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The chief materials for a life of Swift are to be found fai 
hia writinga and correspondencB. Tho beat edition 13 tho 
second of the two edited by Scott (1814 and 1824). 

Id 1751 Lord Orrery published Memarka upon the lAfa 
and Writinga of Dr. Jonathan Sioift. Orrery, born 1707, 
had known Swift from about 1732. Hia remarks give 
the views of a person of quality of more ambition than 
C^tacity, and more ansiona to exhibit his own taste than 
to give full or accurate information. 

In 1754 Dr. Delanj published ObaervaiiQni ujiou Lord 
Orrery's Bemarks, intended to vindicate Swift against 
some of Orrery's severe judgments, Dclany, bom about 
16S5, became intimate with Swift soon after the Dean's 
final settlement in Ireland. He was then one of the an- 
thoritiea of Trinity College, Dublin. He js the beat con- 
temporary authority, bo far as ho goes. 

In 1756 Deane Swift, grandson of Swift's uncle, God- 
win, and son-in-law to Swift's cousin and faithful guar- 
dian, Mrs. Whiteway, published an Essay upon ike lAft, 
Writings, and Character of Dr. Jonathan Swift, in which 
he attacks both bis predecessors. Deane Swift, born 
about 1708, had seen httle or nothing of his cousin till 
the year 1738, when the Dean's faculties were decaying. 


His book is foolish and diacarsive. Beatie Swift's son, 
Theophilus, communicated a good deal of doubtful mattei 
to Scott, on the authority of family tradition. 

In 1765 Hawkeaworth, who had no persona) knowl- 
edge, prefixed a life of Swift to an edition of the works ]| 
which adds nothing to our information. In 1781 Joho' 
son, when publishing a very perfunctory life of Swift aa 
one of the poets, excused its ahortcominga on the ground 
of having already cointnanicated his thoughts to Hawkes- \\ 
worth. Tho life is not only meagre but injured by one 1 
of Johnson's strong prejudices, I 

In 1785 Thomaa Sheridan produced a pompons and 1 
dull life of Swift He was the aon of Swift's most inti- I 
mate companion during the whole period subsequent to ' 
the final settlement in Ireland. The elder Sheridan, how- 
ever, died in 1738; and the yonnger, bom in 1721, waa 
still a boy when Swift was becoming imbecile. I 

Contemporary writers, except Delany, have thus little I 
authority; and a number of more or less palpably ficti- j 
tions anecdotes accumulated round their hero. Scott'a 
life, originally published in 1814, is defective in point of , 
accuracy. Scott did not investigate the evidence minute- , 
ly, and liked a good story too well to he very particular 
about its authenticity. The book, however, shows his 
strong sense and genial appreciation of character ; and re- 
mains, till this day, by far the best account of Swift's | 

A life which snppliea Scott's defects in great measure 
waa given by William Monck Mason, in 1819, in bis Ifia- 
tory and Antiquities of the Church of St. Patrick. Monck 
Mason was an indiscriminate admirer, and has a provok- 
ing method of expanding undigested information intr 
monstrous notes, after the precedent of Bayle. Bat I 

examined facts with ths utmost care, and every biographei 
must respect his authority. 

In 1875 Mr. Forater poblisbed the first inBtalment of a 
Life of Swift. This book, which contains the results of 
patient and thorough inquiry, was unfortunately inter- 
rupted by Mr, Forster'e death, and ends at the beginning 
of 1711. A complete Life by Mr. Henry Craik is an- 
nounced as about to appear. 

Besides these books, I oaght to mention an Essay upon 
the Earlier Part of the Life of Smft, by the Rev. John 
Barrett, B.D. and Vice-Provoat of Trinity College, Dublin 
(London, 1808); and The Closing Yean of Dean Steiffi 
Life, by W. R. WUde, M.R.I.A., F.R.C.S. (Dublin, 1849). 
This last is a very interesting study of the medieal aspecta 
of Swift's life. An essay by Dr. Bucknill, in Brain for 
ilanuary, 1882, is a remarkable contribution to the same 


' i • 1 • ; . » ;• 


CHAPTER I. p,^. 

Eably Yeabs 1 

MooB Pabk and Kilroot 12 

Eably Wbttings 33 

ZjAbacob and London .51 

The Habley Administration 77 

Stella and Vanessa 117 

Wood's Halfpence 145 

Gulliveb's Tbavels 166 

Decline 183 



Jonathan Swift, the famous Dean of St. Patrick's, was 
the descendant of an old Yorkshire family. One branch 
had migrated southwards, and in the time of Charles I. 
Thomas Swift, Jonathan's grandfather, was Vicar of 
Goodrich, near Ross, in Herefordshire, a fact commemo- 
rated by the sweetest singer of Queen Anne's reign in the 
remarkable lines : 

"Jonathan Swift 

Had the gift 

By talherige, motherige, 

And bj brotherige. 

To come from Gotheridge." 

Thomas Swift married Elizabeth Dryden, niece of Sir 
Erasmus, the grandfather of the poet Dryden. By her 
be became the father of ten sons and fonr daughters. In 
the great rebellion ho distinguished himself by a loyalty 
which was the cause of obvious complacency to his de- 
scendant. On one occasion he came to the governor of a 
town held for the King, and being asked what he conld 
do for his Majesty, laid down his coat as an offering. 
The governor remarked that his coat was worth littla 

t SWIFT. [ca 

"Then," said Swift, "take tny waistcoat." The waist- 
coat was lined with three hundred broad pieces — a hand- 
soiDQ offering from a poor and plundered clergj'man. On 
another occasion be armed a ford, through which rebel 
cavalry were to pass, by certain pieces of iron with four 
spikes, so contrived that one spike mast always be upper- 
most (caltrops, in short). Two hundred of the enemy 
were destroyed by this stratagem. Tlie snccess of the 
rebels naturally led to the ruin of this Cav-iilier clergyman ; 
and the record of hia calamities forms a couspicuous arti- 
cle in Walker's S''-fferii\g» of tke Clergy. He died in 
1S58, before the advent of the better times in which he 
might have been rewarded for his loyal Bcrvices. His 
nnmerouH family had to stnt^le for a living. Tbe eldest 
son, Oodwin Swift, was a barrister of Gray's Inn at the 
time of the Restoration ; he was married four times, and 
three times to woiuen of fortune; his first wife hiid been 
related to the Ormond family ; and this connexion in- 
duced him to seek his fortune in Ireland — a kingdom 
which at that time soflered, amongst other less endurable 
grievances, from a deficient supply of lawyers.' Godwin 

ift was made Attorney-General in the palatinate of 
Tipperary by the Duke of Ormond. Ho prospered in his 
profession, in the subtle parts of which, says his nephew, 
he was " perhaps a Utile too dexterous ;" and he engaged 

various speculations, having at one time what was then 
the very lai^e income of 3000/. a year. Four brothers 
accompanied this successful Godwin, and shared to some 
extent in his prosperity. In January, 16S6, one of these, 
Jonathan, married to AbigMl Erick, of Leicester, was ap- 
pointed to the stewardship of the King's Inns, Dublin, 
partly in consideration of the loyalty and suffering c 
' DcoTu Suifl, p 


bie family. Some fifteen months later, in April, 1667, he 
died, leaving his widow with an infant daughter, and seven 
montha after her husband's death, November 30, 1667, she 
gave birth to Jonathan, the younger, at 7 Hoey'a Court, 

The Dean "hatb often been heard to say" (I qnote hia 
fragment of autobiography) "that he felt the consequenceB 
of that {bis parents') marriage, not only throagh the whole 
course of his education, but during the greater part of his 
life," This quaint asBumption that a man's parentage is 
a bind of removable accident to which may be attributed 
a limited part of his subsequent career, betrays a charac- 
teristic sentiment. Swift cherished a vague resentment 
against the fates which had miiced bitter ingredients in 
Ins lot. He felt the place as well as the circnmstanoes of 
his birth to be a grievance. It gave a pjansibiltty to the 
offensive imputation that he was of Irish blood, *'I hap- 
pened," he said, with a bitterness bom of later sufferings, 
" by a perfect accident to be bom here, and thus I am a 
Teague, or an Irisiiraan, or what people please." Else- 
where ho clwms England as properly hia own country ; 
"although I happened to be dropped here, and was a year 
old before I left it (Ireland), and to my sorrow did not die 
before I came back to it." llis infancy brought fresh griev- 
ances. He was, it seems, a precocious and delicate child, 
and his nurse became so mnch attached to him, that having 
to return to her native Whitehaven, she kidnapped the year- 
old infant out of pure affection. When bis mother knew 
her loss she was afraid to hazard a return voyage nntil 
the child was stronger; and he thus remained nearly three 
years at Whitehaven, where the nurse took such care of 
his education that he could read any chapter in the ] 
before he was three years old. His return must have 


4 SWDT, [cHii". 

speedily followed by his mother's departure for her natiTe 
Leiceater. Her aole dependence, it seems, was so annnity 
of 20^. a year, which had been bought for her by Lof 
huBband upon their marriage. Some of the Swift family 
seem also to have helped her, but, for reasons not now 
discoverable, she found Leicester preferable to Dublin, 
even at the price of parting from the little Jonathan. 
Godwin took him off her hands and sent Lim to Kil- 
kenny School at the ago of six, and from that early 
period the child had to grow up aa virtually an. orphan. 
His mother through several years to come can have been 
little more than a name to him, Kilkenny School, called 
the " Eton of Ireland," enjoyed a high reputation. Two 
of Swift's most famons contemporaries were educated 
there, Congreve, two years his junior, was one of his 
schoolfellows, and a warm friendship remained when both 
bad become famous. Fonrteen years after Swift had left 
the school it was entered by George Berkeley, destined to 
win a fame of the purest and highest kind, and to come 
into a atrauge relationship to Swift. It would be vain to 
ask what credit may be claimed by Kilkenny School for 
thus " producing " (it is the word used oa such occasions) 
the greatest satirist, the most brilliant writer of comedies, 
and the subtlest metaphysician in the English language. 
Our knowledge of Swift's experiences at this period is 
almost confined to a single anecdote. " 1 remember," ha 
saya incidentally in a letter to Lord Bolingbroke, " when I 
was a little boy, I felt a great fish at the end of my line, 
which I drew op almost on the ground ; but it dropped in, 
and the disappointment vexes me to this very day, and I 
believe it was the type of all my future disappointments." ' 
' Seoderi ma; remamber a clever uduptalJan of tliia incident in 
Lord Ljtton'B My Novel 



Swift, indeed, waa Btil! in the scLoolboy stage, according 
to moderc ideas, wlien he was entered at Trinity College, 
Dublin, on the same day, April S4, 1689, with a cousin, 
Thomas Swift. Swift clearly found Dublin uncongenial ; 
though there is still a wide margin for uncertainty as to 
precise facts. Ilis own acconnt gives a short sanimary 
of his acitdemic history: 

" By the ill-treatment of his nearest relations " (be says) 
" he waa so discouraged and sunk in his spirits that he 
too much neglected his acfidemic studies, for some parts 
of which he had no great relish by nature, and turned him- 
self to reading history and poetry, so that when the time 
carae for taking tis degree of Bachelor of Arts, although 
he had lived with great regularity and due observance of 
the statutes, be was stopped of bis degree for dulneas and 
insufficiency ; and at last hardly admitted In a manner little 
to his credit, whioh is called in that college speciali gratia." 
In a report of one of the college examinations, discovered 
by Mr. Forater, he receives a bene for his Greek and I^tin, 
a male for his " philosophy, " and a negligenter for his the- 
ology. The "philosophy" was still based upon the old 
scholasticism, and proficiency was tested by skill in the arts 
of syllogistic argumentation. Sheridan, son of Swift's in- 
timate friend, was a student at Dublin shortly before the 
Dean's loss of intellectnal power ; the old genljeman would 
naturally talk to the lad about his university recollections; 
and, according to his hearer, remembered with singular ao- 
curacy the questions upon which he had disputed, and re- 
peated the arguments which had been used, " in syllogistio 
form." Swift at the same time declared, if the report be 
accurate, that he never had the patience to read the pages 
of Smiglecius, Burgersdicius, and the other old-fashioned 
logica] treatises. When told that they taught tbo art of 

C BWIFT. [oi 

rcasoaing, he declared that b« coold reason very well 
withoot it. Ho acted npoD this principle in hia exer> 
cises, and left the Proctor to reduce his argument to the 
proper form. In this there ia probably a substratmn of 
truth. Swift CHQ hiirdl; be credited, as Berkeley might 
have been, with a prccocions perception of the wealcnoBa 
of the accepted system. When young gentlemen are 
plucked tor their degree, it is not generally because they 
are in advance of their i^e. But the aversion to meta- 
physics was characteristic of Swift through life. like 
many other people wh» have no tarn for such specolft- 
tiona, he felt for them a contempt which may perhapa 
he not the less justified because it does not arise from 
familiarity. The bent of his mind was already sufficiently 
marked to make him revolt against the kind of mental 
food which was most in favour at Dublin ; though he 
seems to have ohtjuned a fair knowledge of the olasaics. 

Swift cherished tJirougb life a resentment against most 
of his relations. His uncle Godwin had nndertaken hia 
education, and had sent him, aa we see, to the best places 
of education in Ireland. If the supplies became scanty, it 
must be admitted that poor Godwin had a sufficient ex- 
cuse. Each of his four wives had brought him a family 
— the last leaving him seven sons; his fortunes had been 
dissipated, chiefly, it seems, by means of a speculation in 
iron-works ; and the poor man himself seems to have been 
failing, for ho "fell into a lethargy" in 1688, surviving 
some five years, like his famous nephew, in a state of im- 
becility. Decay of mind and fortune coinciding with the 
demands of a rising family might certainly be some apolo- 
gy for the neglect of one amongst many nephews. Swift 
did not consider it sufficient. " Was it not your uncle 
Godwin," he waa asked, " who 



said Swift, after a pause ; " be gave rae the edacatioD of a 
dog." "Then," answered the intrepid inquirer, "yon hav« 
not the gratitude of a dog." And pcrhapB that is our nat- 
ural impreaaion. Yet wc do not know enough of the facta 
lo judge witli oonfldence. Swift, whatever hia faults, was 
always a, warm and faithful friend ; and perhaps it is the 
moat probable conjecture that, Godwin Swift bestowed his 
charity coldly and in such a way as to hnrt the pride of 
the recipient. In any case, it appeara that Swift showed 
his resentment in a manner more natural than reasonable. 
The child is tempted to revenge himself by knocking his 
head againat the rock which has broken hia shins; and 
with equal wisdom the youth who fanciea that the world 
is not his friend tries to get satisfaction by defying its 
laws. Till the time of hia degree (February, 1686), Swift 
had been at least regular in hia conduct, and if the neglect 
of Lis relations had discouraged his industry, it had not 
provoked him to rebellion. During the three yeara which 
followed be became more reckless. He was still a mere 
lad, juHt eighteen at the time of his degree, when he fell 
into more or less irr^ular courses. In rather leas than 
two years he was under censure for seventy weeks. The 
offences consisted chiefly in neglect to attend chapel and 
in "town-haunting," or absence from the nightly roll-calL 
Such oSences perhaps apptcar to be more flagrant than 
they really are in the eyes of college authorities. Twice 
he got into more serious scrapes. He was censured (Uarch 
16, 1687), along with hia cousin, Thomas Swift, and several 
others, for " notorious neglect of duties and frequenting 
'the town.'" And on his twenty-firat birthday (Nov. 30, 
1688) ho' was pnniahed, along with several others, for es- 
' PoBsiblj tliia was bis couaiii TbamaE, but the probubiliUes ars 
clearly in favour of Jonntbun. 



dtJDg domestic dissen^ons, deBpising the warcinga of tha 
janior Dean, and insultiog that official by cotjlemptuoua 
word*. The ofEeuderB were suspended from their degrees, 
and inasmuch as Swift and another were the worst offend- 
ers (adkuc intolerabilius se ffesserant), they were eentenced 
to ask pardon of the Dean upon their knees publicly io 
the hall. Twenty years later' Swift revenged liimaelf 
upon Owen Lloyd, the junior Dean, by accusing him of 
infamous servility. For the present Swift was probably 
reckoned amoiigst the black sheep of the academic flock.* 
This censnre came at the end of Swift's university ca- 
reer. The three last years bad doubtless been years of 
discouragement and recklessness. That they were also 
years of vice in the usual sense of the word is not prot 
nor, from all that we know of Swift'a later history, does 
it seem to be probable. There is no trace of anything 
like licentious behaviour in his whole career. It is ee 
to believe with Scott that Swift's conduct at this pe 
might be fairly described in the words of Johnsou wbea 
speaking of his own university experience: "Ah, sir, I 
was mad and violent. It was bitterness that they mistook 
for frolic. I was miserably poor, and I thought to fight 
my way by my literature and ray wit; eo I disregarded 
all power and all authority," Swift learnt another and a 
more profitable lesson in these years. It is indicated in 
an anecdote which rests upon tolerable authority. One 

' In tlie Saort C/tariKler of Thontai, ihrl of WTuirlon, 
' It will be Been that 1 nucept Dr. BarroU's fltatements, Earlier 
Part of the lAfe of Swift, pp. 13, li. His Brgumenls seem to me 
Eufficientij clear and concluaiTe, and the; are iiccepted by Monck 
Hoson, though treated conteiriptaously bj Mr. Forster, p. 34, On 
tba other bflnd, I agree with Mr. Foreter Ihat Swift's complicitj in 
the Terra Filial oration is not proved, though it \s not altogcthel 


day, as be whs gazing in melancholy mood from hia win* 
dow, his pockets at their lowest ebb, he saw a sailor star- 
ing about in the college courts. How happy should I be, 
he thought, if that man was inquiring for me with a pres- 
ent from my cousin Willoughby I The dream came true. 
The sailor came to his rooms and produced a leather bag, 
sent by his cousin from Lisbon, with more money than 
poor Jonathan had ever possessed in his life. The sailor 
refused to take a part of it for hia trouble, and Jonathan 
hastily crammed the money into bis pocket, lest the man 
should repent of his generosity. From that time forward, 
he added, he became a better economist 

The Willoughby Swift here mentioned was the eldest 
son of Godwin, and now settled in the English factory at 
Lisbon. Swift speaks warmly of his " goodness ani^ gen- 
erosity " in a letter written to another cousin in 1G94. 
Some help, too, was given by bis uncle William, who was 
settled at Dublin, and whom he calls the " best of his re- 
lations." In one way or another he was able to keep b!a 
head above water ; and he was receiving an impression 
which grew with his growth. The misery of dependence 
was burot into his soul. To secure independence liecame 
his most cherished wish; and the first condition of inde- 
pendence was a rigid practice of economy. Wo shall sea 
hereafter how deeply this principle became rooted in his 
mind ; here I need only notice that it is the lesson which 
poverty teaches to none but men of strong character. 

A catastrophe meanwhile was approaching, which in- 
volved the fortunes of Swift along with those of nations, 
James IL had been on the throne for a year when Swift 
took his degree. At the time when Swift was ordered to 
kneel to the junior Dean, William was in England, and 
James preparing to fly from Wbitebal!. The revoluUon 

awiiT. [( 


DS of 



of 1688 meuit a broaling np of the rery foitDdattons of 
political and social order in Ireland. At tbe end of 1688 
a Htreain of fugitiveA was poonng into England, wliilat 
tbe English in Ireland vere gathering into strong plai 
abandoning their property to the bands of msurg 

Swift fled with his fellows. Any prospects which hft 
may have bad in Ireland were mined with the ruin of his 
raee. The loyalty of his grandfather to u king who pro- 
tected the national ChurcL was no precedent for loyalty 
to a king who was its deadliest enemy. Swift, a Chords 
man to the backbone, never shared the leaning of many 
Anglicans to the exiled Stuarts ; and his early experience 
a pretty strong dissuasive from Jacobitism. He took 
refuge with his mother at Leicester. Of that mother we 
fae«T less than we could wish ; for all that wo hear suggests 
;A briat, wholesome, motherly body. She lived cheerfully 
■md fnigally on her pittance ; rose early, worked with her 
needle, read her book, and deemed herself to be " rich and 
happy " — on twenty pounds a year. A touch of her son's 
hnmour appears in the only anecdote about her. She 
came, it seems, to vittit ber sod in Ireland shortly after he 
had taken possession of Laracor, and amused herself by 
persuading the woman with whom alie lodged that Jona- 
than was not her son but her lover. Her son, though 
separated from her through the yeare in which filial afiec- 
tion is generally nourished, loved her with the whole 
Btrcngth of his nature; he wrote to her frequently, took 
puns to pay her visits " rarely less than once a year ;" 
and was deeply affected by her death in 1710. " I have 
now lost," he wrote in his pocket-hook, " tbe last barrier 
between rae and death. God grant I may be as well pre- 
pared for it as I confidently believe Llt to have been I If 

l] EAKLY years. 11 

the way to Ileaven be through piety, truth, justice, and 
charity, abe ja there." 

The good lady bud, it would seem, some little annicties 
of the coiniuoQ kind about ber sod. She thought him hi 
dnnger of falling Id love with a certain Betty Jones, who, 
however, escaped the perils of being wife to a mau of 
^niuB, and married an innkeeper. Some forty yeaxa 
later, Betty Jones, now Perkins, appealed to Swift to help 
her in some family difficulties, and Swift was ready to 
" sacrifice five pounds" for old acquaintance' sake. Other 
vague reports of Swift's attentions to women seem to have 
been flying about in Leicester. Swift, In noticing tbem, 
tells his correspondent that he values "hia own entertain- 
ment beyond the obloquy of a parcel of wretched fools," 
which he " solemnly pronounces" to bu a fit description of 
the inhabitants of Leicester. He had, be admits, amused 
himself with fiirtation ; bat he has learnt enough, " with- 
out going half a mile beyond the University," to refrain 
from thoughts of matrimony. A "cold temper" and the 
absence of any settled outlook are sufiicient dissuaaives. 
Another phrase in the same letter is characteristic : " A 
person of great honour in Ireland (who was pleased to 
stoop so low as to look into my mind) used to tell me that 
my mind was like a conjured spirit, that wonld do mis- 
chief if I did not give it employment." He allowed biro- 
self these little liberties, lie seems to infer, by way of dia- 
traction for bis restless nature. But some more serious 
work was necessary, if he was to win the independence so 
earnestly desired, and to cease to be a burden upon hi« 
mother. Where was he to look for help ? 

spirit" to find occnpatlonP 

7 was this "conjured spirit" to find occnpi 
The proverbial occupation of such beings is to cahivate 
' despair by weaving ropes of sand. Swift felt himself 
■trong ; but be had no last worthy of hia strength ; nor 
did he yet know precisely where it lay ; he even fancied 
that it might be m the direction of Pindaric Odes. 
Hitherto Lis energy had expended itself in the question- 
able shape of revolt against constituted authority. But the 
revolt, whatever its precise nature, had issncd in the rooted 
determination to achieve a genoino independence. The 
political storm which bad for the time crushed the whole 
social order of Ireland into mere chaotic anarchy had left 
h'*" an uprooted waif and stray — a loose fragment without 
any points of attachment, except the little household in 
LeiccBter. His mother might give him temporary shelter, 
but no permanent home. If, as is probable, he already 
looked forward to a clerical career, the Chnrcb to which 
he belonged was, for the time, hopelessly ruined, and in 
danger of being a persecuted sect. 

In this crisis a refuge was offered to hira. Sir William 

Temple was connected, in more ways than one, with the 

8wift& He was the son of Sir John Temple, Master of 

i the Rolls in Ireland, who had been a friend of Godwin 

t Swift Temple himself bad lived in Ireland in early days, 

I ciui'. il] UOOR pare and KILUOOT. 13 ^^| 

I and had known the Swift fatnilv. His wife was in Homa ' 


md had known the Swift family. His wife was 
way related to Swift's mother; and he was now iu a po- 
Rition to help the young man. Temple is a remarkable 
figure amongst the statesmen of that generation. There 
is Bomethimg more modem about him than belongs to his 
century. A man of cattivatcd taste and cosmopolitan train- 
ing, he had the contempt of enlightened persona for the fa- 
naticisms of his times. He was not the man to sufEer per- 
secution, with Baxter, for a creed, or even to loae his head, 
with Russell, for a. party. Yet, if he had not the faith 
which animates enthusiasts, he sincerely held political the- 
ories — a fact sufficient to raise him above the thorough- 
going cynics of the court of the Restoration. His sense of 
honour, or the want of robustness in mind and tempera- 
ment, kept him aloof from the desperate game in which 
the politicians of the day staked their lives, and threw away 
their consciences as an incumbrance. Good fortune threw 
him into the comparatively safe line of diplomacy, for 
which bis natural abilities fitted him. Good fortune, aided 
by discernment, enabled him to identify himself with the 
most respectable achievements of our foreign policy. Ho 
bad become famous aa the chief author of the Triple Alli- 
ance, and the promoter of the marriage of William and 
Mary. He had ventured far enough into the more troub- 
lous element of domestic politics to invent a highly ap- 
plauded constitutional device for smoothing the rolationa 
between the crown and Parlisnient. Lite other such de- 
vices it went to pieces at the first contact with realities. 
Temple retired to cultivate his garden and write elegant 
memoirs and essays, and refused all entreaties to Join again 
in the rough struggles of the day. Associates, made of 
sterner stuff, probably despised him ; but from their 
that is, the selfish point of view, he was perhaps entitled to 





laugh last. He escaped at least with anblemiBhed hocoar,'! 
and enjoyed the ciiitivateil reliri'inent which atateamen 
often profess to desire, and so seldom nchieve. In priT. 
he bad ninny estimable cjoalities. He was frank and a 
lative ; he had won diplomatic trininphB by disregards 
the pedantry of official rules; and he had an equal, thougl 
not an equally intelligent, contempt for the pedantry oi.' 
the schools. His style, though often slipshod, often 
ticipates the pure and simple Eoglieh of the Addison 
riod, and delighted Charles Lamb by its delicate flavonr 
aristocratic assumption. He had the vanity of 
of quality " — a lofty, dignified air, which became bis floir-i 
mg periwig, and showed itself in his distinguished ft 
urea. But in youth a strong vein of romance displayc 
itself in Lis courtship of Lady Temple, and he seems 
have been correspondingly worshipped by her and 
sister. Lady Giffard. 

The personal friendship of William could not induca' 
Temple to return to public life. Hk only son took 
bnt soon afterwards killed himself from a morbid sense of 
responsibility. Temple retired finally to Moor Park, near 
7amham, in Surrey ; and about the same time received 
Swift into his family. Long afterwards John Temple, Sir 
William's nephew, who had quarrelled with Swift, gave an 
obviously spiteful account of the terms of this eng^ement 
Swift, he said, was hired by Sir William to read to him 
and be his amanuensis, at the rate of 20/. a year and his 
board; but "Sir William never favoured him with bis 
conversation, nor allowed him to sit down at table with 
him." The anlhority is bad, and we must be guided by 
ratber precarious inferences in picturing this important 
period of Swift's career. The raw Irish student 
probably awkward, and may have been disagreeabh 





some matters. Forty years later we finil, from his cor- 
respoDdence with Gay and the DQchess of Queersbeny, 
that his views as to tlio liistribtitioD of fanctions between 
knives and forts were lamentably unsettled; and it is 
probable that he may in bis youth have been still raorb 
heretical as to social conventions. There were more serious 
difficulties. The difEerenco which separated Swift from 
Temple is not easily measurable. How can we es^^ratc 
tlie distance at which a lad, fresh from college and a re- 
mote provincial society, would look up to the distinguished 
diplomatist of sixty, who had been intimate with the two 
last kings, aod was still the confidential friend of the reign- 
ing king, who had been an actor in the greatest scenes, 
not only of English but of European biatory ; who had 
been treated with respect by the ministers of Louis XIV., 
and in whose honour bells had been rung and banquets 
set forth as he passed through the great Continental cities i 
Temple might have spoken to him, without shocking 
proprieties, in terms which, if I may quote the proverbial 
phrase, would be offensive "from God Almighty to a 
black beetle." 

" Sliall I b 

is Swift's phrase about Temple, in one of his first crude 
poems. We must not infer that circumstances which 
would now be oSensive to an educated roan — the scat at 
the second table, the predestined congeniality to tbeladiea'- 
maid <lf doubtful reputation — would have been equally 
offensive then. So lung as dependence npon patrons was 
a regular incident of the career of a poor scholar, the cor- 
responding regulations would be taken as a matter of 
^jonrse. Swift was not necessarily more degraded by be- 




ing a dependent of Temple's than Locke by a sitnilar po- 
sition in Shafteabory's family. But it is true that such a 
position must always be trying, as many a governess has 
folt in more modern days. Tbe position of the educated 
dependent must always have had its specific annoyances. 
At this period, when the relation of patron and client was 
being rapidly modified or destroyed, the compact would 
be more than usually trying to the power of forbearance 
and mutaal kindliness of the parties concerned. The rela- 
tion between Sir Roger de Coverley and the old college 
friend who became his chaplain meant good feeling on 
both sides. When poor Parson Supple became chaplain 
to Squire Western, and was liable to be sent back from 
London to Basingstoke in search of a forgotten tobacco- 
bos, Supple must have parted with all self-respect. Swift 
has incidentally given bis own view of the case in his 
Euay on the Fates of Clergymen. It is an application of 
one of his favourite doctrines — the advantage possessed by 
mediocrity over genius in a world so largely composed of 
fools. Eugenie, who represents Jonathan Swift, fails in 
life because as a wit and a poet he has not the art of win- 
ning patronage. Corusodea, in whom we have a partial 
likeness to Tom Swift, Jonathan's college contemporary, 
and afterwards the chaplain of Temple, succeeds by servile 
respectability. He never neglected chapel or lectures : he 
never looked into a poem : never made a jest himself, or 
langhed at the jests of others ; bnt he managed to insinuate 
himself into the favour of the noble family where his sis- 
ter was a waiting-woman ; shook hands with the butler, 
taught the page his catechism; was nometimee admit- 
ted to dine at the steward's table ; was admitted to read 
prayers, at ten shillings a month ; and, by winking at his 
patron's attentions to his sister, gradually crept into better 



appoiatments, married ft citizen's widow, and ia now fast 
mounting towards tlie top of tLe ladder ecclesiastical. 

Temple was not the mun to demand or reward services 
so base as those attributed to Corusodea, Nor does it 
Beem that he would be wanting in the self-respect which 
prescribes due courtesy to inferiors, though it admits of a 
strict regard for the ceremonial outworks of social dignity. 
He would probably DcitUer permit others to take liberties 
nor take them himself. If Swift's self-esteem suSered, it 
would not be that he objected to offering up the con- 
ventional incense, but that he might possibly think that, 
after all, the idol was made of rather inferior clay. Tem- 
ple, whatever his solid merits, was one of the showiest 
statesmen of the time ; but there was no man living with 
a teener eye for realities and a more piercing insight into 
shams of all kinds than this raw secretary from Ireland. 
In later life Swift frequently expressed his acorn for the 
mysteries and the " refinements " (to use his favourite 
phrase) by which the great men of the world conceal the 
low passions and small wisdom actually exerted in aSairs 
of state. At times ho felt that Temple was not merely 
claiming the outward show of respect, but setting too high 
a valne upon his real merits. So when Swift was at tht 
full flood of fortune, when prime ministers and secretaries 
of state were calling him Jonathan, or listening submia- 
sively to his lectures on " whipping-day," he reverts to his 
early experience. "I often think," he says, when speak- 
ing of bis own familiarity with St. John, " what a splutter 
Sir William Temple makes about being Secretary of State." 
And this is a less respectful version of a .sentiment es' 
pressed a year before : " I am thinking what a veneration 
we had for Sir W. Temple because he might have been Sec- 
retary of State at fifty, and here is a young fellow hardily 



tliirty in tliat employment." In the interval tbere is 
oilkH- clmrau'teriHlk- uiitburst: " I asked Mr. Secretary (St 
Juliu) what tbu dvvil ailed Mm on Sunday," and warned 
liim " tliat 1 would never be treated like a schoolboy ; tbat 
I hitd felt too Diucb of tliat iu my life already (meaning Sir 
W, Temple) ; tliat I expeutcd every great minister wlio 
hononred me vritb his acquaintance, if he heard and saw 
BDything to my disadvantage, woald let me know in plain 
words, and not put me in pain to guess by the cbangc or 
coldness of his countenance and behaviour." The day af- 
ter this effusion be maintains that he was right in what 
he said : " Don't you remember how I ntjcd to be in pain 
when Sir \V, Temple would look cold and out of bumonr 
for three or four dnys, and I used to auspect a hundred 
reasons! I have plucked up my spirits since then ; faith, 
he spoiled a fine gentleman." And jet, if Swift some- 
times thought Temple's authority oppressive, he was ready 
to admit his substantial merits. Tejnple, he says, in his 
rough mai^nalia to Burnet's Hintory, " was a man of 
sense and virtue ;" and the impromptu utterance probably 
reflects his real feeling. 

The year after his first arrival at Temple's, Swift went 
back to Ireland by advice of physicians, who " weakly im- 
^ncd that his native £ur might be of some use to recover 
bis health." It was at this period, we may note in passing, 
that Swift began to suffer from a disease which tormented 
him through life. Temple sent with him a letter of intro- 
dnctioQ to Sir Robert Southwell, Secretary of State in 
Ireland, which gives an interesting acconnt of their pre- 
vious relations. Swift, said Tenipie, had lived in his 
house, read for him, written for him, and kept his small 
accounts. He knew Latin and Greek, and a little French ; 
wrote a good hand, and was honest and diligent. nU 


whole family had long been known to Temple, who would 
be glad if Southwell would give him a clerkship, or got 
him a fellowship in Trinitj College. The Htatement of 
Swift's qualifications has now a. rather oomic sound. An 
applicant for a desk in & merchant's office onc« com- 
mended himself, it is snid, by the stRtenicnt that his style 
of writing combined scathing sarcasm with the wildest 
flights of humour. Swift might have had a better claim 
to a place for which such qualities were a recommendation ; 
but there is no reason, beyond the supposed agreement of 
fools to regard genius as a disadvantage in practical life, 
to suppose that Swift was deficient in humbler attainments. 
Before long, however, ho was back at Moor Park; and a 
period followed in which hia discontent with the position 
probably reached its height. Temple, indeed, must have 
discovered that his young dependent was really a man o( 
capacity. He recommended him to William. In 1693 
Swift went to Oxford, to be admitted ad ewndem, and 
received the M.A. degree ; and Swift, writing to thant 
hia uncle for obtHining the necessary testimonials from 
Dublin, adds that he has been most civilly received at 
Oxford, on the strength, presumably, of Temple's recom- 
mendation, and that he is not to take orders till the K7mg 
gives him a prebend. He Buspecta Temple, however, of 
being rather backward in the matter, " because (I snp- 
poae) he believes I shall leave him, and (upon some ao- 
counts) he thinks me a little necessary to him." Wil- 
liam, it is smd, was so far gracions as to ofEer to make 
Swift a caiituin of horse, and instruct him in the Dnt/ih 
mode of eating asparagus. By this last phrase hangs an 
anecdote of later days. Faulkner, the Dublin printer, v 
dining with Swift, and on asking for a second supply of 
asparagns was told by the Dean lo finish what he had o 

His plate. " What, air, eat my aUlkB f " Ay, i 

; Eng 

William always ale his stalks." "And were you," ashed 
Faulkner's hearer, when he related the slor}', " were you 
blockhead enough to obey him !" "Yes," replied Faulk- 
ner, " and if you had dined with Dean Swift tite-A-titt 
you would have been obliged to cat your stalks too I" 
For the present Swift was the recipient not the imposer 
of stalks ; and was to receive the first shock, as he tells 
as, that helped to cure him of his vanity. The question of 
the Triennial Bill was agitating political personages tn the 
early months of 1693. William and his favourite minis- 
ter, the Earl of Portland, found their Dutch experience in- 
sufficient to guide them in the mysteries of English con- 
stitutionalism. Portland came down to consult Temple 
at Moor Park ; and Swift was sent back to explain to the 
great men that Charles I. had been ruined, not by consent- 
ing to short Parliaments, but by abandoning the right to 
dissolve Parliament, Swift says that he was " wel! versed 
li history, though he was under twenty-one years 
(He was really twenty-five, but memory naturally 
9 youtbfulness.) His arguments, however, 
backed by history, failed to carry conviction, and Swift 
had to unlearn some of the youthful confidence which 
assumes that reason is the governing force in this world, 
and that reason means our own opinions. That so young 
a man should have been employed on such an errand 
shows that Temple roust have had a good opinion of hia 
capacities; but his want of success, however natural, was 
felt as a grave discouragement. 

That his discontent was growing is clear from other 
indications. Swift's early poems, whatever their defects, 
have one merit common to all his writings — the merit of 
a thorough, sometimes an appalling, sincerity. Two poems 

1 n.] 


which begin to display his real vigour are dated at tho end 
of 1693. Oae is an epistle to his schoolfellow, Congro* 
eipatiatitig, as some cototoIutioQ for the cold reception of 
the Double Dealer, upon tho contemptible nature of toi 
critics. Swift describes, as a typo of tlie wliolo race, 
Farnham lad who had left school a year before, and 
I jast returned a "fiuisbcd spark" from Londoo— 
" Stock'd with the UteM gibberish of Um lovn." 

ID an evil hour to provolw 




This wretched little fop 

" Hy hu^ whoM hah joM Bcsfcn bM loDg daeraad 
OmU Ml • ^7 ^Jk MB ud foOr MMd." 

And he ibeady appJiM it witb T^pMir caoa|^ to than 
that wttli Bone of the m/m^t power he tua alw tU 
iDdiq>ennble oooditiM of ■ ew u id ew M* ■CMBiiilitioi) 
of tDdignast wfalk i|,iiiit tlw ectf ••ppaifltod wUtws of 
tMte^ The a&er petm i> man ii Mrk ib l i b tu p mn wl 
U bc0M m a cdngrmlififfli to TenpU «• 
nnaheM. It pMM* !•(# • d«««r<ptfoB 
of Iniowii fatiVB^cJ tij ihCBlw taiWiW U> <<> 
dreoeee fau BMW M 


And be goes on to declare, after some vigorous lines : 
"To th«e I owe thtiC faUl bent of mind, 
Siill lo unbappr, reatleia tiuMghts inclined ; 
To tbee what oft 1 T&inl; etrive to tilde. 
That Boom of foo!«, bj fools mistook for pride ; 
From tlico, what<!v«r rirtuo takes lie riae, 
QrowB a raiaforlune, or becomes a vice." 

The sudden gush a& of biUer waters into the dulcet, i 
insipid current of conventional conj;ratu1utioD gives addi- 
tional point to the ^eotimeDt. Swift expands the last | 
couplet into a sentiment which remained with him tbroogfa I 
life. It is a blending of pride and remorse ; a regretful 
admiasion of the loftiness of spirit which has caused hia I 
misfortunes; and we are puzzled to say whether the pride 
or the remorse be the most genuine. For Swift always 
unites pride and remorse in his consciousneaa of his own 
virtues. | 

The " restteaanesa " avowed in these verses took the ' 
practical form of a rapture with Temple. In his auto- 
biographical fragment he says that he had a scruple of 
entering into the Chnrch merely for anpport, and Sir Wil- 
liam, then being Master of the Rolls in Ireland,' offered 
him an employ of about 120?. a year in that office ; where- 
upon Mr. Swift told him that since he Lad now an oppor- 
tunity of living without being driven into the Church for 
a maintenance, he was resolved to go to Ireland and tate 
Loly orders. If the scruple seems rather finely spun for 
Swift, the sense of the dignity of his profession is thor- 
oughly characteristic. Nothing, however, is more decep- 
tive than our memory of the motives which directed dis- 
tant actions. In bis contemporary letters there is no hint 
of any scrapie against preferment in the Church, but a d& 
' Temple had the reveraioii of hia father's office. 


cided objection to insufficient preferment. It is possible 
that Swift was confusing dates, and that the scruple was 
qaieted when he failed to take advantage of Temple's in< 
terest with Southwell. Ilaviag declined, he felt that he 
bad made a free eboioe of a clerical career. In 1692, as 
we have seen, he expected a prebend from Temple's influ- 
ence with William. But his doubts of Temple's desire or 
power to serve him were confirmed. In June, 1694, he 
tells a cousin at Lisbon : " I have left Sir W. Temple a 
month ago, just us I foretold it yon ; and everything hap- 
pened exactly as I guessed. He was extremely angry I 
left him ; and yet would not oblige himself any further 
than upon my good behaviour, nor would promise any- 
thing firmly to me at all ; so that everybody judged I did 
best to leave him." He is starting in four days for Dub- 
lin, and intends to be ordained in September. The next 
letter preserved completes the story, and implies a painful 
change in this cavalier tone of injured pride. TJpc 
to Dublin, Swift had found that some recommendation 
from Temple would be reqnired by tlie authorities. He 
tried to evade the requirement, but was forced at last to 
write a letter to Temple, which nothing but necessity 
conld have extorted. After expluning the case, ht 
" The particulars expected of me are what relates to 
and learning, and the reasons of quitting your honour's 
family; that is, whether the last was occasioned by any ill 
actions. They are all left entirely to your honour's mercy, 
though in the past I tliink I cannot reproaoh myself any 
farther than for iitfiTmilies. This," he adds, " is all I dare 
beg at present from your honour, under circumstances of 
life not worth your regard ;" and all that is left him to 
wish (" next to the health and prosperity of your honour's- 
family") is that Heaven will show him some day the op- 
C 2* 



M SWIFT. [caifi I 

portunity of mafeiag hin acknowledgments at " yoni' hon- 1 
oor's" feet. This seems to bo the only occasion on whicli I 
wo find Swift confessing to any fault except that of being I 
too virtuous. I 

The apparent doobt of Temple's magnanimity implied.! 
in tbo letter wa», happily, not verified. The testimonial I 
Becms to have been sent at once. Swift, in any case, was I 
ordained deacon on the 28th of October, 1694, and prieat 1 
on the 15th of January, 1695. Probably Swift felt that 
Temple had behaved with mngnaniniity, and in any case it I 
was not very long before he returned to Moor Park. He J 
had received from Lord Capel, then Lord Deputy, the small j 
prebend of Kilroot, worth about 100^. a year. Little U ] 
known of his life as a remote country clergyman, except 
that he very soon became tired of it.' Swift soon 
resigned bis prebend (in March, 1 698), and managed to 
obtain the succession for a friend in the neighbonrhood. 
But before this (in May, 1696) ho had returned to Moor \ 
Park. He had grown weary of a life in a remote district, | 
and Temple had raised his offers. He was glad to bo , 
once more on the edge at least of the great world in which 
alone could be found employment worthy of his talents. 
One other incident, indeed, of which a fuller account would 
be interesting, is connected with this departure. On the 
eve of his departure he wrote a passionate letter to 
"Varina," in plain English Miss Waring, sister of an old 
college chum. He " solemnly offers to forego all " (all 
his English prospects, that is) "for her sake." He does 
not want her fortune ; she shall live where she pleases, 

' It may be noticed, in illuBtration of the grairlh of the Swift 
legend, that two deiuonstrabl; false anecdotes — one Imputing 
tnonBtroua crime, the other a romautiu piece of benevalence to Snift 
— rofar to this period. 




till lie haa " pushed his advanccmeDt " atid is in a position 
to marry her, TLe letter is full of true lovers' protesta- 
tions ; reproaclies for her coldness ; hints at possible causes 
of jealousies ; declarations of the worthlessness of ambition 
as compared with love ; and denunciations of her respect 
for the little disguises and affected contradictions of her 
Bex, in&nitely beneath persoas of her pride and his own ; 
paltry maxims calculated only for the " rabble of human- 
ity." " By heaven, Varina," he exclaims, " you are more 
experienced and have less virgin innocence than I." The 
answer must have been unsatisfactory; though, from os- 
pressions in a letter to bis successor to the prebend, we 
see that the aSair was still going on in 1690. It will 
come to light once more. 

Swift was thus at Moor Park in the summer of 1696. 
He remained till Temple's death in January, 1699. We 
hear no more of any friction between Swift and his 
patron ; and it seems that the last years of their connex- 
ion passed in harmony. Temple was growing old; his 
wife, after forty years of a happy marriage, had died dur- 
ing Swift's absence in the beginning of 1695; and Tem- 
ple, though he seems to have been vigoroos, and in spite 
of gout a brisk walker, was approaching the grave. He 
occnpied himself in preparing, with Swift's help, memoirs 
and letters, which were left to Swift for posthumous 
pablicatioTi. Swift's various irritations at Moor Park 
have naturally left a stronger impression upon his history 
than the quietor hours in which worry and anxiety might 
be forgotten in the placid occupations of a country life. 
That Swift enjoyed many such hours is tolerably clear. 
Moor Park is described by a Swiss traveller who visited 
it about 1691' as the "model of an agreeable retreat." 
M. Uaralt. See ftppeniilii to Courtenay'a Life of 


Temple's lioosehold was free from the coarse conviTialituj 
of the boozing fox-hunting squires ; whilst the recollec 
of its modest neatness made the " magniliceat pakce " of 
Petwortii seem pompons and overpowering. Swift him- 
self remembered the Moor Park gardens, the special pride 
of Temple*s retirement, with affection, and tried to imitate 
them on a small scale in liis own garden at Laracor. Moor 
Park is on the edge of the great heaths which stretch 
southward to Hindhead, and northward to Aldershot and 
Chobham Ridges. Though we can scarcely credit him 
with a modern taste in scenery, ho at least anticipated the 
modem faith in athletic cscrcises. According to Deans 
Swift, he used to run up a hill near Temple's and back 
again to his study every two hours, doing the distance 
of half a mile in six minutes, la later life he preached 
the duty of walking with admirable perseverance to hia 
friends. Ho joined other exercises occasionally. " My 
Lord,'' he says to Archbishop King in 1721, "I row after 
health like a waterman, and ride after it like a postboy, 
and with some little success." But he had the character- 
istic passion of the good and wise for walking. Ho men- 
tions incidentally a walk from Farnham to Loudon, thirty- 
eight miles; and has some association with the Golden 
Parmer' — a point on the road from which there is still 
one of the loveliest views in the southern counties, across 
undulating breadths of heath and meadow, woodland and 
down, to Windsor Forest, St. George's Hill, and the chalk 
range from Guildford to Epsom. Perhaps he might have 
been a mountaineer in more civilized times ; his poem on 
the Carberry rocks seems to indicate a lover of Buch 
scenery ; and he ventured so near the edge of the cliS npon 

' The public-house st the point thus uametl on the Ortlimtice map 
ia now (I regret to mj) called the ilnll; Farmer. 


his atomach, that lua servanta had to drt^ him back by hia 
heels, y^e find him proposiog to walk to. Chester st the 
fate, I regret to say, of only ten miles a day. Id snch 
riimMes, we are told, he used to put up at wayside inns, 
whore " lodgings for a penny " were advertised ; bribing 
the maid with a tester to give him clean sheets and a bed 
to himself. The love of the roagh humour of waggoners 
and hostlers is supposed to have been his inducement to 
this practice, and the refined Orrery associates his coaree- 
ness with this lamentable practice; but amidst the roar 
of railways wo may think more tolerantly of the huraonrs 
of the Toad in the good old days, when each village had 
its humours and traditions and quaint 1e{;ends, and when 
homely masima of unlettered wisdom were to be picked 
up at rustic firesides, 

Recreations of this kind were a relief to serious stady. 
In Temple's library Swift found abundant occupation. " I 
am often," he says, in the first period of his residene«, 
"two or three months without seeing anybody besides 
the family." In a later fragment, we find him living 
alone " in great state," tbo cook coming for bis orders for 
dinner, and the revolutions in the kingdom of the rooks 
amusing his leisure. The results of his studies will be 
considered directly. A list of hooka read in 1097 gives 
some hint of their general nature. They are chiefly 
classical and historical. He read Virgil, Homer, Horace, 
Lucretius, Cicero's Epiatles, Petronius Arbiter, jElian, 
Lucius Florus, Herbert's Htnry VIII., Sleidan'a Comr 
mentaries, Council of Trent, Camden's Eliiabelh, Burnet's 
History of Ike Sfformalion, Voiture, Blackmore'a Prince 
Arthar, Sir J. Davis's poem of The Soul, and two or three 
travels, besides Cyprian and Irenasus. Wc may note the 
absence of any theological reading, except in the form of 



J8 Ewirr. [coat. 

eccleeiastical hUtorj' ; nor does Swift sttidy philosophy, ot 
which be seems to have had a sufficient dose in Dublin. 
History sceras always to have been his favourite study, and 
it would naturally have a large part in Temple's library. 

One matter of no small importance to Swift remains 
to be mentioned. Temple's family included other depen- 
dents besides Swift. The " little parson cousin," Tom 
Swift, whom his great relation always mentions with 
contempt, became chaplain to Temple. Jonathan's aistet 
was for some time at Moor Park. But the inmates of the 
family most interesting to us were a Rebecca Dingley — 
who was in some way related to the family — and Esther 
Johnson. Esther Johnson was the daughter of a merchant 
of respectable family who died young. Uor mother was 
known to Lady Giffard, Temple's attached sister ; and 
after her widowhood went with her two daughters to live 
vith the Temple^ Mrs. Johnson lived as servant or com* 
panion to Lady Giffard for many years after Temple's 
death ; and little Esther, a remarkably bright and pretty 
child, was bronght up in the family, and received under 
Temple's mill a sufficient legacy for her support. It was, 
of course, gneased by a charitable world that she was a 
natural child of Sir William's ; but there seems to be no 
real ground for the hypothesis.' She was bora, as Swift 
tells us, on March 13, 1681 ; and was, therefore, a little 
over eight when Swift first came to Temple, and fifteen 
when he returned from Kilroot.' About tbis age, he tells 

' The moat direct statement to tlils effect was madB in «m article 
in the OaiUanan'i Magaane tor 1161. It profesBcs to speak with au- 
tboritj, but induilessuch palpable blundera as to carry little weight. 

' I am uot CGrlain whether this means IBBl or 1681-82. I have 
ssaumcd tbe Former date in meutioning Stella's age; but the other 
is equally poaeible. 


as, she got over an infantile delicacy, " grew into perfect 
health, and was looked upon as one of the most beautifal, 
graceful, and agreeable young women in London, Her 
hair was blacker than a raven, and every feature of her 
face in perfection." Her conduct and character were 
equally remarkable, if we may trust the tator who taught 
her to write, guided her education, and came to regard her 
with an affection which was at once tlie happiness andthd 
nuaery of Lis life. 

Temple died January 26, 1899 ; and "with him," said 
Swift at the time, "all that was good and amiable among 
men." The feeling was doubtless sincere, though Swift, 
when moved very deeply, used less conventional phrases. 
He was thrown once more upon the world. The expectations 
of some settlement in life had not been realized. Temple 
had left him 100/., the advantage of publishing his post- 
humous works, which might ultimately bring in 2001. 
more, and a promise of preferment from the King. Swift 
had lived long enough upon the "chameleon's food." 
His energies were still running to waste ; and he suffered 
the misery of a weakness due, not to want at power, but 
want of opportunity, His sister writes to a cousin that 
her brother had lost his best friend, who had induced 
him to give up his Irish preferment by promising prefer- 
ment in England, and had died before the promise had 
been fulfilled. Swift was accused of ingi-atitude by Lord 
Palmerston, Temple's nephew, some thirty-five years later. 
In reply, he acknowledged an obligation to Temple for 
the recommendation to William and the legacy of his 
papers ; but he adds : " I hope yon will not charge my 
living in his family as an obligation ; for I was educated to 
little purpose if I retired to his house for any other motives 
than the benefit of Lis conversation and advice, and tho 



opportanitj of pnnaiog my studies. For, being bora to 
no fortooe, I was at hie death as far to seek as ever ; and 

perhaps you will allow that I was of s 

J to him." 

Swift seems here to assume tliat his motives for living 
wilh Temple are necessarily to be estimated by the results 
which he obtained. But, if he expected more than ha 
got, he does not sug^st any want of good-will. Temple 
had done his best; Willium's neglect and Temple's death 
had made good-will fruitless. The two might cry quits; 
and Swift set to work, not exactly with a sense of injnry, 
but probably with a strong feeling that a large portion 
of his life had been wasted. To Swift, indeed, misfort- 
une and injury seem equally to have meant resentment, 
whether against the fates or some personal object. 

One curious document must be noted before consider- 
ing the writings which most fully reveal the state of 
Swift's mind. In the year 1699 he wrote down some 
resolntions, headed "When I come to be old." They are 
for the moat part pithy and sensille, if it can ever be sen- 
sible to make resolutions for behaviour in a distant future. 
Swift resolves not to marry a youug woman, not to keep 
young company unless they desire it, not to repeat stories, 
not to listen to knavish, tattling servants, not to bo too 
free of advice, not to brag of former beauty and favour 
with ladies, to desire some good fiiends to inform him 
when he breaks these resolutions, and to reform accord- 
ingly ; and, finally, not to set up for observing all these 
rales, for fear he should observe none. These resolutions 
are not very original in substance (few resolutions are), 
thongh they suggest some keen ohaervation of bis elders;, 
but one is more remarkable : " Not to be fond of chil- 
dren, or hi litem come near me hardly" The words in 
italics ate blotted ont by a later possessor of the paper. 


shocked, doubtless, at the faarshnesa of tbe scntinieiit, 
"We do not fortify ourselves with resolutions agMnst 
what we dislike," says a friendly commentator, "but 
against what we feel in our weakness we have reason to 
believe we are really too much inclined to." Tot it is 
strange that a man should regard the purest and kindliest 
of feelings as a weakness to which he is too much in* 
clined. No man bad stronger affections than Swift; no 
man suffered more agony when they wore wounded ; bnt 
in his agony he would commit what to most men would 
seem the treason of cursing the affectioDS instead of sim- 
ply lamenting the injury, or holding the affection itself 
to be its own sufficient reward. The intense personality 
of the man reveals itself alternately as selfishness and as 
" altruism." He grappled to his heart those whom ha 
really loved "as with hoops of steel;" so firmly that they 
became a part of himself ; and that he considered himself 
at liberty to regard his love of friends as he might regard 
a love of wine, as something to be regretted when it was 
too strong for his own happiness. The attraction w$s in- 
tense, but implied the absorption of the weaker nature 
into his own. His friendships were rather anneiationa 
than alliances. The strongest instance of this cliamcter- 
istic was in his relations to the charming girl who must 
have been in his mind when he wrote this strange, and 
unconsciously propbetic, resolution. 

Swift came to Temple'a house as a raw student. He left 
it as the author of one of the most remarkable satires ever 
written. His first efforts had been unpromising enough. 
Certain Pindaric Odea, in which the jouthful aspirant 
imitated the still popular model of Cowley, are even comi- 
eally prosaic. The last of them, dated ICBl, is addressed 
to a queer Athenian Society, promoted by a John Dun- 
ton, a speculative bookseller, whose Life and Errors is 
Btill worth a glance from the curious. The Athenian So- 
ciety was the name of John Dunton himself, and two or 
three collaborators who professed in the Atkeniart Mer- 
cury to answer queries ranging over the whole field of 
human knowledge. Temple was one of their patrons, and 
Swift Bent them a panegyrica] ode, the merits of which 
are sufficiently summed up by Drydea's pithy criticism: 
" Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet." Swift disliked 
and abased Drydcn ever afterwards, though he may have 
had better reasons for his enmity than the child's dislike 
to bitter medicine. Later poems, the Epistle to Congreve 
and that to Temple already quoted, show symptoms of 
growing power and a clearer self-recognition. In Swift's 
last residence with Temple he proved unmistakably that 
he had learnt the secret often bo slowly revealed to great 
writers, the secret of his real strength. The Tale of a 


Tub was written abont 1696; part of it appears to hava 
been aeen at Kilroot by his friend, Waring, Varina's 
brother; the Battle of the Books was written in 1697. 
It is a curious proof of Swift's indifference to a literary 
reputation that Loth works remained in manuscript till 
1704. The "little paraou cousin," Tom Swift, ventured 
Bome kind of claim to a share in the authorship of the 
Tale of a Tub. Swift treated this claim with the utmost 
contempt, but never explicitly claimed for himself the 
aathorship of what some readers bold to be his most 
powerful work. 

The Battle of the Books, to which we may first attend, 
sprang out of the famous controversy as to the relative 
merits of the ancients and modems, which began in France 
with Perrault and Fontcaelle ; which had been set going 
in England by Sir W. Temple's essay upon ancient and 
modern learning (1692), and which incidentally led to the 
warfare between Bentley and Wotton on one aide, and 
Boyle and bis Osford allies on the other. A full account 
of this celebrated discnssion may be found in Professor 
Jebb's Bentley ; and, as Swift only took the part of a 
light skirmisher, nothing more need be said of it in this 
place. One point alone is worth notice. The eagerness- 
of the discussion is characteristic of a time at which the 
modern spirit was victoriously revolting against tbe an- 
cient canons of taste and philosophy. At first sight we 
might, therefore, expect tbe defenders of antiquity to be 
on the side of authority. In fact, however, the argument, 
as Swift takes it from Temple, is reversed. Temple's the- 
ory, so far as he had any consistent theory, is indicated in 
the statement that the modems gathered " all their learn- 
ing from books in the universities." Learning, he sog- 
gcsts, may weaken inrention ; and people who trust to the 

3* SWIFT. [cH 

charity of others will always be pour. Swift accepts and 
enforces this doctrine. Tlie BattU of the Books i: 
pres^oD of tbat contcuipt for pcilaota which be hod learnt . 
in Dublin, and which is cxprcBscd in the ode to the Athe- 
nian Society. Philosophy, lie telia ua in that preeinus pro- 
dnctjon," seems to have liorrowe J some ungrateful taste of 
doabts, impertinence, and niceties from every ago through 
which it passed " (this, 1 may observe, is verse), and v. 
a " medley of all agea," " ber face patched over with mod- 
ero pedantry." The moral fiuds a more poetical embodi- 
ment in the famous apologue of the Bee and the Spider 
in the Battle of the Books. The bee had got iteelf entan- 
gled in the spider's web in the library, whilst the books 
were beginning to wrangle. The two have a sharp dis- 
pute, which ifl Bumraed up by .^sop .is arbitrator. The 
spider represents the moderns, who spin their scboIa£tic 
pedantry out of their own insides ; whilst the bee, like 
tbe ancients, goes direct to nature. The moderns produce 
nothing hat " wrangling and satire, much of a nature with 
the spider's poison, which, however they pretend to spit 
wholly out of themselves, is improved by the same arts, by 
feeding upon the insects and vermin of the ; 
the ancients, " profess to nothing of our own beyond our 
wings and our voice : that is to say, our flights and our 
language. For tbe rest, whatever we have got has been 
by injinite labonr and research, and ranging through every 
comer of nature ; the difference is tbat, instead of dirt 
and poison, we have rather chosen to fill our hives with 
honey and wax, t!ma furnishing mankind with the two 
noblest of things, which are sweetness and light." 

The Homeric battle which follows is described with in- 
finite spirit. Fallofl is the patron of the ancients, whilst 
Momus undertakes tbe cause of the moderns, and a 


for help to the nialignsnt deitj Criticism, who is found ia 
her den at the top of a sDowy moantain, extended upon 
the spoils of numberless half-devoured volumes. By her, 
as Hbe enclaima in thu regulation soliloquy, children be- 
come wiser tban their parents, beauK become politicians, 
and schoolboys judges of philosophy. She flies to her 
darling Wotton, gathering np her person into an octavo 
BompasB ; her body grows white and arid, and splits in 
pieces with dryness ; a concoction of gall and soot is 
Btrcwn in the shape of letters upon her person ; and so 
she joins the modernx, " undistinguisliable in shape and 
dress from the divine Bcntlcy, Wotton'a dearest friend." 
It is needless to follow the fortunes of tbo fight wfaiclt 
follows ; it is enoagh to observe that Virgil is encoun- 
tered by his trmisktor Dryden in a helmet " nine times 
too large for the head, which appeared situate far in the 
hinder part, even like the kdy in the lobster, or like a 
mouse under a canopy of state, or like a shrivelled beaa 
within the penthouse of a modern periwig ; and the voice 
was suited to the visage, sounding weak and remote ;" and 
that the book is concluded by an episode, in which Bent- 
ley and Wotton try a diversion and steal the annonr of 
Phalaris and -^aop, but are met by Boyle, clad in a suit 
of armoar given hira by all the gods, who trausfiies 
them on faia spear like a brace of woodcocks < 

The raillery, if taken in its critical aspect, recoils npoi 
the author, Dryden hardly deserves the scorn of VirgU ; 
and Bentloy, as we know, made short work of Phalaris 
and Boyle. But Swift probably knew and cared little for 
the merits of the controversy. He expresses bis contempt 
with characteristic vigour and coarseness; and our plea»- 

B in jtia diaplay of exuberant satirical power is not in- 



jnred by hia obvious misconception of the merits of the 
CAae. The unflagging spirit of the writing, the fertility 
and ingenuity of the illustrations, do as much as can be 
done to give lasting vitality to what is radically (to my 
taste «t least) a rather dreary form of wit The BattU 
of the Books is the best of the traveeties. Nor in the brill- 
iant assault upon great names do we at present see any- 
thing more than the buoyant consciousness of power, com- 
mon in the unsparing judgments of youth, nor edged as 
yet by any real bitterness. Swift has found out that the 
■world is fall of hnmbugs; and goes forth hewing and 
hacking with superabundant energy, not yet aware that 
he too may conceivably be a fallible being, and still less 
that the humbugs may some day prove too strong for 

The same qualities are more conspicuous in the far 
greater satire, the Tale of a Tub. It is so striking a per- 
formance that Johnson, who cherished one of his stubborn 
prejudices against Swift, doubted whether Swift could 
have written it. " There is in it," he said, " such a vigour 
of mind, such a swarm of thoughts, so much of nature, 
and art, and life." The doubt is clearly without the least 
foundation, and the estimate upon which it is based is 
generally disputed. The Tale of a Tub has certainly not 
achieved a reputation equal to that of Gulliver's Travels, 
to the merits of which Johnson was curiously blind. Yet 
I think that there is this much to be said in favour of 
Johnson's theory, namely, that Swift's style reaches its 
highest point in the eariier work. There is less flagging ; 
a greater fulness and pressure of eneigetic thought; a 
power of hitting the nail on tie head at the first blow, 
which has declined in the work of his matnrer years, when 
iife was weary and thought intermittent Swift seem"* 



to hs,ve felt this Mmaelf. In tLe twilight of Lis Intellect 
he was med taniing over the pages and murmuring to 
himaelf, "Good God, what a genius I had when I wrote 
that bookl" In an apology (dated 1709) he mates a 
statement which may help to explain this facl> "Tha 
author," he says, "was then (I6fl8) young, his ioTentiou 
at the height, and his reading fresh in his head. By the 
assistamie of some thinking and much conversation, be 
had endeavoured to strip himself of as many prejudices 
as he could." He resolved, aa he adds, " to proceed in a 
manner entirely now ;" and he afterwards clairos in the 
most positive terms that through the whole book (in- 
cluding both the tale and the battle of the hooks) he has 
not borrowed one "single hint from any writer in the 
world.'" No writer has ever been more thoroughly or^- 
nal than Swift, for his writings are simply himself. 

The Tale of a Tub is another challenge thrown down 
to pretentious pedantry. The vigorous, self-confident in- 
tellect has found out the emptiness and absurdity of a 
nnmher of the solemn formulee which pass current in the 
world, and tears them to pieces with audacious and re- 
joicing energy. He makes a mock of the paper cbiuna 
with which solemn professors tried to fetter his activity, 
and scatters the fragments to the four winds of Heaven. 

■ WottoQ first Accused Swift of borrowiDg the idea of the battle 
from a French book, by one Coutraj, called Bisloire PoUiqut de 
la Overre nojiBeltemmt declarit enirt la Attdera el Modema, Sirlft 
declared {I have no doubt trulj) that he had never seen or heard of 
this book. But Coutray, like Swift, uses the scheme of a tnook 
Homerio battle. The book is prose, but begios with a poem, Tha 
resemblance is much closer than Mr. Foratar'a language would imply; 
but I agree with him that it does not justify Johosoa ami Scott in 
regarding it as more than a natural coiutideuce. Ertry detail ia 




Id one of the first eoctiooB he announces the phih»ophy 1 

afterwards espuunded by Herr TcnfelsdrOckh, according 1 
to which "man liiin»elf is but » ii)icro-co:it ;" if one of tha j 
roits of clothes called animals " be trimmed np with s 1 
gold chain, and a red gown, and a white rod, and a pelt 1 
look, it is called a Lord Mayor; if certain erminea and j 
furs be placed in a certain position, we style them n jndgej 
and so an apt conjunction of lann und black satin ws 
entitle a bishop." Though Swift does not himself de- 
velop ibis philoBOpblcal doctrine, its later form reflects 
Kpbt npon the earlier theory. For, in truth, Swift's 
teaching comes to this, that the solemn plausibilttieB of j 
the world are but so many "shams" — elaborate maaks j 
used to disgnise the passions, for the most part baM J 
gnd eartbly, by which mankind is really impelled. Tha I 
"digreaaons" which be introduces with the privilegft of 
A humorist bear chiefly upon the literary sham. He falls | 
foul of the whole population of Grub Street at starting, 
and {as I may note in passitig) incidentally gives a curioiw j 
hint of bis authorship. He describes himself as a worn- I 
out pamphleteer who has worn his quill to the pitb in ] 
the service of the state: "Fourscore and eleven pamphlets I 
have I writ under tbe reigns and for the service of six- 
and-tbirty patrons." Porson first noticed that tbe st 
numbers are repeated in Oulliver'a Travels; Gulliver ia 1 
fastened with "fourscore and eleven chains" locked to j 
his left leg " with six-and-thirty padlocks." Swift makes j 
tbe usual ODslaogbt of a youug author upon the critics, 
with more than the usnal vigour, and carries on the war 
against Bentley and bia ally by parodying Wotton's re- 
marks upon tbe ancients. He has discovered many omis- 
sions in Homer, " wbo seems to have read but very su- 
perficially either Sendivogu& Behmen, or Anthr^mn^ia 


r mcntionB a savcall ; and bss 

Magia."' Homer, too, i 
A Still worse fault — his ' 
laws of this realm, and in the doctrine aa well as discipline 
of the Church of England " — defects, indeed, for which he 
has been jnstly eetisured by Wotton. Perhaps the most 
vigorous and certainly the moat striting of these digrea- 
sions is that upon " the original use and improTetnent of 
madneEs in a commonwealth." Just in passing, as it were. 
Swift gives the pith of a whole system of misanthropy, 
though he as yet seoma to be rather indulging a play of 
fancy than expresaing a settled conviction. Happiness, he 
says, is a "perpetual possession of being well deceived." 
The wisdom which keeps on the surfaeo ia bettor tliaD 
that which persists in officiously prying into the under- 
lying reality. " Last week I saw a woman flayed," ho 
observes, "and you will hardly believe how much it 
altered her person for the worse." It ia best to be 
content with patching up the outside, and bo assuring 
the "serene, peaceful state" — the subliraest point of 
felicity — "of being a fool amongst knaves." Ho goes 
on to tell ns how iisefut madmen may be made : how 
CurtiuB may be regarded equally aa a madman and a 
hero for his leap into the gulf; how the raging, blas- 
pheming, noisy inmate of Bedlam is fit to have a re|^- 
ment of dragoons; and the bnatliog, sputtering, bawling 
madman should be sent to Westminster Hall ; and the 
solemn madman, dreaming dreams and seeing best in the 
dark, to preside over a congregation of Dissenters ; and 
how elsewhere you may find the raw material of the 

* This was a trcBtiEG \iy Thomas, twin brother of Henr? Tanghao, 
the " Siluviat." It led to a coDlraverey with Henry More. Vaughan 
ma a Roaluracian. Strift's contempt for mjateriea ia charocteriBUa 
BeodivoguB was a famous alchemist (1666 — 1646), 






mcrcbant, tbe courtier, or the monarch. We a 
madmen, and happy bo far as mad : delusion and 
of mind go together ; and the more truth wo know, 
more shall ne recognize that realities arc hideous. 6 
only plays with his paradoxes. lie laughs without tr 
bling himself to decide whether bis irony tells against ' 
theories wliich be ostensibly espouses, or those which 
ostensibly attacks. But be has only to adopt in serion^' 
ness the fancy with which he is dallying, in order to 
gradoate as a finished pessimist These, however, I 
interruptions to the main thread of the book, whtcb it 
a daring assault upon that sorioua kind of pedantiy 
which utters itself in tbeological systems. The thrM 
brothers, Peter, Martin, and Jack, represent, as we all 
know, the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, and the Puri- 
tanical varieties of Christianity. They start with a new 
coat provided for each by their father, and a will to 
explain the right mode of wearing it; and after soma 
years of faithful observance they fall in love with tbe 
three ladies of wealth, ambition, and pride, get into ter> 
ribly bad ways, and make wild work of the coats and the 
will. They excuse themselves for wearing shoulder-knots 
by picking the separate letters 8, H, and so forth, out of 
separate words In the will, and as K is wanting, discovei 
it to be synonymous with C. They reconcile themselves 
to gold lace by remembering that when they were boys 
they heard a fellow say that bo bad beard their father's 
man say that be would advise bis sons to get gold laca 
when they had money enough to buy it. Then, as the 
will becomes troublesome in spite of exegetical ingenuity, 
the eldest brother finds a convenient codicil wliich 
tacked to it, and will sanction a new fashion of fiame-col- 
oured satin. The will expressly forbids silver fringe 

be J 


coats; but tbey discover that the word meaning sUver 
fringe may also signify a broomstick. And by such 
devices they go on merrily fur a time, tiil Peter seta up 
to be the sole heJr and Insists upon the obedience of his 
brethren. His performances in this poMtion are trying to 
their temper. " Whenever it happened that any rogne of 
Newgate was condemned to be hanged, Peter mould offer 
bim a pardon for a certain Bum of money ; vf hich, when 
the poor eaitiS had made all shifts to scrape up and send, 
his lordship would return a piece of paper in this form : 

'"To all mayors, sheriffs, jailors, constables, bailiffs, hang- 
men, &c. — Whereas we are informed that A. B. remains in 
the hands of yon or some of you, under the sentence of 
death : We will and command you, upon sight hereof, to 
let the said prisoner depart to his own habitation, whether 
he stands condemned for murder, &c., &b., for which this 
shall be your sufficient warrant; and if you fail hereof, 
God damn you and yours to all eternity; and so we bid 
yoa heartily farewell. — Your most humble man's man. 
Emperor Peter.' 

"The wretches, trusting to this, lost their lives and 
their money too." Peter, however, became ontrageouslj 
proud. Ho has been seen to take " three old highr 
crowned hats and clap them all on his head three-storey 
high, with a huge bunch of keys at his girdle, and an 
angliag-rod in his band. In which guise, wbocver went 
to take him by the band in the way of salutation, Peter, 
with much grace, like a well-educated spaniel, would pre- 
sent them with his foot; and if they refused his civility, 
then he would raise it as high as their chops, and give 
him a damned kick on the mouth, which baa ever sincB 
been called a salute." 

Peter receives his brothers at dinner, and has nothing 



43 SWlF-r. ((n4Kl 

•erved np hot a brown loaf. "Comi;," he says, "tall on \ 
and Rpnre not; here is excellent good mnUon," and fa« i 
helps tltem each to ft elico. The brothera TcmoDRtratey i 
and try to point oat that thoy mo only bread. Tbaf ' 
argue for some time, but have to give in to a conclusive I 
at^^aniont. " ' Look ye, gentlemen,' cricB PeWr. iti a rage, 
'U> convince yoo what a couple of blind, positive, igno- ' 
rant, wilful pappieg yuu are, 1 will use but this simple ar- 
gomcnt. By G — it \s trup, good, natural mutton as any 
in Leadcnhall Market; and G — confound you both eter- 
nally if you offer to believe otherwise.' Snob a thunder- 
ing proof as this left no further room for objection ; tbe ' 
two nnbelicvers began to gather and pocket up their mis- 
take as hastily as they could," and have to admit besides 
that another large dry crust is true juice of the grape. 

The brothers Jack and Martin afterwards fall out, and 
Jack is treated to a atorm of ridicule much in the Bain« 
vein as that directed against Peter; and, if IcsH polntedi ' 
certainly not less expressive of contempt. I need not fur- 
ther follow the details of what Johnson calls this " wild 
book," which ia in every page brimful of intense satirical 
power. I must, however, say a few words upon a matt«r , 
which is of great importance in forming a cluar judgraent i 
of Swift's character. The Tale of a Tub was universally ' 
attributed to Swift, and led to many doubts of his orlho- i 
doxy and even of his Christianity. Sharpe, Archbishop of I 
York, injured Swift's chances of preferment by insinuating ' 
such doubts to Queen Anne. Swift bitterly resented the 
imputation, lie prefixed an apology to a later edition, in 
whicb he admitted that he bad said some rash things; but 
declared that he would forfeit his life if any one opinion 
contrary to morality or religion could be fairly deduced 
from tbe book. He pointed out that he had attacked no 




Anglican doctrine. His ridicule spares Martin, and b 
pointed at Peter and Jack. Like every satirist who ever 
wrot<}, 1)6 does not attack the ubo bat the abuse; and as 
the Church of England represents for him the purest em- 
bodimenl of the truth, an attack upou the abuses of relig- 
ion meant an attack upon other churches only in so Ear 
as they diverged from this model. Critics have accepted 
this apology, and treated poor Queen Anne and her ad- 
visers as representing simply the prudery of the tea-table. 
The question, to my thinking, does not admit of quite so 
simple an answer. 

If, in fact, we ask what is the true object of Swift's au- 
dacious satire, the anawer will depend partly upon our own 
estimate of the truth. Clearly It ridicules "abuses;" but 
one man's use is another's abuse, and a dogma may ap- 
pear to Ds venerable or absurd according to our own creed. 
One test, however, may he suggested which may gnide our 
decision. Imagine the Tale of a Tub to he read by Bisbop 
Bntlcr and by Voltaire, wiio called Swift a RabelaU jier- 
/ecliiinne. Cau any one doubt that the believer would be 
scandalized and the scoffer find bimseif iu a thoroughly 
congenial element? Would not any believer shrink from 
the use of such weapons even though directed against bis 
enemies? Sctttt urges that the satire was useful to the 
High Church party because, as he says, it is important for 
any institution in Britain (or anywhere else, we may add) 
to have the laughers on its side. But Scott was too saga- 
cious not to indicate the obvious reply. The condition of 
having the laughers on your side is to he on the side of 
the laughers. Advocates of any serious cause feel that 
there is a danger in accepting such an alliaoce. The 
laughers who join you in ridiculing your enemy are by 
d to refrain from laughing in tarn at the 

44 SWOT. [com-. , 

laugher. When Swift had ridiculed all the Catholic aod 
all tho Puritan dogmas in the moat unsparing faahion, 
could be be aare thnt the Thirty-nine Articles would es- 
cape acot-free) The Catholic theory of a Church posBBsa- 
ing divine authority, the Puritan theory of a divine voice 
addressing tho individual soul, suggested to him, in their 
concrete umbodinieuta at least, nothing but a horse-laugh. 
Could any one be sure that the Anglican euibodiment of 
the same theories might Dot be turned to equal account by 
the scoffer! Was the true bearing of Swift's satire in fact 
limited to the deviations from sound Church of England 
doctrine, or might it not be directed against the very vital 
principle of the doctrine itself! 

Swift's blindoeBs to such criticisms was thoroughly char- 
acteristic. He professes, as we have seen, that he had need 
to clear his mind of Teal prejudices. He admits that the 
procosa might bo pushed too far; that is, that in abandon- 
ing a prejudice you may be losing a principle. In fact, 
the prejudices from which Swift had sought to free him- 
self — and no doubt with great success — were the prejudices 
of other people. For them he felt unlimited contempt 
But the prejudice which had grown up in his mind, 
strengthened with his strength, and become intertwined 
with all his personal aSections and antipntiiies, was no 
longer a prejudice in his eyes, but a sacred principle. Tha 
intensity of his contempt for the follies of others shut hia 
eyes effectually to any similarity between their tenets and 
his own. His principles, true or false, were prejudices 
the highest degree, if by a prejudice we mean an opinion 
clieriBhcd because it has somehow or other become ours, 
though the " somehow " may exclude all reference to rea- 
son. Swift never troubled himself to assign any philo- 
sophical basis for hia doctrines ; having, indeed, a hearty 


contempt for pLiloBophizing in general. He clung to the 
doctrines of bis Cburcl), not because he could give abstract 
reasons for his bolief, but simply because the Church hap- 
pened to be his. It is eqnalty true of all his creeds, polit- 
ical or theological, that be loved them as he loved bis 
friends, simply because they had become a part of him- 
self, and were, therefore, identified with all his hopes, am- 
bitions, and aspirations, public or private. We shall see 
hereafter how fiercely he attacked the Dissenters, and how 
scornfully he repudiated all argumcnta founded upon the 
desirability of union amongst Protestants. To a calm 
outside observer differences might appear to be superficial; 
but to him no difference could be other than radical and 
profound which in fact divided him from an antagonist. 
In attacking the Presbyterians, cried more temperate 
people, you are attacking your brothers and your own 
opinions. No, replied Swift, I ata attacking the cor- 
niption of my principles; hideous caricatures of myself; 
caricatures the more hateful in proportion to their apparent 
likeness. And therefore, whether in political or theologi- 
cal warfare, he was snblimely unconscious of the possible 
reaction of his arguments. 

Swift took a characteristic mode of showing that if upon 
some points he accidentally agreed with the unbeliever, 
it was not from any covert sympathy. Two of bis most 
rigorous pieces of satire in later days are directed against 
the deists. In IVOS he published an Argumetil to prove 
that the aholUkiiuj of Christianity in England may, oi 
things now stand, be attended with some inconveniences, 
and perhaps not produce those many good effects proposed 
thereby. And in 1713, in the midst of hia most eager 
political warfare, he published Mr. ColUns's Diseoarse of 
Freetkinking, put into plain Jinglish, by vmy of abstract. 

M ' SWIFT [i.u 

for uu of the poor. No one wbo reads tbese pniupbleU 
can deny that tbe koene«t MtJre may be directed af^tunst 
infidels as wL>li as against Climtiaiu. Tim last U an 
admirnble pArody, in wbidi poor Gullias's argiimenti an 
tumud af^inst liimself witb iiigenious and provoking ironj. 
Tbo first U, perhaps, Swift's cleverest application of the 
same metbod. A uotnina) religion, bo urges gravely, is of 
some ase, for if men cannot be allowed a God to revile or 
renounce, they will speak evil of dignities, and may even 
come to "reflect upon tbo ministry." If Clirislianity 
were once abolished, the wits nonld be deprived of thnr 
favourite topic. " Wbo would ever have suspected Asgil 
for a wit or Toland for a pbilosopher if tbe inexhaustible 
stock of Cliristianity bad Dot been at band to provide 
tbem with materials!" Tbe abolition of Cliristianity, 
moreover, may possibly bring tbe Cbarch into danger, fot 
atheists, deists, and Sociuians have little zeal for tbe pros- 
ent eccleeiaitical establishment ; and if they once get rid of 
Christianity, tbey may aim at setting up Presbyterian ism. 
Moreover, aa long as we keep to any religion, we do not 
strike at tbe root of the evil, Tbe freethinkers consider 
that all tbe parts bold together, and that if yon pull out 
one nail tbe whole fabric will fall. Which, be aays, was 
happily expressed by one wbo beard that a text brought 
in proof of the Trinity was differently read in some an- 
cient manuscript, whereupon he Huddenly leaped through 
a long soriia to the logical conclusion : " Why, if it be 
as you say, I may safely .... drink on and defy tbe 

A serious meaning underlies Swift's sarcasms. Collins 
had argued in defence of the greatest possible freedom of 
discussion, and tacitly assumed that snch discussion would 
lead to disbelief of Christianity. Opponents of tbe liberal 




school had answered by claiming his first principle as 
their own. They argued that religion was baaed upon 
reason, and would be atreoglheiied instead of weakened 
by free inquiry. Swift virtually takes a different position. 
He objects to freethinking because ordinary minds are 
totally unfit for aucli inquiries. "The bulk of mankind," 
as he puts it, is as " well qualified for liying aa thinking;" 
and therefore free-thought would lead to anarchy, atheism, 
and immorality, aa liberty to fly wonld leail to a breaking 
of necks. 

Collins rails at priests as tyrants npheld by imposture. 
Swift virtually replies that they are the sole guides to 
truth and guardians of morality, and that theology should 
be left to them, as medicine to physicians and law to law- 
yers. The argument against the abolition of Christianity 
takes the same ground. Religion, however little regard 
is paid to it in practice, is, in fact, the one great security 
for a decent degree of social order; and the rash fools 
who venture to reject what they do not understand arc 
public enemies as well as ignorant sciolists. 

The same view is taken in Swift's sermons. He said 
of himself that he could only preach political pamphlets. 
Several of the twelve sermons preserved are in fact directly 
aimed at some of the political and social grievances which 
he was habitually denoanciag. If not exactly " pam- 
piilets," they are sermons in aid of pamphlets. Others 
are vigorous and sincere moral disconraes. One alone 
deals with a purely theological topic : the doctrine of the 
Trinity. His view is simply that " men of wicked lives 
wonld be very glad if there were no truth in Christianity 
at all." They therefore cavil at the mysteries to find some 
excuse for ^ving up the whole. He replies in effect that 
thtrt must be mystery, though not contradiction, eveiy- 


where, ftod that if we do not accept bttmbly what Is taaght 
in the Scriptures, ne must give up ChristiADit;, and con- 
sequently, as he holds, all moral obiigatiou, at once. The 
cavil is merely the pretext of an evil conscience. Swift's 
religion thus partook of the directly practical nature of 
his whole character. He vaa absolutely indiSorent to 
epecalative philosophy. lie was even more indifferent to 
the mystical or imaginative aspects of religion. lie loved 
downright concrete realities, and was not the man to lose 
himself in an Oh, altitudo ! or in any train of thought or 
emotion not directly hearing upon the actual business of 
the world. Though no man had more pride in his order 
or love of its privileges. Swift never emphasized his pro- 
fessional character. lie wished to bo accepted as a man 
of the world and of busmess. lie deepised the unpracti- 
cal and visionary type, and the kind of religious utterance 
congenial to men of that type was abhorrent to blm. He 
shrank invariably too from any display of his emotion, and 
would have felt the heartiest contempt for the senti- 
mentaliam of his day. At once tho proudest and most 
sensitive of men, it was Lis imperative instinct to hide 
his emotions as much as possible. In cases of great ex- 
citement he retired into some secluded corner, where, if 
he was forced to feci, he could be snre of hiding his 
feelings. He always masks his strongest passions under 
some ironical veil, and thus practised what his friends 
regarded as an inverted hypocrisy. Dolany tells us that 
he stayed for six months in Swift's house before discover- 
ing that the Dean always read prayers to his servants at a 
fixed hour in private. A deep feeling of solemnity showed 
itself in his manner of performing public religious exer- 
cises; but Delany, a man of a very different temperament, 
blames his friend for carrying his reserve in all such mat- 



tera to extremes. In certain respects Swift was ostcnta- 
tioaa enough ; but this intense dislike to wearing; his 
heart upon liis sleeve, to laying bare the secrets of hia 
aflectiona before unsympathetic eyes, is one of his most 
indelible characteristics. Swift could never have felt the 
slightest sympathy for the kind of preacher who courts 
appUusc by a public exhibition of intimate joys and sor- 
rows ; and was less afraid of suppressing some genuine 
emotion than of showing any in the slighteat degree tin- 

Although Swift took in the main what may be called 
tiie political view of religion, he did not by any meana 
accept that view in its cynical form, He did not, that is, 
hold, in Gibbon's famous phrase, that all religions were 
equally false and equally usefnl. His religions instincta 
were as strong and genuine as they were markedly un- 
demonstrative. He came to take (I am anticipating a 
little) a gloomy view of the world and of hnman nature. 
He had the most settled conviction not only of the mis- 
ery of human life but of the feebleness of the good ele- 
ments in the world. The bad and the stupid are the 
best fitted for life as we find it. Virtue is generally a 
misfortune ; the more we sympathize, the more cause we 
have for wretchedness ; our aScctions give us the purest 
kisd of happiness, and yet our affections expose us to 
Bufferings which more than outweigh the enjoyments. 
There is no such thing, he said in his decline, as " a i-na 
old gentleman;" if so-and-so had had either a mind or a 
body worth a farthing, " they would have worn him out long 
^o." That became a typical sentiment with Swift. His 
doctrine was, briefly, that : virtue was the one thing which 
descn'ed love and admiration ; and yet that virtue, in thia 
hidcoui chaos of a world, involved misery and decay. 


80 SWUT. [ca» 

What would be the Ic^csl resnlt of euch a creed I do not I 
preBume to say. Certainly, we should gacss, somethiog[< I 
more pcseimUtic or MsnichnaQ than suits the ordioary 
iaterpretation of Christian doctrine. But for Swift this 
stato of mind carried nitb it the necessity of cViaging to 
some religious creed : not because the creed held out 
promises of a better hereafter — for Swift was too much 
Absorbed in the present to dwell much upon such beliefs — 
but rather becaoae it provided hira with some sort of fixed 
convictions in this atrango and disastrous muddle. If it 
did not give a solution in terms intelligible to the human 
iDtellcct, it eoeouraged the belief that some solution ex- 
isted. It justified hii» to himself for contiuoiDg to re- 
spect morality, and for going on living, when all the game 
of life seemed to bo decidedly going in favour of the 
devil, and suicide to be the most reasonable course. At 
least, it enabled him to associate himself with the caoses 
nod principles which he recognized as the most ennobling 
element in the world's " mad farce ;" and to utter himself 
in formula consecrated by the use of sach wise and good 
beings as had hitherto shown themselves amongst a 
wretched race, I'laced in another situation, Swift, no 
doubt, might have pat his creed — to apeak after tlie 
Clothes Philosophy — into a different dress. The sub- 
fitance could not have been altered, unless his whole 
character as well as his particular opinions had been 
profoundly modified. 


Swrrr at the age of tliirty-one bad gained a small amoant 
of cash and a promise from "William. He applied to the 
King, but the great man in whom ho trusted failed to de- 
liver his petitioD ; and, after some delay, he accepted an 
invitation to become chaplain and secretary to the Earl of 
Berkeley, jnst made one of the Lords Justices of Ireland. 
He acted as secretary on the journey to Ireland; but, 
npon reaching Dublin, Lord Berkeley gave the post to 
another man, who had persnaded him that it was unfit for 
a clergyman. Swift next claimed the deanery of Derry, 
which soon became vacant. The secretary had been 
bribed by 1000/. from another candidate, upon whom the 
deanery was bestowed ; but Swift was told that he might 
still have the preference for an equal bribe. Unable or 
unwilling to comply, he took leave of Berkeley and the 
secretary, with the pithy remark, "God confound yon 
both for a couple of scoundrels," He was partly pacified, 
however (February, 1 700), by the gift of Laracor, a village 
near Trim, some twenty miles from Dublin. Two other 
small livings, and a prebend in the cathedral of 8t. 
Patrick, made up a revenue of about 230/. a year.' The 
income enabled him to live ; but, in spite of the rigid 
economy which he always practised, did not enable him 

' Sec-Forster.p, 117. 

to aave. Marriflge under such circumatanceH would hay» " 
mennt the abandooiaent of an ambitious career. A wife 
«nd familj would bare anchored him to liis couDtry par- 

This may help to explain an unpleasant episode nbicb 
followed. Poor Varina had resisted Swift's entreaties, 
on the ground of her own ill-bealth and Swift's want of 
fortune. She now, it aeerns, thought that the economical 
difBculty WAS removed by Swift's proferment, and wished 
the marriage to take place. Swift replied in a letter, 
which contains all our information, and to which I con 
apply no other epithet than brutal. Some men might 
feel hound to fulfil a marriage engagement, even when 
love had grown cold; others might think it better to 
break it off in the interests of both parties. Swift's plan 
was to offer to fulfil it on conditions so insulting that no 
one with a grain of self-respect could accept. In his lot- 
tor ho expresses resentment for Miss Waring's previous 
treatment of bim ; he reproaches her bitterly with the 
company in which she lives — including, as it seems, her 
mother; no young woman in the world with her incoms 
should "dwindle away her health in such a sink and 
among such family conversation." He explains that he is 
still poor; be doubts the improvement of her own health; 
and he then says that if she will submit to he educated so 
as to be capable of entertaining him : to accept all hia 
likes and dislikes : to soothe his ill-humour, and live 
cheerfully wherever he pleases, he will take her without 
inquiring into her looks or her income. "Cleanliness in 
the first, and competency in the other, is all I look for." 
Swift could be the most persistent and ardent of frienda. 
But, when any one tried to enforce claims no longer con- 
genial to bis feelings, the appeal to the galling obligation 



staitg him into ferocity, and brought out the most brntal 
Bidi! of his imperious nature. 

It was in the course of the next year that Swift took a 
step which has sometimes been associated with this. The 
death of Temple had left Esther Johnson homeless. The 
amall fortune left to her by Temple consisted of an Irish 
farm. Swift suggested to her that she and her friend 
Mrs. Dingley would get better interest for their money, 
and lire more cheaply, in Ireland than in England. This 
change of abode naturally made people talk. The little 
parson cousin asked (in 1708) whether Jonathan had been 
able to resist the charms of the two ladies who Imd 
marched from Moor Park to Dublin " with full reaolution 
to engage him." Swift was now (1701) in his thirty- 
fourth year, and Stella a singularly beautiful and attractive 
girl of twenty. The anomalous connexion was close, and 
yet most carefully guarded against scandal. In Swift's 
absence, the ladies occupied his apartments at Dublin. 
When he and they were in the same place they took sep- 
arate lodgings. Twice, it seems, they accompanied him 
on visits to England. But Swift never saw Esther John- 
son except in presence of a third person ; and he incident- 
ally declares in 1726 — near the end of her life — that ha 
had not seen her in a morning " these dozen years, except 
once or twice in a journey." The relations thns regulated 
remained unaltered for several years to come. Swift's 
duties at Laracor were not excessive. He reckons his con- 
gregation at fifteen persons, "most of them gentle and all 
simple." He gave notice, says Orrery, that ho would read 
prayers every Wednesday and Friday. The congregatioQ 
on the first Wednesday consisted of himself and his clerk, 
and Swift began the service, "Dearly beloved Roger, the 
Scripture moveth you and me," and so forth. This being 




attributed to Swift in supposed to be an exquisite piece of % 
facetioQsness ; but we may bope lliat, as So-ott gives as 
reuoti to tbiuk, it wns real); one of the drifting jefits that 
etach for ft time to tbe skirts of the famous humorist. 
What 18 certaiu is, tbat Swift did his beat, with doitow 
meauB, to improve the living — rebuilt the bouse, laid out 
the garden, increwied the glebe from one acre to twenty, 
and endowed the living with tithes bought by himself. 
He left the tithes on the remarkable condition {suggested, 
probably, by bis fears of Presbyterian ascendancy) that, ] 
if another form of Chrigtian religion should become the 
established faith in this kingdom, they should go to the 
poor — excluding Jews, atbeiata, and infidels. Swift be- 
came attached to I-aracor, and the gardens which he plant- 
ed in humble imitation of Moor Park; he made friends 
of some of the neighbours ; though he detested Trim, 
where " the people were as great rascals as the gentle- 
men;" but Laracor was rather an occaeiooal retreat than 
a centre of bia interests. During the following years 
Swift was often at the Castle at Dublin, and passed coDsid- 
erable periods in London, leaving a curate in charge of the 'I 
minute co negation at Laracor. 

He kept upon friendly terms with suecessive Viceroys. 
He had, as we have seen, extorted a partial concession of 
his claims from Lord Berkeley. For Lord Berkeley, if we 
may argue from a very gross lampoon, he can have felt 
nothing but contempt. But be had a high respect for 
Lady Berkeley; and one of the daughters, afterwards 
Lady Betty Germaine, a very sensible and kindly woman, 
retained hie friendship through life, and in letters written 
long afterwards refers with evident fondness to the old 
days of familiarity. He was intimate, again, with the 
family of the Duke of Ormond, who became Lord Liear i 


Wuant in 1"03, and, agsio, waa the close friend of one of 
the daughtere. He was deeply .grieved by har deati a 
few years later, soon after her marru^ to Lord AshbHra- 
bam. " I hate life," he aays characteriBtioally, " when I 
think it exposed to BQch accidents ; and to sec so many 
t^onaand wretches burdening the earth when soch as her 
die, makes me think God did never intend life for a Ueee- 
iag." When Lord Pembroke succeeded Ortnond, Swift 
etiU continued chaplain, and carried on a queer commerce 
of punning with Pembroke. It is the first indication of 
a habit which lasted, as we shall see, tbrongh life. One 
might be tempted to say, were it not for the concluwTe 
evidence to the contrary, that this love of the most mechan- 
ical variety of facetiousness imphed an absence of any 
true sense of humour. Swift, indeed, was giving proofs 
that be possessed a full share of that ambiguous talent. 
It would be difficult to find a moi'e perfect performance of 
itR kind than the poem by which be amnsed the Berkeley 
family in llOO. It is the Pelilion of Mrs. Frances Har- 
ris, a chambermaid, who had lost her purse, and whose 
pecoiiar style of language, as well as the unsympathetic 
comments of her various feliow-servants, are preserved 
with extraordinary felicity in a peculiar doggerel invented 
for the purpose by Swift. One fancies that the famous 
Urs. Harris of Mrs. O^np's reminiscences was a phantasmal 
descendant of Swift's heroine. Me lays bare the workings 
of the menial intellect with the clearness of a master. 

Neither Laracor nor Dublin could keep Swift from 
London.' During the ton years succeeding 1700 he mnat 

' He nas in England from Apri! to September in 1701, from April 
to NoTembor in 1702, from November, 170S, till May. 170*. for on nn. 
cprtain part of 1706, scd agnin for over fifteen months from the end 
of IT07 tai the beginning of 1709. 


]uve passed over four in England. Id the last period 
mentioDcd he was acting as an agent for the Church of 
Ireland. In tbe others ho whs attracted by pleasure or 
ambition. Ue had already many introdnctiona to Lon- 
don society, through Temple, through the Irish Viceroys, 
and through Congreve, the most famous of then living 


A successful pamphlet, to be presently mentioned, help- 
ed his rise to fame. London society was easy of accew 
for a man of Swift's qualities. The divisions of rank wew' 
doubtless more strongly marked than now. Yet society' 
was relatively so small, and concentrated in so small m-\ 
apace, that admission into the upper circle meant an easjr 
introduction to every one worth knowing. Any notice- 
able person became, as it were, member of a club which 
had a tacit existence, though there was no single place of 
meeting or recognized organization. Swift soon became 
known at the coffee-houses, which have been superseded 
by the clubs of modem times. At one time, according to 
a story vague as to dates, be got tbe name of the " mad 
parson " from Addison and others, by his habit of taking 
half-an-bour'a smart walk to and fro in the cofiee-house, 
and then departing in silence. At last be abruptly ac- 
costed a stranger from the country: "Pray, sir, do yon 
remember any good weather in the world !" " Yes, air," 
was the reply, " I thank God I remember a great deal of 
good weather in my time." "That," said Swift, "is more 
than I can say. I never remember any weather that was 
not too hot or too cold, or too wet or too dry ; but, bow- 
over God Almighty contrives it, at the end of the year 'tis 
all very well ;'' with which sentiment ho vanished. What- 
ever his introduction. Swift would soon make himself felt. 
The Tale of a Tab appeared — with a very complimenlary 

•■ I 





dedication to Somera — in 1 704, and revealed powera be- 
yond the rivairy of any living author. 

In the year 1705 Swift became intimate with Addison, 
who wrote, in a copy of his Travels in Italy : " To Jona- 
than Swift, the most agreeable companion, the truest friend, 
and the greatest genius of his age, this work is presented by 
his most humble servant the author." Though the word 
"genius" had scarcely its present strength of meaning, 
the phrase certainly implies that Addison knew Swift's 
anthorship of the Tale, and with all his decorum was not 
repelled by its audacious satire. The pair formed a close 
friendship, which is honourable to both. For it proves 
that if Swift was imperious, and Addison a little too fond 
of the adulation of " wits and Templars," each could enjoy 
the society of an intellectual equal. They met, we may 
fancy, like absolute kings, accnstomed to the incense of 
courtiers, and not inaccessible to its charms; and yet glad 
at times to throw aside state and associate with each other 
without jealousy. Addison, we know, was most charming 
when talking to a single companion, and Dolany repeats 
Swift's statement that, often as they spent their evenings 
together, they never wished for a third, Steele, for a time, 
was joined in what Swift calls a triuroviral« ; and though 
political strife led to a complete breach with Steele and 
a temporary eclipse of familiarity with Addison, it never 
diminished Swift's affection for his great rival. "That 
man," he said once, " has virtue enough to give reputation 
to an age," and the phrase expresses his settled opinion. 
Swift, however, had a low opinion of the society of the 
average " wit." " The worst conversation I ever heard in 
my life," he says, "was that at "Will's coffee-honse, where 
the wit8 (as they were called) used formerly to assemble 
and hi: speaks with a contempt recalling Pope's satire 



S8 SWDT. [aUK I 

VpoD the " little wnato " of ihe absurd self-importance sDJ I 
the foolish adulation of the etudcnU and Templan who I 
listened to these oracles. Others have snspectcd that many I 
famona coleriea of which literary people are accastomed J 
to Bpeak with nnction probably fell as fat short in reality I 
of their traditional pleasantness. Snift's friendBbip with | 
Addison was partly doe, we may fancy, to dificrcnce in [ 
temper and talent, which fitted each to be the complement I 
of the other. A curions proof of the mutual good-will ii 
given by the history of Swift's Bauds and Philemon. It .1 
is a humorous and agreeable enough travesty of Ovid; « ■] 
bit of good-bumoured pleasantry, which we may take as it -| 
was intended. The performance was in the spirit of tike .1 
time; and if Swift had not the lightness of touch of his ] 
contemporaries, Prior, Gay, Parnell, and Pope, he perhaps J 
makes up for it by greater force aud directness. But thsJ 
piece 18 mainly remarkable because, as he tells ns, Addison | 
made him " blot out fonr score lines, add fonr score, « 
alter four score," though the whole consisted of only llB 1 
reracs.' Swift showed a complete absence of the ordinary I 
touchiness of authors. Ilis indifference to literary fame as I 
to its pecuniary rewards was conspicuous. He was too 
proud, as he truly said, to be vain. Bis sense of dignity J 
restrained him from petty sensibility. When a clergyman , 
regretted some emendations which had been hastily si^ 
gested by himself and accepted by Swift, Swift replied 
that it mattered little, and that he would not give grounds, | 
by adhering to his own opinion, for an imputation of van- , 
ity. If Swift was egotistical, there was nothing petty even J 
in bis egotism. 

' Mr. Forater found the original MS., and gives a. 
bers: 96 omitted, 44 added, 22 altered. The whole whs ITS lines ' 
q^ the 01 


A piece of facctionaness started hj Snift io the lact 
of his vifiite to London has become famoas. A cobbles 
called Partridge bad set up as aa astrologer, aad published 
predictioDs in the style of ZadkUVs Almanac^ Swift 
amiised himself id the begioniDg of 1708 by publishing 
a rival predietiou under the name of Isaac Bickersta£ 
BickerstafE profeseed that he would give verifiable and 
definite predictions, inatead of the v^ae oracnlar utterancea 
of his rival. The first of these predictions annouDCed the 
approaching death, at 11 p.m., on March 29, of Partridge 
hiniself. Directly after that day appeared a letter "to 
a person of honour," announcing the ftilfiltoent of the 
prediction by the death of Partridge within four hours of 
the date as^ned. Partridge took up the matter serious- 
ly, and indignantly declared himself, in a new almanac, to 
be alive. BickerstaS retorted in a humorous Vindication, 
arguing that Pfirtridgc was really dead; that hia con- 
tinning to write almanacs was no proof to the contrary, 
and so forth. All the wits, great and small, took part in 
the joke : the Portuguese In(]uisition, so it ia said, were 
sufficiently taken in to condemn BickerstaS to the flames ; 
and Steele, who started the T'af^erwiiJlst the joke was afoot, 
adopted the name of Bickerslaff for the imt^inary aathor. 
Dtitifal biographers a^eb to admire this as a wonderful 
piece of fun. The joke does not strike me, I will confesB,. 
as of very exquisite flavour; bat it is a curious illostration. 
of a peculiarity to which Swift owed some of bis [Ktwec, 
and which seems to have su^sted rouny of the mythical 
anecdotes about him. His humour very easily took ths 
form of practical joking. In those days the mutual on- 
derstanding of the little clique of wits made it easy to 
get a hoax taken up by the whole body. TLey joined 
to persecate poor Partridge, as the undei^radaatea at & 




modern college might join to tease somo obnoxious 

tradesman. Swift's peculiar iroDy fitted him to take 
the lead ; for it implied a singular ploanure in resllzing 
the minute consequences of some gi?cn hypothesis, and 
working out in detail some grotesque or strikiog theory. 
The love of practical jokes, which seems to have accom- 
panied him through life, is one of the less edifying mani- 
festations of the tendency. It seems as if he could not 
quite enjoy a jest till it was translated into actual tangible 
fact. The fancy docs not suffice hira till it is realized. 
If the story about "dearly beloved Roger " be true, it is 
a caae in point. Sydney Smith would Lave been content 
with suggesting that such a thing might be done. Swift 
was not sAtisUed till be had done it And even if it be 
not true, it has been accepted because it is like the truth. 
We could almost fancy that if Swift bad thought of 
Charles Lamb's famous quibble about walkiug on an 
empty stomach (" on whose empty stomach 3") he would 
hare liked to carry it out by an actual promenade on real 
human flesh and blood. 

Swift became intimate with Irish Viceroys, and with 
the most famous wits and statesmen of Loudon. But 
he received none of the good things bestowed so freely 
upon contemporary men of letters. In 1705 Addiaon, 
bis intimate friend, and his junior by five years, bad 
sprang from a garret to a comfortable office. Other men 
passed Swift in the race. He notes significantly, in 1708, 
that " a young fellow," a friend of his, had just received 
a sinecure of 400^. a year, as an addition to another of 
SOOl. Towards the end of 1704 be bad already com- 
plained that he got "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." Swift still remained i 
his own district, "a hedge-piiraou," flattered, careaaed, and 
neglected. And yet he held," that It waa easier to provide 
for ten men in the Churcli than for one in a civil ( 
ployment. To understand hia claims, and the modes by 
which he used to enforce them, we must advert briefly to 
the state of English politics. A clear apprehenaion of 
Swift's relation to the ministers of the day is essentia to 
any satisfactory estimate of his career. 

The reign of Queen Anne was a period of violent party 
spirit. At the end of 1703 Swift hninorously declares 
that even the cats and do^ were infected with the Whig 
and Tory animosity. The " very ladies " were divided into 
High Church and Low, and, " out of zeal for religion, had 
hardly time to say their prayers." The gentle satire of 
Addison and Steele, in the Spectator, confirms Swift's 
contemporary lamentations as to the baneful effects of 
party zeal upon private friendship. And yet it has been 
often said that the party issues were hopelessly confound- 
ed. Lord Stanhope ai^es — and he is only repeating 
what Swift frequently said — that Whigs and Tories had 
exchanged principles.' In later years Swift constantly 
asserted that he attacked the Whigs in defence of the 
true Whig faith. He belonged, indeed, to a party almost 
limited to himself; for he avowed himself to bo the 
anomalous hybrid, a Iligb-church Whig. We, must there- 
fore, inquire a little further into the true meaning of the 
accepted shibboleths. 

Swift had come from Ireland saturated with the prejn- 

' See letter to PeltrboroQefi, May 6, nil. 

' la most of tbeir prmciples the two parties Beem to bare shifted 
opinioDB since thdr instltalion in the r«gn of Chsrles R— 

u swirr. laa 

dices of hU caste. Tbo highest T017 in IrelaDd, as he 
toid ■WiMiam. would make a tolerable Whig in Eng- 
land. For the English colonista in Ireland the eipal- 
sion of James was a condition, not of party ancccss but 
of esistcDce. Swift, whose personal and family intei^ 
eats were ideotiJied with those of the English in Ire- 
land, could repudiate James with his whole heart, and 
heartily accepted the RevoiutioD ; he was, therefore, a 
Whig, so far as attachment to " ReTohitioo principlcB" 
was the distinctive badge of Whiggism, Swift despised 
James, and he hated Popery from first to last. Contempt 
and hatred with him were never equivocal, and in this 
case they sprang as much from his energetic sense as 
from his early prejudices. Jacobitism was becoming a 
sham, and therefore offensive to men of insight into facta. 
Its ghost walked the earth for some time longer, and ab 
times aped reality; bat it meant mere sentimentalism or 
vagae discontent. Swift, when asked to explain ite per- 
Hstence, said that when he was in pain and lying on hia 
right side, he naturally turned to his left, though be might 
have no prospect of benefit from the change.' The country 
sqaire, who drank healths to the king over the water, was 
tired of the Geoi^s, and shared the fears of the typical 
Western, that bis lands were in danger of being sent to 
Hanover. The Stuarts had been in exile long enough to 
win the love of some of their subjects. Sufficient time 
had elapsed to erase from short memories the true canse of 
their fall. Squires and parsons did not cherish less warmly 
the privileges in defence of which they had sent the last 
Stnart king about his business. Rather the privileges had be- 
come so much a matter of course that the very fear of any 
jmcd visionary. The Jacobitism of later 
' Dtkny, p. 211. 


:ar of any ^^^ 
ater days ^^H 


did not mean any discontent with Ecvoltition principles, 
bnt dialike to the Revolution dynasty. The Whig, iodeed, 
ai^ed with true party logic that every Tory mnst be a 
Jacobite, and every Jacobite & lover of arbitrary rule. In 
truth, a man might wish to restore the Stuarts wtthont 
wiabing to restore the principles for which the Stnsrts had 
been espelled : he might be a Jacobite without being a 
lover of arbitrary rule; and still more easily might he be 
a Tory without being a Jacobite, Swift constantly asserted 
— and in a sense with perfect truth — that the revolution 
bad been carried out in defence of the Chiircb of Eng- 
land, and chiefly by attached members of the Church. To 
he a sound Churchman was, so far, to be pledged agsinrt 
the family which had assailed the Church. 

Swift's Whiggism would naturally be strengthened by 
his personal relation with Temple, and with various Whigs 
whom he came to know through Temple. Bnt Swift, I 
have said, was a Churchman as well as a Whig ; as staunch 
a Churchman as Laud, and as ready, I imagine, to have 
gone to the block or to prison in defence of his Church 
as any one from the days of Laud to those of Mr, Green, 
For a time his zeal was not called into play ; the war ab- 
sorbed all interests. Marlborough and GodolpMn, the 
great heads of the family clique which dominated poor 
Qneen Anne, had begun as Tories and Churchmen, sop- 
ported by a Tory majority. The war had been dictated 
by a national sentiment ; but from the beginning it was 
really a Whig war ; for it was a war against Lonis, 
Popery, and the Pretender. And thus the great men 
who wore identified with the war began slowly to edge 
over to the party whoso principles were t!ie war princi- 
ples ; who hated the Pope, the Pretender, and the King of 
Fianee, as their ancestors had hated Philip of 9pi 



M SWDT, [<n 

their descendants hnted Napoleon. The war meant alli- 
ance with the Dutch, who had been the martyrs and were 
the enthusiastic defenders of toleration and free-tliought ; 
and it forced English ministerB, almost in spite of them- 
selves, ioto the most saccessful piece of statesmaDship of 
the centniy, the Union with Scotland. Now, Swift hated 
the Dutch and hated the Scotch with a vehemence that 
becomes almost ludicrous. The margin of his Burnet nas 
scribbled over with execrations gainst the Scots. *' Most 
damnable Scots," " Scots hell-bounds," " Scotch dogs," 
" cursed Scots still," " hellish Scottish dogs," are a few of 
his spontaneous flowers of speech. His prejudices are the 
prejudices of bis class intensified as all passions were in- 
tensified in him. Swift regarded Scotchmen as the most 
virulent and dangerous of all Dissenters; they were repre- 
sented to hira by the Irish Presbyterians, the natural 
rivals of his Church. He reviled the Union, because it 
implied the recognition by the State of a sect which re- 
garded the Church of England as little better than a. 
manifestation of Antichrist. And, in this sense, Swift's 
sympathies were with the Tories. For, in truth, the real 
contrast between Whigs and Tories, in respect of which 
there is a perfect continuity of principle, depended upon the 
fact that the Whigs reflected tue sentiments of the middle 
classes, the "monied men" and the Dissenters; whilst the 
Tories reflected the sentiments of the land and the Church. 
Each party might occasionally adopt the commonplaces or 
accept the measures generally associated with Its antago- 
nists; but at bottom the distinction was between squire 
and parson on one side, tradesman and banker on the 

The domestic politics of the reign of Anne tnmed upon 
this difference. The history is a history of the gradual 

IT.] LaKACOH and LONDON. 65 

Bhifting of government to the Whig eiAe, and the grow- 
ing alienation of the clergy and squires, accelerated by a 
system which caused the fiscal burden of the war to fall 
chiefly upon the land. Bearing thia in mind. Swift's 
conduct is perfectly intcUigiblo. Hia fint plunge into 
pojitica was in 1701. Poor King William was in the 
thick of the perplexiticB caused by the mysterious per- 
verseness of English politicians. The King's ministers, 
supported by the House of Lords, had lost the command 
of the House of CommoDs. It had not yet come to be 
nnderstood that the Cabinet was to be a mere committee 
of the House of Commons. The personal wishes of the 
sovereign, and the alliances and jealousies of great court- 
iers, were still highly important factors in the poHticat 
situation; as, indeed, both the composition and the sab- 
sequent behaviour of the Coraroons could be controlled to 
a considerable extent by legitimate and other influences 
of the Crown. The Commons, unable to malie their 
will obeyed, proceeded to impeach Somera and other 
mioistera. A bitter atnig^le took place between the 
two Houses, which was suspended by the summer re- 
cess. At this crisis Swift pablished his Discourse on the 
Ditsmsiom in Alliena and Home. The abstract political 
argument is as good or as bad as nine hundred and 
ninety-nine out of a thousand political treatises — that is 
to say, a repetition of familiar eommooplacea ; and the 
mode of applying precedents from ancient politics would 
now strike us as pedantic. The pamphlet, however, ia 
dignified and well-written, and tbe application to the im- 
mediate difficulty is pointed. His argument is, briefly, 
that the House of Commons is showing a factious, 
tyrannical temper, identical in its natnre with that of a 
single tyrant and as dangerous in its consequences; that 



it has, therefore, ceased to reflect the opinioDB of its cod- 
stituoDts, and has endangered the aacred balance between 
tbe three primary elements of our constitution, upon 
which its safe working depends. ' 

The pampblet was from beginning; to end a reoaon^ 
Btrance against the impeachments, and therefore a de- 
fence, of tho Whig lords, for whom sufficiently satiafao- 
torj parallels are vaguely indicated in Pericles, Arislidea,. 
and 60 forth. It was "greedily bought;" it was attrib- 
uted to Somers and to the great Whig bishop, Burnet, 
vho had to disown it for fear of an impeachmeat. An- 
Irish bishop, it is s^d, called Swift a " very positive young 
man" for doubting Burnet's authorship ; whereupon Swift 
had to claim it for himself. Youthful vanity, according 
to Ids own account, induced him to make the admiasioUi 
which nould certainly not have been withhold by adult 
discretion. For the result was that Somers, Halifax, and 
Sunderland, three of the great Whig junto, took him up, 
often admitted him to their intimacy, and were Ubeial in 
promising him "the greatest preferments" should they 
come into power. Before long Swift had another oppor- 
tunity which was also a temptation. The Tory House 
of Commons had passed tbe bill against occasional con- 
formity. Ardent partisans generally approved this bill, 
as it was clearly annoying to Dissenters. It was directed 
against the practice of qualifying for office by taking the 
sacrament according to the rites of the Church of Eng- 
land without permanently conforming. It might be fairly 
argued — as Defoe argued, though with questionable sin- 
cerity — that such a temporary compliance would be really 
injurious to DissenL The Church would profit by such 
an exhibition of the flexibility of its opponents' principles. 
Passiona were too much heated for such arguments; and 


in tie winter of 1703-'04, people, aays Swift, talked of 
notbing else. He was " migbtily urged by sanie great 
people " to pnblicih bis opinion. An ailment from a 
powerful writer, and a clei^man, apainat the bill would 
be very usefnl to his Whig friends. Bot Swift's High 
Church prejudicuB made him hesitate. The Whig lead- 
ers assured hitn tbat ootblcg should induce them to rote 
against the bill if Uiey ejipected its rejection to hurt the 
Church or " do kindness to the Dissenters," Bnt it ia 
precarious to argue from the professed intentions of 
statesmen to their real motives, and yet more precariooa 
to ai^ue to the consequences of their actions. Swift 
knew not what to think. He resolved to think no 
more. At last he made np bis mind to write against 
the bill, but he made it up too late. The bill fiuled to 
pass, and Swift felt a relief in dismissing this delicate 
Bubjoct. He might still csil himself a Whig, and exult 
in the growth of Whiggism. Meanwhile be perenaded 
himself that the Dissenters and their troubles were be- 
neath his notice. 

Tboy were soon to come again to the front. Swift 
came to London at the end of 17oT, charged with a mis- 
sion on behalf of his Chnrcfa. Queen Anne's Bounty was 
founded in 1704. The Crown restored to the Church the 
firat-fruita and tenths which Henry VlII, had diverted 
from the papal into his own treasury, and appropriated 
them to the augmentation of small livings. It was pro- 
posed to get the same boon for the Chnrch of Ireland, 
The whole anm amounted to abont 1000?. a year, with a 
possibility of an additional 2000/. Swift, who had spokon 
of this to King, the Archbishop of Dublin, was now to 
act as solicitor on behalf of the Irish clergy, and hoped to 
make use of hie influence with Somers and Sunderland. 


68 SWIFT. [en 

The negotiation was to give liim more trouble Iban 
foresaw, and initiate him, before he had done with it, iDto 
certain secrets of cabinets and councils nbieh be as jet 
very imperfectly appreciated. His letters to King, con- 
tinued over a long period, throw much light on his mo- 
tives. Swift was in England from November, 1707, UU 
Marcii, 1709. The year 1703 was for him, as he says, a 
year of suspense, a year of vast importance to his career, 
and marked by some characteristic utterances. Ue hoped 
to use his influence with Somers. Somers, though still 
out of office, was the great oraelo of the "Whigs, whilst 
Sunderland was already Secretary of State. In January, 
1708, the bishopric of Waterford was vacant, and Somers 
tried to obtain the see for Swift. The attempt failed, but 
the political catastrophe of the next month gave bopee 
that the influence of Somers would soon be paramount. 
Harley, the prince of wire-pulling and back-stair intrigue, 
had exploded the famous Masham plot. Though this 
project failed, it was "reckoned," says Swift, "the great- 
est piece of court skill that has been acted many years." 
Queen Anne was to take advantage of the growing alieoa- 
tion of the Church party to break her bondage to the 
Marlboroughs, aud chaugc her ministers. But the at- 
tempt was premature, and discomfited its devisers. Har- 
ley was turned out of ofBce ; Marlborough and Godolphin 
came into alliance with the Whig junto ; and the Queen's 
bondage seemed more complete than ever. A cabinet 
crisis in those days, however, took a long time. It was 
not till October, 1708, that the Whigs, backed by a new 
Parliament and strengthened by the victory of Oudenardo, 
were in full enjoyment of power, Somers at last became 
President of the Council and Wharton Lord Lieutenant of 
Ireland, Wharton's appointment was specially 



iUienant or ^^m 
significant ^^H 


for Swift. He yias, as even "Whigs admitted, s maa of in- 
famoua character, redeemeii onlj by energy and uoflinclt- 
ing fidelity to hw party. He was licentioua and a free- 
thinker; his infidelity showed itself in tbe grosaeat out- 
rages against conamon decency. If be bad any religious 
principle it was a preference of Presbyterians, as sharing 
his antipathy to the Cborch, No man conld be more radi- 
cally antipathetic to Swift Meanwhile, the sQcceaa of 
the Whigs meant, in the first iD»taDc«, tbe sacce«B of the 
men from whom Swift bad promises of preferment. He 
tiled to nse his infiaence as he had proposed. In Jnne 
he had an interview about the firtt-fmits with Godolphio, 
to whom he had beeo recommended by Somers and 8aii- 
derland. Godolphin replied in vagne officialisms, anggert- 
ing with Uadied vagQeoess that the Iri&h cleigy most 
show themselres more gratefol than tbe English. His 
meaning, as Swift thought, was that the Irish dc^y 
sbonld consent to a repeal of the Teat Act, r^arded t^ 
them and by him ■■ the eawntial bulwark of the Church. 
Nothing definite^ however, wan said; and meanwhile Swift, 
thon^ be gCTC no a^ss of compliance, continued to hope 
for bb own prefermeMt. When the final triumph of the 
Whigs came be mm atiD hopiag, thoogh with obviooa 
<|iialBU aa to fail potitiom. He h«^ged dig (in Hofoa- 
ha, 1708) to bdiere in fat* GA^tj to the Cbnrefa. CMbn 
might be made to him, bat " bo p rojec t at — Mi^ aj 
fortime shaD ever preraO mi ate to go "g"*^ wbt be- 
comes a man of conaaeace and tralh, and an CKtiR biend 
to the EetabCahed ChiK^" Be hoped tWt fe ■■^ gtrf fae 
jftpointed aet iietaf y to a projected raiTiaaij) to 'Vmb^ s 
poaitioo which wonid pot him beyond the rr|,iin tf d»- 

HesBwhile he had pobliafced certain tiMto -m^k ^ot 

7>1 SWIFT. [our. 

be taken as the raanifcstn of hia faitb at the tuna when 
his principles verr being most Hcverel}' tested. Would he 
or would he not ucrifice his Charchmanshtp to the intoT' 
e>ta at the party with whicli be was still allied! Then 
can be no doalit that by &n open declaration of Whig 
principlcH in Clinfcb tnattcre^Bncb a declaration, say, a& 
wonld have satisfied Burnet — b<! would have qnaliSed 
bimaelf for preferment, and have been in a poiitioD t 
cninmand the fnlfibnent of the promises mode by Som 
and Sunderland. 

The writing in question were the Argument to f 
the Ineonvenience of Afioluhing ChrittianUy ; a Projtetfar^ 
the JUvaactmeul of Rdii/ion; and tUo SmtimmU of t 
Church of England Man. The firat, as I Imve a«d, ma^ 
meant to show that the satirical powers which had giretl'l 
offence in the Tale of a Tali could be applied witfaoatl 
equivocation in defence of Christianity. The Prq^eot is I 
a »ery forcible exposition of a text which is i 
enough in ail ages — namely, that the particular age of J 
the writer is one of unprecedented corruption. It duret, J 
LoweTcr, with Swift's other writings, the merit of down* 
right sincerity, which convinces us that the author ii 
repeating platitudes, but giving his own experience and 1 
speaking from conviction. His proposals for a reform, [ 
though he must have felt them to be chimerical, i 
ceived in the spirit common in the days before people had \ 
begun to talk about the state aod the individual. He ao- i 
Bumea throughout that a vigorous action of the court and 
the government will reform the nation. He does not con- 
template the now commonplace objection that such arerival 
of tie Puritanical system might simply stimulate hypocrisy. 
He expressly declares that religion may be brought into 
fashion " by the power of the administration," and assumes 





that to bring religion into fashion is the same tiling as to 
m&kc mon religioiia. Tliia view — suitable enough to Swift's 
imperioDB temper — was also the general assumption of the 
time. A suggestion thrown oat in his pamphlet ia gen- 
erally said to have led to the scheme soon afterwards car- 
ried oat onder Harlcy's administration for building fifty 
Dew cbnrches in London. A more personal touch is Swift's 
complaint that tJte clei^ sacrifice their influence by "se- 
questering themselves " loo much, and forming a separate 
caste. This reads a little like an implied defence of him- 
self for frequenting London coffee-houses, when cavillers 
might have ai^ued that he should be at Laracor, But, lifce 
all Swift's utterances, it covered a settled principle. I have 
already noticed this pecnliarity, which he shows elsewhere 
when describing himself as 

"A c1^rg3rmBin of special note 
For shunmng others of his cost ; 
Which made his brcihrcD of the govn 
T&ke care betimes 1o ran him down." 

The SentimenU of a Church of Sngland Man is more 
significant. It is a summary of his unvarying creed. In 
politics ho is a good Whig. He interprets the theory of 
passive obedience as meaning obedience to the " legislative 
power ;" not therefore to the King specially ; and be delib- 
erately accepts the Revolution on the plain ground of the 
Baliis populi. His leading maxim is that the " administra- 
tion cannot be placed in too few hands nor the Legislattire 
in too many." But this political liberality is associated 
with unhesitating Churchman ship. Sects are mischievous ; 
to say that they are mischievous is to say that they onj 
to be checked in their beginning ; whwc they exist thcj 
should be tolerated, but not to the injury of the ^^hnrch. 




And hence he reacfaeB his leEkding principle that a " gOT^ 1 
erninent cannot give tbem (sects) too mucli case, nor tnufe ^ 
them with too little power," Such doctrines clearly and. I 
tersely laid down were little to the taste of the Whigs, who> I 
ivere more anxious than ever to conciliate the Dissenten. } 
Bui it was not till the end of the year that Swift applied \ 
his abstract theory to a special case. There had beea I 
TarioQS symptoms of a disposition to relax the Test Ada. I 
in Ireland. The appointment of Wharton to be Lord [ 
Lieutenant was enough to alarm Swift, even though hu\ I 
friend Addison was to be Wharton's secretary. In Dec 
ber, 1 108, be published a pamphlet, ostensibly a letter from: i 
s member of the Irish to a member of the English Hoaso- \ 
of Commons, in which the necessity of keeping up tha- 1 
Test was vigorously enforced. It is the first of Swift'*- J 
political writings in which we see his true power. la J 
those just noticed he is forced to take an impartial tona,.,] 
He ia trying to reconcile himself to his alliance with the 1 
Whigs, or to reconcile the Whiga to their protection of 1 
himself. He speaks as a moderator, and poses as the di^ 1 
nihed moralist above all party feeling. But in this letter I 
be throws the reins upon bis humour, and strikes his op- J 
ponenta full in the face. From his own point of view the- ] 
pamphlet is admirable. Ho quotes Cowley's verse: 

" Forbid it, HeaTer, mj life Bhould be 
Weighed bj ibj least cocvtiuiency." 

The Irish, by which he means the English, and the E 
lish exclusively of the Scotch, in Ireland, represent this I 
enthusiastic lover, and arc called upon to sacrifice them- I 
selves to the political couveniency of the Whig party, t 
Swift expresses his usual wrath against the Scots, who are 
eating up the laud, boasts of the loyalty of the Irisb i 


Church, and taunts the Presbyterians with their tyranny 
in former days. Ant I to be forced, he asks, " to keep 
my chaplain disguised hke my butler, and steal to prayers 
in a back room, as my grandfather used in those titues 
'nhen the Church of England was malignant!" Is not this 
a ripping up of old quarrels! Ought not all Protestants 
to unite against Papists ? No, the enemy is the same as 
ever. " It is agreed among naturalists that a lion is a 
larger, a stronger, and more dangerous enemy than a cat ; 
yet if a man were to have his choice, either a lion at his 
foot fast bound with three or four chains, his teeth drawn 
out, and his claws pared to the quick, or an angry cat in 
full liberty at his throat, he would take no long time to 
determine." The bonnd lion means the Catholic natives, 
whom Swift declares to be as " inconsiderable as the 
women and children." 

Meanwhile the long first-fruits negotiation was languid- 
ly proceeding. At last it seemed to be achieved. Lord 
Pembroke, the outgoing Lord Lieutenant, sent Swift 
word that the grant had been made. Swift reported his 
success to Archbishop King with a very pardonable touch 
of complacency at his " very little " merit in the matter. 
But a bitter di^.appointment followed. The promise made 
had never been fulfilled. In March, 1700, Swift had again 
to write to the Archbishop, recounting his failure, his at- 
tempt to remonstrate with Wharton, the new Lord Lieu- 
tenant, and the too certain collapse of the whole business. 
The failure was complete ; the promised boon was not 
granted, and Swift's chance of a bishopric had pretty well 
vanished. Halifax, the great Whig Miecenas, and the Bufo 
of Pope, wrote to him in bis retirement at Dublin, declar- 
ing that he had " entered into a confederacy with Mr. 
Addison " to urge Swift's claims upon Government, and 



74 SWi*T. [CH 

speatiti^ of the declining hedlth of Sonth, then a prebeo- 
ilary of Westminster. Swift CDdorsod this : " I look np thii 
letter as a true original of courtiers aod couit pramiacs," 
and wrote in a Tolnrae he had be^ed from the same pet*- 
son that it was the only favour " he ever received from 
him or his party." In the last months of his fAay he had 
suffered cruelly from his old giddiness, and he went to 
Ireland, after a visit to hia mother in Leicester, in snfB* 
ciently gloomy mood; retired to Laraoor, and avoided 
any intercourse with the authorities at the Castle, except- 
ing always Addison. 

To this it is necessary to add one remart Swift's 
version of the etory is substantially that which I have 
given, and it is everywhere confirmed by contemporary 
letters. It ehowa that iie separated from the Whig party 
when at the height of their power, and separated because ha 
thonght them opposed to the Church principles which he 
advocated from first to last. It is roost unjast, therefore, 
to speak of Swift as a deserl«r from the Whigs, because 
he afterwards joine<i the Church party, which shared all his 
strongest prejudices. I am so far from seeing any ground 
for such a charge, that I believe that few men have ever 
adhered more strictly to the priDciples with which they 
have started. But such charges have generally an clement 
of truth ; and it ia easy here to point out what was the 
really weak point in Swift's position. 

Swift's writings, with one or two trifling exceptioiia, 
were originally anonymous. As they wore very apt to 
produce warrants for the apprehension of publisher and 
author, the precaution was natural enough in later years. 
The mask was often merely ostensible; a sufBcient pro- 
tection against legal prosecution, hut in reality covering 
an open secret. When in the Serttimentt of a Ckurek of 


Snfflajtd Man Swift professes to conceal his name care- 
fully, it may be doubted how far this ia to be taken se- 
riously. But he went mucii furtUer in the letter on the 
Test Act. He inserted a passage intendeil really to blind 
his adversaries by a suggestion that Dr. Swift wae lilcely 
to write ID favour of abolishing the Test; and he even 
complaiaa to Kiug of the unfairness of this treatment. 
His assault, therefore, upon the suppoaed Whig policy 
was clandeetine. Thi& may possibly be justified ; he 
might even urge that be was still a Whig, and was warn- 
ing ministers against measures which they had not yet 
adopted, and from which, as be thinks, they may still be 
deterred by an alteration of the real Irish feeling.' He 
complained afterwards that be was ruined — that is, as to 
his chances of preferment from the party — by the aiispi- 
cion of his authorship of this tract That is to say, he was 
" ruined " by the discovery of iiis true sentiments. This 
is to admit that he was still ready to accept preferment 
from the men whose supposed policy he was bitterly at- 
tacking, and that he resented their alienation as a grievance. 
The resentment, indeed, was most bitter and pertinacious. 
He turned savagely upon his old friends because they would 
not make him a bishop. The answer from their point of 
view was conclusive. He had made a bitter and covert 
attack, and be could not at once claim a merit from 
Churchmen for defending the Church against the Whigs, 
and revile the Whigs for not rewarding him. But incon- 
sistency of this kind is characteristic of Swift He thought 
the WbigB scoundrels for not patronizing him, and not 
the less scoundrels because their condact was consistent 
with their own scoundrelly principles. People who differ 
£rom me must be wicked, argued this consistent egotist, 
' Letter to Kiu^', Junuarj 8, 1709. 

76 SWIFT. [ 

and their refusal to reward me is only an additional wick- 
edness. The case appeared to him as though he had been 
a Nathan sternly warning a David of his sins, and for that 
reason deprived of honour. David could not have urged 
his sinful desires as an excuse for ill-treatment of Nathan. 
And Swift was inclined to class indifference to the welfare 
of the Church as a sin even in an avowed Whig. Tet he 
had to ordinary minds forfeited any right to make non- 
fulfilment a grievance, when he ought to have r^arded 
performance as a disgrace. 


Iw tte antnmn of 1710 Swift was approaching the end of 
his forty-tbird year. A man may well foe! at forty-two 
tbat it is high time that a post should have been assigned 
to him. SboaJd an opportunity be then, and not till 
then, put in bis way, ho feels that he ia throwing for 
heavy stakes; and that failure, if failure shonjd follow, 
wonjd be irretrievable. Swift bad been longing vainly 
for aa opening. In the remarkable letter (of April, 1722) 
from which I have quoted the anecdote of the lost fish, he 
says that "all my endeaTOura from a boy to distinguish 
myself were only for want of a great title and fortune, that 
I might be used like a lord by those who have an opinion 
of my parts; whether right or wrong is no great matter; 
and so the reputation of wit or great learning does the 
ofBce of a blue riband or of a coach and six horses." 
The phrase betrays Swift's scornful self -mockery ; that 
inverted hypocrisy which led him to call his motives by 
their worst names, and to disavow what he might have 
been sorry to see denied by others. But, like all that 
Swift says of himself, it also expresses a genuine convic- 
tion. Swift was ambitious, and his ambition meant an 
absolute need of imposing his will upon otbera. 
a man bom to rule ; not to afiect thought, bat to control 

IS SWIFT. [cBif. 

conduct. He was, therefore, unable to find full ocoopa- 
tioD, though he might seek occasiaaal distraction, in liter- 
ary pursuits. Archbishop King, who had a etrauge knack 
of irritating his correspondent — not, it seems, without in- 
tention — annoyed Swift intensely in l7ll by advising 
him (most superfluously) to get prefennent, and with that 
view to writ« a serious trestiso upon some theological 
qacstion. Swift, who was in the thick of his great 
political struggle, answered that it was absard to ask a 
man floating at sea what he meant to do when he got 
ashore. " Let him get there first and rest and dry him- 
self, and then look aboat him," To find firm footing 
amidst the welter of political intrigues was Swift's first 
object. Once landed in a deanery he might begin to think 
about writing; but he never attempted, like many men in 
his position, to win preferment through literary achieve- 
ments. To a man of such a temperament his career mnst 
BO far have been cruelly vexatious. We are generally 
forced to judge of a man's life by a few leading incidents ; 
and we may be disposed to infer too hastily that the 
passions roused on those critical occasions coloured the 
whole tenor of every-day existence. ItoubtlesB Swift was 
not always fretting over fruitless prospects. He was 
often eating his dinner in peace and quiet, and even 
amnsing himself with watching the Moor Park rooks or 
the Laracor tront Yet it is true that, so far as a man's 
happiness depends opon the consciousness of a satisfactory 
employment of his faculties, whether with a view to glory 
or solid comfort. Swift had abundant causes of discontent. 
The "conjured spirit" was still weaving ropes of sand. 
For ten years he had been dependent upon Temple, i 
his stniggles to get upon his own legs had been fmitli 
On Temple's death he managed when past thirty to wring 



from fortune a position of bare in dependence, not at 
satisfying activity — he had not gained a fulcrum from 
which to move the world — but only a bare starting-polat 
whence he might continae to work. The promiaes from 
great men had come to nothing. He might pechapH have 
realized them, conld he have consented to be faithless to 
his dearest convictions ; the coosciousnesB that he had so 
far sacriSced liis position to his principles gave htm no 
comfort, though it nourished his pride. Hin enforced 
reticence produced an irritation against the ministers 
whom it had been intended to conciliate, which deepened 
into bitter resentmeat for their neglecL The year and a 
half passed in Ireland during 1709— '10 was a period in 
which his day-dreams mnst have had a background of die- 
appointed hopes, " I stayed above half the time," ha 
says, " in one scurvy acre of ground, and I always left it 
with regret" He shut himself up at Laracor, and nour- 
ished a growing indignation against the party represented 
by Wharton. 

Yet events were moving rapidly in En^and, and opeo- 
iog a new path for his ambition. The Whigs were in 
full possession of power, thongh at the price of a growing 
alienation of all who were weary of a never-ending war, 
or hostile to the Whig policy in Church and State. The 
leaders, though warned by Somers, fancied that they would 
strengthen their position by attacking the defeated enemy. 
The prosecution of Sachevorell in the winter of 170fi-'10, 
if not directed by personal spite, was meant to intimidate 
the bigh-flying Tories. It enabled the Whig leaders to 
indulge -n a vast quantity of admirable constitutional 
rhetoric; but it supplied the High Church party with 
martyr and a cry, and gave the needed impetoa to 
growing discontent. The Queen took heart to revolt 


rolt ^H 

80 SWIFT. [cBip. 

against the Mariborougha ; the Whig Ministrj were tnm- 
ed out of ofBco; Harley became Chancellor of the Ei- 
cheqitcr in AugDst; and the Parliament waa dissolved in 
Septeml>er, 1710, to bo replaced in November by one in 
which the Tories had an ovenvhelming majority. 

We are left to guess at the feelings with which Swift 
contemplated these changes. Their oSect upon his per- 
sonal prospects was still problematical. In epite of his 
wrathful retirement, there was no open breach between 
him and the Wbigs. He had no personal relations with 
the new possessors of power. Harley and St. John, the 
two chiefs, were unknown to him. And, according to his 
own statement, ho started for England once more with 
great reluctance in order again to take np the weary first- 
fruits negociation. Wharton, whose hostility had inter- 
cepted the proposed bounty, went with his party, and was 
aneceeded by the High Church Duke of Ormond. The 
political aspects were propitious for a renewed application, 
and Swift's previous employment pointed him out as the 
most desirable agent. 

And now Swift suddenly comes into full light. For 
two or three years we can trace his movements day by 
day; follow the development of his hopes and fears; 
and see him more clearly than he could be seen by al' 
most any of his contemporaries. The famous Journal to 
Steila — a aeries of letters written to Esther Johnson and 
Mrs. Dingley, from September, 1710, till April, 1713 — is 
the main and central source of information. Before tell- 
ing the story a word or two may be said of the nature of 
this document, one of the moat interesting that ever 
threw light upon the history of a man of genins. The 
Journal is one of the very few that were clearly written 
without the faintest thonght of publication. There is na 



indication of any such intention in the Journal lo Stella. 
It never occurred to Swift that it could ever be seen hy 
any but the persons primarily interested. The journal 
rather shuns politics; they will not interest his corri}- 
spondent, and he is afraid of the post-office clerks — then 
and long afterwards often employed as spies. Inter- 
views with ministers have scarcely more prominence than 
the petty incidents of his daily life. We are told that he 
discussed business, but the discussion is not reported. 
Much more is omitted which might have been of the 
highest interest. We hear of meetings with Addison; 
not a phrase of Addison's is vouchsafed to us ; we go to 
the door of Harley or St, John ; we get no distinct vision 
of the men who were the centres of all observation. Nor, 
again, are thsre any of those introspective passages which 
give to some journals the interest of a confession. What) 
then, is the interest of the Journal to Stella? One 
element of strange and singular fascination, to be con- 
sidered hereafter, is the prattle with his correspondent 
For the rest, our interest depends in great measure upon 
the reflections with which we must ourselves clothe the 
hare skeleton of facts. In reading the Journal to Stella 
we may fancy ourselves waiting in a parliamentary lobby 
during an excited debate. One of the chief actors hurriea 
out at intervals; pours out a kind of hasty bulletin; tells 
of some thrilling incident, or indicates aorae threatening 
symptom ; more frequently he seeks to relieve his ansie- 
ties by indulging in a little personal gossip, and only in- 
terjects such comments upon politics as can be compressed 
into a hasty ejaculation, often, as may be supposed, of the 
imprecatory kind. Yet be unconsciously betrays hia 
hopes and fears; he is fresh from the thick of the flgbt, 
and we perceive that his nerrea are still quivering, and 


sa switT. [o. 

that hia pbrases are glowing with tho iirdoiiT of the strug- 
gle. Hopes aad fears are long since faded, and the etrng- 
gla itself b now but a war of phantoms. Yet, with the 
help of the Joanial and contemporary documents, we caa 
revive for the inomeat the decaying images, and cheat 
ourselvcB into the momentary persuasion that the fate of 
the world depends upon Earley's success, as we now hold 
it to depend upon Mr. Gladstone's. 

Swift reached London on September 7, 1710; the po- 
litical rcvolutiou was in full action, though Parliameat 
was not yet dissolved, Tho Whigs were "ravished to 
see him ;" they clutched at him, he says, like drowning 
mea at a twig, and the great men made him their 
"clumsy apologies." Grodolphin was "short, dry, and 
morose ;" Somers tried to make cxplauations, which Swift 
received with studied coldness. The ever-comloous Hali- 
fax gave him dinners, and asked him to drink to the 
resurrection of the Whigs, which Swift refused unless he 
would add " to their reformation." Halifax persevered in 
bis atteotioDs, and was always entreating him to go down 
to Hampton Court ; " which will cost me a guinea to his 
servaots, and twelve shiUings coach hire, and I will see 
him hauged first." Swift, however, retained his old 
friendship with the wits of the party; dined with Addi- 
son at his retreat in Chelsea, and sent a trifle or two to 
the Tatier. The elections began in October; Swift had 
to drive through a rabble of Westminster electors, judi- 
ciously agreeing with their sentiments to avoid dead cats 
and broken glasses ; and though Addison was elected (" I 
believe," says Swift, " if he had a mind to be chosen 
king, he would hardly be refused"), the Tories were tri- 
umphant in every direction. And, meanwhile, the Tory 
leaders were delightfully civiL 




On tlie 4th of October Swift was introduced to Hurley, 
getting himself described (with nndeniable truth) "as a 
discontented person, who was ill naed for not being Whig 
enough." The poor Whigs lamentably confess, he says, 
their ill usage of him, " but I mind thorn not." Their 
confession came too late. Harley had received him with 
open arms, and won, not only Swift's adhesion, but his 
warm personal attachment. The fact is indisputable, 
though rather curious. Harley appears to us as a shifty 
and feeble politician, an inarticulate orator, wanting in 
principles and resolution, who made it his avowed and 
almost only rule of conduct that a politician shonld lire 
froTTi hand to mouth.' Yet his prolonged influence in 
Parliament seems to indicate some personal attraction, 
which was perceptible to his contemporaries, though rather 
pnzzling to ua. All Swift's panegyrics leave the secret in 
obscurity. Harley seema, indeed, to have been eminently 
respectable and decorously religious, amiable in personal 
intercourse, and able to say nothing in such a way as to 
euggest profundity instead of emptiness. His reputation 
as a party manager was immense ; and is partly justified 
by his quiet recognition of Swift's estraordinary qualifi- 
cations. He had inferior scribblers in his pay, including, 
as we remember with regret, the shifty Defoe. But he 
wanted a man of genuine ability and character, 
months later the ministers told Swift that they had been 
afraid of none but him, and resolved to have him. 

They got him. Harley had received him " with the 
greatest kindness and respect imaginable." Thi'eo days 
later (October 7) the first-fruits business ia discussed, and 
Harley received the proposals as warmly aa became ft 
friend of the Church, besides overwhelming Swift with 
1 Swift to King, Julj 12, 1711. 



84 BWIPT, [OBiR 

civilities. Swift is to be introduced to St John ; to dine 
with Harley next Tuesday ; Rod, after an interview of 
four honre, the minister seta him down at St. Jamee'a 
Goffee-houae in a hnckney coach. " All this ia odd and 
comicall" exclaims Swift; "he know my Christian name 
very well," and, aa we bear next day, begged Swift to come 
to him often, bnt not to hia levee : " that was not a place 
for friends to meet" On the 10th of October, within a 
week from the first introduction, Harley promises to get 
the Qrst-fruits busioeas, over which the Whigs had haggled 
for years, settled by the following Sunday. Swift's exul- 
tation breaks out, On the 14th he declares that he stands 
ten times better with the new people than ever he did with 
the old, and is forty times more caressed. The triumph is 
sharpened by revenge. Nothing, ho says, of the sort was 
ever compassed so soon; "and purely done by my per- 
sonal credit with Mr. Harley, who is so excessively obliging 
that I know not what to make of it, unless to show the 
rascals of the other side that they used a man unworthily 
who deserved better." A passage on November 8 sums up 
his sentiments. " Why," he says in answer to something 
from Stella, " should the Whigs think I came from Ire- 
land to leave them i Sure my journey was no secret 1 I 
protest sincerely, 1 did all I could to hinder it, as the Dean 
can tell yon, though now I do not repent it. But who the 
devil cares what they think ! Am I under obligations in 
the least to any of them all ? Rot them for ungrateful dogs ; 
I will make them repent their usage before I leave this 
place," The thirst for vengeance may not be edifying ; 
the political zeal was clearly not of the purest; but, in 
truth, Swift's party prejndiecH and his personal resent- 
ments are fused into indissolnble unity. Hatred of Whig 
principles and resentment of Whig " ill usage" of himself. 


are one and the Bame thing. Meanwhile, Swift was able {oa 
November 4) to announce bis triumph to the Archbishop. 
He was greatly annoyed by an incident of which ho must 
also have seen the humorous side. The Irish bishops bad 
bethought themselves after Swift's departnre that he was 
too much of a Whig to be au e£Eective solicitor. They 
proposed, therefore, to take the matter out of his hands 
and apply to Onnond, the new Lord Lieutenant. Swift 
replied indignantly ; the thing was done, however, and ho 
took care to let it be known that the whole credit belonged 
to Harley, and of course, in a subordinate sense, to himself. 
Official formalities were protracted for months longer, and 
formed one excuse for Swift's continued absence from Ire- 
land ; but we need not troahle ourselves with the matter 

Swift's nnprecedented leap into favour meant more than 
a temporary success. The intimacy with Harley and with 
St. John rapidly developed. Within a few months Swift 
had forced bis way into the very innermost circle of 
official authority. A notable quarrel seems to have given 
the final impulse to his career. In February, 1711, Har- 
ley offered him a fifty-pound note. This was virtually 
to treat him as a hireling instead of an ally. Swift re- 
sented the offer as an intolerable affront. He refused to 
be reconciled without ample apology and after long en- 
treaties. His pride was not appeased for ten days, when 
the reconciliation was sealed by an invitation from Ilarlcv 
to a Saturday dinner," On Saturdays the Lord Keeper 
(Harcourt) and the Secretary of Stato (St. John) dinod 

1 These dinners, it may ba noticed, seem to have been held 
Thursdaya when Harley had to aitend the court at Wind n ai"" 
■naj lead to sotue contusion with the Brothers' Olub, vWh 
Tbundaf B during the parliamentaij aeaaioo. "*** "" 

H SWIFF. [cDur. 

slone with Harley ; " and at last," says Swift, in repfrtii^ 
tbe event, " tbcy have consented to lot me among them OD 
that day." He goes next day, and already chides Lord 
Rivera for pre§uming to intmde into the sacred circle. 
"They call me nothing bnt Jonathan," he adds; "and I 
said I believed they would leave me Jonathan, as they 
found me." These dinnere were continued, tboagh tbey 
became less select. Uarley called Saturday his " whip- 
ping-day," and Swift was the heartiest wielder of tbe 
lash. From the same February, Swift b^an to dine 
regolarly with St. John every Sunday ; and we may note 
it as some indication of the causes of his later preference 
of Harley, that on one occasion he has to leave St. John 
early. The company, he says, were in constraint, because 
he would snffcr no man to swear or talk indecently in bis 

Swift bad thus conquered the ministry at a blow. What 
services did be render in eichange! His extraordinary in- 
fluence ecetns to have been due in a measure to sheer force 
of personal ascendency. No man could come into contact 
with Swift without feeling tbat magnetic influence. But 
he was also doing a more tangible service. In thus ad- 
mitting Swift to their intimacy Harley and St. John were, 
in fact, paying homage to the rising power of the pen. 
Political writers had hitherto been hirelings, and often lit- 
tle better than spies. No preceding, and, we may add, no 
succeeding, writer ever achieved such a position by such 
means. The press baa become more powerful as a whole, 
but no particular r^reaentative of the press has made such 
a leap into power. Swift came at the time when the in- 
fluence of political writing waa already great, and whwi 
the personal favour of a prominent minister could still 
work miracles. Harley made faim a favonrite of ti>e old 





: of the sew 

stamp, to renard Ids supremacy ii 

Swift had begun in October by arenging hiioself apOD 
GodolphiD'a coldocss, in a copy of Hudibrastic verses aboat 
the virtues of Sid ILunet the magician's rod — that is, the 
Treasurer's staff of office — which had a wonderful success. 
He fell savagely upon the hated Wharton not long after, 
in what he calls " a damned libellous pamphlet," of wbidi 
SOOO copies were sold in two days. Libellous, iudeed, is 
a faint epithet to describe a production which, if its state- 
ments be true, proves timt Wharton deserved to be honted 
from society. Chaises of lying, treachery, atheism, Pres- 
byterianism, debanchery, indecency, Ghameless indifference 
to his own reputation and his wife's, the vilest corruption 
and tyranny in his government, are piled upon bis viclini 
as thickly as they will stand. Swift docs not expect to 
sting Wharton. " I neither love nor hate hini," he aaya. 
*' If I see him after this is published he will tell me ' that 
he ia damnably mauled ;' and then, with the easiest traun- 
tion in the world, ask about the weather or the time of 
day." Wharton might possibly think that abuse of tliia 
kind might almost defeat itself by its own virulence. Bot 
Swift had already begun writings of a more statesmaaiike 
and effective kind. 

A paper war was already raging when Swift came to 
London. The Examiner had been started by St. John, 
with the help of Atterbnry, Prior, and others ; and op- 
posed for a short time by Addison, in the Whig Exami- 
ner. Ilarley, after granting the fi^8^f^uits, had told Swift 
that the great want of the ministry was "some good pea," 
to keep up the spirits of the party. The Examiner, how- 
ever, was in need of a firmer and more regular manager; 
and Swift took it in hand, his first weekly article appear- 
G 5 




as SWIFT. (oh 

iug November 3, 1110, his last on Jane 14, 1711. Hit 1 
Examiner* achieved an immediate and unprecetiented si 
cess. And yet, to eay tlie truth, a inoderD reader is apt to 
Snd tliem decidedly heavy. No one, iedeed, can fail to 
perceive the maacuiiDe sense, the tersenoBs and precision 
of the utterance. And yet many writiuga which produced 
less effect are fat more readable now. The explanation is 
simple, and applies to most of Swift's political writings. 
They are all rather acts than words. They are blows 
struck in a party contest, and their merit ia to be gauged 
by their effect Swift cares nothing for eloquence, or log- 
ic, or invective — and little, it must be added, for veracity — 
80 long as he hits his mark. To judge him by a merely 
literary standard is to judge a fencer by the grace of hii 
attitudes. Some high literary merits are implied in ef- 
ficiency, as real grace is necessary to efficient fencing; but, i 
in either case, a clumsy blow which reaches the heart ii * 
better than the most dexterous flourish in the air. Swift'* 
eye is always on tiie end, as a good marksman looks at ' 
nothing but the target. 

What, then, is Swift's aim in the Examiner? Mr. King- 
lake has told UB how a great journal throve by discover- . 
ing what was the remark that was on every one's lips, and 
making the remark its own. Swift bad the more digiii> 
fied task of really striking the keynote for his party. He 
was to put the ministerial theory into that form in which 
it might seem to be the inevitable utterance of strong 
common-sense. Harley's supporters were to see in Swift's 
pbra-ies just what they would themselves have said — if 
they had been able. The shrewd, sturdy, narrow preju- 
dices of the average Englishman were to be pressed into 
the service of the ministry, by showing how admirably 
they could be clothed in the miuisterial formulas. 



Tlic real question, again, as Swift saw, was the question 
of peace. Whig and Tory, as he said afterwards,' were 
really obsolete words. The true point at issue was peace 
or war. The purpose, therefore, was to take up hia 
ground so that peace might be represented as the natnral 
policy of the Church or Tory party, and war as the natu- 
ral fruit of the selfish Whigs. It was necessary, at the 
same time, to show that this was not the utterance of 
high-flying Toryism or downright Jaoobitism, but the 
plain dictate of a cool and impartial judgment. He was 
not to prove but to take for granted that the ^ar had be- 
come intolerably burdensome ; and to express the grow- 
ing wish for peace in terms likely to conciliate the great- 
est number of supporters. He was to lay down the plaV 
form which could attract as many as possible, both of the 
zealous Tories and of the lukewarm Whigs. 

Measured by their fitness for this end, the Examinert 
are admirable. Their very fitnosa for the end implies the 
absence of some qualities which would have been more 
attractive to posterity. Stirring appeals to patriotic eea- 
timcnt may suit a Chatham routing a nation to action ; 
but Swift's aim is to check the extravagance in the name 
of selfish prosaic prudence. The philosophic reflections 
of Burke, had Swift been capable of such reflection, would 
have flown above the heads of his hearers. Even the 
polished and elaborate invective of Junius would have 
bei-n out of place. No man, indeed, was a greater master 
of invective than Swift. He shows it in the Examiners 
by onslaughts upon the detested Wharton. He shows, 
too, that he is not restrained by any scruples when it 
comes in his way to attack his old patrons, and he adopts 
the current imputations upon their private character. Us 
I Letta- to a Whig Lord, 1712. 



[0&A£ 1 

could rouDdly accuu) Cowpcr of bigamy, and Somers — • 
Llie Somen whom he had t:l(ibomt«ly pr&iacd Kome yean 
tieforc in the dedication to the Tale of a Tab — of the 
most ul)ominaI>le perversion of justice. But thcso sre 
taoDtfi thrown out by tlie way. The substance of the 
artiolea is not invective, but profession of political faith. 
One groat name, indeed, is of necessity assailed. Maii- 
borough'a fame was a tower of strength for the Whiga. 
His dnchcss and his colleagues bad fallen ; but whilst war 
was still raging it seemed impossible to dismiss the great- 
est living oommander. Yot whilst Marlboroagb was still 
in power his influence might be used to bring back lua 
party. Swift's treatment of this great adversary is signif- 
icant. He constantly took credit for having suppressed 
many attacks' upon Marlborough. He was convinced 
that it would be dangeroos for the country to dismiss s 
genei'al whose very name carried victory.' He felt that it 
was dangerous for the party to make an unreserved attack 
upon the popular hero. Lord Bivers, he says, cursed the 
£scamtner to him for speaking civilly of Marlborough) 
and St. John, upon hearing of this, replied that if the 
counsels of such men as Bivcrs were taken, the mintstiy 
" would be blown up in twenty-four hours." Yet Mwl- 
borough was the war personified, and the way to victory 
lay over Marlborough's body. Nor had Swift any regard 
for the man himself, who, he says,* is certaitily a vile man, 
and has no sort of merit except the military — as " covet- 
ous as hell, and as ambitious as the prince of it.'" The 
v^hole case of the ministry implied the condemnation of 
Marlborough. Most modern historians would admit that 
continuance of the war could at this tune be desired only 

■ Joumal lo Sl^Veb. 6, 1712, and Jsd. 8 and 2G, 171S. 

' I&.. Jan. 7, 1711. ■ Jb., Jan. 21, 1712. * Jb., Dec. 81, 1710. 





by fanatics or interested persons. A psychologist migtt 
unusc himself by inquiring what were the actual iDotivcB 
of its advocates ; in what degrees persona! ambition, a 
misgaided patriotism, or some more sordid passions were 
blended. But in the ordinary dialect of political warfare 
there is no room for such refinements. The theory of 
Swift and Swifi'a patrons was simple. The war was the 
creation of the Whig "ring;" it was carried on for their 
own purposes by the stock-jobhers and "monled men,'* 
whose rise was a new political phenomenon, and who 
had introdaced the diabolical contrivance of public debts. 
The landed interest and the Chnrch had been hoodwinked 
too long by the union of corrupt interests supported by 
Dntchmen, Scotchmen, Dissenters, freethinkers, and other 
manifestations of the evil principle. Marlborough was 
the head and patron of the whole. And what was Marl- 
borough's motive? The aoswer was simple. It wa« 
that which has been ae^gned, with even more emphasis, 
by Macanlay — avarice. The 27th Examiner (February 
8, 1711) probably contains the compliments to which 
Rivers objected. Swift, in fact, admits that Marlborongh 
had all the great qualities generally attributed to him ; 
but all are spoilt by this fatal blemish. How far the ac- 
cusation was true matters little. It is put at least with 
force and dignity, and it expressed in the pithiest shape 
Swift's genuine conviction, that the war now meant cop- 
rupt self-interest. Invective, as Swift knew well enougb 
in his coaler moments^ is a dangerous weapon, apt to re- 
coil on the assailant unless it carries conviction. Tba 
attack on Marlborough does not betray personal an»- 
mosity, but the deliberate and the highly plausible judg^ 
ment of a man determined to call things by their right 
names, and not to be blinded bf militmy gl(»y. 


This, indeeil, is one of the points npon which Swift's 
Toryism was unlilco that of some later peiiods. He 
always dialiked and despised soldiers and their trade. 
"It will no doubt be a mighty comfort to our grand- 
children," he says in another pamphlet,' " when they aee 
H few rags hung up in Westminster Ilall which cost a 
hundred millions, whereof they are paying the arrears, 
to boast as beggars do that their grandfathers were rich 
and great." And ia other respects be bos some right to 
claim the adhesion of thorough Whigs. His personal at- 
tacks, indeed, upon the party have a questionable sound. 
Id his zeal he constantly forgets that the corrupt ring 
which ho denounces were the very men from whom he 
expected preferment "I well remember," he says' else- 
where, "the clamours often raised during the late reign 
of that party (the Whigs) against the leaders by those 
who thought their merits were not rewarded ; and they 
had, no doubt, reason on their side, because it is, no doubt, 
a misfortune to forfeit honour and conscience for noth- 
ing" — rather an awkward remark from a man who was 
calling Somera " a false, deceitful rascal " for not giving 
him a bishopric I His et^er desire to make the "un- 
grateful dogs " repent their ill usage of him prompts 
attacks which injure bis own character with that of his 
former associates. But he has some ground for saying 
that Whigs have changed their principles, in the sense 
that their dislike of prerogative and of standing armies 
had ooriously declined when the Crown and the army 
came to be on their side. Their enjoyment of power 
had made them soften some of the prejudices learnt 
days of depression. Swift's dislike of what 

Oondu^ of At ABitt. 

EC of what we now call ^^ 
' Aduice to October Club. ^^^H 


" roilitariBtn " 

=olly ' 

■ went deeper than any party senti- 
ment ; and in that sense, as we shall hereafter sec, it had 
really most affinity with a Radicalism which would have 
shocked Whigs and Tories alike. But in this particalar 
ease it fell in with the Tory Bentiment. The masculine 
vigonr of the Examiners served the ministry, who were 
scarcely less in dauger from the excessive zeal of their 
more higoted followers than from the resistance of the 
Whig minority. The pig-headed country squires had 
formed an October Club, to muddle themaelvea with beer 
and politics, and hoped — good, honest souls — to drive 
ministers into a genuine attack on the corrupt practices 
of their predecessors. All Ilarley'a skill in intriguing and 
wire-pulling would be needed. The ministry, said Swift 
(on March 4), " stood like an isthmus " between Whigs 
and violent Tories. lie trembled for the result. They 
are able seamen, but the tempest " ia too great, the ship 
too rotten, and the crew all against them." Somera had 
been twice in the Queen's closet. The Duchess of Som- 
erset, who had succeeded the Duchess of Marlborough, 
might be trying to play Mrs. Masham'a game. Earley, 
"thongh the most fearless man alive," seemed 
nervous, and was far from well. " Pray God preserve 
his health," says Swift; "everything depends upon it." 
Four days later Swift is in an agony. "My heart," 
he exclaims, " is almost broken." Hariey had been stab- 
bed by Guiscard (March 8, 1711) at the council-board. 
Swift's letters and journals show an agitation in which 
personal afEection aeenis to be even stronger than polit- 
ical anxiety. " Pray pardon my distraction," he says to 
Stella, in broken sentences. " I now think of all hift 
kindness to me. The poor creature now lies stabbed in 
his bed by a desperate French Popish villain. Good 


nigfat, and God bleu yoa both, and pity tne; I want 
it." Ho wrote to King uod^r the same excitemeiiL 
Harley, he sajB, "has always treated me with, the ten- 
demcse of a parent, and never refnsed me any favour I 
asked for a friend; therefore I hope yonr Grace will ex- 
cuse the character of this letter." He apologizes again 
in a puBtscript for his confusion ; it must be imputed to 
the "violent pain of mind I am in — greater than ever I 
felt in my life." The danger was not over for three 
weeks. The chief eCect seems to have been that Harley 
became popular as the intended victim of an hypothetical 
Popish conspiracy ; ho introduced an applauded financial 
scheme in Parliament after his recovery, and was soon 
afterwards made Earl of Oxford by way of consolation. 
" This roan," exclaimed Swift, " has grown by persecu- 
tions, turnings out, and stabbings. "What waiting and 
crowding and bowing there will be at his lev6e !" 

Swift had meanwhile (April 36) retired to Chelsea "for 
the air," and to have the advantage of a compulsory wait 
into town (two miles, or 5748 steps, each way, he calcu- 
lates). He was liable, indeed, to disappointment on a 
rainy day, when "all the three stage-coaches" were taken 
up by the "conning natives of Chelsea;" but he got a 
lift to town in a gentleman's coach for a shilling. He 
bathed in the river on the hot nights, with his Irish ser- 
vant, Patrick, standing on the hank to warn off passing 
boats. The said Patrick, who is always getting drunk, 
whom Swift cannot find it ia his heart to dismiss in 
En2:land, who atones for his general carelessness and 
lying by buying a linnet for IHngley, making it wilder 
than ever in his attempts to tame it, ia a cbaractcristlo 
figure in the journal. In Jane Swift gets ten days' holi- 
day at Wycombe, and ia the summer he goes down pretty 


often with the ministers to Windsor. lie came to town 
in two hours and forty miaatea on one occiision : " twenty 
miles are nothing here." The jonmeys are deecribed in 
one of the happiest of his occasional poems: 

'' 'lis (let me see) three jears or more 
(October neit it will be four) 
Siaoe Harlej bid me first attend, 
And chose me for an humble friend ; 
Would take me in bis cokch Co cbat, 
And question me of tbia or that : 
Aa 'What's o'clock!' and 'How's the wind I' 
* Whose chariot's that we left bebiuil ?' 
Or gravely tr; U reni the lines 
Writ andemeath the counir; si^s. 
Or, 'HavD you nothing new to-dnj 
From Pope, from Pamell, or from Gay V 
Sdch tattle often entertains 
II7 lard and me as far as Staines, 
Aa once a week we travel down 
To Windsor, aud again to town. 
Where all that passes later not 
Might be proclaimed M Charing Cross." 

And when, it is said, 8t. John was disgusted by the friyo- 
louB amusements of his companions, and his political dla- 
conrses might be interrupted by Barley's exclamation, 
"Swift, I am upi there's a cat" — the first who saw a cat 
or an old woman winning the game. 

Swift and Ilariey were soon playing a more excitin|^ 
game. Prior had been sent to France, to renew peace 
negotiations, with elaborate mystery. Even Swift was 
kept in ignorance. On his return Prior was arrested by 
officious custom-hoase officers, and the fact of his journey 
became public Swift took advantage of the general in- 
terest by a pamphlet intended to " bite the town," 




polilical purpose, according to Swift, was to " fumisli foota 
nitli something to talk of;" to draw a false scent across 
the trail of the angry and auspicious Whigs. It seema 
difficult to believe that any such effect could be produced 
or anticipated ; but the pamphlet, which purports to be ao 
account of Prior's journey given by a French valet, desirous 
of passing himself off as a secretary, is an amusing example 
of Swift's power of grave simulation of realities. The peace 
negotiations brought on a decisive political stni^le. Par- 
liament was to meet in September. The Whiga resolved 
to make a desperate effort. They bad lost the House of 
Commons, but were still strong in the Peers. The Lords 
were Dot affected by the rapid oscillations of public opin- 
ion. They were free from some of the narrower prejudicea 
of country squires, and true to a revolution which gave the 
chief power for more than a century to the aristocracy ; 
while the recent creations had ennobled the great Whig 
leaders, and filled the Bench with Low Churchmen. Marl- 
borough and Godolphin had come over to the Whig junto, 
and an additional alliance was now made. Nottingham 
bad been passed over by Harley, as it seems, for his ex- 
treme Tory principles. In his wrath he made an agree- 
ment with the other eirtrerae. By one of the most dis- 
graceful bargains of party history Nottingham was to join 
the Whigs in attacking the peace, whilst the Wbiga were 
to buy his support by accepting the Occasional Conformity 
Bill — the favourite High Church measure. A majority in 
the House of Lords could not, indeed, determine the vic- 
tory. The Government of England, says Swift in 1'7I5,' 
"cannot move a step ■whilst the House of Commons con- 
tinues to dislike proceedings or persons employed." But 
the plot went further. The House of Lords might bring 
' Be!ui}iitmr of QuMa't Miuktry. 


about & deadlock, as it had done before. The Queen, Lav- 
ing thrown off the rule of the Ducheaa of Marlborough, 
had sought safety in the rule of two mistresses, Mrs, 
Maaham and the Duchess of Somerset. The Duchess of 
Somerset was in the Whig interest, and her influence with 
the Queen caused the gravest anxiety to Swift and thi 
istrj. She might induce Aone to call back the Whigs, and 
in a new House of Commons, elected under a Whig min- 
istry wielding the crown influence and appealing to the 
dread of a discreditable peace, the majority might be re- 
versed. Meanwhile Prince Eugene was expected to pay a 
visit to England, bringing fresh proposals for war, and 
stimulating by bis presence the enthusiasm of the Whigs. 
Towards the end of September the Whigs began to 
pour in a heavy fire of pamphlets, and Swift rather 
meanly begs the help of St. John and the law. But 
he is confident of victory. Peace is certain, and a peace 
" very much to the honour and advantage of England." 
The Whigs are furious; "but we'll wlierret them, I war- 
rant, boys." Yet he has misgivings. The news comes of 
the failure of the Tory expedition against Quebec, which 
was to have anticipated the policy and the triumphs of 
Chatham. Harley only laughs as usual ; but St. John is 
cruelly vexed, and begins to suspect his colleagues of sus- 
pecting him. Swift listens to both, and tries to smooth 
matters ; but he is growing serious. " I am half weary of 
them all," he exclaims, and begins to talk of retiring to 
Ireland. Harley has a slight illness, and Swift is at once 
in a fright. " We are all undone without him," he says, 
"so pray for him, sirrahs '." Meanwhile, as the parlia- 
mentary struggle comes nearer. Swift launches the pam- 
phlet which has been his summer's work. The Conduct 
of the AlliM is intended to prove what he had taken for 



granted in the Examiners. It is to sho^, that is, that the 
wu- has ceased to be demanded by national inUtreats. We 
(iQijIit nlways to have Iwen aiiKiliariea ; we chose to become 
principals; and have yet so condocted the war that all 
the advantages have gone to the Dutch. The explanation, 
of course, is the sellishness or corruption of tlie great Whig 
junto. The pamphlet, forcible and terse in the highest 
degree, bad a success due in part to other circnm stances. 
It was as much a state paper as a pamphlet; a manifesto 
obviously inspired by the ministry, and containing the 
facta and papers which were to serve in the coming de- 
bates. It was published on November 27 ; on December 1 
the second edition naa sold in five hours ; and by the end 
of January 11,000 copies had been sold. The parliament- 
aiy struggle began on December 7 ; and the amendment to 
the address, declaring that no peace could be safe which 
left Spain to the Bourbons, was moved by Nottingham, and 
carried by a small majority. Swift had foreseen this dan- 
ger; he had begged ministers to work up the majority; 
and tbe defeat was due to Earlcy's carelessness. It was 
Swift's temper to anticipate though not to yield to the 
worst. He could see nothing but rain. Every rumour 
increased his fears. The Queen had taken the hand of 
tbe Duke of Somerset on leaving the House of Lords, and 
refused Shrewsbury's. She must be going over. Swift, 
in bis despair, asked St. John to find him some foreign 
post, where he might be oat of barm's way if tbe Whigs 
should triumph. St John laughed and a3ected courage, 
but Swift refused to be comforted. Ilarley told him that 
" all would be well ;" but Hurley for the moment had lost 
his confidence. A week after the vote he looks upon the 
ministry as certainly ruined; and "God knows," he adds, 
" what may be tbe consequences." By degrees a little 




hope began to appear; tfaongh tbe ministTT, as Swift sliQ 
held, could expect DotJiiug till the Dacbes of Somenct 
was tamed out. By way of accelerating this eveDl, he 
hit upon a plan, which he had reason to repent, and which 
notliittg bnt Im excitement codd explain. He composed 
and printed one of his favonrite squiha, tbe Witidsar 
Prvpkeey, and thoogh Mrs. Masham persnaded him not to 
publish it, disbribntcd ton many copies for secrecy to be 
po£«ible. In this production, now dull enough, be cidk 
the duchess " Curots,*' as a delicate hint at her red but, 
and aays that she murdaed her second ha&baDd.' These 
statements, even if true, were not conciliatory; and it was 
folly to irritate witLoat injuring. Meanwhile reports of 
ministeiial plans gave him a little coon^c ; and in a day 
or two the secret was ont. He was on hia way to the 
poet on Saturday, December 28, when tbe ^reat oewa 
came. Tbe ministry had resolred on something like a 
eaup (Tital, to be long maitioned with horror by all (Htbo- 
doi T-VhigB and Tories. " I hare broke open my letter," 
BCribbled Swift in a coffee-hoose, " and tore it into tbe 
bargain, to let you know that we are all safe. Tbe Qoeen 
has made no lew than twelve new peers .... and Imb 
tamed oat the Doke of Somerset. She ts awaked at last, 
and so is Lord Treasurer, t want nothing now but to see 
tbe Dachesa out. But we shall do without her. We are 
all extremely happy. Give me joy, Eirrahs .'" The Dake 
of Somerset wa& not out; but a greati;r event bsppaied 

■ There «u enoaeb pUmflulitj in tlm tcaixU to ^re it 
The dncbeas had left ber Mcoad bnsbuid, a Mr. njnne. 
I7 after the toania^ ceremonj, and Bed to Holland, ^^e 
ConiDfsmark pvd ber his addKnee, and, eoonitg lo bi^ad, 
Mr.Tiijntie that by ndEana is FaH Man. See the 
the AoA T^iaU.toHs. 

witbiQ tliree days: the Duke of Marlborough was removed I 
from all his employments. The Tory victory was for tha 1 
tiiDo complete. 

Here, too, was the culminating point of Swift's 
Fifteen monthe of enoi^etic effort had been crowned witli I 
suecoss. He was the intimate of the greatest men in the 
country, and the most powerful exponent of their policy. 
No man in Btij^knd, outside tlie ministry, enjoyed a 
wider reputation. The ball was at his feet, and no posi- 
tion open to B clergyman beyond his hopes. Yet from 
this period begins a decline. He continued to write, pub- 
lishing numerous squibs, of which many have been lost, i 
and occasionally firing a gitn of heavier metal. Bat noth- 
ing came from him having the authoritative and master- 1 
ly tone of the Conduct of the Allies. His health broke 
down. At the beginning of April, 1712, he was attacked 
by a distressing complaint ; and his old enemy, ^ddinoss, 
gave him frequent alarms. The daily jonrnal ceased, and 
was not fairly resumed till December, though its place is 
partly supplied by occasional letters. The political con- 
test had changed its character. The centre of interest waa 
transferred to Utrecht, where negotiations began in Jan> 
aary, to be protracted over fifteen months; the ministry 
had to satisfy the demand for peace, without shocking the 
national self-esteem. Meanwhile jealousies were rapidly 
developing themselves, which Swift watched with ever- . 
growing anxiety. 

Swift's personal influence remained or increased. Ho ' 
drew closer to Oxford, but was still friendly with St. 
John; and to the public his position seemed more im- 
posing than ever. Swift was not the man to bear his 
honours meekly. In the early period of his acquaintance j 
with St. John (February 12, 1711) he sends the Prime 1 


Minister into the House of Cotnmo'ml tw'jtet) the Secretary 
of State that "I would not. dine wCHi" hinr if^he dined 
late." He is still a novice at the Saturday -dui'ii^ip .wlien 
the Duke of Shrewsbury appears : Swift whispefa'.S^aV Ije 
does not lite to see a stranger among them ; an'dr'Sl. .■' 
John haa to explain that the Duke lias written for leave," '. 
St. John then tells Swift that the Duke of Buckingham 
desires his acquaintance. The Duke, replied Swift, h 
not made sufficient advances : and he always e:xpects great- 
er advances from men in proportion to their rank. Dukes 
and great men yielded, if only to humour the pride 
this audacious parson : and Swift soon came to he pes- 
tered by innumerable applicants, attracted by his ostenta- 
tion of influence. Even ministers applied through 1 
"There is not one of them," he says, in January, 1713, 
" hut what will employ me as gj'avely to speak for them 
to Lord Treasurer as if I were their brother or 
is proud of the burden of influence with the great, though 
he affects to complain. The most vivid picture of Swift 
in all his glory ia in a familiar passage from Bishop Ken- 
nett's diary : 

"gnift," sajB Eennett, in 1713. " cmne into the cnffee-hnnse, and 
had a bow from everj'bdiij bat me. When I came to tbe antecham- 
ber to wait before pmjers Dr. Swift waa the principal man of talk 
and busiiiuss, and acted as Miniet^t of Requests. He was soliciting 
the Earl of Airao to apeak to bia brother, the DukQ of Ormouil, to 
get a chaplain's placo established in the gnrrisoii of Hull for Mr, 
Fiiides, a clergyman in that ueigLbourhood, who Imd lately been In 
jail, and published sermons to pa; fees. He was promising Hr. 
Tborold to nndertabe with my Lord Treasurer that according 
petilion be shoald obtain a salary of 200^, per aiitium, as minlt 
the English Church at Rotlcrdam. He slopped F. Gwynne, Esq., 
going in with tbe red bug to the Queen, and told him aloud he bad 
BODietliing to say to bim from my Lord TreaBuret. He talked niib 




103 _..^\fiii.' 

the son of Dr. Dar^niptJtlEJ ieol ftbroid, uui took oat his pocket- 

boob sad wrol^ dovB. ScveraJ things as maaararula ta do for him. 
He turi^ V> tUe fire, and took out bis golJ watfli, and li^lliug bim 
Ibe^nitlotuBj, compiained it WB9 very late. A gentleman said, 'H 
>rw fHT [HBt.' ' Hov can I help it,' aaya the Doctor, ' if the court- 
•, J^'give me a watch that won't go rightT' Then he inatruoted a 
*<ranDg nobletaan tliat the best poet iu En);!and wss Kr. Pope (a Pk- 
pist). who had begun a tmnslalioa of Homer into English Terse, tar 
which, he said, he mnat have Uiem all BubMribe. 'For,' sajs he, 
'the uitlior t/iall nol begin to print till I have a thoiiaand guineas for 
him.' Lord Treasurer, after leaving the Queen, came through the 
room, beckoning Ur. ^wift lu fullun him; both went aB juat before 

There is nndonbtodly aometbing offensive in tlus bliu- 
tciiDg self-assertioD. " No man," says Johnson, ^th his 
usual force, " can psy a more servile tribute to the grest 
than by Buffering hia liberty in their presence to aggran- 
dize him in hia own esteem." Delicacy waa not Swift's 
Btrong point; his compliments are as dumsy as his in- 
vectives are forcible ; and he shows a certain taint of vut 
garity in hie intepcoorse with social dignitaries. He is, 
perhaps, avenging himself fur the haniiliations received at 
Moor Park. lie has a Napoleonic absence of m^nanitnity. 
He likes to relish his triumph; to accept the pettiest as 
well 83 the greatest rewards ; to Saunt his splendours in 
the eyes of the servile as well as to enjoy the conscious- 
ness of real power. But it would bo a great mistake to 
infer that this oatentatiousncss of anthortty concealed real 
servilitv. Swift preferred to take the bull by the horns. 
He forced himself upon ministers by self-assertion ; and he 
held them in awe of hiin as the lion-tamer keeps down the 
latent ferocity of the wild beast. He never takes his 
off his subjects, nor lowers his imperioDs demeanonr. He 
retained bis influence, as Johnson observes, long after faia 


ye ^1 


services had ceased to be aseful. And all this demonBtM- 
tive patronage meant real and energetic work. We may 
note, for example, and it incidentally confirms Kennett's 
accuracy, that he was really serviceable to Davenant,' and 
that Fiddea got the chaplaincy at Hull. No man sTCr 
threw himself with more energy into the service of hia 
friends. He declared afterwards that in the days of hia 
credit lie had done fifty times more for fifty people, from 
whom he had received no obligations, than Temple had 
done for him.' The journal abounds in proofs that this 
was not overstated. There is " Mr, Harrison," for ex- 
ample, who has written " some mighty pretty things." 
Swift takes him up; rescues him from the fine friends 
who are carelessly tempting him to extravagance ; tries to 
start him in a continuation of the Taller; esults in getting 
him a secretaryship abroad, which he declares to be " the 
prettiest post in Europe for a young gentleman;" and is 
most unafiectodly and deeply grieved when the poor lad 
dies of a fever. He is carrying lOOl. to his young friend, 
when he hears of his death. " I told Pamell I was afraid 
to knock at the door — my mind misgave n»e," he says. On 
his way to bring help to Harrison he goes to see a " poor 
poet, one Mr. Diaper, in a nasty garret, very sick," and 
consoles him with twenty guineas from Lord Bolingbroke. 
A few days before he has managed to introduce Parnell to 
Harley, or rather to contrive it so that " the ministry d&- 
sire to be acquainted with Parnell, and not Pamell with 
the ministry." His old schoolfellow Congreve was in 
alarm about his appointments. Swift spoke at once to 
Harley, and went off immediately to report his success to 
Congreve: "so," he says, "I have made a. worthy man 

' Letters from SDiulcidge and Dr. Davenant iu ltl3. 
' Letter lo LordPalmerBl0ti,Januai7^9, 1726. 


easy, and that is a good day's work."* One of the latest | 
letters in hU journal refers to his attempt to serve I 
other schoolfellow, Berkeley. " I will favour him ; 
much as t can," he says; "this 1 think I am bound t 
honour and couacicnce, to use all my littlo credit tow 
helping forward men of worth in the world." He 
always helping leas conspicuous men ; and he prided hin 
self, with justice, that he bad beea as helpful to Whigs a 
to Tories. The ministry complained that be never 
to them " without a Whig in his sleeve," Besldi 
friend Cougreve, he recommended Rowe for prefermen^'J 
snd did his hest to protect Steele and Addison. 
of letters ever laboured more heartily to promote the into 
ests of his fellow-craftsmen, as few have ever bad simili 

Swift, it is plain, desired to use his influence ma^ 
cently. He hoped to make his reign memorabto by s] 
did patronage of literature. The great organ of mi 
Cencc was the famous Brothers' Clnb, of which he i 
the animating spirit It was founded in June, 17 
during Swift's absence at Wycombe; it was intended t 
" advance conversation and friendship," and obtain patro 
age for deserving persona. It was to include none I 
wits and men able to help wits, and, " if we go c 
began," says Swift, " no other club in this town will be 
worth talking of." In March, 1713, it consisted, as Swift 
tells us, of nine lords and ten commoners.* It excluded 

' Jane 22, 1711. 

' The list, 80 far us 1 can make It out from references in tha jour- 
nal, appears to include more nunes. One or two had probably re- 
tired. Tbe peers are as fo]lowH : The Dukes of Shrcwsbur; (perhaps 
only Buggeslcd), Ormond, and Beaufort ; Lords Orrery, Rivera, Dart- 
moutb, Dupplin, Maaham, Balhurat, and Lansdowne (the last three 


Harley and the Lord Keeper (Harconrt), apparently as 
they were to be the distribQtors of the patronage ; but it 
iacliided St. John and sereral leading ministers, Harley's 
son and son-in-law, and Ilarcourt's son ; whilst liter»turo 
was represented by Swift, Arbuthnot, Prior, and Friend, all 
of whom were more or less actively employed by the min- 
istry. The club was, therefore, composed of the ministry 
and their dependents, though it had not avowedly a politi- 
cal colouring. It dined on Thursday during the parlia- 
mentary session, when the political squibs of the day were 
often laid on the table, including Swift's famous WtTidsor 
Tropheey, and subscriptions were sometimes collected for 
BQch men as Diaper and Harrison. It flourished, however, 
for little more than the first season. In the winter of 
1T13-'13 it began to saScr from the common disease of 
such institutions. Swift b^an to complain bitterly of the 
extravagance of the charges. He gets tlie club to leave 
a tavera in which the bill' " for four dishes and four, first 
and second course, witliout wine and drink," had been 
21Z. 6s. %d. The number of guests, it seems, was fourteen. 
Next winter the charges are divided. " It cost me nine- 
teen shillings to-day tor my club dinner," notes Swift, De- 
cember 18, 1712. "I don't like it." Su'ift had a high 
value for every one of the nineteen shillings. The meet- 
ings became irregular; Harley was ready to give promises, 
but no patronage ; and Swift's attendance falls off. Indeed, 
it may be noted that he found dinners and suppers full of 
danger to hia health. He constantly complains of their 

n^re of the famous twelve) \ anA tlio commaaers are Swift, ®t R. 
Baymtind, Jack Hili, Disney, Sir W. Wyndliam, St. John, Prior, Fnend, 
Acbuthnot, Hsii-ley (son of Lord Oxford), and Qarcourt (aon of Lord 

' February, 28, 1712. 




after-effects ; and partly, perlups, for tbat reason 
ceases to frequent coffee-houses. Ferhaps, too, Itia 
tempt for coffee-house society, and the increasing d 
which made it desirable to keep possible applicants at fl 
distance, had much to do with this. The Brothers' ClubJ 
however, was long remembered by its members, and i 
later years they often address each other by the old f 
temal title. 

One design which was to have signalized Swift's peri( 
of power suggested the only paper which he had ever p 
liebed with bia name. It was a " proposal fur correcting 
improving, and ascertaining the English language,' 
lished in May, 1712, in tlie form of a letter to Ilarleju 
The letter itself, written offhand in six hours {February 3 
1713), ia not of much value; but Swift recurs to the siib>; 
ject frequently enough to show that he really hoped to b 
the founder of an English Academy. Had Swift been ll 
own minister instead of the driver of a minister, the p 
Gct might have been started. The rapid development ( 
the political struggle sent Swift's academy to the 1 
provided for such things; and few English authors i 
regret the failure of a scheme nnsuited to our natural idi 
^ikciasy, and calculated, as I fancy, to end in nothing bqj| 
an o^ianiEation of pedantry. 

One remark, meanwhile, recurs which ccrtmily struo) 
Swift himself. He says (March 17, 1712) thatSacheverellJ 
the Tory martyr, has come to him for patronage, and ob-B 
serves that when he left Ireland neither of thorn couldj 
have anticipated such a relationship. " This," he addi^l 
** is the seventh I have now provided for since I came, and^V 
can do nothing for myself." Hints at a desire for prefer- 1 
ment do not appear for some time ; but as he is constantly 
speaking of an early return to Ireland, aad is as regularly 



held back by the entreaties of the ministry, there must 
have been at least an implied promise, A hint had been 
given that he might be made chaplain to Ilarley, when the 
minister became Eari of Oxford. "I will be no man's 
chaplain alive," he says. He remarks about the same time 
{May 23,17n)that it "would look extremely little" if 
he returned without some distinction ; but he vrill not beg 
for preferment. The ministry, he says In the following 
August, only want him for one bit of business (the Coi^- 
duet ef the Allies, presumably). When that ia done he 
will take his leave of them, "I never got a penny from 
them nor expect it." The only post for which he made 
a direct application was that of historiographer, lie had 
made considerable preparations for his ao-calk-d Hhlory 
of the Last Four Years of Queen Antie, which appeared 
posthumously, and which may be described as one of hia 
political pamphlets without tbe vigour' — a dull statement 
of facts put together by a partisan aSecting the historical 
character- This application, however, was not made till 
April, I7l4, when Swift was poasess'ed of all the prefer- 
ment that he was destined to receive. He conKidcred in 
his haughty way that he should be entreated rather than 
entreat; and ministers were, perhaps, slow to give him 
anything which coald take him away from them. A secret 
influence was at work against him. The Tale of a Tub 
was brought up against him; and imputations upon his 
orthodoxy were common. Nottingham even revenged 
himself by describing Swift in tbe House of Lords as a 
divine " who is hardly suspected of being a Christian." 

' Its ButhcDticit; WBS doubted, hut, as I thlok, quite gratuitouslj, 
b^ Johnson, b; Lord Stanliope, and, as Stanhope ujs, by Hicanlsj. 
The duloeaa ia eaiilj explicable b;r tbe ciroumatuicea at the coupo 


108 SWIFT. [cB 

Such inunuations were also turned to acconnt by tb»J 
Ducheea of Somerset, who retained her influence i 
Anoe in nptto of Swift's attack». His joarnal in the win- 
ter of 1T12-'13 shows growing discontent. In Decemtx 
1712, he resolves to write no more till something is dou 
for him. He will get under shelter before he makes mora 
enemies. He declares that he is "soliciting nothing" (Feb 
ruary 4, 1713), but he is growing impatient. Harley iM 
kinder than ever. " Mighty kind !" exclaims Swift, " witt 

a ; teas of civility and more of interest;" o 

pats it in one of his favourite " proverbs " soon afterwardSffl 
" my grandmother used to say : 

' More o( your lialng, 
And less of jour dioiog." 

At last Swift, hearing that he was again to be passed oTeTf,! 
gave a positive intimation that he would retire if nothingf 
was done ; adding that he should complain of Harley iotu 
DOthiDg but neglecting to inform him sooner of the hope 
lessness of his position.' The Dean of St. Patrick's was a; 
last promoted to a bishopric, and Swift appointed to thB,1 
vacant deanery. The warrant was signed on April 33, andf 
in Jnne Swift set out to take possession of his deanery. I 
It was no great prize; he would have to pay 1000/. fori 
the house and fees, and thus, he says, it would be three I 
years before he would be the richer for it ; and, more- 1 
over, it involved what he already described as " banish- | 
mant" to a country which he hated. 

His atat« of mind when entering upon his preferment 1 

was painfully depressed. " At my first coming," be writes J 

to Miss Vanhomrigh, " I thought I should have died with J 

discontent; and was horribly melancholy while they wore 1 

> April IS, 1718. 


installmg me ; but it begiDH to near oS and change to 
dulness." This depreasLoa is singular, when we remem- 
her that Swift was returning to the woman for whom he 
had the strongest aSoction, and from whom he had been 
separated for nearly three years ; and, moreover, that he 
was returning as a famous and a successful man. He 
seems to have been received with some disfavour by a 
society of Whig proclivities. He was suffering from a 
fresh return of ill-health ; and, besides the absence from 
the political struggles in which he was so keenly interest- 
ed, he could not thint of them without deep anxiety. 
He returned to London in October at the earnest request 
of political friends. Matters were looking serious ; and 
though the journal to Stella was not i^ain taken up, we 
can pretty well trace the events of the following period. 

There can rarely have been a leas congenial pair of 
colleagnes than Harley and St. John. Their union was 
that of a still more brilliant, daring, and self-confident 
Disraeli with a very inferior edition of Sir Robert Peel, 
with smaller intellect and exaggerated infirmities. The 
timidity, procrastination, and "refinement" of the Treas- 
urer were calculated to exasperate his audacious colleague. 
From the earliest period Swift had declared that every- 
thing depended upon the good mutual nnderstanding of 
the two ; he was frightened by every symptom of discord, 
and declares (in August, 1711) that he has ventured all his 
credit with the ministers to remove their differences. He 
knew,ashe afterwards said (October 20, 1711), that this 
was the way to be sent back to his willows at Laraoor, 
but everything must be risked in such a case. When 
difficulties revived next year he hoped that he had made 
a reconciliation. But the discord was too vital. The 
victory of the Tories broaght on a serious danger. They 


had come into power to make peace. Tbc^ bad made 'A. J 
The n«il<)iicUio[i wan thai uf tUe HUCoesaiuD of the orowik j 
Here they neither n-flecti-Ml the guneral opinion of tl 
nation nor were agreed arnungHt thumsclvca. Hurley, : 
we DOW know, had flirted wilfa ike Jacobites ; and Bol'ini^ I 
broke was deep in treaaonalilo plots. Tbe existence of I 
snch plots was a secret to Swift, who indi^nauily denied I 
their existence. When King liinted at a possible da: 
to Snift from tbe discovery of St. Jolin's trt-'aftoa, be in- I 
di^nantly replied thai be mnst have been " a most falsa J 
and vile man " to join in nnythin^ of tbe kind.' He pro* I 
fesses elsewhere bis conviction that there were not at thia t 
period five hundred Jucobitea in Kngland; and "amongHt ] 
these not six of any ijuality or consequence. "* Swift'a < 
sincerity, here as everywhere, is beyond all suspicion ; bak 
his conviction proves incidentally that he was in the dark 
as to tbe " wheels within wheels " — the backstairs plota, 
by which tbe admiiiiatration of hia friends was hampered 
and distracted. With so many causes for jealousy and 
discord, it is no wonder that the political world became a 
mass of complex intrigue and dispute. The Queen, mean- 
while, might die at any moment, and some decided coarae 
of action become imperatively necessary. Whenever the , 
Queen was ill, said Harley, people were at their wits' end ; 
as soon as she recovered they actei^ as if she were im- 
mortal. Yet, tbongh he complained of the general inde- 
cision, his own conduct was most hopelessly undecided. 

It was in tbe hopes of pacifying these intriguee that 
Swift was recalled from Ireland. He plunged into the 
fight, but not with bis old success. Two parapblets which 
he published at the end of 1713 are indications of hia 

' Leiler to King, Decanber 16, 1716. 

' Inquiry itUa lite Btiarionr of the Qmmi'a last Minisir]/. 



state of mind. One was an attack upon a wild no-popeiy 
shriek emitted by Bishop Burnet, whom he treats, aays 
Johnaon, " like one whom he is glad of an opportunity to 
inealL" A man who, like Baraet, is on friondly tcnns 
with those who assail the privileges of his orde>r must often 
expect sDch treatment from its zealous adbereats. Yet the 
Bcorafid assault, which liods out weak places enough in 
Bumet'a mental rhetoric, is in painful contrast to the dig- 
nified argument of earlier pamphlets. The other pam- 
phlet was an incident in a more painful contest. Swift 
had tried to keep on good terms with Addison and Steele, 
He had prevented Steele^e dismissal from a Commissioner- 
ship of Stamps. Steele, however, had lost hia place of 
GrazettecT for an attack upon Harlcy. Swift persuaded 
Harley to be reconciled to Steele, on condition that Steele 
should apologize. Addiaon prevented Steele from making 
the reqnired submission, " out of more spite," says Swift, 
at the thought that Steele should require other help — ■ 
rather, we guess, because Addison thought that the sab- 
misaion would savour of party infidelity. A coldness fol- 
lowed. " All our friendship is over," said Swift of Addi- 
son (March 6, 1711); and though good feeling revived 
between the principals, their intimacy ceased. Swift, 
swept into the ministerial vortex, pretty well lost sight of 
Addison ; though they now and then met on civil terms. 
Addison dined with Swift and St. John upon April 3, 
1713, and Swift attended a rehearsal of Cato — the only 
time when we see him at a theatre. Meanwhile the ill 
feeling to Steele remained, and bore bitter fruit. 

Steele and Addison had to a great extent retired from 
politics, and during tiro eventful years l7ll-'13 were 
chiefly occupied in the politically harmless Spectator. 
Bat Steele was always ready to find vent for his zeal; 


112 SWIFT. [cB 

and in 1713 be fell foul of Hx^JStamirur in the Guardian. I 
Swift liad long ceased to write Examinen or to be rcspon- 1 
nble for the conduct of tbe paper, though be BtlU occa- i 
sionallj inspired tbe i*ritcrs. Steele, naturally enough, 
supposed Swift to bo still at work; and in defending a 
daughter of Steele's enemy, Nottingham, not only sng- 
gested that Swift was her assailant, but added an insinua- 
tion that Swift was an infidel. The imputation stung 
Swift to the quick. He had a sensibility to personal at- 
tacks, not rare with those who most freely indulge in 
them, which was ridiculed by the easy-going Harley. Ad 
attack from an old friend — from a friend whose good opin- 
ion he still valued, though their intimacy had ceased; from 
a friend, moreover, whom in spite of their separation fae 
bod tried to protect; and, finally, an attack upon the ten- 
dcrcst part of bis character, irritated him beyond measure. 
Some angry letters passed, Steele evidently regarding Swift 
as a traitor, and disbelieving bis professions of innocence 
and bis claims to active kindness ; whilst Swift felt Steele's 
ingratitude the more deeply from the apparent plausibility 
of the accusation. If Steele was really unjust and nngea* 
eroQS, wo may admit as a partial excuse that in such cases 
the loss prosperous combatant has a kind of right to bitter^ 
nosi. The quarrel broke out at the time of Swift's appoint- 
ment to the deanery. Soon after the new Dean's return to 
England, Steele was elected member for Stockbridge, and 
rimhed into political coatroversy. His most conspicuous 
performance was a frothy and pompous pamphlet called 
tbe Critit, Intended to rouse alarms as to French invasiou 
and Jacobite Intrigues. Swift took the opportunity to re- 
venge himself upon Steele. Two pamphlets — The impor- 
tance of tht " Guardian " considered, and The Public Spirit 
of the Whiffi (the latter in answer to the Crisis) — are fierce 


attacks upon St«e]e personally and politically. Swift's feel- 
ing comes out sufficiently in a remark in the first. lie re- 
verses the saying aboat Cranmer, and aaya that lie may 
afBnn of Steele, " Do him a good turn, and be is your 
enemy for ever." There is vigoroos writing enongh, and 
effective ridicule of Steele's literary style and political 
alarmism. Bnt it is painfnlly obviona, as in the attack 
npon Bnmet, that personal animosity is now the predom- 
inant instead of an aaxiliary feeling. Swift Is anxious be- 
yond all things to mortify and humiliate an antagonist. 
And he is in proporlion less efficient as a partisan, though 
more amusing. He has, moreover, tbe disadvantage of be- 
ing politically on the defensive. He is no longer proclaim- 
ing a policy, but endeavouring to disavow the policy at- 
tributed to his party. The wrath which breaks forth, and 
the bitter personality with which it is edged, were far more 
calculated to irritate his opponents than to disarm tbs 
lookers-on of their suspicions. 

Part of the fnry was no doubt due to tbe growing utt- 
soundness of his political position. Steele in the beginning 
of 1714 was expelled from the House for the Crisis; and 
an attack made upon Swift in the House of Lords for an 
incidental outbarst against the hated Scots, in his reply to 
the Crisis, was only staved off by a manojuvre of the min- 
istry. Meanwhile Swift was urging the necessity of union 
npon men who hated each other more than they regarded 
any public cause whatever. Swift at last brought his two 
patrons together in Lady Maaham'a lodgings, and entreated 
them to be reconciled. If, he said, they would agree, all 
existing mischiefs could be remedied in two minutes. If 
they would not, the ministry would be ruined in two 
months. Bolingbroke assented ; Oxford characteristically 
1, said " all would be well," and asked Swift to dina 


t (Uy. Swift, hower«r, aud that be wowd 
k aM tlie iDCTitjible cataslroplie. 

It \ 

to hido his head id such 


inttamly proud and sensitive naturo could not bear to 
witnivs the triumph of his enoniics, and he accordingly 
Ktirod at the end of May, 1714, to the quiet parsoitage 
of UpiMtr Lctconibe, in Berkstilre. The public wondered 
sad Rpecalati^d; friends wrot« letters describing the aeenes 
vtucfa followed, and desiring Swift's lielp ; and he re«d, 
and walked, and chewed the cud of melancholy refiectioD, 
and thought of stealing away to Ireland. He wrote, how- 
ever, a very remarkable pamphlet, giving his view of th« 
altoaiion, which was not published at the time; events 
went too fast 

Swift's conduct at this critical point is most noteworthy. 
Tbt: pamphlet (Fret TkoughU upon the Present State of 
Affairs) exactly coincides with all hli private and public 
ntterauces. Uis theory was umplc and straightforward. 
1^ existing situation was the culminating result of 
fiarley's policy of refinement and procrastination. Swift 
two years before bad written a very able remonstrance 
with the October Club, who had sought to push Harley 
into decisive measurea ; but though he preached patience 
he really sympathized with their motives. Instead of 
making a clean sweep of his opponents, Harley had left 
many of tham in office, either from "refinement" — that 
over-subtlety of calculation which Swift thought inferior 
to plain common sense, and which, to use his favourite 
illustration, is like the sharp knife that mangles the paper, 
when a plain, blunt paper-knife cuts it properly— or else 
from inability to move the Queen, which he had foolishly 
allowed to pass for unwillingness, in order to keep up the 
appearance of power. Two things were now to be done: 


tir»t, a cteaD sweep should be made of all Whigs and r>i» 
aenters from office and from the army; secondly, the 
Court of Hanover should be required to break o2 all in- 
tercourse with the Opposition, on which condition the 
heir-presumptive (the infant Prince Frederick) might bo 
sent over to reside in England. Briefly, Swift'a policy 
was a policy of "thorough." Oxford's vaeillationa were 
the great obstacle, and Oxford was falling before the alli- 
ance of Eolingbroke with Lady Msabam. Boliogbroke 
might have turned Swift'a policy to the account of the 
Jacobites ; but Swift did not take this into aocount, and 
in the Free Thoughts ho declares his utter disLellef in any 
danger to the succession. What side, then, ahonld he 
take? He sympathized with Bolingbroke'a avowed prin- 
ciples. Bolingbroke was eager for his help, and even 
hoped to reconcile faitn to the red-haired ducbess. But 
Swift was bound to Oxford by strong personal affection ; 
by an affection which waa not diminiahed esen by the fact 
that Oxford had procrastinated in the matter of Swift's 
own preferment ; and was, at this very moment, annoying 
him by delaying to pay the 1000/. incurred by his in- 
stallation in the deanery. To Oxford he had addressed 
(November 21, 1713) a letter of consoktion upon the 
death of a daughter, poasesaiug the charm which is given 
to such letters only by the most genuine sympathy with 
the feelinga of the loser, and by a spontaneous selection 
of the only safe topic — praise of the lost, equally tender 
and sincere. Every reference to Oxford is affecUonate. 
When, at the beginning of July, Oaford was haatening to 
his fall. Swift wrote to him another manly and dignified 
letter, professing an attachment beyond the reach of ex- 
ternal accidents of power and rank. The end came soon. 
Swift heard that Oxford waa about to resign. Ho wrota 



t (July 2», I"I4) lop 

7 him t 


propose to xccompany h 
bis country liousc. Oxford replied two days later 
Iett«r oddly characteriBtic He begs Swift to come 
tdm: "If I have not tired yon tite-&-tiU, fling away so 
Dinch of your time upon one who lores you;" and then 
Mthcr spoils the patlios by a bit of hopeless do^ereL 
Swift wrote to Miss Vanhomiigh on August 1. "I bare 
been asked," be »a}% " to join with those people now in 
power; but I will not do it, I told Lord Oxford I would 
go with Lim, when be was out; and now he begs it offl 
tne, and I cannot refuse him. I meddle not witb hiu 
fauits, as he was a Mioister of State ; but you know hisi 
pergonal kindness to ma was cxcossive; he distinguished 
nd chose nic above all other men, while he was great, and 
liis letter to me the other day was the most moving im- 

An intimacy which bore sncli fruit in time of trial was 
not one founded upon a servility varnished by self-asser- 
tion. No stanncher friend than Swift ever lived. But 
his fidelity was not to be put to further proof. The day 
of the letter just quoted was the day of Queen Anne'a 
death. The crash which followed ruined tlie " people 
now in power" as effectually as Oxford. The party with 
which Swift had identified himself, in whose success all 
his hopes and ambitions were bound up, was not so much 
ruined as annihiiated. "The Earl of Oxford," wrote 
Bolingbroke to Swift, "was remored on Tuesday, The 
I Queen died on Sunday. What a world is this, and how 
!s fortune banter us I" 

Thb final crash of tlie Tory administration found Swift 
approaching the end of hU forty-seventh year. It found 
him, In his own opinion, prematurely aged both in mind 
and body. His personal prospects and political hopes 
were crashed. " I have a letter from Dean Swift," says 
Arbnthnot in September ; " he keeps up his noble spirit, 
and though lite a man knocked down, you may behold 
him still with a stern countenance and aiming a blow at 
his adversaries." Yet hia adversaries knew, and he knew 
only too well, that snch blows as ho could now deliver 
could at most show his wrath without gratifying hia 
revenge. He was disarmed as well as " knocked down." 
He writes to Eolingbroke from Dublin in despair, " I 
live a country life in town," he says, " see nobody and go 
every day once to prayers, and hope io a few months to 
grow as stupid as the present situation of aSalrs will 
require. Well, after all, parsons are not such bad oom- 
paoy, especially when they are under subjection ; and I 
let none but such come near me." Oxford, Bolingbroke, 
and Ormond were soon in exile or the Tower; and a let 
ter to Pope next year gives a sufficient picture of Swift's 
feelings. " You know," be said, " how well I loved both 
Lord Oxford and Bolingbroke, and bow dear the Dake of 





Onnond ia to mc; do ^ou im^nc I can be eaBy while 
thoir onemics are endeavouring to take o9 tbeir heads? — 
I nunc et veriut Ueam medUare fanorosP' "You are to 
utidcretaDd," he savs in conclusion, " that I Hve in the 
corner of a vast unfurnished house ; luy famUy conBist& 
of a Btoward, a groom, a helper in the stable, a footman, 
and iin old nuiid, who arc all at board wages, and when I 
do not dine abroad or make an entertainment (which last 
is very rare), I cat a tiiDtlon pie and drink half a pint of 
wine ; my amusements arc defending my small dominions 
agSiHt tho archbishop, and endeavouring to reduce my 
rebellious choir. PtrditKr ktce inter misero hix,^' In an- 
other of the dignified letters which show the ISnefit nde 
of his natnn: lio offered to join Oxford, whoso intrepid 
behaviour, he says, "has astonished every one but me^ 
who know you bo well." But be could do nothing be- 
yond showing sympathy ; and be remained alon^ asserting 
his autliority ia his ecclesiBSticsl domains, brooding over 
the past, and for the time unable to divert his thooghts 
into any less distressing channel. Some verses written 
in October "in sickness" give a remarkable expression 
of his melancholy : 

" 'Tis true — then whj ehoulJ I repine 
To see mj life so fast ilecllne ? 
But «hj obscurel)' here alone, 
WberB I nin neither loved nor known? 
Hf state of heilth nose tare to loara, 
JSj life is here no soul's conoem, 
And those with whom I now convL'rse ' 

Without n (ear will tend mj hearse." 

Yet we might have fancied that his lot would not be 
so unbearable. After all, a fall which ends in a deanery 
shouJd break no bones. His friends, though hard pressed, 


survived ; and, lastly, was aay one so likely to shed tears 
upon his hearae as tbu woman to whom he was finally 
returning ! The answer to tbia question brings us to a 
story imperfectly known to us, but of vital importance m 
Swift's history. 

We have seen in what masterful fashion Swift took poB- 
session of great men. Tbe same imperious temper shovB 
itself in his relations to women. He required absolute 
submission. Entrance into the inner circle of his affeiy 
ttons ^conld only be achieved by something like abaae- 
ment ; but al! within it becitme as a part of himself, to 
be both cherished and protected without stint. His 
aSeutation of brutality was part of a system. On first 
meeting Lady Burlington, at her husband's house, be 
ordered her to sing. She declined. He replied, "Sing, 
or I will make you I Why, madam, I suppose yon take 
me for opg of your English bedge-parsons ; sing when I 
tell you !" She burst into tears and retired. Tbe next 
time he met her he began, "Pray, madam, are you as 
proud and ill-iiatured as when 1 saw you last!" She 
good-humoaredly gave in, and Swift became her warm 
friend. Another lady to whom he was deeply attached 
was a famoas beauty, Anne Long. A whimsical treaty 
was drawn up, setting forth that "the said Dr. Swift, 
upon the score of his merit and extraordinary qualities, 
doth claim the sole and undoubted right that all per- 
sons whatever shall make such advance to him as he 
pleases to demand, any law, claim, custom, privilege of 
sea, beauty, fortune or quality to the contrary notwitb- 
standing;" and providing that Miss Long shall cease the 
oontumaey in which she has been abetted by the Van- 
homrighs, but be allowed in return, in consideration o'' her 
being "a Lady of the Toast," to give herself the reputation. 
I 6* 



120 SWIFT. [cB*f. 

of being one of Snift'a acqaaiotsnce. Swift's aftectiun f nr 
Miu Long is touchingl; expressed in private papera, and 
in a letter written upon her death in retirement and 
poverty. He intends to put up a moDiunent to her mecn- 
ory, and wrote a notice of her, " to serve her memory," 
and also, as be cbaracteristically adds, to spite the brother 
vho had neglected her. Years afterwards ho often refers 
to the " edict " which he annually issued in England, 
commanding all ladies to make him the first advances. 
He gracioasly makes an exception in favour of the Duch- 
ess of Queensherry, thongh he observes incidentally that 
he now hates alt people whom he cannot command. This 
humorous assumption, like all Swift's humour, has a 
strong element of downright earnest. He gives whimsi- 
cal prominence to a genuine feeling. He is always acting 
the part of despot, and acting it very gravely. When he 
stays at Sir Arthur Achesou's, Lady Acheson becomes 
his pupil, and is "severely chid" when she reads wrong. 
Mrs. Pcndarvea, afterwards Mrs. Delany, says in the same 
way that Swift calls himself "her master," and corrects 
her when she speaks bad English.' He behaved in the 
same way to his sorvauts. Delaoy tells us that he was 
"one of the best roasters in the world," paid his servants 
the highest rate of wages known, and took great pains 
to encourage and help them to save, But, on engaging 
them, he always tested their humility. One of their du- 
ties, he told them, would be to take turns in cleaning the 
scullion's shoes, and if they objected he sent them about 
their Uusiness. He is said to have tested a curate's docil- 
ity in the same way by offering him sour wine. His do- 
minion was most easily extended over women ; and a long 
list might be easily made out of the feminine favourites 
■ ^uiobio^rapky, voL L, p. 407. 



who at all periods of bis life were in more or less intimate 
relations with this self-appointed sultan. From the wivea 
of peers and the daughters of lord lieutenants down to 
Dublin tradeswomen with a taste for rbyming, and even 
scullery-maids with no tastes at all, a whole hierarchy of 
female slaves bowed to his rule, aud were admitte<] into 
hi{;her and lower degrees of favour. 

Esther Johnson, or Stella — to give her the name which 
«hc did not receive until after the period of the famoaa 
journals — was one of the first of these worshippers. As 
we have seen, he taught her to write, and when he went 
to Laracur she accepted the pecnliar position already 
described. We have no direct statement of their mutual 
feelings before the time of the journal ; but one remark- 
able incident must be noticed. During his stay in Kng- 
land in 1703-'04 Swift had some correspondence with a 
Dublin clergyman named Tisdall. He afterwards regarded 
Tisdall with a contempt which, for the present, ia only 
half perceptible in some good-humoured raillery. Tis- 
dall's intimacy with " the ladies," Stella and Mrs. Dingley, 
is one topic, and in the last of Swift's letters we find that 
Tisdall has actually made an offer for Stella. Swift had 
replied in a letter (now lost), which Tisdall called un- 
friendly, unkind, and unaccountable. Swift meets these 
reproaches coolly, contemptuously, and straightforwardly. 
He will not aSect unconsciousness of Tlsdall's meaning. 
Tisdall obviously lakes him for a rival in Stella's aSec- 
tions. Swift replies that he will tell the naked truth. 
The truth is that "if his fortune and humour served 
bim to think of that state" (marriage) ho would prefer 
Stella to any ono on earth. So much, he says, he has 
declared to Tisdall before. He did not, however, think 
of his aSection as an obstacle to Tisdall's hopes. Tisdall 


12! SWIFT. [en 

had been too poor to marry ; but tLe offer of a living ba» 1 
removed that objection ; and Swift undertalies to act w 
he has hitherto acted, a friendly though passive part. 
He bad thought, he declares, that the affair had gone too 
far to be broken off; he had always spoken of Tisdall in 
friendly terms; "no consideration of ray own misfortune 
in losing so good a friend and companion as 
prevail upon bim to oppose the match, " since it is held I 
BO necessary and convenicut a tbing for ladies to marry, I 
and that time takes off from the lustre of virgins in bQ | 
other eyes but mine." 

The letter must have STi^eated some doubts to TisdalL j 
Bwift alleges as his only reasons for not being a rival i: 
earnest his " humour " and the state of his fortune. The J 
laat obstacle might be removed at any moment Swift's 
prospects, though deferred, were certainly better than Tis- 
dall's. Unless, therefore, the humour was more insor- 
monntable than is often the case. Swift's coolness was 
remarkable or ominous. It may be that, ^ some have 
held, there was nothing behind. But another possibility 
undoubtedly suggests itself. Stella had received Tisdall's 
Bait so unfavourably that it was now suspended, and that 
it finally failed. Stella was corresponding with Swift. It 
is easy to guess that, between the " nnaccountable " letter 
and the contemptuous letter, Swift had heard something 
from Stella which put him thoroughly at ease in regard to 
Tifldall's attentions. 

We have no further information until, seven years after- 
wards, we reach the Journal to Stella, and find ourselves 
overhearing the " little langaage." The first editors scru- 
pled at a full reproduction of what might strike an un- 
friendly reader as almost drivelling ; and Mr. Forster re- 
printed for the first time the omitted parts of the still 


Hccpssible letters. The little language is a continuation of 
Stella's infantile prattle. Certain letters are a cipher 
pet names which may be conjectured. Swift calls himself 
Pdfr, or Podefar, meaning, as Mr. Forster guesses, "Poor, 
dear Foolish Rogue." St«tla, or rather Esther JohosoD, is 
Ppt, say "Poppet." MD, "my dear," means Stella, and 
Bometimes includes Mrs. Dingley. FVV means " farewell," 
or "foolish wenches;" Lele is taken by Mr. Forster to 
mean " truly " or " lazy," or " there, there," or to have 
" other meanings not wholly discoverable." The phra 
come in generally by way of leave-taking. " So I got 
into bed," he says, " to write to MD, MD, for we must 
always write to MD, MD, MD, awate or asleep ;" and b 
ends, "Go to bed. Help pdfr. Rove pdfr, MD, MD. 
Nile darling rogues." Here is another scrap : " I assure oo 
it im vely late now ; but zis goes to-morrow ; and I must 
have time to converse with own deerichar MD. Nite de 
deer SoSlahs." One more leave-taking may be enough : 
" Farewell, dearest hearts and souls, MD, Farewell, MD, 
MD, MD. FW, FW, FW. ME, ME. Lele, Lele, Lele, 
Sollaha, Lele." 

The reference to the Giolden Farmer already noted ia 
in the words, " I warrant oo don't remember the Golden 
Farmer neither, Figgarkick Solly," and I will venture to a 
guess at what Mr. Forster pronounces to be inexplicable.' 
May not Solly be the same as " Soilah," generally inter- 
preted by the editors as " sirrah ;" and " Figgarkick " 
possibly be the same as Pilgarlick, a phrase which he 
elsewhere applies to Stella,' and which the dictionaries j 
say means " poor, deserted creature ?" 

' Forater, p. 1U8. 

■ October 20. nil. Tbe loat use I have obaorvod of tbis vord ia 
in > letter of CarWIe'a, November 7, 1824 ; " Strange pilgarlic-looking 
flgures."— Froude's Ufe of Carlylt, vol. i, p. 217. 


B 124 SWIFT. [cBir. ^^M 

Swift says that as be writes his langaagc be " ma'kes up 
bis moutb jast as if be was speaking it" It fits the 
affectionate careases in which he is always indulging. 
Nothing, indeed, can be more charming than the plajfol 
little prattle which occasionally interrupts the gossip and 
the sharp utterances of hope or resontment. In the snatches 
of leisure, late at night or before he has got up i 
morning, he delights in an imaginary chat; for i 
minutes of little fondling talk help hira to forget his 
worries, and anticipate the happiness of reunion, 
caresses her letters, as be cannot touch her band. "And 
BOW let us come and see what this saucy, dear letter of 
MD says. Come oat, letter, come out from between the 
sheets ; here it is underneath, and it will not come out 
Come out again, I says ; so there. Here it is. What 
Bays Pdf to me, pray ? says it. Come and let me answer 
for you to your ladies, Hold up your bead then like i 
good letter." And so be begins a little talk, and prays 
that they may be never separated again for ten daya 
whilst he lives. Then be follows their movements i 
Dublin in passages which give some lively little pictures 
of their old habits, " And where will you go to-day f for 
I eannot be with you for the ladies." [He is off sight- 
Bceing to the Tower and Bedlam with Lady Kerry and a 
friend.] " It is a rainy, ugly day ; I would have you send 
for Wales, and go to the Dean's ; but do not play small 
games when you lose. You will be ruined by Manilio, 
Baato, the queen, and two small trumps in red. I confess 
it is a good hand against the player. But, then, there 
are Spadilio, Punto, the king, strong trumps against yon, 
which with one trump more are three tricks ten ace ; for 
suppose you play your Manilio — 0, silly, how I prate and 
cannot get away from MD in a morning. Qo, get yoa 




gone, dear naughty girls, and let me rise." He deligbta, 
agaiQ, in turning to account bis queer talent for ma^ng 
impromptu proverbs: 

" Be }DU lords or be 70U earls, 

Tou must write to naughtj girls." 
Or again : 

"Mr. White and Mr. Red 

WritE to M.D. when a-bed; 

Mr. Black and Mr. Broim 

Write to M.D. when jou are down; 

Mr. Oak and Mr. Willow 

Write to M.D. oq jour pillow." 

And here is one more for the end of the year: 
■' Would you answer M.D.'b letter 
On New Tear's Daj you will do it better; 
For when the jear with M.D. 'gins 
It without M.D. never 'lins." 

" These proverbs," he explains, " have always old words in 
them ; /m is leave oH." 

" Bnt if on New Tear jou write tumes 
M.D. then will bang your bones." 

Reading these fond triflings we feci even now aa 
though we were unjustifiably prying into the writer'a con- 
fidence. What are we to say to them ! We might Bin> 
ply say that the tender playfulness is charming, and that 
it is delightful to find the stem gladiator turning from 
party warfare to soothe his wearied soul with these tender 
caresses. There is but one drawback. Macaulay imitates 
some of this prattle in his charming letters to his younger 
sister, and there we can accept it without difficulty. But 
Stella was not Swift's yonnger sister. She was a beauti- 
fui and clever woman of thirty, when he was in the prime 


136 SWDT. [cl 

of his powers at forty-four. If Tiadall oonld have Been 
tbe jouraal he would have ceased to call Swift " anac- 
countftble." Did all this caressing suggest nothing to 
Stella! Swift does not write as an avowed lover; Ding* 
ley serves as a chaperone even in tbese intimate confi- 
dences; and yet a word or two escapes which certainly 
reads like something more than fraternal afiection. Ho 
apologizes (May 23, 1711) for not returniog: "I will say 
no more, but beg you to be easy till Fortune takes her 
course, and to believe that MD's felicity is the great goal 
I aim at in all my pursuits." If such words addressed 
under such circumstances did not mean " I hope to make 
you my wife as soon aa I get a deanery," there must have 
been some distinct understanding to limit their force. 

But another character enters the drama. Mrs. Van- 
homrigh,' a widow rich enough to mii in good society, 
was living in London with two sons and two daughters, 
and made Swift's acquaintance in 1708. Iler eldest 
daughter, Hester, was then seventeen, or about ten years 
younger than Stella. When Swift returned to London, in 
1710, he took lodgings close to the Vanhomrighs, and 
became an Intimate of the family. la the daily reports 
of bis dinner the name Van occurs more frequently than 
any other. Dinner, let us observe in passing, had not 
then so much as now the character of a solemn religions 
rite, implying a fonnal invitation. The ordinary hour 
was three (though Harle; with his usual procraati nation 
often failed to sit down till ais), and Swift, when not pro- 
engaged, looked in at Court or elsewhere in search of an 
invitation. He seldom failed; and when nobody else 
offered be freqaenlly went to the " Vans." The name of 

I Lord Orrery matructs ns to pronounce this name Vanmnieury. 




the daughter is only mentioDed two or tbroo times; 
whilst it is, perhaps, a suspicions circnmatance that be 
very often makes a quasi-apology for hia dining-place. "I 
was so lazy I dined where my new gown was, at Mrs, 
VanhomrigL'a," he says, in May, 1711; and a day or two 
later explains that he keeps his " best gown and periwig " 
tbere whilst he is lodging at Chelsea, and often dinea 
there " oat of mere listlessnesa." The phrase may not 
have been consciously insincere ; but Swift was driftiog 
into an intimacy nbich Stella could hardly approve, and, 
if she desired Swift's love, would regard as ominous. 
When Swift took poBseaaion of his deanery he revealed 
his depression to Miss Yanhomrigh, who about this time 
took the title Yauessa; and Vanessa, again, received his 
confidences from Letcombe, A full acconnt of their re- 
lations is given in the remarkable poem ealled Cadenus 
and Vanessa-, less remarkable, indeed, as a poem than as 
an autobiographical document. It is singularly charactei^ 
istic of Swift that we can use what, for want of a better 
classification, must be called a love poem, as though it 
were an affidavit in a law-suit Most men would feel 
some awkwardness in hinting at sentiments cohveyed by 
Swift in the most downright terms; to turn them into a 
poem would seem preposteroas. Swift's poetry, however, 
is always plain matter of fact, and we may read Cadenttt 
(which means of course Hecanua) and Vanesga as Swift's 
deliberate and palpably sincere account of his own state 
of mind. Omitting a superfluous framework of mythol- 
ogy in the contemporary taste, we have a plam story of 
the relations of this new Eeloi'se and Abelard. Yanessa, 
he tells ns, united masculine accompli ah menta to feminine 
grace; the fashionable fops {I use Swift's own words as 
much as possible) who tried to entertain her with the 


128 SWIFT. [chip. 

tattle of tbc day, stared when ehe replied by appHcations 
of Plutarch's morals. The ladies from the purlieus of St 
James's fouod her reading MontaigDe at her toilet, and 
were amazed by her ignorance of the fashions. Both 
were scandalized at the waste of such charms and talenta 
due to the want of so called knowledge of the world. 
Meanwhile, Vanessa, not yet twenty, met and straightway 
admired Cadenns, though his eyes were dim with study 
and his health decayed. He had grown old in poUtics 
and wit ; was caressed by ministers ; dreaded and hated 
by half mankind, and had forgotten the arts by which he 
had once charmed ladies, though merely for amusement 
and to show bis wit.' He did not nnderstand what waa 
love; he behaved to Vanessa as a father mi^'Ut bebave to 
a daughter ; 

" That innoceDt delight he took 
To see the virgin mind her booh 
Was bat the master's secret joj 
lu school to hear the finest boj." 

Vanessa, once the (quickest of learners, grew distracted. 
He apologized for having bored her by his pedantry, and 
offered a last adieu. She then startled bim by a confession, 
He had taught her, she said, that virtue should never be 
afraid of disclosures; that noble minds were above com- 
mon maxims (just what he had said to Varina), and she 
therefore told him frankly that his lessons, aimed at her 
head, had reached her heart Cadenus was utterly taken 
aback. Her words were too plain to be in jest. He waa 
conscious of having never for a moment meant to be other 
than a teacher. Yet every one would suspect hira of in- 
tentions to win her heart and her five thousand pounds. 

■ This simply repeats what he aajB in hifl first published letters 
about hJB flirtations al Leicester. 



He tried not to take things serionaJy. Vanessa, however, 
became eloquent. She said that he had taught Ler to love 
great men tbroagh their books; why shonld she not love 
the living reality? Cadenus was flattered and half ci 
verted. He had never beard her talk so well, and admit- 
ted that she had a moat unfailing judgment and discerning 
head. He still maintained that his dignity and age put 
love out of the question, but he offered in return as mnch 
frieudship as she pleased. She replies that she will now 
become tutor and teach him the lesson which he is sa 
slow to learn. But — and here the revelation ends — 

Vanessa loved Swift ; and Swift, it seems, allowed hinn- 
self to be loved. One phrase in a letter written to him 
during his stay at Dublin, in 1713, suggests the only hint 
of jealousy. If you are happy, she says, " it is ill-natured 
of yon not to tell mo so, except 'tis what is inconsistent 
with mine." Soon after Swift's final retirement to Ireland, 
Mrs. Vanhomrigh died. Her husband had left a small prop- 
erty at Celbridge, One son was dead ; the other behaved 
badly to his sisters ; the daughters were for a time in money 
difficulties, and it became convenient for them to retire to 
Ireland, where Vanessa ultimately settled at Celbridge. Thft 
two women who worshipped Swift were thus almost in pres- 
ence of each other. The situation almost suggests comedy ; 

' The passago which containB this lioe was ssid by Orrery to cast 
on unroBiQly insinuHtion against Vancsaa'a virtue. As the accasatioD 
has beeo repeated, it is perhaps right M say that oae fact eufficiently 
diaproves its possibilitf . Tbe poem was intended for Vancaaa 
and would never have appeared had it not beea published after 
death b; her own direcUon. 

Ificiently | 

la alone, ^^^M 

iter bur ^^H 

130 SWIFT. [ca 

bnl, uafortunatcly, it was to take a moat tragicaJ and still 
partly niyateriouB development. 

The fragmoDtary correapondence between Swift and 
Vanessa eatablisbea certain facts. Their interconrae was 
subject to restraints. He be^ her, when he is starting 
for Dobliii, to get her letters directed by some other hand, 
and to write nothing that may not be Been, for fear of 
" inconveniences." The post-office clerk surely would not 
be more attracted by Vanessa's band than by that of sach 
a man as Lewis, a subordinate of Harley's, who had for- 
merly forwarded her letters. He adds that if she comeg 
to Ireland he will see her very seldom. " It ia not a place 
for freedom, but everything is known in a week and mag- 
nified a hundred times." Poor Vanessa soon finds the truth 
of this. She complains that she is amongst " strange, pry- 
ing, deceitful people ;" that he flies her, and will give no 
reason except that they are amongst fools and must sub- 
mit, Hia reproofs are terrible to her. " If you continue 
to treat me as you do," she saya soon after, " you will not 
be made uneasy by me long." She would rather have 
borne the rack than those "killing, killiug words" of hia. 
She writes instead of speaking, because when she ventures 
to complain in person " you are angry, and there ia some- 
thing in your look so awful that it shakes me dumb" — a 
memorable phrase in days soon to come. She protests 
that she says as little as she can. If he knew what she 
thought,'he must be moved. The letter containing these 
phrases is dated 1714, and there are but a few scraps till 
1720 ; we gatlier that Vanesaa submitted partly to the ne- 
cessities of the situation, and that this extreme tension waa 
often relaxed. Yet she plainly could not resign herself or 
suppress her passion. Two letters in 1720 are painfully 
vehement. He has not seen her for ten long weeks, she 


says in her first, and sbo has only hud one letter and one 
little note with an excuse. She will sink under his " pro- 
digions neglect" Time or accident cannot lessen her iu- 
expreBsible passion. " Put mj passion under the utmost 
restraint ; send me as distant from yon as the earth will 
allow, yet you cannot banish those charming ideas which 
will stick by me whilst I have the use of memory. Nor 
ia the love I bear you only seated in my soul, for there is 
not a single atom of my frame that is not blended with it." 
She thinks him changed, and entreats him not to suffer her 
to " live a life like a languishing death, wbich is the only 
life I can lead, if you have lost any of jour tenderness for 
me." The following letter is even more passionate. She 
passes days in sighing and nights in watching and thint 
ing of one who thinks not of her. She was bom with 
" violent passions, which terminate all in one, that incs- 
prossible passion I have for you." If she could guess at 
his thoughts, which is impossible (" for never any one liv- 
ing thought like yoa "), she would guess that he wishes her 
" religions " — that she might pay her devotions to heaven. 
" But that should not spare you, for was i an enthusiast, 
still you'd be the deity I should worship." " What marks 
are there of a deity but what yon are to be known by 
— you are (at?) present everywhere; your dear image is 
always before my eyes. Sometimes you strike me with 
that prodigious awe, I tremble with fear; at other times 
a charming compassion shines through your coantenance, 
which moves my sool. Is it not more reasonable to adore 
a radiant form one has seen than one only described V" 
The man who received such letters from a woman whom 

' Compare Pope's Eloita to Abelard, which appeared in 1717. If 
Vaoeata had read it, she might almost be suapeirtKd of borrDwing; 
but her phrases seem to be too genuiue to justifi^ the hjpothes' 


IBS SWIFT. [0Ei», 

he at least adoiired and esteemed, who felt that to respond 
was to administer poison, and to fail to respond was to in- 
flict the Bevcrest pangs, must have been in the cruellest of 
dilemmas. Swift, wo cannot doubt, was grieved and per- 
plexed. His letters imply embarrassment; and, for the 
most part, take a lighter tone; he suggests his universal 
panacea of exercise ; tells her to &y from the spleen in- 
stead of courting it ; to read diverting books, and so forth : 
advice more judicious, probably, than comforting. There 
are, however, some passages of a diSerent tendency. There 
is a mntual understanding to use certain catch-words which 
recall the " little language." lie wishes that her letters were 
aa hard to read as his, in case of accident, " A stroke 
thus . . . signifies everything that may be said to Cad, at 
the beginning and conclusion." And she uses this writ- 
ten caress, and signs herself — his own " Skinage." There 
are certain " (juestions," to which reference is occasionally 
made ; a kind of catechism, it seems, which he was ex- 
pected to address to himself at intervals, and the natara 
of which must be conjectured. He proposes to eontioue 
the Cadenus arid Vajiessa — a proposal which makes her 
happy beyond " expression " — and delights her by recall- 
ing a number of available incidents. He recurs to them 
in hia last letter, and bids her " go over the scenes of 
Windsor, Cleveland Row, Rider Street, St. James's Street, 
Kensington, the Shrubbery, the Colonel in France, &0. 
Cad thinks often of these, especially on horseback," as I 
am assured." This prosaic list of names recall, as we find, 
various old meetings. And, finally, one letter contains 
an avowal of a singular kind. " Soyez assur^e," he says, 
after advising her " to quit this scoondrel island," " qae 
' Scott appropriately quotes Hotspur. The phrase is apparentlj 
a bint at Swift's iisual redpe of exeroise. 



j&mais persoone du raonde a ^te Bim^e, hoooree, cstimee, 
ador6e par voire ami que voaa" It seema as though he 
were compelled to throw hor just a crumb of comfort 
here ; bat, in the same breath, he has begged her to leave 
him forever. 

If Vanesaa was ready to accept a " gown of forty-four," 
to overlook his infirmities in con side I'at ion of his fame, 
why should Swift have refused ? Why condemn her to 
undergo this " languishing death " — a long agony of unre- 
quited passion! One answer is suggested by the report 
that Swift was secretly married to Stella in 1716. The 
fact is not proved nor disproved ;' nor, to my mind, is the 
question of its truth of much importance. The ceremony, 
if performed, was nothing but a ceremony. The only 
rational explanation of the fact, if it be taken for a fact, 

I I cannot here diecasB tbe evidence. The orjginitl statementa are 
in Orrerg, p. 22, A<\ ; IteUmy, p. 62 ; Dean Sm/t, p. fl3 ; iSheridan, p. 
282 ; Monck Berkelet/f p. iixvi. Scott accepted the marriage, and tiie 
evidence upon which he relied waa criticised by Monck MaBon, p. 297, 
Jic, Monck Mason m&kes some good points, and espedall; dimin- 
ishes the value of the testimoDj of Bishop Berkeley, showing by 
d&tea that he could not have heard the story, as hia grandson affirms, 
from Bishup Ashe, "ho iB Said to have performed the ceremony. It 
probably came, however, from Berkeley, who, we may add, wis tutor 
to Ashe's son, and had special reasons for interest in the at«ry. On 
the whole, the argument for the marriage comes to this : that it was 
commonly reported by the end of Swift's life, tbat it was certainly 
believed by his intimate friend Delany, in all probability by the elder 
Sheridan and by Urs. Whiteway. Mrs. Sican, who told the story to 
Sieridan, seems also to be a good witoess. On the other hand. Dr. 
Lyon, a elei^man, who was one of Swift's guardians in his imbedl- 
Ity, says that it was denied by Mrs. Dingley and by Mrs. Brent, Swift' 
old house-keeper, and by Stella's executors. The evidence seems t 
me very indecisive. Much of it may be dismissed as mere gosup^ 
but a certain probability remains. 


IM SWDT. [ca 

mast be th&t Swift, having resolved not to marry, g 
Steila tiiis security, tliat lie would, at least, raairy no ■ 
else. Though his anxiety to bide the connexion with V*- 1 
nessa may only mean a dread of idle tongaea, it is at least I 
highly probable that Stella was the person from whom he I 
specially desired to keep it. Yet his poetical addresses t& I 
Stella npon her birthday (of which the first is dated 1719,. I 
and the last 1727) are clearly not the addresses of a lover, f 
Both in form and substance they are even pointedly in- 
tended to eipresB friendship instead of love. They read 
like an expansion of his avows! to Tisdall, that her channa 
for him, though for no one else, could not be diminished 
by her growing old without marriage, lie addresses her 
with blunt affection, and tells her plainly of her growing I 
si^e and waning beauty ; comments even upon her defects 1 
of temper, and seems expressly to deny that he loved hex. J 
in the asual way : 

" Tbou, Stella, wcrt no longer joung 
When 6rat for thee my harp I strung, 
Without one word of Cupid's darts, 
Of killing ejea and bleeding hearts ; 
With friendship and esteem posaesa'd, 
I ne'er admitted Iotc a guest." 

We may almost say that he harps upon the tbeme of J 
"friendship and esteem." His gratitude for her care ctf J 
him is pathetically expressed; he admires her with tb^J 
devotion of a brother for the kindest of sisters; his plain, .f 
prosaic lines become poetical, or perhaps something better ; 
but there is an absence of the lover's strain which is only I 
not, if not, ostentatious. 

The connexion with Stella, whatever its nature, gives 
the moat intelligible explanation of his keeping VaneBsa 



at a distance. A collision between his tvo slavCB might 
be disafltrooB. And, as the story goes (for we are every- 
where npon nncertain ground), it came. In 1721 poor 
Yaneasa had lost her only sister' and companion : her 
brothers were already dead, and, in her solitude, she would 
naturally be more than ever eager for Swift's jdiidnesa. 
At last, in 1723, she wrote {it is said) a letter to StelU,| 
and asked whether she was Swift's wife.' Stella replied that 
she was, and forwarded Vanessa's letter to Swift, How 
Swift could resent an attempt to force his wishes has 
been seen in the letter to Varina. He rode in a fury to 
Celbridge. His countenance, saya Orrery, could be terri- 
bly expressive of the sterner passions. Prominent eyes — 
"ta-aro as the heavens" (saya Pope) — arched by bushy 
black eyebrows, could glare, we can believe from his por- 
traits, with the green fury of a cat's, Vanessa had spoken 
of the "something awful in his looks," and of his killing 
words. He now entered her room, silent with rage, threw 
down her letter on the table, and rode ofE. He had struck 
Vanessa's death-blow. She died soon afterwards, but lived 
}oDg enough to revoke a will made in favour of Swift and 
leave her money between Judge Marshal and the famous 
Bishop Berkeley. Berkeley, it seems, had only seen 
once in his life. 

The story of the last fatal interview has been denied,^ 
Vanessa's death, though she was under thirty-five, k less 
surprising when we remember that her younger sist« 
and both bcr brothers had died before her; and that her 
health had always been weak, and her life for some time 
a languishing death. That there was in any case a terribly 

' Monek Mason, p. 310, note. 

' This LB Sheridan's slory. Orrerj ipeaks of the letter as writtra 
to Swift hiraHetf. 



tragic cliraaji to the half-written rom&nce of Cadenut d 

Vaneata is certMP. Vanea&a reqnested that the poem s 
the letters might be publishod by her csecutors. Berkc 
suppressed the letters for the time, and they were not p 
lished in full until Scott's edition of Swift's works. 

Whatever the facts, Swift bad reasons enough for b 
ter regret, if not for deep remorse. He retired to 1 
his head in some unknown retreat; absolute seclusion v 
the only solace to his gloomy, wounded spirit After t' 
mouths he returned, to resume his retired habits, 
riod followed, as we shall see in the next chapter, of fiei 
political excitement. For a time, too, he had a vague h 
of escaping from his exile. An astonishing literary a 
COBB increased his reputation. But another misfortune a 
proached, which crushed all hope of happiness in life. 

In 1V26 Swift at last revisited England. He wt 
Id July that he has for two months been anxioas abootl 
Stella's honlth, and as usual feared the worst. He baa bi 
through the disguises of a letter from Mrs. Dingley. Hia.l 
heart is so sunk that be will never be the same man again,! 
but drag on a wretched life till it pleases God to call blm I 
away. Then in an agony of distress he contemplates her 9 
death; he says that be could not bear to be present; he / 
should be a trouble to her, and the greatest torment ta I 
himself. He forces himself to add that her death must f 
not take place at the deanery. He will not return to find 1 
her just dead or dying. " Nothing but extremity could 1 
make me so familiar with those terrible words applied to ' 
BO dear a friend." " I think," he says in another letter, 
"that there is not a greater folly than that of entering 
into too strict a partnership or friendship with the loss < 
of which a man must be absolutely miserable ; hat < 
pecially [when the loss occnrs] at an age when it is toal 


late to eng^;e in a new friendahip." The morbid feeling 
which could withhold a man from attending a friend's 
deathbed, or allow him to regret the affection to which bis 
p^n was due, is but too characteristic of Swift's egoistic 
attachments. Yet we forgive the rash phrase, when we 
read hia passionate expressions of agony. Swift returned 
to Ireland in the autumn, and Stella struggled through the 
winter. He was again in England in the following sum- 
mer, and for a time in better spirits. But once more the 
news comes that Stella is probably on her deathbed ; and 
he replies in letters which we read as we listen to groans 
of a man in sorest agony. He keepa one letter for an 
honr before daring to open it. He does not wish to live 
to see the loss of the person for whose sake alone life was 
worth preserving. " What have I to do in the world? I 
never was in such agonies as when I received your letter 
and had it in my pockeL 1 am able to hold up my sorry 
head no longer." In another distracted letter he repeats, 
in Latin, the desire that Stella shall not die in the deaoery, 
for fear of malignant misinterpretations. If any marriage 
had titken place, the desire to conceal it had become a 
rooted passion. 

Swift returned to Ireland, to find Stella still living. It 
is said that in the last period of her life Swift offered to 
make the marriage public, and that she declined, saying 
that it was now too late,' Sbe lingered till January 28, 
1728. He sat down the same night to write a few scat- 
tered reminiscences. He breaks down ; and writes again 

' Scott heard this from Mrs. Whitewaj'a grandson. Bheridan 
tells the etory as though Stella bad begged for publicitj, and Swift 
cruellj refused, Delanj'a atuCement (p. 6fl), wbich agrees with Mrs. 
Whit«way'a, appears to be on good authority, and, if true, pcovea the 
reality of the raaniage. 

1S9 SWIFT. [oh 

during the faneral, wliich be U too ili to attend. 
frsgnientary notes give ub tbe most aathcntic accoaat a 
Stella, and show, at least, what sLc appeared io tht 
of Ler lifelong friend and protector. We may h 
that she was intelligent and oliarming, as we can b 
tain that Swift loved her in every sense but one. A 
of her h^r was preserved in aa envelope in which b 
written one of those vivid phraHea by wliicb he still live 
in our memoiy : " Only a vioman'n hair." What does i 
mean ! Our iDterpratation will depend partly apon i 
we can see ourselves in a lock of hair. But I think i 
any one who judges Swift fairly will read in those t 
words tbe most intense utterance of tender afiection, i 
of pathetic yearning for tbe irrevocablo past, S' 
blended with a bitterness springing, not from remorse, b 
indignation at the cmel tragi-comedy of life. The J 
tinies langh at us whilst they torture us ; they make c 
Bconrges of trifles, and extract the bitteriist passion J 
our best affections. 

Swift was left alone. Before we pass on we i 
briefly touch the problems of this strange history. It 
a natural gneaa th&t some mysterious cause condemnt 
Swift to his loneliness. A story is told by Scott (on 
evidence) that Dclany went to Archbishop King's librs 
about the time of the supposed marriage. As he e 
Swift rushed out with a distracted countenance. King 
was in tears, and said to Delany, " You have just met tbe 
most unhappy man on earth ; but on the subject of his ■ 
wretchedness you must never ask a i^uestion." This has ■ 
been connected with a guess made by somebody tbatJ 
Swift had discovered Stella to be his natural sister. ItB 
can be shown conclusively that this is impossiblo ; and.'! 
the story must be left as picturesque but too hopelQsalj4^ 



vague to gratify any inference whatever. We tnow with- 
out it that Swift was unhappy, but we know oothing of 
any definite cause. 

Another view is that there is no mystery. Swift, it ia 
said, rctMned through life the position of SteUa's " guide, 
philosopher, and friend," and was never anything more. 
Stella's address to Swift (on his birthday, 1721) may be 
^ken to confirm this theory. It says with a plainnesa 
like his own that he had taught her to despise beauty 
and hold her empire by virtue and sense. Yet the theory 
ia in itself strange. The leas love entered into Swift'a 
relations to Stella, the more difficult to explain his behav- 
iour to Vanessa. If he regarded Stella only as a daughter 
or a younger sister, and she returned the same feeling, be 
had no reason for making any mystery about the woman 
who wonld not in that case be a rival. If, again, we ac- 
cept this view, we naturally ask why Swift " never admitted 
love a guest." He simply continued, it is suggested, to 
behave as teacher to pupiL He thought of her when she 
was a woman as be had thought of her when sbe was a 
child of eight years o!d. But it is singular that a man 
should be able to preserve such a relation. It is quite 
true that a connexion of this kind may blind a man to 
its probable consequences; but it is contrary to ordinary 
experience that it should render the consequences less 
probable. The relation might explain why Swift shoold 
be oS his guard ; but could hardly act as a safeguard. 
An ordinary man who was on such terms with a beautiful 
girl as are revealed in the Journal to Stella would have 
ended by falling in love with her. Why did not Swiftt 
We can only reply by remembering the ".coldness" of 
temper to which he refers in his first letter, and his asser- 
tion that he did not understand love, and that his frequent 



-action. I 

filrlatioDs never meant more than a desire for distraction. 
The affair with Yarina is an esccptioo ; but there 
grounds for holding that Swift was constitationallj indis- 
poaed to the passion of love. The absence of any traces 
of anch a passion from writings conspicuous for thi 
amazing sincerity, and (it is added) for their freedoi 
of another kind, has been often noticed as a confirmatioi 
of this hypothesis. Yet it must be said that Swift cooli 
he strictly reticent about his strongest feelings — and wi 
specially cautious, for whatever reason, in regard to 
relation with Stella.' 

If Swift constitutionally differed from other men, 
have some explanation of his strange conduct. But 
must take into account other circumstances. Swift 
very obvious motives for not marrying. In the first plac 
he gntdually became almost a monomaniac upon the qn< 
tiou of money. His hatred of wasting a penny unni 
sarily began at Trinity College, and is prominent in all 
letters and journals. It coloured even his politics, for 
conviction that the nation was hopelessly ruined is one 
his strongest prejudices. He kept accounts down to half- 
pence, and rejoices at every saving of a shilling. Thfta 
passion was not the vulgar desire for wealth of the ordi* 
nary miser. It sprang from the conviction stored npj 
in all his aspirations that money meanl 
" Wealth," he says, " is liberty ; and liberty is a blessing 
fittest for a philosopher — and Gay is a slave just by two 
thousand pounds too little.'" Gay was a duchess's lap- 
dog ; Swift, with all his troubles, at least a free man. 
Like all Swift's prejudices, this became a fixed idea which 

' Beaidea Soott'a remarks (see vol, v. of hia Lfe) see Orrerj, Zek I 
ter 10 ; Deatie Bioi/t, p. 83 ; S/urridan, p. 297. 
* Letter to Fope,Ju.\j IB,1728. 




was always gathering strength. He did not love money 
for its own sake. He was even magnificent in his gener- 
osity. He scorned to receive money for his writings ; he 
abandoned the profit to his printers in compensation for 
the risks they ran, or gave it to Lis friends. Hia charity 
was splendid relatively to bis means. In later years he 
lived on a third of hia income, gave away a third, and 
saved the remaining third for hia poathumous charity' — 
and posthnmons charity which involves present saving ia 
charity of the moat unquestionable kind. His principle 
was, that by redueing his expenditure to the lowest possi- 
ble point, he secured his independence, and could then 
make a generous use of the remainder. Until he had re- 
ceived his deanery, however, he could only make both ends 
meet. Marriage would, therefore, have meant poverty, 
probably dependence, and the complete aacrificc of his 

If under these circumstances Swift had become engaged 
to Stella upon Temple's death, he would have been doing 
what was regularly done by fellows of colleges under the 
old system. There is, however, no trace of snch an en- 
gagement. It would be in keeping with Swift's character, 
if we should suppose that he shrank from the bondage of 
an engagement ; that be designed to marry Stella as soon 
as he should achieve a satisfactory position, and meanwhile 
trusted to hia influence over her, and thought that he was 
doing her Justice by leaving her at liberty to marry if aho 
The close connexion must have been injurious to 
Stella's prospects of a match ; but it continued only by 
her choice. If this were, in fact, the case, it is still easy 
to understand why Swift did not marry upon becoming 
Dean. Hs felt himself, I have said, to be a broken inan. 
' BuridoH, p. 23l 

Ua SWIFT. [<:h 

Tlia prospects were rained, and fais health precarioua. { 
This last fact reqaircs to be riuncmbered in every estimate 
of Swift's character. Uis life nag passed under a Damo- 
cles' sword. He Bufiered from a distreasing illness which 
he attributed to an iodigestion produced by an over- 
sumptioD of fruit at TcDiple's when he was a little over j 
twenty-one. The main symptoms were a giddiness, which j 
frequently attacked him, and was accompanied by deaf- 
ness. It is quite recently that the true nature of the com- 
plaint has been identified. Dr. Backnill' seems to prove 
tl»at the symptoms are those of " Labyrinthine vertigo," ' 
or Mfiniere'R disease, ao called because discovered by Me- ', 
ni^re in 186]. The references to iaa snfEcrings, bronght ' 
together by Sir William Wilde in 1849,' are frequent ii 
all his writings. It tormented him for days, weelcs, and i 
months, gradually becoming more permanent in later yean. 
In 1731 he tells Gay that his giildiness attacks him coih { 
stantly, though it is less violent than of old ; and in 1736 1 
he says that it is coatinuaL From a much earlier period | 
it had alarmed and distressed him. Some pathetic entries 
are given by Mr. Forster from one of his note-bookst | 
"December 6 (l708). — Horribly sick, 12th. — Mnch bet- | 
ter, thank God and M.D.'s prayers. , . . April 3d (lVO»), 
Small giddy fit and swimming in the head. M.D. and ' 
God help me. . . . July, I7l0.— Terrible fit. God knows 
what may be the event. Better towards the end." The ' 
terrible ansiety, always in the background, must eonnt for 
mnch in Swift's gloomy despondency. Though he seems 
aiwnys to have spoken of the fruit as the cause, he must 
have had misgivings as to the nature and result. Dr. 
Backnill tells us that it was not necessarily connected 

' Brain for January, 1 882. 

' CTomflj Yean of Dean amJVi Life. 



with the disease of the brain nhich ultimately came upon 
him ; but he may well have thought that this disorder of 
the head was prophetic of such an end. It was, probably, 
in 1717 that he said to Young, of the Mtjkl Thoughts, "I 
shall he like that tree : I shall die at the top." A man 
haunted perpetually by such forobodings might well think 
that marriage was not for him. In Cadmin and Vaneiia 
he insists upon his declining years with an emphasis which 
seems excessive even from a man of forty-four (io 1713 
ho was really forty-five) to a girl of twenty. In a singu- 
iar poem called the Progress of Marriaffe he treats the 
supposed ease of a divine of fifty-two marrying a lively 
girl of fashion, and speaks with his usual plainness of the 
probable consequences of such folly. We cannot doubt 
that hero as elsewhere he is thinking of himself. He was 
fifty-two when receiving the passionate love-letters of Va- 
nessa ; and the poem seems to be specially signiScaDt. 

This is one of those cases in which we feel that even 
biographers are not omniscient ; and I must leave it to my 
readers to choose their own theoi-y, only suggesting that 
readers too are fallible. But we may still ask what judg- 
ment is to be passed upon Swift's conduct. Both Stella 
and Vanessa suffered from coming within the sphere of 
Swift's imperious attraction. Stella enjoyed his friendship 
through her life at the cost of a partial isolation from 
ordinary domestic happiness. She might and probably 
did reo^ard his friendship as a full equivalent for the sacri- 
fice. It is one of the cases in which, if the actors bo our 
contemporaries, we hold that ontsiders are incompetent to 
form a judgment, as none but the principals can really 
know the facts. Is it better to be the most intjmato 
friend of a man of geniiia or the wife of a commonplace 
Tiadall f If Stella chose, and chose freely, it is hard to say 

lU SWIFT. [oBiP. Ti. 

that she was miBtakcn, or to blame Swift for a fascination 
which he could not but exercise. The tragedy of Vanesaa 
suggests rather different reflections. Swift's duty was 
plain. Granting what seems to be probable, that Vancsaa'a 
passion took him by surprise, and that he thought himself 
disqaalified for marriage by infirmity and weariness of life, 
he should have made hia decision perfectly plain. He 
abould have forbidden any clandestine relations. Furtive 
caresses — even on paper — understandings to carry on a 
private correspondence, fond references to old meetings, 
were obviously calculated to encourage her passion. He 
should not only have pronounced it to be hopeless, but 
made her, at whatever cost, recognize the hopelessness. 
This is where Swift's strength seems to have failed him. 
He was not intentionally cruel ; he could not foresee the 
fatal event; he tried to put her aside, and he felt the 
" shame, diaapp ointment, grief, surprise," of whieh he 
speaks on the avowal of her love. He gave her the most 
judicious advice, and tried to persuade her to accept it. 
But be did not make it eSectaal. He shrank from inflict- 
ing pain upon her and upon himself. He could not de- 
prive himself of the sympathy which soothed his gloomy 
melancholy. His aficction was never free from the egoistic 
element which prevented him from acting unequivocally, 
as an impartial spectator would have advised him to act, or 
as he would have advised another to act in a similar case. 
And therefore, when the crisis came, the very strength of 
bis affection produced an explosion of selfish wrath, and 
he escaped from the intolerable position by striking down 
the woman whom he loved, and whose love for him had 
become a burden. The wrath was not the less fatal be- 
cause it was half composed of remorse, and the energy of 
the explosion proportioned to the strength of the feeling 
yhic.h had held it in chftck. 

In one of Scott's finest Dovela tLe old Cameroaian preacher, 
D left for dead by Claverhonac's troopers, 
suddenly rises to confront liis conquerors, and speods his 
last brcatli in deaouncing the oppressors of the saints. 
EveD such an apparition was Jonathan Swift to comfort- 
able Whigs who were flourishing in the place of Harley 
and St. John, when, after ten years' quiescence, he sud- 
denly stepped into the political arena. After the first 
crushing fall he had abandoned partial hope, and con- 
tented himself with establishing supremacy in his chap- 
ter. But undying wrath smouldered in his breast till time 
came for an outburst. 

No man had ever learnt more thoroughly the lesson, 
" Put not your faith in princes ;" or had been impressed 
with a lower estimate of the wisdom displayed by the 
rulers of the world. He had been behind the scenes, and 
knew that the wisdom of great ministers meant just enough 
cunning to court the ruin which a little common sense 
would haFB avoided. Corruption was at the prow and 
folly at the helm. The selfish ring which he bad de- 
nounced so fiercely had triumphed. It had triumphed, as 
ho held, by flattering the new dynasty, hoodwinking the 
nation, and maligning its antagonists. The cynical theory 

J46 SWIFT. [chap. 

of politioB was not for him, aa for some comfortable 
cynics, an abstract proposition, whicli mattered very little 
to a seDsiblo man, but was embodied in the bitter wrath 
with wLicli he regarded bis triumphant adversaries. Pes- 
simism is perfectly compatible with hknd enjoyment of 
the good things in a bad world; but Swift's pessimism 
was not of this type. It meant energetic hatred of 
definite things and people who were always before him. 

With this feeling he had come to Ireland ; and Ireland 
— I am speaking of a century and a half ago — was the 
opprobiiaui of English statesmanship. There Swift had 
(or thought be had) always before him a concrete example 
of the baaest form of tyranny. By Ireland, I have atdd. 
Swift meant, in the fitst place, the English in Ireland. 
In the laat years of his sanity he protested indignantly 
against the confusion between the "savage old Irish" 
and the English gentry, who, he said, were much better 
bred, spoke better English, and were more civilized th&n 
the inhabitants of many English conntics.* He retained ^ 
to the end of hia life his antipathy to tbe Scotch coionistbl 
He opposed their demand for political equality as fierceljF^a 
in the last aa in hia first political utterances. He 
trasted them unfavourably' with the Catholics, who ha^l 
indeed, been driven to revolt by massacre and confiscatloB-fl 
nnder Puritan rule, hut who were now, be declared, " trua 
WLigs, in the beat and most proper sense of the word," 
and thoroughly loyal to the house of Hanover. Had.1 
there been a danger of a Catholic revolt, Swift's feelings J 
might have been diSiTent; but he always held that they I 
were " as jnconaidetable as the women and children," '] 
mere " hewers of wood and drawers of water," " out of all 1 

' Letter to Pop*, Jnlj 13, 1737. 

* CalfuMc Rtatmtfor Jiipti^inf l/u Tttt. 


capacity of doing any mischief, if tbey were ever so well 
inclined.'" Looking at tliem in this way, he felt a Rin- 
cere eompaasion for their misery and b. bitter resentment 
E^inst their oppressors. The English, he said, in a 
remarkable letter," shoold be ashamed of their reproaches 
of Irish dulness, ignorance, aud cowardice. Those defects 
were the prodacls of slavery. He declared that the poor 
cottt^ers had " a moch better nataral taste for good sense, 
humour, and raillery than ever I observed among people 
of the like sort in England, But the millions of oppres- 
sions they lie under, the tyranny of theJr landlords, the 
ridiculous zeal of their priests, and the misery of the 
whole nation, have been onough to damp the best spirits 
under the sun." Such a view is now commonplace 
enough. It was then a heresy to English statesmen, vrho 
thought that nobody Imt a Papist or a Jacobite could ob- 
ject to the tyranny of Whigs. 

Swift's diagnosis of the chronic Irish disease was thor- 
oughly political. He considered that Irish misery sprang 
from the subjection to a government not intentionally 
cruel, bnt absolutely selfish; to which the Irish rcvenne 
meant so much convenient political plunder, and which 
acted on the principle quoted from Cowley, that the 
happiness of Ireland should not weigh agiunst the " least 
conveniency " of England. He summed up his views in a 
remarkable letter,' to be presently mentioned, the substanca 
of which had been orally communicated to Walpole. He 
said to Walpole, as he said in every published utterance : 
first, that the colonists were still Englishmen, and entitled 
to English rights ; secondly, that their trade was delib- 

' Letters on Saeramenlat Test in 1138. 
' To Sir Charlea Wigan, July, 1732. 
» To Lord Peterborough, April 21,1726. 

U8 SWIPt touRH 

eratdj crnsbed, pnrelf for the benefit of the En^iah^ 
of EogUod ; thirdlv, that all valaable prefenneDta wen I 
bestowed npon men bom in Englaod, as a raatt«r of J 
conne ; and, finally, that in conseqaence of this the I 
upper claaaea, deprived of all other openings, were forced I 
to rack-rent tbeir tenants to sach a degree that not one I 
farmer in the kingdom oat of a handred " could aSord I 
shoes or stockings to his children, or to eat fiesh or drink 1 
anything better than soar milk and water twice in a year; ] 
so that the nhole conntry, except the Scotch plantation I 
in the north, is a scene of misery and desolation hardly ] 
to be matched on this side Lapland." A modem reformer j 
nonld give the first and chief place to this social misery. J 
It is characteristic that Swift comes to it as a consequence I 
from the injastice to hie own class : as, ^^n, that ho 1 
appeals to Walpole, not on the simple groDDd that thB 1 
people are wretched, but on the ground that they will 1 
be BOon nnable to pay the tribute to England, which he J 
reckons at a million a year. But bis conclusion might be i 
accepted by any Irish patriot. WhatjiFer, he says, cau { 
make a country poor aad despicable concurs in the case i 
of Ireland. The nation is controlled by laws to which I 
it does not consent ; disowned by its brethren and coun- 
trymen ; refused the liberty of trading even in its natural \ 
commodities; forced to seek for justice many hundred 
miles by eea and land ; rendered in a manner incapable ' 
of serving the King and country in any place of honour, ' 
trust, or profit; whilst the governors have no sympathy ' 
with the governed, except what may occasionally arise 
from the sense of justice and philanthropy. 

I am not to ask how far Swift was right in his judg- 
ments. Every line which he wrote shows that ho was 
thoroughly sincere and profoundly stirred by his convic 



tiona. A remarkable pamphlet, publislicd in 1720, con- 
tained hi:i first utterance upon tlie subject. It is an ex- 
hortation to tbc Irish to use only Irish mauufactareB. 
He applies to Ireland the fable of Aritchne and Pallas. 
The goddess, indignant at being equalled in spinning, 
turned her rival into a spider, to spin forever out of her 
own bowels in a narrow compass. He always, he says, 
pitied poor Araehne for so cruel and unjust a sentence, 
" which, however, is fnlly exocnted upon us by England 
with farther additions of rigour and severity; for the 
greatest part of our bowels and vitals is extracted, without 
allowing us the liberty of spinning and weaving them." 
Swift of course accepts the economic fallacy equally taken 
for granted by his opponents, and fails to see that Eng- 
land and Ireland injured themselves as well as each other 
by refusing to interchange their prodactions. But he 
utters forcibly his righteous indignation against the con- 
temptuous injustice of the English rulers, in conaeqaenco 
of which the "miserable people" are being reduced "to 
a worse condition than the peasants in France, or the vas- 
sals in Germany and Poland." Slaves, he says, have a 
natural disposition to be tyrants ; and he himself, when 
his betters give him a kick, is apt to revenge it with six 
upon his footman. That is how the landlords treat their 

The printer of this pamphlet was prosecuted. The 
chief justice (Wbitshed) sent back the jury nine times 
and kept them eleven hours before they would consent to 
bring in a "special verdict." The unpopularity of the 
prosecution became so great that it was at last dropped. 
Four years afterwards a more violent agitation broke out. 
A patent had been given to a certain William Wood for 
supplying Ireland with a copper coinage. Many com- 

plaints Lad been miidc, and ia SepLember, 1T23, sddre 
wers voted by tbe Irish Houses of Parliament, declarinf 
that the patent bad been obtatoed by clandestine and fsL 
representations; that it was raischieTOus to the country;! 
and that Wood had been guilty of frauds in his coinageik 
Tbcy were pacified by vagne promiaes; but Walpole weal 
on vitli the scheme on the strength of a favourable report I 
of a committee of the Frivy Council ; and the excitement I 
was already scrioas when (in 1724) Swift published the i 
Drapier'a Letter*, which give him his chief title to emi* J 
ncDuo aa a patriotic agitator. 

Swift either shared or took advantf^c of the genec 
belief that the mysteries of the currency are unfathoma>l 
ble to the hmnan intelligence. They have to do witb-l 
that world of financial magic in which wealth may bfti 
made out of paper, and all ordinary relations of cause aiK|| 
effect are suspended. There is, however, no real mystei^ 
about the halfpence. The small coins which do not foml 
part of the legal tender may be considered primarily aal 
counters. A penny is a penny, so long as twelve ai»1 
change for a shilling. It is not in the least necessary fori 
this purpose that the copper contained In the twelve \ 
penny pieces should be worth or nearly worth a shilling. I 
A sovereign can never be worth much more than the gold I 
of which it is made. Bat at the present day bronze I 
worth only twopence is coined into twelve penny pieces.' \ 
The coined bronze is worth six times as much as 
coined. The small coins must have some intrinsic value 1 
to deter foi^ry, and must be made of good materiaJs to ' 
stand wear and t«ar. If these conditions be observed, a: 
n proper number be issued, the value of the peimy will be | 

' Tbe ton of bronze, I am infonned, is coined inlo 108,000 pence; 
QuJ. is, 4B0JL The metal is worth about W. 

»il] woods HALFFEKCE. 151 

no more affected by the value of the copper than the 
value of the banknote by that of the p.ipcr on which it is 
written. This opinioD assames that the copper coios can- 
not be offered or demanded in payment of any but tri- 
fling debts. The halfpence coined by Wood seem to have 
fulfilled these conditions, and ns copper worth twopence 
(on the lowest compntation) was coined into ten half- 
pence, worth fivepence, their intrioaic value was more 
than doable that of modern halfpence. 

The halfpence, then, were not objectionable upon this 
ground. Nay, it woaid have been wasteful to make them 
more valuable. It would have been as foolish to use more 
copper for the peuce as to make the works of a watch of 
gold if brass is e<]ually durable and convenient. But an- 
other consequence is equally clear. The effect of Wood's 
patent waa that a mass of copper worth about 60,000(.' 
became worth 100,800/. in the shape of Liidfpenuy pieces. 
There was, therefore, a balance of about 40,000/. to pay 
for the expenses of coinage. It would have been waste to 
got rid of this by putting more copper in the coins ; but, 
if so large a profit arose from the ti'aDsaetion, it would go 
to somebody. At the present day it would be brought 
into the national treasury. This was not the way in which 
business waa done in Ireland. Wood was to pay 1000/. a 
year for fourteen years to the Crown.' But 14,000/. still 
leaves a large margin for profit. What was to become of 

' Simon, in hie »ork on the Irish coinage, makes Ihe profit 
B0,00O/. ; but ho rockuiiB tlia copper at U. a pound, wlierena from 
the Report of the Privy Council it would Bcem to be properly 1(. 64 
a pDuad. Swift and most later writers eay 10S,00<)/., but ihe right 
Bam ia lOO.BOOf. — SSO tons cuiaed into 2n. 6d. a [louud. 

' Uonck Mason ai<ps only GOOf. a year, but this a th 
tioned in the Report anJ by Swift. 


. the right I 

it? AccorJing to the admiring biographer of Sir E. Wgt^, 
pole the patent bad been originally given by Lord Suik- 
derlsnd to tbe Duchess of Kendal, a lady whom the King, 
delighted to tionoor. She already received 3000/. a yew 
in pcDBiona upon the Irish Establishment, and she boU 
this patent to Wood for 10,000/. Enongh was still left- 
to give Wood a handsome profit ; as in transactions o{ 
this kind every accomplice in a dirty business eipects ta 
be well paid. 60 bandaome, indeed, was the profit that 
"Wood received ultimately a pension of 3000/. for eight 
years — 24,000/,, that is — in consideration of abaadoning 
the patent. It was right and proper that a profit should' 
be made on the transaction, bnt shameful that it should bo 
divided between the King's mistress and William Wood, 
and that tbe bargain should be struck without coDSultii^ 
tbe Irish representatives, and maintained in spite of th^^ 
protests. Tlie Duchess of Kendal was to be allowed to tabta 
a share of tbe wretched halfpence in tbe pocket of eveij'J 
Irish beggar. A more disgraceful transaction could hardlj 
be imagined, or one more calculated to justify Swift's v 
of the aelSshneaa and corruption of the English rulers. 

Swift saw his cbnnce, and went to work in characteristiai 
fashion, with unscrupulous audacity of statement, guided 
by the keenest strategical instinct He struck at the heart 
as vigorously as he bad done in tbe Examiner, but with rft-] 
Bcntmcnt sharpened by ten years of exile. It was not aaffti 
to speak of tbe Duchess of Kendal's share in the tranaao-j 
tion, though the story, as poor Archdeacon Coxe pati 
cally declares, was indnatriously propagated. But the 
against Wood was all the stronger. Is be so wicked, 
Swift, as to suppose that a nation is to be ruined that 
may gain three or four score thousand pounds! Hainpdf 
went to prison, bo says, rather than pay a few shillings 

3gS J 


wrongfully ; I, saya Swift, would rather be hanged than 
have all my " property taxed at seventeen shillings in t!io 
pound At the arbitrary will and pleasure of the TeoerablQ 
Mr. Wood." A simple conatitutional precedent might 
rouse a Hampden ; but to stir a popular agitation it is as 
well to show that the evil actually inflicted is gigantic, in- 
dependently of possible results. It requires, indeed, some 
audacity to prove that debasement of the copper currency 
can amount to a tax of seventeen ahillinga in the pound on 
all property. Here, however, Swift might simply throw the 
reins upon the neck of his fancy. Anybody may make 
any inferences he pleases in the mysterious regions of cur- 
rency ; and no inferences, it aeema, were too audacious for 
his hearers, though we are left to doubt bow far Swift's 
wrath had generated delnsions in bis own mind, and how 
far he perceived that other minds were ready to be de- 
luded. He revels in prophesying the most extravagant 
consequences. The country will be undone; the tenants 
will not be able to pay their rents ; " the farmers must rob, 
or beg, or leave the country ; the shopkeepers in this and 
every other town roust break or starve ; the squire will 
hoard up all bis good money to send to England and keep 
some poor tailor or weaver in his house, who will be glad 
to get broad at any rate.'" Concrete facts are given to 
help the imagination. Squire Connolly must have 250 
horses to bring his half-yearly rents to town ; and the 
poor man will have to pay thirty-six of Wood's halfpence 
to get a quart of twopenny ale. 

How is this proved ? One argument is a sufficient speci- 
men. Nobody, according to the patent, *as to be forced 
to take Wood's halfpence ; nor could any one be oblig 
to receive more than fivepence halfpenny in any t 
' Letter L 


inent This, of coarse, meant that thG halfpence could 1 
only be used as change, and a man must pay his debt 
silver or gold whenever it was poasihle to uae a sixpence. J 
It npaetB Swift*3 statement about Sqaire Connolly's rents, i 
But Swift is equal to the emergency. The role mesns, | 
ho ^y^ that every man mast take Gvcpence halfpenny in | 
every payment, if it be offered; which, on the next page, J 
becomes simply in every payment; therefore, making an 
easy assumption or two, he reckons that you will receiva | 
160^. a year in these halfpence ; and therefore (by other i 
assumptions) lose 140^ a year.' It might have occurred to 
Swift, one would think, that both parties to the transaction ' 
coald Dot possibly be losers. But he calmly assumes that i 
the man who pays will lose in proportion to the iacreased I 
number of coiaa ; and the man who receives, in proportioa 
to the depreciated value of each coin. He does not see, 1 
or think it worth notice, that tlie two losses obviously J 
counterbalance each other ; and he has ao easy road to ] 
prophesying absolute rain for everybody. It would bo I 
almost Its great a compliment to call this sophistry as to 
dignify with the name of satire a round aflsertion that an 
honest man is a cheat or a rogue. 

The real grievance, however, shows through the sham, j 
argument " It is no loss of honour," thought Swift, ' 
submit to the lion ; but who, with the figure of a man, 
can think with patience of being devoured alive by a 
rat!" Why should Wood have this profit (even if more 
reasonably estimated) in defiance of the wishes of the 
nation? It is, says Swift, because he is an Englishman 
and has great friends. He proposes to meet the attempt 
by a general agreement not to take the halfpence. Briefly, 
the halfpence were to be "Boycotted." 
' Letter IL 


Before this second letter was written the English minis-- 
ters had becomo alarmed. A rDport of the Privy Council 
{July 24, 1724) defandod the patent, but ended by recom- 
mending that the amount to be coined should be reduced- 
to 40,000?. Carteret was sent out as Lord Lieutenant to 
get this compromise accepted. Swift replied by a third • 
letter, arguing the question of the patent, which he chw- 
"never suppose," or, in other words, which everybody- 
knew, to have been granted as a "job for the interest of 
Bome particular person." Ho vigorously asserts that the 
patent can never make it obligatory to accept the half- 
pence, and tells a story much to tLe purpose from old 
Leicester esperience. The justices had reduced the price 
of ale to three-halfpence a qnart. One of them, therefore, 
requested that they would make another order to appoint 
who should drink it, " for, by God," said he, " I will - 

The argument thus naturally led to a furllior and mora 
important question. The discussion as tu the patent 
broaght forward the question of right. Wood and his 
friends, according to Swift, had begun to declare that tho 
resistance meant Jacobitism and rebellion; they asserted 
that the Irish were ready to shake off their dependence- 
upon the Crown of England. Swift took up the challenge 
and answered resolutely and eloquently. He took up the 
broadest groand. Ireland, he declared, depended opon 
England in no other sense than that in which England 
depended upon Ireland. Wlioever thinks otherwise, he 
said, " I, M. B. despair, desire to be excepted ; for I 
declare, next under God, I depend only on the King my 
sovereign, and the laws of my own country. I am so far," 
ho added, " from depending upon the people of England, 
thiit, if they should rebel, I would take arms and ]< 


drop of ray blood to hinder the Pretender from being ' 
King of Ireland." 

It had been reported that somebody (Walpole preBum- 
ably) had sworn to thrust the halfpence dowo the throats 
of the Irish. The remedy, replied Swift, is totally in yonr 
own hands, "and therefore I have digressed a little .... 
to let you see that by the laws of God, of nature, of 
nations, and of your own country, you are and ought to 
bo as free a people as yonr brethren in England." As 
Swift had already said in the third letter, no one could 
believe that any EngUsh patent would stand half an hoar 
after an address from the English Houses of Parliament 
euch as that which bad been passed against Wood's by the 
Irish Parliament. Whatever constitutional doubts might 
be raised, it was, therefore, come to be the plain qaeatiou 
whether or not the English ministers should simply over- 
ride the wishes of the Irish nation. 

Carteret, upon landing, began by trying to suppress his 
adversary, A reward of 300^. was ofiered for the dis- 
covery of the author of the fourth letter. A prosecution 
was ordered against the printer. Swift went to the lev6e 
of the Lord Lieutenant, and reproached him bitterly for 
his severity against a poor tradesman who had published 
papers for the good of his country. Carteret answered in 
a happy quotation from Virgil, a feat which always seems 
to have brought consolation to the statesman of that day: 

le talia cogimt 

Another atory is more characteristic. Swift's butler had 
noted an his Bnianiiensis, and absented himself one night 
whikt Iho proclamation was running. Swift thought that 
tho butler was eithor treaoberous or presuming upon hia 


knowledge of the secret. As soon as the man returnoti 
he ordered him to strip off his livery sad begone. "I am 
in your power," he said, " and for that very reason I will 
not stand your insolence." The poor butler departed, but 
preserved hia fidelity ; and Swift, when the tempest had 
blown over, rewarded him by appointing him verger in 
the cathedral. The grand jury threw out the hill against 
the printer in spite of all Whitshed's efforts ; they were 
discharged; and the next grand jury presented WoodV 
halfpence as a nuisance, Carteret gave vfay, the patent 
was snrrendered, and Swift might congratutato himself 
upon a complete victory. 

The conclasion is in one respect rather absurd. The- 
Irish succeeded in rejecting a real benefit at the cost of 
paying Wood the profit which he would have made, had 
he been allowed to confer It. Another point niust be 
admitted. Swift's audacious misstatements were success- 
fill for the time in rousing the spirit of the people. They 
have led, however, to a very erroneous estimate of the 
whole case. English statesmen and historians' have found 
it so easy to expose his errors that they have thought his 
nholo case absurd. The grievance was not what it was 
represented ; therefore it is argued that there was nO' 
grievance. The very essence of the case was that the Irish 
people were to be plundered by the German mistress ; and 
such plunder was possible because the English people, aa 
Swift says, never thought of Ireland except when there 
was nothing else to he talked of in the coffee-houses.* 
Owing to the conditions of the controversy this grievanoB 

' See, for ejaniple, Lord Stanhope's account. For the other view 
see Mr. Lecky's Hitlory of the Eighteenth Century and Mr. Froude'* 
Englith in Ireland. 

• Letter IV. 

IGS SWIfT. [emx. 

only came out gradually, and could never be fally stated. . 
Swift coTild never do more than hint at tlie traosaction. 
Ht9 letters (iacluding three which appeared after the laat 
mentioned, enforcing the same case) have often been cited 
as models of eloquence, and compared to Demosthenes. 
We must make some deduction from this, as in the case 
of his former political pamphlets. The intensity of his 
absorption in the immediate end deprives them of some 
literary merits; and we, to whom the Gophistrios are pal- 
pable enough, are apt to resent tiiem. Anybody can be 
effective in a way, if he chooses to lie boldly. Yet, in 
another sense, it is hard to over-praise the letters. They 
bave in a high degree the peculiar stamp of Swift's genius : 
the vein of the most nervous common-aense and pithy 
assertion, with an nndercurreut of intense passion, the 
more impressive because it is never allowed to exhale In 
mere rlietoric. 

Swift's success, the dauntless front which he had shown 
to the oppressor, made bim the idol of hU eoiintrynien. 
A Drapier'a Club was formed in his honour, which col- 
lected the letters and drank toasts and sang songs to 
celebrate their hero. In a sad letter to Pope, in 1737, he 
complamB that none of his equals care for him ; but odds 
that as he walks the streets he has " a thousand hats and 
blessings upon old scores which those we call the gentry 
bave forgot." The people received bim as tlieir cham- 
pion. When he returned from England, in iVSfl, bells 
were rung, bonfires lighted, and a guard of honour es- 
corted him to the deanery. Towns voted bim their 
freedom and received him like a prince. When Walpole 
spoke of arresting liim a prudent friend told the minister 
that the meaaenger would require a guard of ten thousand 
eoldiers. Corporations asked bis advice in elections, and 


the weavers appeaJecl to liim on qncstioDs aboat their trade. 
In ooe of hia satires' Swift hnd attacked a certain Ser- 
jeant Betteswortb ; 

"ThoB at the bar the boobf Bettesvoctb, 
Though littlf-a-crown o'erpaja hia aweat' 

Bettesworth called upon bim with, as Swift reports, a knife 
in Lis pocket, nnd complained iu such terms as to imply 
some intention of personal violence. TLe neighbours in- 
stantly eont a deputation to tte Dean, proposing to take 
vengeance upon Bettesworth ; and though be induced them 
to disperse peaceably, they formed a guard to watch the 
house; and Betteawortb complained that hia attack upon 
the Dean had lowered hia professional income by 1200/. 
a year. A tjuaint example of his popularity is given by 
Sheridan. A great crowd bad collected to see an eclipse. 
Swift thereupon sent out the bellman to give notice that 
the eclipse had been postponed by tbe Dean's orders, and 
the crowd dispersed. 

Influence with the people, however, could not bring 
Swift back to power. At one time there seemed to be a 
gleam of hope. Swift visited England twice in 1T26 and 
1727. He paid long visits to his old friend Pope, aud 
agMn met Bolingbroke, now returned from exile, and try- 
ing to make a place in English politics. Peterborough 
introduced the Dean to Walpole, to whom Swift detailed 
his views upon Irish politics. Walpole was the last man 
to set about a great reform from mere considerations of 
justice and philanthropy, and was not likely to trust a 
confidant of Bolinghroke. He was civil but indifferent. 
Swift, however, was introduced by his friends to Mrs. 
Howard, the mistress of the Prince of Wales, aoon to be- 
' " On the words Brother Protestants, 4c." 

160 SWOT. [cii 

come George IL The PrincesB, afterwards Qaccn Caro- 
line, ordered Swift to como and sec her, and ho complied, 
as ho says, after nine commands. He told her that she 
had lately seen a wild boy from Germany, and now he 
supposed she wanted to see a wild Dean from Ireland. 
Some civilities passed ; Swift offered Bomc plaids of Irish 
manafactnre, sod the Princess promised some medals in 
retnrn. When, in the next year, George I. died, the Op- 
position hoped great things from the change. Pultcney 
had tried to get Swift's powerful help for the Craftsman, 
the Opposition organ ; and the Opposition hoped to up- 
set Walpole. Swift, who had thought of going to France 
for his health, asked Mrs. lloward's adsice. She recom- 
mended him to stay ; and he took the recommendation as 
amounting to a promise of support. He had some hopes 
of obtaining English preferment in exchange for his dean- 
ery in what he calls (in the date to one of his letters') 
" wretched Dublin in miserable Ireland." It soon ap- 
peared, however, that the mistress was powerless ; and that 
Walpole was to be as firm aa ever in his seat. Swift re- 
turned to Ireland, never again to leave it : to lose soon af- 
terwards his beloved Stella, and nurse an additional grudge 
against courts and favon rites. 

The bitterness with which he resented Mrs. Howard's 
supposed faithlessness is painfnlly illustrative, in truth, of 
the morbid state of mind which was growing upon him. 
"You think," he says to BoJiaghroke in 1729, " as I ooght 
to think, that it is time for me to have done with the 
world ; and so I would, if I could get into a better before 
I was called into the best, and not die here in a rage, like 
a poisoned rat in a hole." That terrible phrase expresses 
but too vividly the state of mind which was now be- 
' To Lord Stafford, November 26, I72S, 



oing f&miliar to liim. Separated by death sod 

m hia best friends, and tormented by increasing illrn»«i^ \ 

looked out DpoD a state c 

f things i 

which he conld 

see no groood for hope. The re^tance to Wood's half- 
pence had staved nS immediate rain, but had not cared 
the fandamental evil. Some tracts upon Irish aSain, 
written nftcr the DrajAer't Letteri, sufficiently indicate hi» 
despairisg vein, "I am," he says in 1737, when propos- 
ing some remedy for the swarms of beggars in Dnblin, "a 
desponder by nature ;" and he has fonnd oat that the peo- 
ple will never stir themselves to remove a single grieraac& 
H!» old prejudices were ss keen as ever, and coald dictate 
personal onlbarsts. He attacked the bishops bitterly f<w 
offering certaio measures which in his view sacrificed the 
permanent interests of the Church to that of Uie actual 
occupanta. He showed his own sincerity by refoang to 
take fines for leases which wonld have benefited Tiim«»lf 
at the expense of his enccessore. With eqaal earaestneaa 
he still clung to the Test Acts, and assailed the Protestant 
Dissenters with all his old bittemesB, and ridiculed th^ 
claims to brotherhood with Churchmen. To the end he 
was a Cburchraan before everything. One of tie last of 
his poetical performances was prompted by the sanction 
given by the Irish Parliament to an opposition to certain 
" titles of ejectment." He had defended the right of the 
Irish Parliament gainst English rulers; bat when it at- 
tacked the interests of his Cburcb his fnry showed 'ajMH 
in the most savage satire that he ever wrote, the i 
Club. It is an explosion of wrath tinged with n 

** Could I from the boildiDg*! top 
Be^r the rattling ihunder drup. 
While the devil up«i the roof 
(If the devil be thunder-proaO 

SWIFT. [c 

Should irith poker fier? red 
Crack the stones and mvlt the lead. 
Drive them down on every skull 
When the deo of thieves is full ; 
Quite destroy tli« ha,rptoB' nest, 
How migfat this our iile be blest I" 

What followa fully keeps op to thU level. Swift flings- ! 
fiith like a maniac, plunges into ferocious person alitiea,' 
and ends fitlj with the execration— 

"May their God, the devil, confotind theml" 

He was seized with one of his fits whilst writing the poem, 
and was never afterwards capable of suatainod eompoaition. 
Some further pamphlets — especially one on the State 
of Ireland — repeat and enforce bis riews. One of them,, | 
requires special mention. The Afodest Proposal (written. ' 
in 1729) /or Preventing the CkUdrm of Poor People in 
Ireland from, being a Burden to their Parents or Country— • 
the proposal being that they should be turned into articles 
of food — gives the very essence of Svsift'a feeling, and I 
is one of the most tremendous pieces of satire in existence. 
It shows the quality already noticed. Swift is burning 
with a passion the glow of which makes other passions 
look cold, as it is said that some bright lights cause other 
illuminating objects to cast a shadow. Yet his face is 
absolutely grave, and he details his plan as calmly as a 
modern projector an^^ting the importation of Australian 
meat. The superficial coolness may bo revolting to ten- 
der-hearted people, and has, indeed, led to condemnation of 
the snpposed ferocity of the author almost as surprising aa 
the criticisms which can see in it nothing but an exquisite 
piece of humour. It is, in truth, fearful to read even now. 
Yet ws can forgive and even sympathize when we take it' 


for what it really is — the most comjili^te expression of 
baroing iDdigaation agaiiiRt intolerable wrongs. It utterai 
indeed, a serious coDviutioti. " I conFess myself," says 
Sfrift in a romai'liable pnper,' " to be touclied with a very 
sensible pleasure when I hear of a mortality ii 
try parish or village, where the wretches are forced to pay 
for a filthy cabin and two ridges of potatoes treble the 
worth; brought up to steaj and beg for want of work; 
to whom death would be the best thing to bo wished 
for, on account both of themselves and the public." He 
remarks in the same place on the lamentable contradic- 
tion presented in Ireland to the maxim that the "people 
are the riches of a nation,'' and the Modett Propotal 
the failest comment on this melancholy rcSection. Aftor 
many visionary proposals he has at last hit upon the phm, 
which baa at least the advantage that by adopting it 
can incur no danger of disobliging England. For thia 
kind of oommodiCy will not bear exportation, the flesh bo- 
ing of too tender a consistence to admit a long continuance 
in salt, although, perhaps, I could name a country which 
wonid bo glad to cat up a whole nation without it." 

8wift once asked Delany' whether the "corruptions 
and villaniea of men in power did not eat his tiesh and 
exhaust his spirits f "No," said Delany. " Why, how 
can you help it T said Swift " Because," replied Delany, 
" I am commanded to the contrary— /re/ not tkyulf be- 
cause of the ungodl>/." That, like other wise maxims, i> 
capable of an ambiguous application. As Delany took ilf 
Swift might perhaps have replied that it was a very com- 
fortable roaitm — for the ungodly. His own nppUcatioo of 
Suiptnro is different. It Ulls us, bo says, in his proposal 
for usiog Irish manufactures, that " oppression makea ft 

1 Jf<ut>» Omlroaat in Irtlnial. ' D<lu>7, p. US. 




wUe man mad." If, therefore, aomo men are not mad, it 
tnuat be because they are not wise. lu truth, it ia charac- 
teristic of Swift tbat ho could never iearti the great loason 
of submisBioD even to the ioevitable. He could Dot, like 
an easy-going Delany, submit to oppression which might 
possibly be resisted with success; bat as little could he 
submit when all resistance was hopeless. Uis rage, which. 
could find no better outlet, burnt inwardly and drove him 
mad. It is very interesting to compare Swift's wrathful 
denunciations with Berkeley's treatment of the same before 
in the Querist (1735-37). Berkeley ia full of luminous 
suggestions upon economical questions which are entirely 
beyond Swift's mark. He is in a region quite above the 
sophistries of the Drapier's Letters. He sees equally the 
terrible grievance that no people in the world is so beggar- 
ly, wretched, and destitute aa the common Insh. But he 
thinks all complaints against the English rule useless, and 
therefore foolish. If the English restrain our trade ill-ad- 
visedlyjisitnot, he a3ks,p]atn1y our interest to accommodate 
ourselves to them! (No. 136.) Have we not the advantage 
of English protection without sharing English responsibili- 
ties? He asks "whether England doth not really love ua 
and wish well to us as bone of her bone and flesh of her 
flesh? and whether it be not our part to cultivate this love 
and affection all manner of ways !" (Nos. 322, 333.) One 
can fancy how Swift must have received this characteris- 
tic suggestion of the admirable Berkeley, who could not 
bring himself to think ill of any one. Berkeley's main 
contention is, no doubt, sound in itself, namely, that the 
welfare of the country really depended on the industry 
and economy of its inhabitants, and that Buch qualities 
would have made the Irish comfortable in spite of all 
English restrictions and Government abuses. But, then, 


ive answered tbat such generd maxima 
very well for divi 

Swift might well hf 

are idle. It ia all very well for divines to tell people to 
become good, and to find out that then they will be 
happy. But how are they to be made good? Are the 
Irish intrinsically worse than other men, or is their lazi- 
ness and rcstlGssaess duo to special and removable circum- 
stances 3 In the latter case ia there not more real valae 
in attacting tangible evils than iu propounding general 
maxims and calling upon alt men to submit to oppression, 
and even to believe in the oppressor's good-will, in the 
name of Christian charity? To answer those questions 
would be to plunge into interminable and kopelesa cou- 
troversicH. Meanwhile, Swift's fierce indignation against 
English oppression might almost as well have been directed 
against a law of nature for any immediate result. Whether 
the rousing of the national spirit was any benefit ia a ques- 
tion which I must leave to others. In any case, the work, 
however darkened by persona! feeling or love of class-priv- 
ilege, expressed as hearty a hatred of oppiessioi 
an):natei] a. human being. 

Thb winter of 17l3-'14 passed by Swift in England was 
full of niixioty ntiii vexation. He found time, however, 
to join in a rcmaJ'kaljle literary asaociation. The ao-ealled ' 
Scrihlerue Cliil) does not appear, indeed, to have had any 
dalinitu organ iaation. Tlie rising young wits, Pope and 
Guy, l)oth of tlieni born in 1688, were sireadj becoming 
famaas, and were taken np by Swift, still in the zenith of 
his political power. Parnell, a few years their setiior, had 
been introduced by Swift to Oxford aa a convert from 
Whiggisni. All three became intimate with Swift and 
Arbuthnot, the moat learned and amiable of the wbols 
circle of Swift's friends. Swift declared him to have 
every quality that could make a man amiable and naefnl, 
with but one defect — he had "a sort of elonch in hift 
walk." He was loved and respected by every one, and waa 
one of the moat distinguished of the Brothers. Swift and 
Arbuthnot and their three juniora discussed literary plans 
in the midst of the growing political eicitement. Even 
Oxford used, as Pope tells us, to anaaso himself during 
the very criais of his fate by scribbling verses and talking 
nonsense with the members of this informal club, and 
some doggerel lines exchanged with him remain as a speel* 
men — a poor one, it is to be hoped — of their intereourse. 


The familiarity thus begun continned through the life ol 
the mcmbera. Swift can hare seen very little of 
He hardly maiie his acquaintaoce till the latter part oi 
1713; they parted in the summer of 1714; and nevei 
met E^in except in Swift's two visits to England in 
1736-27. Yet tlieir correspondence shows an affection 
which was, no doabt, heightened by the consciousness 
each that the friendsbip of his most famous contemporary 
author was creditable; but which, upon Swift', 
least, was thoroughly sincere and cordial, and strengthened 
with advancing years. 

The final cause of the club ytts supposed to he the 
composition of a joint-stock satire. We learn from an 
interesting letter' that Pope formed the original design ; 
though Swift thought that Arbuthnot was the only one 
capable of carrying it out. The scheme was to write the 
memoirs of an im^nary pedant, who had dabbled with 
equal wrong-headed n ess in all kinds of knowledge; and 
thus recalls Swift's early performances — the Battle of the 
Books and the Tale of a Tub. Arbuthnot begs Swift to 
work upon it during his melancholy retirement at Let- 
comhe. Swift had other things to occupy his mind; and 
upon the dispersion of the party the club fell into abey- 
ance. Fragments of the original plan were carried out by 
Pope and Arbuthnot, and form part of the MiKtllaniei, 
to which Swift contributed a number of poetical scraps, 
published under Pope's direction in I72fl-'a7. It seeroa 
probable that Gulliver originated in Swift's mind in the 
course of his meditations upon Scriblcrus. The composi- 
tion of Gulliver was one of the occupations by which he 
amused himself after recovering from the great shock of 

' It is m tbe Forstor library, sad, I believe, oDpublUbed, in 
to Arbutbnot's letter mentioned In tbe text 
M 8* 



his "exile." He worked, aa ho seems always to have 
done, slowly and intermittently. Part of Brobdingnag at 
least, aa we learn from a letter of Vanessa's, was in exist- 
«nce by 1722. Swift brought the whole manuscript to 
England in 1726, and it was published anon^monsly in 
the following winter. The success was instaotaneoos and 
overwhelming. "I will make over all my profits" (in a 
work then being published) " to you," writes Arbuthnot, 
" for the property of QuUiver's Travels, which, I believe, 
will have as great a run as John Bunyan." The anticipar- 
tion was amply fulfilled. GuUiver'g Travels is one of 
the very few books some knowledge of which may be 
fairly assumed in any one who reads anjtbiag. Yet some- 
thing must be said of the secret of the astonishing success 
<if this unique performance. 

One remark is obvious. Oiilliver't Travels (omitting 
fertain passages) is almost the most delightful children's 
book ever written. Yet it has been equally valued as an 
onrivalled satire. Old Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, 
was " in raptures with it," says Gay, " and can dream of 
nothing else." She forgives his bitter attacks upon her 
party in consideration of bis assault upon human nature. 
He gives, she declares, " the most accurate " (that is, of 
course the most Bcomful) " account of kings, ministers, 
bishops, and courts of justice that is possible to be writ." 
Another carious testimony may be noticed. Godwin, when 
tracing all evils to the baneful effects of government, de- 
clares that the author of Gulliver showed a " more pro- 
found insight into the true principles of political justice 
than any preceding or contemporary author." The play- 
ful form was unfortunate, thinks this grave philosopher, 
-as blinding mankind to the " inestimable wisdom " of the 
work. This double triumph is remarkable. Ws may not 


share the opinions of the cjnica of the day, or of the rey- 
olutioDiBts of a later generation, but it ia strange that they 
shonld be fascinated by a work which is studied with de- 
light, without the faintest suspicion of any ulterior meaning, 
by the infantile mind. 

The charm of Qulliver for the young depends upon an 
obvious quality, which ia indicated in Swift's report o£ 
the criticism by an Irish bishop, who said that " the book 
was full of improbable lies, and for his part he hardly 
believed a word of it." There is something pleasant ia 
the intense gravity of the narrative, which recalls and may 
have been partly suggested by Jiobinson Crusoe, though 
it came naturally to Swift. I have already spoken of 
his delight in mystification, and the detailed realization of 
pure fiction seems to have been delightful in itself. The 
Partridge pamphlets and its various practical jokes are 
illustrations of a tendency which fell in with the spirit of 
the time, and of which Oulliver may be regarded as the 
highest manifestation. Swift's peculiarity is in the curious 
sobriety of fancy, which leads him to keep in his moat 
daring flights upon the confines of the possible. Ia the 
imaginary travels of Lucian and Rabelais, to which Gul- 
liver is generally compared, we frankly take leave of the 
real world altogether. We are treated with arbitrary 
and monstrous combinations which may be amusing, but 
which do not challenge even a semblance of belief. In 
Gulliver this is so little the case that it can hardly be said 
in strictness that the fundamental assumptions are even 
impossible. Why should there not be creatares in hn- 
man form with whom, as in Lilliput, one of our inches 
represents a foot, or, as in Brobdingnag, one of our feet 
represents an inch ! The assumption is so modest that 
we are presented — it may be said — with a definite and 



Bolabie problem. We have not, as io other ficthioiia 
worlds, to deal with a state of things in which the imniii- 
iwtion is bewildered, bat with one in which it ia agreeably 
■timulatcil. We have certtunly to consider as extreme and 
exceptional case, but one to which all the ordinary laws 
of human nature are still strictly applicable. In Vol- 
taire's trifle, Micromega^, we are presented to beings eight 
leagues in height and endowed with aeventy-two senses. 
For Voltaire's purpose the stupendous eraggeration is 
necessary, fur he wishes to insist upon the minuteness of 
human capacities. But the assumption, of course, dis- 
qualifies us from taking any intelhgent intereat in a region 
where no precedent ia available for our guidance. We 
itre in the air ; anything and everything is possible. But 
Bwift inodostly varies only one elcmeot in the problem. 
Imagine giants and dwarfs as tall as a house or as low aa 
a footstool, and let us see what comes of it. That is s 
plain, almost a tuatbematical, problem ; and we can, there- 
fore, judge hia buccoss, and receive pleasure from the in- 
geuoity and verisimilitude of his creations, 

" When you have once thought of big men and little 
men," said Johnson, perversely enough, " it is easy to do 
the rest." The first step might, perhaps, seem in this case 
to bo the oasioat; yet nobody ever thought of it before 
Swift, and nobody has over had similar good fortune 
aince. There is no other fictitious world the denizens of 
which have become so real for us, and which has supplied 
so many images familiar to every educated mind. But 
the apparent ease is due to the extreme consistency and 
sound judgment of Swift's realization. The conehisions 
follow so inevitably from the primary data that when 
they are once drawn v(o agree that they conld not have 
been otiierwise ; and infer, raahly, that anybody else could 



have drawn tLem. It is as easy aa lyings but everybody 
who has seriously tried tbe esperiment knows that e 
lying is by no means so easy as it appears at first sight. 
In fact, Swift's success is something unique. The charm- 
ing plausibility of every iucideatT thronghout the two first 
parts, commends itself to children, who enjoy definite c 
Crete images, and are fascinated by a world which is 
once foil of marvels, surpassing Jack the Giant Killer and 
the wonders seen by Sindbad, and yet as obviously and un- 
deniably true as the adventures of Robinaoo Crusoe him- 
self. Nobody who has read the book can ever forget jt ; 
and wo may add that besides tbe childlike pleasure which 
arises from a distinct realization of a strange world of 
fancy, the two first books are sufficiently good-humoured. 
Swift seems to be amused, as well as amusing. They 
were probably written daring the least intolerable part of 
his exile. Tbe period of composition includes the years 
of the Vanessa tragedy and of tbe war of Wood's half- 
pence ; it was finished when Stella's illness was becoming 
constantly more threatening, and published little mor 
than a year before her death. The last books shop 
Swift's most savage temper ; but we may hope that, in 
spite of disease, disappointments, and a growing alienation 
from mankind, Swift could still enjoy an occasional piece 
of spontaneous, unadulterated fnn. He could still forget 
his cares, and throw tbe reins on the nock of his fancy. 
At times there is a certain charm even in the characters. 
Every one has a liking for the giant maid-of-all-work, 
Glumdalehtch, whose affection for her plaything i 
quaint inversion of the ordinary relations between Swift 
and his feminine adorers. The grave, stem, irascible man 
can relax after a sort, though his strange idiosyncrasy 
comes out as distinctly in his relaxation as in 

laa SWIFT. [<m 

I will not dvell upon tiiis aspect of Gulliver, whicli ia 
obvious to every one. There ie another question nhich 
we are forced to aak, and which is not very easy to an- 
swer. What does Gulliver mean ) It ia clearly a 
— but who and what are its objects! Swift states his 
own view very unequivocally, " I heartily hate a 
test that animal called man," he says,' "although I heai 
ily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth." He declara 
that man is not an animal rationale, but only raiioreir^ 
capax ; and he then adds, "Upon this great foundatioa 
of misanthropy .... the whole building of my travels ia 
erected," " If the world had but a dozen Arbuthnots in 
it," he says in the same letter, " I would burn my travels." 
He indulges in a similar reflection to Sheridan.' " Expec 
no more from man," be says, "than such a 
pable of, and yon will every day find my description i 
Yahoos more resembling. You should think and deal 
ivith every man as a villain, without calling him so, or 
llyiog from him or valuing him less. This ia an old true 
iRBson." In spite of these avowals, of a kind which, in 
Swift, must not be taken too literally, we find it rather 
hard to admit that the essence of Gulliver can be an ex- 
pression of this doctrino. The tone becomes morose and 
sombre, and even ferocious \ but it has been dispoted 
whether in any case it can be regarded simply a 
utterance of misanthropy. 

Oulliver'i Travels belongs to a literary genus full of.l 
grotesque and anomalous forms. Its form is derived from 7 
some of the imaginary travels of which Lucian's True Mis- 
tory — itself a burlesque of some early travellers' tales— 
the first example. But it baa an affinity also to such books 
' Letter to Popo, Sepierober 20, 1126. 
' Letter to Sliendui, September 11, I'Jili. 


to such books ^^1 


as Bacon's Atlantis and More'a Utopia ; and, again, to 
later philosophical roraanoes like Catidide and Rataelas; 
and not least, perhaps, to the ancient fables, auch as Rey- 
nard the Fox, to which Swift refers in the Tale of a Tub. 
It may he compared, again, to the Pilgrim's Progress and 
the whole family of allegories. The full-blown allegory 
resembles the game of chess said to have been played by 
eome ancient monarch, in which the pieces were replaced 
by real human beings. The movements of the actors were 
not determined by the passions proper to their character, 
but hy the external set of rules imposed upon them by the 
game. The allegory is a kind of picture-writing, popular, 
like picture-writing at a certain stage of development, but 
■wearisome at more cultivated periods, when we prefer to 
have abstract theories conveyed in abstract language, and 
limit the artist to the intrinsic meaning of the images in 
which he deals. The whole class of more or less allegorical 
writing has thus the peculiarity that something more ia 
meant than meets the ear. Fart of its meaning depends 
upon a tacit convention in virtue of which a beautiful 
woman, for example, is not simply a beautiful woman, but 
also a representative of Justice and Charity. And as any 
such convention is more or less arbitrary, we are often in 
perplexity to interpret the author's meaning, and also to 
judge of the propriety of the symbols. The allegorical 
intention, f^ain, may be more or less pre.'^ent, and such a 
book as Gulliver must be regarded as lying somewhere 
between the allegory and the direct revulation of tmth, 
which is more or less implied in the work of every 
genuine artist. Its true purpose has thus rather puzzled 
critics. Hazlitt' urges, for example, with his nsnal brill- 
iancy, that Swift's purpose was to "strip empty pride 
' Lectnrn on thi Myiiih Foeti. 



ill- ^1 
ids ^H 

1T4 SWIFT. [chap. ] 

and grandeur of the imposing air which external 
stances throw around them." Swift, accordingly, vanes 
the scale, so as to show the insigniScance or the groBBUOBB. 
of our self-love, lie does this with " mathematical prs- 
cision ;" he tries an experiment upon human nature 
with the result that "nothing iolid, nothing valuable i>j] 
left in his system but wisdom and virtue." So Gulliver's, 
carrying ofE the fleet of Blefuscu is ''a mortifying stroke, 
aimed at national glory." "' After that, we have only 
to consider which of the contending parties was in thai 

Hazlitt naturally can see nothing misanthropical 
nocent in such a conclusion. The mask of imposture 19, 
torn off the world, and only imposture can complain. Thisf 
view, which has no doubt its truth, suggesta some obviooBi 
doubts. We are not invited, as a matter of fact, to attend! 
to the question of right and wrong, as between Lilltput and- 
Blefuscu. The real sentiment in Swift is that a war be-- 
tween these miserable pygmies is, in itself, contemptible; 
and therefore, as he infers, war between men six feet high 
ia equally contemptible. The trnth is that, although Swift' 
solution of the problem may be called mathematically pre- 
the precision does not extend to the supposed argti< 
ment. If we insist upon treating the questioi 
strict logic, the only conclusion which could be drawn from,_ 
6ulliver i3_the vpry bbFh nyigjli atllie'intcrest of the hum an.- 

Srama doe s not depend upon the size of thi 

pygmy or a giant endowed with all our functions and, 
thoughts would be exactly as interesting as a being of the 
normal stature. It does not require a journey to imaginary 
regions to teach us so much. And if we say that S' 
ihown us in his pictures the real essence of human life, 
only say for hlna what might be said with equal force 



Sbakspeare or Balzac, or aoy great artist. The barn proof 
that the essciice is not depeudcnt upon the external con- 
dition of sine is superfluous and irrelevant ; and we rauit.^ 
admit that Snift's method is childish, or thst it does ii( 
adhere to this strict logical canon. 

Hazlitt, however, comes nearer the trntb, as I thii 
nhen he says that Swift takes a view of human nati 
such as might he taken by a being of a higher sphi 
That, at least, is his purpose; only, as I think, he pnrsuei^ 
. itbj a neglect of "flcientific reasoning." The use of the 
Lmachinery is simply to bring ns into a congenial frarao of 
mind. He strikes the key-note of contempt by his imagery 
of dwarfs and giants. We despise the petty qnarrels of 
beiags six iDcbcs high; and therefore we are prepared to 
despise the wars carried on by a Mariborough and a Eugene. 
I "We transfer tbo contempt based upon mere size to the mo- 
r lives, which are the same in big men and little. The argn- 
r ment, if argnmont ^here be, is a f.illacy ; but it is equally 
efficacious for the fecliDgs. You see the pettiness and 
omelty of the Lilliputians, who want to conquer an em- 
pire defended by toy-ships ; and you are tacitly invited to 
consider whether the bigness of French men-of-war makes 
an attack upon them more respectable. The foroe of the 
satire depends ultimately upon the vigour with which Swift 
has described the real passions of human beings, bi^ 
tie. He really moans to express a bitter contempt for stat 
men and warriors, and seiluces us to his side, for the m( 
ment, fay asking ns to look at a diminntive representation 
of the same beincrs. The quarrels which depend npou the 
difference between the high-boots and the low-heeled shoes, 
or npon breaking eggs at the big or little end ; the partji. 
intrigues which are settled by cutting capers on the tig] 
rope, are meant, of course, in ridicule of political and 







ligionB pBTties; and its force depcada upon our previooB 
conviction that the party -quarrels between our fellows are, 
in fact, equally contemptible. Swift's satire is congenial 
to the mental attitude of al! who have persundcd them- 
l' selves that men arc, in fact, a set of contemptible fools and 

I knaves, in wliose quarrels and mutual slaughterings the wise 

[■ and good could not persuade themselves to take a serious 

I interest. He "proves" nothing, mathematically or other- 

I wise. If yon do not share his aentiments there is nothing 

in the more alteration of the seale to convince jou that 
they are right ; you may say, with Hazlitt, that heroism 
is as admirable in a Lilliputian as in a Brobdingnagian, 
and believe that war calls forth patriotism, and often ad- 
vances civilization. "What Swift has really done is to^o- 
vido for the man nio despises his specier"a"Tn!mber of 
exceedingly effective symbols for tEe~ utterance of bis 
contempt. A child ia simply amuse3 with Bigendfana 
and Littleendiana ; a philosopher thinks that the questions 
really at the bottom of Church quarrels are in reaUty of 
more serious import ; but the cynic who bas learnt to 
disbelieve in the nobility or wisdom of the great mass of 
his epecicB finds a most convenient metaphor for expresa- 
]■ ing his disbelief. In this way Gulliver's Travels contaiu^^ 

a whole gallery of caricatures thoroughly congenial to th^^f 
despisers of humanity. ^| 

In Brohdingnag Swift is generally said to be looking, 
aa Scott expresses it, through the other end of tlie tele- 
I --_*''"E!l He wishes to show the grossness of men's passions, 

as before he has shown their pettiness. Some of the in- 
cidents arc devised in this sense ; but we may notice that 
I in Brobdingnag he recurs to the Lilliput view. He gives 

^^^fe Bncb an application to his fable as may be convenient,.^| 
^^^Hklthont bothering himself aa to lo^cal consistency. H»^| 

L J 


poiots out, indeed, the disgusting appearances whicK.wQnld 
_be_ presented, by .a magnified h uman b ody ; but the King 
of Brobdingnag looks down upon Gulliver, Just as Gulliver 
looked down upon the Lillipiitians. The monarch sums 
up his view emphatically enough by saying, after listening 
to Gulliver'a version of modem history, that " the buIk_of 
yonr native s appear to me to bo the most pemieions race 
ofjittle odious vermin that Nature over suffered to crawl 
upon the face of the earth." In LLlliput and Brobding- 
nag, however, the satire scarcely goes beyond pardonable 
limits. The details are often simply amusing, such as 
Gnlliver's fear, when he gets home, of trampling upon the 
pygmies whom he sees around him. And even the severest 
aatire may be taken without offence by every one who 
believes that petty motives, folly and selfishness, play a 
large enoogh part in bumaiTHfe to justify some indignant 
exaggerations. It is in the later parts that the ferocity 
of the man utters itself more fully. The ridicule of the 
inventors in the third book is, as Arbuthuot said at once, 
the least saccessful part of the whole ; not only because 
Swift was getting beyond his knowledge, and beyond the 
range of his strongest antipathies, but also because there is 
no longer the ingenious plausibility of the earlier books. 
The voyage to the Houybnhnms, which forms the boat 
part, is more powerful, but more painful and repulsive. 

A word must here bo said of the most unpleasant part 
of Swift's character, ^ morbid intoresj. in the physically 
disgusting is shown in several of his writings. Some minor 
pieces, which ought to have been burnt, simply make the 
gorge rise. Mrs. Pilkington tells us, and we can for once 
behevc her, that one " poem " actually made her mother 
sick. It is idle to excuse this on the ground of contem- 
porary freedom of speech. His contemporaries were 


J 7.8 


heartily disgusted. Indeed, though it is true that they 
revealed certain propensitieB more openly, I see no reason 
t6 think that such propensities were really stronger in them 
than Id their descendants. The objection to Swift is not 
that he spoke plainly, but that he brooded over filth un- 
necessarily. No ■parallel can be found for his tendency 
even in mriters, for example, like Smollett and Fielding, 
who can be- coarse enough when they please, but whose 
freedom of speech reveala none of Swift's morbid tendency. 
His indulgence in revolting images is to some extent an 
indication of a diseased condition of his mind, perhaps of 
actual mental decay. Delany says that it grew upon him 
in his later years, and, very gratuitously, attribntea it to 
Pope's influence. The peculiarity is the more remarkable, 
because Swift was a man of the most scrupulous personal 
cleanliness. He was always enforcing this virtue with 
special emphasis. lie was rigorously obserFant of decency 
in ordinary conversation. Delany once saw him " fall 
into a furious resentment" with Stella for "a very small 
failure of delicacy." So far from being habitually coarse, 
he pushed .fastJdjouaness to_the_vergo of prudery. It is 
one of the superficial paradoses ofBwITt's character that 
this very shrinking from filth became perverted into an 
apparently opposite tendency. In truth, bis intense re- 
pugnance .to certain images led kim to use them as the 
only adequate expression of his savage contempt. Instances 
might be given in some eariy satires, and in the attack 
upon Dissenters in the Ta!e of a Tub. His intensity of 
loathing leads him to besmear his antagonists with filth. 
He becomes disgusting in the effort to express bis disgust. 
As his misanthropy deepened be applied the same method 
to mankind at large. He tears aside the veil of decency 
to show the bestial elements of human nature ; and his 



characteristic irony mates him preserve an apparent calm- 
ness (luring the revolting exhibition. His state of mind 
is strictly analogous to that of some religious ascetics, who 
atimulate their contempt for the fiesh by fixing their gaze 
upon decaying bodies. They seek to check the love of 
beanty by showing uh beauty in the grtfVe. The_cjuic in 
Mr, Tennyson's poem telU dh that every face, however -■ 
foil— I 

" Padded round with fleah and blood, 
Is but moulded on a. skull." 

Swift — a practised self-tormentor, though not in the 
ordinary ascetic sense — mortifies any disposition to admire 
his fellows by dwelling upon the physical necessities which . 
seem to lower and degrade human pride. Beauty is 
skin deep ; beneath it is a vile carcase. He always 
the " flayed woman " of the Tale of a Tub. The thought 1 
is hideous, hateful, horrible, and therefore it fascinates I 
him. lie loves to dwell upon the hatefnl, because it ja»- J 
tifies his hate. He nurses his misanthropy, as" he mighkT 
tear his flesh to keep his mortality before his eyes. 

The Yahoo is the embodiment of the bestial element^ 
in man ; and Swift in his wmth takes the bestial for 
the predominating element. The hideous, filthy, lustful 
monster yet asserts its relationship to him in the most 
hnmiliating fashion : and he traces in its conduct the 
resemblance to all the main activities of the human being. 
Like the human being, it fights and squabbles for the 
Batisfaetion of its lust, or to gain certain shiny yellow 
stones; it befouls the weak and fawns upon the strong 
with loathsome compliance ; shows a strange love of dirt, 
and incurs diseases by laziness and gluttony, Gulliver 
gives an account of his own breed of Yahoos, from 
which it seems that they differ from the subjects of the 




HonjImlinniB only by showing the same propensities on 
a larger scale ; and justifies his master's remark, that all 
their inatitutiona are owing to "gross defects in reason, 
and by consequence in virtue." The Houyhnhnms, mean- 
while, represent Swift's Utopia ; they prosper and are 
happy, truthful, and virtuous, and therefore able to dis- 
pense with lawyers, physicians, ministers and all the other 
apparatus of an effete civilization. It is in this doctrine, 
as I may observe in passing, that Swift falls in with God- 
win and the revolationista, though they believed in human 
perfectibility, while they traced every existing evil to the 
impostures and corruptions essential to aU systems of gov- 
ernment. Swift's view of human nature is too black to 
admit of any hopes of their milleanium. 

The full wrath of Swift against his species shows itself 
in this ghastly caricature. It is lamentable and painful, 
though even here we recognize the morbid perversion of 
a noble wrath against oppression. One other portrmt in 
Swift's gallery demands a moment's notice. No poetic 
picture in Dante or Milton can exceed the strange power 
of his prose description of the Struldbrugs — those hideons 
immortals who are damned to an everlasting life of driv- 
elling incompetence. It is a translation of tbe affecting 
myth of Tithonus into the repulsive details of downright 
prose. It is idle to seek for any particular moral from 
these hideous phantoms of Swift's dismal Inferno. They 
embody tbe terror which was haunting hie imagination aa 
old age was drawing upon him. The sight, he says him- 
self, should reconcile a man to death. The mode of 
ciliation is terribly characteristic. Life is but a weary 
business at best ; but, at least, we cannot wish to drain 
repulsive a cap to the dregs, when even the illusions which 
3 at momenta have been ruthlessly destroyed. 





Swift was but too clearly prophesying the melnncholy de- 
cay into which be was himself to sink. 

The later books of Gulliver have been in some sense 
excised from the popular editiona of the Travels. The 
Taboos, and Houyhnhnma, and Struldbruga are, indeed, 
known by name almost as well as the iababitants of Lilli- 
put and Erobdingnag ; but this part of the book ia cer- 
tainly not reading for babes, b was, probably, written 
during the years when he was attacking pnblic corruption, 
and when bis private bappioeaa was being destroyed — when, 
therefore, hia wrath against mankind and against hie own 
fate was stitaulated to the highest pitch. Readers who 
wish to indulge in a harmless play of fancy will do well 
to omit the last two voyages, for the strain of misan- 
thropy which breathes in them is simply oppressive. 
They are, probably, the aoarcea from which the popular 
impression of Swift's character is often derived. It is 
important, therefore, to remember that they were wrung 
from him in later years, after a life tormented by constant 
disappointment and disease. Most people hate the mia- 
anthropiat, even if they are forced to admire his power. 
Yet we must not be cairied too far by the words. Swift's 
misanthropy was not all ignoble. We generally prefer 
flattery even to sympathy. We like the man who is blind 
to our faults better than the man who sees them and yet 
pities our distresses. We have the same kind of feeling 
for the race as we have in our own case. We are attract- 
ed by the kindly optimist who assures us that good pre- 
dominates in everything and everybody, and believes that 
a speedy advent of the millennium must reward onr mani- 
fold excellence. Wc cannot forgive those who hold men 
to be "mostly fools," or, as Swift would assert, mere 
brutes in dlagoise, and even carry out that disagrueable 

18S SWDT. [cHiP. vjiL 

opioion in detml. There is something aucomfortable, and 
iherelore repellent of sympathy, in the mood which dwells 
upon the darker side of society, even though with wrath- 
ful indignation agwnst the irremovable evils. Swift's 
Latred of oppression, burning and genuine as it was, is no 
apology with most readers for his perseverance in nssort- 
ing its existence. "Speak comfortable things to us" is 
i the cry of men to the prophet in all afres; and he who 
' would assault abnses must count upon offending many 
who do not approve them, but who would, therefore, prefer 
not to believe in them. Swift, too, mixed an amount of 
^oism with his virtuous indignation which clearly lowers 
his moral dignity. He really hates wrongs to hia raoe; 
but bis aensitireneas is roused wben tbey are injuries to 
himself, and committed by his enemies. The indomitable 
I spirit which made him incapable even of yielding to neces- 
I sity, which makes him beat incessantly against tho bais 
I which it was hopeless to break, and therefore waste pow- 
I ers which might have done good service by aiming at the 
unattainable, and nursing grudges against inexorable ne- 
cessity, limits our sympathy with his better nature. Tet 
some of us may take a different view, and rather pity 
than condemn the wounded spirit so tortured and pervert- 
ed, in consideration of the real philanthropy which under- 
lies the miaantbropy, and the righteous hatred of brutality 
and oppression which is but the seamy side of a generooa 
, sympathy. At least, we should be rather awed than re- 
/ pelled by this spectacle of a nature of magnificent power 
k struck down, bruised and crushed under fortune, and yet 
'■- fronting all antagonists with increasing pride, and com- 
V forting itself with scoru even when it can no longer injure 
its adversaries. 

r enryived his final settlement in Ireland for mora 

than thirty years, though daring the last five or six it was 
but the ontaido shell of him that lived. During ereiy 
day in all those years Swift must have e&ten and drunk, 
and somehow or other got through the twenty-four hours. 
The war against Wood'a halfpence employed at most a 
few months in 1724, and all his other political writings 
would' scarcely fill a volnme of this size. A modem jour- 
nalist who could prove that he had written as little in six 
months would deserve a testimonial. Gulliver's Travels 
appeared in 1727, and ten years were to pass before his 
intellect became hopelossly clouded. How was the re- 
mainder of his time filled i 

The death of Stella marks a critical point Swift told 
Gay in 1723 that it had taken three years to reconcile 
him to the country to which be was condemned forever. 
He came hack " with an ill head and an aching heart.'" 
He was separated from the friends he had loved, and too 
old to make new friends. A man, as he says elsewhere,' 
who had been bred in a coal-pit might pass his time in it 
well enough; but if sent back to it after a few montliB in 
npper air he would find content less easy. Swift, in factj 

' ToBolingbroke.Mttj, 1719. 

* To Pope and Gaj, October 16, 1736. 



nerer became reBigned to tbe " coal-pit," or, to uae snotb^ 

of his pbrasea, the " wretched, dirty dog-hole and prison,^ 
of which he could only say that it was a " place got 
enough to die in." Yet he became so far Acclimatized a 
to abapc a tolerable existence out of the fragments left to 
him. Intelligent and caltivated men in Dublin, especiaUj 
amongst the clergy and the Fellons of Trinity Collegetfl 
gathered round their famous countryman. Swift forme^B 
a little court ; he robbed up hia classics to the academical 
standard, read a good deal of history, and even amnsedfl 
himself with mathcniiitics. He received on Sundays a^| 
the deanery, though his entertainments seem to have beoifl 
rather too economical for the taste of his guests. " Tli^| 
ladies," Stella and Mrs. Dinglcy, were recognized as inoT^| 
or less domesticated with him. Stella helped to receiv^^ 
his guests, though not ostensibly as mistress of the honaeS 
hold ; and, if we may accept Swift's estimate of her BOci^H 
talents, mast have been a very charming liostoss. If Hom<^| 
of Swift's guests were ill at ease in presence of the impeiiS 
oua and moody exile, we may believe that during Stella'l^l 
life there was more than a mere semblance of agreeabl^l 
society at the deanery. Her death, as Dclany tells ub,' Ib^M 
to a painful change. Swift's temper became sour and an^l 
governable; his avarice grew into a monomania; at time^f 
he grudged even a single bottle of wine to his friends.H 
The giddiness and deafness which had tormented him b^H 
fits now became a part of his life. Heading came to ht^M 
impossible, because {as Delany thinks) hia obstinate ref uaai^f 
to wear spectacles had injured his sight, He still stmg^S 
gted hard against disease ; be rode energetically, thongljH 
two servants had to accompany hira, in case of accideiitl^| 
from giddiness ; he took regular " constitutionals " np andl 
' Dclany, p. 144. H 

H,] DECLINE. 186 

down stairs when he could not go out. His friends thought 
that he injured himself by over-exercise, and the battle 
was neccasarilj a losing one. Gradually the gloom deep- 
ened ; friends dropped off by death, and were alienated by 
his moody temper ; he was sarronnded, as they thought, 
by designing sycophants. His cousin, Mrs. Whiteway, who 
took care of bim in his last years, seems to have been both 
kindly and sensible ; but he became unconscious of kind- 
ness, and in 1 741 had to be put under restraint. We may 
briefly fill up some details iu the picture. 

Swift at Dublin recalls Napoleon at Elba. The duties 
of a deanery are not supposed, I believe, to give absorbing 
employment for all the faculties of the incumbent ; but an 
empire, however small, may be governed ; and Swift at an 
early period set about establishing his supremacy within 
his small domains. He maintained his prerogatives against 
the archbishop, and subdued his chapter. His inferiors 
submitted, and could Dot fail to recognize his zeal for the 
honour of the body. But his superiorB found him less 
amenable. He encountered episcopal authority with hia 
old haughtiness. He bade an encroaching bishop remem- 
ber that he was speaking " to a clergyman, and not to a 
footman.'" He fell upon an old friend, Sterne, the Bish- 
op of Clogher, for granting a lease to some " old fanatic 
knight." He takes the opportunity of reviling the bish- 
ops for favouring " two abominable bills for beggaring and 
enslaving the clergy (which took their birth from hell)," 
and says that he had thereupon resolved to have "no more 
commerce with persons of such prodigious grandeur, who, 
1 feared, in a little time, would expect me to kiss theb 
slipper,"' He would not even look into a coach, lest he 

' Biahop of Meath, May 23, 1718. 

' To Biaboj) of Clogher, July, 1733. 


should Bee such a thing ab a bishop — a sight that would 
strike him with terror. In a bitter satire ho describes Sa- 
tan as the bisliop to whom the rest of the Irish Bench are 
Bufiragana. His theory was that the English Governmetit 
always appointed admirable divines, but that unluckily all 
the new bishops were murdered on Hounslow Heath by 
highwaymen, who took their robes and patents, and so 
usurped the Irish sees. It is not eurprisiug that Swift's 
episcopal acquaintance was limited. 

In his deanery Swift discharged his duties with despotic 
benevolence. He performed the services, carefully eritt 
ciscd young preachers, got his musical friends to help him 
in regulating his choir, looked carefully after the cathednd 
repairs, and improved the revenues at the cost of bis ova 
interests. His pugnacity broke out repeatedly even in 
such apparently safe directions. He erected a monument 
to the Duke of Schomberg after ao attempt to make the 
duke's descendants pay for it themselves. He said that if 
they tried to avoid the duty by reclaiming the body, ha 
would take up the bones, and put the skeleton " in hii 
register office, to be a memorial of their baseness to all 
posterity.'" He finally relieved his feelings by an epitaph^ 
which is a bitter taunt gainst the dnke's relations. 

Happily, he gave less equivocal proofs of the energy j 
which he could put into his duties. Hia charity wai 
surpassed both for amount and judicious distribation. J 
Delany declares that in spite of his avarice he would gire j 
five pounds more easily than richer men would give ■ 
many shillings. " I never," says this good authority, " aai 
poor so carefally and conscientiously attended to in my ] 
life as those of his cathedral." He introduced and carried | 
out within his own domains a plan for distinguishing t 
■ To Cftrteret, Maj 10, 1738. 


deserving poor by badgca — in anticipation of modern 
echemes for "organization of charitj," With the first 
fi?G bnndred pounds nliich he possessed he formed a fund 
for granting loans to industrious tradesmen and citizens, 
to be repaid by weekly instalments. It was said that by 
this scheme ho had been the means of putting more than 
two hundred families in a comfortable way of living.* Ho 
had, says Delany, a whole " seraglio " of distressed old 
women in Dublin ; there was scarcely a lane in the whole 
city where he had not such a " mistress." He saluted 
them kindJy, inquired into their affairs, bought trifles from 
them, and gave tliem such titles as Pullagowna, Stumpa- 
nympha, and so forth. The phrase " seraglio " may re- 
mind us of Johnson's establishment, who has shown hi« 
prejudice against Swift in nothing more than in misjudg- 
ing a charity akin to his own, though apparently directed 
■with more discretion. The " rabble," it is clear, might be 
grateful for other than political services. To personal de- 
pendents he was equally liberal. He snpported his wid- 
owed sister, who had married a scapegrace in oppositjou 
to his wishes. He allowed an annuity of 52l. a year to 
Stella's companion, Mrs. Dingley, and made her suppose 
that the money was not a gift, but the produce of a fund 
for which he was trustee. He showed the same liberality 
to Mrs. Ridgway, daughter of his old housekeeper, Mrs, 
Br«nt, paying her an annuity of 20/., and giving her & 
bond to secure the payment in case of accidents. Consid- 
ering the narrowness of Swift's income, and that he seems 
also to have had considerable trouble about obtaining hia 
rents and securing his invested savings, we may say that 
his so-called " avarice " was not inconsistent with nnnsnal 
■ Substance of a speech to the Mayor ot Dublin. FcankHn left 
a sum ot mouGj to be employiil in a. similar waj. 

168 SWIFT. [oh 

masificence. He pared bis personal expenditure to t 
qaick, not that he might be rich, but that be might I 

Though for one reaaon or other Swift was at open war 
with a good many of the higher claescH, hia court was 
not without distinguished favourites. The most conspic- 
uous BEQongat them were Delany and Sheridan, Delany 
(1685-1788), when Swift first knew him, was a Fellow of 
Trinity College, He was a scholar, and a man of much 
good feeling and intelligence, and eminently agreeable in 
society ; his theological treatises seem to have been fan- 
ciful, but he could write pleasant verses, and had great 
reputation aa a college tntor. He married two rich wives, 
and Swift testifies that his good qualities were not the 
worse for hia wealth, nor his purse generally fuller. He 
was so much given to hospitality aa to be always rather 
in difficulties. He was a man of too much amiability and 
social suavity not to be a little shocked at some of Swift's 
savage outbursts, and scandalized by bis oocaEionat impro- 
prieties. Yet be appreciated the nobler qualities of the 
BtaQDcb, if rather alarming, friend. It is curious to 
remember that bis second wife, who was one of Swift's 
later correspondents, survived to bo the venerated friend 
of Fanny Bumey (1752-1840), and that many living 
people may thus remember one who was familiar with 
the latest of Swift's female favourites. Swift's closest 
friend and crony, however, was the elder Sheridan, the 
ancestor of a race fertile in genius, though unluckily his 
son, Swift's biographer, seems to have transmittal without 
possessing any share of it. Thomas Sheridan, the elder, 
was the typical Irishman — kindly, witty, blnndering, full 
of talents and imprudences, careless of dignity, and a child 
in the ways of the world. He was a prosperous school- 



master in Dublin when Swift first made his acquaintance 
(about 1718), so prosperous as to decline a less precarious 
post, of which Swift got him the ofEer. 

After the war of Wood's halfpence Swift hecame 
friendly with Carteret, whom he respected as a man of 
genuine ahility, and who had besides the virtue of being 
thoroughly distrasted by Walpole. When Carteret was 
asked how he had succeeded in Ireland he replied that 
he had pleased Dr. Swift. Swift took advantage of the 
mutual good-will to recommend several promising clergy- 
men to Carteret's notice. He was specially warm in be- 
half of Sheridan, who received the first vacant living and 
a chaplaincy. Sheridan characteristically spoilt his own 
chances by preaching a sermon, upon the day of the 
accession of the Hanoverian family, from the text, " Suf- 
ficient unto tho day is the evil thereof." The sermon was 
not political, and the selection of the test a pure accident; 
bnt Sheridan was accused of Jacohitism, and lost his chap- 
laincy in consequence. Though generously compensated 
by the friend in whose pnlpit he had committed this 
" Sheridan ism," he got into difficulties. His school fell 
off ; he exchanged hia preferments for others less prefer- 
able; he failed in a school at Cavau, and ultimately the 
poor man camo back to die at DnbUn, in 113B, in dis- 
tressed circumstances. Swift's relations with him were 
thoroughly characteristic. He defended his cause ener- 
getically ; gave him most admirably good advice in rather 
dictatorial terms ; admitted htm to the closest familiarity, 
and sometimes lost hia temper when Sheridan took a lib- 
erty at the wrong moment, or resented the liberties taken 
hy himself. A queer character of the " Second Solomon," 
written, it seems, in 17S9, shows the severity with which 
Swift could sometimes judge his shiftless aud impolaivd 



friend, &nd the irritabilitj with which he could i 
occaaioDal assertions of independeace. " Uc is extremei 
proud and captious," says Swift, and " apt to reaent aa i 
affront or indignity what was never intended for eitber,*^ 
hot what, we mast add, had a strong likeness to botk 
One cause of poor Sheridan's troubles was doubtles 
as^gned by Swift Mrs. Sheridan, says tbis frank crltiu 
is " the most disagreeable beast in Europe," a " most filth]) 
slut, lazy and slothful, luxurious, ill-natured, envious, a 
picious," and yet managiog to govern Sheridan. Tbis e 
timate was apparently shared by her husband, who mat 
various references to her detestation of Swift In spitj 
of all jars. Swift was not only intimate with Sheridan a 
energetic in helping bim, bat to all appearance really love^V 
him. Swift camo to Sheridan's house when the workmeaf 
were moving the furniture, preparatory to bis departai»* 
for Cavan. Swift burst into tears, and bid himself in af 
dark closet before be could regain bis seif-possession. 
paid a visit to his old friend afterwards, bat was no' 
that painful and morbid state in which violent outbreak I 
of passion made him frequently intolerable. Poor She^ I 
dan rashly ventured to fnlfil an old engagement that ha I 
would tell Swift frankly of a growing infirmity, and said I 
something about avarice. "Doctor," replied Swift, aignif- 1 
icantly, " did you never read Gil Bias ?" When Sheridan 
soon afterwards sold his school to return to Dublin, Swift 
received his old friend so inhospitably that Sberidan left 
him, never again to enter the bonse. Swift, indeed, bad 
ceased to be Swift, and Sberidan died soon afterwards. 

Swift often sought relief from the dreariness of the 
deanery by retiring to, or rather hy taking possession of, 
his friends' country houses. In 1725 he stayed for soma 
months, together with "the ladies," at Quilca, a small 

iz.] DECLDv'E. 191 

country house of Sheridan's, and compiled an acconnt of 
the defieienciea of the establishment — meant to be con- 
tinned weekly. Broken tables, doora without locks, a 
chimney stuffed with the Dean's great-coat, a solitary pair 
of tongs forced to attend all the fireplaces and also to take 
the meat from the pot, holes in the floor, spikes protrud- 
ing from the bedsteads, are some of the items ; whilst the 
servants ate all thieves, and act upon the proverb, " The 
worse their aty, the longer they lie." Swift amused him- 
self here and elsewhere by indulging his taste in landscape 
gardening, without the consent and often to the annoy- 
ance of the proprietor. In 1728 — the year of Stella's 
death — he passed eight months at Sir Arthur Acheson's, 
near Market HUl. He was sickly, languid, and ansious to 
escape from Dublin, where be had no company but that of 
his "old Presbyterian housekeeper, Mrs, Brent." He had, 
however, energy enough to take the household in hand 
atter bis usnal fashion. He superintended Lady Acheson's 
studies, made her read to him, gave her plenty of good 
advice ; bullied the butler ; looked after the dairy and the 
garden, and annoyed Sir Arthur by summarily cutting 
down an old thorn-tree. He liked the place so much that 
he thought of building a bouse there, which was to be 
called Drapier's Hall, but abandoned the project for 
reasons which, after his fashion, he expressed with great 
frankness in a poem. Probably the chief reason was the 
very obvious one which slrikea all people who are tempted 
to build; but that upon which he chiefly dwells is Sir 
Arthur's defects as an entertainer. The knight used, it 
seems, to lose himself in metaphysical moonings when he 
should have been talking to Swift and attending to bis 
gardens and farms. Swift entered a house less as a guest 
than a conqueror. His dominion, it is clear, must hare 

become bnrdenaome in his later years, when hia temper 
nas becoming sav^o and bis fancies more imperious. 

Such a man was the natural prey of sycophants, wha 
would bear his humours for interested motives. Amongst 
Swift's numerous clients some doubtless belonged to tbixj 
class. The old need of patronizing and protecting still 
displays itself ; and there is something very touching in 
the zeal for his friends which survived breaking health and 
mental decay. Hia correspondence is full of eager advo- 
cacy. Poor Miss Kelly, neglected by an unnatural parent, 
comes to Swift as her natural adviser. He intercedes OD 
behalf of the prodigal son of a Mr. FitzHerbert in a letter 
which is a model of judicious and delicate advocacy. HiS' 
old friend, Barber, had pros'^cred in business ; ho was Lord 
Mayor of London in 1733, and looked npon Swift as the 
founder of hia fortunes. To him, "my dear good old 
friend in the best and worst times," Swift writes a series 
of letters, fall of pathetic utterances of his regrets for old 
friends amidst increasing infirmities, and full also of ap» 
pcals OR behalf of others. He induced Barber to give a 
chaplaincy to Pilkington, a young clet^yman of whoafl 
talent and modesty Swift was thoroughly conirinced, Mrs. 
Pilkington was a small poetess, and the pair had crept 
into some intimacy at the deanery. Unluckily, Swift had 
reasons to repent his pntronage. The pair were equally 
worthless. The husband tried to get a divorce, and the 
wife sank into misery. One of her last experiments was 
to publish by subscription certain " Memoirs," which con* 
tain some interesting but untrustworthy anecdotes of 
Swift's later years.' He had rather better Inck with Mrs, 
Barber, wife of a Dublin woollen-draper, who, as Swift says, 
■ See >1bo the curious letters from Mrs. Pilkingt^a in Richardson's 

temper ^^\| 


was "poetically given, and, for a woman, bad a sort of 
genius thai way." He pressed her claims not only upon 
her namesake, tlie Mayor, but upon Loiii Carteret, Lady 
Betty Germaine, and Gay and his Duchess. A forged 
letter to Queen Caroline in Swift's name on behalf of this 
poetess naturally raised some suspicions. Swift, however, 
must have been convinced of her innocence. He con- 
tinued his interest in her for years, during which we are 
glad to find that she gave up poetry for selling Irish linena. 
and letting lodgings at Bath ; and one of Swift's kit acts, 
before his decay was to present her, at her own request,, 
with the copyright of his Polite Convenationa. Every- 
body, she said, would subscribe for a work of Swift's, aud- 
it would put her in easy circnm stances. Mrs. Barber 
clearly had no delicacy in turning Swift's liberality to 
account ; but she was a respectable and sensible woman,, 
and managed to bring up two sons to professions. Liber- 
ahty of this kind came naturally to Swift. He provided 
for a broken-down old officer, Captain Creichton, by com- 
piling his memoirs for him, to be published by subscrip- 
tion. "I never," he says in 1735, "got a farthing by 
anything I wrote — except once by Pope's prudent man- 
agement." This probably refers to Oulliver, for which he 
aeeras to hare received 200/. He apparently gave his 
share in the profits of the Miscellanieg to the widow of a 
Dublin printer. 

A few words may now be said about these last writ- 
ings. In reading some of them we must remember his 
later mode of life. He generally dined alone, or with old 
Mrs. Brent, then sat alone in his closet till he went to bed 
at eleven. The best company in Dnblin, ho said, was 
barely tolerable, and those who had been tolerable were 
now insupportable. He could no longer read by candle- 



104 SWliT. [osutl 

light, and his only resource was to write rnbbish, most of'1 
TTbich he burnt The uiereat trifles that he ever wrote^ T 
be 63.JS in 1731, "are serioiis pbilosopbicHl lucabration* ' 
in comparison to nfaat I now busy myself abont." This, 
however, was but the development of a lifelong practice. 
His favourite maxim, I'ive la bapatellc, ia often quoted by 
Pope and Bolingbroke. As he had punned in his youtti 
with Lord Berkeley, so he amused himself in later yean j 
by a constant interchange of tribes with hia friends, and j 
above all with Sheridan, Many of these trifles have b 
preserved ; they range from really good specimens of 
Swift's rather sardonic humour down to bad riddles and 
a peculiar kind of playing upon words. A brief specimen I 
of one variety will be amply sufficient Sheridan writes | 
to Swift : " TijnM a re veri de ad nota do U orat hi Imi/at \ 
almi e state." The words separately are Latin, and are to 
be read into the English — "Times are very dead; not a 
doit or a shilling at all my estate." Swift writes to 
Sheridan in English, which reads into Latio, " Am I say 
vain a rabble is," means, Amice venerabilis — and so forth. 
Whole manuscript books are still in existence filled with 
jargon of this kind. Charles Fox declared that Swift 
must be a good-natured man to have bad such a love of 
noDsense, We may admit eome of it to be a proof of 
good-humonr in the same sense as a love of the back- 
gammon in which he sometimes indulged. It shows, that 
is, a willingness to kill time in company. But it must be 
admitted that the impression becomes different when we 
think of Swift in bis solitude wasting the most vigorous 
intellect in the country upon ingenuities beneath that of 
the composer of double acrostics. Dclany declares that 
the habit helped to weaken bis intellect Rather it 
^owed that his intellaot was preying upon itself. Once 


more we have to think of the " conjured spirit " and the 
Topes of sand. Nothing can well be more lamentable. 
Books full of this etuS impress us liko products of the 
painful ingenuity by which some prisoner for life has 
tried to relieve himself of the intolerable burden of soli- 
tary confinement. Swift seems to betray the secret when 
he tells Bolingbroke that at his age " I often thought of 
death; but now it is never out of my mind." He repeats 
this more than once. He doea not fear death, he says; 
indeed, he longed for it. Hie regular farewell to a friend 
was, " Good-night ; I hope I shall never see you again." 
He had long been in the habit of " lamenting " Lis birth- 
day, though, in earlier days, Stella and other friends had 
celebrated the anniversary. Now it became a day of un- 
mixed gloom, and the chapter in which Job cnrses the 
hour of his birth lay open all day on his table. "And 
yet," he says, " I love ^a bagatelle better than ever." 
Bather we should say, " and therefore," for in truth the 
only excQse for such trifling was the impossibility of find- 
ing any other escape from settled gloom. Friends, indeed, 
seem to have adopted at times the theory that a humonr- 
ist must always be on the broad grin. They called him 
the " laughter-loving" Dean, and thought Gulliver a " mer- 
ry book." A strange effect is produced when, between 
two of the letters in which Swift utters the bitterest ag- 
onies of his aonl during Stella's illness, we have a letter 
from Bolingbroke to the " three Yahoos of Twickenham " 
(Pope, Gay, and Swift), referring to Swift's " divine sci- 
ence, la bagatelle" and ending with the benediction, 
" Mirth be with you I" From such mirth we can only 
say, may Heaven protect us, for it would remind us of 
nothing but the mirth of Kedgauntlet's companions when 
they sat dead (and damned) at their ghastly revelry, and 


M SWIFF. tn 

their laaghter passed into such wild sounds as made the~1 

4aring piper's " very otiils turn blue." 

It is not, however, to be inferred that all Swift's recrea- 
tions were so dreary aa this Anglo-Latin, or that his face- 
tionsness always covered an aching heart. There is real 
humour, and not all of bitter flavour, in some of the trifles | 
which passed between Swift and his friends. The most j 
famous is the poem called T/te OraTid Question Debated, 
the question being whether an old building called Hamil- 
ton's Bawn, belonging to Sir A, Acheson, should be tamed ] 
into a malthonse or a barrack. Swift takes the opporta- 
nity of caricataring the special object of his aversion, the 
blustering and illiterate soldier, though he indignantly I 
denies that he had said anything disagreeable to his hoa- 1 
pitable entertainer. Lady Acheson encouraged him : 
writing such " lampoons." Her taste cannot have bees 
very delicate,' and she, perhaps, did not perceive Jiow a 
rudeness which affects to bo only playful may be really 
offensive. If the poem shows that Swift took liberties 
with his friends, it also shows that he still possessed the 
strange power of reproducing the strain of thought of a 
vulgar mind which he exhibited in Mr, Harris's petition. 
Two other works which appeared in these last years are 
more remarkable proofs of the same power. The Com- \ 
plete Collection of Genleel and Ingenious Conversation and 
the Directions to Servants are most singular perform- 
ances, and curiously illustrative of Swift's habits of 
thought and composition. He seems to have begun them 
during some of his early visits to England. He kept 
them by him and amused himself by working npon them, 
though they were never quite finished. The Polite Con- 
vermtion was given, as we have seen, to Mrs. Barber in hu 
' Or she would hardly have written the Paiiegjpic. 

later yeora, and tbe Directions to Servants came into tha 
printer's hands when he was already imbecile, Tliey 
show how closely Swift's sarcastic attention was fixed 
through life upon tbe ways of his inferiors. They are a 
mass of materials for a natural history of social absnrdi- 
ties, such as Mr. Darwin was in tbe habit of bestowing 
upon the manners and customs of worms. The difference 
ifl that Darwin bad none but kindly feelings for worms, 
whereas Swift's inspection of social vermin is always 
edged with contempt. Tbe Conversations are a marvel- 
lous collection of tbe set of cant phrases which at best 
have supplied the absence of thought in society. Inci- 
dentally there are some curious illustrations of tbe cus- 
toms of tbe day ; though one cannot suppose that any 
human beings bad ever tbe marvellous flow of pointless 
proverbs with which Lord Sparkisb, Mr. Neverout, Miss 
N'otable, and the rest manage to keep tbe ball incessantly 
rolling, Tbe talk is nonsensical, as most small-talk would 
be, if taken down by a reporter, and, according to modem 
standard, hideously vulgar, and yet it flows oa with such 
vivacity that it is perversely amusing : 

"Lady Ajoaetall. Bat, Hr. Keverout, I woader wh; such a hand- 
Bome, straight young gentleman aa you don't get some rich widow ? 

"Lord ^Mrkifh. Straigbtl Aj, Btrsiglit as my leg, and that's 
crooked at the knee. 

" Sfeveroul, Truth, madam, if it had rained rich widoiTB, noae 
would fall upon me. Egad, I waa bora under a threepenny planet, 
neset to be worth a groat" 

And so tbe talk flows on, and to all appearance might flow 

Swift professes in his preface to have sat many hundred 
times, with bis table-book ready, witboat catching a single 
phrase for his book in eight hours. Truly be is a kind of 


198 SWDT. [oh 

Bosvell of inanities, and one is amazed at the quantity of 
thought which must have gone into this elaborate triflin^f 
npon trifles. A similar vein of satire upon the emptiness 
of writers is given in his Tritical Eaaay vpoa the Facultiet 
of the Human Mind ; but that is a mere skit compared 
with this strange performance. The Girecliom to Servants 
thowR an cqaal amount of thought exeri.ed upon the va- 
rious misdoings of the class assailed. Some one has said 
that it is painful to read so minute and remorseless an 
exposure of one variety of human foily. Undoubtedly it 
eoggests that Swift must hare appeared to be an omni- 
scient master. Delany, aa I have said, testifies to bis 
excellence in that capacity. Many anecdotes attest the 
close attention which he bestowed upon every detail of 
his servants' lives, and the humorous reproofs which he 
administered. "Sweetheart," he said to an ugly cook- 
maid who had overdone a joint, "take this down to 
the kitchen and do it less." " That is impossible," she 
replied. " Then," he said, " if you must commit faults, 
commit fanlts that can be mended." Another story tells 
how, when a servant had excnaed himself for not cleaning 
boots on the ground that tbey would soon be dirty again, 
Swift made him apply the same principle to eating break- 
fast, which would be only a temporary remedy for hunger. 
In this, as in every relation of life, Swift was under a 
fcnd of necessity of imposing himself upon every one in 
contact with him, and followed out his commands into 
the minutest details. In the Direclirms to Servants he has 
accumulated the results of his experience in one depart- 
ment ; and the reading may not be without edification to 
the people who every now and then announce as a new 
discovery that servants are apt to be selfish, indolent, and 
alattemly, and to prefer their own interests to their mav 

a.] DECLINE. 199 

tere'. Probably no fanlt could be found with the modem 
successors of eighteecth-century servants which Las not 
already been exemplified in Swift's presentment o£ that 
golden ^e of domeatic comfort. The details are not al- 
together pleasant; bat, admitting euch satire to be legiti- 
mate, Swift's performance is a masterpiece, i 
Swift, however, left work of a more dignified kind. 
Many of the letters in his correspondence are admirable 
specimens of a perishing art. The most interesting are 
those which passed between him, Pope, and Eoliogbroke, 
and which were published by Pope's contrivance during 
Swift's last period. " I look upoa us three," says Swift, 
" as a peculiar triumvirate, who have nothing to expect or 
fear, and so far fittest to converse with one another." We 
may, perhaps, believe Swift when he says that he " never 
leaned on his elbow to consider what he should write " 
(except to foola, lawyers, and ministers), though we cer- 
tainly cannot say the same of his friends. Pope and 
Bolingbroke are full of afiectations, now transparent 
enough ; but Swift in a few trenchant, outspoken phrases 
dashes out a portrait of himself as impressive as it is in 
some ways painful. Wo must. Indeed, remember, in read- 
ing his inverse hypocrisy, his tendency to call his own mo- 
tives by their ugliest names — a tendency which is specially 
pronounced in writing letters to the old friends whose very 
names recall the memories of past happiness, and lead him 
to dwell upon the gloomiest side of the present There is, 
too, a characteristic reserve upon some points. In bis last 
visit to Pope, Swift left his friend's house after hearing the 
bad accounts of Stella's health, and hid himself In London 
lodgings. He never mentioned his anxieties to his friend, 
who heard of them first from Sheridan; and in writing 
afterwards from Dublin, Swift escusea himself for tho 





desertion by referring to his own ill-bealtb — doubtless 9% 
true cause ("two eick friends never did well together ")' J 
— and his anxiety aboat bis affairs, without a word aboni J 
Stella. A phrase of Bolingbroke's in the previous year I 
about " the present Stella, whoever she may bo," 1 
to prove that be too bad no knowledge of Stfilla excepfeiJ 
from the poems addressed to the name. Thero were 1 
depths of feeling which Swift could not lay bare to tlie j 
friend in whose aScction he seems most thoroughly to] 
have trusted. Meanwhile he gives full vent to the aconi J 
of mankind and himself, the bitter and unavailing hatred 1 
of oppression, and above all for tbat strange mingling of '1 
pride and remorse, which is always characteristic of his 1 
turn of mind. When he leaves Arbuthnot and Fope bs 1 
expreasea the warmth of his feelings by declaring that he 1 
will try to forget them. He la deeply grieved by the death i 
of Congi'eve, and ibe grief makes bim almost regret that hs J 
ever had & friend. He would give half his fortune for the 1 
temper of an easy-going acquaintance who could take np at 1 
lose a friend as easily as a cat. " Is not this the true happy I 
man V The loss of Gay cuts bim to the heart ; be notes oa 
the letter announcing it that he had kept the letter by bim 1 
fivedays"by an impulse foreboding some misfortune." Ha ' 
cannot speak of it except to say that be regrets that long 
living bas not hardened bim, and tbat he expects to die 
poor and friendless. Pope's ill-health "bangs on hu 
spirits." His moral is that if ho were to begin the world 
again he would never run the risk of a friendship with 
a poor or sickly man — for he cannot harden himself. 
"Therefore I argue tbat avarice and hardness of heart 
are the two happiest qualities a man can acquire who ia 
late In bis life, because by living long we must lessen oui 
.'^rienda or may increase our fortunes," This bitterness L 


U] DEOLim. 201 

eqnally apparent in regard to tlio virtues on which ha 
most prided himself. His patriotism was owing to "pe^ 
feet rage and resentment, and the mortifying sight of 
filavery, folly, and baaeness ;" in which, aa he says, he is 
the direct contrary of Pope, who can despise folly and hate 
vice without losing hia temper or thinking the worse of 
individuals. " Oppression tortures him," and means bit- 
ter hatred of the concrete oppressor. He tells Barber in 
1738 that for three years he has been but the shadow of 
hia former self, and has entirely lost bis memory, " except 
when it is roused by perpetual Hubjects of vexation." 
Commentators have been at pains to show that such sen- 
timents are not philanthropic ; yet they are the morbid 
nttemncG of a noble and affectionate nature soured by 
long misery and disappointment. They brought their 
own puuishmeut. The unhappy man was fretting him- 
self into melancholy, and was losing all sources of conso- 
lation. " I have nobody now loft but you," he writes to 
Pope in 1736. His invention is gone; he mates projects 
which end in the manufacture of waste paper; and what 
vexes him most is that his " female friends have now for- 
saken him." " Years and infirmities," he says in the end 
of the same year (about the date of the Legion Club), 
" have quite broke me ; I can neither read, nor write, nor 
remember, nor converse. All 1 have left b to walk and 
ride." A few letters arc preserved in the next two years 
— melancholy wails over his loss of health and spirit — 
pathetic expressions of continual affection for his " dearest 
and almost only constant friend," and a warm request or 
two for services to some of his acquaintance. 

The last stage was rapidly approaching. Swift, who 
had always been thinking of death in these later years, 
had anticipated the end in the remarkable verses On th« 

B02 SWIFT, [cB 

Death of Dr. Smft. This aud two or three other ] 
formaDccs of about tho same period, especlallj 
Rhapnody on Poetry (1V33) and the Verses to a 1 
are Swift's chief title to be called a poet. How far t 
name can be conceded to bim is a question of clasBificfl 
tion. Swift's originalitj appears in the very fact tb| 
be requires a new class to be made for him. He jostififlj 
Dryden's remark in ao far as he was never a poet in 
Bense in which Milton or Wordsworth or Shelley or e 
Dryden himself were poets. His poetiy may be called 
rhymed prose, and should, perhaps, be put at aboat t 
same level in the scale of poetry as Hudibras. It diffet 
from prose, not simply in being rhymed, but in that t 
metrical form seems to be the naturid and appropriat 
mode of utterance. Some of the purely sarcastic and h 
morous phrases recall Hudibras more nearly than anything 
else; as, for example, the often quoted veraes upon b 
critics in the Rhapaod)/ ■ 

"The vermin ontv tcaae and pinch 
Their foes superior b; nil inch. 
Bo natiimliBts obeerve b flea 
Has smaller fleas that on Lim pr^. 
And these hare siusller slil! to bite 'em. 
And HO proceed ad infmlvm." 

In the verses on his own death the suppressed passioi 
the glow and force of feeling which we perceive behin 
the merely moral and prosaic phrases, seem to elevate t'^ 
work to a higher level. It is a mere running of every-dan 
language into easy-going verse; and yet the strangely miiw 
gled pathos and bitterness, the peculiar irony of which I; 
was the great master, affect us with a sentiment which 
may be called poetical in substance mora forcibly than 




far more dignified and in Bome sense imaginative perform- 
ances. Whatever name we may please to give such work, 
Swift baa certaiuly struck Lome, and makes an imprGssion 
wbich it is difficult to oompreas into a few pLrasea. It is 
tbe essence of all that la given at greater length in the cor- 
respondence, and Blartfi from a comment upon Rochefou- 
eauld'a congenial niaxira about the misfortunes of our 
friends. lie tells how Lis acquaintance watch his decay, 
tacitly congratulating themselves that " it is not yet so bad 
with ns ;" how, when he dies, they laugh at the absurdity 
of his will : 

■' To public uses 1 There's a whim ! 
Whut bad the public doue for him f 
Here eavy, avarice, and pridu, 
He gave it all — but Erst he died." 

Then we have tbe comments of Queen Caroline and Sir 
Robert, and the rejoicings of Grub Street at the chance 
passing oS rubbish by calling it hia. His friends e 
really touched : 

" Poor Pope will grievo a month, anil Gij 
A week, and Arbuthnot a daj ; 
^_ St. John bimaetf will scarce forbear 

H To bite hia pen aud drop a tear ; 

^B The cesC will give a shrug and crj, 

^P "Tis pit;, but we all must did'" 

I The ladies talk over it at their cards. They have leai 

H to show their tenderness, and 

V Tt 


Beceive tbe news in doleful dumps. 
The Dean iadead (praj what is trumps?); 
Theu Lord have mercj' on hie soul 1 
(Ladiea, Til venture for the mle.)" 

The poem 

partial char- 

804 SWU^T. [CBlKr 

acter of the Dean. He claima, with a pride not anjnatifiar 
ble, the power of iadcpcDdeDce, lovo of his friends, hatred 
of corruption, and so forth ; admits that be may have had 
"too much satire in bis vein," though adding the very 
questionable assertion that be " lashed the vice but spared 
the name." Mariborough, WTiarton, Bumet, Steele, Wal- 
pole, and a good many more, might have had something J 
to say upon that head. The last phrase is significant : ■ 

" He gire the little wealth be had M 

To build a house for fools and mad ; H 

And showed by one satiric touch H 

No nation needed it so much — ■ 

Thut kingdom he huCh left his debtor, 1 

I wish it Boon may have a better I" I 

For some years, in fact, Sitift had spent much thought I 
and time in arranging the details of this bequi^st. He nl- I 
timately left about 13,000/., with which, and some other I 
contributions, St. Patrick's Hospital was opened for fifty 1 
patients in the year 1 757. M 

Tbe last few years of Swift's life were passed in an al-V 
most total eclipse of intellect. One pathetic letter to Mrs. I 
"Whiteway gives almost the last touch : " I have been very I 
miserable all night, and to-day extremely deaf and full of I 
pain. I am so stupid and confounded that I cannot ex- I 
press the mortification I am under both of body and mind. I 
All I can say is that I am not in torture; but I daily and 1 
hourly expect it. Pray let me know how your health ii I 
and your family. I hardly understand one word I write. I 
1 am sure my days will be very few, for miserable they I 
must be. If I do not blunder, it is Saturday, July 26, I 
1740. If I live till Monday, I shall hope to see yon, pet- 1 
haps for tbe last time." Even after this he occaBionallj I 


showed gleams of his former iatelligence, and is said to 
have written a well-known epigram duriug an outing with ' 
his attendants : 

" Behold a proof of Irisli senBc ! 
Hero Inah wit is seen ! 
When Qothing's left tbal's worth defence 
Thej build ft 

Occasionally he gave way to furiooB outbursts of vio- 
lent temper, and once suffered great torture from a swell- 
ing in the eye. But his general state seeras to have been 
apathetic ; sometimRs he tried to speak, but was unable 
to find words, A few sentences have been recorded. On 
hearing that preparations were being made for celebrating 
his birthday he said, " It is all folly ; they had better let 
it alone." Another time he was heard to mutter, " I am 
what I am; I am what I am." Few details have been 
given of this sad period of mental eclipse ; nor can we 
regret their absence. It is enough to say that he suffered 
occasional tortures from the development of the brain-dis- 
ease ; though as a rule he enjoyed the painlessness of tor- 
por. The unhappy man lingered till the 19th of October, 
1745, when he died quietly at three in the afternoon, after 
a night of convulsions. He was buried in St Patrick's 
Cathedral, and over his grave was placed an epitaph, con- 
taining the last of those terrible phrases which chng to 

r memory whenever his name is mentioned. Swift lies, 


in his own words, ^^^h 

" Dbi Sieva iadigoatio ^^^^| 

Cur ultoriua lacerare nequit." ^^^^| 

■ "What more can be added? ^^^H 



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