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His prospects of advancement in the political
JONATHAN SWIFT, a person who has carried one brought him under the heavy imputation, from species of poetry, that of humorous satire, to a de- which he was never able entirely to free himself, gree never before attained, was, by his parentage, of being a scoffer against revealed religion. of English descent, but probably born in Ireland. It is known that his father, also called Jonathan, career were abortive, till 1710, when the Tories having married a Leicestershire lady, died at an came into power. His connexion with this party early age, leaving a daughter, and a posthumous son. began in an acquaintance with Harley, afterwards His widow, being left in narrow circumstances, Earl of Oxford, who introduced him to secretary was invited by her husband's brother, Godwin, St. John, afterwards Lord Bolingbroke; and, he who resided in Dublin, to his house; and there, it engaged the confidence of these leaders to such a is supposed, Jonathan was born, on November 30th, degree, that he was admitted to their most secret 1667. After passing some time at a school in Kil- consultations. In all his transactions with them, kɔ kenny, he was removed to Trinity College, Dublin, was most scrupulously attentive to preserve every in his 15th year; in which university he spent seven appearance of being on an equality, and to repress years, and then obtained with difficulty the degree every thing that looked like slight or neglect on of bachelor of arts, conferred speciali gratia. The their parts; and there probably is not another excircumstance affords sufficient proof of the misap- ample of a man of letters who has held his head so plication of his talents to mathematical pursuits; high in his association with men in power. This but he is said to have been at this period engaged was undoubtedly owing to that constitutional pride eight hours a day in more congenial studies. and unsubmitting nature which governed all his actions.
So profuse are the materials for the life of Swift, that it has become almost a vain attempt to give, in A bishopric in England was the object at which a moderate compass, the events by which he was he aimed, and a vacancy on the bench occurring, distinguished from ordinary mortals; and it will he was recommended by his friends in the ministry therefore be chiefly in his character of a poetical to the Queen; but suspicions of his faith, and other composer that we shall now consider him. He was prejudices, being raised against him, he was passed early domesticated with the celebrated statesman, over; and the highest preferment which his patrons Sir William Temple, who now lived in retirement could venture to bestow upon him was the deanery at Moor Park; but having made choice of the of St. Patrick's, in Dublin; to which he was prechurch as his future destination, on parting in sented in 1713, and in which he continued for life. some disagreement from Temple, he went to Ire- The death of the Queen put an end to all contests land, with very moderate expectations, and took among the Tory ministers; and the change termiorders. A reconciliation with his patron brought nated Swift's prospects, and condemned him to an him back to Moor Park, where he passed his time unwilling residence in a country which he always in harmony till the death of Sir William, who left disliked. On his return to Dublin, his temper was him a legacy and his papers. He then accepted severely tried by the triumph of the Whigs, who an invitation from the earl of Berkeley, one of the treated him with great indignity; but in length of Lords Justices of Ireland, to accompany him time, by a proper exercise of his clerical office, by thither as chaplain and private secretary; and he reforms introduced into the chapter of St. Patrick's, continued in the family as long as his lordship re- and by his bold and able exposures of the abuses mained in that kingdom. Here Swift began to practised in the government of Ireland, he rose to distinguish himself by an incomparable talent of the title of King of the Mob in that capital. writing humorous verses in the true familiar style, His conduct with respect to the female sex was several specimens of which he produced for the not less unaccountable than singular, and certainly amusement of the house. After Lord Berkeley's does no honor to his memory. Early in life he return to England, Swift went to reside at his attached himself to his celebrated Stella, whose real living at Laracor, in the diocese of Meath; and name was Johnson, the daughter of Sir William here it was that ambition began to take possession Temple's steward. Soon after his settlement at of his mind. He thought it proper to increase his Laracor, he invited her to Ireland. She came, acconsequence by taking the degree of doctor of companied by a Mrs. Dingley, and resided near divinity in an English university; and, for the pur- the parsonage when he was at home, and in it when pose of forming connexions, he paid annual visits he was absent; nor were they ever known to lodge to that country. In 1701, he first engaged as a in the same house, or to see each other without a political writer; and, in 1704, he published, though witness. In 1716, he was privately married to her, anonymously, his celebrated "Tale of a Tub," but the parties were brought no nearer than before which, while it placed him high as a writer, dis- and the act was attended with no acknowledgment tinguished by wit and humor of a peculiar cast, that could gratify the feelings of a woman who
had so long devoted herself to him. About the humorous and sarcastic was his habitual taste, year 1712, he became acquainted, in London, with which he frequently indulged beyond the bounds of Miss Esther Vanhomrigh, a young lady of fortune, decorum; a circumstance which renders the task with a taste for literature, which Swift was fond of of selection from his works somewhat perplexing. cultivating. To her he wrote the longest and most In wit, both in verse and prose, he stands foremost finished of his poems, entitled Cadenus and in grave irony, maintained with the most plausible Vanessa; and her attachment acquired so much air of serious simplicity, and supported by great strength, that she made him the offer of her hand. minuteness of detail. His "Gulliver's Travels" Even after his marriage to Stella, Swift kept are a remarkable exemplification of his powers in Miss Vanhomrigh in ignorance of this connexion; this kind, which have rendered the work wonderbut a report of it having at length reached her, she fully amusing, even to childish readers, whilst the took the step of writing a note to Stella, requesting keen satire with which it abounds may gratify the to know if the marriage were real. Stella assured most splenetic misanthropist. In general, however, her of the affirmative in her answer, which she his style in prose, though held up as a model of inclosed to Swift, and went into the country without clearness, purity, and simplicity, bas only the merit seeing him. Swift went immediately to the house of expressing the author's meaning with perfect of Miss Vanhomrigh, threw Stella's letter on the table, and departed, without speaking a word. She never recovered the shock, and died in 1723. Stella, with her health entirely ruined, languished on till 1728, when she expired. Such was the fate which he prepared for both.
Late in life, Swift fell under the fate which he dreaded: the faculties of his mind decayed before those of his body, and he gradually settled into absolute idiocy. A total silence for some months preceded his decease, which took place in October, Of the poems of Swift, some of the most striking 1744, when he was in his 78th year. He was inwere composed in mature life, after his attainment terred in St. Patrick's cathedral, under a monuof his deanery of St. Patrick; and it will be ad- ment, for which he wrote a Latin epitaph, in which mitted that no one ever gave a more perfect ex- one clause most energetically displays the state of ample of the easy familiarity attainable in the his feelings:-"Ubi sæva indignatio ulterius cor English language. His readiness in rhyme is lacerare nequit." He bequeathed the greatest part truly astonishing; the most uncommon associations of his property to an hospital for lunatics and of sounds coming to him as it were spontaneously, idiots, in words seemingly the best adapted to the occasion. That he was capable of high polish and elegance, some of his works sufficiently prove; but the
CADENUS AND VANESSA.*
WRITTEN AT WINDSOR, 1713.
THE shepherds and the nymphs were seen
Founded on an offer of marriage made by Miss Vonhomrigh to Dr. Swift, who was occasionally her preceptor. The lady's unhappy story is well known.
To show, by one satiric touch,
Against our sovereign lady's peace,
Or some worse brute in human shape,
From visits to receive and pay;
In a dull stream, which moving slow, You hardly see the current flow; If a small breeze obstruct the course, It whirls about, for want of force, And in its narrow circle gathers Nothing but chaff, and straws, and feathers. The current of a female mind
Stops thus, and turns with every wind;
Nor are the men of sense to blame,
The pleader, having spoke his best, Had witness ready to attest, Who fairly could on oath depose, When questions on the fact arose, That every article was true; Nor further these deponents knew:Therefore he humbly would insist, The bill might be with costs dismiss'd. The cause appear'd of so much weight, That Venus, from her judgment-seat, Desir'd them not to talk so loud, Else she must interpose a cloud : For, if the heavenly folk should know These pleadings in the courts below, That mortals here disdain to love, She ne'er could show her face above; For gods, their betters, are too wise To value that which men despise. "And then," said she, "my son and I Must stroll in air, 'twixt land and sky; Or else, shut out from heaven and earth, Fly to the sea, my place of birth; There live, with daggled mermaids pent, And keep on fish perpetual Lent."
But, since the case appear'd so nice, She thought it best to take advice. The Muses, by their king's permission, Though foes to love, attend the session, And on the right hand took their places In order; on the left, the Graces: To whom she might her doubts propose On all emergencies that rose. The Muses oft were seen to frown; The Graces half-asham'd look down; And 'twas observ'd there were but few Of either sex among the crew, Whom she or her assessors knew. The goddess soon began to see, Things were not ripe for a decree : And said she must consult her books, The lovers' Fletas, Bractons, Cokes. First to a dapper clerk she beckon'd, To turn to Ovid, book the second; She then referr'd them to a place In Virgil (vide Dido's case :) As for Tibullus's reports, They never pass'd for law in courts:
For Cowley's briefs, and pleas of Waller, Still their authority was smaller.
There was on both sides much to say:
Now, gentle Clio, sing or say,
In a glad hour Lucina's aid
She threw her law-books on the shelf, And thus debated with herself.
"Since men allege, they ne'er can find
This said, she plucks in heaven's high bowers
The Graces next would act their part,
By which thou shalt be known to fame;
But still the work was not complete ;
Wisdom's above suspecting wiles:
Then sows within her tender mind
The seeds of knowledge, judgment, wit.
For when in time the martial maid
To-morrow, ere the setting sun,
A wholesome law, time out of mind,
In proper season Pallas meets The queen of love, whom thus she greets: (For gods, we are by Homer told,
Can in celestial language scold :)
Perfidious goddess! but in vain You form'd this project in your brain; A project for thy talents fit, With much deceit and little wit. Thou hast, as thou shalt quickly see, Deceiv'd thyself, instead of me: For how can heavenly wisdom prove An instrument to earthly love? Know'st thou not yet, that men commence Thy votaries, for want of sense? Nor shall Vanessa be the theme To manage thy abortive scheme : See'll prove the greatest of thy foes; And yet I scorn to interpose, But, using neither skill nor force, Leave all things to their natural course." The goddess thus pronounc'd her doom. When, lo! Vanessa in her bloom Advanc'd, like Atalanta's star, But rarely seen, and seen from far: In a new world with caution stept, Watch'd all the company she kept, Well knowing, from the books she read, What dangerous paths young virgins tread; Would seldom at the park appear, Nor saw the play-house twice a year; Yet, not incurious, was inclin'd
To know the converse of mankind.
First issued from perfumers' shops, A crowd of fashionable fops: They ask'd her, how she lik'd the play? Then told the tattle of the day; A duel fought last night at two, About a lady-you know who; Mention'd a new Italian come Either from Muscovy or Rome;
Gave hints of who and who's together;
With silent scorn Vanessa sat, Scarce listening to their idle chat; Further than sometimes by a frown, When they grew pert, to pull them down. At last she spitefully was bent To try their wisdom's full extent; And said she valued nothing less Than titles, figure, shape, and dress; That merit should be chiefly plac'd In judgment, knowledge, wit, and taste; And these, she offer'd to dispute, Alone distinguish'd man from brute; That present times have no pretence To virtue, in the noble sense By Greeks and Romans understood, To perish for our country's good. She nam'd the ancient heroes round, Explain'd for what they were renown'd; Then spoke with censure or applause Of foreign customs, rites, and laws; Through nature and through art she rang'd, And gracefully her subject chang'd; In vain her hearers had no share In all she spoke, except to stare. Their judgment was, upon the whole, -"That lady is the dullest soul!-" Then tipt their forehead in a jeer, As who should say-" She wants it here! She may be handsome, young, and rich, But none will burn her for a witch!"
A party next of glittering dames, From round the purlieus of St. Jan.es, Came early, out of pure good-will, To see the girl in dishabille. Their clamor, 'lighting from their chairs, Grew louder all the way up stairs; At entrance loudest, where they found The room with volumes litter'd round. Vanessa held Montaigne, and read, Whilst Mrs. Susan comb'd her head. They call'd for tea and chocolate, And fell into their usual chat, Discoursing, with important face, On ribbons, fans, and gloves, and lace; Show'd patterns just from India brought, And gravely ask'd her what she thought, Whether the red or green were best, And what they cost? Vanessa guess'd, As came into her fancy first; Nam'd half the rates, and lik'd the worst. To scandal next-" What awkward thing Was that last Sunday in the ring? I'm sorry Mopsa breaks so fast: I said, her face would never last. Corinna, with that youthful air, Is thirty, and a bit to spare: Her fondness for a certain earl Began when I was but a girl! Phyllis, who but a month ago Was married to the Tunbridge-beau,
I saw coquetting t' other night
They rallied next Vanessa's dress: "That gown was made for old queen Bess. Dear madam, let me see your head:
Don't you intend to put on red?
And gave by turns their censures vent.
66 She's fair and clean, and that's the most
But what she learn'd at country-fairs :
Thus, to the world's perpetual shame,
Yet some of either sex, endow'd With gifts superior to the crowd, With virtue, knowledge, taste, and wit, She condescended to admit: With pleasing arts she could reduce Men's talents to their proper use: And with address each genius held To that wherein it most excell'd; Thus making others' wisdom known, Could please them, and improve her own A modest youth said something new; She plac'd it in the strongest view. All humble worth she strove to raise; Would not be prais'd, yet lov'd to praise. The learned met with free approach, Although they came not in a coach: Some clergy too she would allow, Nor quarrell'd at their awkward bow; But this was for Cadenus' sake, A gownman of a different make;