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purity; and though perhaps all his strictures are not exact, yet it is not often that solecisms can be found; and whoever depends on his authority may generally conclude himself safe. His sentences are never too much dilated or contracted; and it will not be easy to find any embarassment in the complication of his clauses, any inconsequence in his connections, or abruptness in his transitions.
His style was well suited to his thoughts, which are never subtilised by nice disquisitions, decorated by sparkling conceits, elevated by ambitious sentences, or variegated by far-sought learning. He pays no court to the passions; he excites neither surprise nor admiration; he always understands himself; and his reader always understands him: the peruser of Swift wants little previous knowledge; it will be sufficient that he is acquainted with common words and common things; he is neither required to mount elevations, nor to explore profundities; his passage is always on a level, along solid ground, without asperities, without obstruction.
This easy and safe conveyance of meaning it was Swift's desire to attain, and for having attained he deserves praise. For purposes merely didactic, when something is to be told that was not known before, it is the best mode; but against that inattention by which known truths are suffered to lie neglected, it makes no provision; it instructs, but does not persuade.
By his political education he was associated with the whigs; but he deserted them when they deserted their principles, yet without running into the contrary extreme; he continued throughout his life to retain the disposition which he assigns to the Church-of-England Man, of thinking commonly with the whigs of the state, and with the
tories of the church.
He was a churchman rationally zealous; he desired the prosperity, and maintained the honour of the clergy; of the dissenters he did not wish to infringe the toleration but he opposed their encroachments.
To his duty, as dean, he was very attentive. He managed the revenues of his church with exact economy; and it is said by Delany, that more money was, under his
direction, laid out in repairs, than had ever been in the same time since its first erection. Of his choir he was eminently careful; and, though he neither loved nor understood music, took care that all the singers were well qualified, admitting none without the testimony of skilful judges.
In his church he restored the practice of weekly communion, and distributed the sacramental elements in the most solemn and devout manner with his own hand. He came to church every morning, preached commonly in his turn, and attended the evening anthem, that it might not be negligently performed.
He read the service, "rather with a strong, nervous voice, than in a graceful manner; his voice was sharp and high-toned, rather than harmonious."
'He entered upon the clerical state with hope to excel in preaching; but complained, that, from the time of his political controversies, “he could only preach pamphlets." This censure of himself, if judgment be made from those sermons which have been printed, was unreasonably se
The suspicions of his irreligion proceeded in a great measure from his dread of hypocrisy; instead of wishing to seem better, he delighted in seeming worse than he was. He went in London to early prayers, lest he should be seen at church; he read prayers to his servants every morning with such dexterous secrecy, that dr. Delany was six months in his house before he knew it. He was not only careful to hide the good which he did, but willingly incurred the suspicion of evil which he did not. He forgot what himself had formerly asserted, that hypocrisy is less mischievous than open impiety. Dr. Delany, with all his zeal for his honour, has justly condemned this part of his character.
The person of Swift had not many recommendations. He had a kind of muddy complexion, which, though he washed himself with oriental scrupulosity, did not look clear. He had a countenance sour and severe, which he seldom softened by any appearance of gaiety. He stubbornly resisted any tendency to laughter.
To his domestics he was naturally rough; and a man of a rigorous temper, with that vigilance of minute attention which his works discover, must have been a master that few could bear. That he was disposed to do his servants good, on important occasions, is no great mitigation; benefaction can be but rare, and tyrannic peevishness is perpetual. He did not spare the servants of others. Once, when he dined alone with the earl of Orrery, he said of one that waited in the room, "That man has, since we sat to the table, committed fifteen faults." What the faults were, lord Orrery, from whom I had the story, had not been attentive enough to discover. My number may perhaps not be exact.
In his economy he practised a peculiar and offensive parsimony, without disguise or apology. The practice of saving being once necessary, became habitual, and grew first ridiculous, and at last detestable. But his avarice, though it might exclude pleasure, was never suffered to encroach upon his virtue. He was frugal by inclination, but liberal by principle; and, if the purpose to which he destined his little accumulations be remembered, with his distribution of occasional charity, it will perhaps appear, that he only liked one mode of expence better than another, and saved merely that he might have something to give. He did not grow rich by injuring his successors, but left both Laracor and the deanery more valuable than he found them.-With all this talk of his covetousness and generosity, it should be remembered, that he was never rich. The revenue of his deanery was not much more than seven hundred a year.
His beneficence was not graced with tenderness or civility; he relieved without pity, and assisted without kindness; so that those who were fed by him could hardly love him.
He made a rule to himself to give but one piece at a time, and therefore always stored his pocket with coins of different value.
Whatever he did, he seemed willing to do in a manner peculiar to himself, without sufficiently considering, that singularity, as it implies a contempt of the general prac
tice, is a kind of defiance which justly provokes the bostility of ridicule; he, therefore, who indulges peculiar habits, is worse than others, if he be not better.
Of his humour, a story told by Pope* may afford a specimen :
"Dr. Swift has an odd, blunt way, that is mistaken by strangers for ill-nature.-"Tis so odd, that there's no describing it but by facts. I'll tell you one that first comes into my head. One evening, Gay and I went to see him ; you know how intimately we were all acquainted. On our coming in, Heyday, gentlemen, (says the doctor), what's the meaning of this visit? How came you to leave the great lords that you are so fond of, to come hither to see a poor dean?'-' Because we would rather see you than any of them.'-'Ay, any one, that did not know so well as I do, might believe you. But since you are come, I must get some supper for you, I suppose.'-' No, doctor, we have supped already.'—' Supped already? that's impossible! why, 'tis not eight o'clock yet. That's very strange ; but if you had not supped, I must have got something for you. Let me see, what should I have had? A couple of lobsters; ay, that would have done very well; two shillings -tarts, a shilling: but you will drink a glass of wine with me, though you supped so much before your usual time, only to spare my pocket?'-'No, we had rather talk with you than drink with you.'-' But if you had supped with me, as in all reason you ought to have done, you must then have drank with me.-A bottle of wine, two shillings -two and two is four, and one is five; just two and sixpence a-piece. There, Pope, there's half-a-crown for you; and there's another for you, sir; for I won't save any thing by you, I am determined.'-This was all said and done with his usual seriousness on such occasions; and, in spite of every thing we could say to the contrary, he actually obliged us to take the money."
In the intercourse of familiar life, he indulged his disposition to petulance and sarcasm, and thought himself injured, if the licentiousness of his raillery, the freedom of bis censures, or the petulance of his frolics, was resented
or repressed. He predominated over his companions with very high ascendancy; and probably would bear none, over whom he could not predominate. To give him advice was, in the style of his friend Delany, "to venture to speak to him." This customary superiority soon grew too delicate for truth; and Swift, with all his penetration, allowed himself to be delighted with low flattery.
On all common occasions, he habitually affects a style of arrogance, and dictates rather than persuades. This authoritative and magisterial language he expected to be received as his peculiar mode of jocularity: but he apparently flattered his own arrogance by an assumed imperiousness, in which he was ironical only to the resentful, and to the submissive sufficiently serious.
He told stories with great felicity, and delighted in doing what he knew himself to do well; he was therefore captivated by the respectful silence of a steady listener, and told the same tales too often.
He did not, however, claim the right of talking alone; for it was his rule, when he had spoken a minute, to give room, by a pause, for any other speaker. Of time, on all occasions, he was an exact computer, and knew the minutes required to every common operation.
It may be justly supposed that there was in his conversation, what appears so frequently in his letters, an affectation of familiarity with the great, an ambition of momentary equality, sought and enjoyed by the neglect of those ceremonies which custom has established as the barriers between one order of society and another. This transgression of regularity was, by himself and his admirers, termed greatness of soul. But, a great mind disdains to hold any thing by courtesy, and therefore never usurps what a lawful claimant may take away. He that encroaches on another's dignity, puts himself in his power; he is either repelled with helpless indignity, or endured by clemency and condescension.
Of Swift's general habits of thinking, if his letters can be supposed to afford any evidence, he was not a man to be either loved or envied. He seems to have wasted life in discontent, by the rage of neglected pride, and the lan