« AnteriorContinua »
few years abfence, and some newly discovered faults, made him wish to put an end to a correspondence in the style of courtship, which had been carried on for some time with Miss Waryng: The circumftances of that affair are laid open in an unlover-like and dictatorial epistle to Miss Waryng, dated May 4. 1700, the design of which seems evidently to have been to break off the match, but in such away as that the refusal might come from the lady. The subsequent fortunes of Miss Waryng are not known; but it is probable Swift's connection with her might occasion the mysterious conduct he observed towards Miss Johnson.
Ambition, not love, was his predominant passion. Urged by this restless spirit, he every year paid a visit to England, in hopes of finding some favourable opportunity of distinguishing himself, and pushing his fortune in the world.
His firit political trad, intituled A Discourse of the Contesis and Diffentians in Athens and Rome, was published in 1701, at the time when the nation was in a ferment on account of the impeachment of the Earls of Portland and Orford, Lord Somers and Lord Halifax, by the House of Commons. He concealed his name; nor was he, though he sided with the Whigs, at that time connected with any of the leaders of that party. His motives were wholly of a public nature, and such as became his truly disinterested and patriotic spirit. This was the only piece he ever explicitly avowed as his own produ&ion. With respect to all his other publications, to which he did not affix his name, he left the world to make its own conjectures with regard to the author. He maintained a kind of dignified reserve, and seemed always to court that equivocal shade which “ half showed,” and “ half veiled” his intentions and pursuits.
The same year, he took the degree of Doctor in Divinity.
in 1704, he published, The Tale of a Tub, which he had kept by him eight years. Mr. Sheridan conliders it as a work truly friendly to the interests of religion, by weakening of the powers of popery and fanaticism; but, it is certain, that most of the serious part of the clergy and the laity, even among the high-church-men, bluled for the author, and thought religion the last thing he troubled himself about. It has been ascribed by Mr. Cooksey, in his “ Life of Lord Somers,” to that nobleman; but he himself did not deny that he was the author, when Archbishop Sharp and the Due chefs of Somerset, by showing it to the Queen, debarred him from a bislopric.
After the publication of this work, his acquaintance was much sought after by all persons of taste. and genius. There was, particularly, a very close connection between him and Addison, which ended in a sincere and lasting friendship; and he lived in the greatest intimacy with Congreve, Arbuthnot, Prior, Pope, Gay, Parnell, Garth, Berkeley, and others of inferior note.
Jo 1708, he published Tbe Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man, the ridicule of astrology, under the name of Bickerfiaff, the Argument against abolishing Cbriftianity, and the defence of the Sacramentah Teft.
In these publications Swift does not rise superior to the prejudices which agitated the contending parties of those days. His principles of toleration may be clearly perceived to have been inimical to a general liberty of conscience. He speaks the language of those days, when bigotry, under the specious names of zeal and orthodoxy, shook the very pillars of the Reformation; and, while it pretended to secure the cburch from danger, was underinining the best interests of truth, religion, and liberty.
The attention paid to the paper published under the name of Bickerfiaff, induced Steele, when he projected the « Tatler,” to assume an appellation which had already gainet possession of the reaa der's notice.
In 1709, he published a Projea for the advancement of Religion, addressed to Lady Berkeley, by whose kindness it is not unlikely that he was advanced to his benefiċes, but chiefly calculated for the Queen's perasal, being covertly aimed at the destruđion of the Whigs or Low-church-party.
After the publication of tKis piece, Swift went to Ireland, where he passed much of his time with Addisoo, then Secretary to the Earl of Wharton, Lord Lieutenant of that kingdom.
Upon the change of affairs at court the following year, when the Tory miniftry was appointedy Swift was employed by the bishops of Ireland to folicit the Queen for a remillion of the firft-fruits and twentieth-parts to the Irish clergy. He arrived in London, with his credentials, in September 1710, and waited upon Harley, to whom he was mentioned as a man neglected and oppressed by the last ministry, because he had refused to co-operate with some of their schemes.
Harley was glad of an auxiliary so well qualified for his service, and readily admitted him to familiarity and his entire confidence.
He was admitted to those meetings in which the first hints and original plan of action are fupposed to have been formed; and was one of the fixteen ministers, or agents of the ministry, who'met weekly at each other's houses, and were united by the name of “ Brother.”
He continued, however, to converse indiscriminately with all the wits, and was yet a friend to Steele, and contributed to the “ Tatler," which began in April, 1709.
At this time, and during his connection with the Tory ministry, he kept a' regular journal of all the mot remarkable events, as well as little anecdotes, which he transmitted every fortnight to Stilla, the name by which he called Miss Johnson, for private perusal, and that of Mrs. Dingley. This journal was luckily preserved, and some time since given to the world.
He was now immerging into political controversy. The writers on both sides had before this taken the field. On the Whig side were Addison, Burnet, Steele, Congreve, Rowe, and many others of less note. On the Tory side, the chief writers were Bolingbroke, Atterbury, Prior, Freind and King. They had published twelve numbers of a weekly paper, called The Examiner, when Swift declared himself. The whole conduct of the paper was, from that time, put into his hands. He entered the field alone; he scorned allistance; and despised numbers. His first paper was published November 2. 1710, No. 13. of The Examiner; and he continued them without interruption till June 7. 1711, when he dropped it, closing it with No. 44, and then leaving it to be carried on by Mrs. Manley, and other hands.
In 1711, he published a Letter to the Otober Club, “ a set of above a hundred parliament-men of the country, who drank Odober beer at home, and met every evening at a tavern near the parliament to consult on affairs, and drive things to extremes against the Whigs; to call the old ministry to account, and get off five or six heads.” Swift seems to have concurred in opinion with the violent members of his own party; but it was not in his power to quicken the tardiness of Harley, whom he stimulated as much as he could, but with little effect. His Letter, however, put an end to the cabals of the Orłober Club.
The next year, he published a proposal for correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English *Tongue, in a letter to Harley; “ written,” says Dr. Johnson, “ without much knowledge of the general nature of language, and without any accurate inquiry into the history of othei' tongues. The certainty and stability which, contrary to all experience, he thinks attainable, he proposes to secure by instituting an academy, the decrees of which every man would have been willing, and many would have been proud to disobey; and which, being renewed by successive elections, would in a short time have differed from itself."
The same year, he published his celebrated political tract, called The Conduct of tbe Allies. The purpose was to persuade the nation to a peace; and never had any publication more success. It is Taid that eleven thousand were sold in less than a month. To its propagation certainly no agency of power or influence was wanting. It furnished arguments for conversation, speeches for debate, and materials for parliamentary resolutions.
It was followed by his Barrier Treaty, which carries on the design of the Condu&t of the Allies, and his Remarks on the Bißop of Sarum's Introduction to the third Volume of his Hiftory of tbe Reformation, in which he treats Burnet like a political antagonist, whom he is glad of an opportunity to insult.
The ministry were not unmindful of his merits, and had recommended him to the Queen to fill a vacant bishopric; but the recommendation was opposed by Archbishop Sharp, who used this reinarkable expresion, “ that her Majesty should be sure that the man whom she was going to make a bishop was a Chriftian.” The Duchefs of Somerset also thowed the Queen that excessive bitter copy of verses which Swist had written against her, called The Winelfor Prophecy. As a mark of her displeasure, the Qucen passed Swift by, and bestowed the bishopric on another.
As soon as it was known that he was in disgrace with the Queen, his court friends either deserted him or looked coldly on him. Specches were made against him in both Houses of Parliament. The Scottish Peers went in a body to the Queen to complain of the author of a pamphlet, called the
Public Spirit of the Whigs, written in answer to Steele’s “ Crisis," in which were many passages injurious to the honour of their nation.
His friend Harley, however, and the rest of the ministry, exerted their influence so strongly in Es behalf, that he soon appeared again at court, in higher favour than ever.
In April 1713, he was appointed Dean of St. Patrick's in Dublin, the best preferment the ministry would venture to give him. " That ministry,” says Dr. Johnson, “ was, in a great degree, fupe. ported by the clergy, who were not yet reconciled to the author of the Tale of a Tub, and would Dot, without much discontent and indignation, have borne to see him installed in an English cathedral."
In June following, he went to take poffesfion of his deanery; but was not suffered to stay in Ireland more than a fortnight before he was recalled to England, that he might reconcile Harley and Bolingbroke, who began to look on one another with malevolence, which every day increased.
Upon his arrival, he contrived an interview at Lord Masham's, from which they both departed discontented; he procured a secorid, which only convinced him that the breach was irreconcilable. He told them his opinion, that all was loft, and that he was determined to have no further concera with public affairs.
By the diffension of his great friends, his importance was now at an end; and secing his services at izt useless, he returned in June 1714, to a friend's house at Letcomb in Berkshire, where he wrote that spirited pamphlet, called Free Thoughts on the present State of Affairs; but the death of the Queen, soon after it went to press, put a stop to the publication.
This event broke down at once the whole system of Tory politics, put an end to all Swift's noble designs for the public good, and cut off all his own future profpects.
There is an admirable picture given of him upon this occasion, by a few strokes of the masterly per of Arbuthnot: “ I have secn a letter," he writes Pope, “ from Dean Swift ; he keeps up his noble fpirit; and though, like a man knocked down, you may behold him still with a stern counteDance, and aiming a blow at his adversaries.”
The brightest and most important part of his life passed during the four laft years of Queen Anne, when his faculties were in full vigour, and occasions for displaying them arose adequate to their greatness.
It is recorded to his honour, and to animate others by his example, that, during his connection with those who were in the highest rank, and who in every rank would have been great, he would never suffer himself to be treated but as an equal, and repulsed every attempt to hold him in dependence, or keep him at distance, with the utmost resentment and indignation.
It happened upon some occasion that Harley sent him a bank bill of sol. by his private secretary, Mr. Lewis, which he instantly returned with a letter of expostulation and complaint; but he acceped afterwards a draught of 1000 l. upon the Exchequer, which was intercepted by the Queen's
When he was desired by Harley to introduce Parnell to his acquaintance, he refused, upon this principle, that a man of genius was a character superior to a lord in a high station. He therefore obliged him to walk with his treasurer's staft from room to room, inquiring which was Parnell, in order to introduce himself, and beg the honour of his acquaintance.
As to his political principles, if his own account of them is to be believed, he was always against a popish successor to the crown, whatever title he might have by proximity of blood; nor did he regard the right line upon any other account than as it was establithed by law, and had much weight in the opinions of the people. He was of opinion, that when the grievances suffered un'er a present government became greater than those which might probably be expeded from changing it by violence, a revolution was justifiable ; and this he believed to have been the case in that which was brought about by the Prince of Orange. He had a mortal antipathy to standing armies in times of peace; and was of opinion, that our liberty could never be fecured upon a firm foundation, till the ancient law should be revived, by which our parliaments were made anrual. He abominated the political scheme of setting up a monied interest in opposition to the landed, and was an enersy to a temporary fufpension of the Habeas Corpors act. In these opinions, and in his general scheme of politics
, Harley was known to concur; but Bolingbroke foright to gratify his ambition by secretly promoting the restoration of the exiled family.
The period of his political importance is distinguished by the commencement of his pailion sot Miss Esther Vanhomrigh, celebrated by the name of Vancja, whose history is too well known to be minutely repeated.
The date of it may be traced to March 1712, when a remarkable change took place in his manner of writing to Miss Johnson.
Miss Vanhomrigh was a young woman fond of literature, whom he took pleasure in directing and instructing ; till, from being proud of his praise, she grew fond of his person, and ventured to make him a proposal of marriage.
for the first time, felt what the passion of love was, with all its attendant symptoms, which he had before only known from description, and which he was now enabled to describe himself in the strongest colours. In this situation, soon after his return from his installation, in 1713, he wrote that beautiful poem, called Cadenus and Vinelja, iri which he is characterised, under the name of Cadenus by the transposition of the letters in the word Decanus, the Dean. His first design seems to have been to break off the connection in the politest manner possible. To soften the harshncss of a refufal of her hand, the greatest of mortifications to a woman, young, beautiful, and posfeffed of a good fortune; he painted all her perfections, both of body and mind, in such glowing colours, as must at least have highly gratified her vanity, and shown that he was far from being insensible to her charms, though prudence forbade his yielding to his inclinations. If it be said that he should have checked a passion which he never meant to gratify, recourse must be had to that extenuation which he so much despised, “ men are but men.” Perhaps, however, he did not know his own mind; and, as he represents himself, was undetermined.
A poem written in such exquisite taste, of which she was the subje&, and where she saw herself drejt out in the most flattering colours, was not likely to administer to her cure; on the contrary, it only served to add fresh fuel to the flame.
Meantime, the unfortunate Stella languished in absence and neglect. The journal was not renewed; while a continual intercourse was kept up between Vaniffer and him. She was the first person he wrote to on his retirement to Letcoumb, before the Queen's death, and the last in his de. parture from that place to Ireland; whether the foon followed.
He arrived in a much more gloomy state of mind than before. In the triumph of the Whigs, he met with every mortification that a spirit like his could possibly be exposed to. The people of Ireland were irritated against him beyond measure, and every indignity was offered him as he walked the streets of Dublin. Nor was he only insulted by the rabble ; but persons of distinguished rank forgot the decorum of common civility, to give him a personal affront. While his pride was hurt by such indignities, his more tender feelings were often wounded by base ingratitude.
In such a situation, he found it in vain to struggle against the tide that opposed him. He silently yielded, and retired from the world to discharge his duties as a clergyman, and attend to the care of his deanery.
He filled his hours with some historical attempts relating to the Change of the Minifiry, and the Conditet of the Ministry. He likewise finished a History of the Four lif? Years of Queen Anne, which he began in her lifetime, and laboured with great attention, but never published. It was afterwards published by Dr. Lucas; but failed to satisfy the curiosity which it excited.
He was now to contrive how he might be best accommodated in a country where he considered himself in a liate of exile. He opened his house by a public table two days a-week, and found his entertainments gradually frequented by visitants of learning among the men, and of elegance anorg the women. Miss Johnson had left the country, and lived in lodgings not far from the deanery. On his public days she regulated the table ; but appeared at it as a mere guest, like other ladies.
On other days, he often dined at a stated price, with Mr. Worral, a clergyman of his cathedral, whose house was recommended by the peculiar neatness and pleasantry of his wife. To this frugal mode of living, he was first disposed by care to pay fome debts which he had contracted; and he continued it for the purpose of accumulating money.
In 1716, he was privately married to Miss Johnson, by Dr. Ashe, bishop of Clogher, to whom he had been a pupil in the College, and who was the common friend to both, in settling the conditions of this extraordinary union. The marriage made no change in their mode of life; they lived in separate houses as before; nor did she ever lodge in the deanery but when Swift was seized with a fit of giddineis.
During almost fix years after his return to Ireland, he kept his resolution of not meddling at all with public affairs. In 1720, when the ferment seemed to have fubsided, he published his first political pamphlet relative to Ireland, intituled, A Proposal for the universal Use of Iris Manufactures. The efect of this tract is well known. It roused the indignation of the ministry: a prosecution against the printer was commenced, though it came to nothing in the end. Swift again withdrew into retirement ; and “there," as Mr. Sheridan expreffes it, by repeating his former allusion, “ his patriotic spirit, thus confined, proved only as an evil one to torment him.”
His patriotism burt forth with a vehemence still more powerful and effective, in 1724, to obstruct the currency of Wood's halfpence, in the assumed character of a Drapier.
His zeal was recompensed with success; and he was, in consequence of it, acclaimed the great patriot of Ireland.
After his marriage to Miss Johnson, he continued his secret intercourse and correspondence with Miss Vanhomrigh; and even indulged her hopes, by the most explicit confession of his passion for her. After such a confeffion, she concluded, that some reports which had reached her of his being mar. ried to Mifs Johnson was the real obftacle to their union. To put an end to all further suspence, fhe sent a short note to Miss Johnson, requesting to know whether she was married to Swift or not. Miss Johnson answered her in the affirmative, and then enclosed the note she had received from her to Swift, and immediately went into the country, without seeing him.
Her abrupt departure showed him what passed in her mind. In the first transports of his passion, he immediately rode to Celbridge, Miss Vanhomrigh’s country feat. He entered the apartment where the unhappy lady was, and flung a paper on the table, mute, but with a countenance that spoke the highest resentment, and immediately returned to his horse. She found it contained nothing but her note to Miss Johnson. Despair at once seized her, as if the had seen her death warrant; and such indeed it proved to be. The violent agitation of her mind threw her into a fever, which, in a short time, put a period to her existence. Before her death, which happened in 1723, she had cancelled a will made in favour of Swift, and bequeathed her whole fortune to her relation Serjeant Marshall, and the famous Dr. Berkeley, with a strong injunction, that, immediately after her decease, they should publish all the letters which passed between Swist and her, together with the poem of Cedenus and Vanessa. The poem was published, but the letters, at the desire of Dr. Sheridan, were suppressed.
Swift made a tour to the south of freland for about two months at this time, to dissipate his thoughts, and give place to obloquy; during which Miss Johnson remained in the country; nor did the quit it for some months after his return. However, upon her return to Dublin, a reconciliation sooo took place. He welcomed her to town with a beautiful poem, called Stella at Wood-Park, whică concludes with a high compliment to Stella :
For though my raillery were true,
A cottage is Wood-Park with you: Early in 1926, he revisited England, after an absence of twelve years; and collected three volumes of Miscellanies, in conjunction with Pope, who prefixed the preface, and had the whole profit, which was very conliderable.
The same year, he published Gulliver's Travels, a production that 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 book written in open defiance of truth and regularity. But when diftin&ions came to be made, the part which gave leaft pleasure was that which describes the Flying lived, and that which gave most disgust must be the history of the Houybnmns. The charge of milanthropy is founded on his supposed satire on human nature, in the picture he has drawn of the T:becs. The ground of this cenfute is examined very minutely by Mr. Sheridan, and his defence is condo&ed with great judgment and ingenuity. This part of his writings refe&s neither honour Dor reproach on his moral chara&er.
While Swift was pasing his time with his friends Pope and Bolingbroke, and the old fraternity, he received accounts that "Miss Johnson was dangerously ill. This call of calamity hastened him to Ireland, where he had the satisfaction find her restored to an imperfect and tottering health,