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While the matter was in agitation, he thus writes to Stella, on the 7th of the March following. “I write by this post to the Dean, but it is not above two lines, and one inclosed to you is not above three lines; and in that, one inclosed to the Dean, which he must noc have, but on condition of burning it immediately after reading, and that before your eyes; for there are fome things in it I would not have liable to accidents. You shall only know in general, that it is an account of what I have done to serve him, in his pretensions on these vacancies, &c. but he must not know, that you know so much."!
It is evident, from some of the above quotations, that Swift was far from having any cordial regard for Sterne, and that he had thought himself, on some occasions, to have been ill treated by him. Nothing therefore can, in my opinion, account for his obftinate perseverance in making him a Bishop, in spite of all the world, as he himself expresses it, but the sacredness of an engagement.
Whatever ill opinion Swift had formed of Sterne before, was thoroughly confirmed by his very ungrateful behaviour to him, immediately after he had made him a Bishop. In his Journal of May 16, he writes thus, « Your new Bishop acts very ungratefully. I cannot fay fo bad of him as he deserves. I begged, by che fame post his warrant and mine went over, that he would leave those livings to my disposal. I shall write this post to him, to let him know how ill I take it *.
* Swift had afterwards caufe to complain farther of his ingratitude, where he says to him in a letter, dated 1733. “But trying to forget all former treatments, I came, like others, to your hcase, and fince you were a Bishop, have once or twice recommended persons to you, who were no relations or friends of mine, but merely for their general good character ; which availed so little, that those very persons had. the greatest share of your neglect."
AS the brightest and moit important part of Swift's life passed during the four last years of Queen Anne, when his faculties were all in full vigour, and occafions for displaying them arose adequate to their greatness; I shall omit no circumstance which may serve to delineate the features and limbs of his mind, (if I may be allowed the expression) before disease and age had impaired the bloom of the one, and the strength and agility of the other. To have a perfect portrait and just likeness of a friend, had we our choice of times we should certainly prefer that period of his life, when he was in his prime, to that of his decay. There have been already given many instances of such a noblenefs: of mind, such a disinterested spirit in Swift, as are rarely to be found in the annals of history. Yet the part which he acted by his friend Oxford, about the time of the Queen's death, exhibits those qualities in a higher point of view than ever they had appeared in before. It has been already mentioned, that; finding all his endeavours to reconcile his great friends useless, he had retired to Letcomb, in order to make one effort more to compel them to unite for their common interest, by the publication of his “ Free Thoughts," &c. Lord Bolingbroke; to whom this Piece was shewn by Barber, contrived to have the printing of it deferred, as he was then just upon the point of accomplishing his long concerted plan, of turning out Lord Oxford, and stepping into his place. This was effected just four days before the Queen's death, on the 27th. of July, 1714. One of Lord Bolingbroke's first objects, upon getting into power, was to secure Swift to
his interest. He got Lady Masham to write to him, in the most pressing terms, on the 29th, to return immediately to town. And on the 30th, he meant to dispatch Barber to him, with letters from himself and Lady Malham for the same purpose. Which is thus related by Barber, in his letter of July 31, past six at night. “ I am heartily sorry I should be the messenger of so ill news, as to tell you the Queen is dead or dying: if alive, 'tis said she can't live till morning. You may easily imagine the confusion we are all in on this fad occasion. I had set out yesterday to wait on you, buc. for this sad accident; and should have brought letters from Lord Bolingbroke, and Lady Malham, to have prevented your going.-He said twenty things in your favour, and commanded me to bring you up, whatever was the consequence.” It was chiefly through the influence of Lady Malham, who was then at the height of favour with the Queen, and had openly quarrelled with the Treasurer, that he was turned out of his employment, and Bolingbroke appointed Minister in his room. Nothing can thew, in a stronger light, the great consequence of Swift in all state-affairs at that time, than Lady Masham's letter to him on this occafion. Which, on that account, I shall here present eno tire to the reader.
Lady MASHAM to Dr. Swift.
July 29, 1714. " I OWN it looks unkind in me, not to thank you all this time, for your sincere kind letter; but I was resolved to stay 'till I could tell you, the Queen had fo far got the better of the * Dragon, as to take her power out of his hands. He has been the most un* A nick-name for Lord Oxford.
grateful man to her, and to all his best friends, that ever was born. I cannot have so much time now to write all my mind, because my dear Mistress is not well; and I think I may lay her illness to the charge of the Treasurer, who, for three weeks together, was teasing and vexing her without intermission, and she could not get rid of him till Tuesday last. I must put you in mind of one passage in your letter to me, which is, I pray God to send you wise and faithful friends to advise you at this time, when there are so great difficulties to struggle with. That is very plain and true; therefore will you, who have gone through so much, and taken more pains than any body, and given wise advice (if that wretched man had had sense enough, and honesty to have taken it) 'I say, will you
into Ireland ? No, it is impoflible; your goodness is still the fame, your charity and compassion for this poor * Lady, who has been barbarously used, won't let you do it. I know you take delight to help the distreffed ; and there cannot be a greater object than this good Lady, who deserves pity. Pray, dear friend, stay here, and don't believe us all alike, to throw away good advice, and despise every body's understanding but their own. I could say a great deal upon the subject, but I must go to her, for she is not well. This comes to you by a fafe hand, fo that neither of us need be in any pain about it.
My Lord and brother are in the country. My sister and girls are at your service.”
So warm and pressing a letter, from one who made, and unmade Ministers, (for it was to her Lord Oxford owed his advancement, as well as his disgrace) intreating, nay, in a manner imploring him to come and be their chief Countellor and Director, in their new plan of Admini
stration ; might have opened the most inviting profpects to Swift, of gratifying his utmost ambition with regard to his own interests; and at the same time, of accomplishing the plan which he had invariably pursued, with respect to those of the public. But to a man of his delicate sense of honour, there was an insuperable bar in the way to prevent his embracing so fattering an offer. He had two days before received the following letter from Lord Oxford, upon his losing the Staff,
The Earl of OXFORD to Dr. Swift.
« IF I tell my dear friend the value I put upon his undeserved friendship, it will look like suspecting you or myself. Though I have had no power since the twenty.fifth of July 1713, I believe now, as a private man, I may prevail to renew your licence of absence, conditionally you will be present with me; for to-morrow morning I shall be a private person. When I have settled my domestic affairs here, I go to Wimple; thence, alone, to Herefordshire. If I have not tired you téte a tête, Aing away so much time upon one, who loves you. And I believe, in the mass of fouls, ours were placed near each other. I send you an imitation of Dryden, as I went to Kensington.
To serve with love,
And shed your blood,
But here below,
'Tis fatal to be good.
In these two letters, there were two roads opened to Swift. One, leading to preferment, power, and all that L 2