Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

vances.

his friends, should make the first advances to him. Of this we have a remarkable instance in his Journal, May 19, 1711.

"Mr. secretary told me, the duke of Buckingham had been talking much to him about me, and desired my acquaintance. I answered it could not be, for he had not made sufficient ad.

Then the duke of Shrewsbury said he thought that duke was not used to make advances. I said I could not help that; for I always expected advances in proportion to men's quality, and more from a duke than any other man.

The duke replied, that he did not mean any thing of his quality, which was handsomely said enough, for he meant his pride.” In another place, July 29, 1711, he says, ac I was at court and church to day, as I was this day se'nnight; I generally am acquainted with about thirty in the drawingroom, and I am'so proud I make all the lords come up to me.” Nor was

rule confined to the men only ; he demanded and received the same homage from the vainer sex also, in order to render the empire of genius and talents universal. In his Journal, Oct. 7, 1711, he has this passage. " I saw lord Halifax at court, and we joined and talked, and the duchess of Shrewsbury came up and reproached me for not dining with her : I said, that was not so soon done, for I expected more advances from ladies, especially duchesses: she promised to comply with any demands I pleased, and I agreed to dine with her to morrow, &c. Lady Oglethorp brought me and the duchess of Hamilton together to day in the drawingroom, and I have given her some encouragement, - but not much.” In a letter to the duchess of Queensberry, many years after, he says,

" I am glad you know your duty; for it has been a known and established rule above twenty years in England, that the first advances have been constantly made me by all ladies, who aspired to my acquaintance, and the greater their quality, the greater were their advances.” Nor was it for himself only that he demanded this privilege, but as far as lay in his power, would have it extended to all his brethren, When lord Oxford had desired Swift to introduce Dr. Parnell to him, he refused to do it, upon this principle, that a man of genius was a character sųperiour to that of a lord in high station, and therefore obliged my lord to introduce bimself: which he did in the most courteous manner. On which occasion Swift in his Journal boastingly says, “I value myself upon making the ministry desire to be acquainted with Parpell, and not Parnell with the ministry." His contemporary authors all received the benefit of this, and by following his example, in placing a proper value on themselves, were treated with more respect than ever fell to the share of their predecessors, or those who have since succecded them. Pope afknowledges bis obligation to him on this score, where he says, " The top pleasure of my life is one I learned from you, both how to gain, and how to use the fieedom of friendship with men much my superiours."

Nothing but the extraordinary talents of Swift, and uncommon degree of merit in a variety of ways, could possibly have made the great ones of the world descend so far fron their pride, as to admit this new claiin, and pay him that homage which they had always considered as due only to themselyes. Audiodeed he seems to have been looked up to by all the world, as one of a superiour race of beings, or, like the phenix, as one who formed a class in the indiyidụal, standing alone, without a rival or competitor*. And though encompassed by a claster of the

* A letter from Thomas Harley, esq. to Swift, begins thus : 44 Your letter gave me a great deal of pleasure : I do not mean only the satisfaction one must always find in bearing from so good a friend, who has distinguished himself in the world, and ing in spleen and ill naturé. And in this opinión they were confirmed by the severity of his satire in many of his writings. But how will they be surprised to find, that by those who best knew him at the era I have been speaking of, he was as much celebrated for his good nature as his wit..,

Of which, among a number of others, I shall produce a few instances.

Mr. Addison, in one of his letters, has the following passage:

“ I know you have so much zeal and pleasure, in doing kind offices for those you wish well to, that I hope you represent the hardship of the case, in the strongest colours that it can possibly bear. However, as I always honoured you for your good nature, which is a very odd quality to celebrate in a man, who has talents so much more shining in the eyes of the world, I should be glad if I could any way concur with you, in putting a stop to what you say is now in agitation." And in another place, “ I am sure à zealous friendly behaviour distinguishes you as much, as your many more shining talents;, and as I have received particular instances of it, you must have a very bad opinion of me, if you do not think I heartily love and respect you.

Lady Betty Germain, daughter of lord Berkeley, who knew him thoroughly from her earliest days, says to him, in a very frank letter, wherein she at: tacks him with a good deal of spirit on lady Suffolk's account: “ It is you ought to be angry, and never forgive her, because you have been so much in the wrong, as to condemn her without show of justice and I wish with all my heart, as a judgment upon you, that you

had seen her as I did, when the news of your friend's death * came; for though you are a proud person, yet give you devil your due, you are a sincere, good natured honest one. But this quality

17

* Mr. Gay ; on whose account Swift had accused lady Suf

folk. S.

of his was discoverable only on a nearer acquainte ance ; for on this, as on all other occasions, he was at more pains to conceal his virtues, than others are to display them; and to effect this, often put on the appearance of qualities directly contrary to those he possessed.

One of his intimates *, writes thus to him :'" You have an unlucky quality, which exposes you to the forwardness of those that love you, I mean good nudure. From which, though I did not always suspect you guilty of it, I now promise myself an easy pardon.

Nor was his good nature merely of the common kind; he had a tenderness of heart which made him feel with unusual sensibility the sufferings, misfortunes, or loss of friends, and sympathize with them in their afflictions. Nor were these feelings afterward diminished or blunted by years, till the facul. ties of bis mind were impaired, and in a great de gree tbey outlived even those ; as may be scen in many instances during his latter correspondence, upon the death of any of his old friepds.

In what agonics of mind does he give to Stella a distracted account of the stabbing Mr. Harley by Guiscard! March 1, 171.1.

"o dear MD. my heart is almost broken. You will hear the thing before this comes to you ; I writ a full account of it this night to the archbishop of Dublin. I was in a sorry way to write, but thought it might be proper to şend a true account of the fact, for you will hear a thousand lying ciscumstances. 'Tis of Mr. Harley's being stabbed this afternoon at three o'clock at a committee of the council. I am in mortal pain for him. That șesperate French yillain, marquis de Guiscard, stabbed Mr. Harley. Pray pardon my distraction. I now think of all his kindness to me,

* Chivertog Charlton, captain of the yeomep of the guards, s.

brightest geniuses that this island eyer produced at any given era, yet he stood distinguished in a circle, and as the acknowledged monarch of wit, received the voluntary homage of his peers. And indeed among all that class of eminent writers, generally not the most humble of the human race, there was not one found vain enough to dispute his title, and all on different occasions bave boro testimony to the sus perjority of his genius. Of which inạny instances inay be produced, both in their works, and in the course of letters which passed between them.

Having raised himself to this high rank among men, merely by his personal merit, he took care to guard it with the same jealous attention, that a mor narch shows to the preservation of his prerogative. The leaat slight shown him, or any unbecoming treatment of him, was not to be pardoned without a due submission from the person so offending. We have already seen that he refused to be reconciled to his friend lord Qxford, upon a quarrel of that na; ture, in which he considered as an insult, what was jotended by the other as a favour, and threatened to cast him off, if he did not make a proper applogy:

He broke off with lady Giffard, one of his oldest acquaintances in life, on a similar account, and declared he would never see her again, unless she asked his pardon. In his Journal of March 27, 1711, le gives the following account of his resentment to lord Lansdown ;.“ Society day, you know. We were fo, med e netu sbaracter, wbieb nobody is vain enougb la pretend to imiigle ; bat, &c"

And the earl of Stafford, one of the proudeșt men of the age, addi esses him in this minner:

“Sir, To honour, and esteem, and admire you, is general to all triat know or have heard of you; but to he pleased with your commands, and glad and diligent to obey then, is peculiar to Volx true friends, of which nunher I am very desirous to be tockoned.” S.

« AnteriorContinua »