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Thomson and the Surveyor-Generalship of the Leeward
N Account of Dr. Swift has been already collected, with great 1 diligence and acuteness, by Dr. Hawkesworth, according to a scheme which I laid before him in the intimacy of our friendship. I cannot, therefore, be expected to say much of a life concerning which I had long since communicated my thoughts to a man capable of dignifying his narration with so much elegance of language and force of sentiment 2.
JONATHAN SWIFT was, according to an account said to 2 be written by himself3, the son of Jonathan Swift, an attorney*, and was born at Dublin on St. Andrew's day, 16675: according to his own report, as delivered by Pope to Spence, he was born at Leicester, the son of a clergyman, who was minister of a parish in Herefordshire. During his life the place of his birth was undetermined. He was contented to be called an Irishman by the Irish, but would occasionally call himself an Englishman".
'Johnson recorded on his birthday, Sept. 18, 1780:-'I have not at all studied, nor written diligently. I have Swift and Pope yet to write, Swift is just begun.' John. Misc. i. 94.
2 See Appendix A.
3 The original MS., under the Doctor's own hand, which I received from his cousin, Mrs. Whiteway, I have lodged in the University Library of Dublin.' Deane Swift's Essay upon the Life, &c., of Dr. Swift, App. p. 2.
His father, he wrote, 'had some employments and agencies.' Craik's Life of Swift, p. 513. Forster says he was an attorney of Dublin. Life of Swift, p. 18. He described himself as a younger son of younger sons,' although he had no brother. He had a sister. Works, xvii. 260.
5 Faulkner's Dublin Journal, Oct. 27, 1745, in recording his death, says he was "born in the parish of St. Werburgh's, Dublin, on St. An
LIVES OF POETS. III
drew's Day, 1667, at his uncle, Counsellor Godwin Swift's house in Hoey'salley, which was the general residence of the chief lawyers." The Rev. W. G. Carroll, whose Succession of Clergy, &c., p. 55, I am quoting, thinks it probable that it was at Godwin Swift's house in Bull Alley, off Bride Street, that he was born. It was close to the Deanery.
Spence's Anec. p. 161. Probably Pope's memory was at fault; though Swift's cousin writes:-'Sometimes he would declare that he was not born in Ireland at all.... He could never endure to be called an Irishman.' Deane Swift, pp. 26, 28.
It was his grandfather who 'was Vicar of Goodrich in Herefordshire.' Craik, p. 510. For Swift's account of 'the old gentleman's being plundered two and fifty times by the barbarity of Cromwell's hellish crew' see Works, xix. 195.
Orrery's Remarks, p. 7. As to
The question may, without much regret, be left in the obscurity in which he delighted to involve it 1.
Whatever was his birth, his education was Irish. He was sent at the age of six to the school at Kilkenny, and in his fifteenth year (1682) was admitted into the University of Dublin. 4 In his academical studies he was either not diligent or not happy. It must disappoint every reader's expectation that, when at the usual. time he claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he was found by the ekammers too conspicuously deficient for regular admission, and obtained his degree at last by special favour3, a term used in that university to denote want of merit.
Of this disgrace it may be easily supposed that he was much ashamed, and shame had its proper effect in producing reformation. He resolved from that time to study eight hours a-day, and continued his industry for seven years, with what improvement is sufficiently known. This part of his story well deserves to be remembered; it may afford useful admonition and powerful encouragement to men whose abilities have been made for a time useless by their passions or pleasures, and who, having lost one
my native country,' he wrote on March 23, 1733-4, I happened indeed by a perfect accident to be born here, my mother being left here from returning to her house at Leicester...and thus I am a Teague, or an Irishman, or what people please, although the best part of my life was in England.' Swift's Works, xviii. 184. See also ib. xix. 73. He distinguishes 'between the English gentry of this island and the savage old Irish.' The English 'think it very hard that an American, who is of the fifth generation from England, should be allowed to preserve that title [Englishman]' by a legal fiction, while they are denied it. Ib. xix. 94. He makes the 'Drapier' say:-' Our ancestors reduced this kingdom to the obedience of England.' Ib. vi. 412. For the disadvantage of being born in Ireland' see ib. vii. 31. See also ib. p. 11 for 'the wild Irish.'
'It seems to me he was no more an Irishman than a man born of English parents at Calcutta is a Hindoo. Goldsmith was an Irishman, and always an Irishman; Steele was an Irishman, and always an Irish
man; Swift's heart was English and in England, his habits English, his logic eminently English.' THACKERAY, English Humourists, p. 13.
['The original seat of the family was in Yorkshire.' Craik's Swift, p. 3.]
For a Table of Swift's Residences in England see Appendix B.
IT. Sheridan said of this sentence: In plain English it would run thus:-"It is of very little moment where the fellow was born."' Swift's Works, 1803, ii. 202.
Ante, CONGREVE, 4.
3 Swift, writing of himself, says :'He was stopped of his degree for dulness and insufficiency; and at last hardly admitted in a manner little to his credit, which is called in that College speciali gratia. Craik, p. 513. See also ib. p. 12 and Forster, p. 28, for his College days, and N. & 2.6 S. v. 383 for the examination.
Delany's Observations upon Lord Orrery's Remarks, p. 50. Jortin said of Swift:-'Writing Latin, either prose or verse, was not his talent, any more than making sermons. As to the knowledge which he is said to
part of life in idleness, are tempted to throw away the remainder in despair 1.
In this course of daily application he continued three years 6 longer at Dublin; and in this time, if the observation and memory of an old companion may be trusted, he drew the first sketch of his Tale of a Tub2.
When he was about one-and-twenty (1688), being by the death 7 of Godwin Swift his uncle, who had supported him3, left without subsistence, he went to consult his mother, who then lived at Leicester, about the future course of his life, and by her direction solicited the advice and patronage of Sir William Temple, who had married one of Mrs. Swift's relations, and whose father, Sir John Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, had lived in great familiarity of friendship with Godwin Swift, by whom Jonathan had been to that time maintained 5.
Temple received with sufficient kindness the nephew of his 8 father's friend, with whom he was, when they conversed together,
have acquired of the learned lan-
Swift wrote to Pope on April 5, 1729:- I am ashamed to tell you, that when I was very young I had more desire to be famous than ever since.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 150. On Oct. 31 he wrote to Bolingbroke of fame: 'With age we learn to know the house is so full that there is no room for above one or two at most in an age through the whole world.' Ib. p. 162.
2 The story comes from Swift's 'chamber-fellow,' Waring, whose sister he courted in 1695-6 under the name of Varina. Deane Swift, p. 31. Mr. Forster thinks the story 'may be true in everything but place and date.' Forster, pp. 47, 77.
3 Deane Swift, App. p. 42. 'He gave me,' said Swift, 'the education of a dog.' Works, i. 11n. Godwin's son, Deane, says ' he had a numerous progeny by four wives.' His misfortunes made him cut down his nephew's allowance. Deane Swift, App. p. 41. In 1713, when Swift was made Dean, 'he had in Ireland nine cousin-germans [first cousins] living.' Most of them were well-to-do people. Ib. p. 350. In 1739, thanking a friend
for civilities to young Deane Swift, he
'He was forced away,' wrote
Swift wrote of his mother on her death: If the way to Heaven be through piety, truth, justice and charity, she is there.' Works, xv. 337. For her birth see N. & 2.6 S. xi. 264.
5 Deane Swift (pp. 33, 34, 38) is the
Sir John Temple was Master of the