was desperately ill. He had recurring ‘pains in my thighs, reins and
stomach’ accompanied by ‘a total loss of appetite, hourly retchings, and
very high colour’d water’. His hopes that this suffering was the symptom of
‘gravel’ that would pass with the stones were dashed. Confined to his chamber
for weeks, he could keep down nothing but weak broth, and was scarcely able
to walk. Reduced to relying on the kindnesses of others by disastrous investments in the fashionable speculations of South Sea Company
This book explores the life, thought and political commitments of the free-thinker John Toland (1670–1722). Studying both his private archive and published works, it illustrates how he moved in both subversive and elite political circles in England and abroad. The book explores the connections between Toland's republican political thought and his irreligious belief about Christian doctrine, the ecclesiastical establishment and divine revelation, arguing that far from being a marginal and insignificant figure, he counted queens, princes and government ministers as his friends and political associates. In particular, Toland's intimate relationship with the Electress Sophia of Hanover saw him act as a court philosopher, but also as a powerful publicist for the Hanoverian succession. The book argues that he shaped the republican tradition after the Glorious Revolution into a practical and politically viable programme, focused not on destroying the monarchy but on reforming public religion and the Church of England. It also examines how Toland used his social intimacy with a wide circle of men and women (ranging from Prince Eugene of Savoy to Robert Harley) to distribute his ideas in private. The book explores the connections between his erudition and print culture, arguing that his intellectual project was aimed at compromising the authority of Christian ‘knowledge’ as much as the political power of the Church. Overall, it illustrates how Toland's ideas and influence impacted upon English political life between the 1690s and the 1720s.
consequences of noting
the difference of form and audience has sometimes obscured and fragmented
the integrity of intentions articulated in his writings. For some historians the
‘real’ JohnToland is only present in the clandestine, secret, shadowy Masonic
coteries, while the public Toland was little more than a hypocritical gad-fly
irritating the orthodox establishment. This understanding not only devalues
the sophistication of Toland’s public writing, but mis-characterises his similarly creative exploitation of manuscript publication. Manuscripts were not
The reception of Christianity not mysterious, 1696–1702
political theory in defence of these liberties.
1 A. Boyer The political state of Great Britain XXIII (1722) p. 342.
2 BL Add Ms 5853 fo. 385.
3 Collections 2 pp. 301–304.
4 Ibid. pp. 309–313.
5 See Correspondence V No 29.
6 See J. A. I. Champion ‘JohnToland: the politics of Pantheism’ Revue de Synthèse 116
27/2/03, 10:18 am
(1995) pp. 259–280. A more detailed account of the prosecution of Christianity not
mysterious can be found in J. A. I. Champion ‘Making authority: belief, conviction and
reason in the
Communities of readers
JohnToland and print and
OLAND did more than simply read and write books: he was a key agent in
disseminating ideas around the elite salons of early eighteenth-century
Europe. In the last chapter Toland’s involvement in a world of learning and
the library was explored. One of the intentions was to underscore the social
dimensions of this world of learning: gaining entrance to the inner sanctum
of a man’s library was a means of getting inside his head. In locating Toland in
this milieu we
Milton, Harrington and the Williamite monarchy, 1698–1714
Rewriting the commonwealth
Editing the republic:
Milton, Harrington and the
Williamite monarchy, 1698–1714
T some point in 1694, JohnToland frequented Jack’s Coffee House in
King’s Street, London. Recently arrived from Oxford, he struck up
conversation with two persons ‘wholly unknown to him’. Boldly he opened the
discussion with a powerful statement of political identity: ‘I am a commonwealth’s Man, tho’ I live at Whitehall, and that is a Mistery’. Continuing in this
vein he challenged his auditors, ‘if any man will give me Ten guineas, I will go
therefore fundamental blasphemy.
1 F. H. Heinemann ‘JohnToland, France, Holland, and Dr Williams’ Review of English
Studies 25 (1949) pp. 346–349 at 346.
2 Tolandiana pp. 241, 244, 246.
3 Sullivan Toland esp. pp. 46–47.
4 See F. Schmidt ‘JohnToland, critique Deiste de la littérature Apocryphe’ Apocrypha 1
(1990) pp. 119–145; B. E. Schwarzbach ‘The sacred genealogy of a Voltairean polemic:
the development of critical hypotheses regarding the composition of the canonical
gospels’ Studies in Voltaire and the eighteenth century 245 (1986) pp. 303–349.
5 See Nazarenus
reine de Prusse (Berlin,
1801) pp. 200–211.
7 S. Daniel JohnToland (Montreal, 1984) p. 146
8 See M. Jacob ‘JohnToland and the Newtonian ideology’ Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes 32 (1969) pp. 307–331 especially at pp. 313–314. Klopp 2 pp. 361–
9 Klopp 2 p. 362.
10 Ibid. pp. 363–364.
11 See Vienna Ms 10,325 ‘Dissertations Diverses’. See also Tolandiana p. 105.
12 See J. H. Nichols The Epicurean Philosophy: the De rerum natura of Lucretius (Cornell,
1976). See J. A. I. Champion ‘“The Men of Matter”: spirits, matter and the politics of
: JohnToland’s Description of Epsom’ Eighteenth Century
Ireland 9 (1994) pp. 129–136. For a broader consideration of the politics of sociability
between provinces and city see, S. E. Whyman Sociability and power in late-Stuart
England: the cultural worlds of the Verneys 1660–1720 (Oxford, 1999).
10 Collections 2 p. 100.
11 Ibid. p. 105.
27/2/03, 10:27 am
12 Ibid. p. 115.
13 Ibid. p. 118.
14 Pantheisticon (1751) pp. 66–67.
15 Ibid. p. 73.
16 Ibid. pp. 85–86.
17 Ibid. p. 100.
18 Ibid. p. 57.
19 Ibid. pp. 11–14, 58
England, that the proliferation of Christian
anticlerical theories in widely available and relatively lowbrow
cheap editions were any less influential in politico-religious terms
than those of the tiny number of so-called eighteenth-century deists.
Anti-Catholics, Dissenters and other religious dissidents were
loudly proclaiming the historically demonstrated priestcraft of
Catholicism and Anglicanism, and in the process promoting a virulent anticlericalism. In fact, as we shall see, in the life of JohnToland
it is possible to see the transference of his Dissenter anti