Imatges de pÓgina

equal footing, he scorned to take up with those of a lower class, or to be obliged to those of a higher. He lived therefore much alone, and his time was employed in pursuing his course of reading in history and poetry, then very unfashionable studies for an academic; or in gloomy meditations ou his unhappy circumstances. Yet under this heavy pressure, the force of his genius broke out, in the first rude draught of the “ Tale of a Tub,” written by him at the age of nineteen, though communicated to nobody but his chamber fellow Mr. Waryng; who, after the publication of the book, made no scruple to declare that he had read the first sketch of it in Swift's hand-writing, when he was of that age.*

Soon after this, his uncle Godwin was seized with a lethargy, which rendered him incapable of business; and then it was that the broken state of his affairs was made public. Swift now lost even the poor support that he had before; but his uncle William supplied the place of Godwin to him, though not in a more enlarged way, which could not be expected from his circumstances; yet with so much better a grace, as somewhat lightened the bur. den of dependence, and engaged Swift's gratitude afterward, who distinguished him by the title of “the best of his relations." He had no expectation however of receiving any thing more from him than what was absolutely necessary for his support; and his chief hopes now for any thing beyond that, l'ested in his cousin Willoughby Swift, eldest son of his uncle Godwin, a considerable merchant at Lisbon. Nor was he disappointed in his expectations. For, soon after the account of his father's unhappy situation had reached Willoughby Swift at Lisbon, he, reflecting that his cousin Jonathan's destitute condition demanded immediate relief, sent him a present of a larger sum than ever Jonathan had been master of in his life before. This supply arrived at a critical juncture; when Swift, without a penny in his purse, was despondingly looking out of his chamber window, to gape away the time, and happened to cast his eye upon a seafaring man, who seemed to be making inquiries after somebody's chambers. The thought immediately came into Swift's head, that this might be some master of a vessel who was the bearer of a present to him from his cousin at Lisbon. He saw him enter the building with pleasing expectation, and soon after heard a rap at his door, which he eagerly opening, was accosted by the sailor with—“ Is your name Jonathan Swift ?” 66 Yes!” “ Why then I have something for you from master Willoughby Swift of Lisbon.” He then drew out a large leathern bag, and poured out the contents, which were silver cobs, upon the table. Swift, enraptured at the sight, in the first transports of his heart, pushed over a large number of them, without reckoning, to the sailor, as a reward for his trouble; but the honest tar declined · taking any, saying, that “ he would do more than that for good master Willoughby.” This was the first time that Swift's disposition was tried with regard to the management of money; and he said that the reflection of his constant sufferings through the want of it, made him husband it so well, that he was never afterward without some in his purse.

*He appears also to have intended to write “An Account of the Kingdom of Absurdities” about the same time. In the “ Tale of a Tub” such a tract is mentioned, as intended by the anonymous aythor. N.

Soon after this, upon the breaking out of the war in Ireland, Swift determined to leave that kingdom, and to visit his mother at Leicester, in order to consult with her upon his future plan of life.

Such was the opening of this great man's life; and from such a beginning, who could at that tiine have ima

He was

gined that such mighty things were to ensue ? now in his one-and-twentieth year; unqualified for any profession but that of the church; in which he had no prospect of succeeding from interest; and the disgraceful manner of his taking his degree, was a strong bar to any hopes on the score of merit. He had made no advances in any of the useful studies necessary to put a young man forward in the world; the recluseness of his life had rendered him little known; and a temper naturally splenetic, soured by the misery of his situation, did not qualify him much for making personal friends. How unpromising were the prospects of such a man, just entering into the world, under such circumstances! and yet it is to those very circumstances, probably, that the world owes, A Swift; to the want of money, want of learning, want of friends. Whoever is acquainted at all with the life and writings of Swist, must see that he had an uncommon share of spirit and fire in his constitution. Such as, had it not been kept under during the heat of youth, would probably have precipitated him into some extravagant courses. Nothing less than the lowness of his circumstances from his birth, could have kept that fire from bursting out; nothing less than the galling yoke of dependence, could have restrained that proud spirit within due bounds. His poverty and his pride were two excellent guards set over him, during that most dangerous time of life, to fix and keep him in a course of virtue. The one debarred him from excesses in the pleasurable gratifications of youth, which money only can procure; the other kept him from endeavouring to obtain from the purse of others, by mean compliances, any pleasures that he could not purchase from his own fund. Thus necessarily fixed in a course of temperance, the practice of other moral duties became easy to him. And indeed there was no flaw to be found in his moral character, dur

ing his residence in the college, however low his parts might be rated.

Thus far I have shown the benefits which were probably derived to him from his want of fortune. I shall now show what advantages it is likely he derived from want of learning. :

Had Swift met with sufficient encouragement to apply himself to the learning of the times; had his situation in the college been rendered easy to him, so that he might have pursued his studies with an undisturbed mind; had his emulation been roused in such a way as to make him enter into a competition with those of his own standing; it is highly probable, from the greatness of his parts, that he would have thrown all competitors at a distance. And in that case he might have acquired a fondness for those studies by which he obtained fame, however disagreeable they might have been to him at first. He might have proved the foremost logician, metaphysician, or mathematician of his time; he might have passed his life, like some of the most eminent of his fellow students, in useless speculations; and instead of writing a Laputa, he might himself have been qualified for a professorship in the academy of that airy region.

Let us only suppose Swift to have been a distinguished scholar in the university, and we may reasonably suppose also, that, circumstanced as he was, his friends would have made him sit for a fellowship there, as the surest and best provision for any one so educated. Or else, encouraged by the hopeful expectations raised from the distinguished figure he made in the college, they would have pushed all their interest to have gotten him some small preferment in the church. In either of which cases, the SWIFT of the world might have been lost in a university monk, or a country vicar. On the other hand, the disgrace thrown on him in the college, deprived him of all hopes of preferment, and rendered his friends so cold to his interest, that he had no expectations of future support, but by changing the scene to another country; where only there was a field large enough for the exertion of those high talents, which yėt in a great measure lay dormant in him.

And with respect to the third article, the want of friends; had it not been for that circumstance, he would not have been under a necessity of going to seek for new ones, in another country; and he might probably never have fallen into the hands of that particular friend, who was perhaps the only one living capable of forming his mind to those great things which he afterward executed.

It was in the year 1688 ihai Swift left Ireland; he was then in his one-and-twentieth year. Suppose him landed in a country where he was utterly unknown, and without recommendatory letters that might introduce him to the acquaintance, or procure him the assistance of any one in that country, with regard to any future plan of life. Let us stop a while, and survey the future Swift, setting out on foot from Chester, in order to go to a mother, who was utterly incapable of affording him the least assistance, as she herself was chiefly supported by presents and contributions from her relations. One can hardly imagine a situation more hopeless with regard to externals: and with respect to his own internal powers, he had yet given no proofs of those which would not rather occasion despondency in his relations, than raise in them any hopes of his being able to push his own way in the world. And indeed at that juncture perhaps there were few living less qualified than he to do any thing for his own support.

“ The world was all before him where to choose
His place of rest, and Providence his guide.”

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