Imatges de pÓgina

upon him to leave out the word friend, and only write his grateful master; and this in contradiction to a known maxim of his own." That an affec“ tionate and faithful servant, should always be consi“ dered in the character of an humble friend." He performed the burial service himself on the occasion, and in the course of it was observed to shed tears.

As he expected punctual, ready, and implicit obedience, he always tried his servants when he hired

em by some test of their humility. Among other qualities, he always asked whether they understood cleaning shoes, because, said he, my kitchen wench has a scullion that does her drudgery, and one part of the business of my groom and footman is constantly to clean her shoes by turns : if they scrupled this, their treaty was at an end; if not, he gave them a farther hearing. His kitchen wench, however, was his cook; a woman of a large size, robust constitution, and coarse features; her face very much seamed with the smallpox, and furrowed by age; this woman he always distinguished by the name of Sweetheart.

It happened one day that Sweetheart greatly overroasted the only joint he had for dinner; upon which he sent for her up, and with great coolness and gravity,“ Sweetheart,” says he,“ take this down into the “ kitchen, and do it less.” She replied, “ that was impossible.” “

“Pray, then," said he, “if you had “ roasted it too little, could you not have done it “ more?” “Yes," she said, “ she could easily have “ done that ;" “ Why then, Sweetheart, if you must “ commit a fault, let me advise you to commit one 6 that can be mended."

To the rest of the servants, indeed, he appeared to be churlish and austere, but, in reality, was one


of the best masters in the world. He allowed them board-wages at the highest rate then known; and if he employed them about any thing out of the ordinary course of their service, he always paid them to the full value of their work, as he would have paid another. With these emoluments, and the fragments from his table, he expected they should find themselves in victuals, and all other necessaries, except the liveries which he gave them. If in this situation their expenses were greater than their income, it was judged a sufficient reason to discharge them ; but on the contrary, as soon as they had saved a full year's wages, he constantly paid them legal interest for it, and took great pleasure in seeing it accumulate to a sum, which might settle them in some employment if he should die; or if they found it advisable to quit his service, which was seldom the case; and he with whom his servants live long, has indubitable witnesses that he is a good master. Beside the motives already assigned for wishing to continue in his service, their pride was highly gratified while they remained in that station; it was thought an honour to belong to the dean in any shape; they had more respect paid them by the people in general than is usually shown to any others of this fraternity; and the dean's plain livery was a badge of greater distinction than that of the lurd lieutenant's with all its finery.

He was one of the cleanliest men in his person that ever lived. His hands were not only washed, as those of other men, with the utmost care, but his nails were constantly kept pared to the quick, to guard against the least appearance of a speck upon them. And as he walked much, he rarely dressed himself without a basin of water by his side, in which he dipped a towel and cleansed his feet with the utmost exactness.

In company, he neither wrapped himself up in his own importance, without deigning to communicate his knowledge, or exert his wit; nor did he engross the conversation by perpetual and overbearing loquacity. His general rule was, never to speak more than a minute at a time, and then to wait at least as long for others to take up the conversation; after which he had a right to speak again. His colloquial style, like that of his writings, was clear, forcible, and concise. He also excelled greatly in telling a story; and though in the latter part of his life he was apt to repeat his stories too often, yet his wit, as well as his virtue, was always superiour to the wretched expedients of those despicable babblers, who are perpetually attempting to put off double entendre and profaneness, for humour and wit. His conversation was in the highest degree chaste, and wholly free from the least tincture of irreligion. As he was zealous to preserve all the delicacies of conversation, he was always best pleased when some of the company were ladies; and in his letter to lord Oxford, he says, “ since women have been left out of all our meet“ jngs, except parties of play, or where worse designs “ are carried on, our conversation has very much de“ generated.” And in this instance, his example is a reproof to those pedants, who suppose that women are never in their proper sphere, but in the dressingroom or nursery.

The custom of Dublin in his time was, that the ladies should withdraw immediately after the first glass had gone round; but he never permitted this either when he had parties at home, or was invited


to any abroad ; always insisting upon their staying till the gentlemen had nearly done with their wine ; and then after a decent allowance of time, they joined companies again at tea and coffee, as is the custom of France, and passed the remainder of the evening together. But the gentlemen at that time were too fond of the bottle, and of their own discourse over it, to suffer that custom to become general.

If the conversation turned upon serious subjects, he was neither petulant in the debate, nor negligent of the issue. He would listen with great.attention to the arguments of others, and whether he was or was not engaged as a disputant himself, he would recapitulate what had been said, state the question with great clearness and precision, point out the controverted particular, and appeal to the opinion either of some neutral person, or of the majority.

Lord Orrery had said of him, that he was open to adulation, and could not, or would not distinguish between low flattery and just applause. From which charge he has been defended by doctor Delany, in the following manner:

My lord, the charge of Swift's delighting in low adulation, has lain so heavy upon my mind, that I have revolved it with the utmost attention for many hours, yet can find no just foundation for it. His heart was so thoroughly averse from flattery, that he took all occasions not only to express his utter contempt and detestation of it, but also to dissuade others from it. How it might have been with him in the decline of his understanding, when he made hasty approaches to a second childhood, I cannot say; he might then, possibly, be fed by those about him, as children often are, with plums and sweatmeats, instead of salutary food.

In confirmation of the above account given by doctor Delany, I remember, when his lordship’s book first came out, to have read this passage to Mrs. Sican, an intimate friend of the dean's ; upon which she expressed herself thus : “ I never yet knew any “ mortal who durst flatter him, except his lordship « himself.” Indeed the only way of paying court to him, was not by words, but a very respectful behaviour toward him, which he expected so much, that most of his acquaintance, except his intimate friends, stood in some degree of awe before him. On the contrary, he was more open to admonition than Aattery, if it were offered without arrogance, and by persons of whose ability and candour he had no doubt. In his poem of Baucis and Philemon, which does not consist quite of two hundred verses, Swift himself related, that Mr. Addison made him blot out fourscore, add fourscore, and alter fourscore.

I remember a remarkable instance of this kind, told me by one of his chapter, which deserves to be recorded as a useful lesson to such opinionated authors as cannot bear to be told of any faults in their writings. That gentleman happened to visit him at a time when the dean was about to send a newly written pamphlet to the press; which he put into his friend's hands, desiring that he would point out freely any faults he might find in it. The gentleman stuck at two passages, and proposed an amendment of them, which Swift instantly complied with. When the work came out, the gentleman, upon a second reading, found he had been wrong in his objections, and that the passages had been altered for the worse. Upon his next visit to the dean, he expressed some concern at this, and no small degree of surprise, upon recollecting that the other had so readily ac


« AnteriorContinua »