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He says as much himself in one of his letters to Bolingbroke:-"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 5 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 out10 law, 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. 15 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, 20 and gives them over to followers of his own. The
great prize has not come yet. The coach with the 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, 25 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.
*“I make no figure but at Court, where I affect to turn from a lord to the meanest of my acquaintances.”—Journal to Stella. 30 “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 :35 “ 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, for fear he should think that I counterfeited to make my court ! ”—Journal to Stella.
mitre and crozier in it, which he intends to have for his share, has been delayed on the way from Saint 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 5 fires his pistols into the air with a curse, and rides away into his own country.*
* The war of pamphlets was carried on fiercely on one side and the other: and the Whig attacks made the Ministry Swift served
sore. Bolingbroke laid hold of several of the Opposition 10 pamphleteers, and bewails their “factitiousness” 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 15 are too weak to punish effectually those factitious 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 20 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 legalproof 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 last four 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 30 been such as to deserve the severest animadversion from the pub. lic. . . . 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. 35 However, 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 40, 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 Rever.
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 5 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
ence objects altogether; for, says he, “besides the objection to 10this clause from the practice of pious men, who, in publishing ex
cellent writings for the service of religion, have chosen, out of an humble 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 first sending their thoughts into 15 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 20them. He writes to Stella :
Journal. Letter XIX.
LONDON: March 25th, 1710-11. We have let Guiscard be buried at last, after showing him pickled 'n a trough this fortnight for twopence a piece; and the 25 fellow that showed would point to his body and say, “See, gentle
men, 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 30 was not tried; and in the eye of the law every man is innocent
Journal. Letter XXVII.
LONDON: July 25th, 1711. “I was this afternoon with Mr. Secretary at his office, and helped 35 to hinder a man of his pardon, who was condemned for a rape.
The Under-Secretary was willing to save him; but I told the Secre. tary he could not pardon him without a favourable report from the Judge; besides, he was a fiddler, and consequently a rogue, and deserved hanging for something else, and so he shall swing."
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 had to shift for themselves. They, as well as old beliefs and institutions, had lost their moorings and gone adrift in 5 the storm. As in the South Sea Bubble, almost everybody gambled; as in the Railway manianot 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 other-10 wise 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 casti-15 gation. His youth was bitter, as that of a great go nius 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 20 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-what25 satirist meditating an onslaught on society or an. individual, can't 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 30
* It was his constant practice to keep his birthday as a day of mourning.
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. 5 As fierce a beak and talon as ever struck—as strong a wing as ever beat, belonged to Swift. I am glad, for one, that fate wrested the prey out of his claws, and cut his wings and cliained him. One,
can gaze, and not without awe and pity, at the . 10 lonely eagle chained behind the bars.
That Swift was born at No. 7 Hoey's Court, Dublin, on the 30th November 1667, is a certain fact, of which nobody will deny the sister island the
honour and glory; but, it seems to me, he was no 15 more an Irishman than a man born of English par
ents at Calcutta is a Hindoo.f Goldsmith was an
*“ These devils of Grub Street rogues, that write the Flying Post and Medley in one paper, will not be quiet. They are always maul
ing Lord Treasurer, Lord Bolingbroke, and me. We have the dog 20 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.
† Swift was by no means inclined to forget such considerations; 25 and his English birth makes its mark, strikingly enough, every
now and then in his writings. Thus in a letter to Pope (Scott's Swift, vol. xix. p. 97), he says:-
“We have had your volumes of letters. ... Some of those who highly value you, and a few who knew you personally, are grieved 30 to find you make no distinction between the English gentry of this
kingdom, and the savage old Irish (who are only the vulgar, and some gentlemen who live in the Irish parts of the kingdom); but the English colonies, who are three parts in four, are much more
civilised than many counties in England, and speak better English, 35 and are much better bred."
And again, in the fourth Drapier's Letter, we have the following:
“A short paper, printed at Bristol, and reprinted here, reports Mr. Wood to say that he wonders at the impudence and insolence 40 of the Irish in refusing his coin.' When, by the way, it is the true