« PreviousContinue »
was irreconcileable: he told them his opinion, tween prudence and integrity he was seldom in that all was lost. This denunciation was con- the wrong: and that, when he was right, bis tradicted by Oxford ; but Bolingbroke whis- spirit did not easily yield to opposition. pered that he was right.
Having so lately quitted the tumults of a Before this violent dissention had shattered party, and the intrigues of a court, they still the ministry, Swift had published, the begin- kept his thoughts in agitation, as the sea fluca ing of the year (1714), “ The public Spirit of tuates awhile when the storm has ceased. He the Whigs,” in answer to “ The Crisis," a therefore filled his hours with some historical pamphlet for which Steele was expelled from attempts, relating to the “ Change of the the House of Commons. Swift was now so
Ministers, and “ the conduct of the Minisfar alienated from Steele, as to think him no try.' He likewise is said to have written Jonger entitled to decency, and therefore treats “ History of the Four last years of Queen him sometimes with contempt, and sometimes Anne,” which he began in her life-time, and with abhorrence.
afterwards laboured with great attention, but In this pamphlet the Scotch were mentioned never published. It was after his death in the in terms so provoking to that irritable nation, hands of Lord Orrery and Dr. King. A book that, resolving “not to be offended with im- under that title was published, with Swift's punity,” the Scotch Lords, in a body, demanded name, by Dr. Lucas; of which I can only say, an audience of the Queen, and solicited repara- that it seemed by no means to correspond with tion. A proclamation was issued, in which the notions that I had formed of it, from a conthree hundred pounds were offered for the dis- versation which I once heard between the Earl covery of the author. From this storm he was, of Orrery and old Mr. Lewis. as he relates, “ secured by a sleight;" of what
much against his will, commenced kind, or by whose prudence, is not known; Irishman for life, and was to contrive bow he and such was the increase of his reputation, might be best accommodated in a country where that the Scottish “nation applied again that he he considered himself as in a state of exile. It would be their friend."
seems that his first recourse was to piety. The He was become so formidable to the whigs, thoughts of death rushed upon him at this time, that his familiarity with the ministers was with such incessant importunity, that they took clamoured at in parliament, particularly by possession of his mind, when he first waked, two men, afterwards of great note, Aislabie for many years together. and Walpole.
He opened his house by a public táble two But, by the disunion of his great friends, his days a week, and found his entertainments graimportance and designs were now at an end: dually frequented by more and more visitants and seeing his services at last useless, he retired of learning among the men, and of elegance about June (1714) into Berkshire, where, in among the women. Mrs. Johnson had left the the house of a friend, he wrote, what was then country, and lived in lodgings not far from the suppressed, but has since appeared under the deanery. On his public days she regulated the title of “ Free Thoughts on the present State table, but appeared at it as a mere guest like of Affairs."
other ladies. While he was waiting in this retirement for On other days he often dined, at a stated events which time or chance might bring to price, with Mr. Worral, a clergyman of his pass, the death of the broke down at cathedral, whose house was recommended by once the whole system of tory politics; and the peculiar neatness and pleasantry of his wife, nothing remained but to withdraw from the To this frugal mode of living, he was first disimplacability of triumphant whiggism, and shel- posed by care to pay some debts which he had ter himself in unenvied obscurity.
contracted, and he continued it for the pleasure The accounts of his reception in Ireland, of accumulating money. His avarice, howgiven by Lord Orrery and Dr. Delany, are so ever, was not suffered to obstruct the claims of different, that the credit of the writers, both his dignity; he was served in plate, and used to undoubtedly veracious, cannot be saved, but by say that he was the poorest gentleman in Iresupposing, what I think is true, that they speak land that ate upon plate, and the richest that of different times. When Delany says, that he lived without a coach. was received with respect, he means for the first How he spent the rest of his time, and how fortnight, when he came to take legal possession; he employed his hours of study, has been in. and when Lord Orrery tells that he was peltedquired with hopeless curiosity. For who can by the populace, he is to be understood of the give an account of another's studies ? Swift time when, after the Queen's death, he became was not likely to admit any to his privacies, or a settled resident.
to impart a minute account of his business or The Archbishop of Dublin gave him at first his leisure. some disturbance in the exercise of bis juris- Soon after (1716), in his forty-ninth year, ba diction; but it was soon discovered, that be- was privately married to Mrs. Johnson, by Dr
Ashe, bishop of Clogher, as Dr. Madden told thoughts, and give place to obloquy. And me, in the garden. The marriage made no Stella retired (upon the earnest invitation of change in their mode of life; they lived in dif- the owner) to the house of a cheerful, generous, ferent houses, as before ; nor did she ever lodge good-natured friend of the Dean's, whom sho in the deanery but when Swift was seized with always much loved and honoured. There my a fit of giddiness. " It would be difficult," informer often saw her; and I have reason to says Lord Orrery, “ to prove that they were believe, used his utmost endeavours to relieve, ever afterwards together without a third per- support, and amuse her, in this sad situation.
“ One little incident he told me on that occaThe Dean of St. Patrick's lived in a private sion, I think, I shall never forget. As her manner, known and regarded only by his friend was an hospitable, open-hearted man, friends ; till, about the year 1720, he, by a pam- well-beloved and largely acquainted, it happened phlet, recommended to the Irish the use, and one day that some gentlemen dropped into din. consequently the improvement, of their manu- ner, who were strangers to Stella's situation; facture. For a man to use the productions of and as the poem of “ Cadenus and Vanessa" his own labour is surely a natural right, and to was then the general topic of conversation, one like best what he makes himself is a natural of them said, · Surely that Vanessa must be an passion. But to excite this passion, and en- extraordinary woman, that could inspire the force this right, appeared so criminal to those Dean to write so finely upon her.' Mrs. Johnwho had an interest in the English trade, that son smiled, and answered, that she thought the printer was imprisoned ; and, as Hawkes- that point not quite so clear; for it was well worth justly observes, the attention of the public known the Dean could write finely upon a being by this outrageous resentment turned broomstick.' upon the proposal, the author was by conse- The great acquisition of esteem and influence quence made popular.
was made by the “ Drapier's Letters” in 1724. In 1723 died Mrs. Van Homrigh, a woman One Wood, of Wolverhampton, in Staffordmade unhappy by her admiration of wit, and shire, a nian enterprising and rapacious, had, as ignominiously distinguished by the name of is said, by a present to the Dutchess of Munster, Vanessa, whose conduct has been already suffi- obtained a patent, empowering him to coin one ciently discussed, and whose history is too well hundred and eighty thousand pounds of halfknown to be minutely repeated. She was a pence and farthings for the kingdom of Ireland, young woman fond of literature, whom De-in which there was a very inconvenient and emcanus the dean, called Cadenus by transposition barrassing scarcity of copper coin; so that it was of the letters, took pleasure in directing and in- possible to run in debt upon the credit of a piece structing; till, from being proud of his praise, of money; for the cook or keeper of an ale-house she grew fond of his person. Swift was then could not refuse to supply a man that had silver about forty-seven, at an age when vanity is in his hand, and the buyer would not leave his strongly excited by the amorous attention of a money without change. young woman. If it be said that Swift should The project was therefore plausible. The have checked a passion which he never meant scarcity, which was already great, Wood took to gratify, recourse must be had to that extenu- care to make greater, by agents who gathered ation which he so much despised, “ men are up the old halfpence; and was about to turn but men;" perhaps, however he did not at first his brass into gold, by pouring the treasures of know his own mind, and, as he represents him his new mint upon Ireland; when Swift, findself, was undetermined. For his admission of ing that the metal was debased to an enormous her courtship, and his indulgence of her hopes degree, wrote letters, under the name of M. B. after his marriage to Stella, no other honest plea Drapier, to show the folly of receiving, and the can be found than that he delayed a disagreeable mischief that must ensue by giving, gold and sildiscovery from time to time, dreading the im- ver for coin worth perhaps not a third part of mediate bursts of distress, and watching for a its nominal value. favourable inoment. She thought herself neg- The nation was alarmed; the new coin was. lected, and died of disappointment; having universally refused; but the governors of Ireordered by her will the poem to be published, land considered resistance to the King's patent in which Cadenus had proclaimed her excel- as highly criminal; and one Whitshed, then lence, and confessed his love. The effect of the Chief Justice, who had tried the printer of the publication upon the Dean and Stella is thus former pamphlet, and sent out the jury ning related by Delany:
times, till by clamour and menaces they were “ I have good reason to believe ihat they both frighted into a special verdict, now presented were greatly shocked and distressed (though it the Drapier, but could not prevail on the grand may be differently) upon this occasion. The jury to find the bill. ean made a tour to the south of Ireland, for Lord Carteret and the privy-council published ut two months, at this time, to dissipate his a proclamation, offering three hundred pounda
for discovering the author of the Fourth Letter. But the pleasure of popularity was soon inSwift had concealed himself from his printers, terrupted by domestic misery. Mrs. Johnson, and trusted only his butler, who transcribed whose conversation was to him the great softener the paper. The man, immediately after the of the ills of life, began in the year of the Draappearance of the proclamation, strolled from pier's triumph to decline; and two years afterthe house, and stayed out all night, and part of wards was so wasted with sickness, that her rethe next day. There was reason enough to covery was considered as hopeless. fear that had betrayed his master for the re- Swift was then in England, and had been inward; but he came home, and the Dean ordered vited by Lord Bolingbroke to pass the winter kim to put off his livery, and leave the house ; with him in France, but this call of calamity " for,” said he, “ I know that my life is in hastened him to Ireland, where perhaps his your power, and I will not bear, out of fear, presence contributed to restore her to imperfect either your insolence or negligence.” The man and tottering health. excused his fault with great submission, and He was now so much at ease, that (1727) he begged that he might be confined in the house returned to England; where he collected three while it was in his power to endanger his mas volumes of Miscellanies in conjunction with ter : but the Dean resolutely turned him out, Pope, who prefixed a querulous and apologetical without taking farther notice of him, till the Preface. term of the information had expired, and then This important year sent likewise into the received him again. Soon afterwards he or- world “ Gulliver's Travels;" a production so dered him and the rest of his servants into his new and strange, that it filled the reader with presence, without telling his intention, and a mingled emotion of merriment and amazebade them take notice that their fellow-servantment. It was received with such avidity, that was no longer Robert the butler ; but that his the price of the first edition was raised before integrity had made him Mr. Blakeney, verger the second could be made; it was read by the of St. Patrick's; an officer whose income was high and the low, the learned and illiterate. between thirty and forty pounds a year: yet he criticism was for a while lost in wonder ; no still continued for some years to serve his old rules of judgment were applied to a book writmaster as his butler. *
ten in open defiance of truth and regularity. Swift was known from this time by the ap- But when distinctions came to be made, the pellation of “ The Dean.” He was honoured part which gave the least pleasure was that by the populace as the champion, patron, and which describes the Flying Island, and that instructor, of Ireland; and gained such power which gave most disgust must be the history of as, considered both in its extent and duration, the Houyhnhnms. scarcely any man has ever enjoyed without While Swift was enjoying the reputation of greater wealth or higher station.
his new work, the news of the King's death He was from this important year the oracle arrived; and he kissed the hands of the new of the traders, and the idol of the rabble, and King and Queen three days after their acby consequence was feared and courted by all to cession. whom the kindness of the traders or the popu- By the Queen, when she was princess, he lace was necessary. The Drapier was a sign; had been treated with some distinction, and was the Drapier was a health ; and which way well received by her in her exaltation; but soever the eye or the ear was turned, some to- whether she gave hopes which she never took kens were found of the nation's gratitude to care to satisfy, or he formed expectations which the Drapier.
she never meant to raise, the event was, that The benefit was indeed great; he had rescued he always afterwards thought on her with maleIreland from a very oppressive and predatory volence, and particularly charged her with invasion; and the popularity which he had breaking her promise of some medals which she gained he was diligent to keep, by appearing engaged to send him. forvard and zealous on every occasion where I know not whether she had not, in her turn; the public interest was supposed to be involved. I some reason for complaint. A letter was sent Nor did he much scruple to boast his influence; her, not so much entreating, as requiring, her for when, upon some attempts to regulate the patronage of Mrs. Barber, an ingenious Irishcoin, Archbishop Boulter, then one of the jus-woman, who was then begging subscriptions for tices, accused him of exasperating the people, her poems. To this letter was subscribed the he exculpated himself by saying, “ If I had name of Swift, and it has all the appearances lifted up my finger, they would have torn you of his diction and sentiments : but it was not to pieces.”
written in his hand, and had some little im
proprieties. When he was charged with this • An account somewhat different from this is letter, he laid hold of the inaccuracies, and given by Mr. Sheridan in his Life of Swift, p. 211. urged the improbability of the accusation, but R.
never denied it; he shuffles between cowardice
and veracity, and talks big when he says What were her claims to this eccentric tennothing. *
derness, by which the laws of nature were vioHe seems desirous enough of recommencing lated to retain her, curiosity will inquire; bat courtier, and endeavoured to gain the kindness how shall it be gratified ? Swift was a lover; of Mrs. Howard, remembering what Mrs. Ma- his testimony may be suspected. Delany and sham had performed in former times : but his the Irish saw with Swift's eyes, and therefore flatteries were, like those of other wits, unsuc- add little confirmation. That she was virtuous, cessful; the lady either wanted power, or had beautiful, and elegant, in a very high degree, no ambition of poetical immortality.
such admiration from such a lover makes it He was seized, not long afterwards, by a fit very probable; but she had not much literature, of giddiness, and again heard of the sickness for she could not spell her own language; and and danger of Mrs. Johnson. He then left the of her wit so loudly vanted, the smart sayings house of Pope, as it seems, with very little which Swift himself has collected, afford no ceremony, finding “ that two sick friends can- splendid specimen. not live together;" and did not write to him The reader of Swift's “ Letter to a Lady on till he found himself at Chester.
her Marriage,” may be allowed to doubt wheHe returned to a home of sorrow : poor Stella ther his opinion of female excellence ought imwas sinking into the grave, and, after a lan- plicitly to be admitted; for, if his general guishing decay of about two months, died in thoughts on women were such as he exhibits, her forty-fourth year, on January 28, 1728. a very little sense in a lady would enrapture, How much he wished her life, his papers show; and a very little virtue would astonish him. nor can it be doubted that he dreaded the death Stella's supremacy, therefore, was perhaps only of her whom he loved most, aggravated by the local; she was great, because her associates were consciousness that himself had hastened it. little.
Beauty and the power of pleasing, the great- In some Remarks lately published on the Life est external advantages that woman can desire of Swift, his marriage is mentioned as fabulous, or possess, were fatal to the unfortunate Stella. or doubtful; but, alas! poor Stella, as Dr. The man whom she had the misfortune to love Madden told me, related her melancholy story was, as Delany observes, fond of singularity, to Dr. Sheridan, when he attended her as a and desirous to make a mode of happiness for clergyman to prepare her for death; and Dehimself, different from the general course of lany mentions it not with doubt, but only with things and order of Providence. From the regret. Swift never mentioned her without a time of her arrival in Ireland he seems resolved sigh. The rest of his life was spent in Ireland, to keep her in his power, and therefore hin- in a country to which not even power almost dered a match sufficiently advantageous, by ac- despotic, nor flattery almost idolatrous, could cumulating unreasonable demands, and prescrib- reconcile him. He sometimes wished to visit ing conditions that could not be performed. England, but always found some reason of While she was at her own disposal he did not delay. He tells Pope, in the decline of life, consider his possession as secure; resentment, that he hopes once more to see him; “ but if ambition, or caprice, might separate them; he not,” says he, “ we must part, as all human was therefore resolved to make “ assurance beings have parted." double sure," and to appropriate her by a pri- After the death of Stella, his benevolence was vate marriage, to which he aanexed the ex-contracted, and his severity exasperated; he pectation of all the pleasures of perfecs fris:d-drove his acquaintance from his table, azd wonship without the uneasiness of conjugal restirent. dered why he was deserted. But he continued But with this state poor Stella was not satis- his attention to the public, and wrote, from Bed; she never was treated as a wife, and to time to time, such directions, admonitions, or the world she had the appearance of a mistress. censures, as the exigency of affairs, in his She lived sullenly on, in hope that in time he opinion, made proper; and nothing fell from would own and receive her ; but the time did his pen in vain. not come till the change of his manners and In a short poem on the Presbyterians, whom deprivation of his mind made her tell him, he always regarded with detestation, he bewhen he offered to acknowledge her, that “it stowed one stricture upon Bettesworth, a lawwas too late.” She then gave up herself to yer eminent for his insolence to the clergy, sorrowful resentment, and died under the ty- which,' from very considerable reputatiou, ranny of him, by whom she was in the highest brought him into immediate and universal con degree love and honoured.
tempt. Bettesworth, enraged at his disgrace and loss, went to Swift and demanded whether
he was the author of that poem? “ Mr. Bettes• It is but justice to the Dean's memory, to refer
worth,” answered he, “ I was in my youth to Mr. Sheridan's defence of him from this charge. acquainted with great lawyers, who, knowing See the “ Life of Swift," p. 458.-R.
my disposition to satisa, advised me, that if any
scoundrel or blockhead whom I had lampooned shame, and how can they act upon the man should ask, “Are you the author of this paper?' who hears nothing but his own praises ? I should tell him that I was not the author; As his years increased, his fits of giddiness and therefore I tell you, Mr. Bettesworth, that and deafness grew more frequent, and his deafI am not the author of these lines."
ness made conversation difficult: they grew Bettesworth was so little satisfied with this likewise more severe, till in 1736, as he was account, that he publicly professed his resolu- writing a poem called “ The Legion Club,” he tion of a violent and corporal revenge ; but the was seized with a fit so painful and so long coninhabitants of St. Patrick's district 'embodied tinued, that he never after thought it proper to themselves in the Dean's defence. Bettesworth attempt any work of thought or labour. declared in parliament, that Swift had deprived He was always careful of his money, and was him of twelve hundred pounds a year.
therefore no liberal entertainer ; but was less Swift was popular awhile by another mode of frugal of his wine than of his meat. When his beneficence. He set aside some hundreds to be friends of either sex came to him in expectation lent in small sums to the poor, from five shil- of a dinner, his custom was to give every one a lings, I think, to five pounds. He took no in- shilling, that they might please themselves with terest, and only required that, at repayment, a their provision. At last his avarice grew too small fee should be given to the accomptant: powerful for his kindness; he would refuse a but he required that the day of promised pay- bottle of wine, and in Ireland no man visits ment should be exactly kept. A severe and where he cannot drink. punctilious temper is ill qualified for transac- Having thus excluded conversation and detions with the poor; the day was often broken, sisted from study, he had neither business nor and the loan was not repaid. This might have amusement; for having by some ridiculous rebeen easily foreseen; but for this Swift had solution or mad vow determined never to wear made no provision of patience or pity. He or spectacles, he could make little use of books in dered his debtors to be sued. A severe creditor his later years; his ideas, therefore, being neihas no popular character; what then was likely ther renovated by discourse nor increased by to be said of him who employs the catchpoll reading, wore gradually away, and left his mind under the appearance of charity? The clamour vacant to the vexations of the hour, till at last against him was loud, and the resentment of his anger was heightened into madness. the populace outrageous; he was therefore He however permitted one book to be pubforced to drop his scheme, and own the folly of blished, which had been the production of expecting punctuality from the poor.
former years ;
“ Polite Conversation," which His asperity continually increasing, con- appeared in 1738. The “ Directions for Serdemned him to solitude; and his resentment of vants” was printed soon after his death. These solitude sharpened his asperity. He was not, two performances show a mind incessantly at. however, totally deserted; some men of learn- tentive, and, when it was not employed upon ing, and some women of elegance, often visited great things, busy with minute occurrences. It him; and he wrote from time to time either is apparent that he must have had the habit of verse or prose : of his verses he willingly gave noting whatever he observed; for such a numcopies, and is supposed to have felt no discontent ber of particulars could never have been as. when he saw them printed. His favourite sembled by the power of recollection. maxim was, « Vive la Bagatelle :" he thought
He grew more violent, and his mental powers trifles a necessary part of life, and perhaps declined till (1741) it was found necessary that found them necessary to himself. It seems im- legal guardians should be appointed of his perpossible to him to be idle, and his disorders son and fortune. He now lost distinction, made it difficult or dangerous to be long se- His madness was compounded of rage and fariously studious or laboriously diligent. The tuity. The last face that he knew was that of love of ease is always gaining upon age, and he Mrs. Whiteway; and her he ceased to know in had one temptation to petty amusements pecu- a little time. His meat was brought him cut liar to himself; whatever he did he was sure to into mouthfuls ; but he would never touch it hear applauded; and such was his predomi- while the servant stayed, and at last, after it nance over all that approached, that all their had stood perhaps an hour, would eat it walkapplauses were probably sincere. He that is ing; for he continued his old habit, and was on much flattered soon learns to flatter himself; his feet ten hours a day, we are commonly taught our duty by fear or Next year (1742) he had an inflammation in
bis left eye, which swelled it to the size of an • This account is contradicted by Mr. Sheridan, long waking with the pain, and was not easily
egg, with biles in other parts: he was kept who with great warmth asserts, from his own knowledge, that there was not one syllable of truth in this restrained by five attendants from tearing out whole account from the beginning to the end. See
eye. • Life of Swift.” edit. 1784. p. 532.-R.
The tumour at last subsided and a short in