Hobbes's Leviathan; or Treatise upon the Form of a Commonwealth, Civil and Ecclesiastical, was published in 1651. This particular treatise is cited here by Swift more perhaps for its title than for any other reason; and in the passing comment that the wits find Hobbes a storehouse of weapons, there may be an implied compliment, as well as in the hint that the objects which Hobbes attacked were not always worthy of much reverence. Swift certainly did not overlook or despise Hobbes, whose clearness and perspicuity must have been not without some attraction for him, and whose hatred of the Dissenters could not have failed to rouse Swift's sympathy. But for Hobbes's views of absolutism Swift had nothing but detestation. `Arbitrary power,' Swift says, in the Sentiments of a Church of England Man,
'notwithstanding all that Hobbes, Filmer, and others have said to its advantage, I look upon as a greater evil than anarchy itself, as much as a savage is in a happier state of life than a slave at the oar.'
`She understood,' he writes of Esther Johnson, `the nature of government, and could point out all the errors of Hobbes, both in that and religion.' `Hobbes,' says the Abstract on Free-thinking, ` was a person of great learning, virtue, and free-thinking, except in the High Church politics.' This last sarcastic reference is, perhaps, the strongest condemnation.
Swift could not, indeed, pardon Hobbes's formal disquisitions for the sake of his originality, nor his attacks upon religion for the sake of his defence of Church government.