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  • Masonic Rivalries and Literary Politics in the Jacobite Era
  • Ian Higgins
Marsha Keith Schuchard. Masonic Rivalries and Literary Politics from Jonathan Swift to Henry Fielding (Amazon Create Space: Gauthier Pierozak Editeur, 2018). Pp. ii + 715. $30

Marsha Keith Schuchard's Masonic Rivalries and Literary Politics from Jonathan Swift to Henry Fielding is a work of erudition and amplitude. It is a huge (over 700 pages), closely printed, independently published study of the factions and rivalries within British Freemasonry that influenced and were reflected in anglophone literature from the 1680s to the 1750s. Schuchard has excavated a plenitude of printed and manuscript works in which she finds Masonic references of Whig and Tory, Hanoverian and Jacobite, rationalist and mystical complexion, and she situates them in their historical and particular polemical contexts. The book draws upon the publications of academic and Masonic historians, literary historians, and biographers. It is ambitious in scope, offering a detailed chronological account in twenty-three chapters of Masonic politics and literary texts in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the American colonies, and among the Jacobite diaspora on the Continent. Schuchard's earlier books, Restoring the Temple of Vision: Cabalistic Freemasonry and Stuart Culture (2002) and Emanuel Swedenborg, Secret Agent on Earth and in Heaven: Jacobites, [End Page 93] Jews, and Freemasons in Early Modern Sweden (2011), both over 800 pages and published by Brill, are germane to and are drawn upon in this new study. The scientist and visionary Emanuel Swedenborg, for example, also appears in this new volume as a Freemason and as a Jacobite spy, using Masonic networks, for the Swedish government. A synthesis of the case, and principal evidence deployed in this new book, can be found in Schuchard's Masonic Esotericism and Politics: The "Ancient" Stuart Roots of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Role as Hidden Grand Master."1

Schuchard finds Masonic politics expressed in an extraordinary range of writers,

from the Tory-Jacobite side (such as Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot, Richard Savage, Duke of Wharton, Earls of Orrery, Viscount Bolingbroke, Charles Wogan, William Meston, Allan Ramsay, Aaron Hill, John Byrom, Samuel Johnson, William King, Thomas Carte, Paul Whitehead, Moses Mendes, Eliza Haywood, and Chevalier Ramsay), and conversely from the Whig-Hanoverian side (such as Richard Steele, Daniel Defoe, John Toland, Earl of Shaftesbury, James Anderson, J. T. Desaguliers, Charles Johnson, Colley Cibber, "Orator" Henley, William Hogarth, James Thomson, Edward Young, Horace Walpole, Lord Hervey, James Arbuckle, and Henry Fielding)"

(7).

Jonathan Swift, in particular, is a ubiquitous presence in this account of Masonic rivalries and literary politics. It will not be news to scholars of Swift that many persons in his social circle and among his close friends were committed Jacobites, several of whom were, or were alleged to be, Freemasons. Schuchard gives welcome and detailed attention to the Jacobite exiles, Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay and Charles Wogan, famous figures in the Jacobite diaspora who were connected to Swift. She describes and quotes from unpublished Wogan/Swift documents in the Galway Diocesan Archives. The account of Wogan's writings sent to Swift and for which we have Swift's epistolary response is a genuinely new contribution to the information in print about their literary exchanges (see especially 339–44).

The book is an intervention in an ongoing controversy in historiographical literature on the subject. It contests earlier Whiggish and modern scholarly accounts which claimed that Freemasonry began with the formation of the London Grand Lodge of England in 1717, that it promoted Newtonian science, rational enlightenment, religious toleration, and that it was apolitical, or that it was pro-establishment, dedicated to the Hanoverian succession and Whig politics. Schuchard shows that such views of Masonic history have obfuscated an older, alternative Scots-Irish Stuart tradition of esoteric and political Masonry. She details an ancient Hebraic, Cabalistic, Rosicrucian, and chivalric history [End Page 94] of Scots-Irish Masonry that was taken into exile by the Jacobites and was the tradition of Masonry inherited by Prince Charles Edward Stuart. In this study, literature is broadly defined to "include poems, novels, dramas, ballads, pamphets, newspapers, diaries, letters, diplomatic and espionage reports" (7). Repeatedly, Schuchard properly points to the lack of or incompleteness of evidence of Masonic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3192
Print ISSN
0098-2601
Pages
pp. 93-100
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-11
Open Access
No
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