Abstract

Abstract:

A short satire, An Essay of the Learned Martinus Scriblerus concerning the Origine of Sciences, concerns the alleged role of an anthropoid race of pygmies in the evolution of human knowledge. It was first published in the Miscellanies of Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift in 1732, and has been attributed to both of these authors. The aim of this article is to provide the first full account of the Essay in its context. This draws on information relating to the literary, biographical, and bibliographical circumstances in which members of the Scriblerian group produced the work. Among issues considered are relevant controversies engaged in by fellows of the Royal Society, notably Dr. John Woodward; the debt of the Essay to a pioneering work of physical anthropology, Edward Tyson's Orang-Outang (1699), first explored by Richard Nash; and a survey of other sources, as revealed by citations and hidden allusions. The concluding argument seeks to establish the close filiation of the Essay with other Scriblerian satires and to suggest that it serves as a template for the subgenre that these came to embody. A case is made for the key role in composition taken along with Pope by Dr. John Arbuthnot, FRS, a polymath with special interests in comparative anatomy.

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