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shall, therefore, without farther preface, relate such anecdotes of Swift, as have come to my knowledge, and have not hitherto been made known to the world, as they rise in my memory; but shall set down none which I have not good reason to believe authentick; as I received most of them from my father; others from his and the dean's intimate friends; and some came within my own knowledge.
We have already seen that soon after the dean's acquaintance with doctor Sheridan commenced, being both equally fond of the bagatelle, they were laying themselves out for various contrivances to create innocent sport. There happened to arrive in town at this time, one Gibbons, who had been a contemporary of the doctor's in the college, but had been absent in the country for some years. On his arrival he renewed his acquaintance with doctor Sheridan. He had a great simplicity of character, which made it easy to impose on him, and certain oddities and peculiarities, which rendered him a proper subject for a practical joke. A plan was immediately concerted between them, that Swift should personate the character of a distressed clergyman, under the name of Jodrel, applying to doctor Sheridan to be made one of his ushers. A time was appointed for their meeting at the doctor's an hour before dinner, and several of their set were invited to be present at the sport. When they were assembled, Swift, as Jodrel, entered the room in an old rusty gown, and lank shabby periwig, which were provided at the doctor's for the purpose. As he was an excellent mimick, he personated the character of an awkward country parson to the life. Gibbons was requested by the doctor to examine
him, in order to see whether he was fit for the posts and Jodrel gave such answers to the questions asked by Gibbons, as afforded high entertainment to all present. One of his questions was, “ What is “ Christ's church ?" To which Jodrel replied, “ A
great pile of building near the four courts." -For so that church is called. On which Gibbons exclaimed, “ was there ever such a blockhead? Who * the devil put you in orders ?” The sport occasioned by this was too rich to be suddenly given up. Gibbons, Jodrel, and the other guests met several times at dinner, where Jodrel's behaviour was always awkward and absurd. One time he held out his plate with both his hands, stretching it in the most ridiculous posture quite across the table, which provoked Gibbons to call him fool! dunce! and even to give him a slap on the wrist with the flat of his knife; at the same time showing him how he ought to hold his plate, or that he should send it by one of the servants.
When this sort of amusement was ad. judged to have continued long enough, doctor Shę. ridan delivered a message to Gibbons from the dean, inviting him to dine with him. Gibbons, who had expressed a great ambition to be known to Swift, received the message with transport, but said, sure he won't ask that fool Jodrel. Sheridan told him he might set his heart at rest, for that the dean never had, nor never would ask him as long as he lived. When the appointed day came, Gibbons went with the doctor to the deanery, who placed him at a window from which he could see the dean returning from prayers. He was dressed that day in as high a style as the clerical function will allow in a paduasoy gown, square velvet cap, &c. Gibbons looked at him with great attention, and turning to Sheridan with much perturbation of countenance, cried out, why doctor, that is Jodrel. Peace, fool, said the doctor, I was very near losing the dean's acquaintance, by happening to say that Jodrel bad some resemblance to him. When the dean entered the chamber where they were, Gibbons changed colour, and in great confusion said to Sheridan, by my soul it is Jodrel-What shall I do? Sheridan then smiled; so did the dean, and opened the matter to Gibbons in such a way as to set him at ease, and make him pass the remainder of the day very pleasantly. But Swift had not yet done with him. He had perceived that though Gibbons had no pretensions to scholarship, he had a good deal of vanity on that score, and was resolved to mortify him. He had beforehand prepared Mrs. Johnson in a passage of Lucretius, wherein are these lines :
Medioque in fonte leporum,
Surgit amari aliquid. Among their evening amusements, Mrs. Johnson called for Lucretius, as an author she was well acquainted with, and requested of Gibbons to explain that passage to her. Why, says he, there can be nothing more easy, and began immediately to construe it in the schoolboys fashion," Que and media in fonte, in the middle of a fountain, leporum, of hares.—No, Mr. Gibbons, interrupted Mrs. Johnson, if that word signified hares, it would be a false quantity in the verse, the o being necessarily long in the last foot of the line, whereas the o in leporum, when it signifies hares, is short. Poor Gibbons was quite confounded, acknowledged his errour, and did
not cheose to give any farther proofs of his erudition, before a lady so profoundly skilled in latin.
As Swift was fond of scenes in low life, he missed no opportunity of being present at them, when they fell in his way. Once when he was in the country, he received intelligence that there was to be a beggar's wedding in the neighbourhood. He was resolved not to miss the opportunity of seeing so curious a ceremony; and that he might enjoy the whole completely, proposed to Dr. Sheridan that he should
go thither disguised as a blind fidler, with a bandage over his eyes, and he would attend him as his man to lead him. Thus accoutred they reached the scene of action, where the blind fidler was received with joyful shouts. They had plenty of meat and drink, and plied the fidler and his man with more than was agreeable to them. Never was a more joyous wedding seen. They sung, they danced, told their stories, cracked jokes, &c. in a vein of humour more entertaining to the two guests, than they probably could have found in any other meeting on a like occasion. When they were about to depart, they pulled out their leather pouches, and rewarded the fidler very handsomely. The next day the dean and the doctor walked out in their usual dress, and found their companions of the preceding evening, scattered about in different parts of the road, and the neighbouring village, all begging their charity in doleful strains, and telling dismal stories of their distress. Among these, they found some upon crutches, who had danced very nimbly at the wedding; others stone blind, who were perfectly clearsighted at the feast. The doctor distributed among them the money which he had received as his pay;
but the dean, who mortally hated those sturdy vs. grants, rated them soundly; told them in what man. ner he had been present at the wedding, and was let into their roguery, and assured them, if they did not immediately apply to honest labour, he would have them taken up, and sent to gaol. Whereupon the lame once more recovered their legs, and the blind their eyes, so as to make a very precipitate retreat.
When the dean was at Quilca, a country seat of doctor Sheridan's, on a small estate which he possessed in the county of Cavan, during the doctor's absence, who could only pass his school vacations there, he acted as bailiff, in superintending the works then carrying on. He had a mind to surprise the doctor, on his next visit, with some improvements made at his own expense. Accordingly he had a canal cut of some extent, and at the end of it, by transplanting some young trees, formed an arbour, which he called Stella's bower, and surrounded some acres of land about it with a dry stone wall (for the country afforded no lime) the materials of which were taken from the surface of the ground, which was very stony. The dean had given strict charge to all about him to keep this secret, in order to surprise the doctor on his arrival ; but he had in the mean time received intelligence of all that was going forward. On his coming to Quilca, the dean took an early opportunity of walking with him carelessly toward this new scene. The doctor seemed not to take the least notice of any alteration, and with a most inflexible countenance continued to talk of indifferent mattes. Confound your stupidity, said Swift, in a rage, why you