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JONATHAN SWIFT, D.D.
Swift's parentage and birth-His life at college-His first
residence with Sir William Temple-Visits Oxford--He takes orders, and obtains the living of Kilroot-Resigns that living in favour of a friend, and returns to England -His second residence with Sir William Temple-The Battle of the Books, and Tale of a Tub—Verses on the Burning of Whitehall-Swift's correspondence with Miss Waryng-He becomes acquainted with Stella—Sir William Temple dies, and bequeaths his works to. SwiftSwift's views of promotion at the Court are disappointed.
The life of Swift forms an interesting and instructive narrative to all who love to contemplate those alternations of good and evil which chequer the fate of individuals, distinguished by their talents and by their fame. Born under circumstances of the most pressing calamity, educated by the cold and careless charity of relations, denied the usual honours attached to academical study, and spending years of dependence upon the inefficient patronage of Sir William Temple, the earlier part of his history may be considered as a continued tale of depressed genius and disappointed hopes. Yet, under all these disadvantages, Swift arose to be the counsellor of a British administration, the best defender of their measures, and the intimate friend of all who were noble or renowned, learned or witty, in the classic age of Queen Anne. The events of his latter years were not less strongly contrasted. Involved in the fall of his patrons, he became a discontented and persecuted exile from England, and from his friends, yet, almost at once, attained a pitch of popularity which rendered him the idol of Ireland, and the dread of those who ruled that kingdom. Nor was his domestic fate less extraordinary-loving, and beloved by two of the most beautiful and interesting women of the time, he was doomed to form a happy and tranquil union with neither, and saw them sink successively to the grave, under the consciousness that their mortal disease had its source in disappointed hopes, and ill-requited affection. His talents also, the source of his fame and his pride, whose brilliancy had so long dazzled and delighted mankind, became gradually clouded by disease, and perverted by passion, as their possessor approached the goal of life; and, ere he attained it, were levelled far below those of ordinary humanity. From
the life of Swift, therefore, may be derived the important lesson, that, as no misfortunes should induce genius to despair, no rank of fame, however elevated, should encourage its possessor to presumption. And those to whom fate has denied such brilliant qualities, or to whom she has refused the necessary opportunities of displaying them, may be taught, while perusing the history of this illustrious man, how little happiness depends upon the possession of transcendent genius, of political influence, or of popular
Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity, and Dean of St Patrick's, Dublin, was descended from the younger branch of the family of Swifts, in Yorkshire, which had been settled in that county for many years. His immediate ancestor was the Reverend Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodrich, in Herefordshire, and proprietor of a small estate in that neighbourhood. At the beginning of the civil wars, this gentleman distinguished himself by his zeal and activity in the cause of Charles I.; and his grandson has recorded, in a separate memoir, his exploits and sufferings during the civil wars. To that memoir, and the notes which accompany it, the reader is referred for farther particulars concerning Swift's family.* After having been repeatedly
* See No. I. Appendix. Swift put up a plain monument to his grandfather, and also presented a cup to the church of Goodrich,
plundered by the parliamentary soldiers, even to the clothes of the infant in the cradle, (which, according to family tradition, was Jonathan, father of the Dean,) and to the last loaf which was to support his numerous family, Thomas Swift died in the year 1658, leaving ten sons, and three or four daughters, with no other fortune than the small estate to which he was born, and that almost ruined by fines and sequestrations.
The sufferings of this gentleman were of some ser
or Gotheridge. He sent a pencilled elevation of the monument, (a simple tablet,) to Mrs Howard, who returned it with the following lines, inscribed on the drawing by Pope. The paper is indorsed, in Swift's hand, “ Model of a monument for my grandfather, with Mr Pope's roguery."
The lines, originally written in pencil by Pope, are traced over in ink by Dr Lyons, as a memorandum bears. It occurred amongst Dr Lyon's manuscripts.