« PreviousContinue »
mother, above mild Dorothea, above that tremendous Sir William in his square toes and periwig, — when Mr. Swift comes down from his master with rage in his heart, and has not a kind word cven for little Hester JohnSon 3 Perhaps, for the Irish Secretary, his Excellency's condescension was even more cruel than his frowns. Sir William would perpetually quote Latin and the ancient classics apropos of his gardens and his Dutch statues and plates-bandes, and talk about Epicurus and Diogenes Laertius, Julius Caesar, Semiramis, and the gardens of the Hesperides, Maecenas, Strabo describing Jericho, and the Assyrian kings. Apropos of beans, he would mention Pythagoras's precept to abstain from beans, and that this precept probably meant that wise men should abstain from public affairs. He is a placid Epicurean; he is a Pythagorean philosopher; he is a wise man — that is the deduction. Does not Swift think so One can imagine the downcast eyes lifted up for a moment, and the flash of scorn which they emit. Swift's eyes were as azure as the heavens; Pope says nobly (as every thing Pope said and thought of his friend was good and noble), “His eyes are as azure as the heavens, and have a charming archness in them.” And one person in that household, that pompous, stately, kindly Moor Park, saw heaven nowhere else. But the Temple amenities and solemnities did not agree with Swift. He was half killed with a surfeit of Shene pippins; and in a garden-seat which he devised for himself at Moor Park, and where he devoured greedily the stock of books within his reach, he caught a vertigo and deafness which punished and tormented him through life. He could not bear the place or the servitude. Even in that poem of courtly condolence, from which we have quoted a few lines of mock meluncholy, he breaks out of the funereal procession with a mad shriek, as it were, and rushes away
crying his own grief, cursing his own fate, foreboding madness, and forsaken by fortune, and even hope.
I don't know any thing more melancholy than the letter to Temple, in which, after having broke from his bondage, the poor wretch crouches piteously towards his cage again, and deprecates his master's anger. He asks for testimonials for orders. “The particulars required of me are what relate to morals and learning; and the reasons for quitting your honor's family—that is, whether the last was occasioned by any ill action. . They are left entirely to your honor's mercy, though in the first I think I cannot reproach - myself for any thing further than for infirmities. This is all I dare at present beg from your honor, under circumstances of life not worth your regard: what is left me to wish (next to the health and prosperity of your honor and family) is that Heaven would one day allow me the opportunity of leaving o acknowledgments at your feet. beg my most humble duty and service be resented to my ladies, your honor's ady and sister.” — Can prostration fall deeper? could a slave bow lower 3 *
* “He continued in Sir William Temple’s house till the death of that great man.” – Anecdotes of the Family of Swift, by the DEAN. “It has since pleased God to take this great and good person to himself.” – Preface to Temple’s Works. n all public occasions, Swift speaks of Sir William in the same tone. But the reader will better understand how acutely he remembered the indignities he suffered in his household, from the subjoined extracts from the Journal to Stel “I called at Mr. Secretary the other day, to see what the d–ailed him on Sunday: I made him a very proper speech; told him I observed he was much out of temper, that I did not expect he would tell me the cause, but would be glad to see he was in better; and one thing I warned him of—never to appear cold to me for I would not be treated like a schoolboy; that I had felt too much of that in my life already” (meaning. Sir William Temple), &c. &c.—Journal to Stella. “I am thinking what a veneration we
Twenty years afterwards Bishop urer, after leaving the Queen, came a man as he served him, made wo-sterest.* The Queen, and the bishops, men cry, guests look foolish, bullied and the world were right, in misunlucky friends, and flung his bene- trusting the religion of that man. factions into poor men's faces. No ; ;... AR C the Dean was no Irishman —no FROM THE ARCHBISHOP OF CASHELL. Irishman ever gave but with a kind “Cashell, May 31st, 1735. word and a kind heart. : “DEAR SIR,-
Kennet, describing the same man, says, “Dr. Swift came into the coffeehouse and had a bow from everybody but me. When I came to the antechamber [at Court] to wait before prayers, Dr. Swift was the principal man of talk and business. He was soliciting the Earl of Arran to speak to his brother, the Duke of Ormond, to get a place for a clergyman. He was promising Mr. Thorold to undertake, with my Lord Treasurer, that he should obtain a salary of 200l. per annum as member of the English Church at Rotterdam. He stopped F. Gwynne, Esq., going into the Queen with the red bag, and told him aloud, he had something to say to him from my Lord Treasurer. He took out his gold watch, and telling the time of day, complained that it was very late. A gentleman said he was too fast. ‘How can I help it,” says the Doctor, “if the courtiers give me a watch that won't go right?” . Then he instructed a young nobleman, that the best poet in England was Mr. Pope (a Papist), who had begun a translation of Homer into English, for which he would have them all subscribe: “For,’ says he, “he shall not begin to print until I have a thousand guineas for him.' * Lord Treas
used to have for Sir William Temple because he might have been Secretary of State at fifty; and here is a young fellow hardly thirty in that employment.”— Ibid. “The Secretary is as easy with me as Mr. Addison was. I have often thought what a splutter Sir William Temple mo, bout being Secretary of State.” —Ibid. * Lord Treasurer has had an ugly fit of the rheumatism, but is now quite well. I was playing at one-and-thirty with him and his family the other night. He gave us all twelvepence apiece to begin with; it put me in mind of Sir William Temple.”— Ibid. “I thought I saw Jack Temple [nephew to Sir William] and his wife pass by me to-day in their coach; but I took no notice of them. I am glad I have wholly shaken off that family.”—S. to S., Sept. 1710. * “Swift must be allowed,” says Dr. Johnson, “for a time, to have dictated
through the room, beckoning Dr. Swift to follow him, - both went off just before prayers.” There's a little malice, in the Bishop’s “just before prayers.” This picture of the great Dean seems a true one, and is harsh, though not altogether unpleasant. He was doing good, and to deserving men too, in the midst of these intrigues and triumphs. His journals and a thousand anecdotes of him relate his kind acts and rough manners. His hand was constantly stretched out to relieve an honest man — he was cautious about his money, but ready. — If you were in a strait would you like such a benefactor 4 I think I would rather have had a potato and a friendly word from Goldsmith than have been beholden to the Dean for a . guinea and a dinner.” He-insulted
the political opinions of the English nation.” A conversation on the Dean's pamphlets excited one of the Doctor’s liveliest sallies. “One, in particular, praised his ‘Conduct of the Allies.”—Johnson: 'Sir, his “Conduct of the Allies” is a perform. ance of very little ability. . . y, sir, Tom Davies might have written the “Conduct of the Allies!”—Boswell's Life of Johnson. * “Whenever he fell into the company of any person for the first time, it was his custom to try their tempers and disposition by some abrupt question that bore the appearance of rudeness. If this were well taken, and answered with good humor, he afterwards made amends by his civilities. But if he saw any marks of resentment, from alarmed pride, vanity, or conceit, he dropped all further intercourse with the party. This will be illustrated by an anecdote of that sort related by Mrs. Pilkington. After supper, the Dean having decanted a bottle of wine, poured what remained into a glass, and seeing it was muddy, presented it to Mr. Pilkington to drink it. ‘For,” said he, “I always keep some poor parson to drink the foul wine for me.” r. Pilkington, entering into his humor, thanked him, and told him “he did not know the difference, but was glad to get a glass at any rate.” “Why, then,” said the Dean, “you shan't, for I'll drink it myself. No. — take you, you are wiser than a paltry curate whom I asked to dine with me a few days ; for u my making the same s to him, he
- - - - ift's “I have been so unfortunate in all my It is told, as if it were to Swift's contests of late, that I am resolved to have
credit, that the Dean of St. Patrick's . more, especially when I am likely to
performed his family devotions every
! be overmatched; and as I have some
morning regularly, but with such reason to hope what is passed will be for
------- - - i gotten, I confess I did endeavor in my secrecy that the guests in his house last to put the best color I could think of
}. a very bad cause. My friends judge ght of my idleness; but, in reality, it has hitherto proceeded from a hurry and confusion, arising from a thousand unlucky unforeseen accidents rather than mere sloth. I have but one troublesome affair now upon my hands, which by the help of the prime sergeant, I hope soon to get rid of; and then you shall see me a true Irish bishop. Sir James Ware has made a very useful collection of the memorable actions of my predecessors. He tells me, they were born in such a town of England or Ireland; were consecrated such a year; and if not translated, were buried in the Cathedral church, either on the north or south side. Whence I conclude that a good bishop has nothing more to do than to eat, drink, grow fat, rich, and die; which laudable example I propose for the remainder of my life to follow; for to tell you the truth, I have for these four or five years past met with so much treachery, 3. and ingratitude among mankind, that I can hardly think it incumbent on any man to endeavor to do good to so perverse a generation. “I am truly concerned at the account §. give me of your health. Without oubt a southern ramble will prove the best o you can take to recover your flesh; and I do not know, except in one stage, where you can choose a road so suited to your circumstances, as from Dublin hither. You have to Kilkenny a turnpike and good inns, at every ten or twelve miles' end. From Kilkenny hither is twenty long miles, bad road, and no
were never in the least aware of the ceremony. There was no need surely why a church dignitary should assemble his family privily in a crypt, and as if he was afraid of heathen persecution. But I think the world was right, and the bishops who advised Queen Anne, when they counselled her not to appoint the author of the “Tale of a Tub” to a bishopric, gave perfectly good advice. The man who wrote the arguments and illustrations in that wild book, could not but be aware what must be the sequel of the propositions which he laid down. The boon companion of Pope and Bolingbroke, who chose these as the friends of his life, and the recipients of his confidence and affection, must have heard many an argument, and joined in many a conversation over Pope's port, or St. John's burgundy, which would not bear to: be repeated at other men's boards. I know offew things more conclusive as to the sincerity of Swift's religion than his advice to poor John Gay to turn clergyman, and look out for a seat on the Bench. Gay, the author of the “ 's Opera”—Gay, the wildest of the wits about town — it was this man that Jonathan Swift i advised to take orders — to invest in a cassock and bands—just as he advised him to husband his shillings, and put his thousand pounds out at in*
said he did not understand such usage, and so walked off without his dinner. By the same token, I told the gentleman who recommended him to me that the fellow was a blockhead, and I had done with him.”—SHERIDAN's Life of Swift.
| inns at all; but I have an expedient for
you. At the foot of a very high hill, just midway, there lives in a neat thatched cabin, a parson, who is not r; his wife is allowed to be the best little woman in the world. Her chickens are the fattest, and her ale the best in all the country. Besides, the parson has a little cellar of his own, of which he keeps the key, where he always has a hogshead of the best wine that can be got, in bottles well corked, upon their side; and he cleans, and pulls out the cork better, I think, than Robin. Here I design to meet you with a coach; if you be o
v. A. But Swift?
v. I am not here, of course, to speak of any man's religious views, except in so far as they influence his literar character, his life, his humor. T most notorious sinners of all those fellow-mortals whom it is our business to discuss — Harry Fielding and Dick Steele, were especially loud, and I believe really fervent, in their expressions of belief; they belabored freethinkers, and stoned imaginary atheists on all sorts of occasions, going out of their way to bawl their own creed, and persecute their neighbor's, and if they sinned and stumbled, as they constantly did with debt, with drink, with all sorts of bad behavior, they got upon their knees, and cried “Peccavi’’ with a most sonorous orthodoxy. Yes; poor Harry Fielding and poor Dick Steele were trusty and undoubting Church of England men; they abhorred Popery, Atheism, and wooden shoes, and idolatries in general; and hiccoughed Church and State with fervor. His mind had had a different schooling, and possessed a very different logical power. He was not bred up in a tipsy guard-room, and did not learn to reason in a Covent Garden tavern. He could conduct an argument from beginning to end. He could see forward with a fatal clearness. In his old age, looking at the “Tale of a Tub,” when he said, “Good God, what a genius I had when I wrote that book 1" I think he was admiring not the ge
all night; if not, after dinner, we will set out about four, and be at Cashell by nine; and by going through fields and by-ways, which the *.*.*.*. us, . o escape all the rocky and stony roads, tha lie between this place and that, which are certainly very bad. I hope you will be so kind as to let me know a post or two before you set out, the very day you will be at Kilkenny, that I may have all things repared for you. It may be, if you ask }. Cope will come; he will do nothing for me. Therefore, depending upon your positive promise, I shall add, no more arguments to persuade you, and am, with the greatest truth, your most faithful and
obedient servant ’ “THEo. CASHELL.”
nius, but the consequences to which the genius had brought him — a vast genius, a magnificent genius, a genius wonderfully bright, and dazzling, and strong, — to seize, to know, to see, to flash upon falsehood and scorch it into perdition, to penetrate into the hidden motives, and expose the black thoughts of men, – an awful, an evil spirit. Ah man you, educated in Epicurean Temple's library, you whose friends were Pope and St. John— what made you to swear to fatal vows, and bind yourself to a lifelong hypocrisy before the Heayen which you adored with such real wonder, humility, and reverence 4 For Swift was a reverent, was a pious spirit—for Swift could love and could pray. Through the storms and tempests of his furious mind, the stars of religion and love break out in the blue, shining serenely, though hidden by the driving clouds and the maddened hurricane of his life. It is my belief that he suffered frightfully from the consciousness of his own scepticism, and that he had bent his pride so far down as to put his apostasy out to hire.* The paper left behind him, called “Thoughts on Religion,” is merely a set of excuses for not professing disbelief. He says of his sermons that he preached pamphlets: they have scarce a Christian characteristic; they might be preached from the steps of a synagogue, or the floor of a mosque, or the box of a coffee-house almost. There is little or no cant — he is too great and too proud for that ; and, in so far as the badness of his sermons goes, he is honest. But having put that cassock on, it poisoned him ; he was strangled in his bands. He goes through life, tearing, like a man possessed with a
* “Mr. Swift lived with him [Sir William Temple] some time, but resolving to séttle himself in some way of living, was inclined to take orders. However, although his fortune was very small, he had a scruple against entering into the Church merely for support.”—Anecdotes of the o, of Swift, by the DEAN,
devil. Like Abudah in the Arabian story, he is always looking out for the Fury, and knows that the night will come and the inevitable hag with it. What a night, my God, it was what a lonely rage and long agony— what a vulture that tore the heart of that giant!” It is awful to think of the great sufferings of this great man. Through life he always seems alone, somehow. Goethe was so. I can’t fancy Shakspeare otherwise. The giants must live apart. The kings can have no company. But this man suffered so; and deserved so to suffer. One hardly reads anywhere of such a pain. The “saeva indignatio’’ of which he spoke as lacerating his heart, and which he dares to inscribe on his tombstone—as if the wretch who lay under that stone waiting God's judgment had a right to be angry — breaks out from him in a thousand pages of his writing, and tears and rends him. Against men in office, he having been overthrown ; against men in England, he having lost his chance of preferment there, the furious exile never fails to rage and curse. Is it fair to call the famous “Drapier's Letters” patriotism They are master-pieces of dreadful humor and invective: they are reasoned logically enough too, but the proposition is as monstrous and fabulous as the Lilliputian island. It is not that the grievance is so great, but there is his enemy — the assault is wonderful for its activity and terrible rage. It is Samson, with a bone in his hand, rushing on his enemies and felling them: one admires not the cause s much as the strength, the anger, the fury of the champion. As is the case with madmen, certain subjects provoke him, and awaken his fits of
wrath. Marriage is one of these; in a hundred passages in his writings he rages against it; rages against children; an object of constant satire, even more contemptible in his eyes than a lord’s chaplain, is a poor curate with a large family. The idea of this luckless paternity never fails to bring down from him gibes and foul language. Could Dick Steele, or Goldsmith, or Fielding, in his most reckless moment of satire, have written any thing like the Dean's famous “modest proposal” for eating children 3 Not one of these but melts at the thoughts of childhood, fondles and caresses it. Mr. Dean has no such softness, and enters the nursery with the tread and gayety of an ogre.* “I have been assured,” says he in the “Modest Proposal,” “by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child, well nursed, is, at a
ar old, a most delicious, mourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt it will equally serve in a ragoût.” And taking up this pretty joke, as his way is, he argues it with perfect gravity and logic. He turns and twists this subject in a score of different ways: he hashes it; and he serves it up cold; and he garnishes it; and relishes it always. He describes the little animal as “ dropped from its dam,” advising that the mother should let it suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render it plump and fat for a good table “A child,” says his Reverence, “will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish,” and so on; and, the subject be
* “Dr. Swift had a natural severity of face, which even his smiles could never soften, or his utmost gayety render placid and serene; but when that sternness of visage was increased by rage, it is scarce possible to imagine looks or features that carried in them more terror and austerity.” — ORRERY.
* “London, April 10th, 1713.
“Lady Masham's eldest boy is very ill: I doubt he will not live; and she stays at Kensington to nurse him, which vexes us all. She is so excessively fond, it makes me mad. She should never leave the Queen, but leave every thing, to stick to what is so much the interest of the public, as well as her own. . .” –Journal.