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and not had the pluck to reply, and gone home, and years after written a foul epigram about you—watched for you in a sewer, and come out to assail you with a coward's blow and a dirty bludgeon. If you had been a lord with a blue riband, who flattered his vanity, or could help his ambition, he would have been the most delightful company in the world. He would have been so manly, so sarcastic, so bright, odd, and original, that you might think he had no object in view but the indulgence of his humour, and that he was the most reckless, simple creature in the world. How he would have torn your enemies to pieces for you! and made fun of the Opposition! His servility was so boisterous that it looked like independence ;' he would have done your errands, but with the air of patronising you, and after fighting your battles masked in the street or the press, would have kept on his hat before your wife and daughters in the drawing-room, content to take that sort of pay for his tremendous services as a bravo."
“In what regiment, pray ?” asked Swift.
But, my Hamilton, I will never hide the freedom of my sentiments from you. I am much inclined to believe that the temper of my friend Swift might occasion his English friends to wish him happily and properly promoted at a distance. His spirit, for I would give it the proper name, was ever untractable. The motions of his genius were often irregular. He assumed more the air of a patron than of a friend. He affected rather to dictate than advise."-ORRERY.
An anecdote which, though only told by Mrs. Pilkington, is well attested, bears, that the last time he was in London he went to dine with the Earl of Burlington, who was but newly married. The Earl, it is supposed, being willing to have a little diversion, did not introduce him to his lady, nor mention his name. After dinner, said the Dean, ‘Lady Burlington, I hear you can sing; sing me a song.' The lady looked on this unceremonious manner of asking a favour with distaste, and positively refused. He said. She should sing, or he would make her. Why, madam, I suppose you take me for one of your poor English hedge-parsons; sing when I bid you.' As the Earl did nothing but laugh at this freedom, the la'y was so vexed that
He says as much himself in one of his letters to Boling. broke :-"All my endeavours 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 and great learning does the office of a blue riband or a coach and six."
Could there be a greater candour ? It is an outlaw, who says, “ These are my brains; with these I'll win titles and compete with fortune. These are my bullets; these I'll turn into gold ;” and he hears the sound of coaches and six, takes the road like Macheath, and makes society stand and deliver. They are all on their knees before him. Down go my lord bishop's apron, and his Grace's blue riband, and my lady's brocade petticoat in the mud. He eases the one of a living, the other of a patent place, the third of a little snug post about the Court, and gives them over to followers
she burst into tears and retired. His first compliment to her when he saw her again was, “Pray, madam, are you as proud and ill-natured now as when I saw you last? To which she answered with great good-humour, ‘No, Mr. Dean, I'll sing for you if you please.' From which time he conceived a great esteem for her.”— Scott's Life.
“He had not the least tincture of vanity in his conversation. He was, perhaps, as he said himself, too proud to be vain. When he was polite, it was in a manner entirely his own. In his friendships he was constant and undisguised. He was the same in his enmities.”_ORRERY.
1 “I make no figure but at court, where I affect to turn from a lord to the meanest of my acquaintances.”—-Journal to Stella.
"I am plagued with bad authors, verse and prose, who send me their books and poems, the vilest I ever saw; but I have given their names to my man, never to let them see me." - Journal to Stella.
The following curious paragraph illustrates the life of a courtier :
“Did I ever tell you that the Lord Treasurer hears ill with the left ear just as I do?...... I dare not tell him that I am so, sir; for fear he should think that I i counterfeited to make my court !"-Journal to Stella.
of his own. The great prize has not come yet. The coach with the mitre and crozier in it, which he intends to have for his share, has been delayed on the way from St. James's; and he waits and waits until nightfall, when his runners come and tell him that the coach has taken a different road, and escaped him. So he fires his pistols into the air with a curse, and rides away into his country.'
1 The war of pamphlets was carried on fiercely on one side and the other; and the Whig attacks made the ministry Swift served very sore. Bolingbroke laid hold of several of the Opposition pamphleteers, and bewails their “factiousness” in the following letter: “ BOLINGBROKE TO THE EARL OF STRAFFORD.
"Whitehall, July 23rd, 1712. "It is a melancholy consideration that the laws of our country are too weak to punish effectually those factious scribblers, who presume to blacken the brightest characters, and to give even scurrilous language to those who are in the first degrees of honour. This, my lord, among others, is a symptom of the decayed condition of our government, and serves to show how fatally we mistake licentiousness for liberty. All I could do was to take up Hart, the printer, to send him to Newgate, and to bind him over upon bail to be prosecuted; this I have done, and if I can arrive at legal proof against the author Ridpath, he shall have the same treatment."
Swift was not behind his illustrious friend in this virtuous indignation. In the history of the four last years of the Queen, the Dean speaks in the most edifying manner of the licentiousness of the press and the abusive language of the other party :
“It must be acknowledged that the bad practices of printers have been such as to deserve the severest animadversion from the public. ..... The adverse party, full of rage and leisure since their fall, and unanimous in their cause, employ a set of writers by subscription who are well versed in all the topics of defamation and have a style and genius levelled to the generality of their readers....... How ever,
the mischiefs of the press were too exorbitant to be cured by such a remedy as a tax upon small papers, and a bill for a much more effectual regulation of it was brought into the House of Commons, but so late in the session that there was no time to pass it, for there always appeared an unwillingness to cramp overmuch the liberty of the press.”
But to a clause in the proposed bill, that the names of authors should be set to every printed book, pamphlet, or paper, his reverence objects altogether, for, says he, “beside the objection to this clause from the practice of pious men, who, in publishing excellent writings for the service of religion, have chosen, out of an hum
Swift's seems to me to be as good a name to point a moral or adorn a tale of ambition, as any hero's that ever lived and failed. But we must remember that the morality was lax,--that other gentlemen besides himself took the road in his day,—that public society was in a strange disordered condition, and the State was ravaged by other condottieri. The Boyne was being fought and won, and lost
the bells rung in William's victory, in the very same tone with which they would have pealed for James's. Men were loose upon politics, and to shift for themselves. They, as well as old beliefs and institutions, had lost their moorings and gone adrift in the storm. As in the South Sea Bubble almost everybody gambled ; as in the Railway ble Christian spirit, to conceal their names ; it is certain that all persons of true genius or knowledge have an invincible modesty and suspicion of themselves upon their first sending their thoughts into the world.”
This “invincible modesty” was no doubt the sole reason which induced the Dean to keep the secret of the “Drapier's Letters," and a hundred humble Christian works of which he was the author. As for the Opposition, the Doctor was for dealing severely with them : he writes to Stella :
JOURNAL. LETTER XIX.
"London, March 25th, 1710–11. We have let Guiscard be buried at last, after showing him pickled in a trough this fortnight for twopence a piece ; and the fellow that showed would point to his body and say, “See, gentlemen, this is the wound that was given him by his Grace the Duke of Ormond;' and, “This is the wound,' &c.; and then the show was over, and another set of rabble came in. 'Tis hard that our laws would not suffer us to hang his body in chains, because he was not tried; and in the eye of the law every man is innocent till then.”
JOURNAL. LETTER XXVII.
“London, July 25th, 1711. “I was this afternoon with Mr. Secretary at his office, and helped to hinder a man of his pardon, who is condemned for a rape. The Under Secretary was will. ing to save him ; but I told the Secretary he could not pardon him without a farourable report from the Judge, besides, he was a fiddler, and consequently a rogue, and deserved hanging for something else ; and so he shall swing."
mania-not many centuries ago_almost every one took his unlucky share; a man of that time, of the vast talents and ambition of Swift, could scarce do otherwise than grasp at his prize, and make his spring at his opportunity. His bitterness, his scorn, his rage, his subsequent misanthropy, are ascribed by some panegyrists to a deliberate conviction of mankind's unworthiness, and a desire to amend them by castigating. His youth was bitter, as that of a great genius bound down by ignoble ties, and powerless in a mean dependence ; his age was bitter," like that of a great genius that had fought the battle and nearly won it, and lost it, and thought of it afterwards writhing in a lonely exile. A man may attribute to the gods, if he likes, what is caused by his own fury, or disappointment, or self-will. What public man—what statesman projecting a coup—what king determined on an invasion of his neighbour-what satirist meditating an onslaught on society or an individual, cannot give a pretext for his move? There was a French general the other day who proposed to march into this country and put it to sack and pillage, in revenge for humanity outraged by our conduct at Copenhagen,—there is always some excuse for men of the aggressive turn. They are of their nature warlike, predatory, eager for fight, plunder, dominion.” As fierce a beak and talon as ever struck-as strong a wing as ever beat, belonged to Swift. I am glad,
1 It was his constant practice to keep his birth-day as a day of mourning.
2 “These devils of Grub-street rogues, that write the Flying-Post and Medley in one paper, will not be quiet. They are always mauling Lord Treasurer, Lord Bolingbroke, and me. We have the dog under prosecution, but Bolingbroke is not active enough; but I hope to swinge him. He is a Scotch rogue, one Ridpath. They get out upon bail, and write on. We take them again, and get fresh bail ; so it goes round.”-Journal to Stella.