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JONATHAN SWIFT, D.D.
Swift's parentage and birth—His life at college-His first
residence with Sir William Templé-Visits Oxford—He takes orders, and obtains the living of Kilroot—Resigns that living in favour of a friend, and returns to England –His second residence with Sir William Temple, The Battle of the Books, and Tale of a Tub—Verses on the Burning of Whitehall—Swift's correspondence with Miss Waryng-He becomes acquainted with StellaSir William Temple dies, and bequeaths his works to SwiftSwift's views of promotion at the Court are disappointed.
The life of Swift forms an interesting and instructive narrative to all who love to contemplate those alternations of good and evil which chequer the fate of individuals, distinguished by their talents and by their fame. Born under circumstances of the most pressing calamity, educated by the cold and careless charity of relations, denied the usual honours attached to academical study, and spending years of dependence upon the inefficient patronage of Sir William Temple, the earlier part of bis history may be considered as a continued tale of depressed genius and disappointed hopes. Yet, under
all these disadvantages, Swift arose to be the counsellor of a British administration, the best defender of their measures, and the intimate friend of all who were noble or renowned, learned or witty, in the classic age of Queen Anne. The events of his latter years were not less strongly contrasted. Involved in the fall of his patrons, he became a discontented and persecuted exile from England, and from his friends, yet, almost at once, attained a pitch of popularity which rendered him the idol of Ireland, and the dread of those who ruled that kingdom. Nor was his domestic fate less extraordinary-loving, and beloved by two of the most beautiful and interesting women of the time, he was doomed to form a happy and tranquil union with neither, and saw them sink successively to the grave, under the consciousness that their mortal disease had its source in disappointed hopes, and ill-requited affection. His talents also, the source of his fame and his pride, whose brilliancy bad so long dazzled and delighted mankind, became gradually clouded by disease, and perverted by passion, as their possessor approached the goal of life; and, ere he attained it, were levelled far below those of ordinary humanity. From the life of Swift, therefore, may be derived the important lesson, that, as no misfortunes should induce genius to despair, no rank of fame, hewever elevated, should encourage its possessor to presumption. And those to whom fate has denied such brilliant qualities, or to whom she has refused the necessary opportunities of displaying them, may be taught, while perusing the history of this illustrious man, how little happiness depends upon the possession of transcendent genius, of political influence, or of popular renown.
Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity, and Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin, was descended from the younger branch of the family of Swifts, in Yorkshire, which had been settled in that county for many years. His immediate ancestor was the Reverend Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodrich, in Herefordshire, and proprietor of a small estate in that neighbourhood. At the beginning of the civil wars, this gentleman distinguished
himself by his zeal and activity in the cause of Charles 1. ; and his grandson has recorded, in a separate memoir, his exploits and sufferings during the civil wars. To that memoir, and the notes which accompany it, the reader is referred for further particulars concerning Swift's family.* After having been repeatedly plundered by the parliamentary soldiers, even to the clothes of the infant in the cradle, (which, according to family tradition, was Jonathan, father of the Dean,) and to the last loaf which was to support his numerous family, Thomas Swift died in the year 1658, leaving ten sons, and three or four daughters, with no other fortune than the small estate to which he was born, and that almost ruined by fines and sequestrations.
The sufferings of this gentleman were of some service to his family after the Restoration ; for Godwin Swift, his eldest son, who had studied at Gray's Inn, and had been called to the bar, was appointed Attorney-general of the Palatinate of Tipperary, under the Duke of Ormond. He was a man of talents, and ap
* See No. I. Appendix. Swift put up a plain monument to his grandfather, and also presented a cup to the church of Goodrich or Gotheridge. He sent a pencilled elevation of the monument, (a simple tablet,) to Mrs. Howard, who returned it with the following lines, inscribed on the drawing by Pope. The paper is endorsed, in Swift's hand, “ Model of a monument for my grandfather, with Mr. Pope's roguery.”
For England hath its own.
pears to have possessed a considerable revenue, which he greatly embarrassed by embarking in speculative and expensive projects, to which his nephew, Jonathan, ever after entertained an unconquerable aversion.* Meantime, however, the success of Godwin Swift, in his profession, attracted to Ireland three of his brethren, William, Jonathan, and Adam, all of whom settled in that kingdom, and there lived and died.
Jonathan Swift, the father of the celebrated author, was the sixth or seventh son of the Vicar of Goodrich, the number of whose descendants, and the obscurity of their fortunes, does not admit of distinguishing his lineage more accurately. Jonathan, like his brother Godwin, appears to have been bred to the law, though not like him called to the bar. He added to the embarrassments of his situation, by marrying Abigail Ericke of Leicestershire, a lady whose ancient genealogy was her principal dowry. The Dean has, himself, informed us, that his father obtained some agencies and employments in Ireland; but his principal promotion seems to have been the office of steward to the society of the King's Inns, Dublin, to which he was nominated in 1665.
This situation he did not long enjoy, for he died in
* One of these projects seems to have been the iron manufactory at Swadlingbar, mentioned sarcastically by the Dean in his Essay on Barbarous Denominations in Ireland, Vol. VII. p. 147. Swift's dislike to projects and projectors, is exhibited in his Essay on English Bubbles, and the subsequent Tracts relating to the proposed establishment of a bank in Ireland. The following anecdote is also recorded on the same subject :
“When Swift was at Holyhead, waiting for a fair wind to sail for Ireland, one Welldon, an old seafaring man, sent bim a letter that he had found out the longitude, and would convince him of it; to which the Dean answered, in writing, that if he had found it out, he must apply to the Lords of Admiralty, of whom, perhaps, one might be found who knew something of navigation, of which he was totally ignorant; and that he never knew but two projectors, one of whom, (meaning his uncle Godwin,) ruined hiniself and family, and the other hanged himself; and desired him to desist, lest one or other might happen to him.”-Swiftiana, London, 1804, 12mo, vol. I. p. 177. The other unfortunate projector was probably Joseph Beaumont, often mentioned in Swift's Journal, who committed suicide.
1667, two years after his appointment, leaving an infant daughter, and his widow, then pregnant, in a very destitute situation,* as Mrs. Swift was unable, without the assistance of the society, even to defray the expense of her husband's funeral..
Dryden William Swift, the brother of the deceased, seems to have been active in behalf of his sister-in-law, but Godwin, who was supposed to be wealthy, was her chief support;, and, upon the 30th of November 1667,
* The following original documents, procured by the kindness of Mr. Hartstonage, establish the time of his appointment and death, and also the destitute circumstances of the poet's mother. As Mr. Swist states himself to have been conversant about the King's Iuns for six or seven years before the date of his petition, it is probable that he came to Ireland upon the death of his father, 1658. “ To his Grace the Lord Chancellor,. the Right Honourable the
Judges, and other the Honourable Benchers of the Honourable Society of the King's Inns, Dublin :
66. The humble Petition of Jonathan Swift; “ Humbly sheweth, " That the stewardship of this Honourable Society is now become void by the death of Thomas Wale, the late steward thereof: That your petitioner, his father, and their whole family, have been always very loyal and faithful to his said Majesty and his royal father, and have been very great sufferers upon that account: That your petitioner, for these six or seven years last past, hath been much conversant about the said Inns, and is very well acquainted with the duty and employment belonging unto the steward thereof, he having assisted the said Thomas Wale in entering of the orders of your honours, and in the settling and ordering other things belonging to the said employment.
" That your petitioner doubts not but if your honours will be pleased to confer the said employment of steward upon your petitioner, that he shall give your honours all satisfaction imaginable therein.
“He therefore humbly prays that your honours will be pleased to confirm the said stewardship upon him.
And he shall pray." (Extracted from the Black-book of the King's Inns.in the library, Henrietta Street, Dublin, p. 242.);
I compared the above extracts with Mr. Hartstonge, and can certify its correotness with the original..
B. T. DUHIGG,
Presented to a Council held
at the King's Inns, Dublin, 14th Nov. 1665. VOL. II.
Librarian to the Honourable
Society of King's Inns,