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Herefordshire. During his life the place of his birth was undetermined. He was contented to be called an Irishman by the Irish; but would occasionally call himself an Englishman. The question may, without much regret, be left in the obscurity in which he delighted to involve it.
Whatever was his birth, his education was Irish. He was sent at the age of six to the school at Kilkenny, and in his fifteenth year (1682) was admitted into the University of Dublin.
In his academical studies he was either not diligent or not happy. It must disappoint every reader's expectation, that when at the usual time he claimed the bachelorship of arts, he was found by the examiners too conspicuously deficient for regular admission, and obtained his degree at last by special favour; a term used in that University to denote want of merit.
Of this disgrace it may be easily supposed that he was much ashamed, and shame had its proper effect in producing reformation. He resolved from that time to study eight hours a day, and continued his industry for seven years, with what improvement is sufficiently known. This part of his story well deserves to be remembered; it may afford useful admonition and powerful encouragement to many men, whose abilities have been made for a time useless by their passions or pleasures, and who, having lost one part of life in idleness, are tempted to throw away the remainder in despair.
In this course of daily application he continued three years longer at Dublin; and in this time, if the observation and memory of an old companion may be trusted, he drew the first sketch of his "Tale of a Tub."
When he was about one-and-twenty (1688), being by the death of Godwin Swift, his uncle, who had supported him, left without subsistence, he went to consult his mother, who then lived at Leicester, about the future course of his life: and, by her direction, solicited the advice and patronage of Sir William Temple, who had married one of Mrs. Swift's relations, and whose father, Sir John Temple, master of the rolls in Ireland, had lived in great familiarity of friendship with Godwin Swift, by whom Jonathan had been to that time maintained.
Temple received with sufficient kindness the nephew of his father's friend, with whom he was, when they conversed together, so much pleased, that he detained him two years in his house. Here he became known to King William, who sometimes visited Temple when he was disabled by the gout, and, being attended by Swift in the garden, showed him how to cut asparagus in the Dutch way.
• Spence's Anecdotes, vol. ii. p. 273.
King William's notions were all military; and he expressed his kindness to Swift by offering to make him a captain of horse.
When Temple removed to Moor-park, he took Swift with him; and when he was consulted by the Earl of Portland about the expedience of complying with a bill then depending for making parliaments triennial, against which King William was strongly prejudiced, after having in vain tried to show the Earl that the proposal involved nothing dangerous to royal power, he sent Swift for the same purpose to the King. Swift, who probably was proud of his employment, and went with all the confidence of a young man, found his arguments, and his art of displaying them, made totally ineffectual by the predetermination of the King; and used to mention this disappointment as his first antidote against vanity.
Before he left Ireland he contracted a disorder, as he thought, by eating too much fruit. The original of diseases is commonly obscure. Almost every boy eats as much fruit as he can get, without any great inconvenience. The disease of Swift was giddiness with deafness, which attacked him from time to time, began very early, pursued him through life, and at last sent him to the grave, deprived of reason.
Being much oppressed at Moor-park by this grievous malady, he was advised to try his native air, and went to Ireland; but, finding no benefit, returned to Sir William, at whose house he continued his studies, and is known to have read, among other books, "Cyprian" and "Irenæus.' He thought exercise of great necessity and used to run half a mile up and down a hil every two hours.
It is easy to imagine that the mode in which his first degree was conferred, left him no great fondness for the University of Dublin, and therefore he resolved to become a master of arts at Oxford. In the testimonial which he produced, the words of disgrace were omitted; and he took his master's degree (July 5, 1692) with such reception and regard as fully contented him.
While he lived with Temple, he used to pay his mother at Leicester a yearly visit. He travelled on foot, unless some violence of weather drove him into a waggon; and at night he would go to a penny lodging, where he purchased clean sheets for sixpence. This practice Lord Orrery imputes to his innate love of grossness and vulgarity: some may ascribe it to his desire of surveying human life through all its varieties: and others, perhaps with equal probability, to a passion which seems to have been deeply fixed in his heart, the love of a shilling.
In time he began to think that his attendance at Moor-park deserved some other recompence than pleasure, however mingled with improve
But he had yet more to suffer. Lord Berke
ment, of Temple's conversation; and grew so impatient, that (1694) he went away in dis-ley had the disposal of the deanery of Derry,
and Swift expected to obtain it; but, by the secretary's influence, supposed to have been secured by a bribe, it was bestowed on somebody else; and Swift was dismissed with the livings of Laracor and Rathbeggin in the diocese of Meath, which together did not equal half the value of the deanery.
At Laracor he increased the parochial duty by reading prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and performed all the offices of his profession with great decency and exactness.
Temple, conscious of having given reason for complaint, is said to have made him deputy master of the rolls in Ireland: which, according to his kinsman's account, was an office which he knew him not able to discharge. Swift therefore resolved to enter into the church, in which he had at first no higher hopes than of the chaplainship to the Factory at Lisbon; but, being recommended to Lord Capel, he obtained the prebend of Kilroot, in Connor, of about a hundred pounds a year. Soon after his settlement at Laracor, he inBut the infirmities of Temple made a com-vited to Ireland the unfortunate Stella, a young panion like Swift so necessary, that he invited woman whose name was Johnson, the daughter him back, with a promise to procure him an of the steward of Sir William Temple, who, in English preferment in exchange for the prebend, consideration of her father's virtues, left her a which he desired him to resign. With this re- thousand pounds. With her came Mrs. Dingquest Swift quickly complied, having perhaps ley, whose whole fortune was twenty-seven equally repented their separation, and they lived pounds a year for her life. With these ladies on together with mutual satisfaction; and, in he passed his hours of relaxation, and to them the four years that passed between his return he opened his bosom: but they never resided and Temple's death, it is probable that he in the same house, nor did he ever see either wrote the "Tale of a Tub" and the "Battle without a witness. They lived at the parsonof the Books." age, when Swift was away; and, when he returned, removed to a lodging, or to the house of a neighbouring clergyman.
Swift began early to think, or to hope, that he was a poet, and wrote Pindaric odes to Temple, to the King, and to the Athenian So- Swift was not one of those minds which ciety, a knot of obscure men,* who published a amaze the world with early pregnancy: his first periodical pamphlet of answers to questions, work, except his few poetical essays, was the sent, or supposed to be sent, by letters. I have "Dissentions in Athens and Rome," published been told that Dryden, having perused these (1701) in his thirty-fourth year. After its apverses, said, “Cousin Swift, you will never be a pearance, paying a visit to some bishop, he poet;" and that this denunciation was the mo- heard mention made of the new pamphlet that tive of Swift's perpetual malevolence to Dryden. Burnet had written, replete with political In 1699 Temple died, and left a legacy with knowledge. When he seemed to doubt Burnet's his manuscripts to Swift, for whom he had right to the work, he was told by the bishop, obtained, from King William, a promise of the that he was "a young man ;" and, still perfirst prebend that should be vacant at Westmin-sisting to doubt, that he was a 66 very positive ster or Canterbury.
That this promise might not be forgotten, Swift dedicated to the King the posthumous works with which he was intrusted: but neither the dedication, nor tenderness for the man whom he once had treated with confidence and fondness, revived in King William the remembrance of his promise. Swift awhile attended the court; but soon found his solicitations hopeless.
He was then invited by the Earl of Berkeley to accompany him into Ireland, as a private secretary; but, after having done the business till their arrival at Dublin, he then found that one Bush had persuaded the Earl that a Clergyman was not a proper secretary, and had obtained the office for himself. In a man like Swift, such circumvention and inconstancy must have excited violent indignation.
Three years afterwards (1704) was published "The Tale of a Tub:" of this book charity may be persuaded to think that it might be written by a man of a peculiar character without ill intention; but it is certainly of dangerous example. That Swift was its author, though be universally believed, was never owned by himself, nor very well proved by any evidence; but no other claimant can be produced, and he did not deny it when Archbishop Sharpe and the Dutchess of Somerset, by showing it to the Queen debarred him from a bishopric.
When this wild work first raised the a tention of the public, Sacheverell, meeting Smalridge, tried to flatter him, by seeming to think him the author; but Smalridge answered with indignation, "Not all that you and I have in the world, nor all that ever we shall have,
The publisher of this Collection was John Dun- should hire me to write the Tale of a Tub." ton. R.
The digressions relating to Wotton and Beut
ley must be confessed to discover want of know- | would have immediately sunk into silence and ledge or want of integrity; he did not under- oblivion." stand the two controversies, or he willingly misrepresented them. But wit can stand its ground against truth only a little while. The honours due to learning have been justly distributed by the decision of posterity.
"The Battle of the Books" is so like the "Combat des Livres," which the same question concerning the ancients and moderns had produced in France, that the improbability of such a coincidence of thoughts without communication is not, in my opinion, balanced by the anonymous protestation prefixed, in which all knowledge of the French book is peremptorily disowned.*
For some time after, Swift was probably employed in solitary study, gaining the qualifications requisite for future eminence. How often he visited England, and with what diligence he attended his parishes, I know not. It was not till about four years afterwards that he became a professed author; and then, one year (1708) produced "The Sentiments of a Church-ofEngland Man;" the ridicule of Astrology under the name of "Bickerstaff;" the " Ar-gument against abolishing Christianity;" and the Defence of the "Sacramental Test."
"The Sentiments of a Church-of- England Man" is written with great coolness, moderation, ease, and perspicuity. The "Argument against abolishing Christianity" is a very happy and judicious irony. One passage in it de..
serves to be selected:
"If Christianity were once abolished, how could the free-thinkers, the strong reasoners, and the men of profound learning, be able to find another subject so calculated, in all points, whereon to display their abilities? What wonderful productions of wit should we be deprived of from those, whose genius, by continual practice, hath been wholly turned upon raillery and invectives against religion, and would therefore never be able to shine, or distinguish themselves, upon any other subject? We are daily complaining of the great decline of wit among us, and would take away the greatest, perhaps the only, topic we have left. Who would ever have suspected Asgill for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the inexhaustible stock of Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with materials? What other subject, through all art or nature, could have produced Tindal for a profound author, or furnished him with readers? It is the wise choice of the subject that alone adorns and distinguishes the writer. For had a hundred such pens as these been employed on the side of religion, they
• See Sheridan's Life, edit. 1784, p. 525; where are some remarks on this passage.-R.
The reasonableness of a Test is not hard to be proved; but, perhaps it must be allowed, that the proper test has not been chosen.
The attention paid to the papers published under the name of "Bickerstaff," induced Steele, when he projected "The Tatler," to assume an appellation which had already gained possession of the reader's notice.
In the year following he wrote a Project for the Advancement of Religion," addressed to Lady Berkeley; by whose kindness it is not unlikely that he was advanced to his benefices. To this project, which is formed with great purity of intention, and displayed with sprightliness and elegance, it can only be objected, that, like many projects, it is, if not generally impracticable, yet evidently hopeless, as it supposes more zeal, concord, and perseverance, than a view of mankind gives reason for expecting.
He wrote likewise this year "A Vindication of Bickerstaff;" and an explanation of "An Ancient Prophecy," part written after the facts, and the rest never completed, but well planned
to excite amazement.
Soon after began the busy and important part of Swift's Life. He was employed (1710) by the Primate of Ireland to solicit the Queen for a remission of the first-fruits and twentieth
parts to the Irish Clergy. With this purpose he had recourse to Mr. Harley, to whom he was mentioned as a man neglected and oppressed by the last ministry, because he had refused to co-operate with some of their schemes. What he had refused has never been told; what he had suffered was, I suppose, the exclusion from a bishopric by the remonstrances Sharpe, whom he describes as "the harmless tool of others' hate," and whom he represents as afterwards "suing for pardon."
Harley's designs and situation were such as made him glad of an auxiliary so well qualified for his service; he therefore soon admitted him to familiarity, whether ever to confidence some have made a doubt; but it would have been difficult to excite his zeal without persuading him that he was trusted, and not very easy to delude him by false persuasions.
He was certainly admitted to those meetings in which the first hints and original plan of action are supposed to have been formed; and was one of the sixteen ministers, or agents of the ministry, who met weekly at each other's houses, and were united by the name of "Brothers."
Being not immediately considered as an obdurate tory, he conversed indiscriminately with all the wits, and yet was the friend of Steele; who, in the "Tatler," which began in April, 1709, confesses the advantage of his conversation, and mentions something contributed K k
by him to his paper. But he was now immerg- | posal for correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English Tongue," in a letter to the Earl of Oxford; written without much knowledge of the general nature of languages, and without any accurate inquiry into the history of other tongues. The certainty and stability which, contrary to all experience, he thinks attainable, he proposes to secure by instituting an academy; the decrees of which, every man would have been willing, and many would have been proud, to disobey; and which, being renewed by successive elections, would in a short time have differed from itself.
ing into political controversy; for the year 1710 produced "The Examiner," of which Swift wrote thirty-three papers. In argument he may be allowed to have the advantage; for where a wide system of conduct, and the whole of a public character, is laid open to inquiry, the accuser having the choice of facts, must be very unskilful if he does not prevail; but, with regard to wit, I am afraid none of Swift's papers will be found equal to those by which Addison opposed him.*
He wrote in the year 1711, a "Letter to the October Club," a number of tory gentlemen sent from the country to parliament, who formed themselves into a club, to the number of about a hundred, and met to animate the zeal, and raise the expectations, of each other. They thought, with great reason, that the ministers were losing opportunities; that sufficient use was not made of the ardour of the nation; they called loudly for more changes and stronger efforts; and demanded the punishment of part, and the dismission of the rest, of those whom they considered as public robbers.
Their eagerness was not gratified by the Queen, or by Harley. The Queen was probably slow because she was afraid; and Harley was slow, because he was doubtful: he was a tory only by necessity, or for convenience; and when he had power in his hands, had no settled purpose for which he should employ it; forced to gratify to a certain degree the tories who supported him, but unwilling to make his reconcilement to the whigs utterly desperate, he corresponded at once with the two expectants of the crown, and kept, as has been observed, the succession undetermined. Not knowing what to do, he did nothing; and, with the fate of a double dealer, at last he lost his power, but kept his enemies.
Swift seems to have concurred in opinion with the October Club;" but it was not in his power to quicken the tardiness of Harley, whom he stimulated as much as he could, but with little effect. He that knows not whither to go, is in no haste to move. Harley, who was perhaps not quick by nature, became yet more slow by irresolution; and was content to hear that dilatoriness lamented as natural, which he applauded in himself as politic.
Without the tories, however, nothing could be done: and, as they were not to be gratified, they must be appeased; and the conduct of the Minister, if it could not be vindicated, was to be plausibly excused.
Swift now attained the zenith of his political importance: he published (1712) the "Conduct of the Allies," ten days before the parliament assembled. The purpose was to persuade the nation to a peace; and never had any writer more success. The people, who had been amused with bonfires and triumphal processions, and looked with idolatry on the General and his friends, who, as they thought, had made England the arbitress of nations, were confounded between shame and rage, when they found that "mines had been exhausted, and millions destroyed," to secure the Dutch or aggrandize the Emperor, without any advantage to ourselves; that we had been bribing our neighbours to fight their own quarrel; and that amongst our enemies we might number our allies.
That is now no longer doubted, of which the nation was then first informed, that the war was unnecessarily protracted to fill the pockets of Marlborough: and that it would have been continued without end, if he could have continued his annual plunder. But Swift, I suppose, did not yet know what he has since written, that a commission was drawn, which would have appointed him General for life, had it not become ineffectual by the resolution of Lord Cowper, who refused the seal.
"Whatever is received," say the schools, "is received in proportion to the recipient." The power of a political treatise depends much upon the disposition of the people; the nation was then combustible, and a spark set it on fire. It is boasted, that between November and January, eleven thousand were sold; a great number at that time, when we were yet not a nation of readers. To its propagation certainly no agency of power or influence was wanting. It furnished arguments for conversation, speeches for debate, and materials for parliamentary resolutions.
Yet, surely, whoever surveys this wonderEarly in the next year he published a " Pro- working pamphlet with cool perusal, will con
* Mr. Sheridan, however, says, that Addison's last Whig Examiner was published Oct. 12, 1711; and Swift's first Examiner, on the 10th of the following November.-R.
fess that its efficacy was supplied by the passions of its readers; that it operates by the mere weight of facts, with very little assistance from the hand that produced them.
This year (1712) he published his "Reflec
tions on the Barrier Treaty," which carries on | him no longer; and therefore it must be althe design of his "Conduct of the Allies," and lowed, that the childish freedom, to which he shows how little regard in that negotiation had seems enough inclined, was overpowered by his been shown to the interest of England, and how better qualities. much of the conquered country had been demanded by the Dutch.
His disinterestedness has been likewise mentioned; a strain of heroism, which would have This was followed by "Remarks on the been in his condition romantic and superfluous. Bishop of Sarum's Introduction to the third Ecclesiastical benefices, when they become vaVolume of the History of the Reformation;" cant, must be given away; and the friends of a pamphlet which Burnet published as an power may, if there be no inherent disqualificaalarm, to warn the nation of the approach of tion, reasonably expect them. Swift accepted popery. Swift, who seems to have disliked the (1713) the deanery of St. Patrick, the best prebishop with something more than political aver- ferment that his friends could venture* to give sion, treats him like one whom he is glad of an him. That ministry was in a great degree supopportunity to insult. ported by the clergy, who were not yet reconciled to the author of the "Tale of a Tub," and would not without much discontent and indignation have borne to see him installed in an English cathedral.
Swift, being now the declared favourite and supposed confidant of the tory ministry, was treated by all that depended on the Court with the respect which dependants know how to pay. He soon began to feel part of the misery of greatness: he that could say that he knew him, considered himself as having fortune in his power. Commissions, solicitations, remonstrances, crowded about him; he was expected to do every man's business, to procure employment for one, and to retain it for another. In assisting those who addressed him, he represents himself as sufficiently diligent; and desires to have others believe, what he probably believed himself, that by his interposition many whigs of merit, and among them Addison and Congreve, were continued in their places. But every man of known influence has so many petitions which he cannot grant, that he must necessarily offend more than he gratifies, as the preference given to one affords all the rest reason for complaint. "When I give away a place," said Lewis XIV. "I make a hundred discontented, and one ungrateful."
Much has been said of the equality and independence which he preserved in his conversation with the ministers, of the frankness of his remonstrances, and the familiarity of his friendship. In accounts of this kind a few single incidents are set against the general tenour of behaviour. No man, however, can pay a more servile tribute to the great, than by suffering his liberty in their presence to aggrandize him in his own esteem. Between different ranks of the community there is necessarily some distance; he who is called by his superior to pass the interval, may properly accept the Invitation; but petulance and obtrusion are rarely produced by magnanimity; nor have often any nobler cause than the pride of importance, and the malice of inferiority. He who knows himself necessary may set, while that necessity lasts, a high value upon himself; as, in a lower condition, a servant eminently skilful may be saucy; but he is saucy only because he is servile. Swift appears to have preserved the kindness of the great when they wanted
He refused, indeed, fifty pounds from Lord Oxford; but he accepted afterwards a draught of a thousand upon the Exchequer, which was intercepted by the Queen's death, and which he resigned, as he says himself, "multa gemens, with many a groan.'
In the midst of his power and his politics, he kept a journal of his visits, his walks, his interviews with ministers, and quarrels with his servant, and transmitted it to Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Dingley, to whom he knew that whatever befell him was interesting, and no accounts could be too minute. Whether these diurnal trifles were properly exposed to eyes which had never received any pleasure from the presence of the Dean, may be reasonably doubted: they have, however, some odd attraction; the reader, finding frequent mention of names which he has been used to consider as important, goes on in hope of information; and, as there is nothing to fatigue attention, if he is disappointed he can hardly complain. It is easy to perceive, from every page, that though ambition pressed Swift into a life of bustle, the wish for a life of ease was always returning.
He went to take possession of his deanery as soon as he had obtained it; but he was not suffered to stay in Ireland more than a fortnight before he was recalled to England, that he might reconcile Lord Oxford and Lord Bolingbroke, who began to look on one another with malevolence, which every day increased, and which Bolingbroke appeared to retain in his last years.
Swift contrived an interview, from which they both departed discontented; he procured a second, which only convinced him that the feud
* This emphatic word has not escaped the watch ful eye of Dr. Warton, who has placed a nota benț at it.-C.