Imatges de pÓgina

being St. Andrew's day, she was delivered of the celebrated Jonathan Swift. The place of his birth was a

“ At a Council holden at the King's Inns, Dublin, the 25th day of January, 1665-6,

(Amongst other matters it was)
" Ordered
That Jonathan Swift, upon his petition, be admitted steward of
this house.

“ Michl. Dublin, Can.
J. Temple, !Master of the Rolls.)
W. Aston, (puisne Justice of the King's Bench.]
Jn. Bysse, (Chief Baron.]
Robt. Kennedy, (Baron of the Exchequer.)
Jerome Alexander, [p. Justice of the Common Pleas.")

I also compared the above,

B. T. DuhigG,

[ocr errors]

The period of the death of the above-mentioned Mr. Jonathan Swift is fully ascertained, by the following petition of his widow, Mrs. Abigail Swift, to the Honourable Society of King's Inns, presented at a council held the 15th of April 1667, " To his Grace the Lord Chancellor, and the Right Honourable the Judges and Benchers of the Honourable Society of King's Imns :

" The humble Petition of Abigail Swist, widow; “ Humbly sheweth, “ That it having pleased God to take away your petitioner's hus. band, the late steward of this honourable Society, unexpectedly, and your petitioner being left a disconsolate widow, hath this affliction added to her, that there is due to her from the several menibers of this honourable Society, for Commons and Cost Commons, about six score pounds sterling, which she is noways able to get in without your honours' assistance: That your petitioner hath desired her late husband's brother, William Swist, to help her in getting in her said money, who hath manifested himself very willing to assist her, but hath been denied by several persons, upon pretence that he had no authority to receive the same.

" Now, for as much as your petitioner hath no friend next your honours, but her said brother, to rely upon, and that he, your petitioner's said brother, cannot befriend her without he be authorized by your honours' orders to the purpose, « May it therefore please your honours to grant your petitioner

an order, wherein the said William Swift may be authorized and appointed to gather in your petitioner's said money.

" And your petitioner shall ever pray." [The prayer of which petition was fully granted upon the same day,

and her brother-in-law appointed to receive the moneys due.]

[ocr errors]

small house, now called No. 7, in Hoey's Court, Dublin, which is still pointed out by the inhabitants of that quarter.* His infancy was marked by a chance as singular as that of his father, whose cradle had been plundered of the bedding by Kirle's troopers. The nurse to whom he was committed was a native of Whitehaven, to which town she was recalled, by the commands of a dying relation, from whom she expected a legacy. She actually stole away her charge, out of mere affection, and carried him to Whitehaven, where he resided three years; for his health was so delicate, that rather than hazard a second voyage, his mother chose to fix his residence for a time with the female who had given such a singular proof of her attachment. The nurse was so careful of the child's education, that when he returned to Dublin he was able to spell, and when five years old he could read any chapter of the Bible.

Swift was now to share the indigence of a mother whom he tenderly loved, and to subsist upon the sup

[ocr errors]

[Extracted from the Black-book of the King's Inns, Dublin, page 248.j I alsu compared the above,


I have seen another original petition from Mrs. Abigail Swist, presented in council to the Society of King's Inns, in the month of January, less than two nionths after the birth of her son, which was on the 30th of November 1667. I am thus irresistibly convinced, and entirely concur in opinion with Mr. Dubigg, (see his history of the King's Inns, p. 248,) that the illustrious Jonathan Swift, the Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin, was undoubtedly born in Ireland. This latter petition, here noticed, is in the Black-book of the King's Inns, Dublin, p. 276, which states her poverty, and her desire to pay the funeral expenses of her late husband, and praying that the society do pay her the arrears due, &c.

MATTHEW WELD HARTSTONGE, I compared the above with Mr. Hartstonge,


Entry on the King's Inns Roll. On the 26th of January 1665, Jonathan Swift was admitted into this Society.”

(Black-book of the King's Inns, p. 197.] * The antiquity of its appearance seems to vindicate the truth of the tradition. In 1809 it was occupied by Mrs. Jackson, a dealer in earthen-ware.

port afforded by his uncle Godwin. It seems probableathat these irritating and degrading circumstances sunk deep into his haughty temper, even at an early period of life, and that even then commenced that war of his spirit with the world, which only ended when his faculties were utterly subdued by disease. Born a posthumous child, and bred up as an object of charity, he early adopted the custom of observing his birth-day, as a term, not of joy, but of sorrow, and of reading; when it annually recurred, the striking passage of Scripture, in which Job laments and execrates the day upon which it was said in his father's house, “ that a man-child was born." The narrowness of the allowance afforded for his maintenance and education, added to his unbappiness, and was naturally imputed by him to the sordid parsimony of his uncle: It is true, that subsequent events showed that Godwin Swift was under the necessity of regulating his allowance by the real state of his embarrassed circumstances, rather than by the opinion which his nephew, in common with the rest of the world, entertained of his wealth. But although it was afterwards discovered, that his liberality had borne full proportion to the former criterion, Swift appears never to have lost the unfavourable impression which had once been made, and certainly held Godwin Swift's. remembrance neither in love nor veneration.*

* He mentions him with disrespect in the anecdotes of the family, and elsewhere; and I have the following remarkable anecdote from Theophilus Swift, Esq. the grandson of Godwin, and grand-nephew of the Dean, to whom it was often related by Mrs. Whiteway. The Rev. Dr. Whittingham, Archdeacon of Dublin, a bold and ready talker, used to be forward to show his colloquial courage where few would have chosen to exercise it, by attacking Dean Swist, and that with great rudeness and severity. At a visitation dinner, they chanced to be placed nearly opposite to each other at table, when Dr. Whittingham suddenly asked, “Pray, Mr. Dean, was it not your uncle Godwin who educated you?”-Swift:affected not to hear this insulting question. At length it was twice repeated, with a loud and bitter accent, when the Dean answered abruptly, “Yes ! He gave me the education of a dog."-" Then," answered Whittingham, grinning, and clenching his hand, "you have not the gratitude of a dog." The instant interposition of the Bishop prevented the personal violence which was likely to follow on this colloquy, This story is alluded to by Dr. Delany, in his sixteenth letter to

Meanwhile his education proceeded apace. At the age of six years, he was sent to the school of Kilkenny, endowed and maintained by the Ormond family, where his name, cut in schoolboy fashion, upon his desk or form, is still shown to strangers. Here he learned to say, latino-anglicè, the words Mi dux et amasti lux, the first

germ of the numerous jeux d'esprit of that nature which passing between him and Sheridan, during his declining years.

From Kilkenny, Swift was removed, at the age of 14, and admitted into Trinity College, Dublin, where, as appears from the book of the senior lecturers, he was received as a pensioner under the tuition of St. George Ashe, on 24th April 1682. His cousin, Thomas Swift,* was admitted at the same time; and the mention of the two names throughout the College records, without the Christian appellative, has thrown uncertainty upon some minute points of the Dean's biography.

When Swift was entered at the University, the usual studies of the period were required of him, and of these, some were very ill suited to his genius. Logic, then deemed a principal object of learning, was in vain presented to his notice ; for his disposition altogether rejected the learned sophistry of Smiglecius, Keckermannus, Burgersdicius, and other ponderous worthies now hardly know by name; nor could his tutor ever persuade him to read three pages in one of them, though some acquaintance with the commentators of Aristotle was absolutely necessary at passing examination for his degrees. Neither did he pay regular attention to other studies more congenial to his disposition. He read and studied rather for amusement, and to divert melancholy reflections, than with the zeal of acquiring knowledge.

Lord Orrery, but the circumstances are concealed and altered. Notwithstanding the violence of this altercation, the Dean and Archdeacon Whittingham were reconciled by the interference of the Bishop, and became asterwards good friends.

* Son to his uncle Thomas, who had been bred at Oxford. Swift's college-companion afterwards became Rector of Puttenham in Surrey, and affected to have a share in the original concoction of the Tale of a Tub. Swift used to call him in contempt, his “ parsoncousin.”


But his reading, however desultory, must have been varied and extensive, since he is said to have already drawn a rough sketch of the Tale of a Tub, which he communicated to his companion Mr. Waryng.

We must conclude then, that a mere idler of the 17th century might acquire, in his hours of careless and irregular reading, a degree of knowledge which would startle a severe student of the present age. We have few means of judging of the extent of Swift's real learning ; it cannot perhaps be termed profound, but it was certainly extensive. His writings evince great general acquaintance with history and poetry, both ancient and modern; nor is he ever at a loss for such classical allusions and quotations as most aptly illustrate the matter of which he treats. Yet although he thought so lightly of his own acquisitions, that he talked of having lost degree for dulness and insufficiency, and although he used with great vehemence to rebuke those who bestowed the name of scholar on any one whom they could not prove to have spent most of his days in study, the character of a mere plodding student did not stand high in his estimation. Bentley, whom he unjustly ranked in this dull and laborious class, used to be honoured with the epithets of Jubar Anglicanum, Lux Britanniæ, Sidus Britannicum, &c. by the foreign literati. This Swift could not bear, and in the predictions of Isaac Bickerstaff, he launches some satirical shafts at the heavy politeness of the HighDutch illustrissimi, and their extravagant compliments to each other:t

While Swift, however, was pursuing his studies in this vague and desultory manner, they would have been

* This fact Mr. Waryng often mentioned to Mr. Whiteway.

+ ".If I had leave to have printed the Latin letters transmitted to me from foreign parts, they would fill a volume, and be a full defence against all that Mr. Partridge and all his accomplices of the Portugal Inquisition will be ever able to object; which, hy the way, are the only enemies my predictions have ever met with at home or abroad. The most learned Monsieur Leibnitz thus addresses to me his third letter: Illustrissimo Bickerstaffio astrologia instauratori, &c. Monsieur Le Clerc, quoting my predictions in a treatise he published last year, is pleased to say, Ita nuperrime Bickerstaffius. magnum illaed Angliæ sidrus," VIII. 492.

« AnteriorContinua »