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course of the work often affects to call him, had something so surprising in it, that people were at a loss how to account for it, except by supposing it to proceed from some uncommon degree of malevolence in his lordship's nature. But though he cannot be wholly cleared from an imputation of' that sort, yet I am persuaded that his chief motive to it was not quite of so black a die. His father had, in his will, bequeathed his library from him ; and this circumstance made the world conclude that he looked upon his son as a blockhead. This stung the young man to the quick; and we may see how deep an impression it made on him, by the account he gives of it in one of his letters to his son.
It seems to have been the chief object of his life afterward, to wipe away this stigma, and convince the world of the injustice done him, by publishing some work that might do him credit as a writer. Conscious of his want of genius to produce any thing original, he applied himself diligently to a translation of Pliny's Letters ; but he was so long about this task, and put it into so many hands to correct it, that Melmoth's excellent translation of the same work, slipped into the world before his, and forestalled this avenue to fame. Vexed at this disappointment, he looked out for some other way by which he might acquire literary reputation, and he found no field so suited to his talents, as that of criticism ; since, to make a figure there, required neither genius, nor deep learning : and therefore he might, with ease, arrive at the title of a true critick, as described in the Tale of a Tub. Of whom it had been remarked, " That a true critick is a sort of mechanick set up with a stock and tools for his trade, at as little expence as a
But Swift denies this position For, (says he) on the contrary, nothing is more certain, that it requires greater layings out to be free of the
criticks company, than that of any other you can
For, as to be a true beggar, it will cost the richest candidate every groat he is worth ; so, before one can commence a true critick, it will cost a man all the good qualities of his mind : which, perhaps, for a less purchase, would be thought but an indifferent bargain." As his lordship has fairly paid the purchase, it would be hard if he should be denied the title.
The business now was, to find out a proper subject on which to exercise his talents in that way. As there never had been published any History of Swift's Life, he thought nothing could excite general curiosity, more than some account of that extraordinary man. It is true he was supplied with but scanty materials for such a work; for though he had lived a short time in some degree of intimacy with Swift, yet it was only in the latter part of his life, when he was declined into the vale of years, when his faculties were impaired, when his temper, soured by disappointments, and his spirits sunk by continual attacks of a cruel disorder, made as great a change in his mind, as in his outward form, so that little of his former self remained. To draw his character at length, from observations made at such a period, was the height of injustice ; and yet his lordship had no opportunity of knowing any thing of the brighter part of his days, but from common report. For, as Swift was the last man in the world to talk much of himself, his lordship's acquaintance with him furnished him with no materials of that sort; he therefore had recourse to com. mon fame, which, as I have before shown, had been always busy in calumniating that great man; and with a cruel industry he collected and revived all the reports, which had formerly been spread to his disadvantage. His lordship's chief view in pub.
lishing this work, being to acquire celebrity as an author
hominum volitare per orain order to obtain this end, he knew that satire was more likely to procure a rapid sale to the book, than panegyrick. All regard therefore to truth, justice, honour, and humanity, was to be sacrificed, whenever they came in competition with this
The event did credit to his lordship's sagacity, for the work had a rapid sale, and soon ran through a variety of editions. This was owing to several
The whigs were then a great majority of the nation, and in possession of all the power. Though their animosity against those of the opposite party had somewhat subsided, yet was it far from being wholly extinguished. They had always entertained an implacable hatred to Swift, as the great champion of the other side ; which was not extinguished by his death, as in the case of others, because his immortal works still continued a living war against the base measures they pursued. It was with delight therefore they read over a work, which painted him in the same colours, in which they had always endeavoured to represent him. The bulk of mankind, finding that the accounts there given, coincided with the general prejudices founded on common fame, readily received them as true. And that spirit of envy, an inmate in the breasts of most men, which delights in seeing those of superior talents degraded, and brought down'' more to a level with themselves, was highly gratified by the perusal of that book. Nor was it the least cause of an extensive sale, that it was written by a lord ; a thing so rare in latter times! Wonder, usually accompanied by a bad taste, looks out only for what is uncominon; and if a work comes abroad
under the name of a thresher, a bricklayer, or a lord, it is sure to be eagerly sought after by the million.
To these, and similar causes, was owing the favourable reception this book met with ; which, in itself, contains little that could be approved of by men of true taste. What relates to Swift's Life, from the scantiness of his materials, does not take up a sixth portion of the whole. The greater part of the remainder, consists of useless or invidious criticisms on his works. Yet all this not being sufficient to make up a just volume, (according to the booksellers phrase) he has' eked it out from his common place book, in order to show his learning, by introducing several dissertations, foreign to the subject in hand : such as those on madness, idiotism ; characters of Homer, Aristotle ; of Ramus, Scotus, and Aquinas; of Epicurus, Descartes, and Gassendi. Remarks upon the writings of lord Bacon, Milton, Harrington, Algernon Sidney, lord Clarendon, Dr. Sprat, sir William Temple, Addison, lord Bolingbroke, &c. with many other impertinencies.
Not long after the publication of this work, there came out an answer to it, under the title of “ Observations on lord Orrery’s Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr. Swift," afterward known to be written by Dr. Delany, who from an early and long intimacy with the dean, was able to refute most of the facts, upon which his lordship grounded his observations, by producing uncontrovertible proofs to the contrary. Yet, though this book was written with great spirit, and carried the evidence of truth with it; as it was an anonymous publication, it was little attended to, except by those who wished well to the memory of the dean. Besides, truth is not the object sought after by those, who are desirous of remaining in an errour. Swift has
an observation on this head which will be found to be generally true : “ The ill talent of the world is such, that those who will be at pains enough to inform themselves in a malicious story, will take none at all to be undeceived ; nay, will be apt with some reluctance to admit a favourable truth.” This observation was never more strongly verified than in the case before us; for, while the book which calumniated Swift's character, and endeavoured to depreciate his talents, though poorly written, went through a great number of editions; the single one of the Answer, incomparably superiour in every thing which can recommend writings of that kind, still remains unsold.
But whatever favourable reception this book met with in England, never did I know such a universal indignation as was excited in all ranks of people, by the publication of it in Ireland. They were the only proper judges of his cha cter, who had an opportunity of knowing his conduct, during a residence of so many years. If they admired him for his genius, they almost adored him for his virtues. In his publick capacity, he was one of the truest patriots that ever lived; and for the many important services he did his country, he v'as bailed by the general voice pater patriæ. In his private life, of the strictest morals; and in the discharge of his clerical duties, of exemplary piety. His charities were boundless, and the whole business of his life was, doing good. As party animosities had long before subsided, he had few enemies left; and even those few, when their hatred, together with their fear, had been buried in his grave, joined in doing all justice to his memory. To calumniate the character of such a man, was thought little less than sacrilege; and the rage of the people was such, that it vented itself even on the poor printer of the work, who became for a long time the object of