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bring himself to love him; and by stout old Johnson, * who, forced to admit him into the company of poets, receives the famous Irishman, and takes off his hat to him with a bow of surly recognition, scans him from head to foot, and passes over to the other side of the street. Dr. Wilde of Dublin, ** who has written a most
* Besides these famous books of Scott's and Johnson's, there is a copious “Life” by Thomas Sheridan (Dr. Johnson's “Sherry"), father of Richard Brinsley, and son of that good-natured, clever, Irish, Dr. Thomas Sheridan, Swift's intimate, who lost his chaplaincy by so unluckily choosing for a text on the king's birthday, Sufficient for > the day is the evil thereof!” Not to mention less important works, there is also the “Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr. Jonathan Swift,” by that polite and dignified writer, the Earl of Orrery.. His lordship is said to have striven for literary renown, chiefly that he might make up for the slight passed
on him by his father, who left his library away from him. It is to be feared that the ink he used to wash out that stain only made it look bigger. He had, however, known Swift, and corresponded with people who knew him. His work (which appeared in 1751) provoked a good deal of controversy, calling out, among other brochures, the interesting “Observations on Lord Orrery's Remarks,” &c. of Dr. Delany:
** Dr. Wilde's book was written on the occasion of the remains of Swift and Stella being brought to the light of day - a thing, which happened in 1835, when certain work's going on in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, afforded an opportunity of their being examined. One hears with surprise of these skulls "going the rounds” of houses, and being made the objects of dilettante curiosity. The larynx of Swift was actually carried off! Phrenologists had a low opinion of his intellect, from the observations they took.
Dr. Wilde traces the symptoms of ill-health in Swift, as detailed in his writings from time to time. He observes, likewise, that the skull gave evidence of “diseased action' of the brain during life — such as would be produced by an increasing tendency to "cerebral congestion."
interesting volume on the closing years of Swift's life, calls Johnson “the most malignant of his biographers: it is not easy for an English critic to please Irishmen - perhaps to try and please them. And yet Johnson truly admires Swift: Johnson does not quarrel with Swift's change of politics, or doubt his sincerity of religion: about the famous Stella and Vanessa controversy the Doctor does not bear very hardly on Swift. But he could not give the Dean that honest hand of his; the stout old man puts it into his breast, and moves off from him. *
Would we have liked to live with him? That is a question which, in dealing with these people's works, and thinking of their lives and peculiarities, every reader of biographies must put to himself. Would you have liked to be a friend of the great Dean? I should like to have been Shakespeare's shoeblack — just to have lived in his house, just to have worshipped him – have run on his errands, and seen that sweet serene face. I should like, as a young man, to have lived on Fielding's stair-case in the Temple, and after helping him up to bed perhaps, and opening his door with his latch-key, to have shaken hands with him in the morning, and heard him talk and crack jokes over his breakfast and his mug of small beer. Who would not give something to pass a night at the club with Johnson, and Goldsmith, and James Boswell, Esq., of Auchinleck ? The charm of Addison's companion
* “He [Dr. Johnson) seemed to me to have an unaccountable prejudice against Swift; for I once took the liberty to ask him if Swift had personally offended him, and he told me he had not." BOSWELL's Tour to the Hebrides.
ship and conversation has passed to us by fond tradition but Swift ? If
had been his inferior in parts (and that, with a great respect for all persons present, I fear is only very likely), his equal in mere social station, he would have bullied, scorned, and insulted you; if, undeterred by bis great reputation, you had met him like a man, he would have quailed before you,* and not had the pluck to reply, and gone home, and years after written a foul epigram about
you – watched for you in a sewer, and come out to assail you with a coward's blow and a dirty bludgeon. If you had been a lord with a blue riband,
* Few men,
to be sure, dared this experiment, but yet their success was encouraging. One gentleman made a point of asking the Dean, whether his uncle Godwin had not given him his education. Swift, who hated that subject cordially, and, indeed, cared little for his kindred, said, sternly, "Yes; he gave me the education of a dog." “Then, Sir, cried the other, striking his fist on the table, "you have not the gratitude of a dog! Other occasions there were when a bold face
the Dean pause, even after his Irish almost-royal position was established. But he brought himself into greater danger on a certain occasion and the amusing circumstances may be once more repeated here. He had unsparingly lashed the notable Dublin lawyer, Mr. Serjeant Bettesworth “So, at the bar, the booby Bettesworth, Though half-a-crown out-pays his sweat's worth, Who knows in law nor text nor margent,
Calls Singleton his brother-serjeant!” The Serjeant, it is said, swore to have his life. He presented himself at the deanery. The Dean asked his name. "Sir, I am Serjeant Bett-es-worth.”
" In what regiment, pray?” asked Swift,
A guard of volunteers formed themselves to defend the Dean this time.
who flattered his vanity, or could help his ambition, he would have been the most delightful company in the world. He would have been so manly, so sarcastic, so bright, odd, and original, that you might think he had no object in view but the indulgence of his humour, and that he was the most reckless, simple creature in the world. How he would have torn your enemies to pieces for you! and made fun of the Opposition! His servility was so boisterous that it looked like independence;* he would have done your errands, but with the air of patronising you, and after fighting your battles masked in the street or the press, would have kept on his hat before your wife and daughters in the drawing-room, content to take that sort of pay for his tremendous services as a bravo. **
* “But, my Hamilton, I will never hide the freedom of my sentiments from you. I am much inclined to believe that the temper of my friend Swift might occasion his English friends to wish him happily and properly promoted at a distance. His spirit, for I would give it the proper name, was ever untractable. The motions of his genius were often irregular. He assumed more the air of a patron than of a friend. He affected rather to dictate than advise." -ORRERY.
“An anecdote which, though only told by Mrs. Pilkington, is well attested, bears, that the last time he was in London he went to dine with the Earl of Burlington, who was but newly married. The Earl, it is supposed, being willing to have a little diversion, did not introduce him to his lady, nor mention his name. After dinner, said the Dean, 'Lady Burlington, I hear you can sing; sing me a song. The lady looked on this unceremonious manner of asking a favour with distaste, and positively refused. He said “She should sing, or he would make her. Why, Madam, I suppose you take me for one of your poor English hedgeparsons; sing when I bid you.' As the Earl did nothing but laugh at this freedom, the lady was so vexed that she burst
He says as much himself in one of his letters to Bolingbroke: “All my endeavours to distinguish myself were only for want of a great title and fortune, that I might be used like a lord by those who have an opinion of my parts; whether right or wrong is no great matter. And so the reputation of wit and great learning does the office of a blue riband or a coach and six."*
Could there be a greater candour? It is an outlaw, who says, “These are my brains; with these I'll win titles and compete with fortune. These are my bullets; these I'll turn into gold;" and he hears the sound of
into tears and retired. His first compliment to her when he saw her again was, “Pray, Madam, are you as proud and ill-natured now as when I saw you last?' To which she answered with great good-humour,. “No, Mr. Dean, I'll sing for you if you please. From which time he conceived a great esteem for her.”
Scott's Life. “He had not the least tincture of vanity in his conversation. He was, perhaps, as he said himself, too proud to be vain. When he was polite, it was in a manner entirely his own. In his friendships he was constant and undisguised. He was the same in his enmities. ORRERY.
*"I make no figure but at court, where I affect to turn from a lord to the meanest of my acquaintances.” Journal to Stella.
“I am plagued with bad authors, verse and prose, who send me their books and poems, the vilest I ever saw; but I have given their names to my man, never to let them see
Journal to Stella. The following curious paragraph illustrates the life of a courtier:
“Did I ever tell you that the Lord Treasurer hears ill with the left ear just as I do?...... I dare not tell him that I am Sir; for fear he should think that I counterfeited to make my court!” – Journal to Stella.