FABLE OF THE BRUTES

: or, a modest Search after the great Plunderers of the Nation: being a brief Enquiry into two weighty Particulars, necessary at this Time to be known. I. Who they are that have plundered the Nation. II. Why they are not detected and punished.

London, Printed in the Year, 1711.

8vo., pp. [2], 88, with half-title (slightly torn), a little dust-soiling to half-title and edges, but a very good copy, untrimmed; disbound.

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: or, a modest Search after the great Plunderers of the Nation: being a brief Enquiry into two weighty Particulars, necessary at this Time to be known. I. Who they are that have plundered the Nation. II. Why they are not detected and punished.

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First edition, the issue with ‘known. I.’ (rather than ‘known, viz. I.’) on the title-page, and with ‘against’ and ‘publick’ spelled correctly on pages 11 and 25. As the half-title and title-page form a bifolium cancelling A1 (the text begins on A2, page 3), the two variants were probably printed together work-and-turn.

The preamble to the patent creating Harley a peer had recited his public services and praised him for preventing ‘the further plundering of the Nation’. Who were the plunderers? The former Whig ministry, according to Tory propagandists, who murmured charges of bribery, misappropriation, fraudulent victualling, over-mustering, and expenditure beyond the Estimates. But ‘innocent Men’, writes the author, may be ‘pointed at for Politick Designs, to blacken their Reputation [and to] confirm Faction ... the Guilt charged upon them in the publick Discourse of the Town, cannot be proved’. Let the new ministry look to its own management of state affairs. The pamphlet ends with a fable of the Commonwealth of the Brutes: ‘There was ... a Season when ... the Horses were accused to the Lyon of having mismanaged and misbehaved in the publick Trusts ...’

Swift apparently had some hand in writing the fulsome Latin preamble to Harley’s patent, with its remark about plundering the nation; and he has also been credited with translating the preamble into English (Journal to Stella, I, 265n., and DNB). The sometime attribution of the pamphlet itself to Defoe is no longer considered likely. Kress 2746.

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