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He was always careful of his money and was therefore no 103 liberal entertainer, but was less frugal of his wine than of his meat'. When his friends of either sex came to him in expectation of a dinner his custom was to give every one a shilling, that they might please themselves with their provision2. At last his avarice grew too powerful for his kindness; he would refuse a bottle of wine, and in Ireland no man visits where he cannot drink 3.
Having thus excluded conversation*, and desisted from study, 104 he had neither business nor amusement; for having, by some ridiculous resolution or mad vow, determined never to wear spectacles 5, he could make little use of books in his later years; his ideas, therefore, being neither renovated by discourse, nor increased by reading, wore gradually away, and left his mind vacant to the vexations of the hour, till at last his anger was heightened into madness.
He, however, permitted one book to be published, which 105 had been the production of former years: Polite Conversation, which appeared in
'His meat was but little, yet much more than Mr. Pope's; and his wine out of all proportion more, and excellent in its kind.' Delany, p. 180. See also ib. p. 145; ante, SWIFT, 67 n. 2. For Pope's frugality see post, POPE, 267. In 1734 Swift described himself as drinking 'a pint of wine at noon, and another at night.' Works, xviii. 230.
When Lady Eustace brought her daughter 'he would contend hard that no more than sixpence should be allowed for the brat (now Mrs. Tickell).' Delany, p. 181.
3 Swift wrote in 1732:-'I should hardly prevail to find one visitor if I were not able to hire him with a bottle of wine.' Works, xviii. 12. A few days earlier he wrote:-'Even my wine will not purchase me company.' Ib. xix. 291.
Deane Swift (p. 181) says that till the death of Stella 'he generally spent his time from noon till he went to bed in conversation.'
5 Delany adds (p. 146) that the natural make of his eyes (large and prominent) very ill qualified him to support this resolution.' On Jan. 15,
The Directions for Ser
1730-1, Swift wrote to Pope :-'Read
He wrote to Stella on her birth-
'For Nature always in the right
To your decays adapts my sight;
'Whenever,' said Goethe, 'a stran-
6 Ib. ix. 339. [The shorter title, Polite Conversation, appears in the Ist ed., after the Introduction and immediately preceding the Dialogues.] Swift wrote of it in 1731:-'I have a
vants' was printed soon after his death. These two performances shew a mind incessantly attentive, and, when it was not employed upon great things, busy with minute occurrences. is apparent that he must have had the habit of noting whatever he observed; for such a number of particulars could never have been assembled by the power of recollection.
106 He grew more violent; and his mental powers declined till (1741) it was found necessary that legal guardians should be appointed of his person and fortune 2. He now lost distinction. His madness was compounded of rage and fatuity 3. The last face that he knew was that of Mrs. Whiteway, and her he ceased to know in a little time. His meat was brought him cut into mouthfuls; but he would never touch it while the
thing in prose, begun above 28 years ago, and almost finished.' Works, xvii. 356. He described it as 'a work to reduce the whole politeness, wit, humour, and style of England into a short system, for the use of all persons of quality, and particularly the maids of honour.' Ib. p. 384. See also ib. xix. 7, 120.
Thackeray in his English Humourists, p. 140, trusted to the ignorance of his audience when he quoted it as representing the talk of persons of fashion.'
Early in 1738-9 Swift published his poem On the Death of Dr. Swift, of which two editions (the first of 2000 copies) were rapidly sold off. Works, xiv. 317, xvii. 389, xix. 171, 178.
Ib. xi. 365. Swift wrote in 1731 that it was of almost equal importance' as Polite Conversation. 'I may call it the whole duty of servants.' Ib. xvii. 384. Mrs. Whiteway, in 1740, described it as 'very unfinished and incorrect.' Ib. xix. 230. Faulkner, the printer, wrote in 1745 that 'it was never finished by the Dean, and is consequently very incorrect.' Ib. p. 255. See also ib. xvii. 357, xix. 158, 213.
Johnson, in the rest of this account, follows Delany (p. 150), who however does not mention the appointment of legal guardians. Hawkesworth in Swift's Life, 1755, p. 57, mentions this. Professor Sir John Banks showed in The Dublin
Quarterly Journal of Medical Science, May, 1861, p. 83, that on Aug. 12, 1741, a writ de lunatico inquirendo was issued. The jury found that Swift had been 'a person of unsound mind, and not capable of taking care of his person or fortune, since May 20 last past.' See ante, SWIFT, 11.
3 See post, YOUNG, 31, for Young's anecdote of the tree withered at its top.
eyes the streams of dotage flow, And Swift expires a driv'ler and a show.'
JOHNSON, The Vanity, &c., 1. 317.
He wrote of her in 1735:—'I have kindred enough, but not a grain of merit among them except one female, who is the only cousin I suffer to see me.' Works, xviii. 277. In 1737 he wrote of her as 'the only cousin I own.' Ib. xix. 61.
'She was a lady of talents, fashion, and independent fortune.' SCOTT. Ib. i. 412 n. 'She came from her own house three days in each week to read and chat with him after Stella's death.' Ib. xviii. 362 n.
5 'I was informed by the servant who attended him in his last illness, that when any person of whose talents he had thought highly visited him, he evinced the greatest anxiety for his departure, whilst blockheads were suffered to approach him with impunity.' G. M. BERKELEY, Literary Relics, Preface, p. lv.
servant staid, and at last, after it had stood perhaps an hour, would eat it walking; for he continued his old habit, and was on his feet ten hours a-day ".
Next year (1742) he had an inflammation in his left eye, which swelled it to the size of an egg, with boils in other parts; he was kept long waking with the pain, and was not easily restrained by five attendants from tearing out his eye.
The tumour at last subsided, and a short interval of reason 108 ensuing, in which he knew his physician and his family, gave hopes of his recovery; but in a few days he sunk into lethargick stupidity, motionless, heedless, and speechless. But it is said that, after a year of total silence, when his housekeeper, on the 30th of November, told him that the usual bonfires and illuminations were preparing to celebrate his birth-day, he answered, 'It is all folly; they had better let it alone"."
It is remembered that he afterwards spoke now and then, or 109 gave some intimation of a meaning; but at last sunk into perfect silence which continued till about the end of October, 1744, when, in his seventy-eighth year, he expired without a struggle3.
'He wrote in 1738:-'I seldom walk less than four miles, sometimes six, eight, ten, or more, never beyond my own limits; or, if it rains, I walk as much through the house, up and down stairs.' Works, xix. 153.
Delany, p. 150. He wrote to Stella on his birthday in 1710:—'I saw fellows wearing crosses to-day [Nov. 30 is St. Andrew's Day], and I wondered what was the matter; but just this minute I recollect it is little Presto's birthday; and I was resolved these three days to remember it when it came, but could not. Pray, drink my health to-day at dinner; do, you rogues.' Works, ii. 95. On Jan. I he wrote:-'And so you kept Presto's little birthday, I warrant ; would to God I had been at the health rather than here, where I have no manner of pleasure.' Ib. p. 129. On Jan. 8, 1711-12, he wrote in answer to her letter:-'What's here now? Yes, faith, I lamented my birthday two days after, and that's all.' Ib. P. 450.
Mrs. Whiteway wrote to him on Dec. 2, 1735:- The Drapier's birthday was celebrated by Mr. Laud
with a dinner... two bowls of punch
'Swift on his birthday constantly read the third chapter of Job, and during the whole day appeared oppressed with the deepest melancholy.' G. M. Berkeley's Literary Relics, Preface, p. liii.
3 He died on Oct. 19, 1745, six weeks short of seventy-eight. For his death see Orrery, p. 247. For his epitaph, composed by himself, see his Works, i. 427. In Lockhart's Scott, viii. 18, it is told how 'Sir Walter hung long over the famous
WHEN Swift is considered as an author' it is just to estimate his powers by their effects. In the reign of Queen Anne he turned the stream of popularity against the Whigs, and must be confessed to have dictated for a time the political opinions of the English nation 2. In the succeeding reign he delivered Ireland from plunder and oppression, and shewed that wit, confederated with truth, had such force as authority was unable to resist. He said truly of himself that Ireland 'was his debtor 3.' It was from the time when he first began to patronize the Irish that they may date their riches and prosperity. He taught them first to know their own interest, their weight, and their strength, and gave them spirit to assert that equality with their fellow-subjects to which they have ever since been making vigorous advances, and to claim those rights which they have at last established. Nor can they be charged with ingratitude to their benefactor, for they reverenced him as a guardian and obeyed him as a dictator 5.
inscription,' when he visited St. Patrick's.
Swift scorned the author who lived by his pen. In 1732 he wrote: -The taste of England is infamously corrupted by shoals of wretches who write for their bread.' Works, xvii. 398.
He only twice was paid for his writings. Ante, SWIFT, 85 n. He wrote of himself and his Examiners:
It seems the author is too proud to have them printed by subscription, though his friends offered, they sav, to make it worth £500 to him.' Ib. ii. 390. Pope made enough money to be above scorn; moreover he could have lived without writing. Gay indeed wrote for bread, and Gay Swift loved.
How much money he could have made by his pen is shown by what Chesterfield wrote in 1760:-'Whosoever in the three kingdoms has any books at all has Swift.' Misc. Works, iv. App. p. 86.
Ante, SWIFT, 45, 47. Johnson passes over the part Sacheverell had borne in turning the stream. Swift recorded on Aug. 24, 1711:-'Sacheverell hates the new ministry mortally, and they hate him, and pretend to
despise him too. They will not allow
That kingdom he hath left his
I wish it soon may have a better.'
Her trade supported, and supplied
And leave on Swift this grateful
"The rights a Court attack'd, a
POPE, Imit. Hor., Epis. ii. 1. 221.
On Dec. 13, 1779, were carried
5 Orrery, pp. 49, 73.
In his works he has given very different specimens both of 111 sentiment and expression. His Tale of a Tub has little resemblance to his other pieces. It exhibits a vehemence and rapidity of mind, a copiousness of images, and vivacity of diction such as he afterwards never possessed or never exerted. It is of a mode so distinct and peculiar that it must be considered by itself; what is true of that is not true of any thing else which he has written 1.
In his other works is found an equable tenour of easy language, 112 which rather trickles than flows. His delight was in simplicity. That he has in his works no metaphor, as has been said 2, is not true; but his few metaphors seem to be received rather by necessity than choice 3. He studied purity; and though perhaps
'Ante, SWIFT, 26. Congreve wrote to a friend in Ireland in 1704: -'I am of your mind as to The Tale of a Tub. I am not alone in the opinion, as you are there; but I am pretty near it, having but very few on my side; but those few are worth a million. However I have never spoke my sentiments, not caring to contradict a multitude. . . . I confess I was diverted with several passages, but I should not care to read it again.' G.M.Berkeley's Literary Relics, p.341.
Voltaire wrote of it in 1759:'Pascal n'amuse qu'aux dépens des jésuites; Swift divertit et instruit aux dépens du genre humain.' Euvres, 1. 211. In 1767 he wrote:-'Swift était bien moins savant que Rabelais, mais son esprit est plus fin et plus délié; c'est le Rabelais de la bonne compagnie.' Ib. xlii. 195. See also ib. xxiv. 133, xlii. 194, 430, and Sainte-Beuve's Causeries du Lundi, iii. 17.
'Swift was Anima Rabelaisii habitans in sicco-the soul of Rabelais dwelling in a dry place.' COLERIDGE, Table Talk, 1884, p. 100.
2 [Biog. Brit. p. 3879; but Melmoth in The Fitzosborne Letters, 1748, who is quoted as the authority, states (ii. 56) that Swift, 'who does not seem in general very fond of the figurative manner, is not always free from censure in his management of the metaphysical language.' He gives an instance from A discourse of the
Contests and Dissentions between the Nobles and Commons in Athens and Rome. 'Their earthly devotion is seldom paid to above one idol at a time... whose oar they pull with less murmuring and much more skill, than when they share the lading or even hold the helm.' Scott's Swift, 1824, iii. 238.]
Ante, DRYDEN, 223 n.
'Johnson,' writes Warton, 'said to me, speaking of the simplicity of Swift's style:-"The Rogue never hazards a figure." Pope's Works, 1822, ix. 76.
Within twenty-three lines in An Argument against Abolishing Christianity he hazards a good many. He writes: There is one darling inclination of mankind which usually affects to be a retainer to religion, though she be neither its parent, its godmother, or its friend. . . . Does the gospel anywhere prescribe a starched, squeezed countenance?... Yet if Christianity did not lend its name to stand in the gap... there is a portion of enthusiasm assigned to every nation which, if it has not proper objects to work on, will burst out, and set all in a flame. If the quiet of a state can be bought by only flinging men a few ceremonies to devour, it is a purchase no wise man would refuse.' Works, viii. 72.
In The Tale of a Tub, after writing of 'the satirical itch,' he adds that'the world is insensible to the lashes