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that 'it was too late '.' She then gave up herself to sorrowful resentment, and died under the tyranny of him by whom she was in the highest degree loved and honoured.
What were her claims to this excentrick tenderness, by which the laws of nature were violated to retain her, curiosity will inquire; but how shall it be gratified? Swift was a lover; his testimony may be suspected. Delany and the Irish saw with Swift's eyes and therefore add little confirmation. That she was virtuous, beautiful, and elegant in a very high degree, such admiration from such a lover makes it very probable; but she had not much literature, for she could not spell her own language; and of her wit, so loudly vaunted3, the smart sayings which Swift himself has collected afford no splendid specimen *.
The reader of Swift's Letter to a Lady on her Marriage may be allowed to doubt whether his opinion of female excellence ought implicitly to be admitted; for if his general thoughts on women were such as he exhibits, a very little sense in a lady would enrapture and a very little virtue would astonish him.
Johnson's authority is Delany (p. 56), who says that the offer was made some years before her death. 'It was then, she said, "too late"; and therefore better that they should live on, as they had hitherto done.' Craik, p. 530.
Scott also reports this anecdote which he had from Deane Swift's son, Theophilus, who professed to have it from Mrs. Whiteway. The scene is transferred to her death-bed. 'She heard the Dean say, "Well, my dear, if you wish it, it shall be owned," to which Stella answered with a sigh, "It is too late." The word marriage was not mentioned, but there can remain no doubt that such was the secret to be owned.' Works, i. 332. For an account by Sheridan of Swift's meeting the request by leaving the room and never returning see Works, ed. 1803, ii. 61, and Craik, p. 530.
2 Swift wrote to her on Oct. 23, 1711: Here is a full and true account of Stella's new spelling.' The list contains such misspelling as straingers, houer, immagin, merrit, phamphlets, bussiness. Against these words she wrote the correct spelling.
Works, ii. 381. See also ib. p. 417, and Works, 1803, xvi. 142 n.
3 I have often heard a competent judge declare that he never passed one day in Stella's society wherein he did not hear her say something which he would wish to remember to the last day of his life.' Delany, p. 66.
4 6 'Some of us,' wrote Swift, 'have written down several of her sayings, or what the French call bons mots, wherein she excelled beyond belief.' Ib. ix. 277. For the collection-twelve in number-see ib. p. 286. See also ante, ADDISON, 120.
On Swift's birthday in 1721 she sent him a copy of verses ending :'Late dying, may you cast a shred Of your rich mantle o'er my head; To bear with dignity my sorrow One day alone, then die to-morrow.' Works, xiv. 469.
5 Ib. ix. 202. Pope wrote to Swift in 1736- Mrs. Blount says she will be agreeable many years hence, for she has learned that secret from some receipts of your writing.' The allusion is to this Letter. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 353.
Stella's supremacy, therefore, was perhaps only local; she was great because her associates were little 1.
In some Remarks lately published on the Life of Swift this 95 marriage is mentioned as fabulous or doubtful 2; but alas! poor Stella, as Dr. Madden told me, related her melancholy story to Dr. Sheridan when he attended her as a clergyman to prepare her for death 3; and Delany tells it not with doubt but only with. regret. Swift never mentioned her without a sigh*.
The rest of his life was spent in Ireland, in a country to which 96 not even power almost despotick, nor flattery almost idolatrous, could reconcile him. He sometimes wished to visit England, but always found some reason of delay. He tells Pope, in the decline of life, that he hopes once more to see him; 'but if not,' says he, 'we must part, as all human beings have parted ".'
After the death of Stella his benevolence was contracted and 97 his severity exasperated; he drove his acquaintance from his table and wondered why he was deserted'. But he continued his attention to the publick, and wrote from time to time such directions, admonitions, or censures as the exigency of affairs, in his opinion, made proper, and nothing fell from his pen in vain.
In a short poem on the Presbyterians, whom he always 98 regarded with detestation, he bestowed one stricture upon Bettes
For the ignorance of women at this time see ante, MILTON, 135 n. 3. 2 Ante, SWIFT, 70. Cunningham (Lives of the Poets, ii. 185) refers to a paper by Dr. Lyons, printed by Nichols in 1779, in a supplemental volume to Swift's Works. [The reference is to Biographical Anecdotes of Dean Swift in the first volume of the three supplementary volumes to Hawkesworth's Swift, printed from MS. annotations in an interleaved copy of his Life of Swift. Supplement to Hawkesworth's Swift, vol. i. Intro. pp. xvii, xxxii.]
3 For three prayers by Swift 'used by him for Mrs. Johnson in her last sickness' see ib. ix. 289. Sheridan's son gives a somewhat different account. Swift's Works, 1803, ii. 61.
4 Orrery, p. 28. 'Dr. Tuke,' writes Scott, has a lock of her hair, on the envelope of which is written in Swift's hand, "Only a woman's hair."" Works, i. 223 n.
G. M. Berkeley records (Literary Relics, Preface, pp. xxviii, liv) that when Swift first saw Mrs. Hearne, Stella's niece, 'he was so struck with the strong resemblance she bore to Stella that he uttered a deep groan.' This was some years after Stella's death.
Ante, SWIFT, 66. He wrote to Bolingbroke from Dublin on March 21, 1729-30:- You think, as I ought to think, that it is time for me to have done with the world; and so I would if I could get into a better, before I was called into the best, and not die here in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole.' Works, xvii. 236. [See Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 188, for the date of this letter.]
Letter of Oct. 12, 1727. Ib. xvii. 143; quoted by Johnson. Boswell's Johnson, iii. 312.
7 Delany, p. 144; Deane Swift, pp. 181, 308.
worth, a lawyer eminent for his insolence to the clergy, which, from very considerable reputation, brought him into immediate and universal contempt. Bettesworth, enraged at his disgrace and loss, went to Swift and demanded whether he was the author of that poem 2.
'Mr. Bettesworth,' answered he, 'I was in my youth acquainted with great lawyers, who, knowing my disposition to satire, advised me, that, if any scoundrel or blockhead whom I had lampooned should ask, "Are you the author of this paper?" I should tell him that I was not the author; and therefore I tell you, Mr. Bettesworth, that I am not the author of these lines 3.
Bettesworth was so little satisfied with this account that he publickly professed his resolution of a violent and corporal revenge; but the inhabitants of St. Patrick's district embodied themselves in the Dean's defence. Bettesworth declared in Parliament that Swift had deprived him of twelve hundred pounds a year.
Swift was popular a while by another mode of beneficence.
'Thus at the bar the booby Bettes
Though half a crown o'erpays his
Who knows in law nor text nor
Calls Singleton his brother serjeant.' Works, xii. 417. The poem appeared in Gent. Mag. 1733, p. 710, where in the second line it is 'out-pays.'
'Upon entering the room,' says T. Sheridan, who had it from his father, Swift desired to know his commands. "Sir," says he, "I am Sergeant Bet-tes-worth" (which was always his pompous way of pronouncing his name, in three distinct syllables)." Of what regiment, pray?" Swift.' Works, 1803, ii. 129. According to Sheridan the advice was given him by Lord Somers. Ib. As for the lawfulness of such an answer see Boswell's Johnson, iii. 376.
Swift wrote to the Lord Lieutenant in Jan. 1733-4 that he was at a friend's house when Bettesworth asked to see him. 'The Sergeaunt had a footman in the hall during all his talk, who was to have opened the
door for one or two more fellows, as he has since reported; and likewise that he had a sharp knife in his pocket, ready to stab or maim me.
The least uproar would have called his nearest neighbours, first to my assistance, and next to the manifest danger of his life.' Works, xviii. 175.
A paper was presented to Swift about the end of December, 1733, by the inhabitants of the Liberty of St. Patrick's, in which, after stating that 'a certain Man of this City hath openly sworn by the Help of several Ruffians to murder or maim the Reverend the Dean of St. Patrick's, our Neighbour, Benefactor and Head of the Liberty of St. Patrick's,' they continued:-We, from our great Love and Respect to the said Dean, do unanimously declare that we will defend the Life and Limbs of the said Dean against the said Man, and all his Ruffians and Murderers, as far as the Law will allow.' To this the Dean, being in bed very much indisposed, dictated an answer.' Gent. Mag. 1734, p. 48; Letters to Chetwode, p. 112.
He set aside some hundreds to be lent in small sums to the poor, from five shillings, I think, to five pounds. He took no interest, and only required that, at repayment, a small fee should be given to the accomptant; but he required that the day of promised payment should be exactly kept. A severe and punctilious temper is ill qualified for transactions with the poor; the day was often broken and the loan was not repaid. This might have been easily foreseen, but for this Swift had made no provision of patience or pity. He ordered his debtors to be sued. A severe creditor has no popular character; what then was likely to be said of him who employs the catchpoll under the appearance of charity? The clamour against him was loud and the resentment of the populace outrageous; he was therefore forced to drop his scheme and own the folly of expecting punctuality from the poor '.
His asperity continually increasing condemned him to soli- 101 tude, and his resentment of solitude sharpened his asperity. He was not, however, totally deserted: some men of learning, and some women of elegance, often visited him, and he wrote from time to time either verse or prose; of his verses he willingly gave copies, and is supposed to have felt no discontent when he saw them printed 3. His favourite maxim was 'vive la baga
According to Sheridan 'he lent £500 in sums of five or ten pounds, to be repaid weekly, at two or four shillings, without interest.' He required 'good security for the repayment'; a steady man, he said, would easily find it. 'Thus did this fund continue undiminished to the last. I have been well assured that many families, now living in great credit, owed the foundation of their fortunes to the sums first borrowed from this fund.' Works, 1803, i. 312. One man, when asked for his security, 'replied:-"I have none to offer excepting my faith in my Redeemer." Swift accepted the security, made the entry accordingly with all formality, and declared that none of his debtors was more punctual.' Works, i. 445 n.
His housekeeper was the accountant. On Sept. 14, 1721, he wrote to Mr. Worrall (ante, SWIFT, 68):-'I doubt Mrs. Brent will be at a loss about
her industry-book, for want of a new leaf, with a list drawn of the debtors.' Ib. xvi. 366. It is stated in a pamphlet recently issued by the Governors of St. Patrick's Hospital (post, SWIFT, 138) that their predecessors found great difficulty in collecting the £11,000 bequeathed by Swift; a considerable amount of his money having been lent by the Dean to deserving tradesmen.'
For Johnson's almsgiving see Boswell's Johnson, ii. 119, iii. 56, iv. 3; John. Misc. i. 204.
2 T. Sheridan, after speaking of his 'temper, peevish, fretful, and morose,' continues:-'I loved him from my boyish days, and never stood in the least awe before him, as I do not remember ever to have had a cross look or harsh expression from him.' Works, 1803, ii. 83.
Delany, in A Letter to Deane Swift, 1755, p. 16, says, 'Swift was so long used to the sweet incense of
telle'; he thought trifles a necessary part of life, and perhaps
As his years increased his fits of giddiness and deafness grew
praise from printing that he could
''In the end he was almost totally
After writing to Bolingbroke on
Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii.
Bolingbroke wrote to him in 1722 :-
'If, after all, we must with Wilmot
The cordial drop of life is love alone;
The man that loves and laughs must
POPE, Imit. Hor., Epis. i. 6. 127.
2 Post, SWIFT, 130.
3 He wrote to Pope in 1737:-
Orrery, p. 245. The Legion Club (Works, xii. 436) is a complete poem. Swift wrote on April 24, 1736:-'I have been very ill these two months past.... I have writ a very masterly poem on the Legion Club; which, if the printer should be condemned to be hanged for it, you will see in a threepenny book, for it is 240 lines. Mrs. Whiteway is to have half the profit, and half the hanging.' Ib. xviii. 424. See also ib. p. 433, xix. 67.
'Tennyson,' says Mr. LockerLampson, was greatly impressed by the deadly-earnest and savagery, and, let me say sadness, of Swift's Legion Club. He has more than once read it to me.' Tennyson's Life, ii. 73.