Imatges de pàgina

would probably have precipitated him into some extravagant courses. Nothing less than the lowness of his circumstances from his birth, could have kept that fire from bursting out; nothing less than the galling yoke of dependance, could have restrained that proud spirit within due bounds. His poverty and his pride were two excellent guards set over him, during that most dangerous time of life, to fix and keep him in a course of virtue. The one debarred him from excesses in the pleasurable gratifications of youth, which money only can procure; the other kept him from endeavouring to obtain from the purse of others, by mean compliances, any pleasures that he could not purchase froin his own fund. Thus, necessarily fixed in a course of temperance, the practice of other moral duties became easy to him. And indeed there was no flaw to be found in his moral character, during his residence in the college, however low his parts might be rated.

Thus far I have shown the benefits which were probably derived to him from his want of fortune. I shall now show what advantages it is likely he derived from want of learning.

Had Swift met with sufficient encouragement to apply himself to the learning of the times ; had his situation in the college been rendered easy to him, so that he might have pursued his studies with an undisturbed mind; had his emulation been rouzed in such a way as to make him enter into a competition with those of his own standing; it is highly probable, from the greatness of his parts, that he would have thrown all competitors at a distance. And in that case he might have acquired a fondness for those studies by which he obtained fame, however dis

agreeable agreeable they might have been to him at first. He might have proved the foremost logician, metaphysician, or mathematician of his time; he might have past his life, like some of the most eminent of his fellow students, in useless speculations ; and instead of writing a Laputa, he might himself have been

qualified for a professorship in the academy of that airy region.

Let us only suppose Swift to have been a distinguished scholar in the university, and we may reasonably suppose also, that, circumstanced as he was, his friends would have made him sit for a fellowship there, as the surest and best provision for any one so educated. Or else, encouraged by the hopeful expectations raised from the distinguished figure he made in the college, they would have pushed all their interest to have gotten him some small preferment in the church. In either of which cases, the Swift of the world might have been lost in a university monk, or a country vicar. On the other hand, the disgrace thrown on him in the college, deprived him of all hopes of preferment, and rendered his friends so cold to his interest, that he had no expectations of future support, but by changing the scene to another country ; where only there was a field large enough for the exertion of those high talents, which yet in a great measure lay dormant in him.

And with respect to the third article, the want of friends; had it not been for that circumstance, he would not have been under a necessity of going to seck for new ones, in another country; and he might probably never have fallen into the hands of that particular friend, who was perhaps the only one living,


čápable of forming his mind to those great things which he afterward executed.

It was in the year 1688 that Swift left Ireland; he was then in his one and twentieth year. Suppose him landed in a country where he was utterly unknown, and without recommendatory letters that might introduce him to the acquaintance, or procure him the assistance of any one in that country, with regard to any future plan of life. Let us stop a while, and survey the future Swift, setting out on foot from Chester, in order to go to a mother, who was utterly incapable of affording him the least assistance, as she herself was chiefly supported by presents and contributions from her relations. One can hardly imagine a situation more hopeless with regard to externals : and with respect to his own intérnal powers, he had yet given no proofs of those which would not rather occasion despondency in his relations, than raise in them any hopes of his being able to push his own way in the world. And indeed at that juncture perhaps there were few living less qualified than he to do any thing for his own support.

The world was all before him where to choose
His place of rest, and Providence his guide.

And he seems indeed to have been then under the immediate guidance of Providence; for, hopeless as the end of such a journey might at that time have appeared, it proved in fact the means of all his future greatness.


After a residence of some months with his mother, he laid before her the uncomfortableness of his present situation, and the gloominess of his future prospects; requesting her advice what course he should 'pursue. She clearly saw that her son's case required the assistance of some powerful friend, and the unfortunate can seldom number such among their acquaintance. She recollected however that sir William Temple’s lady was her relation ; and that there had been a long intimacy between sir John Temple, father to sir William, and the family of the Swifts in Ireland; she knew also that a cousin german of her son's, the rev. Thomas Swift, had been chaplain to sir William Temple, and had been provided for by him in the church, on the score of family connexions. She recommended it therefore to her son to go to sir William, and make his case known to him.

However grating such an application might be to the proud spirit of Swift, yet, as it was his only resource, he followed his mother's advice, and soon afterwards presented himself to sir William Temple at Shene *, requesting his advice and assistance. Sir William was a man of too much goodness and humanity, not to take compassion on a young man born an orphan, without fortune, distressed from his cradle, and without friends or interest to push him forward in life, who at the same time had a double claim to his favour, as related by blood to a wife for whom he had the highest honour and affection; and as the offspring of a family with whom his father had lived in the closest ties of friendship. He accordingly received him cheerfully into his house, and treated him with that hospitable kindness which family connexions, and what was still more to a generous mind, his unfortunate situation demanded of him. But yet we do not find, for a long time, that his kindness to him was increased from motives of

• Sir William Temple's own place of residence was a seat which he had purchased, called Moor Park, near Farnhamn in Surry; but at the time of the Revolution, as Moor Park grew unsafe by lying in the way of both armies, sir William went back to his house at Shene, which he had given up to his son.


personal regard, on a nearer acquaintance with him. It is probable that sir William early sounded his depth of knowledge, and examined into the progress he had made in his studies; which was far from being so great as might have been expected from his course of education, and time of life. The first good office that sir William could do him, therefore, was to put him into a course of reading, in order that he might redeem lost time. Accordingly we find, that Swift, during his residence with sir William, applied himself with great assiduity to his studies; in which, for the space of eight years, he was employed, by his own account, at least eight hours a day, with but few intermissions. The first of these was occasioned by an illness, which he attributed to a surfeit of fruit, that brought on a coldness of stomach, and giddiness of head, which pursued him more or less during the remainder of his life. After two years residence at Moor Park, to which place he had removed with sir William when the troubles were ended, his state of health was so bad, that he was advised by physicians to try the effects of his native air toward restoring it. In pursuance of this advice he revisited Ireland; but finding himself growing worse there, he soon


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