Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

prayers before

* such flights drew upon him the general character “ of an irreligious man: I remember to have heard a “ story of him, that fully shows how little he regarded “ certain ceremonies, which ought always to be ob“ served with respect. Soon after he had been made « dean of St. Patrick's, he was loitering one Sunday « in the afternoon at the house of doctor Raymond, “ with whom he had dined at Trim (a small town “ near Laracor) of which the doctor was vicar. The “ bell had rung, and the people were assembled for “ evening prayers. Doctor Raymond was preparing “ to go to the church, which was scarce two hun“ dred yards from his house. * Raymond,' said the “ dean, · I will lay you a crown, I will begin the

you

this afternoon. 'I accept the wager,' replied doctor Raymond; and immedi“ ately they both ran as fast as they could toward the « church. Raymond, who was the nimbler man “ of the two, arrived first at the door; and when “ he entered the church, walked decently toward the

reading desk. Swift never slackened his pace, but

running up the aisle, left doctor Raymond behind “ him in the middle of it, and stepping into the read

ing desk, without putting on a surplice, or opening " the Prayerbook, began the liturgy in an audible “ voice, and continued to repeat the service suffici“ ently long to win the wager.” Now it is very possible that such an adventure might have happened at that time between two clergymen, and nothing more probable than that it would immediately be transferred to Swift and his neighbour. We see it every day practised, that witty sayings, blunders, and things of humour, are constantly fathered upon the most remarkable wit, blunderer, or humourist of the times, whether they belong to them or not. GO 2

As

As his lordship has given no sort of authority for the truth of the above stories, nor indeed for that of any others that he has related to the prejudice of Swift, except hearsay; we may judge to what degree of credit they are entitled.

Among the many false representations made by his lordship, he has been attacked for one of them with great spirit, by doctor Delany, in the following passage. A friend of mine, turning over the index to your letters, showed me these words-Swift's Seraglio—Surprised at this, I immediately turned to the place; where, to my much greater surprise, I found the following paragraph : “ You see the com“ mand which Swift had over all his females; and you would have smiled to have found his house a “ constant seraglio of very virtuous women, who “ attended him from morning to night, with an obe“dience, an awe, and an assiduity, that are seldom

paid to the richest, or the most powerful lovers ;

no, not even to the grand seignior himself.” This paragraph, my lord, gives me great concern, upon many accounts; though I shall mention only this one; that it seems to be written in the style of a man, who knew what he said to be truth; which yet most certainly was not, could not, be your case; and therefore I conclude you wrote it in the style in which it was delivered to you, by your monstrous misinformers.

My lord, the intercourse in which my station engaged me, for many years, with the dean; my long intimacy with his most intimate friends, and the frequent visits to him which my love and grati

tude exacted; enable me to assure your lordship • and the world (as I do in the most solemn and sin

cere manner) that nothing ever was more falsc, than the informations you received upon this point ; and

that

that in fact, females were rarely admitted into his house; and never came thither but upon very particular invitations, not excepting even Mrs. Johnson. The truth is, not one of those you are pleased to call his senators, ever presumed to approach him, till he very particularly signified his pleasure that they should, except his near kinswoman, Mrs. Whiteway, who was often with him, but not until the latter part of his life.

And yet, my lord, as the honour I bear you strongly inclines me to assent to your positions, wherever I can; I must own, that if keeping a great number of professed nominal mistresses, constitutes the complete idea of a seraglio, Swift kept a greater, and a much more extended one than the grand seignior. And I have had the honour to be admitted, more than once, to bear him company

in his visits to them. But this I must add, in support of the credit of your judgment of his constitution, that his visits were always by daylight; and for the most part, in the most open and publick places of the city. But yet truth obliges me to own, that he also visited some of them in by-alleys, and under arches; places of long suspected fame. Let me add, that he kept strictly to that Turkish principle, of honouring none, but such as were bred up and occupied in some employment. One of these mistresses sold plums; another, hobnails; a third, tapes; a fourth, gingerbread; a fifth, knitted; a sixthi, darned stockings; and a seventh, cobbled shoes; and so on, beyond my counting. And in all this detail of his amours, I take upon me to say, that the singularity of his taste, was as remarkably distinguished, as his genius was, in any, or all of his compositions. One of these mistresses wanted GG 3

an

If any

an eye; another, a nose ; a third, an arm ; a fourth, a foot : a fifth, had all the attractions of Agnas Polypus; and a sixth, more than all those of Æsop's hump; and all of them as old at least as some of Lewis the XIVth's mistresses ; and many of them much older. He saluted them with all becoming kindness; asked them how they did; how they throve; what stock they had, &c.; and as mistresses, all the world owns, are expensive things, it is certain he never saw his, but to his cost.

of their ware were such as he could possibly make use of, or pretend to make use of, he always bought some; and paid for every halfpennyworth, at least sixpence, and for every pennyworth, a shilling. If their saleables were of another nature, he added something to their stock; with strict charges of industry and honesty. And I must once more own, for truth exacts it of me, that these mistresses were very numerous; insomuch, that there was scarce one street, or alley, or lane in Dublin, its suburbs, and its environs, that had not at least one or more of them. Some of these he named thus for distinc. tion's sake, and partly for humour; Cancerina, Stumpanympha, Pullagowna, Futterilla, Flora, Stumpantha, &c. Pray, my lord, are Horace's Pyrrhas and Lydias to be named in a day with these? And yet I cannot say that any, or all of them, ever influenced him, either in the coinposition or publication of any of his poems; though I cannot tell whether they might not have occasioned

very

celebrated love epistle, from a blind man, to one Swift's favourite mistresses, called Stumpy, from the famné of her wooden leg.

What a glorious scene is here displayed of Swift's beneficence! To seek out objects in all quarters

of the

1

1

the town, from which the bulk of mankind turn with loathing; to place them in a way of gaining an honest livelihood, instead of being publick nuisances in the street; to keep them steady in a course of industry, by frequent visits in such places as the fastidious rich would disdain to enter; to supply their wants when business was slack, and encourage the successful by farther bounties—these are instances of such truly christian charity, as are rarely to be found. And after this shall it be a doubt whether Swift had a heart susceptible of the soft feelings of humanity?

He had a servant well known to all his friends by the name of Saunders ; an appellation given him by the dean. He was remarkably kind to him during a course of several years spent in his service; but more particularly throughout a long illness, under which he laboured for many months before he died. He had him buried in the south aisle of his cathedral, where he erected a monument to him in a small piece of statuary marble, with this inscription :

Here lieth the body of
ALEXANDER MAGEE, servant to doctor

SWIFT, dean of St. Patrick's. His grateful master caused this monument to be erected in memory of his discretion, fidelity, and diligence, in that humble station.

Ob. Mar, 24, 1721, etat. 29.

In the original draught, which I saw in the dean's own hand writing, it stood thus;

His grateful friend, and master, &c. A gentleman of the dean's acquaintance, much more distinguished for vanity than wisdom, prevailed

GG 4

upon

« AnteriorContinua »