Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Tar life, writings, and character of Swift, have successively employed the researches, exercised the fridures, and exhausted the praises of Mrs. Pilkington, the Earl of Orrery, Deane Swift, Esq. Dr. Delany, Dr. Hawkesworth, Dr. Johnson, and George-Monk Berkcley, Esq. Their several publications, which place his character in very different, and often opposite points of light, have occasioned great diversity in the judgments formed of them by the world, according to the different degrees of prejudice or candour in their several readers. On an attentive perusal, it will be found, that the narrations of Lord Orrery, Dr. Hawkesworth, Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Sheridan, entitle them to the cadufve appellation of his biographers. Dr. Delany, Mr. Swift, Mr. Berkeley, and Mrs. Pilkington, come under a different description. The three fornier must be considered as his apologists, and the latter as a retailer of entertaining anecdotes. These are the several sources from which the facts stated in the present account are chiefly derived. Some particulars of his early life are taken from the Arct detes of the Family of Swift, a fragment, written by himself, which now exifts in his own hand-writing, in the University Library of Dublin.

Jonathan Swift was, according to the account written by himself, the son of Mr. Jonathan Swift, an attorney, and was born in Hoey's-Court, in the pariíh of St. Werburgh, Dublin, on the 30th of November, 1667. He was defcended from a younger branch of an ancient family of that name in Yorkshire. His grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Swift, was Vicar of Goodrich in Herefordíhire, and married Elizabeth Dryden, aunt of the great poet, by whom he had ten sons and three or four daughters. He died in 1658; and, of his fons, six survived him, Godwin, Thomas, Dryden, WilLiam, Jonathan, and Adam.

Thomas was bred at Oxford, and took orders: he married the eldest daughter of Davenant, and left an only fon, Thomas, who died rector of Puttenham in Surrey, May 1752, in the 87th year of his age. Godwin studied the law, in the Inner-Temple, and was called to the bar before the Restoration. He had four wives, one of whom was a relation to the old Marchioness of Ormond; and, upon that account, the old Duke of Ormond made him his Attorney-General, in the palatinate of Tipperary. He left several children, who obtained estates. William, Dryden, Jonathan, and Adam, were attorneys, who all lived and died in Ireland; but none of them left male issue except Jonathan, the father of Swift.

Jonathan, at the age of twenty-three, married Abigail Erick, descended from an ancient family of that name in Leicestershire, but with little or ne fortune. He died young, in about two ycars after his marriage, feven weeks before the birth of his only son ; and, as he was but just beginning the world, left his widow and an infant daughter to the care of his brother Godwin.

When Swist was a year old, his nurse, who was a native of Whitehaven, finding it necessary to, visit a fick relation, and being extremely fond of the infant, stole him on shipboard, unknown to his mother and uncle, and carried him with her to Whitchaven, where he continued for almob three yers; for, when the matter was discovered, his mother sent orders not to hazard a second voyage til he should be better able to bear it. The nurse was so careful of him, that, before he returned, he had learned to spell, and, before he was five years old, he could read any chapter in. the Bible.

His mother, about two years after his father's death, quitted the family of his uncle Godwin, and retired to Leicester, where she was chiefly supported by presents and contributions from her relations.

The infancy of Swift paffed without any marks of distinction. At the age of fix he was sent to
the School of Kilkenny, and, at fourteen, admitted into the University of Dublin. The expence of
his education was defrayed by his uncle Godwin, who, having a numerous ofispring, by four wives,
was under the neccslicy of reducing his allowance as low as poslible.

His other relations seemed at that time to think that their allistance was not necessary, fo that he
was obliged to make the best shift he could with the small pittance afforded by his uncle; who was
fupposed by hini, as well as by the rest of the world, to be in circumstances that might have afforded
a much more liberal allowance, without prejudice to his own family.
This fuppuation made so deep an impresion on him, that he uover afterwards could think witla

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

paticnce of his uncle Godwin, nor could heartily forgive the neglect thown him during that time by his other relations.

During his relidence at College, he lived with great regularity and due observance of the statutes; but he was so discouraged and funk in his spirits, by the ill treatment of his relations, that he could not bear to give the necessary application to the mori dry parts of the academic studies, for which he had indeed naturally no great relih; and paffcd his time chiefly in reading books of history and poetry, which were better suited to his taste, and more calculated to relieve the troubles of his mind. In confequence of this, when the time came for his taking the degree of Bachelor of Arts, he was forped, as he him of exprefics it, “ for dulness and intuiticiency," and at last hardly admitted, in a Joanner little to his credit, as it was inserted in the College register that he obtained it speciali gras tia, by fpecial favour; where it still remains upon record.

He remaiosd in the College near three years after this disgrace, not through choice, but neceffity, littic known or regarded. By scholars he was esteemed a biocl head; and, as the lowness of his circumitances would not p. i mit him to keep cempany of an equal rurk, upon an equal footing, he scorid to affociate with the uf a lower class, or to be obliged to those of a higher.

Shane, however, had its proper eflcc in producing reformation; for he resolved, from that time, to ftudy eight hours a-day, and he continued his industry for seven years, with what improvement is generally known.

At this time the force of his genius broke out, in the first rude draught of the Tale of a Tub, write ten by him at the age of nineteen, though communicated to nobody but his chamber-fellow Mr. Waryng, the brother of the lady who received his juvenile addresses, and with whom he correla ponded with all the romantic ardour attending a first passion, under the whimsical name of Varina.

Soon after, his uncle Godwin was seized with a lethargy, and the broken state of his affairs was made public. He now loft even the poor support that he had before; but his uncle William fupplied the place of Godwin to him, though not in a more liberal way, which could not be expected from his circumstances, yet with so much better a grace as engaged his gratitude afterwards.

His coufin Willoughby Swift, eldest son of his uncle Godwin, heaning of his father's unhappy. circumitances, and reflecting that Swift's destitute fituation demanded inimcdiate relief, sent him a present of a larger fun than ever he had been master of before.

This was the firth time that his disposition was tried with regard to the management of money; and he said, that the reflection of his constant fufferings through the want of it, made him nurse it to well, that he was never afterwards without some in his purse.

In 1638, when he was about one-and-twenty, he went to confult his mother, who lived at Leicester, about the future course of his lite ; and, by her direction, solicited the advice and patronage of Sir Williarn Temple, who had married one of her relations, and wliofe father, Sir john Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, had lived in great familiarity of friendship with his uncle Godwin, by whom he had been till that time maintained.

Sir William Temple, who then refided at Shene; received him cheerfully into his house, and treated him with that hospitable kindness to which family connections and his unfortunate fiuration gave him a double siairt. On a nearer acquaintance, his kindness to him was increafed from motives of personal regard, and he took upon him the direction and superintendence of his studies, in which be found his progreis was far from being so grcat as might have been expceted from his course of education and time of life.

During his rol donce at Shene, he became known to King William, who sometimes visited Sir Willian Temple when he was disabled by the gout; and, being attended by Swist in the garden, thowed him how to cut asparagus in the Dutch way. King William exprefied his kindness to Swist by offering to ma'ie him a Captain of Horse; but Swift appears to have fixed his mind very early on an ecclefiaftical lifc; and, it is therefore probable, that, in declining this offer, he obtained a promise of preferment in the church, for, in a letter to his uncle William, dated 1692, he says, “I am not to take orders till the King gives me a Prebend."

When Sir William Temple removed to Moor-Park, alter the settlement of the government, he took Swist with him, and detained him two years, as his friend and domestic companion.

Being much oppressed by an illness which he contracted in Ireland by a surfeit of fruit, that brought on a coldness of stomach and giddiness, with deafness, he was advised to try his native air, and went to Ireland; but, finding himself growing worse there, he foon returned to Moor-Park, where he continued his studies, upon the abatement of his illness, which, with irregular intermilions, pursued him through life, and at last lent him to the grave deprived of reason

He thought exercise of great necessity, and used to run up and down a hill, about half a mile from tive house, every two hours, and the dittance backwards and forwards, in about six mitutes.

He now stood high in Sir William Temple's esteem, though he had written nothing that could give him a very high idea of his genius, except the Tale of a Tub, which he revised and corrected about this time, and probably showed to his patron.

He tried his ftrength only in Pindaric Odes to the King, to Sir William Temple, and to the “ Athenian Society," in which, though there appeared fome vigour of mind, and cfforts of an uncommon genius, yep it was apparent that it was vigour improperly exerted, and the efforts of a genius misapplied. The sentiments were strained and crowded, and the numbers irregular and harsh.

When Sir William Temple was consulted by the Earl of Portland about the expedience of complying with a bill then depending for making parlianients triennial, he sent Swift to Kensington with the whole account in writing, to convince the King and the Earl that the proposal involved nothing dangerous to royal power. But the predetermination of the king made his argumcats, and his art of displaying them, totaliy ineffcctual; and the measure was rejected

The consequence of this wrong step in his Majesty, he observes, was very vnhappy; for although it be held a part of the King's prerogative to refuse pailing a bill, yet the icarned in the law think otherwise, from that expresion used at the coronation, wherein the Prince obligech liimself to consent to all laws, quas vulgus elegerit.

In this fituation Switt continued, still applying close to his studies, till 1692, when he went to Ouiord to take his degree of Master of Arts. In the testimonial which he produced from the University of Dublin, the words of disgrace were omitted, probably by the influence of his uncle Wiliam. He was admitted ad eunden, June 14. and took his Master's degree July 5th 1692; with such reception and regard as fully contented him.

From Oxford he returned to Moor-Park, where he remained two years longer, in expectation of getting some preferment through Sir William Temple's intere!t with the King, which he had promised to exert in his favour; and, in this time, he aflilted him in the revisal and correction of his writings, and added the digressions to the Tale of a Tube

At length, quite wearicd out with fruitlefy expectation, he determined to leave Sir William Temple, and to take his chance in the world. When this resolution was made known to Sir William, he received it with ardent marks of difpleasure ; but, that he might seem to fulfil his promise, he offered him an employment then vacant, in the oflice of the rolls in 'rcland, of about 103 l. a-year. Swift, with great readiness and spirit, replied, " that since he had now an opportunity of living without king drived into the church for a maintenance; he was refolved to go to Ireland to take holy or ders;" and so he went away in discontent.

While he lived at Moor-Park, he used to pay his mother at Leicester an yearly visit. He travelled on foot, unless the violence of the weather drove him into a wagron; he dined at obscure ale. houses

, among pedlars and oftlers; and at night, he would go to a penny lodging, where he procured clean facets for fixpence. This practice some have ascribed to avarice, and others, perhaps with more probability, to his defire of surveying human life through all its varieties.

He went over to Ireland, and was ordained in September 1634. He had at first no higher views in the church than the Chaplainship to the Fa@cry at Lifbon; but being recommended to Lord Cafe], tha a Lord Deputy of Ireland, he obtained the Prebend i Kilroot, in the diocese of Connor, of

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

about 1001. a-year.

Som aster, upon receiving a letter from Sir William Temple, with an invitation to Mor:-Park, he resigned his living to a poor curate who had only 40 l. a-year, for the maintenance of a very numerous family of children, and returned to England.

The circumstances attending this act of tenevolence are well described by Mr. Sheridan; and the fel'swing reficction on the “ exquisite pleasure” which it aforded he heart of Sivif, is fingularly harry, buth for the thought and the expression:

« Nor is this to be widered at, ince it was the firit opportunity he ever had of letting loose that fpirit of generosity acid benevolence, whose greather's and vigour, when pent up in his own breast by poverty and dependence, served only as an evil fririt to torment him."

The editor of the late edition of the « Tatler," has ascribed his leaving Kilroot to no less a criino than an attempt to commit a rape. This ridiculous charge is refuted by Mr. Berkeley, with a mixture of contempt and indignation which it well deserves. It has also been contradicted in the “ Gentleman's Magazine," by the person on whose authority it was rested; and is too palpably absurd to be credited, even by those who may meet with the accusation without seeing the defence.

He arrived at Moor-Park, in 1695, with fourscore pounds in his pocket, after somewhat more than a year's absence. The infirmities of Sir William Temple made him more necessary than ever; and having, perhaps, equaliy repented their separation, they lived on together with mutual satisfaction. In the four years that passed between his return and Sir William Temple's death, he was fully and usefully employed. He took upon himself the office of Preceptor to his niece teaching her English, and directing her in a proper course of reading. At the same time, Miss Johnson, daughter of his fteward, afterwards fo well known by the name of Siclla, partook of the benefit of the fanic instruction. She was at that time about fourteen years of age, beautiful in her person, and possessed of such fine talents as made Swift take great delight in cultivating and improving her inind. At this time too he wrote the Battle of the Books, in honour of his great and learned friend.

In 1699, Sir William Temple died, and left a legacy, with his manuscripts, to Swift; for whone he had obtained from King William a promise of the first prebend that should be vacant at Westminster or Canterbury.

Upon the death of his patron, he removed to London, and soon after dedicated to the King the posthumous works with which he was intrufted; but neither the dedication, nor a memorial which he thought proper to present, revived in King William the remembrance of his promise. He attended the court a while, but soon found his solicitations hopeless. He exonerated the King so far as to say often that he believed the memorial was never received.

He therefore readily accepted of an offer made to him by the Earl of Berkeley to accompany him into Ireland as his Chaplain and Private Secretary; but after having done the business of Tecretary till their arrival at Dublin, he then found that one Bush had persuaded his Lordship that a Clergyman was not a proper secretary, and had obtained the office for himself.

He revenged himself by a severe copy of verses against the governor and his new made secretary, which were everywhere handed about, to their no small mortification.

Lord Berkeley had foon after the disposal of the Deanery of Derry, and Swift expected to obtain it; but by the secretary's being secured by a bribe of icool. it was bestowed on another; and Swift was dismissed with the Rectory of Agher, and the Vicarages of Laracor and Rathbeggan, in the diocese of Meath, which, together, did not equal half the value of the deanery.

He continued fill in his office of Chaplain to Lord Berkeley, from the respect which he had for his Lady, whose virtues he has celebrated in the introduction to the Project for the Advancement of Riligion.

About this time, his true humorous vein in poetry began to display itself in several little pieces, written for the entertainment of Lord Berkeley's family, particularly that incomparable piece of low humour, called The bumble Petition of Mrs. Frances Harris, &c.

When Lord Berkeley quitted the governinent of Ireland, Swift went to reside on his living at Laracor, where he read prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and performed all the offices of his profession with great decency and exactness.

Soon after his settlement at Laracor, he invited to Ireland his lovely pupil Miss Johnson, to whom Sir William Temple, in confideration of her father's faithful services, had left icool. With her came a lady of the name of Dingley, who was related to the Temple family, and whose whole fortune was an annuity of 27 1. With these ladies he passed his hours of relaxation, and to them he opened his bofom; but they never refided in the same house. They lived at the parsonage when he was away, and when he returned, removed to a lodging, or to the house of Dr. Raymond, a neighbouring clergyman, at Trim.

Miss Johnson was then eighteen, and, hy his own account, had the most and finest accomplishments of any person he had ever known of either sex. Yet he studiously avoided the appearance of any tender attachment to her, and never saw or conversed with her but in the presence of some third perfon.

Whatever inclination he might formerly have had to matrimony, it was now much changed. A

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

few years absence, and some newly discovered faults, made him wish to put an end to a correspon-
dence in the style of courtship, which had been carried on for some time with Miss Waryng: The cir-
cumltances of that affair are laid open in an unlover-like and dictatorial epistle to Miss Waryng, dated
May 4. 1700, the design of which seems evidently to have been to break off the match, but in such
a way as that the refusal might come from the lady. The subsequent fortunes of Miss Waryng are not
known; but it is probable Swift's connection with her might occafion the mysterious conduct he ob-
served towards Miss Johnson.

Ambition, not love, was his predominant passion. Urged by this restless fpirit, he every year paid
a visit to England, in hopes of finding some favourable opportunity of distinguishing himself, and
pushing his fortune in the world.

His first political tract, intituled A Discourse of the Contests and Diffentions in Athens and Rome, was pube
lished in 1701, at the time when the nation was in a ferment on account of the impeachment of
the Earls of Portland and Orford, Lord Somers and Lord Halifax, by the House of Commons. He
concealed his name ; nor was he, though sided with the Whigs, at that time connected with any
of the leaders of that party. His motives were wholly of a public nature, and such as became his
truly disinterested and patriotic spirit. This was the only piece he ever explicitly avowed as his
own production. With respect to all his other publications, to which he did not affix his name, he
left the world to make its own conjectures with regard to the author. He maintained a kind of
dignified reserve, and seemed always to court that equivocal shade which “ half thowed,” and “ half
veiled” his intentions and pursuits.

The same year, he took the degree of Doctor in Divinity.

In 1904, he published, The Tale of a Tub, which he had kept by him eight years. Mr. Sheridan
considers it as a work truly friendly to the interests of religion, by weakening of the powers of po-
pery and fanaticism; but, it is certain, that most of the serious part of the clergy and the laity, cven
among the high-church-men, blushed for the author, and thought religion the last thing he troubled
himself about. It has been ascribed by Mr. Cooksey, in his “ Life of Lord Somers," to that non
bleman; but he himself did not deny that he was the author, when Archbishop Sharp and the Du-
chefs of Somerset, by showing it to the Queen, debarred him from a bishopric.

After the publication of this work, his acquaintance was much sought after by all persons of taste
and genius. There was, particularly, a very close connection between him and Addison, which ended
in a fincere and lasting friendship; and he lived in the greatest intimacy with Congreve, Arbuthnote
Prior, Pope, Gay, Parnell, Garth, Berkeley, and others of inferior Hote.

In 1908, he published Tbe Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man, the ridicule of astrology, under
the name of Bicker:af, the argument against abolisting Christianity, and the defence of the Sacramental

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In these publications Swift does not rise superior to the prejudices which agitated the contending
parties of those days. His principles of toleration may be clearly perceived to have been inimical to
a general liberty of conscience. He speaks the language of these days, when bigotry, under the fpe-
cious fames of zeal and orthodoxy, shook the very pillars of the Reformation; and, while it pre-
tended to fecure the durch from danger, was undermining the best interests of truth, religion, and
Liberty.

The attention paid to the paper published under the name of Bicker,1-27, induced Steele, when he
projected the “ Tatler," to allume an appellation which had already gained policlion of the rea-
der's notice.

In 1709, he published a Projeal for the advancement of Religion, addressed to Lady Berkeley, by whose
kindness it is not unlikely that he was advanced to his benefices, but chiefly calculated for the
Queen's perufal, being covertly aimed at the destruction of the Whigs or Low-church-party.

After the publication of this piece, Swift went to Ireland, where he passed much of his time with
Addison, then Sccretary to the Eurl of Wharton, Lord Lieutenant of that kingdom.

Upon the charge of affairs at court the following year, when the Tory ministry was appointed,
Swife was employed by the bishops of Ireland to solicit the Queen for a remiflion of the first-fruits
and twentieth-parts to the Irish clergy.
He arrived in London, with his credentials, in September 1710, and waited upon Harley, to

1

1

« AnteriorContinuar »