Iolo Morganwg to Revd Hugh Jones, 4 June 1794
(NLW 21285E, Letter 838)
Iolo Morganwg to Revd Hugh Jones
4 June 1794
Address: none. Postmark: none
Source: NLW 21285E, no. 838
London, June 4th (alias Dagon-mass day) 1794
I thank you for the favour of your subscription to my poems. I have for a long time been afflicted with the rheumatism in my right side, from head to foot or, if you please, from hoof to noddle, so that the last piece of stuff is in a worse condition than ever. Of course in the superlative degree, what in the comparative it has always been, a bad (perhaps you will say a mad) head. If you will, sir, I cannot help it. Even crowned heads are, we see, in the same predicament. And why should I not as well as other coxcombs, (who you perhaps, sir, call fools or knaves, or possibly an intimate compound of both), follow the fashion at court, the ton of St James: the madness of one that aspires to the crown of bays and of him who wears the crown of gold prove that in some things:
Poets to monarchs nearly are allied,
But mark what principles their bound divide.
The poet, especially the bard, according to the rights and institutes of the bards of the island of Britain, is only benignly mad, by thinking that it will avail him to preach any thing up his fundamental principle of peace to a king-ridden world. The monarchical madness instigates to fury, and carries fire and sword, the most woful distress and destruction into every part of the world that is inhabited by man. It voraciously feeds on human blood, and it dares to attempt to cajole the Almighty into these measures. Let me fly from these serious thoughts.
Was it not for my rheumatic badness and sadness, which may in your opinion Sir be complicated with madness, I should with gladness have waited on you in person with my little publication. As it is I am obliged to send them with the coach.
All the whores and thieves of London are assembled about the fellow called Reeves and his fiddlers and faddlers in a mighty band, bawling and squawling, like the songs of caterwauling God-Save-the-King! Church and King for ever! They press every one that passes by into this infernal service, crying to him blast your eyes cry Church and King, Church and King, damn your soul! I jabber'd Welsh, squeaked out Church sans King, in as broken a manner as I could, and passed for a Dutchman with all but a Welshman or two, who laughed at me. I heartily wished that the great she bears of Russia had been amongst them roped and muzzled, surrounded by dancing dogs, learned pigs, and periwigg'd monkeys, admired by all the guelphs who attended, properly chained up in the tresses of some Belinda's hair. I should then have taken up my Psalm, and in the jargon of old mother church, or as some call her mother goose, I should have said or sang:
All land and praise unto the Lord
For ever and for aye.
To be serious, sir, and that is, on this occasion, to be sad. This detestable taking of God's name in vain by profane drunkards, infidels, knaves, fools, whores, pick-pockets and (what is still more despicable) placemen and pensioners, who acknowledge no God but self-interest, is not the way for either church or king to conciliate the affections of a rational man. I was amongst this king-ridden mob in real danger of my life. They were egged on by parsons in abundance. I was afraid that the butchers who were parading the streets with their marrow bones and cleavers would have split my skull with one of them. They very frequently called out to the slavish mob: 'Down on your marrow bones, blast ye! and say God Save the King'. And down on their marrow bones to be sure they fell, especially the parsonic tribe, and brayed out what the butchers' boys dictated. Surely the King never hears of these things, but if he does!!! &c &c. What can I say? I however hope the best. I am no enemy to kings and am a friend to every church that retains some appearances of Christianity and is not degenerated into the rank idolatry of church-and-kingism. I honor the minister (and not the less for his being termed priest) of every sect and party in religion, who appears to have a true sense of piety, who is never seen bestriding his flock, who acknowledges no head but God, who adduces all that, as matter of moral duty, he teaches to others from that pure fountain of doing as we would be done by, who canters all his views and interest in the mental and more improvements of those that are under his care, who never with parsonic shears fleeces the sheep of his fold, never uses them as mules or jack-asses. A riding priest, who is also ridden by a king, is a heavy burden indeed, and what was never laid on man by him who said that his yoke and burden was light:
If on my back bestrides a priest,
And on that priest a king,
I'm lost in vice, become a beast,
A slave, a worthless thing.
I with such pravities of soul
Should not with man remain,
But sent to rage where tiggers howl
On Afric's burning plain.
I am fully perswaded and even convinced to demonstration, that all the evils that now deluge the nominally Christian world are the unavoidable effects of church-and-kingical hypocrisy, priest-craft and imposition, blasphemously called religion, but productive of all the bad effects of open, rank and professed atheism. The London cursing and swearing is carried to the utmost pitch and in all the horrid variety that an infernal invention could accomplish. Who shudders not to hear it? But when compared to the far more horrid blasphemy of bawling church and king, God save the King, O Lord our God arise, scatter his enemies and make them fall, and all this bawled the vilest rabble in the universe. They are almost the accents of an angel of light, brought into comparison with the most consumate blasphemies of hell. Can the king who suffers (supposing him not gratified [by] this most infamous kind of flattery (adulation)) such things in his dominions, hope [in] [t]he least for the divine favour and protection, or for any thing, if he duly considers it (quaere; are kings capable of consideration?) for any thing but the heaviest and most flaming thunderbolt of divine vengeance, the utmost wrath of an offended deity whose name and laws are thus horridly insulted, whose less depraved creatures are ill-treated, and, as vile worms, trampled upon, for disapproving of such wicked things by regal and ecclesiastical insolence. I again run into serious sadness. I will rest from the subject. It hurts me.
I should not have been thus free, and in some things jocular (say impertinent if you please sir) with you had I not been perswa[ded] from what I am told of you by the Revd Dr Williams, and from your intimacy with him, that you are not yourself, sir, a striding, or otherwise than in a good sense a church and king priest. You are not of that kind genus, or species of self-adoring priest that I have been at with my too-feeble lash and which, I am sorry for the fact, is to be found in every sect. I never level my satire or ridicule at either the established or any other church in particular, but at the vices, hypocrisies, fopperies, fooleries &c of all. I am sorry that I must add blasphemies to the charges I bring against some of them. All are, more or less, disgraced, unchristianized, and some even infernalized by these things. Let churchism and kingism be founded on their genuine and primeval principles of true religion, of piety towards God, benevolence and justice towards man. On the real rights of God and man, and I shall not much object to the modes and externalities of either, I only wish to see spirit and internalities of these things benign and efficacious towards the well ordering of society, the prevention of vice and promotion of virtue. In churchism I shall not care whether prayer is offered to the great father of all, from a liturgy or extemporarily, vocally, or in mental and silent adoration, so that it be the real language of the heart, of sincere piety and not a mere church-and-kingical farce. In kingism, I care not whether the supreme power, which must be somewhere lodged in every community, be vested in one or in many persons, in an hereditary or an elective chief. I care not what title the chief magistrate may bear, whether it be King, Protector, President, or it may be Emperor, for aught I care, whether (for I can grant much to the bauble-adoring minds and ever-childish ideas of kings) he be crowned or uncrowned. In short I care nothing for mere words and modes that are in themselves nothing or nearly indifferent. I only wish to see principles, and not empty sounds and forms, govern and bear the supreme rule. If in true subjection to these, which every government should be, and mode whether it be a limited monarchy or a republic, will do very well, whilst under the unrestrained control of the true principles of justice, which are the same as those of liberty and without this no form or mode of government, however plausible in theory, can ever answer its end. From these unalterable principles, and not from human passions, interest, pride and prejudices, must all the maxims of good governments be derived. When things are brought to this point, I shall be amongst the first and most forward to cry, and that as loud as possible, church-and-king-forever!
Church and king at present is only a reerection of the great image which was formerly by monarchs and priests commanded to be worship'd in the plains of Dura and all that will not worship it are cast into the fiery furnace. And I freely confess that I am prepared for this, await it daily, am willing and anxiously long to undergo the fate of Shadrach, Messheek and Abednego. Truth, justice and the rights of man will never be restored to this depraveed kingdom, but from the sufferings of those who dare assert the cause of that eternal rectitude that is now so successfully trampled upon. In this I am anxious to act a feeble part. The utmost that I am able, not by acting the part (like kings) of a murder, but by dint of pacific reasoning. But where is now the king that will hear reason? Any reason but that on which they founded the present suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the banishment of those who assert the claims of truth, the imprisonment of others who utter the language of rationality. I long to suffer in the cause, but as a man of peace, as a protester against the tyranies that in Britain, as well as in France, are now acting on the principles of every thing that is vile, illiberal, oppressive and degrading to the feelings of a Briton, of an Englishman, of every man who feels in himself something superior to what he observes in the irrational brute. I say, sir, that I long to be one of the sufferers in the present cause. Let them heat the furnace ever so high. I can stand fire of every description, but that which preys on the conscience. That I shall not feel. That no man can apply. And God who can is merciful.
You see, sir, that my jocularity, with which I set out, has terminated in solemn seriousness. I have two or three times attempted to recover my first tone, but I have as often relapsed. The smile ends in a sigh at beholding what passes in this infernalized world. What signifies it? What external mode any govt may assume, whilst only the most malignant of human passions bear the sway? What outward forms of godliness any church may wear when its ministers and members are actuated by nothing but the meanest, the most disgracefu[l] self-interest, and study nothing so little as to be the followers of him whose kingdom is not of this world.
Will you, sir, do me the favour of presenting my compliments to Dr and Mrs Williams when you see them? I hope they are well and that you, sir, are perfectly recovered from a severe fit of illness that befell you some time ago.
I am, Revd sir,
Revd Hugh Jones, Lewisham