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In his œconomy he practised a peculiar and offensive parsi- 124 mony, without disguise or apology. The practice of saving being once necessary, became habitual, and grew first ridiculous, and at last detestable 1. But his avarice, though it might exclude pleasure, was never suffered to encroach upon his virtue 2. He was frugal by inclination, but liberal by principle 3; and if the purpose to which he destined his little accumulations be remembered, with his distribution of occasional charity, it will perhaps appear that he only liked one mode of expence better than another, and saved merely that he might have something to give. He did not grow rich by injuring his successors, but left both Laracor and the Deanery more valuable than he found them.
With all this talk of his covetousness and generosity it should 125 be remembered that he was never rich. The revenue of his Deanery was not much more than seven hundred a year 5.
His beneficence was not graced with tenderness or civility; 126 he tell you how I pulled Tom's locks the wrong way, for holding a plate under his arm-pit?' Letters to Chetwode, p. 52.
Ante, SWIFT, 14. 'His true character prior to this [decline of life] was a mixture of a regular, exact, and well-judged economy and frugality, with a very distinguished generosity.' Delany, p. 4.
In 1721 Bolingbroke wrote to him: -'I am sorry to hear you confess that the love of money has got into your head. Take care, or it will ere long sink into your heart.' Works, xvi. 359. In 1729 he wrote to Bolingbroke: I have made a maxim that should be writ in letters of diamond, that a wise man ought to have money in his head, but not in his heart.' Ib. xvii. 239. The same year he wrote:-'I want only to be rich, for I am hard to be pleased; and for want of riches people grow every day less solicitous to please me.' Ib. p. 221. 'I have no other notion of economy than that it is the parent of liberty and ease.' Ib. p. 239. See also ib. pp. 191, 250, 261.
2 'He would not suffer a shilling of the money of his Cathedral to be alienated from its proper use, even for the purposes of charity.... Turn
ing to the person that made the proposal he would say:-" My deanery is worth £700 a year; your prebend worth £200; if you will give two shillings to this charity I will give seven; or any greater sum in the same proportion.' Delany, p. 200.
3'He was early sensible of his propensity to avarice, and therefore diligently laid himself out to cheat it by charity in every way that he could devise.' Ib. p. 12. See also ib. p. 259.
About 1733 he wrote:-'When I ride to a friend a few miles off, if he be not richer than I, I carry my bottle, my bread and chicken, that he may be no loser.' Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 206.
In 1729 Pope wrote to him :-' I can afford to give away £100 a year.' Works, xvii. 256. He replied:-' I thought myself as great a giver as ever was of my ability, and yet in proportion you exceed.' Ib. p. 259.
5 Delany, p. 200. The Jury de lunatico inquirendo (ante, SWIFT, 106 n. 2) found that he was 'seized and possessed of lands, tythes and tenements of the clear yearly value of £800, and also possessed of goods and chattels to the value of £10,000.'
• On Christmas Day, 1737, he wrote
he relieved without pity, and assisted without kindness, so that those who were fed by him could hardly love him.
He made a rule to himself to give but one piece at a time, and therefore always stored his pocket with coins of different value 1.
Whatever he did, he seemed willing to do in a manner peculiar to himself, without sufficiently considering that singularity, as it implies a contempt of the general practice, is a kind of defiance which justly provokes the hostility of ridicule; he therefore who indulges peculiar habits is worse than others, if he be not better 2.
Of his humour a story told by Pope3 may afford a specimen : 'Dr. Swift has an odd, blunt way that is mistaken by strangers for ill-nature. 'Tis so odd, that there's no describing it but by facts *. I'll tell you one that first comes into my head. One evening Gay and I went to see him: you know how intimately we were all acquainted. On our coming in," Heyday, gentlemen (says the Doctor), what's the meaning of this visit? How came you to leave all the great Lords, that you are so fond of, to come hither to see a poor Dean?"-Because we would rather see you than any of them.-"Ay, any one that did not know [you] so well as I do, might believe you. But since you are come I must get some supper for you, I suppose." No, Doctor, we have supped already.-" Supped already? that's impossible! why, 'tis not eight o'clock yet. That's very strange; but, if you had not supped, I must have got something for you. -Let me see, what should I have had? A couple of lobsters;
to a poor blind gentleman :-'I send
In a footnote it is stated that the
1 Delany, p. 13.
a 'However slightly men may regard these particularities and little follies in dress and behaviour, they lead to greater evils. The bearing to be laughed at for such singularities teaches us insensibly an impertinent fortitude, and enables us to bear public censure for things which more
Warton writes in a note:-'It is a compliment to Swift.' Swift's recognition of Pope's genius is shown in his desire, twice expressed, that he would inscribe an Epistle to him. Works, xviii. 422, xix. 16.
Swift wrote to Mrs. Howard in 1727 :—' A lady told me that, talking with the Queen about me, her Majesty said, "I was an odd sort of a man." But I forgive her; for it is an odd thing to speak freely to princes.' Ib. xvii. 132.
ay, that would have done very well; two shillings-tarts, a shilling but you will drink a glass of wine with me, though you supped so much before your usual time only to spare my pocket?"-No, we had rather talk with you than drink with you." But if you had supped with me, as in all reason you ought to have done, you must then have drunk with me.-A bottle of wine, two shillings'-two and two is four, and one is five: just two-and-six-pence a-piece. There, Pope, there's half a crown for you, and there's another for you, Sir; for I won't save any thing by you, I am determined "."-This was all said and done with his usual seriousness on such occasions; and, in spite of every thing we could say to the contrary, he actually obliged us to take the money 3.
In the intercourse of familiar life he indulged his disposition 130 to petulance and sarcasm, and thought himself injured if the licentiousness of his raillery, the freedom of his censures, or the petulance of his frolicks were resented or repressed. He predominated over his companions with very high ascendency, and probably would bear none over whom he could not predominate 5. To give him advice was, in the style of his friend Delany, 'to venture to speak to him.' This customary superiority soon grew
Hearne, describing a feast given in 1706 by the Lord Mayor to Marlborough, says :-'The claret cost Is. 6d. per bottle.' Hearne's Remains, i. 121.
Swift wrote to Pope in 1729:-'I give my Vicar a supper and his wife a shilling to play with me an hour at backgammon once a fortnight.' Works, xvii. 221. The shilling was, no doubt, the equivalent of the supper. See also ib. xviii. 230 for his daily allowance to a Prebendary whom he was going to visit.
3 Bolingbroke, in 1716, thus describes another of his peculiarities:— 'If I could have half an hour's conversation with you, you would stare, haul your wig, and bite paper more than ever you did in your life.' Ib. xvi. 256.
4 He wrote to Archbishop King from London in 1711:-'I can rally much safer here with a great minister of state or a duchess than I durst do there [in Ireland] with an attorney or his wife.... I say things every day at the best tables which I should be turned out of company for, if I were
in Ireland.' lb. xv. 410.
5 'Swift kept every friend, and I believe every man living that he conversed with, in some degree of awe.' Delany, p. 18. He wrote to Pope in 1723: I choose my companions among those of least consequence, and most compliance.' Works, xvi. 411. Nine years later he wrote to Gay:-'I differ from you, for I would have society if I could get what I like, people of middle understanding and middle rank, very complying, and consequently such as I can govern.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope),
This had not always been his habit. In 1713 Steele wrote to him of 'the agreeable qualities I once so passionately delighted in in you.' Works, xvi. 45. In 1714 Arbuthnot wrote to him:-That hearty, sincere friendship, that plain and open ingenuity in all your commerce, is what I am sure I never can find in another.' Ib. p. 192. In 1718 Addison wrote to him:-'I always honoured you for your good nature.' lb. p. 293.
too delicate for truth; and Swift, with all his penetration, allowed himself to be delighted with low flattery 1.
On all common occasions he habitually affects a style of arrogance, and dictates rather than persuades. This authoritative and magisterial language he expected to be received as his peculiar mode of jocularity; but he apparently flattered his own arrogance by an assumed imperiousness, in which he was ironical only to the resentful, and to the submissive sufficiently serious.
132 He told stories with great felicity, and delighted in doing what he knew himself to do well. He was therefore captivated by the respectful silence of a steady listener, and told the same tales too often 3.
He did not, however, claim the right of talking alone; for it was his rule, when he had spoken a minute, to give room by a pause for any other speaker. Of time, on all occasions, he was an exact computer, and knew the minutes required to every common operation 5.
Orrery, p. 5. 'I verily think he might have said with Ramsay's Cyrus:-"I hated flattery, but was not insensible to delicate praise." Delany, p. 15.
'Dr. Swift does not hate praise; he only dislikes it when 'tis extravagant or coarse.' POPE, Spence's Anec. p. 256. See ante, SWIFT, 101.
Johnson at first wrote:sumes a style of superiority.' Boswell's Johnson, iv. 63.
'Swift had a mixture of insolence in his conversation.' YOUNG, Spence's Anec. p. 334.
3 He told a story admirably well, and the most effectual way of paying court to him was to listen with attention, although he sometimes told them too often.' Delany, p. 218.
Among Swift's 'Resolutions when
Deane Swift, p. 366. See also in
the passage beginning:
Conversation is but carving.' 'Swift would not interrupt any body while speaking.' YOUNG, Spence's Anec. p. 375.
Perhaps he wrote The Tatler, No. 264, where the writer proposes that at a club 'a watch, which divides the minute into twelve parts ..., shall lie upon the table, as an hour-glass is often placed near the pulpit to measure out the length of a discourse. I shall be willing to allow a man one round of my watch, that is a whole minute to speak in; but if he exceeds that time it shall be lawful for any of the company to look upon the watch, or to call him down to order.' If he wrote this paper he did not act up to the part where he says:-'The life of man is too short for a story-teller.'
For Johnson's respect for the rights of others in conversation see John. Misc. i. 169, ii. 166.
5 His hours of walking and reading never varied. His motions were guided by his watch, which was held in his hand, or placed before him upon his table.' Orrery, p. 68. For Johnson's love of computation see John. Letters, ii. 321.
It may be justly supposed that there was in his conversation, 134 what appears so frequently in his letters, an affectation of familiarity with the Great, an ambition of momentary equality sought and enjoyed by the neglect of those ceremonies which custom has established as the barriers between one order of society and another. This transgression of regularity was by himself and his admirers termed greatness of soul. But a great mind disdains to hold any thing by courtesy, and therefore never usurps what a lawful claimant may take away. He that encroaches on another's dignity puts himself in his power: he is either repelled with helpless indignity, or endured by clemency and condescension 2.
Of Swift's general habits of thinking, if his letters can be sup- 135 posed to afford any evidence, he was not a man to be either loved or envied 3. He seems to have wasted life in discontent, by the rage of neglected pride and the languishment of unsatisfied desire. He is querulous and fastidious, arrogant and malignant; he scarcely speaks of himself but with indignant lamentations, or of others but with insolent superiority when he is gay, and with angry contempt when he is gloomy. From the letters that pass between him and Pope it might be inferred that they, with Arbuthnot and Gay, had engrossed all the understanding and virtue of mankind, that their merits filled the world; or that there was no hope of more. They shew the
Ante, SWIFT, 52; post, GRAY, 3. 'My Lord Oxford desired Swift to introduce Dr. Parnell to him; which he refused upon this principle:-That a man of genius was a character superior to that of a Lord in high station.' Delany, p. 29. For Oxford's going to inquire for Parnell' see ante, PARNELL, 5.
Swift wrote in 1726:-'I have a cloud of witnesses, with my Lord Bolingbroke at their head, to prove I never practised or possessed such a talent as civility.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 85.
2 'Swift has been justly blamed for this fault by his two illustrious biographers, both of them men of spirit at least as independent as his, Samuel Johnson and Walter Scott.' MACAULAY, Hist. of Eng. vii. 72. For Scott's criticism see Swift's Works, i.
3 Steele wrote of him in The
Post, POPE, 172, 284. Pope, writing to Swift in 1725, describes Arbuthnot as 'reviewing a world he has long despised every part of, but what is made up of a few men like yourself.' Works, xvii. 7.
Gay wrote to Swift in 1730:-'I do not hate the world, but I laugh at it; for none but fools can be in earnest about such a trifle.' Ib. p. 277.
'In all Pope's letters, as well as in those of Swift, there runs a strain of pride, as if the world talked of nothing but themselves.' GOLDSMITH, Works, iv. 85.