CCCCCC909090900043 LETTER S to and from Dr. Swift.


A CRITICISM on these LETTERS, by the Earl


THIS volume contains Swift's epistolary corres. pondence. It is an acknowledged observation, that no part of an author's writings gives a greater insight into his natural disposition than his letters, especially when written with freedom and sincerity. Swift's epiftles, and the answers of his friends, af. ford materials to form conjectures upon the different characters, not only of the Dean, but of his correspondents. The reader is probably become acquainted with Dr. Swift, from the account of his life in the first volume ; but the manners and opinions of those persons with whom he corresponded, are, in every respect fo blended with his own, as not to be easily separated ; and in such a kind of united views they will mutually reflect light upon each other.

To a young gentleinan just entring into the world, the fubject may prove of particular importance : as it may guide him, not only in the choice of his correspondents, but in his manner of writing to them.

The freedom of the press is to be watched and defended with the most jealous eye. It is one of the chief articles of that great charter of liberty to which the people of England are intitled. But as no human institution can be perfect, even this branch of liberty has its excrescencies that might pre pruned, I mean particularly, that licence which


[ocr errors]

has of late too much prevailed, of publishing epif-
tolary correspondences. Such a fashion, for I
know not what else to call it, is extremely per.
nicious. At present, it fatisfies the curiofity
of the public; but for the future, it will tend
to restrain that unsuspicious openness, which
is the principal delight of writing to our friends.
I am sorry to say by experience, that the letters
which contains the most fincere, and perhaps hafty
observations, upon perfons, times, circumstances,
are often reserved as treasures, and hoarded up as,
misers hoard gold ; like which, they lie concealed
in cabinets and strong boxes for some time, till
chancing to fall into the hands of an extravagant
heir, or an injudicious executor, they are not only
brought into light, but difperfed and exposed, lo
as to become the property of the whole world. A
young man therefore, when he gives his opinion
upon any important subject, thould consider it well,
before he commit his thoughts to paper. He should
express himself with diffidence, preserve a prudent
restraint over the fallies of wit and humour, and be
eautious in all declarations of friendship ; as the
very common offers of civility are too often ex- .
plained into undesigned engagements.

I own I find myself under no small difficulty in
discussing Swift's letters. General criticisms will be
attended with obscurity, and it would be tedious to
consider them in their exact order. I shall endea-
vour therefore to take a review only of what seeins
to deserve the reader's attention. The correspon-
dence between Dr. Swift and Mr. Pope had com-
menced in a very early part of Mr. Pope's life, and
was carried on, with scarce any interruption, from
-the death of Q. Anne. If we may judge of Mr.
Pope from his works, his chief aim was to be e-
steemed a man of virtue. His letters are written
in that ftyle. His last volumes are all of the moral
kind. He has avoided trifles, and consequently


[ocr errors]

has escaped a rock which has proved very in: jurious to Swift's reputation. He had given his imagination full icope, and yet has preserved a perpetual guard upon his conduct. The constitution of his body and mind might early incline him to habits of caution and reserve. The treatment which he met afterwards from an innumerable tribe of adversaries, confirmed those habits, and made him slower than the Dean in pronouning his judgment upon. persons and things. His prose writings are little less harmonious than his verse: and' his voice in common conversation was so naturally musical, that I remember honest Tom Southerne, used always to call him the little nightingale. . His manners were delicate, easy, and engaging, and he treated his friends with a politeness that charmed, and a generosity that was much to his honour. Every guest was made happy within his doors. Pleasure dwelt under his roof, and elegance presided at his table. Dr. Swift was of a different disposition. To his domesties he was palfionate and churlish ; to his equals and superiors rather an entertaining than a defirable companion. He told a story in an admirable manner : his sentences were short and perspicuous, his observations were piercing. He had seen the great world, and had profited much by his experience. He had not the least tincture of vanity in his conversation. He was perhaps, as he said himself, too proud to be vain. When he was polite, it was ina manner intirely his own In his friendships he was constant and undisguised. He was the fame in his enmities. He generally spoke as he thought in al companies,, and at all times. I remember to have heard, that he dined once at a Lord Mayor's feast in Dublin, and was attacked and teased by an opulent, boisterous, half-intoxicated 'squire, who happened to fit next. him : he bore the awkward raillery for some time, and then on a sudden called out in a loud voice to the


Mayor, “ My Lord, here is one of your bears at my " shoulder; he has been worrying me this half hour; " I desire you will order him to be taken off,” In these last particulars he differed widely from his friend Pope, who could stile resentment, and wait with parience till a more diftant, and perhaps a more reasonable hour of revenge. But notwithstanding the diffimilitude of mind and manners, which was apparent between these two great men, yet the same sort of friendship feems to have subfifted between them as between Virgil and Horace. The mutual affection of the two English poets appears throughout their works. And therefore în this place I cannot avoid taking notice of a report very industriously spread, and not without some degree of success, “ That the friendship be6. tween Pope and Swift was not so firm and per. « fect at the latter end, as at the beginning of their “ lives.” On Dr. Swift's fide, I am certain it ever remained unalterable : nor did it appear less fervent on the side of Mr. Pope. Their letters are the best evidence to determine the doubt. In one of Swift's latest me, not long before he was loft to all human comforts, he says, “ When you s fee my dear friend Pope, tell him, I will 66 answer his letter soon; I love him above all “ the rest of mankind.” In my long correspondence with Mr. Pope, I scarce received the least billet from him, without the kindest mention of Dr. Swift, and the tendereft anxiety for his state of health. Judge by the following paragraphs.July 12. 1737. “ My Lord, The pleasure you gave “ me, in acquainting me of the Dean's better “ health, is one so truly great,as might content even us your own, humanity; and wliatever my sincere « opinion and respect of your Lordship prompts 4 me to wish from your hands for myself, your “ love for him makes me as happy. Would to \ God my weight added to yours, could turn his

56 inclina. “ inclinations to this side, that I might live to en “ joy him here through your means, and flatter " myself it was partly through my own ! But this, “ I fear,İwill never be the case; and I think it more " probable, 'his attraction will draw me on the oother side, which, I proreft, nothing less than a “ probability of dying at sea, considering the weak

fraine of my breast, would have hindered me from, two years past. In short, whenever I

think of him, it is with the vexation of all impo" tent paffions, that carry us out of ourselves, on “ ly to spoil our quiet, and make us return to a relignation, which is the moft melancholy of all virtues." --- April 2 1738. “I write by the " fame poft that I received your very obliging and "s humane letter. The confideration you shew to“ wards me, in the just apprehension that my news of the Dean's condition might alarm me, is most “ kind and generous. The very last post I writ to " him a long letter, little suspecting him in that " dangerous circumstance. I was so far from fear-. “ ing his health, that I was proposing fchemes, and “ hoping possibilities for our meeting once more in

this world. I am weary of it ; and shall have one " reason more, and one of the strongest that rea. " son can give me, (even when she is shaking my " weak frame to pieces), to be willing to leave " this world, when our dear friend is on the edge ^ of the other. Yet I hope, I would fain hope, he “ may yet hover a while on the brink of it, to preo serve to this wretched age a relic and example of " the last.”— Twitnam, Nov. 7. “ When you

get to Dublin, (whither. I direct this, fuppofing “ you will see our dear friend as soon as poffible),

pray put the Dean in mind of me, and tell hiin

I hope he received my last. Tell him how dearly " I love, and how greatly I honour him; how “ greatly I reflect on every testimony of his friend: thip; how much I resolve to give the beft I can

o of

« VorigeDoorgaan »