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Anthony Collins' Essays in the IndependentWhig DAVID BERMAN IN HIS VALUABLESTUDY, Anthony Collins: The Man and his Works (The Hague, 1970), James O'Higgins states that "After the appearance of the Philosophical Inquiry in 1717, Collins published nothing till 1724. There is a remarkable gap in his literary career" (p. 111). O'Higgins does not explain why such a gap should be remarkable; but the reason which he probably had in mind is this. Apart from these seven years, Colfins ' publications are evenly distributed throughout his literary career, which began in 1707, and ended two years before his death, in 1729. Collins published works in 1707, 1708, 1710, 1713, 1717, 1724, 1726 and 1727. So the period 1717-1724 would indeed seem to be a remarkable gap, especially as it comes exactly in the middle of his literary career. In fact, however, as I hope to show in this paper, there is no such gap. For Collins did publishPalthough this has not hitherto been known by scholars--a number of essays throughout the year 1720 in a periodical paper called the Independent Whig. There are a number of factors which make Collins' Independent Whig contributions of interest. Firstly, the periodical itself achieved a considerable degree of fame (and infamy), passing through seven English and two American editions in thirty-five years, as well as being translated into French by Baron d'Holbach in 1767.1 The Independent Whig has been described as "among the most widely read and important polemical works of the reign of George I .... -2 Secondly, the essays provide a succinct statement of Collins' views on the clergy, religion and religious anthority, at the middle of his career; and his views on these subjects are central to his thought. Thirdly, in a later edition of the Independent Whig the only surviving contributor published two posthumuous pieces which I shall maintain are by Collins. One of these is of some philosophical interest. It also casts doubt on O'Higgins's interpretation of Collins on mysteries in religion. I shaUbegin by giving a brief account of the Independent Whig. Following this I shall present what I take to be the overwhelming evidence for Collins's partial authorship. I shall then examine his essays, particularly the two posthumous pieces. The Independent Whig was a weekly periodical, each number appearing on a Wednesday . The first number is dated 20 January 1720, and the last, no. 54, is dated 11 January 1721. Appended to the last number is a note to the effect that a collected edi1 For a bibliographical account of the IndependentWhig,see J. M, Bulloch, ThomasGordon, the Independent Whig (1918), pp. 9-17. Although the most extensive account, it suffers from inaccuracies and incompleteness;e.g., the fifth edition of the Independent Whig was issued in 1732, not as Bullochstates, 1735(p. 13);and he had not seena copy of the periodical in its serial form, which, he says, is not in the British Museum(p.ll.); there is now a copy (in the Burney collection). 2 Caroline Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman(Cambridge, 1959),p. 115. [463] 464 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY tion is to be speedily issued; and the first collected edition was indeed published in 17213 The subject of these fifty-four essays is almost exclusively religion, and their point of view can be roughly described as deistic. That is, there is in them a hostility to priests and the supposed authority of priests, and a glorification of reason and reasonable religion . In the original periodical publication and the first four collected editions all the essays were entirely anonymous. However, two of the authors have long been known. These are the Irishman, John Trenchard and the Scot, Thomas Gordon.4 Forty-four of the fifty4our essays were written by them, either separately or in collaboration. That ten essays were not written by them is clear from the fifth and later editions of the Independent Whig. In this edition (1732.) the editor, Thomas Gordon, tells us, in a newly added preface, that in order "to gratify the usual curousity of readers, [he has] at the end of each paper, put the initial letter of the name of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 463-469
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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