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Title: Swift - English Men of Letters Series
Author: Stephen, Leslie, 1832-1904
Language: English
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English Men of Letters

Edited by John Morley




Macmillan and Co.

The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved


The chief materials for a life of Swift are to be found in his writings
and correspondence. The best edition is the second of the two edited by
Scott (1814 and 1824).

In 1751 Lord Orrery published _Remarks upon the Life and Writings of Dr.
Jonathan Swift_. Orrery, born 1707, had known Swift from about 1732. His
remarks give the views of a person of quality of more ambition than
capacity, and more anxious to exhibit his own taste than to give full or
accurate information.

In 1754, Dr. Delany published _Observations upon Lord Orrery's Remarks_,
intended to vindicate Swift against some of Orrery's severe judgments.
Delany, born about 1685, became intimate with Swift soon after the dean's
final settlement in Ireland. He was then one of the authorities of Trinity
College, Dublin. He is the best contemporary authority, so far as he goes.

In 1756 Deane Swift, grandson of Swift's uncle Godwin, and son-in-law to
Swift's cousin and faithful guardian, Mrs. Whiteway, published an _Essay
upon the Life, Writings, and Character of Dr. Jonathan Swift_, in which he
attacks both his predecessors. Deane Swift, born about 1708, had seen
little or nothing of his cousin till the year 1738, when the dean's
faculties were decaying. His book is foolish and discursive. Deane Swift's
son, Theophilus, communicated a good deal of doubtful matter to Scott, on
the authority of family tradition.

In 1765 Hawkesworth, who had no personal knowledge, prefixed a life of
Swift to an edition of the works which adds nothing to our information. In
1781 Johnson, when publishing a very perfunctory life of Swift as one of
the poets, excused its shortcomings on the ground of having already
communicated his thoughts to Hawkesworth. The life is not only meagre but
injured by one of Johnson's strong prejudices.

In 1785 Thomas Sheridan produced a pompous and dull life of Swift. He was
the son of Swift's most intimate companion during the whole period
subsequent to the final settlement in Ireland. The elder Sheridan,
however, died in 1738; and the younger, born in 1721, was still a boy when
Swift was becoming imbecile.

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

A life which supplies Scott's defects in great measure was given by
William Monck Mason, in 1819, in his _History and Antiquities of the
Church of St. Patrick_. Monck Mason was an indiscriminate admirer, and has
a provoking method of expanding undigested information into monstrous
notes, after the precedent of Bayle. But he examined facts with the utmost
care, and every biographer must respect his authority.

In 1875 Mr. Forster published the first instalment of a _Life of Swift_.
This book, which contains the results of patient and thorough inquiry, was
unfortunately interrupted by Mr. Forster's death, and ends at the
beginning of 1711. A complete _Life_ by Mr. Henry Craik is announced as
about to appear.

Besides these books, I ought to mention an _Essay upon the Earlier Part of
the Life of Swift_, by the Rev. John Barrett, B.D. and Vice-Provost of
Trin. Coll. Dublin (London, 1808); and _The Closing Years of Dean Swift's
Life_, by W. R. Wilde, M.R.I.A., F.R.C.S. (Dublin, 1849). This last is a
very interesting study of the medical aspects of Swift's life. An essay by
Dr. Bucknill, in _Brain_ for Jan. 1882, is a remarkable contribution to
the same subject.



    EARLY YEARS                      1

    MOOR PARK AND KILROOT           12

    EARLY WRITINGS                  32

    LARACOR AND LONDON              51


    STELLA AND VANESSA             118

    WOOD'S HALFPENCE               147

    GULLIVER'S TRAVELS             168

    DECLINE                        186




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 commemorated by the sweetest
singer of Queen Ann's reign in the remarkable lines--

  Jonathan Swift
  Had the gift
  By fatherige, motherige,
  And by brotherige,
  To come from Gotheridge.

Thomas Swift married Elizabeth Dryden, niece of Sir Erasmus, the
grandfather of the poet Dryden. By her he became the father of ten sons
and four daughters. In the great rebellion he distinguished himself by a
loyalty which was the cause of obvious complacency to his descendant. On
one occasion he came to the governor of a town held for the king, and
being asked what he could do for his Majesty, laid down his coat as an
offering. The governor remarked that his coat was worth little. "Then,"
said Swift, "take my waistcoat." The waistcoat was lined with three
hundred broad pieces--a handsome offering from a poor and plundered
clergyman. On another occasion he armed a ford, through which rebel
cavalry were to pass, by certain pieces of iron with four spikes, so
contrived that one spike must always be uppermost (_caltrops_, in short).
Two hundred of the enemy were destroyed by this stratagem. The success of
the rebels naturally led to the ruin of this cavalier clergyman; and the
record of his calamities forms a conspicuous article in Walker's
_Sufferings of the Clergy_. He died in 1658, before the advent of the
better times in which he might have been rewarded for his loyal services.
His numerous family had to struggle for a living. The eldest son, Godwin
Swift, was a barrister of Gray's Inn at the time of the Restoration: he
was married four times, and three times to women of fortune; his first
wife had been related to the Ormond family; and this connexion induced him
to seek his fortune in Ireland--a kingdom which at that time suffered,
amongst other less endurable grievances, from a deficient supply of
lawyers.[1] Godwin Swift was made Attorney-General in the palatinate of
Tipperary by the Duke of Ormond. He prospered in his profession, in the
subtle parts of which, says his nephew, he was "perhaps a little too
dexterous;" and he engaged in various speculations, having at one time
what was then the very large income of 3000_l._ a year. Four brothers
accompanied this successful Godwin, and shared to some extent in his
prosperity. In January, 1666, one of these, Jonathan, married to Abigail
Erick, of Leicester, was appointed to the stewardship of the King's Inns,
Dublin, partly in consideration of the loyalty and suffering of his
family. Some fifteen months later, in April, 1667, he died, leaving his
widow with an infant daughter, and seven months after her husband's death,
November 30, 1667, she gave birth to Jonathan, the younger, at 7, Hoey's
Court, Dublin.

The Dean "hath often been heard to say" (I quote his fragment of
autobiography) "that he felt the consequences of that (his parents')
marriage, not only through the whole course of his education, but during
the greater part of his life." This quaint assumption that a man's
parentage is a kind of removable accident to which may be attributed a
limited part of his subsequent career, betrays a characteristic sentiment.
Swift cherished a vague resentment against the fates which had mixed
bitter ingredients in his lot. He felt the place as well as the
circumstances of his birth to be a grievance. It gave a plausibility to
the offensive imputation that he was of Irish blood. "I happened," he
said, with a bitterness born of later sufferings, "by a perfect accident
to be born here, and thus I am a Teague, or an Irishman, or what people
please." Elsewhere he claims England as properly his 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." His
infancy brought fresh grievances. He was, it seems, a precocious and
delicate child, and his nurse became so much attached to him, that having
to return to her native Whitehaven, she kidnapped the year-old infant out
of pure affection. When his mother knew her loss, she was afraid to hazard
a return voyage until 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 Bible before he was three
years old. His return must have been speedily followed by his mother's
departure for her native Leicester. Her sole dependence, it seems, was an
annuity of 20_l._ a year, which had been bought for her by her husband
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 him to Kilkenny School at the age of six,
and from that early period the child had to grow up as 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 famous contemporaries were educated
there. Congreve, two years his junior, was one of his schoolfellows, and a
warm friendship remained when both had become famous. Fourteen 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 strange
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 on 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. "I remember," he says 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 up 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."[2]

Swift, indeed, was still in the schoolboy stage, according to modern
ideas, when he was entered at Trinity College, Dublin, on the same day,
April 24, 1682, with a cousin, Thomas Swift. Swift clearly found Dublin
uncongenial; though there is still a wide margin for uncertainty as to
precise facts. His own account gives a short summary of his academic

"By the ill-treatment of his nearest relations" (he says) "he was so
discouraged and sunk in his spirits that he too much neglected his
academic studies, for some parts of which he had no great relish by
nature, and turned himself to reading history and poetry, so that when the
time came for taking his degree of Bachelor of Arts, although he had lived
with great regularity and due observance of the statutes, he was stopped
of his degree for dulness and insufficiency; and at last hardly admitted
in a manner little to his credit, which is called in that college
_speciali gratia_." In a report of one of the college examinations,
discovered by Mr. Forster, he receives a _bene_ for his Greek and Latin, a
_male_ for his "philosophy," and a _negligenter_ for his theology. 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 intimate friend, was a student at Dublin shortly before the
Dean's loss of intellectual power; the old gentleman would naturally talk
to the lad about his university recollections; and, according to his
hearer, remembered with singular accuracy the questions upon which he had
disputed, and repeated the arguments which had been used, "in syllogistic
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 logical treatises. When told that they taught the
art of reasoning, he declared that he could reason very well without it.
He acted upon this principle in his exercises, and left the Proctor to
reduce his argument to the proper form. In this there is probably a
substratum of truth. Swift can hardly be credited, as Berkeley might have
been, with a precocious perception of the weakness of the accepted system.
When young gentlemen are plucked for their degree, it is not generally
because they are in advance of their age. But the aversion to metaphysics
was characteristic of Swift through life. Like many other people who have
no turn for such speculations, he felt for them a contempt which may
perhaps be 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 obtained a fair knowledge of the classics.

Swift cherished through life a resentment against most of his relations.
His uncle Godwin had undertaken his education, and had sent him, as 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 excuse. 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 he "fell into a lethargy" in 1688, surviving some five years,
like his famous nephew, in a state of imbecility. Decay of mind and
fortune coinciding with the demands of a rising family might certainly be
some apology for the neglect of one amongst many nephews. Swift did not
consider it sufficient. "Was it not your uncle Godwin," he was asked "who
educated you?" "Yes," said Swift, after a pause; "he gave me the education
of a dog." "Then," answered the intrepid inquirer, "you have not the
gratitude of a dog." And perhaps that is our natural impression. Yet we do
not know enough of the facts to judge with confidence. Swift, whatever his
faults, was always a warm and faithful friend; and perhaps it is the most
probable conjecture that Godwin Swift bestowed his charity coldly and in
such a way as to hurt the pride of the recipient. In any case, it appears
that Swift showed his resentment in a manner more natural than reasonable.
The child is tempted to revenge himself by knocking his head against the
rock which has broken his shins; and with equal wisdom the youth who
fancies that the world is not his friend, tries to get satisfaction by
defying its laws. Till the time of his degree (February, 1686), Swift had
been at least regular in his conduct, and if the neglect of his relations
had discouraged his industry, it had not provoked him to rebellion. During
the three years which followed he became more reckless. He was still a
mere lad, just eighteen at the time of his degree, when he fell into more
or less irregular courses. In rather less 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 offences perhaps appear to be more flagrant than they
really are in the eyes of college authorities. Twice he got into more
serious scrapes. He was censured (March 16, 1687) along with his cousin,
Thomas Swift, and several others for "notorious neglect of duties and
frequenting 'the town.'" And on his twenty-first birthday (Nov. 30, 1688)
he[3] was punished, along with several others, for exciting domestic
dissensions, despising the warnings of the junior dean, and insulting that
official by contemptuous words. The offenders were suspended from their
degrees, and inasmuch as Swift and another were the worst offenders
(_adhuc intolerabilius se gesserant_), they were sentenced to ask pardon
of the dean upon their knees publicly in the hall. Twenty years later[4]
Swift revenged himself upon Owen Lloyd, the junior dean, by accusing him
of infamous servility. For the present Swift was probably reckoned amongst
the black sheep of the academic flock.[5]

This censure came at the end of Swift's university career. The three last
years had doubtless been years of discouragement and recklessness. That
they were also years of vice in the usual sense of the word is not proved;
nor, from all that we know of Swift's later history, does it seem to be
probable. There is no trace of anything like licentious behaviour in his
whole career. It is easier to believe with Scott that Swift's conduct at
this period might be fairly described in the words of Johnson when
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 my wit; so 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 day, as he was gazing in melancholy
mood from his window, his pockets at their lowest ebb, he saw a sailor
staring about in the college courts. How happy should I be, he thought, if
that man was inquiring for me with a present from my cousin Willoughby!
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 his trouble, and Jonathan hastily crammed the money into his 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 and generosity" in a letter written to another cousin in 1694.
Some help, too, was given by his uncle William, who was settled at Dublin,
and whom he calls the "best of his relations." In one way or another he
was able to keep his head above water; and he was receiving an impression
which grew with his growth. The misery of dependence was burnt into his
soul. To secure independence became his most cherished wish; and the first
condition of independence was a rigid practice of economy. We shall see
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 involved the fortunes of
Swift along with those of nations. James II. 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 Whitehall. The revolution of 1688 meant a breaking up of the very
foundations of political and social order in Ireland. At the end of 1688 a
stream of fugitives was pouring into England, whilst the English in
Ireland were gathering into strong places, abandoning their property to
the bands of insurgent peasants.

Swift fled with his fellows. Any prospects which he may have had in
Ireland were ruined with the ruin of his race. The loyalty of his
grandfather to a king who protected the national church was no precedent
for loyalty to a king who was its deadliest enemy. Swift, a Churchman to
the backbone, never shared the leaning of many Anglicans to the exiled
Stuarts; and his early experience was a pretty strong dissuasive from
Jacobitism. He took refuge with his mother at Leicester. Of that mother we
hear less than we could wish; for all that we hear suggests a brisk,
wholesome, motherly body. She lived cheerfully and frugally 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 humour appears in the only anecdote about her. She came, it seems,
to visit her son in Ireland shortly after he had taken possession of
Laracor, and amused herself by persuading the woman with whom she lodged
that Jonathan was not her son but her lover. Her son, though separated
from her through the years in which filial affection is generally
nourished, loved her with the whole strength of his nature; he wrote to
her frequently, took pains 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-book, "the last barrier between me and death. God
grant I may be as well prepared for it as I confidently believe her to
have been! If the way to Heaven be through piety, truth, justice, and
charity, she is there."

The good lady had, it would seem, some little anxieties of the common kind
about her son. She thought him in danger of falling in love with a certain
Betty Jones, who, however, escaped the perils of being wife to a man of
genius, and married an innkeeper. Some forty years 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 them, tells his
correspondent that he values "his own entertainment beyond the obloquy of
a parcel of wretched fools," which he "solemnly pronounces" to be a fit
description of the inhabitants of Leicester. He had, he admits, amused
himself with flirtation; but he has learnt enough, "without going half a
mile beyond the University," to refrain from thoughts of matrimony. A
"cold temper" and the absence of any settled outlook are sufficient
dissuasives. 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 would do mischief if I did not give it employment." He allowed
himself these little liberties, he seems to infer, by way of distraction
for his 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 his mother. Where was he to look for help?



How was this "conjured spirit" to find occupation? The proverbial
occupation of such beings is to cultivate despair by weaving ropes of
sand. Swift felt himself strong; but he had no task worthy of his
strength: nor did he yet know precisely where it lay: he even fancied that
it might be in the direction of Pindaric Odes. Hitherto his energy had
expended itself in the questionable shape of revolt against constituted
authority. But the revolt, whatever its precise nature, had issued in the
rooted determination to achieve a genuine independence. The political
storm which had for the time crushed the whole social order of Ireland
into mere chaotic anarchy, had left him an uprooted waif and stray--a
loose fragment without any points of attachment, except the little
household in Leicester. His mother might give him temporary shelter, but
no permanent home. If, as is probable, he already looked forward to a
clerical career, the Church 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 him. Sir William Temple was
connected, in more ways than one, with the Swifts. He was the son of Sir
John Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, who had been a friend of
Godwin Swift. Temple himself had lived in Ireland, in early days, and had
known the Swift family. His wife was in some way related to Swift's
mother; and he was now in a position to help the young man. Temple is a
remarkable figure amongst the statesmen of that generation. There is
something more modern about him than belongs to his century. A man of
cultivated taste and cosmopolitan training, he had the contempt of
enlightened persons for the fanaticisms of his times. He was not the man
to suffer persecution, with Baxter, for a creed, or even to lose his head,
with Russell, for a party. Yet if he had not the faith which animates
enthusiasts, he sincerely held political theories--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 temperament,
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 his natural abilities fitted him. Good fortune, aided by
discernment, enabled him to identify himself with the most respectable
achievements of our foreign policy. He had become famous as the chief
author of the Triple Alliance, and the promoter of the marriage of William
and Mary. He had ventured far enough into the more troublous element of
domestic politics to invent a highly applauded constitutional device for
smoothing the relations between the crown and Parliament. Like other such
devices 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
own, that is, the selfish point of view, he was perhaps entitled to laugh
last. He escaped at least with unblemished honour, and enjoyed the
cultivated retirement which statesmen so often profess to desire, and so
seldom achieve. In private, he had many estimable qualities. He was frank
and sensitive; he had won diplomatic triumphs by disregarding the pedantry
of official rules; and he had an equal, though not an equally intelligent,
contempt for the pedantry of the schools. His style, though often
slipshod, often anticipates the pure and simple English of the Addison
period, and delighted Charles Lamb by its delicate flavour of aristocratic
assumption. He had the vanity of a "person of quality,"--a lofty,
dignified air which became his flowing periwig, and showed itself in his
distinguished features. But in youth, a strong vein of romance displayed
itself in his courtship of Lady Temple, and he seems to have been
correspondingly worshipped by her, and his sister, Lady Giffard.

The personal friendship of William could not induce Temple to return to
public life. His only son took office, but soon afterwards killed himself
from a morbid sense of responsibility. Temple retired finally to Moor
Park, near Farnham, 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 engagement. Swift, he said, was hired by Sir William to read to him
and be his amanuensis, at the rate of 20_l._ a year and his board; but
"Sir William never favoured him with his conversation, nor allowed him to
sit down at table with him." The authority is bad, and we must be guided
by rather precarious inferences in picturing this important period of
Swift's career. The raw Irish student was probably awkward, and may have
been disagreeable in some matters. Forty years later, we find from his
correspondence with Gay and the Duchess of Queensberry, that his views as
to the distribution of functions between knives and forks were lamentably
unsettled; and it is probable that he may in his youth have been still
more heretical as to social conventions. There were more serious
difficulties. The difference which separated Swift from Temple is not
easily measurable. How can we exaggerate the distance at which a lad,
fresh from college and a remote provincial society, would look up to the
distinguished diplomatist of sixty, who had been intimate with the two
last kings, and was still the confidential friend of the reigning king,
who had been an actor in the greatest scenes, not only of English, but of
European history, 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? 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

  Shall I believe a spirit so divine
  Was cast in the same mould with mine?

is Swift's phrase about Temple, in one of his first crude poems. We must
not infer that circumstances which would now be offensive to an educated
man--the seat at the second table, the predestined congeniality to the
ladies'-maid of doubtful reputation--would have been equally offensive
then. So long as dependence upon patrons was a regular incident of the
career of a poor scholar, the corresponding regulations would be taken as
a matter of course. Swift was not necessarily more degraded by being a
dependent of Temple's than Locke by a similar position in Shaftesbury's
family. But it is true that such a position must always be trying, as many
a governess has felt in more modern days. The 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 mutual kindliness of the parties concerned. The relation
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-box, Supple must have parted
with all self-respect. Swift has incidentally given his own view of the
case in his _Essay 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. Eugenio, who represents
Jonathan Swift, fails in life because as a wit and a poet he has not the
art of winning patronage. Corusodes, 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
laughed at the jests of others: but he managed to insinuate himself into
the favour of the noble family where his sister was a waiting-woman; shook
hands with the butler, taught the page his catechism; was sometimes
admitted 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 appointments, married a citizen's
widow, and is now fast mounting towards the top of the ladder

Temple was not the man to demand or reward services so base as those
attributed to Corusodes. Nor does it seem 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 neither permit others to take liberties nor take them himself. If
Swift's self-esteem suffered, it would not be that he objected to offering
up the conventional incense, but that he might possibly think that, after
all, the idol was made of rather inferior clay. Temple, whatever his solid
merits, was one of the showiest statesmen of the time; but there was no
man living with a keener eye for realities and a more piercing insight
into shams of all kinds than his raw secretary from Ireland. In later life
Swift frequently expressed his scorn 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
affairs of State. At times he felt that Temple was not merely claiming the
outward show of respect, but setting too high a value upon his real
merits. So when Swift was at the full flood of fortune, when prime
ministers and secretaries of state were calling him Jonathan, or listening
submissively to his lectures on "whipping-day," he reverts to his early
experience. "I often think," he says, when speaking of his 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
expressed a year before, "I am thinking what a veneration we had for Sir
W. Temple because he might have been secretary of state at fifty, and here
is a young fellow hardly thirty in that employment." In the interval there
is another characteristic outburst. "I asked Mr. Secretary (St. John) what
the devil ailed him on Sunday," and warned him "that I would never be
treated like a schoolboy; that I had felt too much of that in my life
already (meaning Sir W. Temple); that I expected every great minister who
honoured me with his acquaintance, if he heard and saw anything to my
disadvantage, would let me know in plain words, and not put me in pain to
guess by the change or coldness of his countenance and behaviour." The day
after this effusion, he maintains that he was right in what he said.
"Don't you remember how I used to be in pain when Sir W. Temple would look
cold and out of humour for three or four days, and I used to suspect a
hundred reasons? I have plucked up my spirits since then; faith, he
spoiled a fine gentleman." And yet, if Swift sometimes thought Temple's
authority oppressive, he was ready to admit his substantial merits.
Temple, he says, in his rough marginalia to Burnet's _History_, "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 imagined that his native air might be
of some use to recover his 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 introduction to Sir Robert
Southwell, Secretary of State in Ireland, which gives an interesting
account of their previous relations. Swift, said Temple, 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. His whole family had long been known to Temple, who would be
glad if Southwell would give him a clerkship, or get him a fellowship in
Trinity College. The statement of Swift's qualifications has now a rather
comic sound. An applicant for a desk in a merchant's office once commended
himself, it is said, by the statement 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, he was back at
Moor Park; and a period followed in which his discontent with the position
probably reached its height. Temple, indeed, must have discovered that his
young dependent was really a man of capacity. He recommended him to
William. In 1692 Swift went to Oxford, to be admitted _ad eundem_, and
received the M.A. degree; and Swift, writing to thank his uncle for
obtaining the necessary testimonials from Dublin, adds that he has been
most civilly received at Oxford, on the strength, presumably, of Temple's
recommendation, and that he is not to take orders till the king gives him
a prebend. He suspects Temple, however, of being rather backward in the
matter, "because (I suppose) he believes I shall leave him, and (upon some
accounts) he thinks me a little necessary to him." William, it is said,
was so far gracious as to offer to make Swift a captain of horse, and
instruct him in the Dutch mode of cutting asparagus. By this last phrase
hangs an anecdote of later days. Faulkner, the Dublin printer, was dining
with Swift, and on asking for a second supply of asparagus, was told by
the Dean to finish what he had on his plate. "What, sir, eat my stalks!"
"Ay, sir; King William always ate his stalks." "And were you," asked
Faulkner's hearer when he related the story, "were you blockhead enough to
obey him?" "Yes," replied Faulkner, "and if you had dined with Dean Swift
_tête-à-tête_ you would have been obliged to eat your stalks too!" For the
present Swift was the recipient not the imposer of stalks; and was to
receive the first shock, as he tells us, that helped to cure him of his
vanity. The question of the Triennial Bill was agitating political
personages in the early months of 1693. William and his favourite
minister, the Earl of Portland, found their Dutch experience insufficient
to guide them in the mysteries of English constitutionalism. 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 consenting to short
Parliaments, but by abandoning the right to dissolve Parliament. Swift
says that he was "well versed in English history, though he was under
twenty-one years old." (He was really twenty-five, but memory naturally
exaggerated his youthfulness). 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 must have had a good
opinion of his 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 which begin to display his real vigour are dated at the end of 1693.
One is an epistle to his schoolfellow, Congreve, expatiating, as some
consolation for the cold reception of the _Double Dealer_, upon the
contemptible nature of town critics. Swift describes, as a type of the
whole race, a Farnham lad who had left school a year before, and had just
returned a "finished spark" from London.

  Stock'd with the latest gibberish of the town,

This wretched little fop came in an evil hour to provoke Swift's hate,--

  My hate, whose lash just heaven has long decreed
  Shall on a day make sin and folly bleed.

And he already applies it with vigour enough to show that with some of the
satirist's power he has also the indispensable condition of a considerable
accumulation of indignant wrath against the self-appointed arbiters of
taste. The other poem is more remarkable in its personal revelation. It
begins as a congratulation to Temple on his recovery from an illness. It
passes into a description of his own fate, marked by singular bitterness.
He addresses his muse as--

  Malignant Goddess! bane to my repose,
  Thou universal cause of all my woes.

She is, it seems, a mere delusive meteor, with no real being of her own.
But, if real, why does she persecute him?

  Wert thou right woman, thou should'st scorn to look
  On an abandon'd wretch by hopes forsook:
  Forsook by hopes, ill fortune's last relief,
  Assign'd for life to unremitting grief;
  For let heaven's wrath enlarge these weary days
  If hope e'er dawns the smallest of its rays.

And he goes on to declare after some vigorous lines,

  To thee I owe that fatal bent of mind,
  Still to unhappy restless thoughts inclined:
  To thee what oft I vainly strive to hide,
  That scorn of fools, by fools mistook for pride;
  From thee whatever virtue takes its rise,
  Grows a misfortune, or becomes a vice.

The sudden gush as of bitter waters into the dulcet, insipid current of
conventional congratulation, gives additional point to the sentiment.
Swift expands the last couplet into a sentiment which remained with him
through life. It is a blending of pride and remorse; a regretful admission
of the loftiness of spirit which has caused his 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 consciousness of his own

The "restlessness" avowed in these verses took the practical form of a
rupture with Temple. In his autobiographical fragment he says that he had
a scruple of entering into the church merely for support, and Sir William,
then being Master of the Rolls in Ireland,[6] offered him an employ of
about 120_l._ a year in that office; whereupon Mr. Swift told him that
since he had now an opportunity of living without being driven into the
church for a maintenance, he was resolved to go to Ireland and take holy
orders. If the scruple seems rather finely spun for Swift, the sense of
the dignity of his profession is thoroughly characteristic. Nothing,
however, is more deceptive than our memory of the motives which directed
distant actions. In his contemporary letters there is no hint of any
scruple against preferment in the church, but a decided objection to
insufficient preferment. It is possible that Swift was confusing dates,
and that the scruple was quieted when he failed to take advantage of
Temple's interest with Southwell. Having declined, he felt that he had
made a free choice of a clerical career. In 1692, as we have seen, he
expected a prebend from Temple's influence 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 as
I foretold it you; and everything happened 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 anything firmly to me at
all; so that everybody judged I did best to leave him." He is starting in
four days for Dublin, 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. Upon going to Dublin, Swift had found that
some recommendation from Temple would be required by the authorities. He
tried to evade the requirement, but was forced at last to write a letter
to Temple, which nothing but necessity could have extorted. After
explaining the case, he adds, "the particulars expected of me are what
relates to morals 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 think I
cannot reproach myself any farther than for _infirmities_. 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 opportunity of making his acknowledgments at "your
honour's" feet. This seems to be the only occasion on which we find Swift
confessing to any fault except that of being too virtuous.

The apparent doubt of Temple's magnanimity implied in the letter was
happily not verified. The testimonial seems to have been sent at once.
Swift, in any case, was ordained deacon on the 28th of October, 1694, and
priest on the 15th of January, 1695. Probably Swift felt that Temple had
behaved with magnanimity, and in any case it was not very long before he
returned to Moor Park. He had received from Lord Capel, then lord deputy,
the small prebend of Kilroot, worth about 100_l._ a year. Little is known
of his life as a remote country clergyman, except that he very soon became
tired of it.[7] Swift soon resigned his prebend (in March, 1698) and
managed to obtain the succession for a friend in the neighbourhood. But
before this (in May, 1696) he 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 be 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; till he has "pushed his advancement" and is
in a position to marry her. The letter is full of true lovers'
protestations; reproaches 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 sex, infinitely beneath persons of her
pride and his own; paltry maxims calculated only for the "rabble of
humanity." "By heaven, Varina," he exclaims, "you are more experienced,
and have less virgin innocence than I." The answer must have been
unsatisfactory; though from expressions in a letter to his successor to
the prebend, we see that the affair was still going on in 1699. 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 connexion
passed in harmony. Temple was growing old; his wife, after forty years of
a happy marriage, had died during Swift's absence in the beginning of
1695; and Temple, though he seems to have been vigorous, and in spite of
gout a brisk walker, was approaching the grave. He occupied himself in
preparing, with Swift's help, memoirs and letters, which were left to
Swift for posthumous publication. Swift's various irritations at Moor
Park have naturally left a stronger impression upon his history than the
quieter 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,[8] as the "model of an agreeable retreat." Temple's
household was free from the coarse convivialities of the boozing
fox-hunting squires; whilst the recollection of its modest neatness made
the "magnificent palace" of Petworth seem pompous and overpowering. Swift
himself remembered the Moor Park gardens, the special pride of Temple's
retirement, with affection, and tried to imitate them on a small scale in
his own garden at Laracor. Moor Park is on the edge of the great heaths
which stretch southward to Hindhead, and northwards to Aldershot and
Chobham Ridges. Though we can scarcely credit him with a modern taste in
scenery, he at least anticipated the modern faith in athletic exercises.
According to Deane 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. In later life he preached the duty of walking with admirable
perseverance to his friends. He 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 characteristic passion of the good and wise for walking. He
mentions incidentally a walk from Farnham to London, thirty-eight miles;
and has some association with the Golden Farmer[9]--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 such scenery; and he ventured so near the edge of the cliff upon his
stomach, that his servants had to drag him back by his heels. We find him
proposing to walk to Chester at the rate, I regret to say, of only ten
miles a day. In such rambles, we are told, he used to put up at wayside
inns, where "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
rough humour of waggoners and hostlers is supposed to have been his
inducement to this practice; and the refined Orrery associates his
coarseness with this lamentable practice; but amidst the roar of railways
we may think more tolerantly of the humours of the road in the good old
days, when each village had its humours and traditions and quaint legends,
and when homely maxims of unlettered wisdom were to be picked up at rustic

Recreations of this kind were a relief to serious study. In Temple's
library Swift found abundant occupation. "I am often," he says, in the
first period of his residence, "two or three months without seeing anybody
besides the family." In a later fragment, we find him living alone "in
great state," the cook coming for his 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 books read in 1697
gives some hint of their general nature. They are chiefly classical and
historical. He read Virgil, Homer, Horace, Lucretius, Cicero's
_Epistles_, Petronius Arbiter, Ælian, Lucius Florus, Herbert's _Henry
VIII._, Sleidan's _Commentaries, Council of Trent_, Camden's _Elizabeth_,
Burnet's _History of the Reformation_, Voiture, Blackmore's _Prince
Arthur_, Sir J. Davis's poem of _The Soul_, and two or three travels,
besides Cyprian and Irenæus. We may note the absence of any theological
reading, except in the form of ecclesiastical history; nor does Swift
study philosophy, of which he seems to have had a sufficient dose in
Dublin. History seems 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 dependents besides Swift. The "little
parson cousin," Tom Swift, whom his great relation always mentions with
contempt, became chaplain to Temple. Jonathan's sister 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. Her mother was known to Lady Giffard, Temple's
attached sister; and after her widowhood, went with her two daughters to
live with the Temples. Mrs. Johnson lived as servant or companion to Lady
Giffard for many years after Temple's death; and little Esther, a
remarkably bright and pretty child, was brought up in the family, and
received under Temple's will a sufficient legacy for her support. It
was of course guessed 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.[10] She was born, as Swift tells us, on March 13th, 1681; and
was therefore a little over eight when Swift first came to Temple, and
fifteen when he returned from Kilroot.[11] About this age, he tells us,
she got over an infantile delicacy, "grew into perfect health, and was
looked upon as one of the most beautiful, 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 tutor who taught her to write, guided her
education, and came to regard her with an affection which was at once the
happiness and the misery of his life.

Temple died January 26, 1699; 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_l._, the advantage
of publishing his posthumous works, which might ultimately bring in
200_l._ 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 of
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 preferment in England, and had died before the
promise had been fulfilled. Swift was accused of ingratitude 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 you 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 his conversation and advice, and the opportunity of pursuing my
studies. For, being born to no fortune, I was at his death as far to seek
as ever; and perhaps you will allow that I was of some use to him." Swift
seems here to assume that his motives for living with Temple are
necessarily to be estimated by the results which he obtained. But if he
expected more than he got, he does not suggest any want of goodwill.
Temple had done his best; William's neglect and Temple's death had made
goodwill fruitless. The two might cry quits; and Swift set to work, not
exactly with a sense of injury, but probably with a strong feeling that a
large portion of his life had been wasted. To Swift, indeed, misfortune
and injury seem equally to have meant resentment, whether against the
fates or some personal object.

One curious document must be noted before considering the writings which
most fully reveal the state of Swift's mind. In the year 1699 he wrote
down some resolutions, headed "when I come to be old." They are for the
most part pithy and sensible, if it can ever be sensible to make
resolutions for behaviour in a distant future. Swift resolves not to marry
a young woman, not to keep young company unless they desire it, not to
repeat stories, not to listen to knavish, tattling servants, not to be too
free of advice, not to brag of former beauty and favour with ladies, to
desire some good friends to inform him when he breaks these resolutions
and to reform accordingly; and finally, not to set up for observing all
these rules for fear he should observe none. These resolutions are not
very original in substance (few resolutions are), though they suggest some
keen observation of his elders; but one is more remarkable. "Not to be
fond of children, _or let them come near me hardly_." The words in italics
are blotted out by a later possessor of the paper, shocked doubtless at
the harshness of the sentiment. "We do not fortify ourselves with
resolutions against 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." Yet it is strange that a man should regard
the purest and kindliest of feelings as a weakness to which he is too much
inclined. No man had stronger affections than Swift; no man suffered more
agony when they were wounded; but in his agony he would commit what to
most men would seem the treason of cursing the affections instead of
simply lamenting the injury, or holding the affection itself to be its own
sufficient reward. The intense personality of the man reveals itself
alternately at selfishness and as "altruism." He grappled to his heart
those whom he 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 was intense; but implied the absorption of the weaker nature
into his own. His friendships were rather annexations than alliances. The
strongest instance of this characteristic was in his relations to the
charming girl, who must have been in his mind when he wrote this strange,
and unconsciously prophetic, resolution.



Swift came to Temple's 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 Odes_, in which the youthful
aspirant imitated the still popular model of Cowley, are even comically
prosaic. The last of them, dated 1691, is addressed to a queer Athenian
Society, promoted by a John Dunton, a speculative bookseller, whose _Life
and Errors_ is still worth a glance from the curious. The Athenian Society
was the name of John Dunton himself, and two or three collaborators who
professed in the _Athenian Mercury_ to answer queries ranging over the
whole field of human knowledge. Temple was one of their patrons, and Swift
sent them a panegyrical ode, the merits of which are sufficiently summed
up by Dryden's pithy criticism--"Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet."
Swift disliked and abused Dryden 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 so slowly revealed to great writers, the secret of his real
strength. The _Tale of a Tub_ was written about 1696; part of it appears
to have been seen 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 both works remained in
manuscript till 1704. The "little parson cousin" Tom Swift, ventured some
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 authorship of what some readers hold 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 moderns,
which began in France with Perrault and Fontenelle; 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 side, and Boyle and his Oxford allies on the other. A full
account of this celebrated discussion 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 the ancient canons of
taste and philosophy. At first sight, we might therefore expect the
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 theory,
so far as he had any consistent theory, is indicated in the statement that
the moderns gathered "all their learning from books in the universities."
Learning, he suggests, may weaken invention; and people who trust to the
charity of others will always be poor. Swift accepts and enforces this
doctrine. The _Battle of the Books_ is an expression of that contempt for
pedants which he had learnt in Dublin, and which is expressed in the ode
to the Athenian Society. Philosophy, he tells us in that precious
production, "seems to have borrowed some ungrateful taste of doubts,
impertinence, and niceties from every age through which it passed" (this,
I may observe, is verse), and is now a "medley of all ages," "her face
patched over with modern pedantry." The moral finds a more poetical
embodiment in the famous apologue of the Bee and the Spider in the _Battle
of the Books_. The bee had got itself entangled in the spider's web in the
library, whilst the books were beginning to wrangle. The two have a sharp
dispute, which is summed up by Æsop as arbitrator. The spider represents
the moderns who spin their scholastic pedantry out of their own insides;
whilst the bee, like the ancients, goes direct to nature. The moderns
produce nothing but "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 age." We, the ancients, "profess to nothing of our own,
beyond our wings and our voice: that is to say, our flights and our
language. For the rest, whatever we have got has been by infinite labour
and research, and ranging through every corner of nature; the difference
is that, instead of dirt and poison, we have rather chosen to fill our
hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of
things, which are Sweetness and Light."

The Homeric battle which follows is described with infinite spirit. Pallas
is the patron of the ancients whilst Momus undertakes the cause of the
moderns, and appeals for help to the malignant deity Criticism, who is
found in her den at the top of a snowy mountain, extended upon the spoils
of numberless half-devoured volumes. By her, as she exclaims in the
regulation soliloquy, children become wiser than their parents, beaux
become politicians, and schoolboys judges of philosophy. She flies to her
darling Wotton, gathering up her person into an octavo compass; her body
grows white and arid and splits in pieces with dryness; a concoction of
gall and soot is strewn in the shape of letters upon her person; and so
she joins the moderns, "undistinguishable in shape and dress from the
divine Bentley, Wotton's dearest friend." It is needless to follow the
fortunes of the fight which follows; it is enough to observe that Virgil
is encountered by his translator Dryden in a helmet "nine times too large
for the head, which appeared situate far in the hinder part, even like the
lady in the lobster, or like a mouse under a canopy of state, or like a
shrivelled beau 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 Bentley and Wotton try a diversion and
steal the armour of Phalaris and Æsop, but are met by Boyle, clad in a
suit of armour given him by all the gods, who transfixes them on his spear
like a brace of woodcocks on an iron skewer.

The raillery, if taken in its critical aspect, recoils upon the author.
Dryden hardly deserves the scorn of Virgil; and Bentley, 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 his contempt with
characteristic vigour and coarseness; and our pleasure in his display of
exuberant satirical power is not injured by his obvious misconception of
the merits of the case. 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 at least) a rather
dreary form of wit. The _Battle of the Books_ is the best of the
travesties. Nor in the brilliant assault upon great names do we at present
see anything more than the buoyant consciousness of power, common in the
unsparing judgments of youth, nor edged as yet by any real bitterness.
Swift has found out that the world is full of humbugs; and goes forth
hewing and hacking with super-abundant 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 him.

The same qualities are more conspicuous in the far greater satire the
_Tale of a Tub_. It is so striking a performance 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 earlier work. There is less flagging; a
greater fulness and pressure of energetic thought; a power of hitting the
nail on the head at the first blow, which has declined in the work of his
maturer years, when life was weary and thought intermittent. Swift seems
to have felt this himself. In the twilight of his intellect, he was seen
turning over the pages and murmuring to himself, "Good God, what a genius
I had when I wrote that book!" In an apology (dated 1709) he makes a
statement which may help to explain this fact. "The author," he says, "was
then (1696) young, his invention at the height, and his reading fresh in
his head. By the assistance of some thinking and much conversation, he had
endeavoured to strip himself of as many prejudices as he could." He
resolved, as he adds, "to proceed in a manner entirely new;" and he
afterwards claims in the most positive terms that through the whole book
(including both the tale and the battle of the books) he has not borrowed
one "single hint from any writer in the world."[12] No writer has ever
been more thoroughly original than Swift, for his writings are simply

The _Tale of a Tub_ is another challenge thrown down to pretentious
pedantry. The vigorous, self-confident intellect has found out the
emptiness and absurdity of a number of the solemn formulæ which pass
current in the world, and tears them to pieces with audacious and
rejoicing energy. He makes a mock of the paper chains with which solemn
professors tried to fetter his activity, and scatters the fragments to the
four winds of heaven. In one of the first sections he announces the
philosophy afterwards expounded by Herr Teufelsdröckh, according to which
"man himself is but a micro-coat;" if one of the suits of clothes called
animals "be trimmed up with a gold chain, and a red gown, and a white rod,
and a pert look, it is called a Lord Mayor; if certain ermines and furs be
placed in a certain position, we style them a judge; and so an apt
conjunction of lawn and black satin we entitle a bishop." Though Swift
does not himself develop this philosophical doctrine, its later form
reflects light upon the earlier theory. For, in truth, Swift's teaching
comes to this, that the solemn plausibilities of the world are but so many
"shams"--elaborate masks used to disguise the passions, for the most part
base and earthly, by which mankind is really impelled. The "digressions"
which he introduces with the privilege 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 passing) incidentally gives a curious hint
of his authorship. He describes himself as a worn-out pamphleteer who has
worn his quill to the pith in the service of the State. "Fourscore and
eleven pamphlets have I writ under the reigns and for the service of
six-and-thirty patrons." Porson first noticed that the same numbers are
repeated in _Gulliver's Travels_; Gulliver is fastened with "fourscore and
eleven chains" locked to his left leg "with six-and-thirty padlocks."
Swift makes the usual onslaught of a young author upon the critics, with
more than the usual vigour, and carries on the war against Bentley and his
ally by parodying Wotton's remarks upon the ancients. He has discovered
many omissions in Homer; "who seems to have read but very superficially
either Sendivogus, Behmen, or _Anthroposophia Magia_."[13] Homer, too,
never mentions a saveall; and has a still worse fault--his "gross
ignorance in the common laws of this realm, and in the doctrine as well as
discipline of the Church of England"--defects, indeed, for which he has
been justly censured by Wotton. Perhaps the most vigorous and certainly
the most striking of these digressions, is that upon "the original use and
improvement of madness in a commonwealth." Just in passing, as it were,
Swift gives the pith of a whole system of misanthropy, though he as yet
seems to be rather indulging a play of fancy, than expressing a settled
conviction. Happiness, he says, is a "perpetual possession of being well
deceived." The wisdom which keeps on the surface is better than that which
persists in officiously prying into the underlying reality. "Last week I
saw a woman flayed," he observes, "and you will hardly believe how much it
altered her person for the worse." It is best to be content with patching
up the outside, and so assuring the "serene, peaceful state"--the
sublimest point of felicity--"of being a fool amongst knaves." He goes on
to tell us how useful madmen may be made: how Curtius may be regarded
equally as a madman and a hero for his leap into the gulf; how the raging,
blaspheming, noisy inmate of Bedlam is fit to have a regiment of dragoons;
and the bustling, 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 merchant, the courtier, or the monarch. We
are all madmen, and happy so far as mad: delusion and peace of mind go
together; and the more truth we know, the more shall we recognize that
realities are hideous. Swift only plays with his paradoxes. He laughs
without troubling himself to decide whether his irony tells against the
theories which he ostensibly espouses, or those which he ostensibly
attacks. But he has only to adopt in seriousness the fancy with which he
is dallying, in order to graduate as a finished pessimist. These, however,
are interruptions to the main thread of the book, which is a daring
assault upon that serious kind of pedantry which utters itself in
theological systems. The three brothers, Peter, Martin, and Jack,
represent, as we all know, the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, and the
Puritanical 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 some years of faithful observance, they fall in love with
the three ladies of wealth, ambition, and pride, get into terribly bad
ways and make wild work of the coats and the will. They excuse themselves
for wearing shoulder-knots by picking the separate letters S, H, and so
forth, out of separate words in the will, and as K is wanting, discover 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 he had
heard their father's man say that he would advise his sons to get gold
lace 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 which can be tacked to it, and will sanction a new
fashion of flame-coloured satin. The will expressly forbids silver fringe
on the coats; but they discover that the word meaning silver fringe may
also signify a broomstick. And by such devices they go on merrily for a
time, till Peter sets up to be the sole heir and insists upon the
obedience of his brethren. His performances in this position are trying to
their temper. "Whenever it happened that any rogue of Newgate was
condemned to be hanged, Peter would offer him a pardon for a certain sum
of money; which when the poor caitiff 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, hangmen, &c.
Whereas we are informed that A. B. remains in the hands of you 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., &c., 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 you 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 outrageously proud. He has been seen to take "three
old high-crowned hats and clap them all on his head three-storey high,
with a huge bunch of keys at his girdle, and an angling-rod in his hand.
In which guise, whoever went to take him by the hand in the way of
salutation, Peter, with much grace, like a well-educated spaniel, would
present 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 has ever since been called a salute."

Peter receives his brothers at dinner, and has nothing served up but a
brown loaf. Come, he says, "fall on and spare not; here is excellent good
mutton," and he helps them each to a shoe. The brothers remonstrate, and
try to point out that they see only bread. They argue for some time, but
have to give in to a conclusive argument. "'Look ye, gentlemen,' cries
Peter in a rage, 'to convince you what a couple of blind, positive,
ignorant, wilful puppies you are, I will use but this simple argument. By
G-- it is true, good, natural mutton as any in Leadenhall Market; and
G-- confound you both eternally, if you offer to believe otherwise.' Such a
thundering proof as this left no further room for objection; the two
unbelievers began to gather and pocket up their mistake 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
storm of ridicule much in the same vein as that directed against Peter;
and, if less pointed, certainly not less expressive of contempt. I need
not further follow the details of what Johnson calls this "wild book,"
which is in every page brimful of intense satirical power. I must however
say a few words upon a matter which is of great importance in forming a
clear judgment of Swift's character. The _Tale of a Tub_ was universally
attributed to Swift, and led to many doubts of his orthodoxy and even of
his Christianity. Sharpe, Archbishop of York, injured Swift's chances of
preferment by insinuating such doubts to Queen Anne. Swift bitterly
resented the imputation. He prefixed an apology to a later edition, in
which he admitted that he had 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 the book. He pointed out that he had
attacked no Anglican doctrine. His ridicule spares Martin, and is pointed
at Peter and Jack. Like every satirist who ever wrote, he does not attack
the use but the abuse; and as the Church of England represents for him the
purest embodiment of the truth, an attack upon the abuses of religion
meant an attack upon other churches only in so far as they diverged from
this model. Critics have accepted this apology, and treated poor Queen
Anne and her advisers 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 audacious satire,
the answer 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 appear to us venerable or absurd according to our own creed. One test,
however, may be suggested, which may guide our decision. Imagine the _Tale
of a Tub_ to be read by Bishop Butler and by Voltaire, who called Swift a
_Rabelais perfectionné_. Can any one doubt that the believer would be
scandalized and the scoffer find himself in a thoroughly congenial
element? Would not any believer shrink from the use of such weapons even
though directed against his enemies? Scott 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 sagacious not to indicate the
obvious reply. The condition of having the laughers on your side is to be
on the side of the laughers. Advocates of any serious cause feel that
there is a danger in accepting such an alliance. The laughers who join you
in ridiculing your enemy, are by no means pledged to refrain from
laughing in turn at the laugher. When Swift had ridiculed all the Catholic
and all the Puritan dogmas in the most unsparing fashion, could he be sure
that the Thirty-nine Articles would escape scot free? The Catholic theory
of a church possessing divine authority, the Puritan theory of a divine
voice addressing the individual soul, suggested to him, in their concrete
embodiments at least, nothing but a horselaugh. Could any one be sure that
the Anglican embodiment of the same theories might not 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

Swift's blindness to such criticisms was thoroughly characteristic. He
professes, as we have seen, that he had need to clear his mind of _real_
prejudices. He admits that the process might be pushed too far; that is,
that in abandoning a prejudice you may be losing a principle. In fact, the
prejudices from which Swift had sought to free himself--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 affections and antipathies, was no longer a prejudice in his
eyes, but a sacred principle. The intensity of his contempt for the
follies of others shut his eyes effectually to any similarity between
their tenets and his own. His principles, true or false, were prejudices
in the highest degree, if by a prejudice we mean an opinion cherished
because it has somehow or other become ours, though the "somehow" may
exclude all reference to reason. Swift never troubled himself to assign
any philosophical basis for his doctrines; having, indeed, a hearty
contempt for philosophizing in general. He clung to the doctrines of his
church, not because he could give abstract reasons for his belief, but
simply because the church happened to be his. It is equally true of all
his creeds, political or theological, that he loved them as he loved his
friends, simply because they had become a part of himself, and were
therefore identified with all his hopes, ambitions, and aspirations public
or private. We shall see hereafter how fiercely he attacked the
dissenters, and how scornfully he repudiated all arguments 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 am attacking the corruption of my principles; hideous caricatures of
myself; caricatures the more hateful in proportion to their apparent
likeness. And therefore, whether in political or theological warfare, he
was sublimely 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 his most vigorous pieces of satire in later days are
directed against the deists. In 1708 he published an _Argument to prove
that the abolishing of Christianity in England may, as 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 his most
eager political warfare, he published _Mr. Collins's Discourse of
Freethinking, put into plain English, by way of abstract, for use of the
poor_. No one who reads these pamphlets can deny that the keenest satire
may be directed against infidels as well as against Christians. The last
is an admirable parody, in which poor Collins's arguments are turned
against himself with ingenious and provoking irony. The first is perhaps
Swift's cleverest application of the same method. A nominal religion, he
urges gravely, is of some use, 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 the ministry." If Christianity were once abolished, the
wits would be deprived of their favourite topic. "Who would ever have
suspected Asgil for a wit or Toland for a philosopher if the inexhaustible
stock of Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with
materials?" The abolition of Christianity moreover may possibly bring the
Church into danger, for atheists, deists, and Socinians have little zeal
for the present ecclesiastical establishment; and if they once get rid of
Christianity, they may aim at setting up Presbyterianism. Moreover, as
long as we keep to any religion, we do not strike at the root of the evil.
The freethinkers consider that all the parts hold together, and that if
you pull out one nail the whole fabric will fall. Which, he says, was
happily expressed by one who heard that a text brought in proof of the
Trinity, was differently read in some ancient manuscript; whereupon he
suddenly leaped through a long _sorites_ to the logical conclusion: "Why,
if it be as you say, I may safely ... drink on and defy the parson."

A serious meaning underlies Swift's sarcasms. Collins had argued in
defence of the greatest possible freedom of discussion; and tacitly
assumed that such discussion would lead to disbelief of Christianity.
Opponents of the liberal school had answered by claiming his first
principle as their own. They argued that religion was based upon reason,
and would be strengthened instead of weakened by free inquiry. Swift
virtually takes a different position. He objects to freethinking because
ordinary minds are totally unfit for such inquiries. "The bulk of
mankind," as he puts it, is as "well qualified for flying as thinking;"
and therefore free-thought would lead to anarchy, atheism, and immorality,
as liberty to fly would lead to a breaking of necks.

Collins rails at priests as tyrants upheld 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 lawyers. 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, are 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 denouncing. If not exactly "pamphlets,"
they are sermons in aid of pamphlets. Others are vigorous and sincere
moral discourses. One alone deals with a purely theological topic: the
doctrine of the Trinity. His view is simply that "men of wicked lives
would be very glad if there were no truth in Christianity at all." They
therefore cavil at the mysteries to find some excuse for giving up the
whole. He replies in effect that there most be mystery though not
contradiction, everywhere, and that if we do not accept humbly what is
taught in the Scriptures, we must give up Christianity, and consequently,
as he holds, all moral obligation, 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 was absolutely
indifferent to speculative philosophy. He was even more indifferent to the
mystical or imaginative aspects of religion. He 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 bearing 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 professional character. He
wished to be accepted as a man of the world and of business. He despised
the unpractical and visionary type, and the kind of religious utterance
congenial to men of that type was abhorrent to him. He shrank invariably
too from any display of his emotion, and would have felt the heartiest
contempt for the sentimentalism of his day. At once the proudest and most
sensitive of men, it was his imperative instinct to hide his emotions as
much as possible. In cases of great excitement, he retired into some
secluded corner, where, if he was forced to feel, he could be sure 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. Delany tells us that he stayed for six months in Swift's house,
before discovering 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 exercises, but Delany, a man of a
very different temperament, blames his friend for carrying his reserve in
all such matters to extremes. In certain respects Swift was ostentatious
enough; but this intense dislike to wearing his heart upon his sleeve, to
laying bare the secrets of his affections 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 applause by a
public exhibition of intimate joys and sorrows; and was less afraid of
suppressing some genuine emotion than of showing any in the slightest
degree unreal.

Although Swift took in the main what may be called the political view of
religion, he did not by any means 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 useful. His religious instincts were as strong
and genuine as they were markedly undemonstrative. He came to take (I am
anticipating a little) a gloomy view of the world and of human nature. He
had the most settled conviction not only of the misery of human life but
of the feebleness of the good elements 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 affections give us the purest kind of happiness, and yet
our affections expose us to sufferings which more than outweigh the
enjoyments. There is no such thing, he said in his decline, as "a fine old
gentleman;" if so and so had had either a mind or a body worth a farthing,
"they would have worn him out long ago." That became a typical sentiment
with Swift. His doctrine was, briefly, that: virtue was the one thing
which deserved love and admiration; and yet that virtue in this hideous
chaos of a world, involved misery and decay. What would be the logical
result of such a creed, I do not presume to say. Certainly, we should
guess, something more pessimistic or Manichæan than suits the ordinary
interpretation of Christian doctrine. But for Swift this state of mind
carried with it the necessity of clinging 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 because it provided him with some sort of fixed convictions in this
strange and disastrous muddle. If it did not give a solution in terms
intelligible to the human intellect, it encouraged the belief that some
solution existed. It justified him to himself for continuing to respect
morality, and for going on living, when all the game of life seemed to be
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
causes and principles which he recognized as the most ennobling element in
the world's "mad farce;" and to utter himself in formulæ consecrated by
the use of such wise and good beings as had hitherto shown themselves
amongst a wretched race. Placed in another situation, Swift no doubt might
have put his creed--to speak after the Clothes Philosophy--into a
different dress. The substance could not have been altered, unless his
whole character as well as his particular opinions had been profoundly



Swift at the age of thirty-one had gained a small amount of cash, and a
promise from William. He applied to the king, but the great man in whom he
trusted failed to deliver his petition; and, after some delay, he accepted
an invitation to become chaplain and secretary to the Earl of Berkeley,
just made one of the Lords Justices of Ireland. He acted as secretary on
the journey to Ireland: but upon reaching Dublin, Lord Berkeley gave the
post to another man, who had persuaded 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_l._ 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 you both for a couple of scoundrels." He was partly pacified,
however (February 1700), 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 St. Patrick, made up a revenue of about 230_l._ a year.[14]
The income enabled him to live; but, in spite of the rigid economy which
he always practised, did not enable him to save. Marriage under such
circumstances would have meant the abandonment of an ambitious career. A
wife and family would have anchored him to his country parsonage.

This may help to explain an unpleasant episode which followed. Poor Varina
had resisted Swift's entreaties, on the ground of her own ill-health and
Swift's want of fortune. She now, it seems, thought that the economical
difficulty was removed by Swift's preferment, and wished the marriage to
take place. Swift replied in a letter, which contains all our information:
and to which I can apply no other epithet than brutal. Some men might feel
bound 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 letter he
expresses resentment for Miss Waring's previous treatment of him; 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 income should
"dwindle away her health in such a sink and among such family
conversation." He explains that he is still poor; he doubts the
improvement of her own health; and he then says that if she will submit to
be educated so as to be capable of entertaining him: to accept all his
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 friends. But,
when any one tried to enforce claims no longer congenial to his feelings,
the appeal to the galling obligation stung him into ferocity, and brought
out the most brutal side 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 small 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 live more cheaply, in
Ireland than in England. This change of abode naturally made people talk.
The little parson cousin asked (in 1706) whether Jonathan had been able to
resist the charms of the two ladies who had marched from Moor Park to
Dublin "with full resolution 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
separate lodgings. Twice, it seems, they accompanied him on visits to
England. But Swift never saw Esther Johnson except in presence of a third
person; and he incidentally declares in 1726--near the end of her
life--that he had not seen her in a morning "these dozen years, except
once or twice in a journey." The relations thus regulated remained
unaltered for several years to come. Swift's duties at Laracor were not
excessive. He reckons his congregation at fifteen persons, "most of them
gentle and all simple." He gave notice, says Orrery, that he would read
prayers every Wednesday and Friday. The congregation 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, is supposed to be an exquisite piece of
facetiousness; but we may hope that, as Scott gives us reason to think, it
was really one of the drifting jests that stuck for a time to the skirts
of the famous humorist. What is certain is, that Swift did his best, with
narrow means, to improve the living--rebuilt the house, laid out the
garden, increased 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 his fears of Presbyterian ascendancy)
that, if another form of Christian religion should become the established
faith in this kingdom, they should go to the poor--excluding Jews,
Atheists, and infidels. Swift became attached to Laracor, and the gardens
which he planted 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 gentlemen;" but Laracor was rather an occasional
retreat than a centre of his interests. During the following years Swift
was often at the castle at Dublin, and passed considerable periods in
London, leaving a curate in charge of the minute congregation at Laracor.

He kept upon friendly terms with successive 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 he had a high respect for Lady Berkeley; and one
of the daughters, afterwards Lady Betty Germaine, a very sensible and
kindly woman, retained his 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 Lieutenant in 1703, and, again, was the close
friend of one of the daughters. He was deeply grieved by her death a few
years later, soon after her marriage to Lord Ashburnham. "I hate life," he
says characteristically, "when I think it exposed to such accidents; and
to see so many thousand wretches burdening the earth when such as her die,
makes me think God did never intend life for a blessing." When Lord
Pembroke succeeded Ormond, Swift still 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, through life. One might be tempted to
say, were it not for the conclusive evidence to the contrary, that this
love of the most mechanical variety of facetiousness implied an absence of
any true sense of humour. Swift, indeed, was giving proofs that he
possessed a full share of that ambiguous talent. It would be difficult to
find a more perfect performance of its kind than the poem by which he
amused the Berkeley family in 1700. It is the _Petition of Mrs. Frances
Harris_, a chambermaid, who had lost her purse, and whose peculiar style
of language, as well as the unsympathetic comments of her various
fellow-servants, are preserved with extraordinary felicity in a peculiar
doggerel invented for the purpose by Swift. One fancies that the famous
Mrs. Harris of Mrs. Gamp's reminiscences was a phantasmal descendant of
Swift's heroine. He lays bare the workings of the menial intellect with
the clearness of a master.

Neither Laracor nor Dublin could keep Swift from London.[15] During the
ten years succeeding 1700, he must have passed over four in England. In
the last period mentioned he was acting as an agent for the Church of
Ireland. In the others he was attracted by pleasure or ambition. He had
already many introductions to London society, through Temple, through the
Irish Viceroys, and through Congreve, the most famous of then living wits.
A successful pamphlet, to be presently mentioned, helped his rise to fame.
London society was easy of access for a man of Swift's qualities. The
divisions of rank were doubtless more strongly marked than now. Yet
society was relatively so small, and concentrated in so small a space,
that admission into the upper circle meant an easy introduction to every
one worth knowing. Any noticeable 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 modern times. At
one time, according to a story vague as to dates, he got the name of the
"mad parson" from Addison and others, by his habit of taking
half-an-hour's smart walk to and fro in the coffee-house, and then
departing in silence. At last he abruptly accosted a stranger from the
country: "Pray, sir, do you remember any good weather in the world?" "Yes,
sir," 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, however God Almighty contrives it, at the end of the year 'tis all
very well;" with which sentiment he vanished. Whatever his introduction
Swift would soon make himself felt. The _Tale of a Tub_ appeared--with a
very complimentary dedication to Somers--in 1704, and revealed powers
beyond the rivalry of any living author.

In the year 1705 Swift became intimate with Addison, who wrote in a copy
of his _Travels in Italy_, To _Jonathan 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 authorship 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, accustomed 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 Delany 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 triumvirate; 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 Wills' coffee-house, where
the wits (as they were called) used formerly to assemble;" and he speaks
with a contempt recalling Pope's satire upon the "little senate," of the
absurd self-importance and the foolish adulation of the students and
Templars who listened to these oracles. Others have suspected that many
famous coteries of which literary people are accustomed to speak with
unction, probably fell as far short in reality of their traditional
pleasantness. Swift's friendship with Addison was partly due, we may
fancy, to the difference in temper and talent which fitted each to be
complement of the other. A curious proof of the mutual goodwill is given
by the history of Swift's _Baucis and Philemon_. It is a humorous and
agreeable enough travesty of Ovid; a bit of good-humoured pleasantry,
which we may take as it was intended. The performance was in the spirit of
the time, and if Swift had not the lightness of touch of his
contemporaries, Prior, Gay, Parnell, and Pope, he perhaps makes up for it
by greater force and directness. But the piece is mainly remarkable
because, as he tells us, Addison made him "blot out four score lines, add
four score, and alter four score," though the whole consisted of only 178
verses.[16] Swift showed a complete absence of the ordinary touchiness of
authors. His indifference to literary fame as to its pecuniary rewards,
was conspicuous. He was too proud, as he truly said, to be vain. His sense
of dignity restrained him from petty sensibility. When a clergyman
regretted some emendations which had been hastily suggested 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 vanity. If Swift was egotistical, there was nothing petty even in his

A piece of facetiousness, started by Swift in the last of his visits to
London, has become famous. A cobbler called Partridge had set up as an
astrologer, and published predictions in the style of _Zadkiel's Almanac_.
Swift amused himself in the beginning of 1708 by publishing a rival
prediction under the name of Isaac Bickerstaff. Bickerstaff professed that
he would give verifiable and definite predictions, instead of the vague
oracular utterances of his rival. The first of these predictions announced
the approaching death, at 11 p.m., on March 29th, of Partridge himself.
Directly after that day appeared a letter "to a person of honour,"
announcing the fulfilment of the prediction by the death of Partridge
within four hours of the date assigned. Partridge took up the matter
seriously, and indignantly declared himself, in a new Almanac, to be
alive. Bickerstaff retorted in a humorous Vindication, arguing that
Partridge was really dead; that his continuing 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 inquisition, so it is said, were
sufficiently taken in to condemn Bickerstaff to the flames; and Steele,
who started the _Tatler_, whilst the joke was afoot, adopted the name of
Bickerstaff for the imaginary author. Dutiful biographers agree to admire
this as a wonderful piece of fun. The joke does not strike me, I will
confess, as of very exquisite flavour; but it is a curious illustration of
a peculiarity to which Swift owed some of his power, and which seems to
have suggested many of the mythical anecdotes about him. His humour very
easily took the form of practical joking. In those days, the mutual
understanding of the little clique of wits made it easy to get a hoax
taken up by the whole body. They joined to persecute poor Partridge, as
the undergraduates at a modern college might join to tease some obnoxious
tradesman. Swift's peculiar irony fitted him to take the load; for it
implied a singular pleasure in realizing the minute consequences of some
given hypothesis, and working out in detail some grotesque or striking
theory. The love of practical jokes, which seems to have accompanied him
through life, is one of the less edifying manifestations of the tendency.
It seems as if he could not quite enjoy a jest till it was translated into
actual tangible fact. The fancy does not suffice him till it is realized.
If the story about "dearly beloved Roger" be true, it is a case in point.
Sydney Smith would have been content with suggesting that such a thing
might be done. Swift was not satisfied till he 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 had thought of Charles Lamb's famous quibble
about walking on an empty stomach ("on whose empty stomach?"), he would
have liked to carry it out by an actual promenade on real human flesh and

Swift became intimate with Irish viceroys, and with the most famous wits
and statesmen of London. But he received none of the good things bestowed
so freely upon contemporary men of letters. In 1705, Addison, his intimate
friend, and his junior by five years, had sprung 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_l._ a year, as an addition to another of
300_l._ Towards the end of 1704 he had already complained 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 in his own district,
"a hedge-parson," flattered, caressed and neglected. And yet he held,[17]
that it was easier to provide for ten men in the church, than for one in a
civil employment. To understand his claims, and the modes by which he used
to enforce them, we must advert briefly to the state of English politics.
A clear apprehension of Swift's relation to the ministers of the day is
essential 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 humorously declares that even the cats and dogs 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 confounded. Lord Stanhope
argues--and he is only repeating what Swift frequently said--that Whigs
and Tories had exchanged principles.[18] 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 be the anomalous hybrid, a High-church Whig. We must therefore
inquire a little further into the true meaning of the accepted

Swift had come from Ireland, saturated with the prejudices of his caste.
The highest Tory in Ireland, as he told William, would make a tolerable
Whig in England. For the English colonists in Ireland, the expulsion of
James was a condition not of party success but of existence. Swift, whose
personal and family interests were identified with those of the English in
Ireland, could repudiate James with his whole heart, and heartily accepted
the revolution; he was therefore a Whig, so far as attachment to
"revolution principles" 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 facts. Its
ghost walked the earth for some time longer, and at times aped reality;
but it meant mere sentimentalism or vague discontent. Swift, when asked to
explain its persistence, said that when he was in pain and lying on his
right side, he naturally turned to his left, though he might have no
prospect of benefit from the change.[19] The country squire, who drank
healths to the king over the water, was tired of the Georges, and shared
the fears of the typical Western, that his 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 cause of their fall. Squires and parsons did not cherish
less warmly the privileges in defence of which they had sent the last
Stuart king about his business. Rather the privileges had become so much a
matter of course that the very fear of any assault seemed visionary. The
Jacobitism of later days did not mean any discontent with revolution
principles, but dislike to the revolution dynasty. The Whig indeed argued
with true party logic, that every Tory must be a Jacobite, and every
Jacobite a lover of arbitrary rule. In truth a man might wish to restore
the Stuarts without wishing to restore the principles for which the
Stuarts had been expelled: 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 had been carried out in defence of the Church
of England, and chiefly by attached members of the Church. To be a sound
churchman was, so far, to be pledged against 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.
But 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
absorbed all interests. Marlborough and Godolphin, the great heads of the
family clique which dominated poor Queen Anne, had begun as Tories and
churchmen, supported 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 Louis, Popery, and the Pretender. And thus, the great
men who were identified with the war, began slowly to edge over to the
party whose principles were the war principles; who hated the Pope, the
Pretender, and the King of France, as their ancestors had hated Phillip of
Spain, or as their descendants hated Napoleon. The war meant alliance with
the Dutch, who had been the martyrs, and were the enthusiastic defenders
of toleration and free thought; and it forced English ministers, almost in
spite of themselves, into the most successful piece of statesmanship of
the century, 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 was scribbled over with execrations against the Scots. "Most
damnable Scots," "Scots hell-hounds," "Scotch dogs," "cursed Scots still,"
"hellish Scottish dogs," are a few of his spontaneous flowers of speech.
His prejudices are the prejudices of his class intensified as all passions
were intensified in him. Swift regarded Scotchmen as the most virulent and
dangerous of all dissenters; they were represented to him 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 regarded
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 the 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 antagonists; but at bottom, the
distinction was between squire and parson on one side, tradesmen and
banker on the other.

The domestic politics of the reign of Anne turned upon this difference.
The history is a history of the gradual shifting of government to the Whig
side, and the growing 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 this in mind, Swift's conduct is perfectly intelligible.
His first plunge into politics was in 1701. Poor King William was in the
thick of the perplexities caused by the mysterious perverseness of English
politicians. The king's ministers, supported by the House of Lords, had
lost the command of the House of Commons. It had not yet come to be
understood 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 courtiers, were still highly important factors in the
political situation; as indeed both the composition and the subsequent
behaviour of the Commons could be controlled to a considerable extent by
legitimate and other influences of the Crown. The Commons, unable to make
their will obeyed, proceeded to impeach Somers and other ministers. A
bitter struggle took place between the two Houses, which was suspended by
the summer recess. At this crisis Swift published his _Discourse on the
Dissensions in Athens and Rome_. 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 commonplaces; and the
mode of applying precedents from ancient politics would now strike us as
pedantic. The pamphlet, however, is dignified and well-written, and the
application to the immediate difficulty is pointed. His argument is,
briefly, that the House of Commons is showing a factious, tyrannical
temper, identical in its nature with that of a single tyrant and as
dangerous in its consequences, that it has therefore ceased to reflect the
opinions of its constituents, and has endangered the sacred balance
between the three primary elements of our constitution, upon which its
safe working depends.

The pamphlet was from beginning to end a remonstrance against the
impeachments, and therefore a defence of the Whig lords; for whom
sufficiently satisfactory parallels are vaguely indicated in Pericles,
Aristides, and so forth. It was "greedily bought;" it was attributed to
Somers and to the great Whig bishop, Burnet, who had to disown it for fear
of an impeachment. An Irish bishop, it is said, called Swift a "very
positive young man" for doubting Burnet's authorship; whereupon Swift had
to claim it for himself. Youthful vanity, according to his own account,
induced him to make the admission, which would certainly not have been
withheld 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 liberal in promising him "the greatest
preferments" should they come into power. Before long Swift had another
opportunity which was also a temptation. The Tory House of Commons had
passed the bill against occasional conformity. 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 England without
permanently conforming. It might be fairly argued--as Defoe argued, though
with questionable sincerity--that such a temporary compliance would be
really injurious to dissent. The Church would profit by such an
exhibition of the flexibility of its opponents' principles. Passions were
too much heated for such arguments; and in the winter of 1703-4, people,
says Swift, talked of nothing else. He was "mightily urged by some great
people" to publish his opinion. An argument from a powerful writer, and a
clergyman, against the bill would be very useful to his Whig friends. But
Swift's high church prejudices made him hesitate. The Whig leaders assured
him that nothing should induce them to vote against the bill if they
expected its rejection to hurt the church or "do kindness to the
dissenters." But it is precarious to argue from the professed intentions
of statesmen to their real motives, and yet more precarious to argue to
the consequences of their actions. Swift knew not what to think. He
resolved to think no more. At last he made up his mind to write against
the bill, but he made it up too late. The bill failed to pass; and Swift
felt a relief in dismissing this delicate subject. He might still call
himself a Whig, and exult in the growth of Whiggism. Meanwhile he
persuaded himself that the dissenters and their troubles were beneath his

They were soon to come again to the front. Swift came to London at the end
of 1707, charged with a mission on behalf of his church. Queen Anne's
Bounty was founded in 1704. The crown restored to the church the
first-fruits and tenths which Henry VIII. had diverted from the papal into
his own treasury, and appropriated them to the augmentation of small
livings. It was proposed to get the same boon for the Church of Ireland.
The whole sum amounted to about 1000_l._ a year, with a possibility of an
additional 2000_l._ Swift, who had spoken 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 his influence with Somers and Sunderland. The
negotiation was to give him more trouble than he foresaw, and initiate
him, before he had done with it, into certain secrets of cabinets and
councils which he as yet very imperfectly appreciated. His letters to
King, continued over a long period, throw much light on his motives. Swift
was in England from November, 1707, till March, 1709. The year 1708 was
for him, as he says, a year of suspense, a year of vast importance to his
career, and marked by some characteristic utterances. He hoped to use his
influence with Somers. Somers, though still out of office, was the great
oracle 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 hopes 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 greatest piece of court skill that has
been acted many years." Queen Anne was to take advantage of the growing
alienation of the church party to break her bondage to the Marlboroughs,
and change her ministers. But the attempt was premature, and discomfited
its devisers. Harley was turned out of office; 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 Oudenarde, 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
significant for Swift. He was, as even Whigs admitted, a man of infamous
character, redeemed only by energy and unflinching fidelity to his party.
He was licentious and a freethinker; his infidelity showed itself in the
grossest outrages against common decency. If he had any religious
principle it was a preference of Presbyterians, as sharing his antipathy
to the church. No man could be more radically antipathetic to Swift.
Meanwhile, the success of the Whigs meant in the first instance the
success of the men from whom Swift had promises of preferment. He tried to
use his influence as he had proposed. In June he had an interview about
the first-fruits with Godolphin, to whom he had been recommended by Somers
and Sunderland. Godolphin replied in vague officialisms, suggesting with
studied vagueness that the Irish clergy must show themselves more grateful
than the English. His meaning, as Swift thought, was that the Irish clergy
should consent to a repeal of the Test Act, regarded by them and by him as
the essential bulwark of the Church. Nothing definite, however, was said;
and meanwhile Swift, though he gave no signs of compliance, continued to
hope for his own preferment. When the final triumph of the Whigs came he
was still hoping, though with obvious qualms as to his position. He begged
King (in Nov. 1708) to believe in his fidelity to the church. Offers might
be made to him, but "no prospect of making my fortune shall ever prevail
on me to go against what becomes a man of conscience and truth, and an
entire friend to the established church." He hoped that he might be
appointed secretary to a projected embassy to Vienna, a position which
would put him beyond the region of domestic politics.

Meanwhile he had published certain tracts which may be taken as the
manifesto of his faith at the time when his principles were being most
severely tested. Would he or would he not sacrifice his churchmanship to
the interests of the party with which he was still allied? There can be no
doubt that by an open declaration of Whig principles in church
matters--such a declaration, say, as would have satisfied Burnet--he would
have qualified himself for preferment, and have been in a position to
command the fulfilment of the promises made by Somers and Sunderland.

The writings in question were the _Argument to prove the inconvenience of
abolishing Christianity_; a _Project for the Advancement of Religion_; and
the _Sentiments of a Church of England Man_. The first, as I have said,
was meant to show that the satirical powers which had given offence in the
_Tale of a Tub_, could be applied without equivocation in defence of
Christianity. The _Project_ is a very forcible exposition of a text which
is common enough in all ages--namely, that the particular age of the
writer is one of unprecedented corruption. It shares, however, with
Swift's other writings, the merit of downright sincerity, which convinces
us that the author is not repeating platitudes, but giving his own
experience and speaking from conviction. His proposals for a reform,
though he must have felt them to be chimerical, are conceived in the
spirit common in the days before people had begun to talk about the State
and the individual. He assumes throughout that a vigorous action of the
court and the government will reform the nation. He does not contemplate
the now commonplace objection that such a revival of the 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 thing as to
make men religious. This view--suitable enough to Swift's imperious
temper--was also the general assumption of the time. A suggestion thrown
out in his pamphlet is generally said to have led to the scheme soon
afterwards carried out under Harley's administration for building fifty
new churches in London. A more personal touch is Swift's complaint that
the clergy sacrifice their influence by "sequestering themselves" too
much, and forming a separate caste. This reads a little like an implied
defence of himself for frequenting London coffee-houses, when cavillers
might have argued that he should be at Laracor. But like all Swift's
utterances, it covered a settled principle. I have already noticed this
peculiarity, which he shows elsewhere when describing himself as

  A clergyman of special note
  For shunning others of his coat;
  Which made his brethren of the gown
  Take care betimes to run him down.

The _Sentiments of a Church of England Man_ is more significant. It is a
summary of his unvarying creed. In politics he 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 he
deliberately accepts the revolution on the plain ground of the _salus
populi_. His leading maxim is that the "administration cannot be placed in
too few hands nor the legislature in too many." But this political
liberality is associated with unhesitating churchmanship. Sects are
mischievous: to say that they are mischievous is to say that they ought to
be checked in their beginning; where they exist they should be tolerated,
but not to the injury of the church. And hence he reaches his leading
principle that a "government cannot give them (sects) too much ease, nor
trust them with too little power." Such doctrines clearly and tersely laid
down were little to the taste of the Whigs, who were more anxious than
ever to conciliate the dissenters. But it was not till the end of the year
that Swift applied his abstract theory to a special case. There had been
various symptoms of a disposition to relax the Test Acts in Ireland. The
appointment of Wharton to be Lord Lieutenant was enough to alarm Swift,
even though his friend Addison was to be Wharton's secretary. In December,
1708, he published a pamphlet, ostensibly a letter from a member of the
Irish to a member of the English House of Commons, in which the necessity
of keeping up the Test was vigorously enforced. It is the first of Swift's
political writings in which we see his true power. In those just noticed
he is forced to take an impartial tone. He is trying to reconcile himself
to his alliance with the Whigs, or to reconcile the Whigs to their
protection of himself. He speaks as a moderator, and poses as the
dignified moralist above all party-feeling. But in this letter he throws
the reins upon his humour, and strikes his opponents full in the face.
From his own point of view the pamphlet is admirable. He quotes Cowley's

  Forbid it, heaven, my life should be
  Weighed with thy least conveniency.

The Irish, by which he means the English, and the English exclusively of
the Scotch, in Ireland, represent this enthusiastic lover, and are called
upon to sacrifice themselves to the political conveniency of the Whig
party. Swift expresses his usual wrath against the Scots, who are eating
up the land, boasts of the loyalty of the Irish Church, and taunts the
Presbyterians with their tyranny in former days. Am I to be forced, he
asks, "to keep my chaplain disguised like my butler, and steal to prayers
in a back room, as my grandfather used in those times when 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 bound
lion means the Catholic natives, whom Swift declares to be as
"inconsiderable as the women and children."

Meanwhile the long first-fruits negotiation was languidly 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 disappointment
followed. The promise made had never been fulfilled. In March, 1709, Swift
had again to write to the Archbishop, recounting his failure, his attempt
to remonstrate with Wharton, the new Lord Lieutenant, 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 Mæcenas, and the Bufo of Pope, wrote to
him in his retirement at Dublin, declaring that he had "entered into a
confederacy with Mr. Addison" to urge Swift's claims upon Government, and
speaking of the declining health of South, then a Prebendary of
Westminster. Swift endorsed this "I lock up this letter as a true original
of courtiers and court promises," and wrote in a volume he had begged from
the same person that it was the only favour "he ever received from him or
his party." In the last months of his stay he had suffered cruelly from
his old giddiness, and he went to Ireland, after a visit to his mother in
Leicester, in sufficiently gloomy mood; retired to Laracor, and avoided
any intercourse with the authorities at the Castle, excepting always

To this it is necessary to add one remark. Swift's version of the story is
substantially that which I have given, and it is everywhere confirmed by
contemporary letters. It shows that he separated from the Whig party when
at the height of their power, and separated because he thought them
opposed to the church principles which he advocated from first to last. It
is most unjust, therefore to speak of Swift as a deserter from the Whigs,
because he afterwards joined 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
principles with which they have started. But such charges have generally
an element of truth; and it is easy here to point out what was the really
weak point in Swift's position.

Swift's writings, with one or two trifling exceptions, were originally
anonymous. As they were 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 sufficient protection against
legal prosecution, but in reality covering an open secret. When in the
_Sentiments of a Church of England Man_ Swift professes to conceal his
name carefully, it may be doubted how far this is to be taken seriously.
But he went much further in the letter on the Test Act. He inserted a
passage intended really to blind his adversaries by a suggestion that Dr.
Swift was likely to write in favour of abolishing the test; and he even
complains to King of the unfairness of this treatment. His assault,
therefore, upon the supposed Whig policy was clandestine. This may
possibly be justified; he might even urge that he was still a Whig, and
was warning ministers against measures which they had not yet adopted, and
from which, as he thinks, they may still be deterred by an alteration of
the real Irish feeling.[20] He complained afterwards that he was
ruined--that is, as to his chances of preferment from the party--by the
suspicion of his authorship of this tract. That is to say, he was "ruined"
by the discovery of his true sentiments. This is to admit that he was
still ready to accept preferment from the men whose supposed policy he was
bitterly attacking, 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 he 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 inconsistency of this kind is characteristic of Swift.
He thought the Whigs scoundrels for not patronizing him, and not the less
scoundrels because their conduct was consistent with their own scoundrelly
principles. People who differ from me must be wicked, argued this
consistent egotist, and their refusal to reward me is only an additional
wickedness. 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. Yet he had to
ordinary minds forfeited any right to make non-fulfilment a grievance,
when he ought to have regarded performance as a disgrace.



In the autumn of 1710 Swift was approaching the end of his forty-third
year. A man may well feel at forty-two that it is high time that a post
should have been assigned to him. Should an opportunity be then, and not
till then, put in his way, he feels that he is throwing for heavy stakes;
and that failure, if failure should follow, would be irretrievable. Swift
had been longing vainly for an opening. In the remarkable letter (of
April, 1722) from which I have quoted the anecdote of the lost fish, he
says that, "all my endeavours 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 office 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 conviction. Swift was ambitious, and his ambition
meant an absolute need of imposing his will upon others. He was a man born
to rule; not to affect thought, but to control conduct. He was therefore
unable to find full occupation, though he might seek occasional
distraction, in literary pursuits. Archbishop King, who had a strange
knack of irritating his correspondent--not, it seems, without
intention--annoyed Swift intensely in 1711 by advising him (most
superfluously) to get preferment, and with that view to write a serious
treatise upon some theological question. Swift, who was in the thick of
his great political struggle, answered that it was absurd 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 himself, and then look about 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 achievements. To a man of such a temperament, his career
must so 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. Doubtless Swift was not
always fretting over fruitless prospects. He was often eating his dinner
in peace and quiet, and even amusing himself with watching the Moor Park
rooks or the Laracor trout. Yet it is true that so far as a man's
happiness depends upon 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, and his
struggles to get upon his own legs had been fruitless: on Temple's death
he managed when past thirty to wring from fortune a position of bare
independence, not of satisfying activity, he had not gained a fulcrum from
which to move the world, but only a bare starting-point whence he might
continue to work. The promises from great men had come to nothing. He
might perhaps have realized them, could he have consented to be faithless
to his dearest convictions; the consciousness that he had so far
sacrificed his position to his principles gave him no comfort, though it
nourished his pride. His enforced reticence produced an irritation against
the ministers whom it had been intended to conciliate, which deepened into
bitter resentment for their neglect. The year and a half passed in Ireland
during 1709-10 was a period in which his day-dreams must have had a
background of disappointed hopes. "I stayed above half the time," he says,
"in one scurvy acre of ground, and I always left it with regret." He shut
himself up at Laracor, and nourished a growing indignation against the
party represented by Wharton.

Yet events were moving rapidly in England, and opening a new path for his
ambition. The Whigs were in full possession of power, though 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 Sacheverell in the winter of
1709-10, if not directed by personal spite, was meant to intimidate the
high-flying Tories. It enabled the Whig leaders to indulge in a vast
quantity of admirable constitutional rhetoric; but it supplied the High
Church party with a martyr and a cry, and gave the needed impetus to the
growing discontent. The queen took heart to revolt against the
Marlboroughs; the Whig Ministry were turned out of office; Harley became
Chancellor of the Exchequer in August; and the parliament was dissolved in
September, 1710, to be replaced in November by one in which the Tories had
an overwhelming majority.

We are left to guess at the feelings with which Swift contemplated these
changes. Their effect upon his personal prospects was still problematical.
In spite of his wrathful retirement, there was no open breach between him
and the Whigs. 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, he started for England once more with
great reluctance in order again to take up the weary Firstfruits
negociation. Wharton, whose hostility had intercepted the proposed bounty,
went with his party, and was succeeded 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 almost any of
his contemporaries. The famous _Journal to Stella_, a series of letters
written to Esther Johnson and Mrs. Dingley, from September, 1710, till
April, 1713, is the main and central source of information. Before telling
the story, a word or two may be said of the nature of this document, one
of the most interesting that ever threw light upon the history of a man of
genius. The _Journal_ is one of the very few that were clearly written
without the faintest thought of publication. There is no indication of
any such intention in the _Journal to Stella_. It never occurred to Swift
that it could ever be seen by any but the persons primarily interested.
The journal rather shuns politics; they will not interest his
correspondent, and he is afraid of the post-office clerks--then and long
afterwards often employed as spies. Interviews 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 there 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 considered
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 bare 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 hurries out at intervals; pours
out a kind of hasty bulletin; tells of some thrilling incident, or
indicates some threatening symptom; more frequently he seeks to relieve
his anxieties by indulging in a little personal gossip, and only
interjects such comments upon politics as can be compressed into a hasty
ejaculation, often, as may be supposed, of the imprecatory kind. Yet he
unconsciously betrays his hopes and fears; he is fresh from the thick of
the fight, and we perceive that his nerves are still quivering, and that
his phrases are glowing with the ardour of the struggle. Hopes and fears
are long since faded, and the struggle itself is now but a war of
phantoms. Yet with the help of the _Journal_ and contemporary documents,
we can revive for the moment the decaying images, and cheat ourselves into
the momentary persuasion that the fate of the world depends upon Harley's
success, as we now hold it to depend upon Mr. Gladstone's.

Swift reached London on September 7th, 1710; the political revolution was
in full action, though Parliament was not yet dissolved. The Whigs were
"ravished to see him;" they clutched at him, he says, like drowning men at
a twig, and the great men made him their "clumsy apologies." Godolphin was
"short, dry and morose;" Somers tried to make explanations, which Swift
received with studied coldness. The ever-courteous Halifax 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 his attentions, and was always entreating him to go down to
Hampton Court; "which will cost me a guinea to his servants, and twelve
shillings coach hire, and I will see him hanged first." Swift, however,
retained his old friendship with the wits of the party; dined with Addison
at his retreat in Chelsea, and sent a trifle or two to the _Tatler_. The
elections began in October; Swift had to drive through a rabble of
Westminster electors, judiciously 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 triumphant in every direction. And meanwhile,
the Tory leaders were delightfully civil.

On the 4th of October Swift was introduced to Harley, getting himself
described (with undeniable truth) "as a discontented person, who was ill
used for not being Whig enough." The poor Whigs lamentably confess, he
says, their ill usage of him, "but I mind them 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
should live from hand to mouth.[21] Yet his prolonged influence in
Parliament seems to indicate some personal attraction, which was
perceptible to his contemporaries, though rather puzzling to us. All
Swift's panegyrics leave the secret in obscurity. Harley seems indeed to
have been eminently respectable and decorously religious, amiable in
personal intercourse, and able to say nothing in such a way as to suggest
profundity instead of emptiness. His reputation as a party manager was
immense; and is partly justified by his quick recognition of Swift's
extraordinary qualifications. 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. Some 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." Three days later (Oct. 7th) the firstfruits business
is discussed, and Harley received the proposals as warmly as became a
friend of the Church, besides overwhelming Swift with civilities. Swift is
to be introduced to St. John; to dine with Harley next Tuesday; and after
an interview of four hours, the minister sets him down at St James's
Coffee-house in a hackney coach. "All this is odd and comical!" exclaims
Swift; "he knew my Christian name very well," and, as we hear next day,
begged Swift to come to him often, but not to his levée: "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 firstfruits business, over
which the Whigs had haggled for years, settled by the following Sunday.
Swift's exultation 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,
he says of the sort was ever compassed so soon; "and purely done by my
personal 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 Nov.
8th sums up his sentiments. "Why," he says in answer to something from
Stella, "should the Whigs think I came from Ireland to leave them? Sure my
journey was no secret! I protest sincerely, I did all I could to hinder
it, as the dean can tell you, 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 prejudices and his personal resentments are fused into
indissoluble unity. Hatred of Whig principles and resentment of Whig
"ill-usage" of himself, are one and the same thing. Meanwhile, Swift was
able (on Nov. 4) to announce his triumph to the Archbishop. He was greatly
annoyed by an incident, of which he must also have seen the humorous side.
The Irish bishops had bethought themselves after Swift's departure that he
was too much of a Whig to be an effective solicitor. They proposed
therefore to take the matter out of his hands and apply to Ormond, the new
Lord Lieutenant. Swift replied indignantly; the thing was done, however,
and he 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 Ireland; but we need not trouble ourselves
with the matter further.

Swift's unprecedented 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 his 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, Harley offered him a
fifty-pound note. This was virtually to treat him as a hireling instead of
an ally. Swift resented the offer as an intolerable affront. He refused to
be reconciled without ample apology, and after long entreaties. His pride
was not appeased for ten days, when the reconciliation was sealed by an
invitation from Harley to a Saturday dinner.[22] On Saturdays, the Lord
Keeper (Harcourt) and the Secretary of State (St. John) dined alone with
Harley: "and at last," says Swift, in reporting the event, "they have
consented to let me among them on that day." He goes next day, and already
chides Lord Rivers for presuming to intrude into the sacred circle. "They
call me nothing but Jonathan," he adds; "and I said I believed they would
leave me Jonathan, as they found me." These dinners were continued, though
they became less select. Harley called Saturday his "whipping-day;" and
Swift was the heartiest wielder of the lash. From the same February, Swift
began to dine regularly 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 suffer no man to swear or talk indecently in
his presence.

Swift had thus conquered the ministry at a blow. What services did he
render in exchange? His extraordinary influence seems to have been due in
a measure to sheer force of personal ascendency. No man could come into
contact with Swift without feeling that magnetic influence. But he was
also doing a more tangible service. In thus admitting 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
little better than spies. No preceding, and, we may add, no succeeding
writer ever achieved such a position by such means. The press has become
more powerful as a whole: but no particular representative of the press
has made such a leap into power. Swift came at the time when the influence
of political writing was already great: and when the personal favour of a
prominent minister could still work miracles. Harley made him a favourite
of the old stamp, to reward his supremacy in the use of the new weapon.

Swift had begun in October by avenging himself upon Godolphin's coldness,
in a copy of Hudibrastic verses about the virtues of Sid Hamet 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 which 2000 copies were
sold in two days. Libellous, indeed, is a faint epithet to describe a
production which, if its statements be true, proves that Wharton deserved
to be hunted from society. Charges of lying, treachery, atheism,
Presbyterianism, debauchery, indecency, shameless indifference to his own
reputation and his wife's, the vilest corruption and tyranny in his
government are piled upon his victim as thickly as they will stand. Swift
does not expect to sting Wharton. "I neither love nor hate him," he says.
"If I see him after this is published, he will tell me 'that he is
damnably mauled;' and then, with the easiest transition in the world, ask
about the weather, or the time of day." Wharton might possibly think that
abuse of this kind might almost defeat itself by its own virulence. But
Swift had already begun writings of a more statesmanlike and effective

A paper war was already raging when Swift came to London. The _Examiner_
had been started by St. John, with the help of Atterbury, Prior, and
others; and, opposed for a short time by Addison, in the _Whig Examiner_.
Harley, after granting the first-fruits, had told Swift, that the great
want of the ministry was "some good pen," to keep up the spirits of the
party. The _Examiner_, however, was in need of a firmer and more regular
manager; and Swift took it in hand, his first weekly article appearing
November 2nd, 1710, his last on June 14th, 1711. His _Examiners_ achieved
an immediate and unprecedented success. And yet to say the truth, a modern
reader is apt to find them decidedly heavy. No one, indeed, can fail to
perceive the masculine sense, the terseness and precision of the
utterance. And yet many writings which produced less effect are far 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 is to be gauged by their
effect. Swift cares nothing for eloquence, or logic, or invective--and
little, it must be added, for veracity--so long as he hits his mark. To
judge him by a merely literary standard, is to judge a fencer by the grace
of his attitudes. Some high literary merits are implied in efficiency, as
real grace is necessary to efficient fencing: but in either case, a clumsy
blow which reaches the heart is better than the most dexterous flourish in
the air. Swift's eye is always on the end, as a good marksman looks at
nothing but the target.

What, then, is Swift's aim in the _Examiner_? Mr. Kinglake has told us how
a great journal throve by discovering what was the remark that was on
every one's lips, and making the remark its own. Swift had the more
dignified 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 phrases just what they would themselves have said--if they
had been able. The shrewd, sturdy, narrow prejudices of the average
Englishman were to be pressed into the service of the ministry, by
showing how admirably they could be clothed in the ministerial formulas.

The real question, again, as Swift saw, was the question of peace. Whig
and Tory, as he said afterwards,[23] were really obsolete words. The true
point at issue was peace or war. The purpose, therefore, was to take up
his ground so that peace might be represented as the natural policy of the
church or Tory party; and war as the natural 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 Jacobitism, but the plain
dictate of a cool and impartial judgment. He was not to prove but to take
for granted that the war had become intolerably burdensome; and to express
the growing wish for peace in terms likely to conciliate the greatest
number of supporters. He was to lay down the platform 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 _Examiners_ are admirable.
Their very fitness for the end implies the absence of some qualities which
would have been more attractive to posterity. Stirring appeals to
patriotic sentiment may suit a Chatham rousing 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 been 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. He could roundly accuse Cowper of bigamy, and
Somers--the Somers whom he had elaborately praised some years before in
the dedication to the _Tale of a Tub_--of the most abominable perversion
of justice. But these are taunts thrown out by the way. The substance of
the articles is not invective, but profession of political faith. One
great name, indeed, is of necessity assailed. Marlborough's fame was a
tower of strength for the Whigs. His duchess and his colleagues had
fallen; but whilst war was still raging, it seemed impossible to dismiss
the greatest living commander. Yet whilst Marlborough was still in power,
his influence might be used to bring back his party. Swift's treatment of
this great adversary is significant. He constantly took credit for having
suppressed many attacks[24] upon Marlborough. He was convinced that it
would be dangerous for the country to dismiss a general whose very name
carried victory.[25] He felt that it was dangerous for the party to make
an unreserved attack upon the popular hero. Lord Rivers, he says, cursed
the _Examiner_ to him for speaking civilly of Marlborough; and St. John,
upon hearing of this, replied that if the counsels of such men as Rivers
were taken, the ministry "would be blown up in twenty-four hours." Yet
Marlborough 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,[26] is certainly a vile man, and has no sort of merit except the
military--as "covetous as hell, and as ambitious as the prince of
it."[27] The whole case of the ministry implied the condemnation of
Marlborough. Most modern historians would admit that continuance of the
war could at this time be desired only by fanatics or interested persons.
A psychologist might amuse himself by inquiring what were the actual
motives of its advocates; in what degrees personal ambition, a misguided
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 Swift's patrons was simple. The war was the creation
of the Whig "ring;" it was carried on for their own purposes by the
stock-jobbers and "monied men," whose rise was a new political phenomenon,
and who had introduced the diabolical contrivance of public debts. The
landed interest and the church had been hoodwinked too long by the union
of corrupt interests supported by Dutchmen, Scotchmen, dissenters,
freethinkers, and other manifestations of the evil principle. Marlborough
was the head and patron of the whole. And what was Marlborough's motive?
The answer was simple. It was that which has been assigned, with even more
emphasis, by Macaulay--Avarice. The twenty-seventh _Examiner_ (Feb. 8th,
1711) probably contains the compliments to which Rivers objected. Swift,
in fact, admits that Marlborough had all the great qualities generally
attributed to him; but all are spoilt by this fatal blemish. How far the
accusation 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 corrupt self-interest. Invective, as
Swift knew well enough in his cooler moments, is a dangerous weapon, apt
to recoil on the assailant unless it carries conviction. The attack on
Marlborough does not betray personal animosity; but the deliberate and the
highly plausible judgment of a man determined to call things by their
right names, and not to be blinded by military glory.

This, indeed, is one of the points upon which Swift's Toryism was unlike
that of some later periods. He always disliked and despised soldiers and
their trade. "It will no doubt be a mighty comfort to our grandchildren,"
he says in another pamphlet,[28] "when they see a few rags hung up in
Westminster Hall which cost a hundred millions, whereof they are paying
the arrears, to boast as beggars do that their grandfathers were rich and
great." And in other respects he has some right to claim the adhesion of
thorough Whigs. His personal attacks, indeed, upon the party have a
questionable sound. In his zeal he constantly forgets that the corrupt
ring which he denounces were the very men from whom he expected
preferment. "I well remember," he says[29] elsewhere, "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 nothing"--rather an awkward remark from
a man who was calling Somers "a false, deceitful rascal" for not giving
him a bishopric! His eager desire to make the "ungrateful dogs" repent
their ill-usage of him prompts attacks which injure his 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 curiously 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 in days of depression. Swift's
dislike of what we now call "militarism" really went deeper than any party
sentiment; and in that sense, as we shall hereafter see, it had really
most affinity with a radicalism which would have shocked Whigs and Tories
alike. But in this particular case it fell in with the Tory sentiment. The
masculine vigour of the _Examiners_ served the ministry, who were scarcely
less in danger from the excessive zeal of their more bigoted followers
than from the resistance of the Whig minority. The pig-headed country
squires had formed an October Club, to muddle themselves with beer and
politics, and hoped--good honest souls--to drive ministers into a genuine
attack on the corrupt practices of their predecessors. All Harley's skill
in intriguing and wire-pulling would be needed. The ministry, said Swift
(on March 4th), "stood like an isthmus" between Whigs and violent Tories.
He trembled for the result. They are able seamen, but the tempest "is too
great, the ship too rotten, and the crew all against them." Somers had
been twice in the queen's closet. The Duchess of Somerset, who had
succeeded the Duchess of Marlborough, might be trying to play Mrs.
Masham's game. Harley, "though the most fearless man alive," seemed to be
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." Harley had been
stabbed by Guiscard (March 8th, 1711) at the council-board. Swift's
letters and journals show an agitation, in which personal affection seems
to be even stronger than political anxiety. "Pray pardon my distraction,"
he says to Stella, in broken sentences. "I now think of all his kindness
to me. The poor creature now lies stabbed in his bed by a desperate French
popish villain. Good night, and God bless you both, and pity me; I want
it." He wrote to King under the same excitement. Harley, he says, "has
always treated me with the tenderness of a parent, and never refused me
any favour I asked for a friend; therefore I hope your Grace will excuse
the character of this letter." He apologizes again in a postscript 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 effect seems to have been that Harley became
popular as the intended victim of an hypothetical Popish conspiracy; he
introduced an applauded financial scheme in Parliament after his recovery,
and was soon afterwards made Earl of Oxford by way of consolation. "This
man," exclaimed Swift, "has grown by persecutions, turnings out, and
stabbings. What waiting and crowding and bowing there will be at his

Swift had meanwhile (April 26) retired to Chelsea "for the air," and to
have the advantage of a compulsory walk into town (two miles, or 5748
steps each way, he calculates). He was liable, indeed, to disappointment
on a rainy day, when "all the three stage-coaches" were taken up by the
"cunning 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 servant, Patrick, standing on the bank to warn off passing boats.
The said Patrick, who is always getting drunk, whom Swift cannot find it
in his heart to dismiss in England, who atones for his general
carelessness and lying by buying a linnet for Dingley, making it wilder
than ever in his attempts to tame it, is a characteristic figure in the
journal. In June Swift gets ten days' holiday at Wycombe, and in the
summer he goes down pretty often with the ministers to Windsor. He came to
town in two hours and forty minutes on one occasion: "twenty miles are
nothing here." The journeys are described in one of the happiest of his
occasional poems--

  'Tis (let me see) three years or more
  (October next it will be four)
  Since Harley bid me first attend
  And chose me for an humble friend:
  Would take me in his coach to chat
  And question me of this or that:
  As "What's o'clock?" and "How's the wind?"
  "Whose chariot's that we left behind?"
  Or gravely try to read the lines
  Writ underneath the country signs.
  Or, "Have you nothing new to-day,
  From Pope, from Parnell, or from Gay?"
  Such tattle often entertains
  My lord and me as far as Staines,
  As once a week we travel down
  To Windsor, and again to town,
  Where all that passes _inter nos_
  Might be proclaimed at Charing Cross.

And when, it is said, St. John was disgusted by the frivolous amusements
of his companions; and his political discourses might be interrupted by
Harley's exclamation, "Swift, I am up; there's a cat"--the first who saw a
cat or an old woman, winning the game.

Swift and Harley were soon playing a more exciting 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-house officers, and the fact of his journey became
public. Swift took advantage of the general interest by a pamphlet
intended to "bite the town." Its political purpose, according to Swift,
was to "furnish fools with something to talk of;" to draw a false scent
across the trail of the angry and suspicious Whigs. It seems difficult to
believe that any such effect could be produced or anticipated; but the
pamphlet, which purports to be an 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 struggle. Parliament
was to meet in September. The Whigs resolved to make a desperate effort.
They had lost the House of Commons, but were still strong in the Peers.
The Lords were not affected by the rapid oscillations of public opinion.
They were free from some of the narrower prejudices 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. Marlborough
and Godolphin had come over to the Whig junto, and an additional alliance
was now made. Nottingham had been passed over by Harley, as it seems, for
his extreme Tory principles. In his wrath, he made an agreement with the
other extreme. By one of the most disgraceful bargains of party history,
Nottingham was to join the Whigs in attacking the peace, whilst the Whigs
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 victory. The Government of England, says Swift in
1715,[30] "cannot move a step while the House of Commons continues to
dislike proceedings or persons employed." But the plot went further. The
House of Lords might bring about a deadlock, as it had done before. The
queen, having thrown off the rule of the Duchess of Marlborough, had
sought safety in the rule of two mistresses, Mrs. Masham 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 the
ministry. She might induce Anne to call back the Whigs, and in a new House
of Commons, elected under a Whig ministry wielding the crown influence and
appealing to the dread of a discreditable peace, the majority might be
reversed. Meanwhile Prince Eugene was expected to pay a visit to England,
bringing fresh proposals for war, and stimulating by his 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
wherret them, I warrant, 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 suspecting 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 parliamentary struggle comes
nearer, Swift launches the pamphlet which has been his summer's work. The
_Conduct of the Allies_ is intended to prove what he had taken for granted
in the _Examiners_. It is to show, that is, that the war has ceased to be
demanded by national interests. We ought always to have been auxiliaries;
we chose to become principals; and have yet so conducted the war that all
the advantages have gone to the Dutch. The explanation of course is the
selfishness or corruption of the great Whig junto. The pamphlet, forcible
and terse in the highest degree, had a success due in part to other
circumstances. It was as much a State paper as a pamphlet; a manifesto
obviously inspired by the ministry and containing the facts and papers
which were to serve in the coming debates. It was published on Nov. 27th;
on December 1st the second edition was sold in five hours; and by the end
of January 11,000 copies had been sold. The parliamentary struggle began
on December 7th; 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 danger; he had
begged ministers to work up the majority; and the defeat was due to
Harley's carelessness. It was Swift's temper to anticipate though not to
yield to the worst. He could see nothing but ruin. Every rumour increased
his fears, The queen had taken the hand of the Duke of Somerset on leaving
the House of Lords, and refused Shrewsbury's. She must be going over.
Swift, in his despair, asked St. John to find him some foreign post, where
he might be out of harm's way if the Whigs should triumph. St. John
laughed and affected courage, but Swift refused to be comforted. Harley
told him that "all would be well;" but Harley 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 the consequences." By
degrees a little hope began to appear; though the ministry, as Swift still
held, could expect nothing till the Duchess of Somerset was turned out. By
way of accelerating this event, he hit upon a plan, which he had reason to
repent, and which nothing but his excitement could explain. He composed
and printed one of his favourite squibs, the _Windsor Prophecy_, and
though Mrs. Masham persuaded him not to publish it, distributed too many
copies for secrecy to be possible. In this production, now dull enough, he
calls the duchess "carrots," as a delicate hint at her red hair, and says
that she murdered her second husband.[31] These statements, even if true,
were not conciliatory; and it was folly to irritate without injuring.
Meanwhile reports of ministerial plans gave him a little courage; and in a
day or two the secret was out. He was on his way to the post on Saturday,
December 28th, when the great news came. The ministry had resolved on
something like a _coup d'état_, to be long mentioned with horror by all
orthodox Whigs and Tories. "I have broke open my letter," scribbled Swift
in a coffee-house, "and tore it into the bargain, to let you know that we
are all safe. The queen has made no less than twelve new peers ... and has
turned out the Duke of Somerset. She is awaked at last, and so is Lord
Treasurer. I want nothing now but to see the duchess out. But we shall do
without her. We are all extremely happy. Give me joy, sirrahs!" The Duke
of Somerset was not out; but a greater event happened within three days;
the Duke of Marlborough was removed from all his employments. The Tory
victory was for the time complete.

Here, too, was the culminating point of Swift's career. Fifteen months of
energetic effort had been crowned with success. He was the intimate of the
greatest men in the country; and the most powerful exponent of their
policy. No man in England, outside the ministry, enjoyed a wider
reputation. The ball was at his feet; and no position open to a clergyman
beyond his hopes. Yet from this period begins a decline. He continued to
write, publishing numerous squibs, of which many have been lost, and
occasionally firing a gun of heavier metal. But nothing came from him
having the authoritative and masterly 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, giddiness, gave him frequent
alarms. The daily journal ceased, and was not fairly resumed till
December, though its place is partly supplied by occasional letters. The
political contest had changed its character. The centre of interest was
transferred to Utrecht, where negotiations began in January, 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

Swift's personal influence remained or increased. He drew closer to
Oxford, but was still friendly with St. John; and to the public his
position seemed more imposing than ever. Swift was not the man to bear his
honours meekly. In the early period of his acquaintance with St. John
(February 12, 1711), he sends the Prime Minister into the House of
Commons, to tell the Secretary of State that "I would not dine with him if
he dined late." He is still a novice at the Saturday dinners when the Duke
of Shrewsbury appears: Swift whispers that he does not like to see a
stranger among them; and St. John has to explain that the Duke has written
for leave. St. John then tells Swift that the Duke of Buckingham desires
his acquaintance. The Duke, replied Swift, has not made sufficient
advances: and he always expects greater advances from men in proportion to
their rank. Dukes and great men yielded, if only to humour the pride of
this audacious parson: and Swift soon came to be pestered by innumerable
applicants, attracted by his ostentation of influence. Even ministers
applied through him. "There is not one of them," he says, in January,
1713, "but what will employ me as gravely to speak for them to Lord
Treasurer, as if I were their brother or his." He 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, is in a familiar passage from Bishop
Kennett's diary:--

    "Swift," says Kennett, in 1713, "came into the coffee-house, and had a
    bow from everybody but me. When I came to the antechamber to wait
    before prayers, Dr. Swift was the principal man of talk and business,
    and acted as minister of requests. He was soliciting the Earl of Arran
    to speak to his brother the Duke of Ormond to get a chaplain's place
    established in the garrison of Hull, for Mr. Fiddes, a clergyman in
    that neighbourhood, who had lately been in jail, and published sermons
    to pay fees. He was promising Mr. Thorold to undertake with my Lord
    Treasurer that according to his petition he should obtain a salary of
    200_l._ per annum, as minister of the English Church at Rotterdam. He
    stopped F. Gwynne, Esq., going in with the red bag to the queen, and
    told him aloud he had something to say to him from my Lord Treasurer.
    He talked with the son of Dr. Davenant to be sent abroad, and took out
    his pocket-book and wrote down several things as _memoranda_, to do
    for him. He turned to the fire, and took out his gold watch, and
    telling him the time of day, complained it was very late. A gentleman
    said, "it was too fast." "How can I help it," says the Doctor, "if the
    courtiers give me a watch that won't go right?" Then he instructed a
    young nobleman that the best poet in England was Mr. Pope (a Papist),
    who had begun a translation of Homer into English verse, for which, he
    said, he must have them all subscribe. 'For,' says he, 'the author
    _shall not_ begin to print till _I have_ a thousand guineas for him.'
    Lord Treasurer, after leaving the Queen, came through the room,
    beckoning Dr. Swift to follow him; both went off just before prayers."

There is undoubtedly something offensive in this blustering
self-assertion. "No man," says Johnson, with his usual force, "can pay a
more servile tribute to the great than by suffering his liberty in their
presence to aggrandize him in his own esteem." Delicacy was not Swift's
strong point; his compliments are as clumsy as his invectives are
forcible; and he shows a certain taint of vulgarity in his intercourse
with social dignitaries. He is perhaps avenging himself for the
humiliations received at Moor Park. He has a Napoleonic absence of
magnanimity. He likes to relish his triumph; to accept the pettiest as
well as the greatest rewards; to flaunt his splendours in the eyes of the
servile as well as to enjoy the consciousness of real power. But it would
be a great mistake to infer that this ostentatiousness of authority
concealed real servility. Swift preferred to take the bull by the horns.
He forced himself upon ministers by self-assertion; and he held them in
awe of him as the lion-tamer keeps down the latent ferocity of the wild
beast. He never takes his eye off his subjects, nor lowers his imperious
demeanour. He retained his influence, as Johnson observes, long after his
services had ceased to be useful. And all this demonstrative 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,[32] and that Fiddes got the chaplaincy at Hull. No man ever
threw himself with more energy into the service of his friends. He
declared afterwards that in the days of his credit he had done fifty times
more for fifty people, from whom he had received no obligations, than
Temple had done for him.[33] The journal abounds in proofs that this was
not overstated. There is "Mr. Harrison," for example, 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 _Tatler_; exults in getting him a
secretaryship abroad, which he declares to be "the prettiest post in
Europe for a young gentleman;" and is most unaffectedly and deeply grieved
when the poor lad dies of a fever. He is carrying 100_l._ to his young
friend, when he hears of his death. "I told Parnell I was afraid to knock
at the door, my mind misgave me," 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 desire to be acquainted with Parnell,
and not Parnell 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 easy, and that is a good day's work."[34] One of the latest
letters in his journal refers to his attempt to serve his other
schoolfellow, Berkeley. "I will favour him as much as I can," he says;
"this I think I am bound to in honour and conscience, to use all my little
credit toward helping forward men of worth in the world." He was always
helping less conspicuous men; and he prided himself, with justice, that he
had been as helpful to Whigs as to Tories. The ministry complained that he
never came to them "without a Whig in his sleeve." Besides his friend
Congreve, he recommended Rowe for preferment, and did his best to protect
Steele and Addison. No man of letters ever laboured more heartily to
promote the interests of his fellow-craftsmen, as few have ever had
similar opportunities.

Swift, it is plain, desired to use his influence magnificently. He hoped
to make his reign memorable by splendid patronage of literature. The great
organ of munificence was the famous Brothers' Club, of which he was the
animating spirit. It was founded in June, 1711, during Swift's absence at
Wycombe; it was intended to "advance conversation and friendship," and
obtain patronage for deserving persons. It was to include none but wits
and men able to help wits, and, "if we go on as we begun," says Swift, "no
other club in this town will be worth talking of." In March, 1712, it
consisted, as Swift tells us, of nine lords and ten commoners.[35] It
excluded Harley and the Lord Keeper (Harcourt) apparently as they were to
be the distributors of the patronage; but it included St. John and several
leading ministers, Harley's son and son-in-law, and Harcourt's son; whilst
literature was represented by Swift, Arbuthnot, Prior, and Friend, all of
whom were more or less actively employed by the ministry. The club was
therefore composed of the ministry and their dependents, though it had not
avowedly a political colouring. It dined on Thursday during the
Parliamentary session, when the political squibs of the day were often
laid on the table, including Swift's famous _Windsor Prophecy_, and
subscriptions were sometimes collected for such men as Diaper and
Harrison. It flourished, however, for little more than the first season.
In the winter of 1712-13 it began to suffer from the common disease of
such institutions. Swift began to complain bitterly of the extravagance of
the charges. He gets the club to leave a tavern in which the bill[36] "for
four dishes and four, first and second course, without wine and drink,"
had been 21_l._ 6_s._ 8_d._ The number of guests, it seems, was fourteen.
Next winter the charges are divided. "It cost me nineteen shillings to-day
for my club dinner," notes Swift, Dec. 18, 1712. "I don't like it." Swift
had a high value for every one of the nineteen shillings. The meetings
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 his health. He constantly complains
of their after-effects; and partly perhaps for that reason he early ceases
to frequent coffee-houses. Perhaps too his contempt for coffee-house
society, and the increasing dignity which made it desirable to keep
possible applicants at a distance, had much to do with this. The Brothers'
Club, however, was long remembered by its members, and in later years they
often address each other by the old fraternal title.

One design which was to have signalized Swift's period of power, suggested
the only paper which he had ever published with his name. It was a
"proposal for correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English
language," published in May, 1712, in the form of a letter to Harley. The
letter itself, written offhand in six hours (Feb. 21, 1712), is not of
much value; but Swift recurs to the subject frequently enough to show that
he really hoped to be the founder of an English Academy. Had Swift been
his own minister instead of the driver of a minister, the project might
have been started. The rapid development of the political struggle sent
Swift's academy to the limbo provided for such things; and few English
authors will regret the failure of a scheme unsuited to our natural
idiosyncrasy, and calculated, as I fancy, to end in nothing but an
organization of pedantry.

One remark meanwhile occurs which certainly struck Swift himself. He says
(March 17, 1712) that Sacheverel, the Tory martyr, has come to him for
patronage, and observes that when he left Ireland neither of them could
have anticipated such a relationship. "This," he adds, "is the seventh I
have now provided for since I came, and can do nothing for myself." Hints
at a desire for preferment do not appear for some time; but as he is
constantly speaking of an early return to Ireland, and 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 Harley, when the minister became Earl of Oxford. "I will be no man's
chaplain alive," he says. He remarks about the same time (May 23, 1711)
that it "would look extremely little" if he returned without some
distinction; but he will not beg for preferment. The ministry, he says in
the following August, only want him for one bit of business (the _Conduct
of the Allies_ presumably). When that is 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. He had
made considerable preparations for his so-called _History of the Last Four
Years of Queen Anne_, which appeared posthumously; and which may be
described as one of his political pamphlets without the vigour[37]--a dull
statement of facts put together by a partisan affecting the historical
character. This application, however, was not made till April, 1714, when
Swift was possessed of all the preferment that he was destined to receive.
He considered in his haughty way that he should be entreated rather than
entreat; and ministers were perhaps slow to give him anything which could
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 the House of Lords as a divine "who is hardly suspected of being
a Christian." Such insinuations were also turned to account by the Duchess
of Somerset, who retained her influence over Anne in spite of Swift's
attacks. His journal in the winter of 1712-13 shows growing discontent. In
December, 1712, he resolves to write no more till something is done for
him. He will get under shelter before he makes more enemies. He declares
that he is "soliciting nothing" (February 4, 1713), but he is growing
impatient. Harley is kinder than ever. "Mighty kind!" exclaims Swift,
"with a ----; less of civility and more of interest;" or as he puts it in
one of his favourite "proverbs" soon afterwards--"my grandmother used to

  More of your lining
  And less of your dining."

At last Swift, hearing that he was again to be passed over, gave a
positive intimation that he would retire if nothing was done; adding that
he should complain of Harley for nothing but neglecting to inform him
sooner of the hopelessness of his position.[38] The dean of St. Patrick's
was at last promoted to a bishopric, and Swift appointed to the vacant
deanery. The warrant was signed on April 23, and in June Swift set out to
take possession of his deanery. It was no great prize; he would have to
pay 1000_l._ for the house and fees, and thus, he says, it would be three
years before he would be the richer for it; and, moreover, it involved
what he already described as "banishment" to a country which he hated.

His state of mind when entering upon his preferment was painfully
depressed. "At my first coming," he writes to Miss Vanhomrigh, "I thought
I should have died with discontent; and was horribly melancholy while they
were installing me; but it begins to wear off, and change to dulness."
This depression is singular, when we remember that Swift was returning to
the woman for whom he had the strongest affection, 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 interested, he could not think 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 again taken up, we can pretty well trace the events of the
following period.

There can rarely have been a less congenial pair of colleagues 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 Treasurer were calculated to
exasperate his audacious colleague. From the earliest period Swift had
declared that everything depended upon the good mutual understanding 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, as he afterwards said (October 20,
1711), that this was the way to be sent back to his willows at Laracor,
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 brought on a serious danger. They had
come into power to make peace. They had made it. The next question was
that of the succession of the crown. Here they neither reflected the
general opinion of the nation nor were agreed amongst themselves. Harley,
as we now know, had flirted with the Jacobites; and Bolingbroke was deep
in treasonable plots. The existence of such plots was a secret to Swift,
who indignantly denied their existence. When King hinted at a possible
danger to Swift from the discovery of St. John's treason, he indignantly
replied that he must have been "a most false and vile man" to join in
anything of the kind.[39] He professes elsewhere his conviction that there
were not at this period 500 Jacobites in England; and "amongst these not
six of any quality or consequence."[40] Swift's sincerity, here as
everywhere, is beyond all suspicion; but his conviction proves
incidentally that he was in the dark as to the "wheels within wheels"--the
backstairs plots, by which the administration of his 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, meanwhile, might die at any moment, and some decided
course of action become imperatively necessary. Whenever the queen was
ill, said Harley, people were at their wits' end; as soon as she recovered
they acted as if she were immortal. Yet, though he complained of the
general indecision, his own conduct was most hopelessly undecided.

It was in the hopes of pacifying these intrigues that Swift was recalled
from Ireland. He plunged into the fight, but not with his old success. Two
pamphlets which he published at the end of 1713 are indications of his
state of mind. One was an attack upon a wild no-popery shriek emitted by
Bishop Burnet, whom he treats, says Johnson, "like one whom he is glad of
an opportunity to insult." A man who, like Burnet, is on friendly terms
with those who assail the privileges of his order must often expect such
treatment from its zealous adherents. Yet the scornful assault, which
finds out weak places enough in Burnet's mental rhetoric, is in painful
contrast to the dignified argument of earlier pamphlets. The other
pamphlet was an incident in a more painful contest. Swift had tried to
keep on good terms with Addison and Steele. He had prevented Steele's
dismissal from a Commissionership of Stamps. Steele, however, had lost his
place of Gazetteer for an attack upon Harley. Swift persuaded Harley to be
reconciled to Steele, on condition that Steele should apologize. Addison
prevented Steele from making the required submission, "out of mere spite,"
says Swift, at the thought that Steele should require other help; rather,
we guess, because Addison thought that the submission would savour of
party infidelity. A coldness followed; "all our friendship is over," says
Swift of Addison (March 6th, 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
3rd, 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
the eventful years 1711-12 were chiefly occupied in the politically
harmless _Spectator_. But Steele was always ready to find vent for his
zeal; and in 1713 he fell foul of the _Examiner_ in the _Guardian_. Swift
had long ceased to write _Examiners_ or to be responsible for the conduct
of the paper, though he still occasionally inspired the writers. Steele,
naturally enough, supposed Swift to be still at work; and in defending a
daughter of Steele's enemy, Nottingham, not only suggested that Swift was
her assailant, but added an insinuation that Swift was an infidel. The
imputation stung Swift to the quick. He had a sensibility to personal
attacks, not rare with those who most freely indulge in them, which was
ridiculed by the easy-going Harley. An attack from an old friend--from a
friend whose good opinion he still valued, though their intimacy had
ceased; from a friend, moreover, whom in spite of their separation he had
tried to protect; and, finally, an attack upon the tenderest part of his
character, irritated him beyond measure. Some angry letters passed, Steele
evidently regarding Swift as a traitor, and disbelieving his professions
of innocence and his 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 ungenerous, we may admit as a
partial excuse that in such cases the less prosperous combatant has a kind
of right to bitterness. The quarrel broke out at the time of Swift's
appointment to the deanery. Soon after the new dean's return to England,
Steele was elected member for Stockbridge, and rushed into political
controversy. His most conspicuous performance was a frothy and pompous
pamphlet called the _Crisis_, intended to rouse alarms as to French
invasion and Jacobite intrigues. Swift took the opportunity to revenge
himself upon Steele. Two pamphlets--_The importance of the "Guardian"
considered_, and _The Public Spirit of the Whigs_ (the latter in answer to
the _Crisis_)--are fierce attacks upon Steele personally and politically.
Swift's feeling comes out sufficiently in a remark in the first. He
reverses the saying about Cranmer, and says that he may affirm of Steele,
"Do him a good turn, and he is your enemy for ever." There is vigorous
writing enough, and effective ridicule of Steele's literary style and
political alarmism. But it is painfully obvious, as in the attack upon
Burnet, that personal animosity is now the predominant instead of an
auxiliary feeling. Swift is anxious beyond all things to mortify and
humiliate an antagonist. And he is in proportion less efficient as a
partizan, though more amusing. He has, moreover, the disadvantage of being
politically on the defensive. He is no longer proclaiming a policy, but
endeavouring to disavow the policy attributed 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 the
lookers-on of their suspicions.

Part of the fury was no doubt due to the growing unsoundness 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 outburst against the hated Scots in his reply to
the _Crisis_, was only staved off by a manoeuvre of the ministry.
Meanwhile Swift was urging the necessity of union upon men who hated each
other more than they regarded any public cause whatever. Swift at last
brought his two patrons together in Lady Masham's 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 shuffled, said "all would be well," and asked Swift to
dine with him next day. Swift, however, said that he would not stay to see
the inevitable catastrophe. It was his natural instinct to hide his head
in such moments; his intensely proud and sensitive nature could not bear
to witness the triumph of his enemies, and he accordingly retired at the
end of May, 1714, to the quiet parsonage of Upper Letcombe in Berkshire.
The public wondered and speculated; friends wrote letters describing the
scenes which followed, and desiring Swift's help; and he read, and walked,
and chewed the cud of melancholy reflection, and thought of stealing away
to Ireland. He wrote, however, a very remarkable pamphlet, giving his view
of the situation, which was not published at the time; events went too

Swift's conduct at this critical point is most noteworthy. The pamphlet
(_Free Thoughts upon the Present State of Affairs_) exactly coincides with
all his private and public utterances. His theory was simple and
straightforward. The existing situation was the culminating result of
Harley's policy of refinement and procrastination. Swift two years before
had written a very able remonstrance with the October Club, who had
sought to push Harley into decisive measures; 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 them 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;
first, a clean sweep should be made of all Whigs and dissenters from
office and from the army; secondly, the Court of Hanover should be
required to break off all intercourse with the Opposition, on which
condition the heir-presumptive (the infant Prince Frederick) might be sent
over to reside in England. Briefly, Swift's policy was a policy of
"thorough." Oxford's vacillations were the great obstacle, and Oxford was
falling before the alliance of Bolingbroke with Lady Masham. Bolingbroke
might have turned Swift's policy to the account of the Jacobites; but
Swift did not take this into account, and in the _Free Thoughts_ he
declares his utter disbelief in any danger to the succession. What side,
then, should he take? He sympathized with Bolingbroke's avowed principles.
Bolingbroke was eager for his help, and even hoped to reconcile him to the
red-haired duchess. But Swift was bound to Oxford by strong personal
affection; by an affection which was not diminished even 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_l._
incurred by his installation in the deanery. To Oxford he had addressed
(Nov. 21, 1713) a letter of consolation upon the death of a daughter,
possessing the charm which is given to such letters only by the most
genuine sympathy with the feelings 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 affectionate. When, at the beginning
of July, Oxford was hastening to his fall, Swift wrote to him another
manly and dignified letter, professing an attachment beyond the reach of
external accidents of power and rank. The end came soon. Swift heard that
Oxford was about to resign. He wrote at once (July 25, 1714) to propose to
accompany him to his country house. Oxford replied two days later in a
letter oddly characteristic. He begs Swift to come with him; "If I have
not tired you _tête-à-tête_, fling away so much of your time upon one who
loves you;" and then rather spoils the pathos by a bit of hopeless
doggerel. Swift wrote to Miss Vanhomrigh on August 1. "I have been asked,"
he says, "to join with those people now in power; but I will not do it. I
told Lord Oxford I would go with him, when he was out; and now he begs it
of me, and I cannot refuse him. I meddle not with his faults, as he was a
Minister of State; but you know his personal kindness to me was excessive;
he distinguished and chose me above all other men, while he was great, and
his letter to me the other day was the most moving imaginable."

An intimacy which bore such fruit in time of trial was not one founded
upon a servility varnished by self-assertion. No stauncher 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's death. The crash
which followed ruined the "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
annihilated. "The Earl of Oxford," wrote Bolingbroke to Swift, "was
removed on Tuesday. The Queen died on Sunday. What a world is this, and
how does fortune banter us!"



The final crash of the Tory administration found Swift approaching the end
of his forty-seventh year. It found him in his own opinion prematurely
aged both in mind and body. His personal prospects and political hopes
were crushed. "I have a letter from Dean Swift," says Arbuthnot in
September; "he keeps up his noble spirit, and though like a man knocked
down, you may behold him still with a stern countenance and aiming a blow
at his adversaries." Yet his adversaries knew, and he knew only too well,
that such blows as he could now deliver could at most show his wrath
without gratifying his revenge. He was disarmed as well as "knocked down."
He writes to Bolingbroke from Dublin in despair. "I live a country life in
town," he says, "see nobody, and go every day once to prayers, and hope in
a few months to grow as stupid as the present situation of affairs will
require. Well, after all, parsons are not such bad company, 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
letter to Pope next year gives a sufficient picture of Swift's feelings.
"You know," he said, "how well I loved both Lord Oxford and Bolingbroke,
and how dear the Duke of Ormond is to me; do you imagine I can be easy
while their enemies are endeavouring to take off their heads?--_I nunc et
versus tecum meditare canoros!_" "You are to understand," he says in
conclusion, "that I live in the corner of a vast unfurnished house; my
family consists of a steward, a groom, a helper in the stable, a footman,
and an old maid, who are all at board wages, and when I do not dine abroad
or make an entertainment (which last is very rare), I eat a mutton pie and
drink half a pint of wine; my amusements are defending my small dominions
against the archbishop, and endeavouring to reduce my rebellious choir.
_Perditur hæc inter misero lux._" In another of the dignified letters
which show the finest side of his nature, he offered to join Oxford, whose
intrepid behaviour, he says, "has astonished every one but me, who know
you so well." But he could do nothing beyond showing sympathy; and he
remained alone asserting his authority in his ecclesiastical domains,
brooding over the past, and for the time unable to divert his thoughts
into any less distressing channel. Some verses written in October "in
sickness" give a remarkable expression of his melancholy,--

  'Tis true--then why should I repine
  To see my life so fast decline?
  But why obscurely here alone
  Where I am neither loved nor known?
  My state of health none care to learn,
  My life is here no soul's concern,
  And those with whom I now converse
  Without a tear will tend my hearse.

Yet we might have fancied that his lot would not be so unbearable. After
all, a fall which ends in a deanery should break no bones. His friends,
though hard pressed, survived; and, lastly, was any one so likely to shed
tears upon his hearse as the woman to whom he was finally returning? The
answer to this question brings us to a story imperfectly known to us, but
of vital importance in Swift's history.

We have seen in what masterful fashion Swift took possession of great men.
The same imperious temper shows itself in his relations to women. He
required absolute submission. Entrance into the inner circle of his
affections could only be achieved by something like abasement; but all
within it became as a part of himself, to be both cherished and protected
without stint. His affectation of brutality was part of a system. On first
meeting Lady Burlington at her husband's house, he ordered her to sing.
She declined. He replied, "Sing, or I will make you. Why, madam, I suppose
you take me for one of your English hedge-parsons; sing when I tell you."
She burst into tears and retired. The next time he met her he began,
"Pray, madam, are you as proud and ill-natured as when I saw you last?"
She good-humouredly gave in, and Swift became her warm friend. Another
lady to whom he was deeply attached was a famous 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 persons whatever shall make such advance
to him as he pleases to demand, any law, claim, custom, privilege of sex,
beauty, fortune or quality to the contrary notwithstanding;" and providing
that Miss Long shall cease the contumacy in which she has been abetted by
the Vanhomrighs, but be allowed in return, in consideration of her being
"a Lady of the Toast," to give herself the reputation of being one of
Swift's acquaintance. Swift's affection for Miss Long is touchingly
expressed in private papers, and in a letter written upon her death in
retirement and poverty. He intends to put up a monument to her memory, and
wrote a notice of her, "to serve her memory," and also, as he
characteristically adds, to spite the brother who had neglected her. Years
afterwards he often refers to the "edict" which he annually issued in
England, commanding all ladies to make him the first advances. He
graciously makes an exception in favour of the Duchess of Queensberry,
though he observes incidentally that he now hates all people whom he
cannot command. This humorous assumption, like all Swift's humour, has a
strong element of downright earnest. He gives whimsical prominence to a
genuine feeling. He is always acting the part of despot, and acting it
very gravely. When he stays at Sir Arthur Acheson's, Lady Acheson becomes
his pupil, and is "severely chid" when she reads wrong. Mrs. Pendarves,
afterwards Mrs. Delany, says in the same way that Swift calls himself "her
master," and corrects her when she speaks bad English.[41] He behaved in
the same way to his servants. Delany tells us that he was "one of the best
masters 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 duties, he told them,
would be to take turns in cleaning the scullion's shoes, and if they
objected, he sent them about their business. He is said to have tested a
curate's docility in the same way by offering him sour wine. His dominion
was most easily extended over women; and a long list might be easily made
out of the feminine favourites who at all periods of his life were in
more or less intimate relations with this self-appointed sultan. From the
wives of peers and the daughters of lord-lieutenants down to Dublin
tradeswomen with a taste for rhyming, and even scullerymaids with no
tastes at all, a whole hierarchy of female slaves bowed to his rule, and
were admitted into higher and lower degrees of favour.

Esther Johnson, or Stella--to give her the name which she did not receive
until after the period of the famous journals--was one of the first of
these worshippers. As we have seen, he taught her to write, and when he
went to Laracor, she accepted the peculiar position already described. We
have no direct statement of their mutual feelings before the time of the
journal; but one remarkable incident must be noticed. During his stay in
England in 1703-4 Swift had some correspondence with a Dublin clergyman
named Tisdall. He afterwards regarded Tisdall with a contempt which, for
the present, is only half perceptible in some good-humoured raillery.
Tisdall'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 unfriendly, unkind, and unaccountable. Swift
meets these reproaches coolly, contemptuously, and straightforwardly. He
will not affect unconsciousness of Tisdall's meaning. Tisdall obviously
takes him for a rival in Stella's affections. Swift replies that he will
tell the naked truth. The truth is that "if his fortune and humour served
him to think of that state" (marriage) he would prefer Stella to any one
on earth. So much, he says, he has declared to Tisdall before. He did not,
however, think of his affection as an obstacle to Tisdall's hopes.
Tisdall had been too poor to marry; but the offer of a living has removed
that objection; and Swift undertakes to act what he has hitherto acted, a
friendly though passive part. He had 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 my own misfortune in losing so good a
friend and companion as her" shall prevail upon him to oppose the match,
"since it is held so necessary and convenient a thing for ladies to marry,
and that time takes off from the lustre of virgins in all other eyes but

The letter must have suggested some doubts to Tisdall. Swift alleges as
his only reasons for not being a rival in earnest his "humour" and the
state of his fortune. The last obstacle might be removed at any moment.
Swift's prospects, though deferred, were certainly better than Tisdall's.
Unless, therefore, the humour was more insurmountable than is often the
case, Swift's coolness was remarkable or ominous. It may be that, as some
have held, there was nothing behind. But another possibility undoubtedly
suggests itself. Stella had received Tisdall's suit 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 "unaccountable" letter
and the contemptuous letter, Swift had heard something from Stella, which
put him thoroughly at ease in regard to Tisdall's attentions.

We have no further information until, seven years afterwards, we reach the
_Journal to Stella_, and find ourselves overhearing the "little language."
The first editors scrupled at a full reproduction of what might strike an
unfriendly reader as almost drivelling; and Mr. Forster reprinted for the
first time the omitted parts of the still accessible letters. The little
language is a continuation of Stella's infantile prattle. Certain letters
are a cipher for pet names which may be conjectured. Swift calls himself
Pdfr, or Podefar, meaning, as Mr. Forster guesses, "Poor, dear Foolish
Rogue." Stella, or rather Esther Johnson, is Ppt, say "Poppet." MD, "my
dear," means Stella, and sometimes includes Mrs. Dingley. FW 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 phrases 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, awake or asleep;" and he ends, "Go to
bed. Help pdfr. Rove pdfr, MD, MD. Nite 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 Sollahs."
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, Sollahs,

The reference to the Golden Farmer already noted is 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.[42] May not Solly be the same as "Sollah," generally
interpreted by the editors as "sirrah;" and "Figgarkick" possibly be the
same as Pilgarlick, a phrase which he elsewhere applies to Stella,[43] and
which the dictionaries say means "poor, deserted creature"?

Swift says that as he writes his language he "makes up his mouth just as
if he was speaking it." It fits the affectionate caresses in which he is
always indulging. Nothing, indeed, can be more charming than the playful
little prattle which occasionally interrupts the gossip and the sharp
utterances of hope or resentment. In the snatches of leisure, late at
night or before he has got up in the morning, he delights in an imaginary
chat; for a few minutes of little fondling talk help him to forget his
worries, and anticipate the happiness of reunion. He caresses her letters,
as he cannot touch her hand. "And now let us come and see what this saucy,
dear letter of MD says. Come out, 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 says Pdf to me, pray? says it. Come and
let me answer for you to your ladies. Hold up your head then like a good
letter." And so he begins a little talk, and prays that they may be never
separated again for ten days, whilst he lives. Then he follows their
movements in Dublin in passages which give some lively little pictures of
their old habits. "And where will you go to-day? for I cannot be with you
for the ladies." [He is off sight-seeing 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, Basto, 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 you, which with one rump
more are three tricks ten ace; for suppose you play your Manilio--O,
silly, how I prate and cannot get away from MD in a morning. Go, get you
gone, dear naughty girls, and let me rise." He delights again in turning
to account his queer talent for making impromptu proverbs,--

  Be you lords or be you earls,
  You must write to naughty girls.

Or again,--

  Mr. White and Mr. Red
  Write to M.D. when abed:
  Mr. Black and Mr. Brown
  Write to M.D. when you are down:
  Mr. Oak and Mr. Willow
  Write to M.D. on your pillow.

And here is one more for the end of the year,--

  Would you answer M.D.'s letter
  On New Year's Day you will do it better:
  For when the year with M.D. 'gins
  It without M.D. never 'lins.

"These proverbs," he explains, "have always old words in them; _lin_ is
leave off."

  But if on new year you write nones
  M.D. then will bang your bones.

Reading these fond triflings we feel even now as though we were
unjustifiably prying into the writer's confidence. What are we to say to
them? We might simply say that the tender playfulness is charming; and
that it is delightful to find the stern 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 younger sister. She was a
beautiful and clever woman of thirty, when he was in the prime of his
powers at forty-four. If Tisdall could have seen the journal he would have
ceased to call Swift "unaccountable." Did all this caressing suggest
nothing to Stella? Swift does not write as an avowed lover; Dingley serves
as a chaperone even in these intimate confidences; and yet a word or two
escapes which certainly reads like something more than fraternal
affection. He apologizes (May 23, 1711) for not returning; "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 as I get a deanery," there must have been some distinct
understanding to limit their force.

But another character enters the drama, Mrs. Vanhomrigh,[44] a widow rich
enough to mix in good society, was living in London with two sons and two
daughters, and made Swift's acquaintance in 1708. Her 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. In the daily reports of
his 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 religious rite, implying a formal invitation. The ordinary hour was
three (though Harley with his usual procrastination often failed to sit
down till six), and Swift, when not pre-engaged, looked in at Court or
elsewhere in search of an invitation. He seldom failed: and when nobody
else offered he frequently went to the "Vans." The name of the daughter is
only mentioned two or three times; whilst it is perhaps a suspicious
circumstance that he very often makes a quasi-apology for his
dining-place. "I was so lazy I dined where my new gown was, at Mrs.
Vanhomrigh's," he says, in May, 1711; and a day or two later explains that
he keeps his "best gown and periwig" there whilst he is lodging at
Chelsea, and often dines there "out of mere listlessness." The phrase may
not have been consciously insincere; but Swift was drifting into an
intimacy which Stella could hardly approve, and, if she desired Swift's
love, would regard as ominous. When Swift took possession of his deanery,
he revealed his depression to Miss Vanhomrigh, who about this time took
the title Vanessa; and Vanessa again received his confidences from
Letcombe. A full account of their relations is given in the remarkable
poem called _Cadenus and Vanessa_, less remarkable, indeed, as a poem than
as an autobiographical document. It is singularly characteristic 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 conveyed by Swift in the
most downright terms; to turn them into a poem would seem preposterous.
Swift's poetry, however, is always plain matter of fact, and we may read
_Cadenus_ (which means of course _Decanus_) _and Vanessa_ as Swift's
deliberate and palpably sincere account of his own state of mind. Omitting
a superfluous framework of mythology in the contemporary taste, we have a
plain story of the relations of this new Heloïse and Abelard. Vanessa, he
tells us, united masculine accomplishments to feminine grace; the
fashionable fops (I use Swift's own words as much as possible) who tried
to entertain her with the tattle of the day, stared when she replied by
applications of Plutarch's morals; the ladies from the purlieus of St.
James's found her reading Montaigne at her toilet, and were amazed by her
ignorance of the fashions. Both were scandalized at the waste of such
charms and talents due to the want of so called knowledge of the world.
Meanwhile, Vanessa, not yet twenty, met and straightway admired Cadenus,
though his eyes were dim with study and his health decayed. He had grown
old in politics 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 his wit.[45] He did not
understand what was love; he behaved to Vanessa as a father might behave
to a daughter;

  That innocent delight he took
  To see the virgin mind her book
  Was but the master's secret joy
  In school to hear the finest boy.

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 him by a confession. He had taught her, she said, that virtue
should never be afraid of disclosures; that noble minds were above common
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 was conscious of having never for a moment meant to be other than a
teacher. Yet every one would suspect him of intentions to win her heart
and her five thousand pounds. He tried not to take things seriously.
Vanessa, however, became eloquent. She said that he had taught her to love
great men through their books; why should she not love the living reality?
Cadenus was flattered and half converted. He had never heard her talk so
well, and admitted that she had a most 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 much friendship as she pleased. She
replies that she will now become tutor and teach him the lesson which he
is so slow to learn. But--and here the revelation ends--

  But what success Vanessa met
  Is to the world a secret yet.[46]

Vanessa loved Swift; and Swift, it seems, allowed himself 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 you not to tell me 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 property 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. The two
women who worshipped Swift were thus almost in presence of each other. The
situation almost suggests comedy; but unfortunately it was to take a most
tragical and still partly mysterious development.

The fragmentary correspondence between Swift and Vanessa establishes
certain facts. Their intercourse was subject to restraints. He begs her,
when he is starting for Dublin, to get her letters directed by some other
hand, and to write nothing that may not be seen, for fear of
"inconveniences." The post-office clerk surely would not be more attracted
by Vanessa's hand than by that of such a man as Lewis, a subordinate of
Harley's who had formerly forwarded her letters. He adds that if she comes
to Ireland, he will see her very seldom. "It is not a place for freedom,
but everything is known in a week and magnified a hundred times." Poor
Vanessa soon finds the truth of this. She complains that she is amongst
"strange prying deceitful people;" that he flies her and will give no
reason except that they are amongst fools and must submit. His reproofs
are terrible to her. "If you continue to treat me as you do," she says
soon after, "you will not be made uneasy by me long." She would rather
have borne the rack than those "killing, killing words" of his. She writes
instead of speaking, because when she ventures to complain in person "you
are angry, and there is something 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 gather that Vanessa submitted partly to the
necessities of the situation: and that this extreme tension was 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 she has only had one letter and one
little note with an excuse. She will sink under his "prodigious neglect."
Time or accident cannot lessen her inexpressible passion. "Put my passion
under the utmost restraint; send me as distant from you 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 is 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, which is the only life I can lead,
if you have lost any of your tenderness for me." The following letter is
even more passionate. She passes days in sighing and nights in watching
and thinking of one who thinks not of her. She was born with "violent
passions, which terminate all in one, that inexpressible passion I have
for you." If she could guess at his thoughts, which is impossible ("for
never any one living thought like you") she would guess that he wishes her
"religious"--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 you 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
countenance, which moves my soul. Is it not more reasonable to adore a
radiant form one has seen, than one only described?"[47]

The man who received such letters from a woman whom he at least admired
and esteemed, who felt that to respond was to administer poison, and to
fail to respond was to inflict the severest pangs, must have been in the
cruellest of dilemmas. Swift, we cannot doubt, was grieved and perplexed.
His letters imply embarrassment; and, for the most part, take a lighter
tone; he suggests his universal panacea of exercise; tells her to fly from
the spleen instead of courting it; to read diverting books, and so forth;
advice more judicious probably than comforting. There are, however, some
passages of a different tendency. There is a mutual understanding to use
certain catch-words, which recall the "little language." He wishes that
her letters were as 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 written caress, and signs herself--his
own "Skinage." There are certain "questions," to which reference is
occasionally made; a kind of catechism, it seems, which he was expected to
address to himself at intervals, and the nature of which must be
conjectured. He proposes to continue the _Cadenus and Vanessa_--a proposal
which makes her happy beyond "expression,"--and delights her by recalling
a number of available incidents. He recurs to them in his 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, &c. Cad
thinks often of these, especially on horseback,[48] 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
assurée," he says, after advising her "to quit this scoundrel island,"
"que jamais personne du monde a été aimée, honorée, estimée, adorée par
votre ami que vous." It seems as though he were compelled to throw her
just a crumb of comfort here: but, in the same breath, he has begged her
to leave him for ever.

If Vanessa was ready to accept a "gown of forty-four," to overlook his
infirmities in consideration of his fame, why should Swift have refused?
Why condemn her to undergo this "languishing death,"--a long agony of
unrequited passion? One answer is suggested by the report that Swift was
secretly married to Stella in 1716. The fact is not proved, nor
disproved:[49] 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, must be
that Swift, having resolved not to marry, gave Stella this security that
he would, at least, marry no one else. Though his anxiety to hide the
connexion with Vanessa may only mean a dread of idle tongues, it is at
least highly probable that Stella was the person from whom he specially
desired to keep it. Yet his poetical addresses to Stella upon her birthday
(of which the first is dated 1719, and the last 1727) are clearly not the
addresses of a lover. Both in form and substance they are even pointedly
intended to express friendship instead of love. They read like an
expansion of his avowal to Tisdall, that her charms for him, though for no
one else, could not be diminished by her growing old without marriage. He
addresses her with blunt affection, and tells her plainly of her growing
size and waning beauty; comments even upon her defects of temper, and
seems expressly to deny that he loved her in the usual way.

  Thou, Stella, wert no longer young
  When first for thee my harp I strung,
  Without one word of Cupid's darts
  Of killing eyes and bleeding hearts;
  With friendship and esteem possess'd
  I ne'er admitted love a guest.

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

The connexion with Stella, whatever its nature, gives the most
intelligible explanation of his keeping Vanessa at a distance. A collision
between his two slaves might be disastrous. And, as the story goes (for we
are everywhere upon uncertain ground), it came. In 1721 poor Vanessa had
lost her only sister,[50] and companion: her brothers were already dead,
and, in her solitude, she would naturally be more than ever eager for
Swift's kindness. At last, in 1723, she wrote (it is said) a letter to
Stella, and asked whether she was Swift's wife.[51] 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, says Orrery, could be
terribly expressive of the sterner passions. Prominent eyes--"azure as the
heavens" (says Pope)--arched by bushy black eyebrows, could glare, we can
believe from his portraits, 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 off. He had struck Vanessa's death-blow. She died soon
afterwards, but lived long 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 her once in his life.

The story of the last fatal interview has been denied. Vanessa's death,
though she was under thirty-five, is less surprising when we remember that
her younger sister and both her 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 tragic climax to the
half-written romance of _Cadenus and Vanessa_ is certain. Vanessa
requested that the poem and the letters might be published by her
executors. Berkeley suppressed the letters for the time; and they were not
published in full until Scott's edition of Swift's works.

Whatever the facts, Swift had reasons enough for bitter regret if not for
deep remorse. He retired to hide his head in some unknown retreat;
absolute seclusion was the only solace to his gloomy, wounded spirit.
After two months he returned to resume his retired habits. A period
followed, as we shall see in the next chapter, of fierce political
excitement. For a time too he had a vague hope of escaping from his exile.
An astonishing literary success increased his reputation. But another
misfortune approached which crushed all hope of happiness in life.

In 1726 Swift at last revisited England. He writes in July that he has for
two months been anxious about Stella's health, and as usual feared the
worst. He has seen through the disguises of a letter from Mrs. Dingley.
His heart is so sunk that he will never be the same man again, but drag on
a wretched life till it pleases God to call him away. Then in an agony of
distress he contemplates her death; he says that he could not bear to be
present; he should be a trouble to her, and the greatest torment to
himself. He forces himself to add that her death must not take place at
the deanery. He will not return to find her just dead or dying. "Nothing
but extremity could make me so familiar with those terrible words applied
to so 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; but
especially [when the loss occurs] at an age when it is too late to engage
in a new friendship." The morbid feeling which could withhold a man from
attending a friend's deathbed, or allow him to regret the affection to
which his pain was due, is but too characteristic of Swift's egoistic
attachments. Yet we forgive the rash phrase, when we read his 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
summer; 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 keeps one
letter for an hour 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 pocket. I 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 deanery, for fear of malignant
misinterpretations. If any marriage had taken 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.[52] She lingered till
January 28, 1728. He sat down the same night to write a few scattered
reminiscences. He breaks down; and writes again during the funeral, which
he is too ill to attend. The fragmentary notes give us the most authentic
account of Stella, and show, at least, what she appeared in the eyes of
her lifelong friend and protector. We may believe that she was intelligent
and charming; as we can be certain that Swift loved her in every sense but
one. A lock of her hair was preserved in an envelope in which he had
written one of those vivid phrases by which he still lives in our memory:
"_Only a woman's hair_." What does it mean? Our interpretation will depend
partly upon what we can see ourselves in a lock of hair. But I think that
any one who judges Swift fairly will read in those four words the most
intense utterance of tender affection, and of pathetic yearning for the
irrevocable past strangely blended with a bitterness springing not from
remorse, but indignation at the cruel tragi-comedy of life. The destinies
laugh at us whilst they torture us; they make cruel scourges of trifles,
and extract the bitterest passion from our best affections.

Swift was left alone. Before we pass on we must briefly touch the problems
of this strange history. It was a natural guess that some mysterious cause
condemned Swift to his loneliness. A story is told by Scott (on poor
evidence) that Delany went to Archbishop King's library about the time of
the supposed marriage. As he entered Swift rushed out with a distracted
countenance. King was in tears, and said to Delany, "You have just met the
most unhappy man on earth; but on the subject of his wretchedness you must
never ask a question." This has been connected with a guess made by
somebody that Swift had discovered Stella to be his natural sister. It can
be shown conclusively that this is impossible; and the story must be left
as picturesque but too hopelessly vague to gratify any inference whatever.
We know without it that Swift was unhappy; but we know nothing of any
definite cause.

Another view is that there is no mystery. Swift, it is said, retained
through life the position of Stella's "guide, philosopher and friend," and
was never anything more. Stella's address to Swift (on his birthday,
1721), may be taken to confirm this theory. It says with a plainness like
his own that he had taught her to despise beauty and hold her empire by
virtue and sense. Yet the theory is in itself strange. The less love
entered into Swift's relations to Stella, the more difficult to explain
his behaviour to Vanessa. If he regarded Stella only as a daughter or a
younger sister, and she returned the same feeling, he had no reason for
making any mystery about the woman who would not in that case be a rival.
If, again, we accept 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 he had thought of her
when she was a child of eight years old. 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 should be
off 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 Swift?
We can only reply by remembering the "coldness" of temper to which he
refers in his first letter: and his assertion that he did not understand
love, and that his frequent flirtations never meant more than a desire for
distraction. The affair with Varina is an exception: but there are grounds
for holding that Swift was constitutionally indisposed to the passion of
love. The absence of any traces of such a passion from writings
conspicuous for their amazing sincerity, and (it is added) for their
freedoms of another kind, has been often noticed as a confirmation of this
hypothesis. Yet it must be said that Swift could be strictly reticent
about his strongest feelings--and was specially cautious, for whatever
reason, in regard to his relation with Stella.[53]

If Swift constitutionally differed from other men, we have some
explanation of his strange conduct. But we must take into account other
circumstances. Swift had very obvious motives for not marrying. In the
first place, he gradually became almost a monomaniac upon the question of
money. His hatred of wasting a penny unnecessarily began at Trinity
College, and is prominent in all his letters and journals. It coloured
even his politics, for a conviction that the nation was hopelessly ruined
is one of his strongest prejudices. He kept accounts down to halfpence,
and rejoices at every saving of a shilling. The passion was not the
vulgar desire for wealth of the ordinary miser. It sprang from the
conviction stored up in all his aspirations that money meant independence.
"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."[54] Gay was a duchess's lapdog: Swift, with all his troubles, at
least a free man. Like all Swift's prejudices, this became a fixed idea
which was always gathering strength. He did not love money for its own
sake. He was even magnificent in his generosity. 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 his friends. His
charity was splendid relatively to his means. In later years he lived on a
third of his income, gave away a third, and saved the remaining third for
his posthumous charity,[55]--and posthumous charity which involves present
saving is charity of the most unquestionable kind. His principle was that
by reducing his expenditure to the lowest possible point, he secured his
independence and could then make a generous use of the remainder. Until he
had received his deanery, however, he could only make both ends meet.
Marriage would therefore have meant poverty, probably dependence, and the
complete sacrifice of his ambition.

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
such an engagement. It would be in keeping with Swift's character, if we
should suppose that he shrank from the bondage of an engagement; that he
designed to marry Stella as soon as he should achieve a satisfactory
position, and meanwhile trusted to his influence over her, and thought
that he was doing her justice by leaving her at liberty to marry if she
chose. 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. He felt himself, I have said, to be a broken man. His prospects were
ruined, and his health precarious. This last fact requires to be
remembered in every estimate of Swift's character. His life was passed
under a Damocles' sword. He suffered from a distressing illness which he
attributed to an indigestion produced by an over-consumption of fruit at
Temple's when he was a little over twenty-one. The main symptoms were a
giddiness, which frequently attacked him, and was accompanied by deafness.
It is quite recently that the true nature of the complaint has been
identified. Dr. Bucknill[56] seems to prove that the symptoms are those of
"Labyrinthine vertigo," or Ménière's disease, so called because discovered
by Ménière in 1861. The references to his sufferings, brought together by
Sir William Wilde in 1849,[57] are frequent in all his writings. It
tormented him for days, weeks, and months, gradually becoming more
permanent in later years. In 1731 he tells Gay that his giddiness attacks
him constantly, though it is less violent than of old; and in 1736 he says
that it is continual. From a much earlier period it had alarmed and
distressed him. Some pathetic entries are given by Mr. Forster from one of
his note-books:--"Dec. 5 (1708).--Horribly sick. 12th.--Much better,
thank God and M.D.'s prayers.... April 2nd (1709).--Small giddy fit and
swimming in the head. M.D. and God help me.... July, 1710.--Terrible fit.
God knows what may be the event. Better towards the end." The terrible
anxiety, always in the background, must count for much in Swift's gloomy
despondency. Though he seems always to have spoken of the fruit as the
cause, he must have had misgivings as to the nature and result. Dr.
Bucknill tells us that it was not necessarily connected with the disease
of the brain, which 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 _Night Thoughts_, "I shall
be like that tree; I shall die at the top." A man haunted perpetually by
such forebodings might well think that marriage was not for him. In
_Cadenus and Vanessa_ he insists upon his declining years with an emphasis
which seems excessive even from a man of forty-four (in 1713 he was really
forty-five) to a girl of twenty. In a singular poem called the _Progress
of Marriage_ he treats the supposed case 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 here as
elsewhere he is thinking of himself. He was fifty-two when receiving the
passionate love-letters of Vanessa; and the poem seems to be specially

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 theory,
only suggesting that readers too are fallible. But we may still ask what
judgment 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
regard his friendship as a full equivalent for the sacrifice. It is one of
the cases in which, if the actors be our contemporaries, we hold that
outsiders are incompetent to form a judgment, as none but the principals
can really know the facts. Is it better to be the most intimate friend of
a man of genius or the wife of a commonplace Tisdall? If Stella chose, and
chose freely, it is hard to say that she was mistaken, or to blame Swift
for a fascination which he could not but exercise. The tragedy of Vanessa
suggests rather different reflections. Swift's duty was plain. Granting
what seems to be probable, that Vanessa's passion took him by surprise,
and that he thought himself disqualified for marriage by infirmity and
weariness of life, he should have made his decision perfectly plain. He
should 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, disappointment, grief, surprise," of which he speaks on the
avowal of her love. He gave her the most judicious advice, and tried to
persuade her to accept it. But he did not make it effectual. He shrank
from inflicting pain upon her and upon himself. He could not deprive
himself of the sympathy which soothed his gloomy melancholy. His affection
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 his 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 because it was half
composed of remorse, and the energy of the explosion proportioned to the
strength of the feeling which had held it in check.



In one of Scott's finest novels, the old Cameronian preacher, who had been
left for dead by Claverhouse's troopers, suddenly rises to confront his
conquerors, and spends his last breath in denouncing the oppressors of the
saints. Even such an apparition was Jonathan Swift to comfortable Whigs
who were flourishing in the place of Harley and St. John, when, after ten
years' quiescence, he suddenly stepped into the political arena. After the
first crushing fall he had abandoned partial hope, and contented himself
with establishing supremacy in his chapter. 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 have avoided. Corruption was at
the prow and folly at the helm. The selfish ring which he had denounced so
fiercely had triumphed. It had triumphed, as he held, by flattering the
new dynasty, hoodwinking the nation, and maligning its antagonists. The
cynical theory of politics was not for him, as for some comfortable
cynics, an abstract proposition, which mattered very little to a sensible
man; but was embodied in the bitter wrath with which he regarded his
triumphant adversaries. Pessimism is perfectly compatible with bland
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 opprobrium of English statesmanship. There
Swift had (or thought he had) always before him a concrete example of the
basest form of tyranny. By Ireland, I have said, Swift meant, in the first
place, the English in Ireland. In the last 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 than the inhabitants of many
English counties.[58] He retained to the end of his life his antipathy to
the Scotch colonists. He opposed their demand for political equality as
fiercely in the last as in his first political utterances. He contrasted
them unfavourably[59] with the Catholics, who had indeed been driven to
revolt by massacre and confiscation under Puritan rule, but who were now,
he declared, "true Whigs, in the best and most proper sense of the word,"
and thoroughly loyal to the house of Hanover. Had there been a danger of a
Catholic revolt, Swift's feelings might have been different; but he always
held, that they were "as inconsiderable as the women and children," mere
"hewers of wood and drawers of water," "out of all capacity of doing any
mischief, if they were ever so well inclined."[60] Looking at them in this
way, he felt a sincere compassion for their misery and a bitter resentment
against their oppressors. The English, he said, in a remarkable
letter,[61] should be ashamed of their reproaches of Irish dulness,
ignorance and cowardice. Those defects were the products of slavery. He
declared that the poor cottagers had "a much better natural taste for good
sense, humour and raillery, than ever I observed among people of the like
sort in England. But the millions of oppressions they lie under, the
tyranny of their landlords, the ridiculous zeal of their priests, and the
misery of the whole nation have been enough to damp the best spirits under
the sun." Such a view is now commonplace enough. It was then a heresy to
English statesmen, who thought that nobody but a Papist or a Jacobite
could object to the tyranny of Whigs.

Swift's diagnosis of the chronic Irish disease was thoroughly political.
He considered that Irish misery sprang from the subjection to a government
not intentionally cruel, but absolutely selfish; to which the Irish
revenue meant so much convenient political plunder, and which acted on the
principle quoted from Cowley, that the happiness of Ireland should not
weigh against the "least conveniency" of England. He summed up his views
in a remarkable letter,[62] to be presently mentioned, the substance 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
deliberately crushed, purely for the benefit of the English of England;
thirdly, that all valuable preferments were bestowed upon men born in
England, as a matter of course; and finally, that in consequence of this,
the upper classes, deprived of all other openings, were forced to
rack-rent their tenants to such a degree that not one farmer in the
kingdom out of a hundred "could afford shoes or stockings to his children,
or to eat flesh or drink anything better than sour milk and water twice in
a year: so that the whole country, except the Scotch plantation in the
north, is a scene of misery and desolation hardly to be matched on this
side Lapland." A modern reformer would give the first and chief place to
this social misery. It is characteristic that Swift comes to it as a
consequence from the injustice to his own class:--as, again, that he
appeals to Walpole not on the simple ground that the people are wretched,
but on the ground that they will be soon unable to pay the tribute to
England, which he reckons at a million a year. But his conclusion might be
accepted by any Irish patriot. Whatever, he says, can make a country poor
and despicable, concurs in the case of Ireland. The nation is controlled
by laws to which it does not consent; disowned by its brethren and
countrymen; refused the liberty of trading even in its natural
commodities; forced to seek for justice many hundred miles by sea 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 judgments. Every line which
he wrote shows that he was thoroughly sincere and profoundly stirred by
his convictions. A remarkable pamphlet, published in 1720, contained his
first utterance upon the subject. It is an exhortation to the Irish to use
only Irish manufactures. He applies to Ireland the fable of _Arachne and
Pallas_. The goddess, indignant at being equalled in spinning, turned her
rival into a spider, to spin for ever out of her own bowels in a narrow
compass. He always, he says, pitied poor Arachne for so cruel and unjust a
sentence, "which, however, is fully executed upon us by England with
further 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 England
and Ireland injured themselves as well as each other by refusing to
interchange their productions. But he utters forcibly his righteous
indignation against the contemptuous injustice of the English rulers, in
consequence of which the "miserable people" are being reduced "to a worse
condition than the peasants in France, or the vassals 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 tenantry.

The printer of this pamphlet was prosecuted. The chief justice (Whitshed)
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
complaints had been made, and in September, 1723, addresses were voted by
the Irish Houses of Parliament, declaring that the patent had been
obtained by clandestine and false representations: that it was mischievous
to the country: and that Wood had been guilty of frauds in his coinage.
They were pacified by vague promises; but Walpole went on with the scheme
on the strength of a favourable report of a committee of the Privy
Council; and the excitement was already serious when (in 1724) Swift
published the _Drapier's Letters_, which give him his chief title to
eminence as a patriotic agitator.

Swift either shared or took advantage of the general belief that the
mysteries of the currency are unfathomable to the human intelligence. They
have to do with that world of financial magic in which wealth may be made
out of paper, and all ordinary relations of cause and effect are
suspended. There is, however, no real mystery about the halfpence. The
small coins which do not form part of the legal tender may be considered
primarily as counters. A penny is a penny, so long as twelve are change
for a shilling. It is not in the least necessary for this purpose that the
copper contained in the twelve penny pieces should be worth or nearly
worth a shilling. A sovereign can never be worth much more than the gold
of which it is made. But at the present day bronze worth only twopence is
coined into twelve penny pieces.[63] The coined bronze is worth six times
as much as the uncoined. The small coins must have some intrinsic value to
deter forgery, and must be made of good materials to stand wear and tear.
If these conditions be observed, and a proper number be issued, the value
of the penny will be no more affected by the value of the copper than the
value of the banknote by that of the paper on which it is written. This
opinion assumes that the copper coins cannot be offered or demanded in
payment of any but trifling debts. The halfpence coined by Wood seem to
have fulfilled these conditions, and as copper worth twopence (on the
lowest computation) was coined into ten halfpence, worth fivepence, their
intrinsic value was more than double that of modern halfpence.

The halfpence, then, were not objectionable upon this ground. Nay, it
would have been wasteful to make them more valuable. It would have been as
foolish to use more copper for the pence as to make the works of a watch
of gold if brass is equally durable and convenient. But another
consequence is equally clear. The effect of Wood's patent was that a mass
of copper worth about 60,000_l._,[64] became worth 100,800_l._ in the
shape of halfpenny pieces. There was therefore a balance of about
40,000_l._ to pay for the expenses of coinage. It would have been waste to
get rid of this by putting more copper in the coins; but if so large a
profit arose from the transaction, 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 was done in Ireland. Wood was to pay 1000_l._ a year for
fourteen years to the Crown.[65] But 14,000_l._ still leaves a large
margin for profit. What was to become of it? According to the admiring
biographer of Sir R. Walpole, the patent had been originally given by
Lord Sunderland to the Duchess of Kendal, a lady whom the king delighted
to honour. She already received 3000_l._ a year in pensions upon the Irish
establishment, and she sold this patent to Wood for 10,000_l._ Enough was
still left to give Wood a handsome profit; as in transactions of this
kind, every accomplice in a dirty business expects to be well paid. So
handsome, indeed, was the profit that Wood received ultimately a pension
of 3000_l._ for eight years, 24,000_l._, that is, in consideration of
abandoning the patent. It was right and proper that a profit should be
made on the transaction, but shameful that it should be divided between
the king's mistress and William Wood, and that the bargain should be
struck without consulting the Irish representatives, and maintained in
spite of their protests. The Duchess of Kendal was to be allowed to take a
share of the wretched halfpence in the pocket of every Irish beggar. A
more disgraceful transaction could hardly be imagined, or one more
calculated to justify Swift's view of the selfishness and corruption of
the English rulers.

Swift saw his chance, and went to work in characteristic fashion, with
unscrupulous audacity of statement, guided by the keenest strategical
instinct. He struck at the heart as vigorously as he had done in the
_Examiner_, but with resentment sharpened by ten years of exile. It was
not safe to speak of the Duchess of Kendal's share in the transaction,
though the story, as poor Archdeacon Coxe pathetically declares, was
industriously propagated. But the case against Wood was all the stronger.
Is he so wicked, asks Swift, as to suppose that a nation is to be ruined
that he may gain three or fourscore thousand pounds? Hampden went to
prison, he says, rather than pay a few shillings wrongfully; I, says
Swift, would rather be hanged than have all my "property taxed at
seventeen shillings in the pound at the arbitrary will and pleasure of the
venerable Mr. Wood." A simple constitutional precedent might rouse a
Hampden; but to stir a popular agitation, it is as well to show that the
evil actually inflicted is gigantic, independently of possible results. It
requires, indeed, some audacity to prove that debasement of the copper
currency can amount to a tax of seventeen shillings 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 currency; and no inferences, it seems, were too audacious for
his hearers, though we are left to doubt how far Swift's wrath had
generated delusions in his own mind, and how far he perceived that other
minds were ready to be deluded. 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 must break or
starve; the squire will hoard up all his good money to send to England and
keep some poor tailor or weaver in his house, who will be glad to get
bread at any rate."[66] Concrete facts are given to help the imagination.
Squire Conolly 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 specimen. Nobody,
according to the patent, was to be forced to take Wood's halfpence; nor
could any one be obliged to receive more than fivepence halfpenny in any
one payment. This, of course, meant that the halfpence could only be used
as change, and a man must pay his debts in silver or gold whenever it was
possible to use a sixpence. It upsets Swift's statement about Squire
Connolly's rents. But Swift is equal to the emergency. The rule means, he
says, that every man must take fivepence halfpenny in every payment, _if
it be offered_; which, on the next page, becomes simply in every payment;
therefore making an easy assumption or two, he reckons that you will
receive 160_l._ a year in these halfpence; and therefore (by other
assumptions) lose 140_l._ a year.[67] It might have occurred to Swift, one
would think, that both parties to the transaction could not possibly be
losers. But he calmly assumes that the man who pays will lose in
proportion to the increased number of coins; and the man who receives, in
proportion to the depreciated value of each coin. He does not see, or
think it worth notice, that the two losses obviously counterbalance each
other; and he has an easy road to prophesying absolute ruin for everybody.
It would be almost as great a compliment to call this sophistry, as to
dignify with the name of satire a round assertion that an honest man is a
cheat or a rogue.

The real grievance, however, shows through the sham argument. "It is no
loss of honour," thought Swift, "to 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."

Before this second letter was written the English ministers had become
alarmed. A Report of the Privy Council (July 24, 1724) defended the
patent, but ended by recommending that the amount to be coined should be
reduced to 40,000_l._ 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 can "never suppose," or in other words, which
everybody knew, to have been granted as a "job for the interest of some
particular person." He vigorously asserts that the patent can never make
it obligatory to accept the halfpence, and tells a story much to the
purpose from old Leicester experience. The justices had reduced the price
of ale to three-halfpence a quart. One of them therefore requested that
they would make another order to appoint who should drink it, "for by
God," said he, "I will not."

The argument thus naturally led to a further and more important question.
The discussion as to the patent brought forward the question of right.
Wood and his friends, according to Swift, had begun to declare that the
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 ground. Ireland, he declared, depended upon England in no
other sense than that in which England depended upon Ireland. Whoever
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," he added, "from depending upon the
people of England, that if they should rebel, I would take arms and lose
every drop of my blood, to hinder the Pretender from being king of

It had been reported that somebody (Walpole presumably) had sworn to
thrust the halfpence down the throats of the Irish. The remedy, replied
Swift, is totally in your 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 be as free a people as your
brethren in England." As Swift had already said in the third letter, no
one could believe that any English patent would stand half an hour after
an address from the English houses of Parliament such as that which had
been passed against Wood's by the Irish Parliament. Whatever
constitutional doubts might be raised, it was therefore come to be the
plain question whether or not the English ministers should simply override
the wishes of the Irish nation.

Carteret, upon landing, began by trying to suppress his adversary. A
reward of 300_l._ was offered for the discovery of the author of the
fourth letter. A prosecution was ordered against the printer. Swift went
to the levée 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

  Res dura et regni novitas me talia cogunt

Another story is more characteristic. Swift's butler had acted as his
amanuensis, and absented himself one night whilst the proclamation was
running. Swift thought that the butler was either treacherous or presuming
upon his knowledge of the secret. As soon as the man returned he ordered
him to strip off his livery and 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 his fidelity; and Swift, when the tempest
had blown over, rewarded him by appointing him verger in the cathedral.
The grand jury threw out the bill against the printer in spite of all
Whitshed's efforts; they were discharged; and the next grand jury
presented Wood's halfpence as a nuisance. Carteret gave way, the patent
was surrendered, and Swift might congratulate himself upon a complete

The conclusion 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 must be
admitted. Swift's audacious misstatements were successful 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[68]
have found it so easy to expose his errors that they have thought his
whole 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, as
Swift says, never thought of Ireland except when there was nothing else
to be talked of in the coffee-houses.[69] Owing to the conditions of the
controversy, this grievance only came out gradually, and could never be
fully stated. Swift could never do more than hint at the transaction. His
letters (including three which appeared after the last 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 sophistries are palpable enough, are apt to resent them. 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 have in a high degree the
peculiar stamp of Swift's genius; the vein of the most nervous
common-sense and pithy assertion with an undercurrent of intense passion,
the more impressive because it is never allowed to exhale in mere

Swift's success, the dauntless front which he had shown to the oppressor,
made him the idol of his countrymen. A drapier's club was formed in his
honour, which collected the letters and drank toasts and sang songs to
celebrate their hero. In a sad letter to Pope, in 1737, he complains that
none of his equals care for him; but adds that as he walks the streets he
has "a thousand hats and blessings upon old scores which those we call the
gentry have forgot." The people received him as their champion. When he
returned from England in 1726, bells were rung, bonfires lighted and a
guard of honour escorted him to the deanery. Towns voted him their
freedom and received him like a prince. When Walpole spoke of arresting
him, a prudent friend told the minister that the messenger would require a
guard of 10,000 soldiers. Corporations asked his advice in elections, and
the weavers appealed to him on questions about their trade. In one of his
satires,[70] Swift had attacked a certain Serjeant Bettesworth--

  Thus at the bar the booby Bettesworth
  Though half-a-crown o'erpays his sweat's worth.

Bettesworth called upon him with, as Swift reports, a knife in his pocket,
and complained in such terms as to imply some intention of personal
violence. The neighbours instantly sent a deputation to the dean,
proposing to take vengeance upon Bettesworth, and though he induced them
to disperse peaceably, they formed a guard to watch the house; and
Bettesworth complained that his attack upon the dean had lowered his
professional income by 1200_l._ a year. A quaint example of his popularity
is given by Sheridan. A great crowd had collected to see an eclipse. Swift
thereupon sent out the bellman to give notice that the eclipse had been
postponed by the 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 1726 and 1727. He paid long visits to his old friend Pope, and
again met Bolingbroke, now returned from exile, and trying 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 Bolingbroke. He
was civil but indifferent. Swift, however, was introduced by his friends
to Mrs. Howard, the mistress of the Prince of Wales, soon to become George
II. The princess, afterwards Queen Caroline, ordered Swift to come and see
her, and he complied, as he 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 some plaids of Irish manufacture, and the princess promised some
medals in return. When, in the next year, George I. died, the Opposition
hoped great things from the change. Pulteney had tried to get Swift's
powerful help for the _Craftsman_, the Opposition organ; and the
Opposition hoped to upset Walpole. Swift, who had thought of going to
France for his health, asked Mrs. Howard's advice. She recommended 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
deanery in what he calls (in the date to one of his letters[71]) "wretched
Dublin in miserable Ireland." It soon appeared, however, that the mistress
was powerless; and that Walpole was to be as firm as ever in his seat.
Swift returned to Ireland, never again to leave it: to lose soon
afterwards his beloved Stella, and nurse an additional grudge against
courts and favourites.

The bitterness with which he resented Mrs. Howard's supposed faithlessness
is painfully illustrative in truth of the morbid state of mind which was
growing upon him. "You think," he says to Bolingbroke in 1729, "as I
ought 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 becoming
familiar to him. Separated by death and absence from his best friends, and
tormented by increasing illness, he looked out upon a state of things in
which he could see no ground for hope. The resistance to Wood's halfpence
had staved off immediate ruin; but had not cured the fundamental evil.
Some tracts upon Irish affairs, written after the Drapier's Letters,
sufficiently indicate his despairing vein. "I am," he says in 1737, when
proposing some remedy for the swarms of beggars in Dublin, "a desponder by
nature," and he has found out that the people will never stir themselves
to remove a single grievance. His old prejudices were as keen as ever, and
could dictate personal outbursts. He attacked the bishops bitterly for
offering certain measures which in his view sacrificed the permanent
interests of the Church to that of the actual occupants. He showed his own
sincerity by refusing to take fines for leases which would have benefited
himself at the expense of his successors. With equal earnestness he still
clung to the Test Acts, and assailed the Protestant dissenters with all
his old bitterness, and ridiculed their claims to brotherhood with
Churchmen. To the end he was a Churchman before everything. One of the
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 against English rulers; but
when it attacked the interests of his Church his fury showed itself in
the most savage satire that he ever wrote, the _Legion Club_. It is an
explosion of wrath tinged with madness.

  Could I from the building's top
  Hear the rattling thunder drop,
  While the devil upon the roof
  (If the devil be thunder-proof)
  Should with poker fiery red
  Crack the stones and melt the lead,
  Drive them down on every skull
  When the den of thieves is full;
  Quite destroy the harpies' nest,
  How might this our isle be blest!

What follows fully keeps up to this level. Swift flings filth like a
maniac, plunges into ferocious personalities, and ends fitly with the

  May their God, the devil, confound them.

He was seized with one of his fits whilst writing the poem and was never
afterwards capable of sustained composition.

Some further pamphlets--especially one on the State of Ireland--repeat and
enforce his views. One of them requires special mention. The _Modest
Proposal_ (written in 1729) _for Preventing the Children 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 Swift's feeling, and 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 suggesting the importation of Australian
meat. The superficial coolness may be revolting to tender-hearted people,
and has indeed led to condemnation of the supposed ferocity of the author
almost as surprising as the criticisms which can see in it nothing but an
exquisite piece of humour. It is, in truth, fearful to read even now. Yet
we can forgive and even sympathize when we take it for what it really
is--the most complete expression of burning indignation against
intolerable wrongs. It utters, indeed, a serious conviction. "I confess
myself," says Swift in a remarkable paper,[72] "to be touched with a very
sensible pleasure when I hear of a mortality in any country 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 steal and beg for want
of work; to whom death would be the best thing to be wished for, on
account both of themselves and the public." He remarks in the same place
on the lamentable contradiction presented in Ireland to the maxim that the
"people are the riches of a nation," and the _Modest Proposal_ is the
fullest comment on this melancholy reflection. After many visionary
proposals, he has at last hit upon the plan, which has at least the
advantage that by adopting it "we can incur no danger of disobliging
England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, the flesh
being of too tender a consistence to admit a long continuance in salt,
although perhaps I could name a country which would be glad to eat up a
whole nation without it."

Swift once asked Delany[73] whether the "corruptions and villanies of men
in power did not eat his flesh and exhaust his spirits?" "No," said
Delany. "Why, how can you help it?" said Swift. "Because," replied
Delany, "I am commanded to the contrary--_fret not thyself because of the
ungodly_." That, like other wise maxims, is capable of an ambiguous
application. As Delany took it, Swift might perhaps have replied that it
was a very comfortable maxim--for the ungodly. His own application of
Scripture is different. It tells us, he says, in his proposal for using
Irish manufactures, that "oppression makes a wise man mad." If, therefore,
some men are not mad, it must be because they are not wise. In truth, it
is characteristic of Swift that he could never learn the great lesson of
submission even to the inevitable. He could not, like an easy-going
Delany, submit to oppression which might possibly be resisted with
success; but as little could he submit when all resistance was hopeless.
His 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_ (1735-7).
Berkeley is 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 beggarly, wretched, and
destitute as the common Irish. But he thinks all complaints against the
English rule useless and therefore foolish. If the English restrain our
trade ill-advisedly, is it not, he asks, plainly our interest to
accommodate ourselves to them (No. 136)? Have we not the advantage of
English protection without sharing English responsibilities? He asks,
"whether England doth not really love us 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, 323.)
One can fancy how Swift must have received this characteristic 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 such qualities would have made the Irish
comfortable in spite of all English restrictions and Government abuses.
But, then, Swift might well have answered that such general maxims are
idle. It is 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 laziness and
restlessness due to special and removable circumstances? In the latter
case is there not more real value in attacking tangible evils than in
propounding general maxims and calling upon all 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 hopeless controversies. 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 is a question which I must
leave to others. In any case, the work, however darkened by personal
feeling or love of class-privilege, expressed as hearty a hatred of
oppression as ever animated a human being.



The winter of 1713-14 passed by Swift in England was full of anxiety and
vexation. He found time, however, to join in a remarkable literary
association. The so-called Scriblerus Club does not appear, indeed, to
have had any definite organization. The rising young wits, Pope and Gay,
both of them born in 1688, were already becoming famous, and were taken up
by Swift, still in the zenith of his political power. Parnell, a few years
their senior, had been introduced by Swift to Oxford as a convert from
Whiggism. All three became intimate with Swift and Arbuthnot, the most
learned and amiable of the whole circle of Swift's friends. Swift declared
him to have every quality that could make a man amiable and useful with
but one defect--he had "a sort of slouch in his walk;" he was loved and
respected by every one, and was one of the most distinguished of the
Brothers. Swift and Arbuthnot and their three juniors discussed literary
plans in the midst of the growing political excitement. Even Oxford used,
as Pope tells us, to amuse himself during the very crisis 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 specimen--a
poor one it is to be hoped--of their intercourse. The familiarity thus
begun continued through the life of the members. Swift can have seen very
little of Pope. He hardly made his acquaintance till the latter part of
1713; they parted in the summer of 1714; and never met again except in
Swift's two visits to England in 1726-27. Yet their correspondence shows
an affection which was no doubt heightened by the consciousness of each
that the friendship of his most famous contemporary author was creditable;
but which, upon Swift's side at least, was thoroughly sincere and cordial,
and strengthened with advancing years.

The final cause of the Club was supposed to be the composition of a
joint-stock satire. We learn from an interesting letter[74] 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 imaginary pedant, who had dabbled with equal wrong-headedness 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 Letcombe. Swift had other
things to occupy his mind; and upon the dispersion of the party the Club
fell into abeyance. Fragments of the original plan were carried out by
Pope and Arbuthnot, and form part of the _Miscellanies_, to which Swift
contributed a number of poetical scraps, published under Pope's direction
in 1726-27. It seems probable that _Gulliver_ originated in Swift's mind
in the course of his meditations upon Scriblerus. The composition of
_Gulliver_ was one of the occupations by which he amused himself after
recovering from the great shock of his "exile." He worked, as he seems
always to have done, slowly and intermittently. Part of Brobdingnag at
least, as we learn from a letter of Vanessa's, was in existence by 1722.
Swift brought the whole manuscript to England in 1726, and it was
published anonymously in the following winter. The success was
instantaneous and overwhelming. "I will make over all my profits" (in a
work then being published) "to you," writes Arbuthnot, "for the property
of _Gulliver's Travels_, which, I believe, will have as great a run as
John Bunyan." The anticipation was amply fulfilled. _Gulliver's Travels_
is one of the very few books some knowledge of which may be fairly assumed
in any one who reads anything. Yet something must be said of the secret of
the astonishing success of this unique performance.

One remark is obvious. _Gulliver's Travels_ (omitting certain passages) is
almost the most delightful children's book ever written. Yet it has been
equally valued as an unrivalled 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 his assault
upon human nature. He gives, she declares, "the most accurate" (that is,
of course, the most scornful) "account of kings, ministers, bishops, and
courts of justice, that is possible to be writ." Another curious testimony
may be noticed. Godwin, when tracing all evils to the baneful effects of
government, declares that the author of _Gulliver_ showed a "more profound
insight into the true principles of political justice than any preceding
or contemporary author." The playful form was unfortunate, thinks this
grave philosopher, as blinding mankind to the "inestimable wisdom" of the
work. This double triumph is remarkable. We may not share the opinions of
the cynics of the day, or of the revolutionists of a later generation; but
it is strange that they should be fascinated by a work which is studied
with delight, without the faintest suspicion of any ulterior meaning, by
the infantile mind.

The charm of Gulliver for the young depends upon an obvious quality, which
is indicated in Swift's report of 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 in the intense
gravity of the narrative, which recalls and may have been partly suggested
by _Robinson 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 _Gulliver_ may be
regarded as the highest manifestation. Swift's peculiarity is in the
curious sobriety of fancy, which leads him to keep in his most daring
flights upon the confines of the possible. In the imaginary travels of
Lucian and Rabelais, to which _Gulliver_ 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 creatures in human 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 soluble
problem. We have not, as in other fictitious worlds, to deal with a state
of things in which the imagination is bewildered, but with one in which it
is agreeably stimulated. We have certainly to consider an extreme and
exceptional case; but one to which all the ordinary laws of human nature
are still strictly applicable. In Voltaire's trifle, _Micromegas_, we are
presented to beings eight leagues in height and endowed with seventy-two
senses. For Voltaire's purpose the stupendous exaggeration is necessary;
for he wishes to insist upon the minuteness of human capacities. But the
assumption of course disqualifies us from taking any intelligent interest
in a region where no precedent is available for our guidance. We are in
the air; anything and everything is possible. But Swift modestly varies
only one element in the problem. Imagine giants and dwarfs as tall as a
house or as low as a footstool, and let us see what comes of it. That is a
plain, almost a mathematical problem; and we can therefore judge his
success, and receive pleasure from the ingenuity and verisimilitude of his

"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 be the easiest; yet nobody ever thought of it
before Swift; and nobody has ever had similar good fortune since. 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 conclusions follow so inevitably from the
primary data that when they are once drawn we agree that they could not
have been otherwise; and infer, rashly, that anybody else could have
drawn them. It is as easy as lying; but everybody who has seriously tried
the experiment knows that even lying is by no means so easy as it appears
at first sight. In fact, Swift's success is something unique. The charming
plausibility of every incident, throughout the two first parts, commends
itself to children, who enjoy definite concrete images, and are fascinated
by a world which is at once full of marvels, surpassing Jack the Giant
Killer and the wonders seen by Sinbad, and yet as obviously and undeniably
true as the adventures of Robinson Crusoe himself. Nobody who has read the
book can ever forget it; and we may add that besides the 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 during the least
intolerable part of his exile. The period of composition includes the
years of the Vanessa tragedy and of the war of Wood's halfpence; it was
finished when Stella's illness was becoming constantly more threatening,
and published little more than a year before her death. The last books
show 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 fun. He could
still forget his cares, and throw the reins on the neck 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, Glumdalelitch, whose affection for
her plaything is a quaint inversion of the ordinary relations between
Swift and his feminine adorers. The grave, stern, irascible man can relax
after a sort, though his strange idiosyncrasy comes out as distinctly in
his relaxation as in his passions.

I will not dwell upon this aspect of _Gulliver_, which is obvious to every
one. There is another question which we are forced to ask, and which is
not very easy to answer. What does _Gulliver_ mean? It is clearly a
satire--but who and what are its objects? Swift states his own view very
unequivocally. "I heartily hate and detest that animal called man," he
says,[75] "although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth." He
declares that man is not an _animal rationale_, but only _rationis capax_:
and he then adds, "Upon this great foundation of misanthropy ... the whole
building of my travels is 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.[76] "Expect no more from
man," he says, "than such an animal is capable of, and you will every day
find my description of Yahoos more resembling. You should think and deal
with every man as a villain, without calling him so, or flying from him or
valuing him less. This is an old true lesson." 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 expression
of this doctrine. The tone becomes morose and sombre, and even ferocious;
but it has been disputed whether in any case it can be regarded simply as
an utterance of misanthropy.

_Gulliver's Travels_ belongs to a literary genus full of grotesque and
anomalous forms. Its form is derived from some of the imaginary travels of
which Lucian's _True History_--itself a burlesque of some early
travellers' tales--is the first example. But it has an affinity also to
such books as Bacon's _Atlantis_, and More's _Utopia_; and, again, to
later philosophical romances like _Candide_ and _Rasselas_; and not least,
perhaps, to the ancient fables, such as _Reynard the Fox_, to which Swift
refers in the _Tale of a Tub_. It may be 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 some
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 by 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 meanings of the
images in which he deals. The whole class of more or less allegorical
writing has thus the peculiarity that something more is meant than meets
the ear. Part 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, again, may be more or less present: and such a book
as Gulliver must be regarded as lying somewhere between the allegory and
the direct revelation of truth, which is more or less implied in the work
of every genuine artist. Its true purpose has thus rather puzzled critics.
Hazlitt[77] urges, for example, with his usual brilliancy, that Swift's
purpose was to "strip empty pride and grandeur of the imposing air which
external circumstances throw around them." Swift accordingly varies the
scale, so as to show the insignificance or the grossness of our self-love.
He does this with "mathematical precision;" he tries an experiment upon
human nature; and with the result that "nothing solid, nothing valuable is
left in his system but wisdom and virtue." So Gulliver's carrying off 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 the right."

Hazlitt naturally can see nothing misanthropical or innocent in such a
conclusion. The mask of imposture is torn off the world, and only
imposture can complain. This view, which has no doubt its truth, suggests
some obvious doubts. We are not invited, as a matter of fact, to attend to
the question of right and wrong, as between Lilliput and Blefuscu. The
real sentiment in Swift is that a war between these miserable pygmies is,
in itself, contemptible; and therefore, as he infers, war between men six
feet high is equally contemptible. The truth is that, although Swift's
solution of the problem may be called mathematically precise, the
precision does not extend to the supposed argument. If we insist upon
treating the question as one of strict logic, the only conclusion which
could be drawn from Gulliver is the very safe one that the interest of the
human drama does not depend upon the size of the actors. A 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 Swift
has shown us in his pictures the real essence of human life, we only say
for him what might be said with equal force of Shakspeare or Balzac, or
any great artist. The bare proof that the essence is not dependent upon
the external condition of size is superfluous and irrelevant; and we must
admit that Swift's method is childish, or that it does not adhere to this
strict logical canon.

Hazlitt, however, comes nearer the truth, as I think, when he says that
Swift takes a view of human nature such as might be taken by a being of a
higher sphere. That, at least, is his purpose; only, as I think, he
pursues it by a neglect of "scientific reasoning." The use of the
machinery is simply to bring us into a congenial frame of mind. He strikes
the key-note of contempt by his imagery of dwarfs and giants. We despise
the petty quarrels of beings six inches high; and therefore we are
prepared to despise the wars carried on by a Marlborough and a Eugene. We
transfer the contempt based upon mere size, to the motives, which are the
same in big men and little. The argument, if argument there be, is a
fallacy; but it is equally efficacious for the feelings. You see the
pettiness and cruelty of the Lilliputians, who want to conquer an empire
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 force of the satire depends ultimately upon the vigour with which
Swift has described the real passions of human beings, big or little. He
really means to express a bitter contempt for statesmen and warriors, and
seduces us to his side, for the moment, by asking us to look at a
diminutive representation of the same beings. The quarrels which depend
upon the difference between the high-boots and the low-heeled shoes; or
upon breaking eggs at the big or little end; the party intrigues which
are settled by cutting capers on the tight-rope, are meant, of course, in
ridicule of political and religious parties; and its force depends upon
our previous conviction that the party-quarrels between our fellows are,
in fact, equally contemptible. Swift's satire is congenial to the mental
attitude of all who have persuaded themselves that men are, in fact, a set
of contemptible fools and knaves, in whose quarrels and mutual
slaughterings the wise and good could not persuade themselves to take a
serious interest. He "proves" nothing, mathematically or otherwise. If you
do not share his sentiments, there is nothing in the mere alteration of
the scale to convince you 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 advances civilization.
What Swift has really done is to provide for the man who despises his
species a number of exceedingly effective symbols for the utterance of his
contempt. A child is simply amused with Bigendians and Littleendians; a
philosopher thinks that the questions really at the bottom of church
quarrels are in reality of more serious import: but the cynic who has
learnt to disbelieve in the nobility or wisdom of the great mass of his
species finds a most convenient metaphor for expressing his disbelief. In
this way _Gulliver's Travels_ contains a whole gallery of caricatures
thoroughly congenial to the despisers of humanity.

In Brobdingnag Swift is generally said to be looking, as Scott expresses
it, through the other end of the telescope. He wishes to show the
grossness of men's passions, as before he has shown their pettiness. Some
of the incidents are devised in this sense; but we may notice that in
Brobdingnag he recurs to the Lilliput view. He gives such an application
to his fable as may be convenient, without bothering himself as to logical
consistency. He points out indeed the disgusting appearances which would
be presented by a magnified human body; but the King of Brobdingnag looks
down upon Gulliver, just as Gulliver looked down upon the Lilliputians.
The monarch sums up his view emphatically enough by saying, after
listening to Gulliver's version of modern history, that "the bulk of your
natives appear to me to be the most pernicious race of little odious
vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the face of the earth." In
Lilliput and Brobdingnag, however, the satire scarcely goes beyond
pardonable limits. The details are often simply amusing, such as
Gulliver's fear when he gets home, of trampling upon the pygmies whom he
sees around him. And even the severest satire may be taken without offence
by every one who believes that petty motives, folly and selfishness, play
a large enough part in human life 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 Arbuthnot
said at once, the least successful 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 Houyhnhnms, which
forms the best part, is more powerful, but more painful and repulsive.

A word must here be said of the most unpleasant part of Swift's character.
A morbid interest 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 believe her,
that one "poem" actually made her mother sick. It is idle to excuse this
on the ground of contemporary freedom of speech. His contemporaries were
heartily disgusted. Indeed, though it is true that they revealed certain
propensities more openly, I see no reason to think that such propensities
were really stronger in them than in their descendants. The objection to
Swift is not that he spoke plainly, but that he brooded over filth
unnecessarily. No parallel can be found for his tendency even in writers,
for example, like Smollett and Fielding, who can be coarse enough when
they please, but whose freedom of speech reveals 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, attributes 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. He
was rigorously observant 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
fastidiousness to the verge of prudery. It is one of the superficial
paradoxes of Swift's character that this very shrinking from filth became
perverted into an apparently opposite tendency. In truth, his intense
repugnance to certain images led him to use them as the only adequate
expression of his savage contempt. Instances might be given in some early
satires, and in the attack upon dissenters in the _Tale of a Tub_. His
intensity of loathing leads him to besmear his antagonists with filth. He
becomes disgusting in the effort to express his disgust. As his
misanthropy deepened, he 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 makes him preserve an apparent
calmness during the revolting exhibition. His state of mind is strictly
analogous to that of some religious ascetics, who stimulate their contempt
for the flesh by fixing their gaze upon decaying bodies. They seek to
check the love of beauty by showing us beauty in the grave. The cynic in
Mr. Tennyson's poem tells us that every face, however full--

  Padded round with flesh 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 but skin deep; beneath it is a vile carcase. He always sees the
"flayed woman" of the _Tale of a Tub_. The thought is hideous, hateful,
horrible, and therefore it fascinates him. He loves to dwell upon the
hateful, because it justifies his hate. He nurses his misanthropy, as he
might 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 wrath takes the bestial for the predominating element. The hideous,
filthy, lustful monster yet asserts its relationship to him in the most
humiliating 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 satisfaction 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
Houyhnhnms only by showing the same propensities on a larger scale; and
justifies his master's remark that all their institutions are owing to
"gross defects in reason and by consequence in virtue." The Houyhnhnms
meanwhile represent Swift's Utopia; they prosper and are happy, truthful
and virtuous, and therefore able to dispense 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
Godwin and the revolutionists, though they believed in human
perfectibility, whilst they traced every existing evil to the impostures
and corruptions essential to all systems of government. Swift's view of
human nature, is too black to admit of any hopes of their millennium.

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
portrait 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 hideous immortals who are damned to an
everlasting life of drivelling incompetence. It is a translation of the
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 the terror which was haunting his
imagination as old age was drawing upon him. The sight, he says himself,
should reconcile a man to death. The mode of reconciliation is terribly
characteristic. Life is but a weary business at best; but, at least, we
cannot wish to drain so repulsive a cup to the dregs, when even the
illusions which cheered us at moments have been ruthlessly destroyed.
Swift was but too clearly prophesying the melancholy decay into which he
was himself to sink.

The later books of _Gulliver_ have been in some sense excised from the
popular editions of the Travels. The Yahoos, and Houyhnhnms, and
Struldbrugs, are indeed known by name almost as well as the inhabitants of
Lilliput and Brobdingnag; but this part of the book is certainly not
reading for babes. It was probably written during the years when he was
attacking public corruption, and when his private happiness was being
destroyed, when therefore his wrath against mankind and against his own
fate was stimulated 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 misanthropy which breathes in them is simply oppressive. They
are probably the sources 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 misanthropist
even if they are forced to admire his power. Yet we must not be carried
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 attracted by the kindly optimist who assures us that
good predominates in everything and everybody, and believes that a speedy
advent of the millennium must reward our manifold excellence. We cannot
forgive those who hold men to be "mostly fools," or, as Swift would
assert, mere brutes in disguise, and even carry out that disagreeable
opinion in detail. There is something uncomfortable and therefore
repellent of sympathy in the mood which dwells upon the darker side of
society, even though with wrathful indignation against the irremovable
evils. Swift's hatred of oppression, burning and genuine as it was, is no
apology with most readers for his perseverance in asserting its existence.
"Speak comfortable things to us" is the cry of men to the prophet in all
ages; and he who would assault abuses 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 egoism with his virtuous indignation,
which clearly lowers his moral dignity. He really hates wrongs to his
race; but his sensitiveness is roused when they are injuries to himself,
and committed by his enemies. The indomitable spirit which made him
incapable even of yielding to necessity, which makes him beat incessantly
against the bars which it was hopeless to break, and therefore waste
powers which might have done good service by aiming at the unattainable,
and nursing grudges against inexorable necessity, limits our sympathy with
his better nature. Yet some of us may take a different view, and rather
pity than condemn the wounded spirit so tortured and perverted, in
consideration of the real philanthropy which underlies the misanthropy,
and the righteous hatred of brutality and oppression which is but the
seamy side of a generous sympathy. At least we should be rather awed than
repelled by this spectacle of a nature of magnificent power struck down,
bruised and crushed under fortune, and yet fronting all antagonists with
increasing pride, and comforting itself with scorn even when it can no
longer injure its adversaries.



Swift survived his final settlement in Ireland for more than thirty years,
though during the last five or six it was but the outside shell of him
that lived. During every day in all those years Swift must have eaten and
drunk, and somehow or other got through the twenty-four hours. The war
against Wood's halfpence employed at most a few months in 1724, and all
his other political writings would scarcely fill a volume of this size. A
modern journalist 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 hopelessly clouded.
How was the remainder of his time filled?

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 he was
condemned for ever. He came back "with an ill head and an aching
heart."[78] He was separated from the friends he had loved, and too old to
make new friends. A man, as he says elsewhere,[79] 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 months in upper air, he would find content less easy. Swift,
in fact, never became resigned to the "coal-pit," or, to use another of
his phrases, the "wretched, dirty dog-hole and prison," of which he could
only say that it was a "place good enough to die in." Yet he became so far
acclimatized as to shape a tolerable existence out of the fragments left
to him. Intelligent and cultivated men in Dublin, especially amongst the
clergy and the fellows of Trinity College, gathered round their famous
countryman. Swift formed a little court; he rubbed up his classics to the
academical standard, read a good deal of history, and even amused himself
with mathematics. He received on Sundays at the deanery, though his
entertainments seem to have been rather too economical for the taste of
his guests. "The ladies," Stella and Mrs. Dingley, were recognized as more
or less domesticated with him. Stella helped to receive his guests, though
not ostensibly as mistress of the household; and, if we may accept Swift's
estimate of her social talents, must have been a very charming hostess. If
some of Swift's guests were ill at ease in presence of the imperious and
moody exile, we may believe that during Stella's life there was more than
a mere semblance of agreeable society at the deanery. Her death, as Delany
tells us,[80] led to a painful change. Swift's temper became sour and
ungovernable; his avarice grew into a monomania; at times he grudged even
a single bottle of wine to his friends; the giddiness and deafness which
had tormented him by fits, now became a part of his life. Reading came to
be impossible, because (as Delany thinks) his obstinate refusal to wear
spectacles had injured his sight. He still struggled hard against disease;
he rode energetically, though two servants had to accompany him in case
of accidents from giddiness; he took regular "constitutionals" up and down
stairs when he could not go out. His friends thought that he injured
himself by over-exercise; and the battle was necessarily a losing one.
Gradually the gloom deepened; friends dropped off by death, and were
alienated by his moody temper; he was surrounded, as they thought, by
designing sycophants. His cousin, Mrs. Whiteway, who took care of him in
his last years, seems to have been both kindly and sensible; but he became
unconscious of kindness, and in 1741 had to be put under restraint. We may
briefly fill up some details in 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 not fail to
recognize his zeal for the honour of the body. But his superiors found him
less amenable. He encountered episcopal authority with his old
haughtiness. He bade an encroaching bishop remember that he was speaking
"to a clergyman, and not to a footman."[81] He fell upon an old friend,
Sterne, the Bishop of Clogher, for granting a lease to some "old fanatic
knight." He takes the opportunity of reviling the bishops 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, I
feared, in a little time, would expect me to kiss their slipper."[82] He
would not even look into a coach, lest he should see such a thing as a
bishop--a sight that would strike him with terror. In a bitter satire he
describes Satan as the bishop to whom the rest of the Irish bench are
suffragans. His theory was that the English Government 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 surprising that Swift's episcopal
acquaintance was limited.

In his deanery Swift discharged his duties with despotic benevolence. He
performed the services, carefully criticized young preachers, got his
musical friends to help him in regulating his choir, looked carefully
after the cathedral repairs, and improved the revenues at the cost of his
own interests. His pugnacity broke out repeatedly even in such apparently
safe directions. He erected a monument to the Duke of Schomberg after an
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, he would take up
the bones, and put the skeleton "in his register office, to be a memorial
of their baseness to all posterity."[83] He finally relieved his feelings
by an epitaph, which is a bitter taunt against the duke's relations.

Happily he gave less equivocal proofs of the energy which he could put
into his duties. His charity was unsurpassed both for amount and judicious
distribution. Delany declares that in spite of his avarice he would give
five pounds more easily than richer men would give as many shillings. "I
never," says this good authority, "saw poor so carefully 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 the deserving poor by badges--in anticipation of modern
schemes for "organization of charity." With the first five hundred pounds
which 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 he had been the means of putting more than 200
families in a comfortable way of living.[84] He 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 kindly,
inquired into their affairs, bought trifles from them, and gave them such
titles as Pullagowna, Stumpa-Nympha, and so forth. The phrase "seraglio"
may remind us of Johnson's establishment, who has shown his prejudice
against Swift in nothing more than in misjudging 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
dependents he was equally liberal. He supported his widowed sister, who
had married a scapegrace in opposition to his wishes. He allowed an
annuity of 52_l._ 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. Brent; paying her an annuity of 20_l._, and
giving her a bond to secure the payment in case of accidents. Considering
the narrowness of Swift's income, and that he seems also to have had
considerable trouble about obtaining his rents and securing his invested
savings, we may say that his so-called "avarice" was not inconsistent with
unusual munificence. He pared his personal expenditure to the quick, not
that he might be rich, but that he might be liberal.

Though for one reason or other Swift was at open war with a good many of
the higher classes, his court was not without distinguished favourites.
The most conspicuous amongst them were Delany and Sheridan. Delany
(1685-1768), 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 fanciful, but he could write pleasant verses, and had great
reputation as a college tutor. He married two rich wives, and Swift
testifies that his good qualities were not the worse for his wealth, nor
his purse generally fuller. He was so much given to hospitality as 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 his occasional improprieties. Yet he
appreciated the nobler qualities of the staunch, if rather alarming,
friend. It is curious to remember that his second wife, who was one of
Swift's later correspondents, survived to be the venerated friend of Fanny
Burney (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 transmitted without possessing any share of it. Thomas Sheridan, the
elder, was the typical Irishman--kindly, witty, blundering, full of
talents and imprudences, careless of dignity, and a child in the ways of
the world. He was a prosperous schoolmaster 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 offer.

After the war of Wood's halfpence Swift became friendly with Carteret,
whom he respected as a man of genuine ability, and who had besides the
virtue of being thoroughly distrusted 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 goodwill to recommend several promising
clergymen to Carteret's notice. He was specially warm in behalf 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, "Sufficient
unto the day is the evil thereof." The sermon was not political, and the
selection of the text a pure accident; but Sheridan was accused of
Jacobitism, and lost his chaplaincy in consequence. Though generously
compensated by the friend in whose pulpit he had committed this
"Sheridanism," he got into difficulties. His school fell off; he exchanged
his preferments for others less preferable; he failed in a school at
Cavan, and ultimately the poor man came back to die at Dublin, in 1738, in
distressed circumstances. Swift's relations with him were thoroughly
characteristic. He defended his cause energetically; gave him most
admirably good advice in rather dictatorial terms; admitted him to the
closest familiarity, and sometimes lost his temper when Sheridan took a
liberty at the wrong moment, or resented the liberties taken by himself.
A queer character of the "Second Solomon," written, it seems, in 1729,
shows the severity with which Swift could sometimes judge his shiftless
and impulsive friend, and the irritability with which he could resent
occasional assertions of independence. "He is extremely proud and
captious," says Swift, and "apt to resent as an affront or indignity what
was never intended for either," but what, we must add, had a strong
likeness to both. One cause of poor Sheridan's troubles was doubtless that
assigned by Swift. Mrs. Sheridan, says this frank critic, is "the most
disagreeable beast in Europe," a "most filthy slut, lazy, and slothful,
luxurious, ill-natured, envious, suspicious," and yet managing to govern
Sheridan. This estimate was apparently shared by her husband, who makes
various references to her detestation of Swift. In spite of all jars,
Swift was not only intimate with Sheridan and energetic in helping him,
but to all appearance really loved him. Swift came to Sheridan's house
when the workmen were moving the furniture, preparatory to his departure
for Cavan. Swift burst into tears, and hid himself in a dark closet before
he could regain his self-possession. He paid a visit to his old friend
afterwards; but was now in that painful and morbid state in which violent
outbreaks of passion made him frequently intolerable. Poor Sheridan rashly
ventured to fulfil an old engagement that he would tell Swift frankly of a
growing infirmity, and said something about avarice. "Doctor," replied
Swift, significantly, "did you never read _Gil Blas_?" When Sheridan soon
afterwards sold his school to return to Dublin, Swift received his old
friend so inhospitably that Sheridan left him, never again to enter the
house. Swift indeed had ceased to be Swift; and Sheridan died soon

Swift often sought relief from the dreariness of the deanery by retiring
to, or rather by taking possession of, his friends' country-houses. In
1725 he stayed for some months, together with "the ladies," at Quilca, a
small country-house of Sheridan's, and compiled an account of the
deficiencies of the establishment--meant to be continued weekly. Broken
tables, doors 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 floors, spikes protruding from
the bedsteads, are some of the items; whilst the servants are all thieves,
and act upon the proverb, "The worse their sty, the longer they lie."
Swift amused himself here and elsewhere by indulging his taste in
landscape gardening, without the consent and often to the annoyance of the
proprietor. In 1728--the year of Stella's death--he passed eight months at
Sir Arthur Acheson's, near Market Hill. He was sickly, languid, and
anxious to escape from Dublin, where he had no company but that of his
"old presbyterian housekeeper, Mrs. Brent." He had, however, energy enough
to take the household in hand after his usual 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 house 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 strikes 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 his gardens and farms. Swift entered a house less as a
guest than a conqueror. His dominion, it is clear, must have become
burdensome in his later years, when his temper was becoming savage and his
fancies more imperious.

Such a man was the natural prey of sycophants, who would bear his humours
for interested motives. Amongst Swift's numerous clients some doubtless
belonged to this 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. His
correspondence is full of eager advocacy. Poor Miss Kelly, neglected by an
unnatural parent, comes to Swift as her natural adviser. He intercedes on
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
prospered in business; he was Lord Mayor of London in 1733, and looked
upon Swift as the founder of his fortunes. To him, "my dear good old
friend in the best and worst times," Swift writes a series of letters,
full of pathetic utterances of his regrets for old friends amidst
increasing infirmities, and full also of appeals on behalf of others. He
induced Barber to give a chaplaincy to Pilkington, a young clergyman of
whose talent and modesty Swift was thoroughly convinced. Mrs. Pilkington
was a small poetess, and the pair had crept into some intimacy at the
deanery. Unluckily Swift had reasons to repent his patronage. 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 contain some interesting but
untrustworthy anecdotes of Swift's later years.[85] He had rather better
luck with Mrs. Barber, wife of a Dublin woollendraper, who, as Swift says,
was "poetically given, and, for a woman, had a sort of genius that way."
He pressed her claims not only upon her namesake, the Mayor, but upon Lord
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 continued his interest in her for years, during which we are
glad to find that she gave up poetry for selling Irish linens and letting
lodgings at Bath; and one of Swift's last acts before his decay was to
present her, at her own request, with the copyright of his _Polite
Conversations_. Everybody, she said, would subscribe for a work of
Swift's, and it would put her in easy circumstances. 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. Liberality of this kind came naturally to Swift. He provided
for a broken-down old officer, Captain Creichton, by compiling his memoirs
for him, to be published by subscription. "I never," he says in 1735, "got
a farthing by anything I wrote--except once by Pope's prudent management."
This probably refers to _Gulliver_, for which he seems to have received
200_l._ He apparently gave his share in the profits of the _Miscellanies_
to the widow of a Dublin printer.

A few words may now be said about these last writings. 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 Dublin, he said, was barely tolerable, and
those who had been tolerable were now unsupportable. He could no longer
read by candle-light, and his only resource was to write rubbish, most of
which he burnt. The merest trifles that he ever wrote, he says in 1731,
"are serious philosophical lucubrations in comparison to what I now busy
myself about." This, however, was but the development of a lifelong
practice. His favourite maxim, _Vive la bagatelle_, is often quoted by
Pope and Bolingbroke. As he had punned in his youth with Lord Berkeley, so
he amused himself in later years by a constant interchange of trifles with
his friends, and above all with Sheridan. Many of these trifles have been
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 of one variety will be amply sufficient. Sheridan
writes to Swift. _Times a re veri de ad nota do it oras hi lingat 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 Latin, "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 goodnatured man to have had such
a love of nonsense. We may admit some of it to be a proof of good-humour
in the same sense as a love of the backgammon 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 his solitude wasting the most vigorous intellect in the country
upon ingenuities beneath that of the composer of double acrostics. Delany
declares that the habit helped to weaken his intellect. Rather it showed
that his intellect was preying upon itself. Once more we have to think of
the "conjured spirit," and the ropes of sand. Nothing can well be more
lamentable. Books full of this stuff impress us like products of the
painful ingenuity by which some prisoner for life has tried to relieve
himself of the intolerable burden of solitary 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 does not fear death, he says; indeed he longed for it.
His 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" his birthday,
though, in earlier days, Stella and other friends had celebrated the
anniversary. Now it became a day of unmixed gloom, and the chapter in
which Job curses the hour of his birth lay open all day on his table. "And
yet," he says, "I love _la bagatelle_ better than ever." Rather we should
say, "and therefore," for in truth the only excuse for such trifling was
the impossibility of finding any other escape from settled gloom. Friends
indeed seem to have adopted at times the theory that a humourist must
always be on the broad grin. They called him the "laughter-loving" dean,
and thought Gulliver a "merry book." A strange effect is produced when
between two of the letters in which Swift utters the bitterest agonies of
his soul 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 science, _la bagatelle_" and ending with the benediction, "Mirth
be with you!" From such mirth we can only say, may heaven protect us; for
it would remind us of nothing but the mirth of Redgauntlet's companions
when they sat dead (and damned) at their ghastly revelry, and their
laughter passed into such wild sounds as made the daring piper's "very
nails turn blue."

It is not, however, to be inferred that all Swift's recreations were so
dreary as this Anglo-Latin, or that his facetiousness 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 famous
is the poem called _The Grand Question Debated_, the question being
whether an old building called Hamilton's Bawn, belonging to Sir A.
Acheson, should be turned into a malthouse or a barrack. Swift takes the
opportunity of caricaturing the special object of his aversion, the
blustering and illiterate soldier, though he indignantly denies that he
had said anything disagreeable to his hospitable entertainer. Lady Acheson
encouraged him in writing such "lampoons." Her taste cannot have been very
delicate,[86] and she perhaps did not perceive how a rudeness which
affects to be 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 Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation_ and
the _Directions to Servants_, are most singular performances, 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 upon them, though they were
never quite finished. The _Polite Conversation_ was given, as we have
seen, to Mrs. Barber in his later years, and the _Directions to Servants_
came into the printer's hands when he was already imbecile. They show how
closely Swift's sarcastic attention was fixed through life upon the ways
of his inferiors. They are a mass of materials for a natural history of
social absurdities such as Mr. Darwin was in the habit of bestowing upon
the manners and customs of worms. The difference is that Darwin had none
but kindly feelings for worms, whereas Swift's inspection of social vermin
is always edged with contempt. The conversations are a marvellous
collection of the set of cant phrases which at best have supplied the
absence of thought in society. Incidentally there are some curious
illustrations of the customs of the day; though one cannot suppose that
any human beings had ever the marvellous flow of pointless proverbs with
which Lord Sparkish, Mr. Neverout, Miss Notable and the rest manage to
keep the ball incessantly rolling. The talk is nonsensical, as most
small-talk would be, if taken down by a reporter, and, according to modern
standard, hideously vulgar, and yet it flows on with such vivacity that it
is perversely amusing.

    _Lady Answerall._ But, Mr. Neverout, I wonder why such a handsome,
    straight young gentleman as you don't get some rich widow?

    _Lord Sparkish._ Straight! Ay, straight as my leg, and that's crooked
    at the knee.

    _Neverout._ Truth, madam, if it rained rich widows, none would fall
    upon me. Egad, I was born under a threepenny planet, never to be worth
    a groat.

And so the talk flows on, and to all appearance might flow for ever.

Swift professes in his preface to have sat many hundred times with his
table-book ready, without catching a single phrase for his book in eight
hours. Truly he is a kind of Boswell of inanities; and one is amazed at
the quantity of thought which must have gone into this elaborate trifling
upon trifles. A similar vein of satire upon the emptiness of writers is
given in his _Tritical Essay upon the Faculties of the Human Mind_; but
that is a mere skit compared with this strange performance. The
_Directions to Servants_ shows an equal amount of thought exerted upon the
various 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 folly. Undoubtedly it suggests that Swift must have appeared to be
an omniscient master. Delany, as I have said, testifies to his 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 cookmaid
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 faults that can be mended." Another story tells how when a
servant had excused himself for not cleaning boots on the ground that
they would soon be dirty again, Swift made him apply the same principle to
eating breakfast, which would be only a temporary remedy for hunger. In
this, as in every relation of life, Swift was under a kind of necessity of
imposing himself upon every one in contact with him, and followed out his
commands into the minutest details. In the _Directions to Servants_ he has
accumulated the results of his experience in one department; 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 slatternly, and to prefer their own interests to their
master's. Probably no fault could be found with the modern successors of
eighteenth-century servants, which has not already been exemplified in
Swift's presentment of that golden age of domestic comfort. The details
are not altogether pleasant; but, admitting such satire to be legitimate,
Swift's performance is a masterpiece.

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 Bolingbroke, and
which were published by Pope's contrivance during Swift's last period. "I
look upon 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 fools, lawyers,
and ministers), though we certainly cannot say the same of his friends.
Pope and Bolingbroke are full of affectations, 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. We must, indeed,
remember in reading his inverse hypocrisy, his tendency to call his own
motives 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 his
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 excuses himself for
the desertion by referring to his own ill-health--doubtless a true cause
("two sick friends never did well together")--and his anxiety about his
affairs, without a word about Stella. A phrase of Bolingbroke's in the
previous year about "the present Stella, whoever she may be," seems to
prove that he too had no knowledge of Stella except from the poems
addressed to the name. There were depths of feeling which Swift could not
lay bare to the friend in whose affection he seems most thoroughly to have
trusted. Meanwhile he gives full vent to the scorn of mankind and himself,
the bitter and unavailing hatred of oppression, and above all for that
strange mingling of pride and remorse which is always characteristic of
his turn of mind. When he leaves Arbuthnot and Pope he expresses the
warmth of his feelings by declaring that he will try to forget them. He is
deeply grieved by the death of Congreve, and the grief makes him almost
regret that he ever had a friend. He would give half his fortune for the
temper of an easy-going acquaintance who could take up or lose a friend as
easily as a cat. "Is not this the true happy man?" The loss of Gay cuts
him to the heart; he notes on the letter announcing it that he had kept
the letter by him five days "by an impulse foreboding some misfortune." He
cannot speak of it except to say that he regrets that long living has not
hardened him; and that he expects to die poor and friendless. Pope's
ill-health "hangs on his spirits." His moral is that if he 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 that
avarice and hardness of heart are the two happiest qualities a man can
acquire who is late in his life, because by living long we must lessen our
friends or may increase our fortunes." This bitterness is equally apparent
in regard to the virtues on which he most prided himself. His patriotism
was owing to "perfect rage and resentment, and the mortifying sight of
slavery, folly, and baseness;" in which, as he says, he is the direct
contrary of Pope, who can despise folly and hate vice without losing his
temper or thinking the worse of individuals. "Oppression tortures him,"
and means bitter hatred of the concrete oppressor. He tells Barber in 1738
that for three years he has been but the shadow of his former self, and
has entirely lost his memory, "except when it is roused by perpetual
subjects of vexation." Commentators have been at pains to show that such
sentiments are not philanthropic; yet they are the morbid utterance of a
noble and affectionate nature soured by long misery and disappointment.
They brought their own punishment. The unhappy man was fretting himself
into melancholy and was losing all sources of consolation. "I have nobody
now left but you," he writes to Pope in 1736; his invention is gone; he
makes projects which end in the manufacture of waste paper; and what vexes
him most is that his "female friends have now forsaken 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 I have left is to walk and ride." A few
letters are 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 the Death of Dr. Swift_. This and two or three other
performances of about the same period, especially the _Rhapsody on Poetry_
(1733) and the _Verses to a Lady_ are Swift's chief title to be called a
poet. How far that name can be conceded to him is a question of
classification. Swift's originality appears in the very fact that he
requires a new class to be made for him. He justified Dryden's remark in
so far as he was never a poet in the sense in which Milton or Wordsworth
or Shelley or even Dryden himself were poets. His poetry may be called
rhymed prose, and should perhaps be put at about the same level in the
scale of poetry as _Hudibras_. It differs from prose not simply in being
rhymed, but in that the metrical form seems to be the natural and
appropriate mode of utterance. Some of the purely sarcastic and humorous
phrases recall _Hudibras_ more nearly than anything else; as, for example,
the often-quoted verses upon small critics in the _Rhapsody_.

  The vermin only tease and pinch
  Their foes superior by an inch.
  So, naturalists observe a flea
  Has smaller fleas that on him prey,
  And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
  And so proceed _ad infinitum_.

In the verses on his own death, the suppressed passion, the glow and force
of feeling which we perceive behind the merely moral and prosaic phrases
seem to elevate the work to a higher level. It is a mere running of
every-day language into easy-going verse; and yet the strangely mingled
pathos and bitterness, the peculiar irony of which he was the great
master, affect us with a sentiment which may be called poetical in
substance, more forcibly than far more dignified and in some sense
imaginative performances. Whatever name we may please to give to such
work, Swift has certainly struck home and makes an impression which it is
difficult to compress into a few phrases. It is the essence of all that is
given at greater length in the correspondence; and starts from a comment
upon Rochefoucauld's congenial maxim about the misfortunes of our friends.
He tells how his acquaintance watch his decay, tacitly congratulating
themselves that "it is not yet so bad with us;" how, when he dies, they
laugh at the absurdity of his will.

  To public uses! there's a whim!
  What had the public done for him?
  Mere envy, avarice, and pride,
  He gave it all--but first he died.

Then we have the comments of Queen Caroline and Sir Robert and the
rejoicings of Grub Street at the chance of passing off rubbish by calling
it his. His friends are really touched.

  Poor Pope will grieve a month, and Gay
  A week, and Arbuthnot a day,
  St. John himself will scarce forbear
  To bite his pen and drop a tear,
  The rest will give a shrug and cry,
  "'Tis pity, but we all must die!"

The ladies talk over it at their cards. They have learnt to show their
tenderness, and

  Receive the news in doleful dumps.
  The dean is dead (pray what is trumps?);
  Then, Lord have mercy on his soul!
  (Ladies, I'll venture for the _vole_).

The poem concludes, as usual, with an impartial character of the dean. He
claims, with a pride not unjustifiable, the power of independence, love of
his friends, hatred of corruption and so forth; admits that he may have
had "too much satire in his vein," though adding the very questionable
assertion that he "lashed the vice but spared the name." Marlborough,
Wharton, Burnet, Steele, Walpole and a good many more might have had
something to say upon that head. The last phrase is significant,--

  He gave the little wealth he had
  To build a house for fools and mad;
  And showed by one satiric touch
  No nation needed it so much,
  That kingdom he hath left his debtor,
  I wish it soon may have a better!

For some years, in fact, Swift had spent much thought and time in
arranging the details of this bequest. He ultimately left about
12,000_l._, with which, and some other contributions, St. Patrick's
Hospital was opened for fifty patients in the year 1757.

The last few years of Swift's life were passed in an almost total eclipse
of intellect. One pathetic letter to Mrs. Whiteway gives almost the last
touch. "I have been very miserable all night, and to-day extremely deaf
and full of pain. I am so stupid and confounded that I cannot express the
mortification I am under both of body and mind. All I can say is that I am
not in torture; but I daily and hourly expect it. Pray let me know how
your health is and your family. I hardly understand one word I write. I am
sure my days will be very few, for miserable they must be. If I do not
blunder, it is Saturday, July 26, 1740. If I live till Monday, I shall
hope to see you, perhaps for the last time." Even after this he
occasionally showed gleams of his former intelligence, and is said to have
written a well-known epigram during an outing with his attendants:--

  Behold a proof of Irish sense!
  Here Irish wit is seen!
  When nothing's left that's worth defence
  They build a magazine.

Occasionally he gave way to furious outbursts of violent temper; and once
suffered great torture from a swelling in the eye. But his general state
seems to have been apathetic; sometimes 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-disease; though as a rule he enjoyed the painlessness of torpor.
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, containing the last of those terrible phrases which cling to our
memory whenever his name is mentioned. Swift lies, in his own words,--

  Ubi sæva indignatio
  Cor ulterius lacerare nequit.

What more can be added?




[1] _Deane Swift_, p. 15.

[2] Readers may remember a clever adaptation of this incident in Lord
Lytton's _My Novel_.

[3] Possibly this was his cousin Thomas, but the probabilities are clearly
in favour of Jonathan.

[4] In the _Short Character of Thomas, Earl of Wharton_.

[5] It will be seen that I accept Dr. Barrett's statements, _Earlier Part
of the Life of Swift_, pp. 13, 14. His arguments seem to me sufficiently
clear and conclusive, and they are accepted by Monck Mason, though treated
contemptuously by Mr. Forster, p. 34. On the other hand, I agree with Mr.
Forster that Swift's complicity in the _Terræ Filius_ oration is not
proved, though it is not altogether improbable.

[6] Temple had the reversion of his father's office.

[7] It may be noticed in illustration of the growth of the Swift legend,
that two demonstrably false anecdotes--one imputing a monstrous crime, the
other a romantic piece of benevolence to Swift--refer to this period.

[8] M. Maralt. See appendix to Courtenay's _Life of Temple_.

[9] The publichouse at the point thus named on the ordnance map is now (I
regret to say) called the Jolly Farmer.

[10] The most direct statement to this effect was made in an article in
the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for 1757. It professes to speak with authority,
but includes such palpable blunders as to carry little weight.

[11] I am not certain whether this means 1681 or 1681-82. I have assumed
the former date in mentioning Stella's age; but the other is equally

[12] Wotton first accused Swift of borrowing the idea of the battle from a
French book, by one Coutray, called _Histoire Poétique de la Guerre
nouvellement declarée entre les Anciens et Modernes_. Swift declared (I
have no doubt truly) that he had never seen or heard of this book. But
Coutray, like Swift, uses the scheme of a mock Homeric battle. The book is
prose, but begins with a poem. The resemblance is much closer than Mr.
Forster's language would imply; but I agree with him that it does not
justify Johnson and Scott in regarding it as more than a natural
coincidence. Every detail is different.

[13] This was a treatise by Thomas, twin brother of Henry Vaughan, the
"Silurist." It led to a controversy with Henry More. Vaughan was a
Rosicrucian. Swift's contempt for mysteries is characteristic. Sendivogus
was a famous alchemist (1566-1646).

[14] See Forster, p. 117.

[15] He was in England from April to September in 1701, from April to
November in 1702, from November 1703 till May 1704, for an uncertain part
of 1705, and again for over fifteen months from the end of 1707 till the
beginning of 1709.

[16] Mr. Forster found the original MS., and gives us the exact numbers:
96 omitted, 44 added, 22 altered. The whole was 178 lines _after_ the

[17] See letter to _Peterborough_, May 6, 1711.

[18] In most of their principles the two parties seem to have shifted
opinions since their institution in the reign of Charles II. _Examiner_,
No. 43. May 31, 1711.

[19] Delany, p. 211.

[20] Letter to King, Jan. 6th, 1709.

[21] Swift to King, July 12, 1711.

[22] These dinners, it may be noticed, seem to have been held on Thursdays
when Harley had to attend the court at Windsor. This may lead to some
confusion with the Brothers' Club, which met on Thursdays during the
parliamentary session.

[23] _Letter to a Whig Lord_, 1712.

[24] _Journal to Stella_, Feb. 6th, 1712, and Jan. 8th and 25th, 1712.

[25] _Ib._ Jan. 7th, 1711.

[26] _Ib._ Jan. 21st, 1712.

[27] _Ib._ Dec. 31st, 1710.

[28] _Conduct of the Allies._

[29] _Advice to October Club._

[30] _Behaviour of Queen's Ministry._

[31] There was enough plausibility in this scandal to give it a sting. The
duchess had left her second husband, a Mr. Thynne, immediately after the
marriage ceremony, and fled to Holland. There Count Coningsmark paid her
his addresses, and, coming to England, had Mr. Thynne shot by ruffians in
Pall Mall. See the curious case in the _State Trials_, vol. ix.

[32] Letters from Smalridge and Dr. Davenant in 1713.

[33] Letter to Lord Palmerston, Jan. 29th, 1726.

[34] June 22nd, 1711.

[35] The list, so far as I can make it out from references in the journal,
appears to include more names. One or two had probably retired. The peers
are as follows:--The Dukes of Shrewsbury (perhaps only suggested), Ormond
and Beaufort; Lords Orrery, Rivers, Dartmouth, Dupplin, Masham, Bathurst,
and Lansdowne (the last three were of the famous twelve); and the
commoners are Swift, Sir R. Raymond, Jack Hill, Disney, Sir W. Wyndham,
St. John, Prior, Friend, Arbuthnot, Harley (son of Lord Oxford), and
Harcourt (son of Lord Harcourt).

[36] Feb. 28th, 1712.

[37] Its authenticity was doubted, but, as I think, quite gratuitously, by
Johnson, by Lord Stanhope, and, as Stanhope says, by Macaulay. The dulness
is easily explicable by the circumstances of the composition.

[38] April 13, 1713.

[39] Letter to King, Dec. 16th, 1716.

[40] _Inquiry into the Behaviour of the Queen's last Ministry._

[41] _Autobiography_, i. 407.

[42] _Foster_, p. 108.

[43] Oct. 20th, 1711. The last use I have observed of this word is in a
letter of Carlyle's, Nov. 7th, 1824. "Strange pilgarlic-looking figures."
Froude's _Life of Carlyle_, i. 247.

[44] Lord Orrery instructs us to pronounce this name Vanummery.

[45] This simply repeats what he says in his first published letters about
his flirtations at Leicester.

[46] The passage which contains this line was said by Orrery to cast an
unmanly insinuation against Vanessa's virtue. As the accusation has been
repeated, it is perhaps right to say that one fact sufficiently disproves
its possibility. The poem was intended for Vanessa alone; and would never
have appeared had it not been published after her death by her own

[47] Compare Pope's _Eloisa_ to _Abelard_ which appeared in 1717. If
Vanessa had read it, she might almost be suspected of borrowing; but her
phrases seem to be too genuine to justify the hypothesis.

[48] Scott appropriately quotes Hotspur. The phrase is apparently a hint
at Swift's usual recipe of exercise.

[49] I cannot here discuss the evidence. The original statements are in
_Orrery_, p. 22 &c.; _Delany_, p. 52; _Dean Swift_, p. 93; _Sheridan_, p.
282; _Monck Berkeley_, p. xxxvi. Scott accepted the marriage, and the
evidence upon which he relied was criticized by Monck Mason, p. 297, &c.
Monck Mason makes some good points, and especially diminishes the value of
the testimony of Bishop Berkeley, showing by dates that he could not have
heard the story, as his grandson affirms, from Bishop Ashe, who is said to
have performed the ceremony. It probably came, however, from Berkeley,
who, we may add, was tutor to Ashe's son, and had special reasons for
interest in the story. On the whole, the argument for the marriage comes
to this: that it was commonly reported by the end of Swift's life, that it
was certainly believed by his intimate friend Delany, in all probability
by the elder Sheridan and by Mrs. Whiteway. Mrs. Sican, who told the story
to Sheridan, seems also to be a good witness. On the other hand, Dr. Lyon,
a clergyman who was one of Swift's guardians in his imbecility, says that
it was denied by Mrs. Dingley and by Mrs. Brent, Swift's old housekeeper,
and by Stella's executors. The evidence seems to me very indecisive. Much
of it may be dismissed as mere gossip, but a certain probability remains.

[50] _Monck Mason_, p. 310, note.

[51] This is Sheridan's story. Orrery speaks of the letter as written to
Swift himself.

[52] Scott heard this from Mrs. Whiteway's grandson. Sheridan tells the
story as though Stella had begged for publicity, and Swift cruelly
refused. Delany's statement (p. 56), which agrees with Mrs. Whiteway's,
appears to be on good authority, and, if true, proves the reality of the

[53] Besides Scott's remarks (see v. of his life) see Orrery, _Letter_ 10;
_Deane Swift_, p. 93, _Sheridan_, p. 297.

[54] _Letter to Pope_, July 16th, 1728.

[55] _Sheridan_, p. 23.

[56] _Brain_ for Jan., 1882.

[57] _Closing Years of Dean Swift's Life._

[58] Letter to Pope, July 13th, 1737.

[59] _Catholic Reasons for Repealing the Test._

[60] _Letters on Sacramental Test in 1738._

[61] To Sir Charles Wigan, July, 1732.

[62] To Lord Peterborough, April 21st, 1726.

[63] The ton of bronze, I am informed, is coined into 108,000 pence, that
is 450_l._ The metal is worth about 74_l._

[64] Simon, in his work on the Irish coinage, makes the profit 60,000_l._;
but he reckons the copper at 1_s._ a lb., whereas from the Report of the
Privy Council it would seem to be properly 1_s._ 6_d._ a lb. Swift and
most later writers say 108,000_l._, but the right sum is 100,800_l._ 360
tons coined into 2_s._ 6_d._ a lb.

[65] Monck Mason says only 300_l._ a year, but this is the sum mentioned
in the Report and by Swift.

[66] Letter I.

[67] Letter II.

[68] See for example Lord Stanhope's account. For the other view see Mr.
Lecky's _History of the Eighteenth Century_, and Mr. Froude's _English in

[69] Letter IV.

[70] "On the words Brother Protestants, &c."

[71] To Lord Stafford, Nov. 26, 1725.

[72] _Maxims Controuled in Ireland._

[73] _Delany_, p. 148.

[74] It is in the Forster library, and, I believe, unpublished, in answer
to Arbuthnot's letter mentioned in the text.

[75] Letter to Pope, Sept. 29th, 1725.

[76] Letter to Sheridan, Sept. 11th, 1725.

[77] _Lectures on the English Poets._

[78] To Bolingbroke, May, 1719.

[79] To Pope and Gay, Oct. 15th, 1726.

[80] _Delany_, p. 144.

[81] Bishop of Meath, May 22nd, 1719.

[82] To Bishop of Clogher, July, 1733.

[83] To Carteret, May 10th, 1728.

[84] Substance of a speech to the Mayor of Dublin. Franklin left a sum of
money to be employed in a similar way.

[85] See also the curious letters from Mrs. Pilkington in Richardson's

[86] Or she would hardly have written the _Panegyric_.

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