« AnteriorContinua »
I y presenting to the publick a new edition of the Works of so well known and popular a writer as Dr. Swift, it would be equally unjust and invidious to withhold the preliminary observations of men high in esteem for critical sagacity, who on former occasions have not disdained to undertake the office of ushering the dean's writings into the world. These, therefore, will be found collected into one point of view at the beginning of the second volume.
From a large accumulation of useful materials (to which the present editor had contributed no inconsiderable share, and to which in 1779 he annexed a copious index to the dean's works, and a chronological list of the epistolary correspondence) a regular edition in seventeen volumes was in 1784 compiled by the late Mr. Sheridan ; who prefixed an excellent life of the dean, which no man was better qualified than himself to undertake, and which renders it unnecessary to enter farther on that subject, than merely to observe, in the words of a late worthy friend *, that, “ if we deduct somewhat from report, “ which is apt to add to the oddities of men of note, " the greatest part of his conduct may be accounted " for by the common operations of human nature, “ Choler,' lord Bacon observes, ‘puts men on action; " when it grows adust, it turns to melancholy.' In Swift, that humour seems to have been predomi“ nant; governed, however, even in his younger days,
by a fund of good sense, and an early experience “ of the world. He was thrown, luckily, in the prime of
' by • Mr. Bowyer, the justly celebrated printer,
life, into the family of a great personage, where he “ had the happiness of an interview with a monarch; “ from whence he had reasonable hopes of satisfying “ his towering ambition. But he found them followed
by nothing but disappointment. In a course of
years, honours seemed a second time to make their “ court to him. He came into favour with a prime “ minister under another reign, even when different
principles prevailed from those which guided his “ former patron; a rare felicity! which, however, in “the event, served only to convince him, that he “ was banished to Ireland for life, and that all hopes
were cut off of his rising, even there, any higher “than the deanery. What would one of his parts and “ wit do in such a situation, but drop mankind as “ much as possible, especially the higher class of it, “ which to a man of humour is naturally a restraint;
where, at best, as he observes, the only difference is, “ to have two candles on the table instead of one ? “ What, I say, would such a one do, but cultivate “ an acquaintance with those who were disappointed “ like himself? what but write compliments on ladies, “ lampoons on men in power, sarcasms on human “ nature, trifle away life between whim and resent
ment, just as the bile arose or subsided ? He had “ sense, and I believe religion, enough to keep him “ from vice; and, from a consciousness of his inte
grity, was less solicitous about the appearances of “ virtue, or even decency, which is often the couns terfeit of it. The patriot principle, which he had “ imbibed in queen Anne's reign, lurked at the bot“ tom of his heart; which, as it was more active in 9
* those days than since, sometimes roused him to « defend the church, and Ireland his asylum, against
any encroachments.- View him now in his de“ cline. Passions decay, and the lamp of life and rea“ son grows dim. It is the fate of many, I may say
most geniuses, who have secluded themselves from “ the world, to lose their senses in their old age; espe« cially those who have worn them out in thought
and application. Providence, perhaps, has there“ fore ordained, that the eyes, the inlets of know
ledge, should be impaired, before the understand.
ing, the repository of it, is decayed; that the de“ fects of the former may protract the latter. Few “ of us are enough sensible how much the conjugal « tie, and the several connexions which follow from " it, how much even domestick troubles, when fur“ mountable, are the physick of the soul ; which, at “ the same time that they quicken the senses, preserve « them too.”
Not wishing to trouble the publick with any more last words of Dr. Swift; the editor contented himself with writing in the margin of his own books such particulars as occurred relative either to the dean, or to his writings; a circumstance which now enables him to supply several matters which had escaped Mr. Sheridan's observation, and to elucidate some passages which were left unexplained * Careful, however, not to interfere with the general arrangement of the last edition; what has been done to the seventeen volumes, though attended with no sinall
• Neither Mr. Sheridan, nor any other of the dean's biographers, has noticed, that he once possessed the prebend of Dunluvin; see vol. XI, pp. 70, 259.
labour, it is useless to the general reader to point out.
For the principal part of the contents of the eigh-
One advantage at least this editica possesses : a
room te rerision of the whole work at the press
Fi: the cartes the reader is a must wholly
of the queen
Pedigree of the younger branch of the Swifts of Yorkshire