Imatges de pÓgina
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were impeached by the commons, which at the same time served to strengthen his general argument. The truth is, Swift, at that time, was of no party i he sided with the whigs merely because he thought, the tories were carrying matters too far, and by the violence of their proceedings were likely to over; turn that happy balance in our state, so lately settled by the glorious revolution; to which there was not a faster friend in England than himself. However it is certain that it remained for some time a profound secret to the world, who the author of that admirable piece was. And the first discovery made of it, was by Swift himself, upon the following occasion. After his return to Ireland, he happened to fall into company with bishop Sheridan *, where this mucha talked of pamphlet became the topick of conversation: The bishop insisted, " that it was written by bishop Burnet, and that there was not another man living equal to it f." Swift maintained the contrary ; at first by arguments drawn from difference of style, manner, &c. and afterward upon being 'urged, said, that to his certain knowledge it was not written by Burnet. " Then pray,” said the bishop, « who writ it?" Swift answered, “ My lord, I writ it.” As this was the only instance in his life that Swift was ever known to have owned directly any piece as his, it is to be supposed that the confession was drawn from him by the heat of argu

Early in the ensuing spring, king William died; and Swift, on his next visit to London, found queen Anne upon the throne. It was generally thought, upon

ment,

this

event, that the tory party would have had

* Dr. William Sheridan, bishop of Kilmore, 1681 ; deprived 1691; died Oct. 1, 1711. · N.

+ When Swift seemed to doubt Burnet's right to the work, he was told by the Bishop that he 6 was a young man ;” and still persisting to doubt, that he was “ a very young man." JOHNSON.

the ascendant; but, contrary to all expectation, the whigs had managed matters so well, as to get entirely into the queen's confidence, and to have the whole adininistration of affairs in their hands. Swift's friends were now in power; and the whigs in general, knowing him to be the author of the Discourse on the Contests, &c. considered themselves as much obliged to him, and looked upon him as fast to their party. The chiefs accordingly applied to him for his assistance in the measures which they were taking; and there is no doubt that he had now a fair opening for gratifying his ambition to the utmost; only by joining heartily with them, and exerting his talents on their side. But great as his ambition was, he would not have purchased its highest gratifications at the expense of his principles; nor would all the wealth and honours of the realm, accumulated, have tempted him to act contrary to the conviction of his mind. Upon examining into their new political system, which varied in many points from that of the old whigs, he considered several of their measures as of a dangerous tendency to the constitution. Note withstanding therefore, both his interest and personal attachments were of their side, he declined all overtures made to him by the heads of the whiggish party, and after some time determined to have no concern in their affairs. This conduct in Swift was so unexpected, for they had all along

him as a sure man, that it met with the same sort of resentment from the whigs, as if he had deserted their party, and gone over to the enemy; though Swift, in reality, so little liked the proceedings of either, that for several years he kept himself entirely a neutral, without meddling in any shape in politicks.

The chief reason that made him decline any connexion with the whigs at that time, was, their open

counted upon

profession of low church principles; and under the specious name of toleration, their encouragement of fanaticks and sectarists of all kinds to join them. But what above all most shocked him, was, their inviting all Deists, Freethinkers, Atheists, Jews, and Intidels, to be of their party, under pretence of moderation, and allowing a general liberty of conscience. As Swift was in his heart a man of true religion, he could not have born, even in his private character, to have mixed with such a motley crew. But when we consider his principles in his political capacity, that he looked upon the church of England, as by law established, to be the main pillar of our newly erected constitution, he could not, consistently with the character of a good citizen, join with those who considered it more as an ornament, than a support to the edifice ; who could therefore look on with composure while they saw it undermining, or even open the gate to a blind multitude, to try, like Sampson, their strength against it, and consider it only as sport. With such a party, neither his religious nor political principles would suffer him to join; and with regard to the tories, as is usual in the violence of factions, they had run into opposite extremes, equally dangerous to the state. He has fully given us his own sentiments upon the state of parties in those times, in these words : Now, because it is a point of difficulty to choose an exact middle between two ill extremes ; it may

be worth inquiring in the present case, which of these a wise and good man would rather seem to avoid : taking therefore their own good and ill characters of each other, with due abatements, and allowances for partiality and passion; I should think, that in order to preserve the constitution entire in the church and state, whoever has a true value for both, would be sure to avoid the extremes of whig, for the sake of the

former; and the extremes of tory, on account of the latter."

This was a maxim, which, however well founded, was not likely to influence the opinion of many, amid the violence of party rage; however, as Swift was firmly persuaded of the truth of it, it was by that principle he governed his conduct, though ou that account he stood almost alone.

Finding therefore that he could be of no use to the publick in his political capacity, while things remained in the same state, he turned his thoughts wholly to other matters. He resided for the greatest part of the year at his living, in the performance of his parochial duties, in which no one could be more exact; and once a year he paid a visit to his mother at Leicester, passing some time also in London, to take a view of the state of things, and watching some favourable crisis.

During this period, Swift's pen was hardly ever employed, except in writing sermons ; and he does not seem to have indulged himself even in any sallies of fancy, for fome years, excepting only the “ Meditation on a Broomstick," and the “ Tritical Essay on the Faculties of the Mind," both written in the year 1703. As Swift has been much cena sured for writing the former of these pieces, on account of the ridicule contained in it of the style and manner, of so great and pious a man as Mr. Boyle, it may not be improper here to relate an anecdote which I had from undoubtedly good authority, with regard to the occasion of writing that piece, and which will in a great ineasure exonerate Swift from the charge brought against him on that account *. In the yearly visits which he made to

* This anecdote came from ladly Betty Germain, daughter of lady Berkeley; and was communicated to me by the late lady Lambert, an intimate of lady Betty's. S.

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London, during his stay there, he passed much of his time at lord Berkeley's, officiating as chaplain to the family, and attending lady Berkeley in her private devotions. After which, the doctor, by her desire, used to read to her some moral or religious discourse. The countess had at this time taken a great liking to Mr. Boyle's, Meditations, and was determined to go through them in that manner; but as Swift had by no means the same relish for that kind of writing which her ladyship had, he soon grew weary of the task; and a whim coming into bis head, resolved to get rid of it in a way which might occasion sone sport in the family ; for which they had as high a relish as bimself. The next time he was employed in reading one of these Meditations, he took an opportunity of conveying away the book, and dexterously inserted a leaf, on which he had written his own Meditation on a Broomstick ;" after which, he took care to have the book restored to its proper place, and in his next attendance on my lady, when be was de sired to proceed to the next Meditation, Swift opened upon the place where the leaf had been inserted, and with great composure of countenance read the title, “ A Meditation on a Broomstick.' Lady Berkeley, a little surprised at the oddity of the title, stopped him, repeating the words, “ A Meditation on a Broomstick! Bless me, what a strange subject! But there is no knowing what useful les. sons of instruction this wonderful man may draw, from things apparently the most trivial. Pray: let us hear what he says upon it.” Swift then, with an inflexible gravity of countenance, proceeded to read the Meditation, in the same solemn tone which he had used in delivering the former. Lady Berkeley, not at all suspecting a trick, in the fulness of her prepossesion, was every now and then, during the reading of it, expressing her admiration

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