The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 5/Tatler Number 74


Thursday, Sept. 29, 1709.

Grecian Coffeehouse, Sept. 29.

THIS evening I thought fit to notify to the literati of this house, and by that means to all the world, that on Saturday the fifteenth of October next ensuing, I design to fix my first table of fame; and desire that such as are acquainted with the characters of the twelve most famous men that have ever appeared in the world, would send in their lists, or name any one man for that table, assigning also his place at it, before that time, upon pain of having such his man of fame postponed, or placed too high, for ever. I shall not, upon any application whatever, alter the place which upon that day I shall give to any of these worthies. But, whereas there are many who take upon them to admire this hero, or that author, upon second hand, I expect each subscriber should underwrite his reason for the place he allots his candidate.

The thing is of the last consequence; for we are about settling the greatest point that ever has been debated in any age; and I shall take precautions accordingly. Let every man who votes, consider, that he is now going to give away that, for which the soldier gave up his rest, his pleasure, and his life; the scholar resigned his whole series of thought, his midnight repose, and his morning slumbers. In a word, he is, as I may say, to be judge of that afterlife, which noble spirits prefer to their very real beings. I hope I shall be forgiven therefore, if I make some objections against their jury, as they shall occur to me. The whole of the number by whom they are to be tried, are to be scholars. I am persuaded also that Aristotle will be put up by all of that class of men. However, in behalf of others, such as wear the livery of Aristotle, the two famous universities are called upon on this occasion: but I except the men of Queen's, Exeter, and Jesus Colleges, in Oxford, who are not to be electors, because he shall not be crowned from an implicit faith in his writings, but receive his honour from such judges as shall allow him to be censured. Upon this election, as I was just now going to say, I banish all who think, and speak after others, to concern themselves in it. For which reason, all illiterate distant admirers are forbidden to corrupt the voices, by sending, according to the new mode, any poor students coals and candles for their votes in behalf of such worthies as they pretend to esteem. All newswriters are also excluded, because they consider fame as it is a report which gives foundation to the filling up their rhapsodies, and not as it is the emanation or consequence of good and evil actions. These are excepted against as justly as butchers in case of life and death: their familiarity with the greatest names, takes off the delicacy of their regard, as dealing in blood makes the lanii less tender of spilling it.