Imatges de pàgina

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

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 Swist with bim; and when he was consulted by the earl of Portland about the expedience of complying with a bill then de. pendios 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 pur

pose 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


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 sudies, and is kpown 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.

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 bis 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 probabi. lity, 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 Moorpark deserved some other recompence tban the pleasure, however mingled with improvement, of Temple's conversation; and grew so impatient, that (1694), he went away in discontent.

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.

But the infirmities of Temple made a companion like Swift so necessary, that he invited him back, with a pro. mise to procure him English preferment in exchange for the prebend, which he desired him to resign. With this request Swift complied, having perhaps equally repented their separation, and they lived on together with mutual satisfaction; and, in the four years that passed between his return and Temple’s death, it is probable that he wrote the Tale of a Tub and the Battle of the Books.

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 society, a knot of obscure men, who published a periodical pamphlet of answers to questions, sent, I supposed to be sent, by letters. I have been told that Dryden, having perused these verses, said, “ Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet;" and that this denunciation was the motive of Swift's perpetual malevolence to Dryden.

In 1699 Temple died, and left a legacy with his manuscripts to Swift, for whom he had obtained, from king William, a promise of the first prebend that should be vacant at Westminster or Canterbury.

That this promise might not be forgotten, Swist 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 rememberance 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 his 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.

But he had yet more to suffer. Lord Berkeley 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 exact


Soon after his settlement at Laracor, he invited to Ireland the unfortunate Stella, a young woman whose name was Johnson, the daughter of the steward of sir William Temple, who, in consideration of her father's virtues, left her a thousand pounds. With her came mrs. Dingley, whose whole fortune was twenty-seven pounds a year for her life. With these ladies he passed his hours of relaxation, and to them be opened his bosom; but they never resided in the same house, nor did he see either without a witness. They lived at the parsonage, when Swift was away; and, when he returned, removed to a lodging, or to the house of a Deighbouring clergyman.

Swift was not one of those minds which amaze the world with early pregnancy: his first work, except his few poetical essays, was the Dissentions in Athens and Rome, published (1701) in his thirty-fourth year. After its appearance, paying a visit to some bishop, he heard mention made of the new pamphlet that Burnet had written, replete with political knowledge. When he seemed to doubt Burnet's right to the work, he was told by the bishop, that he was young man;" and, still persisting to doubt, that he was

a very positive young man."


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 with. out ill intention; but it is certainly of dangerous example. That Swift was its author, though it 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 archbishor Sharpe and the duchess of Somerset, by shewing it to the queen, debarred bim from a bishopric.

When this wild work first raised the attention of the public, Sacheverell, meeting Smalridge, tried to flatter him, hy 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, should hire me to write the Tale of a Tub.

The digressions relating to Wotton and Bentley must be confessed to discover want of knowledge, or want of integrity; he did not understand 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, bad 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-of-England Man; the ridicule of astrology, under the name of Bickerstaff; the Argument against abolishing Christianity; and the defence of the Sacramental Test.

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