Some men by fixing on a false Delight

Instruct, and by mistaking set us right.


265J  John   Dunton            1659-1733

IMG_1261Athenian sport: or, two thousand paradoxes merrily argued, to amuse and divert the age: as a Paradox in praise of a Paradox. Corporeal Affections remain after Separation. The Eye beholds as much when it looks on a Shilling, as when it speculates the whole Heaven. Inconstancy is a most commendable Virtue. Every Man is corporally born twice. No Man sees but he that is stark blind. The Restor’d Maidenhead, or a marry’d Woman may be twice a Virgin. Athenian, or Intellectual, Sport is the Recreation of Pre-Existent Spirits. ’tis the Pleasantest Life to be always in Danger. The same numerical Voice of a Preacher is not heard by any two of his Auditors. What we call Life, is Natural Death. Content is the greatest Misery. He is the Happiest Man who has neither Mony nor Friend. Fruition’s nothing, or a Paradox proving there’s no Pleasure in Copulation. To imprison a Debtor is to set him at Liberty. Green come from the Dead, or no Man lives but he that is Hang’d. The Virgin-Paradox, or a Young Lady may Love and Hate the same Person at the same Time. The Loving Shrew, or the Kindest Women are the most Cruel. And so on, to the Defence of 2000 Paradoxes (or Pleasant Theses) which seem Strange, and Contrary to the Common Opinion. With Improvements from the Honourable Mr. Boyle, Lock, Norris Collier, Cowley, Dryden, Garth, Addison, and other Illustrious Wit. By a member of the Athenian Society.

London, printed by B Bragg in Pater-noster-Row: 1707           $1600

Quarto  A8, a8, B-Z8, Aa-Mm8.   First edition.  This copy is bound in full original calf, a very nice copy.



No one would ever suggest that Dunton didn’t write as much as he could but, Dunton was a bit of an exaggerator, this book does not contains   in fact there are only 139.  The subjects here vary from the whimsical to the scatological, and the arrangement is haphazard, with a poem on toothache following an essay on cuckoldry, etc. Eight of the paradoxes are in fact by John Donne, though his name is nowhere mentioned – not even in the list of the title page. Among the paradoxes argued herein  ..”

Nescience: or, a paradox proving we know nothing.IMG_1260

He is the Happiest Man who has neither Mony nor Friend?

Fruition is nothing,

A Paradox proving there’s no Pleasure in Copulation.?

We live in Heaven: ….we are perfectly happy in this world. 

That only Cowards dare die.

If I had more time I would read every book bu Dunton. but in this book he writes in Paradox L. “that the shortest life is best” All of his books  are great, and Dunton’s style is polished, lovely prose which makes for an easily enjoyed read.

Dunton’s mind has, not inaptly, been compared to ‘a table, where the victuals were illsorted and worse dressed.’ He was born at Graffham, in Huntingdonshire, and, at an early age, sent to school, where he passed through the general series of boyish adventures and mishaps — robbing orchards, swallowing bullets, falling into rivers, in short, improving in everything but (book) learning, and not scrupling to tell lies when he could gain any advantage by concealing the truth. His family had been connected with the ministry for three generations; and though he felt prouder of this descent from the house of Levi, than if he had been a duke’s son, yet being of too volatile a disposition to follow in the footsteps of his reverend ancestors, he was apprenticed to Thomas Parkhurst, a noted Presbyterian bookseller of the day, at the sign of the Bible and Three Crowns, Cheapside, London. Dunton and his master seem to have agreed very well together; a young lady, however, coming to visit Mr. Parkhurst’s family, the apprentice made love to her, and they met occasionally in Grocers’ Hall Garden; but the master making a ‘timely discovery,’ sent Miss Susanna back to her friends in the country…

His most fortunate speculation as a publisher, and of which he seems to have been proudest, was the Athenian Mercury, a weekly periodical. This work professed to answer all inquiries on matters of history, divinity, philosophy, love, or marriage. It had a great success, many men of mark were contributors, and it flourished for six years; till the great increase of similar publications of a lighter character caused Dunton to give it up.


Parks, Dunton, 339; Keynes, Donne, 46a; CBEL II, 344; Halkett & Lang I, 156.

This fine book has some interesting book plates in it.