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lordship replies, “ That a wise man should take care “ how he lets money get too much into his head, for “ it would most assuredly descend to the heart, the “ seat of the passions.”
And yet this vice, which daily increased, and made him act grudgingly and sordidly in all other articles of expense, had no effect upon his charities, which were continued as usual. I had a remarkable instance given me of this by Mrs. Sican, two years after this period, when his avarice was at the height. She had called on him one morning, and upon the usual question being asked of, “ What news ??" said, a very melancholy affair had happened the night before to an acquaintance of hers, one Mr. Ellis, a cabinet-maker, whose house and goods were destroyed by fire; and as he was a young man just beginning the world, newly married, she was afraid it would prove his ruin, unless he was relieved by charitable contributions. Swift asked what character he bore? She said an exceeding good one, for sobriety, industry, and integrity. The dean then went to his desk, and brought out five broad Portugal pieces, which passed at that time in Dublin for four pounds each, and gave them to her as his subscription.
Dr. Sheridan, finding himself disappointed in all his expectations on his removal, continued at Cavan but little more than two years; when he sold his, school and returned to Dublin. While a house was preparing for him, he took up his abode as usual at the deanery, where he was seized with a fit of illness, which confined him for some weeks to his chamber. The dean was not in a condition at that time to afford him any consolation, nor in a
disposition of mind to be troubled with a sick guest. A longer fit than usual of his old complaint, had deprived him of all society, and left him a prey to the horrour of his own thoughts. He had long been weary of the world, and all that was in it. He had no prospect of relief but from death, for which he most ardently wished, even when his state was not so bad. For some years before, he never took leave of a friend in an evening, but he constantly added, « Well, God bless you, and I hope I shall never see you again.
In this hopeless state, deprived of all the comforts of life, no wonder if he was dead also to the feelings of friendship. When the doctor had sufficiently recovered to be able to go abroad, he was apologising to the dean for the trouble he had given him; saying, “ I fear, Mr. “ Dean, I have been an expensive lodger to you “ this bout." Upon which Mrs. W, a relation of the dean's, who then chiefly managed his affairs, and who happened to be present, briskly said, “ It is " in your power, doctor, easily to remedy this, by “ removing to another lodging." Swift was silent. The poor doctor was quite thunderstruck. As this lady had always professed great friendship for him,
* That he was weary of life, appears in many passages of his letters, and the following anecdote will show how much he wished • for death. In the year 1739, three years after his memory had first.
declined, he had been standing with a clergyman under a very large heavy pierglass, which, just as they had moved to another part of the room, fell down suddenly, and broke to pieces. The clergymar, struck with a sense of the danger they had escaped, turned to Swift, and cried out, " What a mercy it is that we moved the momentue “ did, for if we had not, we should certainly have been both o killed.” Swift replied, “ Had you been out of the case, I should " have been happy to have remained there."
and lay under considerable obligations to him, he quickly saw that this must have been done by Swift's direction; in which he was confirmed by his silence on the occasion. He immediately left the house, in all that anguish of mind, which a heart possessed of the warmest friendship must feel, upon the abrupt breach of one of so long a standing, and so sincere on his part ; nor did he ever enter it again. * He lived but a short time after this. His friend and physician, Dr. Helsham, foretold the manner, and almost the very time of his death. He said his disorder was a polypus in the heart, which was so far advanced, that it would probably put an end to his existence in a short time, and so suddenly, as to give him no warning of it; and therefore recommended it to him to settle his affairs. The doctor upon this, retired to a house of one of his scholars, Mr. OʻCallaghan, at Rathfarnham, three miles from Dublin. In a few days he sent for his friend and namesake, counsellor Sheridan, to draw his will; and when that was done, he seemed cheerful and in good spirits. The counsellor, and a brother of Mr. O‘Callaghan's, who had lent him his house, upon being called away to another part of the kingdom, dined with him that day. Soon after dinner, the conversation happened
• The story told by a lying biographer, in a work published under the name of Theophilus Cibber, and since transferred into a note on the dean's works, is utterly false. It is there related, that the doctor being in fear of his creditors, had retired for refuge to the deanery, and one evening requesting a bottle of wine, the dean grudgingly answered, “ though he had given him a lodging, he had not pro« mised to furnish him with wine;" for the doctor, at that time, did not owe a shilling in the world; having sold a great part of his Landed property to pay his debts.
to turn on the weather, and one of them observed, that the wind was easterly. The doctor upon this, said,
" Let it blow east, west, north, or south, the “ immortal soul will take its flight to the destined “ point.” These were the last words he ever spoke, for he immediately sunk back in his chair, and expired without a groan, or the smallest struggle. His friends thought he had fallen asleep, and in that belief retired to the garden, that they might not disturb his repose ; but on their return, after an hour's walk, to their great astonishment, they found he was dead. Upon opening the body, doctor Helsham's sagacious prognostick proved to be true, as the polypus in the heart was discovered to be the immediate cause of his death. I know not whether it is worth mentioning, that the surgeon said, he never saw so large a heart in any human body.
It is with reluctance I have dwelt so long on this part of Swift's life; but as many representations of his conduct at that juncture, founded on truth too, had got abroad, much to the disadvantage of his character, I thought it necessary to draw at full length a picture of his state of mind at that time, to show how unreasonable it is to impute faults to the sound and perfect man, which were the natural consequence of the decay of his faculties, the infirmities of age, and cruel disease; by which so total a change was made in him, that scarce any thing of his former self remained. Among the charges against him, none bore more hard than his latter beha. viour to Dr. Sheridan, for which I have already accounted. In their whole intercourse, previous to
that period, I have shown how sincere a friend he had always proved himself to be; and afterward, when his understanding was gone, and his memory failed, when some former feelings of the heart only remained, I had a strong instance given me by his servant William, how deep an impression the doctor had made there ; who told me that when he was in that state, the dean, every day, for a long time, constantly asked him the same question—“ William, « did you know doctor Sheridan?” “ Yes, sir, very “ well ;”—and then, with a heavy sigh, “O! I lost
my right hand when I lost him.”
AVING thus finished the Life of Swift, and related in a regular series all that I thought most worthy to be recorded, I have purposely reserved to a separate part of the work, such anecdotes, memoirs, and detached pieces, as could not have been interwoven into the history, without much interruption. This was the method pursued by that great biographer Plutarch, and that is the part of his work, which, in general, is read with most pleasure. There is a wonderful curiosity in mankind to pry into the secret actions of men, who have made a distinguished figure in publick, as it is from private anecdotes alone that a true estimate can be formed of their real characters, since the other may be assumed only to answer the purposes of ambition. Even circumstances in them. selves trifling, often lead to this, and on that account are registered with care, and read with avidity. I