« AnteriorContinuar »
both in eating and drinking; he was not only just, but punctual in his dealings, and he had an inviolable regard for truth. As he constantly attended divine worship when he was at home, so he used always to go early to church when he was in London ; and never to sleep, without affembling his family in his own chamber to prayers.
It has often been remarked, that virtue in excess becomes vitious; and not only precludes the reward of the poffeffor, but produces rather mischief than good to others. An abhorrence of hypocrify was a striking particular in Swift's character : But it is difficult to determine whether it was more a virtue than a vice ; for it brought upon him the charge of irreligion, and encouraged others to be irreligious. In proportion as he abhorred hypocrisy, he dreaded the imputation of it, and therefore concealed his piety with as much diligence, as others conceal those vices which custom has not made reputable. His constant attendance at church, when he was at the deanry, he knew would be considered as the duty of his station ; but whatever had the appearance of voluntary devotion, he always took care to hide. When he went to church in London, it was early in the morning; fo that, though he was constantly at prayers, and at the facrament, yet he appeared to negleét both, as he was at home when others were at church. And when he went to prayers in his family, the servants assembled at the appointed hour as it were by stealth, without
any notice from a bell, or any other call, except the striking of the clock; fo that Dr Delany was fix months in his family, before he suspected him of this unfashionable practice. The same principle upon which he thus ftudiously avoided the appearances of good, made him frequently incur the appearances of evil, especially when an opportunity offered of indulging his peculiar vein of humour, and gratifying his natural disposition, One instance of this has already been given, in his folemn address to his clerk from the desk by the name of Roger, [above, p. 48.]; but there are others which are less excusable. Soon after he was made Dean of St Patrick's, he dined one Sunday with Dr Raymond, vicar of Trim, a little town near Dublin. When the bell had rung, the people were assembled to evening prayers; and Dr Raymond was preparing to go to the church, which was not distant more than two hundred yards : “ Raymond,” said the Dean, “I will lay you a crown that I begin prayers. “ before you this afternoon :" Dr Raymond accepted the wager; and immediately both ran as fast as they could towards the church. Raymond, who was much nimbler than Swift, arrived first at the door : And when he entered the church, walked decently towards the reading-desk. Swift never slackened his pace, but, running up the isle, left Dr Raymond behind him in the middle of it, and, stepping into the desk, without putting on a furplice, or opening the prayer-book, began the
service in an audible voice, and thus won his wager. [O. let. 16.]
It has been common among the pretenders to wit, to affect great contempt for every kind of regularity; to live, or pretend to live, in a state of continual diffipation, without regard to the return of those seasons which have been generally allotted to particular purposes, without sleeping or waking, or eating or drinking, like the rest of mankind. To recover these unhappy wretches from a condition fo deplorable as to supprefs indignation, and yet fo contemptible as scarce to excite pity, it is here recorded, that the life of Swift was in the highest degree uniform and regular ; his hours of walking and reading, of exercise and amusement, never varied; and that he might keep the revolution of his employments with greater exactness, his watch was almost conftantly either in his hand, or on the table before him.
As his abhorrence of hypocrisy exempted him from affectation, the natural equity of his mind secured him against envy. Envy seems to be a defire of equality, gratified by degrading others; as emulation is a desire of equality, gratified by advancing ourselves.
It does not appear that Swift, upon a supposition that he had no superior, was without emulation ; but by his ready affistance to advance the reputation and circumstances of others, he appears to have been free
He cultivated genius wherever he found it, and in whatever degree, with great zeal and affiduity, and would carefully spend much time in correcting and improving any literary composition that had the least appearance of ingenuity. Nor was this kindness confined to those whose parts could never come in competition with his own. He started many hints to Mr Gay, which he purfued with great success; and he recommended Congreve, Addison, Parnel, and many others, to those whose favour was most likely to render them confpicuous.
Among his fingularities, were his resolution never to wear spectacles; and his obstinate perfeverance in the use of too much exercise. His want of fpectacles made it difficult for him to read; and his immoderate exercise wasted his flesh, and produced a poorness in his blood, as he was often told by his friends and physicians, Dr Hellham and Dr Gratton, and as afterwards appeared by experiment; for when he was reduced to a state of idiotism, and ceased from walking, he recovered his flesh in a short time.
He was cleanly, even to fuperftition ; his nails were always pared to the quick, to prevent the least gathering of dirt under them; and he never dreffed without a bason of water by him, with which he carefully cleansed his feet. In his perfon he was robust and mafculine, his deportment was commanding, and his walk erect. His voice was sharp and high-toned, especially when he Some particulars in Dr Swift's CHARAC
TER, extracted from Lord ORRER Y's
From LORD ORRER Y.
R SWIFT was in the decline of life when I
knew him. His friendship was an honour to me; and, to say the truth, I have even drawn advantage from his errors. I have beheld him in all humours and dispositions ; and I have formed various speculations from the several weaknesfes to which I observed him liable. His capacity and strength of mind were undoubtedly equal to any talk whatever. His pride, his fpirit, or his ambition, call it by what name you please, was boundless : But his views were checked in his younger years, and the anxiety of that disappointment had a visible effect upon all his actions. He was four and severe, but not abfolutely illnatured. He was fociable only to particular friends, and to them only at particular hours. He knew politeness more than he practised it. He was a mixture of avarice and generosity : The former was frequently prevalent; the latter feldom appeared, unless excited by compassion. He was open to adulation ; and could not, or would not, distinguish between low flattery and just applaufe. His abilities rendered him fupe