By Michael Brown
John Toland was once infamous. Condemned through the Middlesex Grand Jury and the Irish parliament for authoring Christianity now not Mysterious (1696), he was once to spend a lot of his profession at the heterodox fringes of highbrow existence in Britain and past. but he was once additionally an intimate of a chain of influential politicians and performed a very important half within the Hanoverian succession of 1714. A pamphleteer, a polemicist and a prankster of the 1st order, sleek scholarship has struggled to put his writings in the debates of his day. This research is the 1st to totally recount his notable biography, and to situate his writings totally in the controversies that formed them.
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Extra info for A Political Biography of John Toland (Eighteenth-Century Political Biographies)
That Toland brought forth a thunderstorm of denunciation, and drew condemnation from both the spiritual and secular authorities only showed, to his mind, how right he was in his analysis. The reaction also ensured that he evaded what David Aaronovitch diagnoses as the central fear that prompts conspiratorial thought, namely the fear of being ignored. 93 In that regard it may have been an attractive mode of thought for a young man anxious to make a mark, a man from the outskirts of the archipelago, a man with a vexed religious history and an insecure place in the community of power brokers.
Toland seems to have been aware of this tendency, and saw behind it not only a foolish small mindedness on the part of his antagonists, but a vexatious self-interestedness; Christianity Not Mysterious enabled certain clerics to make their name. This was the thrust of Toland’s remarks on one such opponent in particular, Peter Browne, who authored A Letter in Answer to a Book intitled Christianity Not Mysterious: If you credit Mr Browne, he [Toland] designs to be as famous an impostor as Mahomet.
If the motive for writing Christianity Not Mysterious was nothing so furtive as youthful boisterousness, akin to that which got Thomas Aikenhead into trouble in Edinburgh in the same period, it is probably worth recalling that Toland was only twenty-five; he was not a teenager but was still young enough to take perverse pleasure in riling his elders. And as William Molyneux wryly observed of his houseguest in a letter to John Locke in 1697, by the time Toland arrived in Dublin, he was already unmanageable: I have known a gentleman in this town that was a most strict Socinian and thought as much out of the common road as any man, and was also known so to do; but then his behaviour and discourse was attended with so much modesty, goodness and prudence that I never heard him publicly censured or clamoured against, neither was any man in danger of censure by receiving his visits or keeping him company.
A Political Biography of John Toland (Eighteenth-Century Political Biographies) by Michael Brown