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Eliza; they were writ in my youth. Pray burn them. You mention a dangerous rival for an absent lover; but I must take my fortnne. If the report proceeds, pray inform me*:
After these we have no memorial remaining of his being attached to any of the fair sex, except Mrs. Johnson and miss Vanhomrigh, known to the world by the celebrated names of Stella, and Vanessa. We have already seen how his acquaintance with Stella commenced at an early period of her life, and the share that he had in training her up to that degree of perfection which she afterward reached. It is no wonder that his admiration of his lovely pupil should increase with her growing perfections, and that it should produce the strongest attachment to one of the finest pieces of nature's workmanship, finished and polished to the height by his own hand. But though his affection for her daily increased, during a long habitude of intercourse with one of the most charming companions in the world, perfectly suited in all points to his taste and humour, yet had it no mixture in it of the passion of love, but was rather the tenderness of a parent to a favourite child:
“ His conduct might have made him styid,
In school to hear the finest boy." For the truth of this he appeals to Stella herself in one of his poems addressed to her :
6. Thou, Stella, wert no longer young,
When first for thee my harp I strung; * See the Letter alluded to by Mr, Sheridan, in the tenth volume of this collection, p. 22. N.
Without one word of Cupid's darts,
Nor was there any thing uncommon in this. We find that even among young people bred up together from childhood, the passion of love seldom appears ; and much less likely is it to take place where there is such a disparity of years.
It has been already shown what punctilious caution he took to prevent any appearance of that sort, by never conversing with her but in the presence of a third person,
which was usually her companion Mrs. Dingley. But not long after her settlement in Ireland, he gave the most unequivocal proof of what his sentiments were with regard to her on that point. It was impossible that so charming an object should long remain without inspiring some of her beholders with love. Accordingly an intimate friend of Swift's, of the name of Tisdall, not undistinguished for learning and wit, was so captivated with the beauties both of her
person and mind, that he paid his addresses to her, and made proposals of marriage. The account of this transaction, and the part that Swift bore in it, is set forth at large in the following letter written by him to Tisdall on that subject :
“ London, April 20, 1704. “ YESTERDAY coming from the country I found your letter, which had been four or five days arrived, and by neglect was not forwarded as it ought. You have got three epithets for my former letter, which I believe are all unjust: you say it was unfriendly, unkind, and unaccountable. The two first,
I suppose, may pass but for one, saying (as capt. Fluellin says the phrase is) a little variation. I shall therefore answer those two as I can; and for the last, I return it to you again by these presents, assuring you, that there is more unaccountability in your letter's little finger, than in mine's whole body. And one strain I observe in it, which is frequent enouglı; you talk in a mystical sort of a way, as if you would have me believe I had some great design, and that you had found it out: your phrases are, that my letter had the effect you judge I designed; that you are amazed to reflect on what you judge the cause of it; and wish it may be in your power to love and value me while you live, &c. In answer to all this, I might with good pretence enough talk starchly, and affect ignorance of what you would be at; but my conjecture is, that you think I obstructed your inclinations to please my own, and that my intentions were the same with yours. In answer to all which, I will upon my conscience and honour tell
the naked truth. First, I think I have said to you before, that if my fortunes and humour served me to think of that state, I should certainly, among all persons on carth, make your choice; because I never saw that person whose conversation I entirely valued but her's; this was the utmost I ever gave way to. And, secondly, I must assure you sincerely, that this regard of mine never once entered into my head to be an impediment to you; but I judged it would, perhaps, be a clog to your rising in the world; and I did not conceive you were then rich enough to make yourself and her happy and easy. But that objection is now quite removed by what you have at present; and by the assurances of Eaton's livings. I told you
indeed, indeed, that your authority was not sufficient to make overtures to the mother, without the daughter's giving me leave under her own or her friend's hand, which, I think, was a right and a prudent step. However, I told the mother immediately, and spoke with all the advantages you deserve. But the objection of your fortune being removed, I declare I have no other; nor shall any consideration of my own misfortune, in losing so good a friend and companion as her, prevail on me against her interest and settlement in the world, since it is held so necessary and convenient a thing for ladies to marry; and that time takes off from the lustre of virgins in all other eyes but mine. I appeal to my letters to herself, whether I was your friend or not in the whole concern; though the part I designed to act in it was purely passive, which is the utmost I will ever do in things of this nature, to avoid all reproach of any
consequence that might ensue in the variety of worldly accidents. Nay I went so far both to her mother, herself, and, I think, to you, as to say it could not be decently broken; since I supposed the town had got it in their tongues, and therefore I thought it could not miscarry without some disadvantage to the lady's credit. I have always described her to you in a manner different from those who would be discouraging; and must add, that though it hath come in my way to converse with persons of the first rank, and of that sex, more than is usual to men of my level, and of our function; yet I have no where met with a humour, a wit, or conversation so agreeable, a better portion of good sense, or a truer judgment of men and things, I mean here in England; for as to the ladies of Ireland, I am a perfect stranger. As to her fortune, I think you know it already; and, if you resume your designs, and would have farther intelligence, I shall send
you a particular account. “ I give you joy of your good fortunes, and envy very much your prudence and temper, and love of peace and settlement, the reverse of which hath been the great uneasiness of my life, and is likely to continue so. And what is the result? En queis consevimus agros! I find nothing but the good words and wishes of a decayed ministry, whose lives and mine will probably wear out before they can serve either my little hopes, or their own ambition. Therefore I am resolved suddenly to retire, like a discontented courtier, and vent myself in study and speculation, till my own humour, or the scene here, shall change."
I have here inserted the whole of this letter, both as it contains a candid display of Swift's sentiments on this occasion, and is a strong confutation of the account given of it by his relation Deane Swift, in his Essay, &c. part, of which I shall here transcribe, where speaking of Mr. Tisdall he says." This gentleman declared his passion, and made her proposals of marriage. Now whether it was artifice in Mrs. Johnson to rouse affections in the adamantine heart of her admired object; or whether it was a reach of policy in Dr. Swift, to acquaint Mrs. Johnson by such indirect means that he had no intention of engaging himself in a married life; or whether in truth there
kind of artifice used on either side, I protest I am wholly a stranger, &c.—Mrs. Johnson discovered no repugnancy to the match, but still she would be advised by Doctor Swift. The doctor, perhaps, loth to be separated from so delightful a com