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marriage to Stella, no other honest plea can be found than that he delayed a disagreeable discovery from time to time, dreading the immediate burst of distress, and watching for a favourable moment. She thought herself neglected, and died of disappointment; having ordered by her will the poem to be published, in which Cadenus had proclaimed her excellence, and confessed his love. The effect of the publication upon the dean and Stella is thus related by
“I have good reason to believe that they both were greatly shocked and distressed (though it may be differently) upon this occasion. The dean made a tour to the south of Ireland, for about two months, at this time, to dissipate his thoughts, and give place to obloquy. And Stella retired (upon the earnest invitation of the owner) to the house of a cheerful, generous, good-natured friend of the dean's, whom she always much loved and honoured. There my informer often saw her; and, I have reason to believe, used his utmost endeavours to relieve, support, and amuse her, in this sad situation.
"One little incident, he told me of on that occasion, I think I shall never forget. As her friend was an hospitable, open-hearted man, well-beloved, and largely acquainted, it happened one day that some gentlemen dropt in to dinner, who were strangers to Stella's situation; and, as the poem of Cadenus and Vanessa was then the general topic of conversation, one of them said, 'Surely that Vanessa must be an extraordinary woman, that could inspire the dean to write so finely upon her.' Mrs. Johnson smiled, and answered, that she thought that point not quite so clear; for it was well known the dean could write finely upon a broomstick."
The great acquisition of esteem and influence was made by the Drapier's Letters, in 1724. One Wood of Wolverhampton, in Staffordshire, a man enterprising and rapacious, had, as is said, by a present to the duchess of Munster, obtained a patent, empowering him to coin one hundred and eighty thousand pounds of halfpence and farthings for the kingdom of Ireland, in which there was a very inconvenient and embarrassing scarcity of copper
coin; so that it was possible to run in debt upon the credit of a piece of money; for the cook or keeper of an alehouse could not refuse to supply a man that had silver in his hand, and the buyer would not leave his money without change.
The project was therefore plausible. The scarcity, which was already great, Wood took care to make greater, by agents who gathered up the old halfpence; and was about to turn his brass into gold, by pouring the treasures of his new mint upon Ireland; when Swift, finding that the metal was debased to an enormous degree, wrote letters, under the name of M. B. Drapier, to shew the folly of receiving, and the mischief that must ensue by giving, gold and silver for coin worth perhaps not a third part of its nominal value.
The nation was alarmed; the new coin was universally refused; but the governors of Ireland considered resistance to the king's patent as highly criminal; and one Whitshed, then chief justice, who had tried the printer of the former pamphlet, and sent out the jury nine times, till by clamour and menaces they were frighted into a special verdict, now presented the Drapier, but could not prevail on the grand jury to find the bill.
Lord Carteret and the privy council published a proclamation, offering three hundred pounds for discovering the author of the fourth letter. Swift had concealed himself from his printers, and trusted only his butler, who transcribed the paper. The man, immediately after the appearance of the proclamation, strolled from the house, and staid out all night, and part of the next day. There was reason enough to fear that he had betrayed his master for the reward; but he came home, and the dean ordered him to put off his livery, and leave the house; "for,” says he, "I know that my life is in your power, and I will not bear, out of fear, either your insolence or negligence." The man excused his fault with great submission, and begged that he might be confined in the house while it was in his power to endanger his master; but the dean resolutely turned him out, without taking further notice of him, till the term of the information had expired, and then received him
again. Soon afterwards, he ordered him and the rest of his servants into his presence, without telling his intentions, and bade them take notice that their fellow-servant was no longer Robert the butler; but that his integrity had made him mr. Blakeney, verger of St. Patrick's; an officer whose income was between thirty and forty pounds a year: yet he still continued for some years to serve his old master as his butler.
Swift was known from this time by the appellation of The Dean. He was honoured by the populace as the champion, patron, and instructor of Ireland; and gained such power as, considered both in its extent and duration, scarcely any man has ever enjoyed without greater wealth or higher station.
He was from this important year the oracle of the traders, and the idol of the rabble, and by consequence was feared and courted by all to whom the kindness of the traders or the populace was necessary. The Drapier was a sign; the Drapier was a health; and, which way soever the eye or the ear was turned, some tokens were found of the nation's gratitude to the Drapier.
The benefit was indeed great; he had rescued Ireland from a very oppressive and predatory invasion; and the popularity which he had gained he was diligent to keep, by appearing forward and zealous on every occasion where the public interest was supposed to be involved. Nor did he much scruple to boast his influence; for when, upon some attempts to regulate the coin, archbishop Boulter, then one of the justices, accused him of exasperating the people, he exculpated himself by saying, "If I had lifted up my finger, they would have torn you to pieces."
But the pleasure of popularity was soon interrupted by domestic misery. Mrs. Johnson, whose conversation was to him the great softener of the ills of life, began in the year of the Drapier's triumph to decline; and two years afterwards was so wasted with sickness, that her recovery was considered as hopeless.
Swift was then in England, and had been invited by lord Bolingbroke to pass the winter with him in France; but this call of calamity hastened him to Ireland, where
perhaps his presence contributed to restore her to imperfect and tottering health.
He was now so much at ease, that (1727) he returned to England; where he collected three volumes of miscellanies in conjunction with Pope, who prefixed a querulous and apologetical preface.
This important year sent likewise into the world Gulliver's Travels; a production so new and strange, that it filled the reader with a mingled emotion of merriment and amazement. It was received with such avidity, that the price of the first edition was raised before the second could be made; it was read by the high and the low, the learned and illiterate. Criticism was for a while lost in wonder; no rules of judgment were applied to a book written in open defiance of truth and regularity. But, when distinctions came to be made, the part which gave the least pleasure was that which describes the flying island, and that which gave most disgust must be the history of the Houyhnhnms.
While Swift was enjoying the reputation of his new work, the news of the king's death arrived; and he kissed the hands of the new king and queen three days after their accession.
By the queen, when she was princess, he had been treated with some distinction, and was well received by her in her exaltation: but, whether she gave hopes which she never took care to satisfy, or he formed expectations which she never meant to raise, the event was, that he always afterwards thought on her with malevolence, and particularly charged her with breaking her promise of some medals which she engaged to send him.
I know not whether she had not, in her turn, some reason for complaint. A letter was sent her, not so much entreating, as requiring her patronage of mrs. Barber, an ingenious Irishwoman, who was then begging subscriptions for her poems. To this letter was subscribed the name of Swift, and it has all the appearances of his diction and sentiments; but it was not written in his hand, and had some little improprieties. When he was charged with this letter, he laid hold of the inaccuracies, and urged the
Improbability of the accusation; but never denied it: he shuffles between cowardice and veracity, and talks big when he says nothing.
He seems desirous enough of recommencing courtier, and endeavoured to gain the kindness of mrs. Howard, remembering what mrs. Masham had performed in former times: but his flatteries were, like those of other wits, unsuccessful; the lady either wanted power, or had no ambition of poetical immortality.
He was seized not long afterwards by a fit of giddiness, and again heard of the sickness and danger of mrs. Johnson. He then left the house of Pope, as it seems, with very little ceremony, finding "that two siek friends cannot live together;" and did not write to him till he found himself at Chester.
He returned to a home of sorrow: poor Stella was sinking into the grave, and, after a languishing decay of about two months, died in her forty-fourth year, on January 28, 1728. How much he wished her life, his papers shew; nor can it be doubted that he dreaded the death of her whom he loved most, aggravated by the consciousness that himself had hastened it.
Beauty, and the power of pleasing, the greatest external advantages that woman can desire or possess, were fatal to the unfortunate Stella. The man whom she had the misfortune to love was, as Delany observes, fond of singularity, and desirous to make a mode of happiness for himself, different from the general course of things, and order of providence. From the time of her arrival in Ireland, he seems resolved to keep her in his power, and therefore hindered a match sufficiently advantageous, by accumulating unreasonable demands, and prescribing conditions that could not be performed. While she was at her own disposal, he did not consider his possession as secure; resentment, ambition, or caprice, might separate them; he was therefore resolved to make "assurance double sure," and to appropriate her by a private marriage, to which he had annexed the expectation of all the pleasures of perfect friendship, without the uneasiness of conjugal restraint. But with this state poor Stella was not satisfied; she never