Herefordshire.* During his life the place of King William's notions were all military; his birth was undetermined. He was contented (and he expressed his kindness to Swift by offerto be called an Irishman by the Irish; but | ing to make him a captain of horse. would occasionally call himself an Englishman. When Temple removed to Moor-park, he took The question may, without much regret, be Swift with him; and when he was consulted left in the obscurity in which he delighted to by the Earl of Portland about the expedience involve it.

of complying with a bill then depending for Whatever was his birth, his education was making parliaments triennial,' against which Irish. He was sent at the age of six to the King William was strongly prejudiced, after school at Kilkenny, and in his fifteenth year having in vain tried to show the Earl that the (1682) was admitted into the University of proposal involved nothing dangerous to royal Dublin.

power, he sent Swift for the same purpose to In his academical studies he was either not the King. Swift, who probably was proud of diligent or not happy. It must disappoint every his employment, and went with all the conreader's expectation, that when at the usual fidence of a young man, found his arguments, time he claimed the bachelorship of arts, he was and his art of displaying them, made totally found by the examiners too conspicuously defi- ineffectual by the predetermination of the King ; cient for regular admission, and obtained his and used to mention this disappointment as his degree at last by special favour ; a term used in first antidote against vanity. that University to denote want of merit.

Before he left Ireland he contracted a disorof this disgrace it may be easily supposed der, as he thought, by eating too much fruit. that he was much ashamed, and shame had its The original of diseases is commonly obscure. proper effect in producing reformation. He re- Almost every boy eats as much fruit as he can solved from that time to study eight hours a get, without any great inconvenience. The day, and continued his industry for seven years, disease of Swift was giddiness with deafness, with what improvement is sufficiently known. which attacked him from time to time, began This part of his story well deserves to be re- very early, pursued him through life, and at membered; it may afford useful admonition last sent him to the grave, deprived of reason. and powerful encouragement to many men,

Being much oppressed at Moor-park by this whose abilities have been made for a time use- grievous malady, he was advised to try his naless by their passions or pleasures, and who, tive air, and went to Treland; but, finding no having lost one part of life in idleness, are benefit, returned to Sir William, at whose house tempted - to throw away the remainder in he continued his studies, and is known to have despair.

read, among other books, “ Cyprian” and “ IreIn this course of daily application he con

He thought exercise of great necessity tinued three years longer at Dublin; and in and used to run half a mile up and down a hilo this time, if the observation and memory of an every two hours. old companion may be trusted, he drew the first It is easy to imagine that the mode in which sketch of his “ Tale of a Tub."

his first degree was conferred, left him no great When he was about one-and-twenty (1688), fondness for the University of Dublin, and being by the death of Godwin Swift, his uncle, therefore he resolved to become a master of arts who had supported him, left without subsis at Oxford. In the testimonial which he protence, he went to consult his mother, who then duced, the words of disgrace were omitted; and lived at Leicester, about the future course of his he took his master's degree (July 5, 1692) with life: and, by her direction, solicited the advice, such reception and regard as fully contented and patronage of Sir William Temple, who had him. married one of Mrs. Swift's relations, and While he lived with Temple, he used to pay whose father, Sir John Temple, master of the his mother at Leicester a yearly visit. He rolls in Ireland, had lived in great familiarity travelled on foot, unless some violence of weaof friendship with Godwin Swift, by whom 'ther drove him into a waggon; and at night Jonathan had been to that time maintained. he would go to a penny lodging, where he pur

Temple received with sufficient kindness the chased clean sheets for sixpence. This practice nephew of his father's friend, with whom he Lord Orrery imputes to his innate love of was, when they conversed together, so much grossness and vulgarity: some may ascribe it to pleased, that he detained him two years in his his desire of surveying human life through all house. Here he became known to King Wil- its varieties : and others, perhaps with equal liam, who sometimes visited Temple when he probability, to a passion which seems to have was disabled by the gout, and, being attended been deeply fixed in his heart, the love of a by Swift in the garden, showed him how to cut shilling. asparagus in the Dutch way,

In time he began to think that his attendance

at Moor- park deserved some other recompence • Spence's Anecdotes, vol. ii. p. 273. than pleasure, however iningled with improve

99 næus.

[ocr errors]

ment, of Temple's conversation ; and grew so But he had yet more to suffer. Lord Berkeimpatient, that (1694) he went away in dis- ley had the disposal of the deanery of Derry, content.

and Swift expected to obtain it; but, by the Temple, conscious of having given reason for secretary's influence, supposed to have been secomplaint, is said to have made him deputy cured by a bribe, it was bestowed on somebody master of the rolls in Ireland : which, accord- else; and Swift was dismissed with the livings ing to his kinsman's account, was an office of Laracor and Rathbeggin in the diocese of which he knew him not able to discharge. Meath, which together did not equal half the Swift therefore resolved to enter int the value of the deanery. church, in which he had at first no higher At Laracor he increased the parochial duty hopes than of the chaplainship to the Factory by reading prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, at Lisbon; but, being recommended to Lord and performed all the offices of his profession Capel, he obtained the prebend of Kilroot, in with great decency and exactness. Connor, of about a hundred pounds a year. Soon after his settlement at Laracor, he in.

But the infirmities of Temple made a com- vited to Ireland the 'unfortunate Stella, a young panion like Swift so necessary, that he invited woman whose name was Johnson, the daughter him back, with a promise to procure him an of the steward of Sir William Temple, who, in English preferment in exchange for the prebend, consideration of her father's virtues, left her a which he desired him to resign. With this re- thousand pounds. With her came Mrs. Dingquest Swift quickly complied, having perhaps ley, whose whole fortune was twenty-seven equally repented their separation, and they lived pounds a year for her life. With these ladies on together with mutual satisfaction ; and, in he passed his hours of relaxation, and to them the four years that passed between his return he opened his bosom: but they never resided and Temple's death, it is probable that be in the same house, nor did he ever see either wrote the “ Tale of a Tub” and the “ Battle without a witness. They lived at the parsonof the Books."

age, when Swift was away; and, when he reSwift began early to think, or to hope, that turned, removed to a lodging, or to the house of he was a poet, and wrote Pindaric odes to a neighbouring clergyman. Temple, to the King, and to the Athenian So Swift was not one of those minds which ciety, a knot of obscure men,* who published a amaze the world with early pregnancy: his first periodical pamphlet of answers to questions, work, except his few poetical essays, was the sent, or supposed to be sent, by letters. I have “ Dissentions in Athens and Rome,” published been told that Dryden, having perused these (1701) in his thirty-fourth year. After its apverses, said, “ Cousin Swift, you will never be a pearance, paying a visit to some bishop, he poet;” and that this denunciation was the mo- heard mention made of the new pamphlet that tive of Swift's perpetual malevolence to Dryden. Burnet had written, replete with political

In 1699 Temple died, and left a legacy with knowledge. When he seemed to doubt Burnet's his manuscripts to Swift, for whom he had right to the work, he was told by the bishop, obtained, from King William, a promise of the that he was “ a young man;" and, still perfirst prebend that should be vacant at Westmin- sisting to doubt, that he was a very positive ster or Canterbury.

young man. That this promise might not be forgotten, Three years afterwards (1704) was published Swift dedicated to the King the posthumous “ The Tale of a Tub:” of this book charity works with which he was intrusted: but nei- | may be persuaded to think that it might be ther the dedication, nor tenderness for the man written by a man of a peculiar character withwhom he once had treated with confidence and out ill intention ; but it is certainly of dangerfondness, revived in King William the remem ous example. That Swift was its author, brance of his promise. Swift awhile attended though it be universally believed, was never the court; but soon found his solicitations owned by himself, nor very well proved by any hopeless.

evidence; but no other claimant can be proHe was then invited by the Earl of Berkeley duced, and he did not deny it when Archbishop to accompany him into Ireland, as a private Sharpe and the Dutchess of Somerset, by secretary ; but, after having done the business showing it to the Queen debarred him from a till their arrival at Dublin, he then found that bishopric. one Bush had persuaded the Earl that a Clergy When this wild work first raised the a tepman was not a proper secretary, and had ob- tion of the public, Sacheverell, meeting Smaltained the office for himself. In a man like ridge, tried to flatter him, by seeming to think Swift, such circumvention and inconstancy him the author ; but Smalridge answered witu must have excited violent indignation.

indignation, “ Not all that you and I have in

the world, nor all that ever we shall have, • The publisher of this Collection was John Dun should hire me to write the Tale of a Tub.” ton, R.

The digressions relating to Wotton and Bente

hey must be confessed to discover want of know-would have immediately sunk into silence and ledge or want of integrity; he did not under- oblivion.” stand the two controversies, or he willingly The reasonableness of a Test is not hard to misrepresented them. But wit can stand its be proved; but, perhaps it must be allowed, that ground against truth only a little while. The the proper test has not been chosen. honours due to learning have been justly distri The attention paid to the papers published buted by the decision of posterity.

under the name of “ Bickerstaff,” induced “ The Battle of the Books” is so like the Steele, when he projected “ The Tatler,” to as« Combat des Livres,” which the same question sume an appellation which had already gained concerning the ancients and moderns had pro- possession of the reader's notice. duced in France, that the improbability of such In the year following he wrote a “ Project a coincidence of thoughts without communica- for the Advancement of Religion,” addressed tion is not, in my opinion, balanced by the ano to Lady Berkeley ; by wbose kindness it is not nymous protestation prefixed, in which all unlikely that he was advanced to his benefices. knowledge of the French book is peremptorily To this project, which is formed with great pudisowned. *

rity of intention, and displayed with sprightliFor some time after, Swift was probably em ness and elegance, it can only be objected, that, ployed in solitary study, gaining the qualifica- like many projects, it is, if not generally imtions requisite for future eminence. How often practicable, yet evidently hopeless, as it supposes he visited England, and with what diligence he more zeal, concord, and perseverance, than a attended his parishes, I know not. It was not

view of mankind gives reason for expecting. till about four years afterwards that he became He wrote likewise this year “ A Vindication a professed author; and then, one year (1708) of Bickerstaff ;” and an explanation of “ Au produced “ The Sentiments of a Church-of- Ancient Prophecy,” part written after the facts, England Man;" the ridicule of Astrology and the rest never completed, but well planned under the name of “ Bickerstaff;" the “ Ar to excite amazement. gument against abolishing Christianity;" and Soon after began the busy and important part the Defence of the “ Sacramental Test." of Swift's Life. He was employed (1710) by

“ The Sentiments of a Church-of-. England the Primate of Ireland to solicit the Queen for Man" is written with great coolness, modera a remission of the first-fruits and twentieth tion, ease, and perspicuity. The “ Argument parts to the Irish Clergy. With this purpose against abolishing Christianity” is a very happy he had recourse to Mr. Harley, to whom he and judicious irony. One passage in it de.. was mentioned as a man neglected and opserves to be selected :

pressed by the last ministry, because he had re“ If Christianity were once abolished, how fused to co-operate with some of their schemes. could the free-thinkers, the strong reasoners, What he had refused has never been told; what and the men of profound learning, be able to he had suffered was, I suppose, the exclusion find another subject so calculated, in all points, from a bishopric by the remonstrances of whereon to display their abilities? What won- Sharpe, whom he describes as “ the harmless derful productions of wit should we be deprived tool of others' hate,” and whom he represents of from those, whose genius, by continual prao as afterwards “suing for pardon.” tice, hath been wholly turned upon raillery and Harley's designs and situation were such as invectives against religion, and would therefore made him glad of an auxiliary so well qualified never be able to shine, or distinguish them for his service; he therefore soon admitted him selves, upon any other subject? We are daily to familiarity, whether ever to confidence some complaining of the great decline of wit among have made a doubt; but it would have been us, and would take away the greatest, perhaps difficult to excite his zeal without persuadiug the only, topic we have left. Who would ever him that he was trusted, and not very easy to have suspected Asgill for a wit, or Toland for delude him by false persuasions. a philosopher, if the inexhaustible stock of

He was certainly admitted to those meetings Christianity had not been at hand to provide in which the first hints and original plan of them with materials? What other subject, action are supposed to have been formed; and through all art or nature, could have produced was one of the sixteen ministers, or agents of Tindal for a profound author, or furnished him

the ministry, who met weekly at each other's with readers? It is the wise choice of the houses, and were united by the name of subject that alone adorns and distinguishes the Brothers.” writer. For had a hundred such pens as these

Being not immediately considered as an obbeen employed on the side of religion, they durate tory, he conversed indiscriminately

with all the wits, and yet was the friend of

Steele; who, in the “ Tatler,” which began in s • See Sheridan's Life, edit. 1784, p. 525; where are

April, 1709, confesses the advantage of his consome remarks on this passage.-R.

versation, and mentions something contributed


[ocr errors]


by him to his paper. But he was now immerg- | posal for correcting, improving, and ascertain. ing into political controversy; for the year 1710 ing the English Tongue,” in a letter to the produced “ The Examiner,” of which Swift Earl of Oxford ; written without much knowwrote thirty-three papers. In argument he ledge of the general nature of languages, and may be allowed to have the advantage; for without any accurate inquiry into the history where a wide system of conduct, and the whole of other tongues. The certainty and stability of a public character, is laid open to inquiry, which, contrary to all experience, he thinks atthe accuser having the choice of facts, must tainable, he proposes to secure by instituting be very unskilful if he does not prevail ; but, an academy; the decrees of which, every man with regard to wit, I am afraid none of Swift's would have been willing, and many would have papers will be found equal to those by which been proud, to disobey'; and which, being reAddison opposed him.*

newed by successive elections, would in a short He wrote in the year 1711, a “ Letter to time have differed from itself. the October Club," a number of tory gentle Swift now attained the zenith of his political men sent from the country to parliament, who | importance : he published (1712) the “ Conduct formed themselves into a club, to the number of the Allies,” ten days before the parliament of about a hundred, and met to animate the assembled. The purpose was to persuade the zeal, and raise the expectations, of each other. nation to a peace; and never had any writer They thought, with great reason, that the minis


The people, who had been ters were losing opportunities ; that sufficient amused with bonfires and triumphal procesuse was not made of the ardour of the nation ; sions, and looked with idolatry on the General they called loudly for more changes and stronger and his friends, who, as they thought, had made efforts; and demanded the punishment of part, England the arbitress of nations, were conand the dismission of the rest, of those whom founded between shame and rage, when they they considered as public robbers.

found that “ mines had been exhausted, and Their eagerness was not gratified by the millions destroyed," to secure the Dutch or Queen, or by Harley. The Queen was pro- aggrandize the Emperor, without any advanbably slow because she was afraid ; and Harley tage to ourselves ; that we had been bribing our was slow, because he was doubtful: he was a neighbours to fight their own quarrel ; and that tory only by necessity, or for convenience ; and amongst our enemies we might number our when he had power in his hands, had no settled allies. purpose for which he should employ it; forced That is now no longer doubted, of which to gratify to a certain degree the tories who the nation was then first informed, that the war supported him, but unwilling to make his re was unnecessarily protracted to fill the pockets concilement to the whigs utterly desperate, he of Marlborough: and that it would have been corresponded at once with the two expectants continued without end, if he could have conof the crown, and kept, as has been observed, tinued his annual plunder. But Swift, I supthe succession undetermined. Not knowing pose, did not yet know what he has since writwhat to do, he did nothing; and, with the fate ten, that a commission was drawn, which of a double dealer, at last he lost his power, would have appointed him General for life, had but kept his enemies.

it not become ineffectual by the resolution of Swift seems to bave concurred in opinion Lord Cowper, who refused the seal. with the “ October Club;" but it was not in 66 Wbatever is received,” say the schools, his power to quicken the tardiness of Harley, “ is received in proportion to the recipient.' whom he stimulated as much as he could, but | The power of a political treatise depends much with little effect. He that knows not whither upon the disposition of the people; the nation to go, is in no haste to move. Harley, who was then combustible, and a spark set it on fire. was perhaps not quick by nature, became yet It is boasted, that between November and more slow by irresolution; and was content to January, eleven thousand were sold; a great hear that dilatoriness lamented as natural, number at that time, when we were yet not a which he applauded in himself as politic. nation of readers. To its propagation certainly

Without the tories, however, nothing could no agency of power or influence was wanting. be done: and, as they were not to be gratified, It furnished arguments for conversation, speechthey must be appeased ; and the conduct of the

es for debate, and materials for parliamentary Minister, if it could not be vindicated, was to resolutions. be plausibly excused.

Yet, surely, whoever surveys this wonderEarly in the next year he published a “ Pro- working pamphlet with cool perusal, will con

fess that its efficacy was supplied by the passions • Mr. Sheridan, however, says, that Addison's last of its readers ; that it operates by the mere Whig Examiner was published Oct. 12, 1711; and weight of facts, with very little assistance from Swist's first Examiner, on the 10th of the following the hand that produced them. November.-R.

This year (1712) he published his “ Refleos

tions on the Barrier Treaty,” which carries on him no longer; and therefore it must be al-, the design of his “ Conduct of the Allies," and lowed, that the childish freedom, to which he shows how little regard in that negotiation had seems enough inclined, was overpowered by his been shown to the interest of England, and how better qualities. much of the conquered country had been de His disinterestedness has been likewise menmanded by the Dutch.

tioned ; a strain of heroism, which would have This was followed by “ Remarks on the been in his condition romantic and superfluous. Bishop of Sarum's Iutroduction to the thir Ecclesiastical benefices, when they become vaVolume of the History of the Reformation;" cant, must be given away; and the friends of & pamphlet which Burnet published as an power may, if there be no inherent disqualificaalarm, to warn the nation of the approach of tion, reasonably expect them. Swift accepted popery. Swift, who seems to have disliked the (1713) the deanery of St. Patrick, the best prebishop with something more than political aver- ferment that his friends could venture* to give sion, treats him like one whom he is glad of an him. That ministry was in a great degree supopportunity to insult.

ported by the clergy, who were not yet recona Swift, being now the declared favourite and ciled to the author of the “ Tale of a Tub,” supposed confidant of the tory ministry, was and would not without much discontent and treated by all that depended on the Court with indignation bave borne to see him installed in the respect which dependants know how to pay. an English cathedral. He soon began to feel part of the misery of He refused, indeed, fifty pounds from Lord greatness : he that could say that he knew hina, Oxford; but he accepted afterwards a draught considered himself as having fortune in his of a thousand upon the Exchequer, which was power. Commissions, solicitations, remon- intercepted by the Queen's death, and which he strances, crowded about him; he was expected resigned, as he says himself, “ multa gemens, to do every man's business, to procure employ- with many a groan. ment for one, and to retain it for another. In In the midst of his power and his politics, he assisting those who addressed him, he repre- kept a journal of his visits, his walks, his intersents himself as sufficiently diligent; and de- views with ministers, and quarrels with his sires to have others believe, what he probably servant, and transmitted it to Mrs. Johnson believed himself, that by his interposition many and Mrs. Dingley, to whom he knew that whigs of merit, and among them Addison and whatever befell him was interesting, and no acCongreve, were continued in their places. But counts could be too minute. Whether these every man of known influence has so many pe- diurnal trifles were properly exposed to eyes titions which he cannot grant, that he must ne- which had never received any pleasure from cessarily offend more than he gratifies, as the the presence of the Dean, may be reasonably preference given to one affords all the rest rea doubted: they have, however, some odd attracson for complaint. 6 When I give away a

tion; the reader, finding frequent mention of place," said Lewis XIV.“ I make a hundred names which he has been used to consider as discontented, and one ungrateful.”

important, goes on in hope of information; and, Much has been said of the equality and inde- as there is nothing to fatigue attention, if he is pendence which he preserved in his conversa- disappointed he can hardly complain. It is tion with the ministers, of the frankness of easy to perceive, from every page, that though his remonstrances, and the familiarity of his ambition pressed Swift into a life of bustle, friendship. In accounts of this kind a few the wish for a life of ease was always resingle incidents are set against the general te- turning. nour of behaviour. No man, however, can pay He went to take possession of his deanery as a more servile tribute to the great, than by suf- soon as he had obtained it; but he was not suffering his liberty in their presence to aggrandize fered to stay in Ireland more than a fortnight him in his own esteem. Between different before he was recalled to England, that he ranks of the community there is necessarily might reconcile Lord Oxford and Lord Bolingsome distance; he who is called by his superior broke, who began to look on one another with to pass the interval, may properly accept the malevolence, which every day increased, and Invitation ; but petulance and obtrusion are which Bolingbroke appeared to retain in his rarely produced by magnanimity; nor have last years. often any nobler cause than the pride of impor Swift contrived an interview, from which tance, and the malice of inferiority. He who they both departed discontented; he procured a knows himself necessary may set, while that second, which only convinced him that the feud necessity lasts, a high value upon himself; as, in a lower condition, a servant eminently skilful may be saucy; but he is saucy only because

* This emphatic word has not escaped the watch he is servile. Swift appears to have preserved ful eye of Dr. Warton, who has placed a nota beni the kindness of the great when they wanted at it.-C.

« VorigeDoorgaan »