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It may be justly supposed that there was in his conversation, 134 what appears so frequently in his letters, an affectation of familiarity with the Great, an ambition of momentary equality sought and enjoyed by the neglect of those ceremonies which custom has established as the barriers between one order of society and another. This transgression of regularity was by himself and his admirers termed greatness of soul. But a great mind disdains to hold any thing by courtesy, and therefore never usurps what a lawful claimant may take away. He that encroaches on another's dignity puts himself in his power: he is either repelled with helpless indignity, or endured by clemency and condescension 2.
Of Swift's general habits of thinking, if his letters can be sup- 135 posed to afford any evidence, he was not a man to be either loved or envied 3. He seems to have wasted life in discontent, by the rage of neglected pride and the languishment of unsatisfied desire. He is querulous and fastidious, arrogant and malignant; he scarcely speaks of himself but with indignant lamentations, or of others but with insolent superiority when he is gay, and with angry contempt when he is gloomy. From the letters that pass between him and Pope it might be inferred that they, with Arbuthnot and Gay, had engrossed all the understanding and virtue of mankind, that their merits filled the world; or that there was no hope of more. They shew the
* Ante, SWIFT, 52; post, GRAY, 3. 'My Lord Oxford desired Swift to introduce Dr. Parnell to him; which he refused upon this principle:-That a man of genius was a character superior to that of a Lord in high station.' Delany, p. 29. For Oxford's going to inquire for Parnell' see ante, PARNELL, 5.
Swift wrote in 1726:-'I have a cloud of witnesses, with my Lord Bolingbroke at their head, to prove I never practised or possessed such a talent as civility.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 85.
Swift has been justly blamed for this fault by his two illustrious biographers, both of them men of spirit at least as independent as his, Samuel Johnson and Walter Scott.' MACAULAY, Hist. of Eng. vii. 72. For Scott's criticism see Swift's Works, i.
3 Steele wrote of him in The
Post, POPE, 172, 284. Pope,
Gay wrote to Swift in 1730:-'I do not hate the world, but I laugh at it; for none but fools can be in earnest about such a trifle.' lb. p. 277.
'In all Pope's letters, as well as in those of Swift, there runs a strain of pride, as if the world talked of nothing butthemselves.' GOLDSMITH, Works, iv. 85.
age involved in darkness, and shade the picture with sullen emulation 1.
When the Queen's death drove him into Ireland he might be allowed to regret for a time the interception of his views, the extinction of his hopes, and his ejection from gay scenes, important employment, and splendid friendships 2; but when time had enabled reason to prevail over vexation the complaints, which at first were natural, became ridiculous because they were useless. But querulousness was now grown habitual, and he cried out when he probably had ceased to feel. His reiterated wailings persuaded Bolingbroke that he was really willing to quit his deanery for an English parish; and Bolingbroke procured an exchange, which was rejected 3, and Swift still retained the pleasure of complaining.
The greatest difficulty that occurs, in analysing his character, is to discover by what depravity of intellect he took delight in revolving ideas from which almost every other mind shrinks with disgust. The ideas of pleasure, even when criminal, may solicit the imagination; but what has disease, deformity, and filth upon which the thoughts can be allured to dwell? Delany is willing to think that Swift's mind was not much tainted with this gross corruption before his long visit to Pope. He does not consider
Richter, writing of 'the letters of the friendship between a Swift, an Arbuthnot, and a Pope,' continues:'Have not many others felt themselves, like me, warmed and encouraged by the touching quiet love of these manly hearts, which, though cold, cutting, and sharp to the outer world, yet laboured and throbbed in their common inner world warmly and tenderly for one another?' Richter's Flower, Fruit and Thorn Pieces, translated by E. H. Noel, 1871, i. 53. 2 Ante, SWIFT, 66 n.
3 Bolingbroke, in July, 1732, informed him that the Rector of Burghfield, Berkshire, a few miles from his Lordship's seat at Buckleberry, a living worth £400 a year, 'over and above a curate paid,' with an 'extremely good parsonage house,' was willing to change preferments, if it could be effected. Works, xviii. 15. See also Warton's Pope, vi. 15. 'The living,' Swift answered, 'is just
too short by £300 a year.' Works, xviii. 28. A year later he wrote to Pope:-'Neither can I have conveniences in the country for three horses and two servants, and many others, which I have here at hand. I am one of the governors of all the hackney coaches, carts and carriages round this town, who dare not insult me, like your rascally waggoners or coachmen, but give me the way; nor is there one lord or squire for a hundred of yours to turn me out of the road, or run over me with their coaches and six. Then I walk the streets in peace, without being justled, nor even without a thousand blessings from my friends the vulgar.' Ib. p. 123.
The defilement became much more conspicuous upon his return from his first long visit to Mr. Pope. Before this era I had found his ideas and his style remarkably delicate and pure. I remember his falling into a
how he degrades his hero by making him at fifty-nine the pupil of turpitude, and liable to the malignant influence of an ascendant mind. But the truth is that Gulliver had described his Yahoos before the visit, and he that had formed those images had nothing filthy to learn 1.
I have here given the character of Swift as he exhibits himself 138 to my perception; but now let another be heard who knew him better. Dr. Delany, after long acquaintance, describes him to Lord Orrery in these terms 2:
'My Lord, when you consider Swift's singular, peculiar, and most variegated vein of wit 3, always rightly intended (although not always so rightly directed), delightful in many instances, and salutary, even where it is most offensive; when you consider his strict truth, his fortitude in resisting oppression and arbitrary power; his fidelity in friendship, his sincere love and zeal for religion, his uprightness in making right resolutions, and his steadiness in adhering to them; his care of his church, its choir,
furious resentment with Mrs. Johnston [sic] for a very small failure of delicacy. [In his Journal to Stella there were at times very large failures.] It must be owned that he set out very ill, and that his Salamander is the vilest production of the most defiled muse. But I think it will appear from his works that, as if he had taken a surfeit of pollution, he abstained from it for many years together.
happily, he relapsed about 1723, and from that time became I dare not say what.' Delany, p. 75. Delany is not consistent. It was in 1726 that Swift visited Pope. Ante, SWIFT, 83. For Pope's corruption see post, POPE, 360.
The Salamander was written in 1705. Works, xiv. 63. Swift wrote to Stella in 1711:-'You remember The Salamander; it is printed in the Miscellany. Ib. ii. 383. He wrote to her the same year of a dinner at St. John's: 'I give no man liberty to swear or talk b-dy, and I found some of them were in constraint, so I left them to themselves.' Ib. p. 260. In his Hints towards an Essay on Conversation he speaks of those odious topics of immodesty and indecencies.' Ib. ix. 177.
The petition in his Evening Prayer [ante, SWIFT, 121 n. 1], 'Cleanse, we beseech Thee, the thoughts of our
its œconomy, and its income; his attention to all those that preached in his cathedral, in order to their amendment in pronunciation and style'; as also his remarkable attention to the interest of his successors, preferably to his own present emoluments; [his] invincible patriotism, even to a country which he did not love; his very various, well-devised, well-judged, and extensive charities, throughout his life, and his whole fortune (to say nothing of his wife's) conveyed to the same Christian purposes at his death-charities from which he could enjoy no honour, advantage or satisfaction of any kind in this world. When you consider his ironical and humorous, as well as his serious schemes, for the promotion of true religion and virtue; his success in soliciting for the First Fruits and Twentieths, to the unspeakable benefit of the established Church of Ireland 3; and his felicity (to rate it no higher) in giving occasion to the building of fifty new churches in London.
'All this considered, the character of his life will appear like that of his writings; they will both bear to be re-considered and re-examined with the utmost attention, and always discover new beauties and excellences upon every examination.
'They will bear to be considered as the sun, in which the brightness will hide the blemishes; and whenever petulant ignorance, pride, malice, malignity, or envy interposes to cloud
'As soon as anyone got up into the pulpit he pulled out his pencil and a piece of paper, and carefully noted every wrong pronunciation or expression. . . . Of these he never failed to admonish the preacher as soon as he came into the Chapter House.' Delany, p. 206.
According to T. Sheridan, Stella 'bequeathed her fortune to charitable uses' in indignation at Swift's cruelty in not owning their marriage. Works, 1803, ii. 62; ante, SWIFT, 92. There are strong reasons for the belief that the will was written under Swift's advice. Craik, p. 547. He left his money for the foundation of 'an hospital for idiots and lunatics to be called St. Patrick's Hospital.' Works, i. 487; ante, SWIFT, 100 n. opened in 1757. Like the Bedlam of London it was formerly open to the public.' Works, i. 496. In other words the lunatics were made a show. See Boswell's Johnson, ii. 374. Till 1815 it was the only Lunatic Asylum in Ireland. There are at present in it (Aug. 1901), as I learn from Mr.
or sully his fame, I will take upon me to pronounce that the eclipse will not last long.
To conclude-no man ever deserved better of any country than Swift did of his. A steady, persevering, inflexible friend; a wise, a watchful, and a faithful counsellor, under many severe trials and bitter persecutions, to the manifest hazard both of his liberty and fortune'.
'He lived a blessing, he died a benefactor, and his name will ever live an honour to Ireland ".'
IN the Poetical Works of Dr. Swift there is not much upon 139 which the critick can exercise his powers 3. They are often humorous, almost always light, and have the qualities which recommend such compositions, easiness and gaiety. They are, for the most part, what their author intended. The diction is correct, the numbers are smooth, and the rhymes exact. There seldom occurs a hard-laboured a hard-laboured expression or a redundant epithet; all his verses exemplify his own definition of a good style, they consist of 'proper words in proper places 5.'
• He boasted with some exaggeration:
'Fair Liberty was all his cry;
Works, xiv. 330.
* Deane Swift, in drawing his character, says: 'He was chaste, sober, and temperate. I remember he once told me that he never had been drunk in his life. In his general behaviour he was open, free, disengaged, and cheerful; in his dealings with the world he was honest and sincere; in relieving the poor and the distressed he was liberal to profusion, if throwing upon the waters above a third part of his income will entitle him to the character of being generous. With regard to his faith he was truly orthodox. . . . Moreover he was exceedingly regular in all his duties to God.' Deane Swift, p. 372.
3 Adam Smith wrote in 1759:'Mr. Pope and Dr. Swift have each of them introduced a manner different from what was practised before into all works that are written in rhyme, the one in long verses, the other in short. The quaintness of Butler has given place to the plainness of Swift.
The rambling freedom of Dryden and the correct but often tedious and prosaic language of Addison are no longer the objects of imitation, but all long verses are now written after the manner of the nervous precision of Mr. Pope.' Theory of Moral Sentiment, 1801, ii. 9.
'Swift perceived that there was a spirit of romance mixed with all the works of the poets who preceded him; or, in other words, that they had drawn nature on the most pleasing side. There still therefore was a place left for him who, careless of censure, should describe it just as it was with all its deformities; he therefore owes much of his fame, not so much to the greatness of his genius, as to the boldness of it.' GOLDSMITH, Works, iii. 432. This criticism suits Crabbe.
Post, POPE, 375. 'He mentioned that in Baucis and Philemon Mr. Addison made him blot out fourscore lines, add fourscore and alter fourscore.' Delany, p. 19.
5 'Proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style. ... When a man's thoughts are clear the properest words will generally offer themselves first, and his own judgment will direct him in what