Page images


The question may, without much regret, be left in the obscurity in which he delighted to involve it 1.

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. 4. 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 favour3, 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 men whose abilities have been made for a time useless by their passions or pleasures, and who, having lost one

my native country,' he wrote on March 23, 1733-4, I happened indeed by a perfect accident to be born here, my mother being left here from returning to her house at Leicester... and thus I am a Teague, or an Irishman, or what people please, although the best part of my life was in England.' Swift's Works, xviii. 184. See also ib. xix. 73. He distinguishes 'between the English gentry of this island and the savage old Irish.' The English 'think it very hard that an American, who is of the fifth generation from England, should be allowed to preserve that title [Englishman]' by a legal fiction, while they are denied it. b. xix. 94. He makes the 'Drapier' say:-'Our ancestors reduced this kingdom to the obedience of England. Ib. vi. 412. For the disadvantage of being born in Ireland' see ib. vii. 31. See also ib. p. II for 'the wild Irish.'

'It seems to me he was no more an Irishman than a man born of English parents at Calcutta is a Hindoo. Goldsmith was an Irishman, and always an Irishman; Steele was an Irishman, and always an Irish

man; Swift's heart was English and in England, his habits English, his logic eminently English.' THACKERAY, English Humourists, p. 13.

["The original seat of the family was in Yorkshire. Craik's Swift, p. 3.] For a Table of Swift's Residences in England see Appendix B.

T. Sheridan said of this sentence:—‘In plain English it would run thus :-"It is of very little moment where the fellow was born." Swift's Works, 1803, ii. 202.



Ante, CONGREVE, 4.

[ocr errors]

Swift, writing of himself, says :'He was stopped of his degree for dulness and insufficiency; and at last hardly admitted in a manner little to his credit, which is called in that College speciali gratia. Craik, p. 513. See also ib. p. 12 and Forster, p. 28, for his College days, and N. & 2.6 S. v. 383 for the examination.

Delany's Observations upon Lord Orrery's Remarks, p. 50. Jortin said of Swift:-'Writing Latin, either prose or verse, was not his talent, any more than making sermons. As to the knowledge which he is said to

part of life in idleness, are tempted to throw away the remainder in despair 1.

In this course of daily application he continued three years 6 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 7 of Godwin Swift his uncle, who had supported him3, 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 5.

Temple received with sufficient kindness the nephew of his 8 father's friend, with whom he was, when they conversed together,

have acquired of the learned languages-Cras credo, hodie nihil! Jortin's Tracts, 1790, ii. 523.

Swift wrote to Pope on April 5, 1729:-'I am ashamed to tell you, that when I was very young I had more desire to be famous than ever since.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 150. On Oct. 31 he wrote to Bolingbroke of fame: 'With age we learn to know the house is so full that there is no room for above one or two at most in an age through the whole world.' Ib. p. 162.

The story comes from Swift's 'chamber-fellow,' Waring, whose sister he courted in 1695-6 under the name of Varina. Deane Swift, p. 31. Mr. Forster thinks the story 'may be true in everything but place and date.' Forster, pp. 47, 77.

3 Deane Swift, App. p. 42. He gave me,' said Swift, 'the education of a dog. Works, i. 11n. Godwin's son, Deane, says 'he had a numerous progeny by four wives.' His misfortunes made him cut down his nephew's allowance. Deane Swift, App. p. 41. In 1713, when Swift was made Dean, 'he had in Ireland nine cousin-germans [first cousins] living.' Most of them were well-to-do people. lb. p. 350. In 1739, thanking a friend

for civilities to young Deane Swift, he continues:-'Mrs. Whiteway says he is my cousin; which will not be to his advantage, for I hate all relations.' Works, xix. 187. He described them as 'a numerous race, degenerating from their ancestors, who were of good esteem for their loyalty and sufferings in the rebellion against King Charles I.' Deane's great-grandfather was the regicide, Admiral Deane. Ib. xix. 194.

'He was forced away,' wrote Temple, 'by the desertion of the College of Dublin upon the calamities of the country. Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 160.

Swift wrote of his mother on her death: If the way to Heaven be through piety, truth, justice and charity, she is there.' Works, xv. 337. For her birth see N. & 2.6 S. xi. 264.

5 Deane Swift (pp. 33, 34, 38) is the chief authority for this paragraph. The relationship between Swift's mother and Temple had been previously asserted by Lord Orrery in his Remarks, p. 15.

Sir John Temple was Master of the Rolls both before the Rebellion and after the Restoration. Temple's Works, ed. 1757, Preface, p. 8. Post, SWIFT, 16 n. 7.

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, shewed him how to cut asparagus in the Dutch way'.

9 King William's notions were all military, and he expressed his kindness to Swift by offering to make him a captain of horse3.



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 shew 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 5.

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".

' Swift tells us that when Temple, at the age of forty-seven, had the gout 'he grew very melancholy. He said a man was never good for anything after it.... Nobody,' he added, · should make love after forty, nor be in business after fifty.' Temple's Works, Pref. p. 27.

Deane Swift, p. 108. See Swift's Works, i. 25 n., for Swift's making his bookseller eat the stalks of asparagus on his plate, because King William always ate them.

3 Deane Swift, p. 108. For the King's indifference to literature see ante, ADDISON, 17.

• Craik, p. 514. The bill was rejected in March, 1693. The rejecting a bill, though an unquestionable right of the Crown, has been so

[blocks in formation]

Being much oppressed at Moor-park by this grievous malady, 12 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 hill every two hours 3.

It is easy to imagine that the mode in which his first degree 18 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 3, and he took his Master's degree (July 5, 1692) with such reception and regard as fully contented him.

years that they have begun to come together.' Mrs. Delany's Auto. p. 501.

Dr. Bucknill in Brain, Jan. 1882, proves that these two maladies of giddiness and deafness had their common origin in a disease in the region of the ear, to which the name of Labyrinthine vertigo has been given.... Nothing that could be called insanity came on, until this physical and local malady produced paralysis, a symptom of which was the not uncommon one of aphasia.... As a consequence of that paralysis, but not before, the brain, already weakened by senile decay, at length gave way?' Craik, p. 561. See also Letters of Swift to Chetwode, p. 45, and post, SWIFT, 106. [In W. R. Wilde's Closing Years of Dean Swift's Life, &c., Dublin, 1849, the whole course of these symptoms is discussed from the pathological point of view.]

'Craik, p. 514. On Feb. 14, 1691-2, he wrote: I returned from Ireland about half a year ago.' Works, xv.243.

'I have lying before me a book of extracts from St. Cyprian and St. Irenaeus taken by Swift in 1697.' Deane Swift, p. 276. A sort of cant or jargon of certain heretics,' found in Irenaeus, is quoted on the title-page of The Tale of a Tub. Works, x. 170 n.

3 This exercise he performed in about six minutes; backwards and forwards it was about half a mile.' Deane Swift, p. 272. In 1733 he wrote to Pope, who was forty-five :'At your time of life I could have

[ocr errors]

leaped over the moon.' Works, xviii. 124. At Letcombe, where he resided in 1714 (post, SWIFT, 61), 'there is a hill,' wrote Bowles in 1806, which the village tradition says he was in the habit of running up every morning before breakfast. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 315.

In 1724 Swift wrote from Dublin:-'The discipline in Oxford is more remiss than here.' Letters to Chetwode, p. 155. See also ib. pp. 156-9. In 1735, contrasting Dublin with Oxford and Cambridge, he wrote: A fellowship is here obtained with great difficulty by the number of candidates, the strict examination in many branches of learning, and the regularity of life and manners.' Works, xviii. 241. See also ib. viii. 229.

In the March List of Deaths in

Gent. Mag. 1734, p. 164, is the following:-'The Rev. Mr. Edward Ford, M.A., jun. Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, being shot by the Schollars, having render'd himself unacceptable to them, tho' a very pious Man.'

5 These words were never entered in any testimonium, which merely states the fact of a degree being taken.' Johnson's Works, viii. 194 n. Orrery foolishly asserts that it was thought at Oxford 'that the words signified a degree conferred in reward of extraordinary diligence or learning.' Remarks, p. 12.

He entered Hart Hall. Craik, P. 515. This Hall had been also

14 While he lived with Temple he used to pay his mother at


Leicester an 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 3. 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 deep fixed in his heart, the love of a shilling 5.

In time he began to think that his attendance at Moor-park deserved some other recompence than the pleasure, however mingled with improvement, of Temple's conversation; and grew so impatient that (1694) he went away in discontent".

16 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

known as Hertford or Hert Hall. For its transformations into Hertford College, Magdalen Hall, and, a second time, into Hertford College, see The University Calendar under HERTFORD COLLEGE. Swift wrote to his uncle, William Swift:-'I never was more satisfied than in the behaviour of the University of Oxford to me.' Works, xv. 244.

Swift wrote from London in 1711: The young fellows here have begun a kind of fashion to walk, and many of them have got swinging strong shoes on purpose; it has got as far as several young lords.' Works, ii. 395. In 1728 the Wesleys, who began to perform their journeys on foot, 'thought it a discovery that four or five and twenty miles are an easy and safe day's journey.' Southey's Wesley, 1846, i. 52.

2 Roderick Random and Strap, in one day's quick walking, overtook the Newcastle and London wagon, though it had two days' start. Roderick Random, ch. x.

3 'I have often heard him say that he took particular care to keep clear of being lodged in the same bed with the clowns he conversed with; and

[blocks in formation]

• Works, xv. 246.

7 Charles II gave Temple 'the reversion of the Master of the Rolls' place in Ireland, after his father [Sir John Temple].' Temple's Works, Preface, p. 27. [The patent bears date April 7, 1664. He received the actual appointment on Nov. 23, 1677, exercising it by deputy until 1689, when he was removed. Liber Hiberniae, vol. i, The Establishments of Ireland, pt. 2, p. 20.] Swift says that the post in the Rolls Office offered him was worth about £120 a year. Craik, p. 515.

8 Deane Swift, App. p. 49.

9 He wrote to Lord Peterborough in 1711: My ambition is to live in England, and with a competency to support me with honour. The minis

« PreviousContinue »