« AnteriorContinuar »
put her in mind of Shakespear's description of Caflius.
He is a great discerner, and he looks
Jul. Cæfar. Mrs Pilkington believed the Dean's early youth did not promise that bright day of wit which has fince enlightened the learned world. Whilst he was at the university of Dublin, he was so far from being distinguished for any fuperiority of parts of learning, that he was stopped of his degree as a dunce.
When she heard the Dean relate this circumstance, she told him, she fuppofed he had been idle : But he affirmed the contrary, assuring her he was really dull. Which, if true, is very surprising.
“ I have,” fays the, “ often been led to look
on the world as a garden, and the human “ minds as so many plants, set by the hand of " the Great Creator for utility and ornament. “ Thus fome, we see, early produce beautiful “ blossoms, and as soon fade away ; others, “ whose gems are more flow in unfolding, but
more permanent when blown; and others “ again, who, though longer in arriving at per“ fection, not only bless us then with shade and “ odour, but also with delicious wholesome
He was a perpetual friend to merit and learning; and utterly incapable of envy; for, in true genuine wit, he could fear no rival.
It has been often observed, that where great talents are bestowed, there the strongest paffions are likewise given. This great man did but too often let them have dominion over him, and that on the most trifling occasions. During meal times he was evermore in a storm ; the meat was always too much or too little done, or the servants had offended in fome point, imperceptible to the rest of the company : However, when the cloth was taken away, he made his guests rich amends for the pain he had given them. For then
Was truly mingled, in the friendly bowl,
The feast of reason, and the flow of soul. Pope. Yet he preferved strict temperance : For he never drank above half a pint of wine, in every glass of which was mixed water and sugar: Yet if he liked his company, would fit many hours over it, unlocking all the springs of policy, learning, true humour, and inimitable wit.
The following story the Dean told to Mrs Pilkington.
A clergyman who was a most learned fine gentleman, but, under the softest and politest appearance, concealed the most turbulent ambition, having made his merit as a preacher too eminent to be over-looked, had it early rewarded with a mitre. Dr Swift went to congratulate hiin on it;
but told him, he hoped, as his Lordship was a native of Ireland, and had now a seat in the House of Peers, he would einploy his powerful elocution in the fervice of his diftreffed country. The prelate told him, the bishoprick was but a very small one, and he could not hope for a better, if he did not oblige the court. « Very well,” says Swift, “then it is to be hoped, when you have a “ better, you will become an honest man.” “ Ay, that I will, Mr Dean,” says he.
« Till “ then, my Lord, farewell,” answered Swift. This prelate was twice translated to richer sees ; and on every translation, Dr Swift waited on him to remind him of his promise ; but to no purpofe ; there was now an archbishoprick in view, and till that was obtained, nothing could be done. Having in a short time likewise got this, he then fent for the Dean, and told him, “ I am now at “ the top of my preferment: For I well know
Irishman will ever be made primate; there« fore, as I can rise no higher in fortune or sta“ tion, I will zealously promote the good of my
country." And from that time he commenced a most outrageous patriot.
we consider Swift's prose works, we shall find a certain masterly conciseness in their style, that hath never been equalled by any other writer. The truth of this affertion will more evidently appear, by comparing him with some of the authors of his own time. Of these, Dr Tillotson, and Mr Addison, are to be numbered among the most eminent. Addison hath all the powers that can captivate and inprove : riis diction is easy, his periods are well turned, his expressions are flowing, and his humour is delicate. Tillotson is nervous, grave, majesic, and perspicuous. We must join both these characters together, to form a true idea of Dr Swift : Yet, as lie outdocs Addison in humour, he excells Tillotson in perfpicuity. The Archbishop, indeed, confined himself to subjects relative to his profeffion : but Addison and Swift are more diffusive writers. They continually vary in their manner, and treat different topics in a different ftyle. When the writings of Addison terminate in party, he loses himself extremely; and froin a delicate and just comedian, deviates into one of the lowest kind *. Not fo Dr Swift. He appears like a masterly gladiator. He wields the sword of party with ease, justness, and dexterity: And while he entertains the ignorant and the vulgar, he draws an equal attention from the learned and the great. When he is ferious, his gravity becomes him; when he laughs, his readers must laugh with him. But what hall be said for his love of trifles, and his want of delicacy and decorum? Errors, that if he did not contract, at least he increased in Ireland. They are without a parallel, I hope they will ever reinain so. The first of them arose merely from his love of Arttery, with which he was daily fed in that kingdom : The second prrceeded from the misanthropy of his disposition, which induced him peevithly to debase mankind, and even to ridicule human nature itself. Politics were his favourite topic, as they gave him an prirortuVOL. I. e
nity * See the papers called the Freeholder.
nity of gratifying his ambition, and thirst of power; yet, in this road, he has feldom continued long in one path. He has written miscellaneously, and has chosen rather to appear a wandering comet, than a fixed ftar. Had he applied the faculties of his mind to one grcat and useful work, he must have shined more gloriously, and might have enlightened a whole planetary system in the political world.
There are some pieces in bis works that I despise, others that I loath, but many more that delight and improve me.
The former are not worthy of notice. They are of no further use than to thew us, in general, the errors of human nature; and to convince us, that neither the height of wit nor genius, can bring a man to such a degree of perfection, as vanity would often prompt him to believe.
In a difquifition of this fort, I shall avoid, as much as possible, any annotations upon that kind of fatire in which the Dean indulged himäelf against particular persons; most of whom, it is probable, provoked his rage by their own misconduct, and confequently owed to their own rashness, the wounds which they received from his pen. But I have no delight in those kinds of writings, except for the sake of the wit, which, either in general, or in particular satire, is equally to be admired. The edge of wit will always remain keen, and its blade will be bright and Thining, when the stone upon which it has been whetted, is worn out, or thrown aside and forgotten. Personal fatire, against evil magistrates, corrupt ministers, and those giants of power who gorge themselves with the entrails of their country, is different from that personal satire, wlich too often proceeds merely from felf-love, or ill-nature. The one is written in defence of the public, the other in defence of ourselves. The one is armed by the sword of justice, and encouraged not only by the voice of the people, but by the principles of morality; the other is dietated by pallion, fupported by pride, and applauded by Aattery. At the same time that I say this, I think every man of wit has a right to laugh at fools who give offence, or at coxcomhs who are public nuisances. Swift, indeed, has left no weapon of sarcasm untried, no branch of satire uncultivated : But while he has maintained a perpetual war against the mighty men in power, he has remained invulnerable, if not victorious.
See thc Criticism prefixed to Vol. viii.