are being "met with ... numberless commentators ..."".

[quoted from Tale of a Tub, p. 185 :] "I do here humbly propose ... seven of the deepest Scholars ... shut ... up close for seven Years, in seven Chambers, ... to write seven ample Commentaries".

"The reference to seven may be ... that the vault of Rosenkreutz ... was seven-sided."

"TTRC" = Philip Pinkus : "A Tale of a Tub and the Rosy Cross". J OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY, 59 (1960).

"SOTT" = N. J. C. Andreasen : "Swift ... on the Occult in A Tale of a Tub". TEXAS STUDIES IN LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE, 5 (1960). {Incidentally, with the name of Andreasen, cf. that of Andreae, the reputed author (supra p. 98) of the Rosicrucian texts.}

Tale of a Tub = Jonathan Swift (ed. by A. C. Guthkelch & D. Nichol Smith) : A Tale of a Tub. Oxford : Clarendon Pr.

RE = Frances A. Yates : The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. 2nd edn, St Albans : Granada, 1975.

pp. 101-2 raising & reviving of spirits of the spirit-world

p. 101

"In the Tale, Swift identifies ... "... an admirable Remedy ... [which] serves to raise and enliven the Spirits ... ."

... the raising of spirits has a Rosicrucian resonance relating to their spirit-world. The best account of this phenomenon may be found in Abbe' de Mountfaucon de Villars' Rosicrucian ... Le Comte de Gabalis (1680) which inspired Pope

p. 102

to revise his second edition of The Rape of the Lock "on a very new and odd foundation :- the Rosicrucian doctrine of spirits." [PAP 2:142] The success of this edition of The Rape of the Lock led to a new English translation of Le Comte de Gabalis which was published the same year in 1714, the [centenary] anniversary of the appearance of the second Rosicrucian manifesto.

The spirits in Villars's account are attendants able to assume the shape of someone deceased.

In Book 3 of Gulliver's Travels, the governor of Glubbdubdrib gives a demonstration of his necromantic skills by summoning up from the grave any historical person requested.

It is likely that Swift drew on the Count of Gabalis for ... Gulliver's visit to this "Island of Sorcerers and Magicians" where the governor also possessed the power to make his attendants disappear."

PAP = Geoffrey Tillotson : The Poems of Alexander Pope. London : Methuen, 1939-67.

p. 102 malleable glass

"In 1765 ... the Ancient Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross ... advised to wear "Spectacles of Malleable Glass ... ."" (Pierre Baylor's Praeface to The Count of Gabalis)

{"Malleable glass" is described for the Roman Empire" (by Plinius and by Petronius), and for France (RG-M, p. 45).}

Plinius = "Malleable Glass".,5710994

Petronius = Gaius Petronius : Satyricon.

RG-M = Deming Jarves : Reminiscences of Glass-Making. 2nd edn.

pp. 102-3 Rosicrucian Invisible College

p. 102

"the Rosicrucian Invisible College ... was a center for alchemical ... research founded in 1645 by Samuel Hartlib, John Drury, and Johann Comenius who had fled ... Bohemia."

p. 103

"The Royal Society legitimized ... the Invisible College ... quest for the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life".

pp. 103, 106 Laputa

p. 103

"In his "Voyage to Laputa," Gulliver submits ... that the name "Laputa" is derived from "Lap" {/Lapp/ folk in northern Scandinavia?} signifying the play of sunbeams on water and "outed" meaning "wing." Swift may have been inspired ..., almost certainly ["EBSFI"], by

Jonson's account ... in The Fortunate Isles (1625) where the Invisible College is described as "The Castle in the air, where all the brethren / Rhodostaurotic live" and which "flies with wings ... ."" (M&E, p. 348)

p. 106

"The tomb is ... in Swift's description ... a cavern situated in the center of the island of Laputa where there were "twenty lamps continually burning which from the reflection of the adamant cast a strong light into every part."" (Gulliver's Travels XI,151)

"EBSFI" = Sidney Gottlieb : "The Emblematic Background of Swift's Flying Island". SWIFT STUDIES, 1 (1987):27.

M&E = Ben Jonson (ed. by Henry Morley) : Masques and Entertainments. London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1890.

pp. 104-5 speak all languages

p. 104

[quoted from :- M&E, p. 349 :]

"Read at one view all books? speak all the languages

Of several creatures [of various species]? Master all the learnings

[Which] Were, are, or shall be?"

p. 105

[quoted from :- Gabriel Naude' : Instructions to France about the Truth of the Rose Cross Brothers (1623) -- as cited in RE, p. 139 :] "We, being deputies of the principle College of the Brothers of the Rose Cross, ... show and teach ... how to speak all the languages of the countries ..., and to draw men from error and death."

p. 108 brethren of the Rosie Cross designate themselves as /Mason/ (viz., /Freemason/)

[quoted from Henry Adamson : The Muses Threnodie (1638), in EMP, 30 :]

"For we be brethren of the Rosie Crosse;

We have the MASON word and second sight.

Things for to come we can foretell aright."

EMP = Knoop, Jones, and Hamer (edd.) : Early Masonic Pamphlets.

p. 109 Jonathan Swift reckoned himself as a Freemason

"masonic sources claim that Swift became a member while at Trinity College."

In "1730 ... he refers in a letter to Dean Delany as [quoted from Swift : Correspondence, ed. by Williams, II:472-3 :] "one of us; But like a new Freemason, who hath not yet learned all the Dialect of the Mystery.""

p. 109 Freemasonic secrets within secrets

"Even for initiates, themselves, secrets lie within secrets like a Chinese -puzzle-box."

{These secrets involve both (1) a political schemes (Jacobin-Swedish alliance to overthrow the German-derived English royal family); and also (2) Swedenborgian-style schematics of heavens (whence succour is expected to assist in overthrowing the government of England).}

pp. 109-10 a female order of Freemasonry (viz., aequivalent to the Order of the Eastern Star) as of 1724

p. 109

"A Letter from the Grand Mistress of the Female Free-Masons ... has been reprinted in several editions of Swift's complete works.

{This epistle may well, however, have been endited by some female friend of Swift's, at his suggestion.}

It is dedicated to Mr Harding, whose prosecution {being prosecuted by the English government} ... for publishing Swift's Drapier's Letters (1724) is mentioned in the postscript. ... .

p. 110

... the Grand Mistress assures Mr Harding that her "Female Lodge has the whole of the Mistery as well as any Lodge in Europe ... ." [Swift : Prose Works, ed. Davis, V:324] ... The Grand Mistress insists that she has acquired the secrets of Freemasonry legitimately".


AMS STUDIES IN CULTURAL HISTORY, 1 = Marie Mulvey Roberts & Hugh Ormsby-Lennon : Secret Texts : the Literature of Secret Societies. AMS Pr, NY, 1995.