Imatges de pÓgina
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of this extraordinary man, who could draw such fine moral reflections from so contemptible a subject; with which, though Swift must have been inwardly not a little tickled, yet he preserved a most perfect composure of features, so that she had not the least room to suspect any deceit.

Soon after, some company coming in, Swift pretended business, and withdrew, foreseeing what was to follow. Lady Berkeley, full of the subject, soon entered upon the praises of those heavenly Meditations of Mr. Boyle. “ But,” said she, “ the doctor has been just reading one to me, which has surprised me more than all the rest.” One of the company asked which of the Meditations she meant. She answered directly, in the simplicity of her heart, “ I mean, that excellent Meditation on a Broomstick.” The company looked at each other with some surprise, and could scarce refrain from laughing. But they all agreed that they had never heard of such a Meditation before. Upon my word,” said

my

lady, " there it is, look into that book, and convince yourselves." One of them opened the book, and found it there indeed, but in Swift's handwriting ; upon which a general burst of laughter ensued; and my lady, when the first surprise was over, enjoyed the joke as much as any of them ; saying,

" What a vile trick has that rogue played me! But it is his way, he never balks his humour in any thing."

The affair ended in a great deal of harmless mirth, and Swift, you may be sure, was not asked to proceed any farther in the Meditations. Thus we see that his original intention in writing this piece, was not to ridicule the great Robert Boyle, but only to furnish occasion for

a great deal of innocent mirth on lady Berkeley's enthusiasm, and simplicity of heart, and at

same time to get rid of the disagreeable task of reading to her writings which were not at all to his

the

taste. And that it afterward got out into the world, was owing to the eagerness of those who were acquainted with the Berkeley family, to procure copies of a piece of such exquisite humour. This was the case indeed in almost all the small things afterward written by Swift, scarce any of which were published by himself, but stole into the world in that way.

Though the greatness of Swift's talents was known to many in private life, and his company and conversation much sought after and admired, yet was his name hitherto little known in the republick of letters. The only pieces which he had ihen published, were “ The Battle of the Books,” and « The Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome," and both without a name. Nor was he personally known to any of the wits of the age, excepting Mr. Congreve, and one or two more, with whom he had contracted an acquaintance at sir William Temple's. 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 thenused 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 observ-. ing 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 advanced 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, howeyer 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 let-, ter 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 bad at different times been shown to several of sir William Temple’s relations, and most intimate friends. When it is considered that Swift had kept this piece by him eight years, after it had been, by his own confession, completely finished, before he gave it to the world; we must stand astonished at such a piece of self-denial, as this must seem, in a young man, ambitious of distinction, and eager after fame; and wonder what could be his motive for not publishing it sooner. But the truth is, Swift set but little value on his talents as a writer, either at that time, or during the whole course of his life, farther than as they might contribute to advance some nobler ends, which he had always in view. Unsolicitous therefore about fame merely literary, or the reputation of an author, he could with the most perfect sang froid lock up this admirable piece in his desk, and wait, with the most philosophick patience, for a favourable season to produce it, when it might answer some more important purpose. After the time he had given the last finishing to it, the violence of parties ran so high for some years, and their disputes were carried on with such animosity, that he did not think the publick in a temper fit to receive the work, so as to produce the effects which he proposed from it. But as the rage of party began to cool at that time, and the opposition from the tories grew daily more feeble, as the power of the whigs

increased ; and as a firm establishment of the whig interest seemed to threaten, upon their principles, an entire disregard to, and neglect of all religion ; Swift thought this a proper juncture to revive the topick of religion, and to show the excellency of the established church, over its two rivals, in a new way, adapted to common capacities, with regard to the understanding; and calculated to make way to the heart, through the pleasure which it afforded to the fancy. And without some artifice of that sort, it would have been impossible to have gained any attention at all to the topick of religion. People were quite wearied out with the continual repetition of the same dull arguments; or sore, on account of the ill temper with which the disputes were carried on, and the ill blood which they occasioned. The bulk of mankind were therefore in a fit disposition to fall in with the principle of moderation held out by the whigs; but as it was easy to see from some of their political measures, that moderation was not the point at which they intended to stop; but that an indifference with regard to any form of religion was likely to ensue, in consequence of some of their tenets ; Swift thought it high time that the attention of the people toward the security of the established church should be roused, that they might be guarded against the undermining artifices of its enemies, secretly carried on under coyert of her pretended friends; who in their hearts were little solicitous about her interests, being wholly absorbed in worldly pursuits. And surely nothing could be contrived better to answer this end, than to make religion once more a general topick of conversation ; but of such conversation as no longer excited the disagreeable and malevolent passions, but gave rise to cheerfuluess and mirth. Stripped of the frightful mask with which her face had been covered by bigotry and enthusiasm, and

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