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The knot of wits used at this time to assemble at Button's coffeehouse; and I had a singular account of Swift's first appearance there from Ambrose Philips, who was one of Mr. Addison's little senate. He said that they had for several successive days observed a strange clergyman come into the coffeehouse, who seemed utterly unacquainted with any of those who frequented it; and whose custom it was to lay his hat down on a table, and walk backward and forward at a good pace for half an hour or an hour, without speaking to any mortal, or seeming in the least to attend to any thing that was going forward there. He then used to take up his hat, pay his money at the bar, and walk away without opening his lips. After having observed this singular behaviour for some time, they concluded him to be out of his senses; and the name that he went by among them, was that of the mad parson. This made them more than usually attentive to his motions; and one evening, as Mr. Addison and the rest were observing him, they saw him cast his eyes several times on a gentleman in boots, who seemed to be just come out of the country, and at last advance toward him as intending to address him. They were all eager to hear what this dumb, mad parson, had to say, and immediately quitted their seats to get near him. Swift went up to the country gentleman, and in a very abrupt manner, without any previous salute, asked him, “ Pray, sir, do you “ remember any good weather in the world ?” The country gentleman, after staring a little at the singularity of his manner, and the oddity of the question, answered, “ Yes, sir, I thank God, I remember a great " deal of good weather in my time.” “ That is more,”
said Swift, “ than I can say; I never remember any " weather that was not too hot, or too cold ; too wet,
or too dry; but, however God Almighty contrives “it, at the end of the year tis all very well.” Upon saying this, he took up his hat, and without uttering a syllable more, or taking the least notice of any one, walked out of the coffeehouse ; leaving all those who had been spectators of this odd scene staring after him, and still more confirmed in the opinion of his being mad. There is another anecdote recorded of him, of what passed between him and doctor Arbuthnot in the same coffeehouse. The doctor had been scribbling a letter in great haste, which was much blotted ; and seeing this odd parson near him, with a design to play upon him, said,
Pray, sir, have you any sand about you ?” “No," replied Swift, “but I have the gravel, and if
you “ will give me your letter I'll p-ss upon it.” Thus singularly commenced an acquaintance between those two great wits, which afterward ripened into the closest friendship. After these adventures they saw him no more at Button's, till The Tale of a Tub had made its appearance in the world, when, in the person of the author of that inimitable performance, they recognized their mad parson. This piece was first published in the following year 1704 ; and though without a name, yet the curiosity excited by the appearance of such a wonderful piece of original composition, could not fail of finding out the author, especially as not only the bookseller knew him, but as the manuscript had at different times been shown to several of sir Williain Temple's relations, and most intimate friends. When it is considered that Swift had kept this piece by him eight
true marks of christianity, in opposition to the pageantry, superstition, and tyranny of the church of Rome, on the one hand; and the spleen, hypocrisy, and enthusiasm of Calvinism, on the other. This had been often done before in a serious way, but it was the new manner of treating the subject that produced the great effect. While the English divines had for more than a century been engaged in a constant state of warfare with their antagonists, and attacked them with serious reasoning, and vehemence of argumentation, their antagonists were always considered as powerful and formidable ; and though often foiled, were never looked upon as subdued. While these different religions were rendered odious or terrible to the imaginations of people, the very feelings of that hatred and fear, were accompanied with the ideas of danger and power in the objects which excited them, and of course gave them a consequence. But the instant they were rendered ridiculous, they became contemptible, and their whole power vanished; nor was there ever a stronger instance of the truth of Horace's rule,
than in the effects produced by the Tale of a Tub, with regard to the weakening of the powers of popery and fanaticisin in this country. Effects not merely temporary, but which, with their cause, are likely to last, as long as the English language shall be read.
After the publication of this work, Swift wrote nothing of consequence for three or four years; dur
ing which time his acquaintance was much sought after by all persons of taste and genius. There was, particularly, a very close connexion formed between Mr. Addison * and him, which ended in a sincere and lasting friendship, at least on Swift's part. Addison's companionable qualities were known but to a few, as an invincible bashfulness kept him for the most part silent in mixed companies; but Swift used
say of him, that his conversation in a téte a téte, was the most agreeable he had ever known in any one ; and that in the many hours which he passed with him in that way, neither of them ever wished for the coming in of a third person.
In the beginning of the year 1708, Swift started forth from his state of inactivity, and published several pieces upon religious and political subjects, as also in the humourous way. That which regarded religion chiefly, was, An Argument against abolishing Christianity; in which he pursues the same humourous method, which was so successfully followed in the Tale of a Tub. Perhaps there never was a richer vein of irony than runs through that whole piece; nor could any thing be better calculated to second the general impression made by the Tale of a Tub. It is certain, that Swift thought the state of
* In 1705, Mr. Addison made a present of his book of Travels to Dr. Swift, in the blank leaf of which he wrote the following words:
To Dr. JONATHAN SWIFT,
The truest friend,
This Book is presented by his
the church in great danger, notwithstanding any vote of parliament to the contrary; and this chiefly from a sort of lethargick disorder, which had in general seized those who ought to have been its watchful guardians. To rouse them from this state, he found tickling to be more effectual than lashing; and that the best way to keep them wakeful, was to make them laugh.
It was at this juncture too he chose to publish his political principles. Swift had been hitherto always classed among the whigs, as the only political tract of his which had been published was in their favour, and as his chief connexions were among that body. And he himself had adopted the name in a * Copy of Verses to the Honourable Mrs. Finch, And indeed with respect to government, there could not be a stauncher whig than he was upon the old principles of whiggism, as set forth by him; but he was an utter enemy to some new ones adopted by that party, in order to enlarge their bottom, and which evidently tended to republicanism. And as to their maximis with regard to religion, he widely differed from them. As these were made an essential part of the character of a whig at that time, he could not be said to be of their body. The truth is, that Swift was a man of too much integrity to belong to either party, while they were both so much in the wrong
This he himself declared in the opening of the political tract printed at this time, entitled, “ The Sentiments of a Church of England
• And last, my vengeance to complete,
May you descend to take renown,
A whig, and one who wears a gown.