an empty tub

The phrase ` A Tale of a Tub' was used by Sir Thomas More to describe a pointless speech. Ben Jonson gave the name to an early comedy, in which one of the characters was `Squire Tub.' Defoe, in a pamphlet published in 1704, on the grievances of Irish Dissenters, speaks of a certain Bill as a `Tale of a Tub,' exactly in the sense here used by Swift, from whom it is quite possible that Defoe borrowed the phrase.

Note by Henry Craik to The Author's Preface from Tale Of A Tub
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