Lives of the Poets: Addison, Savage, etc.
Samuel Johnson

Part 3 out of 4

restored; but with whom he never appeared to entertain for a moment
the thought of soliciting a reconciliation, and whom he treated at
once with all the haughtiness of superiority and all the bitterness
of resentment. He wrote to him, not in a style of supplication or
respect, but of reproach, menace, and contempt; and appeared
determined, if he ever regained his allowance, to hold it only by
the right of conquest.

As many more can discover that a man is richer than that he is wiser
than themselves, superiority of understanding is not so readily
acknowledged as that of fortune; nor is that haughtiness which the
consciousness of great abilities incites, borne with the same
submission as the tyranny of affluence; and therefore Savage, by
asserting his claim to deference and regard, and by treating those
with contempt whom better fortune animated to rebel against him, did
not fail to raise a great number of enemies in the different classes
of mankind. Those who thought themselves raised above him by the
advantages of riches hated him because they found no protection from
the petulance of his wit. Those who were esteemed for their
writings feared him as a critic, and maligned him as a rival; and
almost all the smaller wits were his professed enemies.

Among these Mr. Miller so far indulged his resentment as to
introduce him in a farce, and direct him to be personated on the
stage in a dress like that which he then wore; a mean insult, which
only insinuated that Savage had but one coat, and which was
therefore despised by him rather than resented; for, though he wrote
a lampoon against Miller, he never printed it: and as no other
person ought to prosecute that revenge from which the person who was
injured desisted, I shall not preserve what Mr. Savage suppressed;
of which the publication would indeed have been a punishment too
severe for so impotent an assault.

The great hardships of poverty were to Savage not the want of
lodging or food, but the neglect and contempt which it drew upon
him. He complained that, as his affairs grew desperate, he found
his reputation for capacity visibly decline; that his opinion in
questions of criticism was no longer regarded when his coat was out
of fashion; and that those who, in the interval of his prosperity,
were always encouraging him to great undertakings by encomiums on
his genius and assurances of success, now received any mention of
his designs with coldness, thought that the subjects on which he
proposed to write were very difficult, and were ready to inform him
that the event of a poem was uncertain, that an author ought to
employ much time in the consideration of his plan, and not presume
to sit down to write in consequence of a few cursory ideas and a
superficial knowledge; difficulties were started on all sides, and
he was no longer qualified for any performance but "The Volunteer

Yet even this kind of contempt never depressed him: for he always
preserved a steady confidence in his own capacity, and believed
nothing above his reach which he should at any time earnestly
endeavour to attain. He formed schemes of the same kind with regard
to knowledge and to fortune, and flattered himself with advances to
be made in science, as with riches, to be enjoyed in some distant
period of his life. For the acquisition of knowledge he was indeed
much better qualified than for that of riches; for he was naturally
inquisitive, and desirous of the conversation of those from whom any
information was to be obtained, but by no means solicitous to
improve those opportunities that were sometimes offered of raising
his fortune; and he was remarkably retentive of his ideas, which,
when once he was in possession of them, rarely forsook him; a
quality which could never be communicated to his money.

While he was thus wearing out his life in expectation that the queen
would some time recollect her promise, he had recourse to the usual
practice of writers, and published proposals for printing his works
by subscription, to which he was encouraged by the success of many
who had not a better right to the favour of the public; but,
whatever was the reason, he did not find the world equally inclined
to favour him; and he observed with some discontent, that though he
offered his works at half a guinea, he was able to procure but a
small number in comparison with those who subscribed twice as much
to Duck. Nor was it without indignation that he saw his proposals
neglected by the queen, who patronised Mr. Duck's with uncommon
ardour, and incited a competition among those who attended the court
who should most promote his interest, and who should first offer a
subscription. This was a distinction to which Mr. Savage made no
scruple of asserting that his birth, his misfortunes, and his
genius, gave a fairer title than could be pleaded by him on whom it
was conferred.

Savage's applications were, however, not universally unsuccessful;
for some of the nobility countenanced his design, encouraged his
proposals, and subscribed with great liberality. He related of the
Duke of Chandos particularly, that upon receiving his proposals he
sent him ten guineas. But the money which his subscriptions
afforded him was not less volatile than that which he received from
his other schemes; whenever a subscription was paid him, he went to
a tavern; and as money so collected is necessarily received in small
sums, he never was able to send his poems to the press, but for many
years continued his solicitation, and squandered whatever he

The project of printing his works was frequently revived; and as his
proposals grew obsolete, new ones were printed with fresher dates.
To form schemes for the publication was one of his favourite
amusements; nor was he ever more at ease than when, with any friend
who readily fell in with his schemes, he was adjusting the print,
forming the advertisements, and regulating the dispersion of his new
edition, which he really intended some time to publish, and which,
as long as experience had shown him the impossibility of printing
the volume together, he at last determined to divide into weekly or
monthly numbers, that the profits of the first might supply the
expenses of the next.

Thus he spent his time in mean expedients and tormenting suspense,
living for the greatest part in fear of prosecutions from his
creditors, and consequently skulking in obscure parts of the town,
of which he was no stranger to the remotest corners. But wherever
he came, his address secured him friends, whom his necessities soon
alienated; so that he had perhaps a more numerous acquaintance than
any man ever before attained, there being scarcely any person
eminent on any account to whom he was not known, or whose character
he was not in some degree able to delineate. To the acquisition of
this extensive acquaintance every circumstance of his life
contributed. He excelled in the arts of conversation, and therefore
willingly practised them. He had seldom any home, or even a
lodging, in which he could be private, and therefore was driven into
public-houses for the common conveniences of life and supports of
nature. He was always ready to comply with every invitation, having
no employment to withhold him, and often no money to provide for
himself; and by dining with one company he never failed of obtaining
an introduction into another.

Thus dissipated was his life, and thus casual his subsistence; yet
did not the distraction of his views hinder him from reflection, nor
the uncertainty of his condition depress his gaiety. When he had
wandered about without any fortunate adventure by which he was led
into a tavern, he sometimes retired into the fields, and was able to
employ his mind in study, to amuse it with pleasing imaginations;
and seldom appeared to be melancholy but when some sudden misfortune
had just fallen upon him; and even then in a few moments he would
disentangle himself from his perplexity, adopt the subject of
conversation, and apply his mind wholly to the objects that others
presented to it. This life, unhappy as it may be already imagined,
was yet embittered in 1738 with new calamities. The death of the
queen deprived him of all the prospects of preferment with which he
so long entertained his imagination; and as Sir Robert Walpole had
before given him reason to believe that he never intended the
performance of his promise, he was now abandoned again to fortune.
He was, however, at that time supported by a friend; and as it was
not his custom to look out for distant calamities, or to feel any
other pain than that which forced itself upon his senses, he was not
much afflicted at his loss, and perhaps comforted himself that his
pension would be now continued without the annual tribute of a
panegyric. Another expectation contributed likewise to support him;
he had taken a resolution to write a second tragedy upon the story
of Sir Thomas Overbury, in which he preserved a few lines of his
former play, but made a total alteration of the plan, added new
incidents, and introduced new characters; so that it was a new
tragedy, not a revival of the former.

Many of his friends blamed him for not making choice of another
subject; but in vindication of himself he asserted that it was not
easy to find a better; and that he thought it his interest to
extinguish the memory of the first tragedy, which he could only do
by writing one less defective upon the same story; by which he
should entirely defeat the artifice of the booksellers, who, after
the death of any author of reputation, are always industrious to
swell his works by uniting his worst productions with his best. In
the execution of this scheme, however, he proceeded but slowly, and
probably only employed himself upon it when he could find no other
amusement; but he pleased himself with counting the profits, and
perhaps imagined that the theatrical reputation which he was about
to acquire would be equivalent to all that he had lost by the death
of his patroness. He did not, in confidence of his approaching
riches, neglect the measures proper to secure the continuance of his
pension, though some of his favourers thought him culpable for
omitting to write on her death; but on her birthday next year he
gave a proof of the solidity of his judgment and the power of his
genius. He knew that the track of elegy had been so long beaten
that it was impossible to travel in it without treading in the
footsteps of those who had gone before him; and that therefore it
was necessary, that he might distinguish himself from the herd of
encomiasts, to find out some new walk of funeral panegyric. This
difficult task he performed in such a manner that his poem may be
justly ranked among the best pieces that the death of princes has
produced. By transferring the mention of her death to her birthday,
he has formed a happy combination of topics which any other man
would have thought it very difficult to connect in one view, but
which he has united in such a manner that the relation between them
appears natural; and it may be justly said that what no other man
would have thought on, it now appears scarcely possible for any man
to miss.

The beauty of this peculiar combination of images is so masterly
that it is sufficient to set this poem above censure; and therefore
it is not necessary to mention many other delicate touches which may
be found in it, and which would deservedly be admired in any other
performance. To these proofs of his genius may be added, from the
same poem, an instance of his prudence, an excellence for which he
was not so often distinguished; he does not forget to remind the
king, in the most delicate and artful manner, of continuing his

With regard to the success of his address he was for some time in
suspense, but was in no great degree solicitous about it; and
continued his labour upon his new tragedy with great tranquillity,
till the friend who had for a considerable time supported him,
removing his family to another place, took occasion to dismiss him.
It then became necessary to inquire more diligently what was
determined in his affair, having reason to suspect that no great
favour was intended him, because he had not received his pension at
the usual time.

It is said that he did not take those methods of retrieving his
interest which were most likely to succeed; and some of those who
were employed in the Exchequer cautioned him against too much
violence in his proceedings; but Mr. Savage, who seldom regulated
his conduct by the advice of others, gave way to his passion, and
demanded of Sir Robert Walpole, at his levee, the reason of the
distinction that was made between him and the other pensioners of
the queen, with a degree of roughness which perhaps determined him
to withdraw what had been only delayed.

Whatever was the crime of which he was accused or suspected, and
whatever influence was employed against him, he received soon after
an account that took from him all hopes of regaining his pension;
and he had now no prospect of subsistence but from his play, and he
knew no way of living for the time required to finish it.

So peculiar were the misfortunes of this man, deprived of an estate
and title by a particular law, exposed and abandoned by a mother,
defrauded by a mother of a fortune which his father had allotted
him, he entered the world without a friend; and though his abilities
forced themselves into esteem and reputation, he was never able to
obtain any real advantage; and whatever prospects arose, were always
intercepted as he began to approach them. The king's intentions in
his favour were frustrated; his dedication to the prince, whose
generosity on every other occasion was eminent, procured him no
reward; Sir Robert Walpole, who valued himself upon keeping his
promise to others, broke it to him without regret; and the bounty of
the queen was, after her death, withdrawn from him, and from him

Such were his misfortunes, which yet he bore, not only with decency,
but with cheerfulness; nor was his gaiety clouded even by his last
disappointments, though he was in a short time reduced to the lowest
degree of distress, and often wanted both lodging and food. At this
time he gave another instance of the insurmountable obstinacy of his
spirit: his clothes were worn out, and he received notice that at a
coffee-house some clothes and linen were left for him: the person
who sent them did not, I believe, inform him to whom he was to be
obliged, that he might spare the perplexity of acknowledging the
benefit; but though the offer was so far generous, it was made with
some neglect of ceremonies, which Mr. Savage so much resented that
he refused the present, and declined to enter the house till the
clothes that had been designed for him were taken away.

His distress was now publicly known, and his friends therefore
thought it proper to concert some measures for his relief; and one
of them [Pope] wrote a letter to him, in which he expressed his
concern "for the miserable withdrawing of this pension;" and gave
him hopes that in a short time he should find himself supplied with
a competence, "without any dependence on those little creatures
which we are pleased to call the Great." The scheme proposed for
this happy and independent subsistence was, that he should retire
into Wales, and receive an allowance of fifty pounds a year, to be
raised by a subscription, on which he was to live privately in a
cheap place, without aspiring any more to affluence, or having any
further care of reputation. This offer Mr. Savage gladly accepted,
though with intentions very different from those of his friends; for
they proposed that he should continue an exile from London for ever,
and spend all the remaining part of his life at Swansea; but he
designed only to take the opportunity which their scheme offered him
of retreating for a short time, that he might prepare his play for
the stage, and his other works for the press, and then to return to
London to exhibit his tragedy, and live upon the profits of his own
labour. With regard to his works he proposed very great
improvements, which would have required much time or great
application; and, when he had finished them, he designed to do
justice to his subscribers by publishing them according to his
proposals. As he was ready to entertain himself with future
pleasures, he had planned out a scheme of life for the country, of
which he had no knowledge but from pastorals and songs. He imagined
that he should be transported to scenes of flowery felicity, like
those which one poet has reflected to another; and had projected a
perpetual round of innocent pleasures, of which he suspected no
interruption from pride, or ignorance, or brutality. With these
expectations he was so enchanted that when he was once gently
reproached by a friend for submitting to live upon a subscription,
and advised rather by a resolute exertion of his abilities to
support himself, he could not bear to debar himself from the
happiness which was to be found in the calm of a cottage, or lose
the opportunity of listening, without intermission, to the melody of
the nightingale, which he believed was to be heard from every
bramble, and which he did not fail to mention as a very important
part of the happiness of a country life.

While this scheme was ripening, his friends directed him to take a
lodging in the liberties of the Fleet, that he might be secure from
his creditors, and sent him every Monday a guinea, which he commonly
spent before the next morning, and trusted, after his usual manner,
the remaining part of the week to the bounty of fortune.

He now began very sensibly to feel the miseries of dependence.
Those by whom he was to be supported began to prescribe to him with
an air of authority, which he knew not how decently to resent, nor
patiently to bear; and he soon discovered from the conduct of most
of his subscribers, that he was yet in the hands of "little
creatures." Of the insolence that he was obliged to suffer he gave
many instances, of which none appeared to raise his indignation to a
greater height than the method which was taken of furnishing him
with clothes. Instead of consulting him, and allowing him to send a
tailor his orders for what they thought proper to allow him, they
proposed to send for a tailor to take his measure, and then to
consult how they should equip him. This treatment was not very
delicate, nor was it such as Savage's humanity would have suggested
to him on a like occasion; but it had scarcely deserved mention, had
it not, by affecting him in an uncommon degree, shown the
peculiarity of his character. Upon hearing the design that was
formed, he came to the lodging of a friend with the most violent
agonies of rage; and, being asked what it could be that gave him
such disturbance, he replied with the utmost vehemence of
indignation, "That they had sent for a tailor to measure him."

How the affair ended was never inquired, for fear of renewing his
uneasiness. It is probable that, upon recollection, he submitted
with a good grace to what he could not avoid, and that he discovered
no resentment where he had no power. He was, however, not humbled
to implicit and universal compliance; for when the gentleman who had
first informed him of the design to support him by a subscription
attempted to procure a reconciliation with the Lord Tyrconnel, he
could by no means be prevailed upon to comply with the measures that
were proposed.

A letter was written for him to Sir William Lemon, to prevail upon
him to interpose his good offices with Lord Tyrconnel, in which he
solicited Sir William's assistance "for a man who really needed it
as much as any man could well do;" and informed him that he was
retiring "for ever to a place where he should no more trouble his
relations, friends, or enemies;" he confessed that his passion had
betrayed him to some conduct, with regard to Lord Tyrconnel, for
which he could not but heartily ask his pardon; and as he imagined
Lord Tyrconnel's passion might be yet so high, that he would not
"receive a letter from him," begged that Sir William would endeavour
to soften him; and expressed his hopes that he would comply with
this request, and that "so small a relation would not harden his
heart against him."

That any man should presume to dictate a letter to him was not very
agreeable to Mr. Savage; and therefore he was, before he had opened
it, not much inclined to approve it. But when he read it he found
it contained sentiments entirely opposite to his own, and, as he
asserted, to the truth; and therefore, instead of copying it, wrote
his friend a letter full of masculine resentment and warm
expostulations. He very justly observed, that the style was too
supplicatory, and the representation too abject, and that he ought
at least to have made him complain with "the dignity of a gentleman
in distress." He declared that he would not write the paragraph in
which he was to ask Lord Tyrconnel's pardon; for, "he despised his
pardon, and therefore could not heartily, and would not
hypocritically, ask it." He remarked that his friend made a very
unreasonable distinction between himself and him; for, says he,
"when you mention men of high rank in your own character," they are
"those little creatures whom we are pleased to call the Great;" but
when you address them "in mine," no servility is sufficiently
humble. He then with propriety explained the ill consequences which
might be expected from such a letter, which his relations would
print in their own defence, and which would for ever be produced as
a full answer to all that he should allege against them; for he
always intended to publish a minute account of the treatment which
he had received. It is to be remembered, to the honour of the
gentleman by whom this letter was drawn up, that he yielded to Mr.
Savage's reasons, and agreed that it ought to be suppressed.

After many alterations and delays, a subscription was at length
raised, which did not amount to fifty pounds a year, though twenty
were paid by one gentleman; such was the generosity of mankind, that
what had been done by a player without solicitation, could not now
be effected by application and interest; and Savage had a great
number to court and to obey for a pension less than that which Mrs.
Oldfield paid him without exacting any servilities. Mr. Savage,
however, was satisfied, and willing to retire, and was convinced
that the allowance, though scanty, would be more than sufficient for
him, being now determined to commence a rigid economist, and to live
according to the exact rules of frugality; for nothing was in his
opinion more contemptible than a man who, when he knew his income,
exceeded it; and yet he confessed that instances of such folly were
too common, and lamented that some men were not trusted with their
own money.

Full of these salutary resolutions, he left London in July, 1739,
having taken leave with great tenderness of his friends, and parted
from the author of this narrative with tears in his eyes. He was
furnished with fifteen guineas, and informed that they would be
sufficient, not only for the expense of his journey, but for his
support in Wales for some time; and that there remained but little
more of the first collection. He promised a strict adherence to his
maxims of parsimony, and went away in the stage-coach; nor did his
friends expect to hear from him till he informed them of his arrival
at Swansea. But when they least expected, arrived a letter dated
the fourteenth day after his departure, in which he sent them word
that he was yet upon the road, and without money; and that he
therefore could not proceed without a remittance. They then sent
him the money that was in their hands, with which he was enabled to
reach Bristol, from whence he was to go to Swansea by water.

At Bristol he found an embargo laid upon the shipping, so that he
could not immediately obtain a passage; and being therefore obliged
to stay there some time, he with his usual felicity ingratiated
himself with many of the principal inhabitants, was invited to their
houses, distinguished at their public feasts, and treated with a
regard that gratified his vanity, and therefore easily engaged his

He began very early after his retirement to complain of the conduct
of his friends in London, and irritated many of them so much by his
letters, that they withdrew, however honourably, their
contributions; and it is believed that little more was paid him than
the twenty pounds a year, which were allowed him by the gentleman
who proposed the subscription.

After some stay at Bristol he retired to Swansea, the place
originally proposed for his residence, where he lived about a year,
very much dissatisfied with the diminution of his salary; but
contracted, as in other places, acquaintance with those who were
most distinguished in that country, among whom he has celebrated Mr.
Powel and Mrs. Jones, by some verses which he inserted in The
Gentleman's Magazine. Here he completed his tragedy, of which two
acts were wanting when he left London; and was desirous of coming to
town, to bring it upon the stage. This design was very warmly
opposed; and he was advised, by his chief benefactor, to put it into
the hands of Mr. Thomson and Mr. Mallet, that it might be fitted for
the stage, and to allow his friends to receive the profits, out of
which an annual pension should be paid him.

This proposal he rejected with the utmost contempt. He was by no
means convinced that the judgment of those to whom he was required
to submit was superior to his own. He was now determined, as he
expressed it, to be "no longer kept in leading-strings," and had no
elevated idea of "his bounty, who proposed to pension him out of the
profits of his own labours."

He attempted in Wales to promote a subscription for his works, and
had once hopes of success; but in a short time afterwards formed a
resolution of leaving that part of the country, to which he thought
it not reasonable to be confined for the gratification of those who,
having promised him a liberal income, had no sooner banished him to
a remote corner than they reduced his allowance to a salary scarcely
equal to the necessities of life. His resentment of this treatment,
which, in his own opinion at least, he had not deserved, was such,
that he broke off all correspondence with most of his contributors,
and appeared to consider them as persecutors and oppressors; and in
the latter part of his life declared that their conduct towards him
since his departure from London "had been perfidiousness improving
on perfidiousness, and inhumanity on inhumanity."

It is not to be supposed that the necessities of Mr. Savage did not
sometimes incite him to satirical exaggerations of the behaviour of
those by whom he thought himself reduced to them. But it must be
granted that the diminution of his allowance was a great hardship,
and that those who withdrew their subscription from a man who, upon
the faith of their promise, had gone into a kind of banishment, and
abandoned all those by whom he had been before relieved in his
distresses, will find it no easy task to vindicate their conduct.
It may be alleged, and perhaps justly, that he was petulant and
contemptuous; that he more frequently reproached his subscribers for
not giving him more, than thanked them for what he received; but it
is to be remembered that his conduct, and this is the worst charge
that can be drawn up against him, did them no real injury, and that
it therefore ought rather to have been pitied than resented; at
least the resentment it might provoke ought to have been generous
and manly; epithets which his conduct will hardly deserve that
starves the man whom he has persuaded to put himself into his power.

It might have been reasonably demanded by Savage, that they should,
before they had taken away what they promised, have replaced him in
his former state, that they should have taken no advantages from the
situation to which the appearance of their kindness had reduced him,
and that he should have been recalled to London before he was
abandoned. He might justly represent, that he ought to have been
considered as a lion in the toils, and demand to be released before
the dogs should be loosed upon him. He endeavoured, indeed, to
release himself, and, with an intent to return to London, went to
Bristol, where a repetition of the kindness which he had formerly
found, invited him to stay. He was not only caressed and treated,
but had a collection made for him of about thirty pounds, with which
it had been happy if he had immediately departed for London; but his
negligence did not suffer him to consider that such proofs of
kindness were not often to be expected, and that this ardour of
benevolence was in a great degree the effect of novelty, and might,
probably, be every day less; and therefore he took no care to
improve the happy time, but was encouraged by one favour to hope for
another, till at length generosity was exhausted, and officiousness

Another part of his misconduct was the practice of prolonging his
visits to unseasonable hours, and disconcerting all the families
into which he was admitted. This was an error in a place of
commerce which all the charms of his conversation could not
compensate; for what trader would purchase such airy satisfaction by
the loss of solid gain, which must be the consequence of midnight
merriment, as those hours which were gained at night were generally
lost in the morning? Thus Mr. Savage, after the curiosity of the
inhabitants was gratified, found the number of his friends daily
decreasing, perhaps without suspecting for what reason their conduct
was altered; for he still continued to harass, with his nocturnal
intrusions, those that yet countenanced him, and admitted him to
their houses.

But he did not spend all the time of his residence at Bristol in
visits or at taverns, for he sometimes returned to his studies, and
began several considerable designs. When he felt an inclination to
write, he always retired from the knowledge of his friends, and lay
hid in an obscure part of the suburbs, till he found himself again
desirous of company, to which it is likely that intervals of absence
made him more welcome. He was always full of his design of
returning to London, to bring his tragedy upon the stage; but,
having neglected to depart with the money that was raised for him,
he could not afterwards procure a sum sufficient to defray the
expenses of his journey; nor perhaps would a fresh supply have had
any other effect than, by putting immediate pleasures into his
power, to have driven the thoughts of his journey out of his mind.
While he was thus spending the day in contriving a scheme for the
morrow, distress stole upon him by imperceptible degrees. His
conduct had already wearied some of those who were at first
enamoured of his conversation; but he might, perhaps, still have
devolved to others, whom he might have entertained with equal
success, had not the decay of his clothes made it no longer
consistent with their vanity to admit him to their tables, or to
associate with him in public places. He now began to find every man
from home at whose house he called; and was therefore no longer able
to procure the necessaries of life, but wandered about the town,
slighted and neglected, in quest of a dinner, which he did not
always obtain.

To complete his misery, he was pursued by the officers for small
debts which he had contracted; and was therefore obliged to withdraw
from the small number of friends from whom he had still reason to
hope for favours. His custom was to lie in bed the greatest part of
the day, and to get out in the dark with the utmost privacy, and,
after having paid his visit, return again before morning to his
lodging, which was in the garret of an obscure inn. Being thus
excluded on one hand, and confined on the other, he suffered the
utmost extremities of poverty, and often fasted so long that he was
seized with faintness, and had lost his appetite, not being able to
bear the smell of meat till the action of his stomach was restored
by a cordial. In this distress, he received a remittance of five
pounds from London, with which he provided himself a decent coat,
and determined to go to London, but unhappily spent his money at a
favourite tavern. Thus was he again confined to Bristol, where he
was every day hunted by bailiffs. In this exigence he once more
found a friend, who sheltered him in his house, though at the usual
inconveniences with which his company was attended; for he could
neither be persuaded to go to bed in the night nor to rise in the

It is observable, that in these various scenes of misery he was
always disengaged and cheerful: he at some times pursued his
studies, and at others continued or enlarged his epistolary
correspondence; nor was he ever so far dejected as to endeavour to
procure an increase of his allowance by any other methods than
accusations and reproaches.

He had now no longer any hopes of assistance from his friends at
Bristol, who as merchants, and by consequence sufficiently studious
of profit, cannot be supposed to have looked with much compassion
upon negligence and extravagance, or to think any excellence
equivalent to a fault of such consequence as neglect of economy. It
is natural to imagine, that many of those who would have relieved
his real wants, were discouraged from the exertion of their
benevolence by observation of the use which was made of their
favours, and conviction that relief would be only momentary, and
that the same necessity would quickly return.

At last he quitted the house of his friend, and returned to his
lodgings at the inn, still intending to set out in a few days for
London, but on the 10th of January, 1742-3, having been at supper
with two of his friends, he was at his return to his lodgings
arrested for a debt of about eight pounds, which he owed at a
coffee-house, and conducted to the house of a sheriff's officer.
The account which he gives of this misfortune, in a letter to one of
the gentlemen with whom he had supped, is too remarkable to be

"It was not a little unfortunate for me, that I spent yesterday's
evening with you; because the hour hindered me from entering on my
new lodging; however, I have now got one, but such an one as I
believe nobody would choose.

"I was arrested at the suit of Mrs. Read, just as I was going
upstairs to bed, at Mr. Bowyer's; but taken in so private a manner,
that I believe nobody at the White Lion is apprised of it; though I
let the officers know the strength, or rather weakness, of my
pocket, yet they treated me with the utmost civility; and even when
they conducted me to confinement, it was in such a manner, that I
verily believe I could have escaped, which I would rather be ruined
than have done, notwithstanding the whole amount of my finances was
but threepence halfpenny.

"In the first place, I must insist that you will industriously
conceal this from Mrs. S---s, because I would not have her good
nature suffer that pain which I know she would be apt to feel on
this occasion.

"Next, I conjure you, dear sir, by all the ties of friendship, by no
means to have one uneasy thought on my account; but to have the same
pleasantry of countenance, and unruffled serenity of mind, which
(God be praised!) I have in this, and have had in a much severer
calamity. Furthermore, I charge you, if you value my friendship as
truly as I do yours, not to utter, or even harbour, the least
resentment against Mrs. Read. I believe she has ruined me, but I
freely forgive her; and (though I will never more have any intimacy
with her) I would, at a due distance, rather do her an act of good
than ill-will. Lastly (pardon the expression), I absolutely command
you not to offer me any pecuniary assistance nor to attempt getting
me any from any one of your friends. At another time, or on any
other occasion, you may, dear friend, be well assured I would rather
write to you in the submissive style of a request than that of a
peremptory command.

"However, that my truly valuable friend may not think I am too proud
to ask a favour, let me entreat you to let me have your boy to
attend me for this day, not only for the sake of saving me the
expense of porters, but for the delivery of some letters to people
whose names I would not have known to strangers.

"The civil treatment I have thus far met from those whose prisoner I
am, makes me thankful to the Almighty, that though He has thought
fit to visit me (on my birth-night) with affliction, yet (such is
His great goodness!) my affliction is not without alleviating
circumstances. I murmur not; but am all resignation to the divine
will. As to the world, I hope that I shall be endued by Heaven with
that presence of mind, that serene dignity in misfortune, that
constitutes the character of a true nobleman; a dignity far beyond
that of coronets; a nobility arising from the just principles of
philosophy, refined and exalted by those of Christianity."

He continued five days at the officer's, in hopes that he should be
able to procure bail, and avoid the necessity of going to prison.
The state in which he passed his time, and the treatment which he
received, are very justly expressed by him in a letter which he
wrote to a friend: "The whole day," says he, "has been employed in
various people's filling my head with their foolish chimerical
systems, which has obliged me coolly (as far as nature will admit)
to digest, and accommodate myself to every different person's way of
thinking; hurried from one wild system to another, till it has quite
made a chaos of my imagination, and nothing done--promised--
disappointed--ordered to send, every hour, from one part of the town
to the other."

When his friends, who had hitherto caressed and applauded, found
that to give bail and pay the debt was the same, they all refused to
preserve him from a prison at the expense of eight pounds: and
therefore, after having been for some time at the officer's house
"at an immense expense," as he observes in his letter, he was at
length removed to Newgate. This expense he was enabled to support
by the generosity of Mr. Nash at Bath, who, upon receiving from him
an account of his condition, immediately sent him five guineas, and
promised to promote his subscription at Bath with all his interest.

By his removal to Newgate he obtained at least a freedom from
suspense, and rest from the disturbing vicissitudes of hope and
disappointment: he now found that his friends were only companions
who were willing to share his gaiety, but not to partake of his
misfortunes; and therefore he no longer expected any assistance from
them. It must, however, be observed of one gentleman, that he
offered to release him by paying the debt, but that Mr. Savage would
not consent, I suppose because he thought he had before been too
burthensome to him. He was offered by some of his friends that a
collection should be made for his enlargement; but he "treated the
proposal," and declared "he should again treat it, with disdain. As
to writing any mendicant letters, he had too high a spirit, and
determined only to write to some ministers of state, to try to
regain his pension."

He continued to complain of those that had sent him into the
country, and objected to them, that he had "lost the profits of his
play, which had been finished three years;" and in another letter
declares his resolution to publish a pamphlet, that the world might
know how "he had been used."

This pamphlet was never written; for he in a very short time
recovered his usual tranquillity, and cheerfully applied himself to
more inoffensive studies. He, indeed, steadily declared that he was
promised a yearly allowance of fifty pounds, and never received half
the sum; but he seemed to resign himself to that as well as to other
misfortunes, and lose the remembrance of it in his amusements and
employments. The cheerfulness with which he bore his confinement
appears from the following letter, which he wrote January the 30th,
to one of his friends in London:

"I now write to you from my confinement in Newgate, where I have
been ever since Monday last was se'nnight, and where I enjoy myself
with much more tranquillity than I have known for upwards of a
twelvemonth past; having a room entirely to myself, and pursuing the
amusement of my poetical studies, uninterrupted, and agreeable to my
mind. I thank the Almighty, I am now all collected in myself; and,
though my person is in confinement, my mind can expatiate on ample
and useful subjects with all the freedom imaginable. I am now more
conversant with the Nine than ever, and if, instead of a Newgate
bird, I may be allowed to be a bird of the Muses, I assure you, sir,
I sing very freely in my cage; sometimes, indeed, in the plaintive
notes of the nightingale; but at others, in the cheerful strains of
the lark."

In another letter he observes, that he ranges from one subject to
another, without confining himself to any particular task; and that
he was employed one week upon one attempt, and the next upon

Surely the fortitude of this man deserves, at least, to be mentioned
with applause; and, whatever faults may be imputed to him, the
virtue of suffering well cannot be denied him. The two powers
which, in the opinion of Epictetus, constituted a wise man, are
those of bearing and forbearing, which it cannot indeed be affirmed
to have been equally possessed by Savage; and indeed the want of one
obliged him very frequently to practise the other. He was treated
by Mr. Dagge, the keeper of the prison, with great humanity; was
supported by him at his own table, without any certainty of a
recompense; had a room to himself, to which he could at any time
retire from all disturbance; was allowed to stand at the door of the
prison, and sometimes taken out into the fields; so that he suffered
fewer hardships in prison than he had been accustomed to undergo in
the greatest part of his life.

The keeper did not confine his benevolence to a gentle execution of
his office, but made some overtures to the creditor for his release,
though without effect; and continued, during the whole time of his
imprisonment, to treat him with the utmost tenderness and civility.

Virtue is undoubtedly most laudable in that state which makes it
most difficult; and therefore the humanity of a gaoler certainly
deserves this public attestation; and the man whose heart has not
been hardened by such an employment may be justly proposed as a
pattern of benevolence. If an inscription was once engraved "to the
honest toll-gatherer," less honours ought not to be paid "to the
tender gaoler."

Mr. Savage very frequently received visits, and sometimes presents,
from his acquaintances: but they did not amount to a subsistence,
for the greater part of which he was indebted to the generosity of
this keeper; but these favours, however they might endear to him the
particular persons from whom he received them, were very far from
impressing upon his mind any advantageous ideas of the people of
Bristol, and therefore he thought he could not more properly employ
himself in prison than in writing a poem called "London and Bristol

When he had brought this poem to its present state, which, without
considering the chasm, is not perfect, he wrote to London an account
of his design, and informed his friend that he was determined to
print it with his name; but enjoined him not to communicate his
intention to his Bristol acquaintance. The gentleman, surprised at
his resolution, endeavoured to persuade him from publishing it, at
least from prefixing his name; and declared that he could not
reconcile the injunction of secrecy with his resolution to own it at
its first appearance. To this Mr. Savage returned an answer
agreeable to his character, in the following terms:--

"I received yours this morning; and not without a little surprise at
the contents. To answer a question with a question, you ask me
concerning London and Bristol, why will I add DELINEATED? Why did
Mr. Woolaston add the same word to his Religion of Nature? I
suppose that it was his will and pleasure to add it in his case:
and it is mine to do so in my own. You are pleased to tell me that
you understand not why secrecy is enjoined, and yet I intend to set
my name to it. My answer is,--I have my private reasons, which I am
not obliged to explain to any one. You doubt my friend Mr. S----
would not approve of it. And what is it to me whether he does or
not? Do you imagine that Mr. S---- is to dictate to me? If any man
who calls himself my friend should assume such an air, I would spurn
at his friendship with contempt. You say, I seem to think so by not
letting him know it. And suppose I do, what then? Perhaps I can
give reasons for that disapprobation, very foreign from what you
would imagine. You go on in saying, Suppose I should not put my
name to it. My answer is, that I will not suppose any such thing,
being determined to the contrary: neither, sir, would I have you
suppose that I applied to you for want of another press: nor would
I have you imagine that I owe Mr. S---- obligations which I do not."

Such was his imprudence, and such his obstinate adherence to his own
resolutions, however absurd! A prisoner! supported by charity! and,
whatever insults he might have received during the latter part of
his stay at Bristol, once caressed, esteemed, and presented with a
liberal collection, he could forget on a sudden his danger and his
obligations, to gratify the petulance of his wit or the eagerness of
his resentment, and publish a satire by which he might reasonably
expect that he should alienate those who then supported him, and
provoke those whom he could neither resist nor escape.

This resolution, from the execution of which it is probable that
only his death could have hindered him, is sufficient to show how
much he disregarded all considerations that opposed his present
passions, and how readily he hazarded all future advantages for any
immediate gratifications. Whatever was his predominant inclination,
neither hope nor fear hindered him from complying with it; nor had
opposition any other effect than to heighten his ardour and irritate
his vehemence.

This performance was, however, laid aside while he was employed in
soliciting assistance from several great persons; and one
interruption succeeding another, hindered him from supplying the
chasm, and perhaps from retouching the other parts, which he can
hardly be imagined to have finished in his own opinion; for it is
very unequal, and some of the lines are rather inserted to rhyme to
others, than to support or improve the sense; but the first and last
parts are worked up with great spirit and elegance.

His time was spent in the prison for the most part in study, or in
receiving visits; but sometimes he descended to lower amusements,
and diverted himself in the kitchen with the conversation of the
criminals; for it was not pleasing to him to be much without
company; and though he was very capable of a judicious choice, he
was often contented with the first that offered. For this he was
sometimes reproved by his friends, who found him surrounded with
felons; but the reproof was on that, as on other occasions, thrown
away; he continued to gratify himself, and to set very little value
on the opinion of others. But here, as in every other scene of his
life, he made use of such opportunities as occurred of benefiting
those who were more miserable than himself, and was always ready to
perform any office of humanity to his fellow-prisoners.

He had now ceased from corresponding with any of his subscribers
except one, who yet continued to remit him the twenty pounds a year
which he had promised him, and by whom it was expected that he would
have been in a very short time enlarged, because he had directed the
keeper to inquire after the state of his debts. However, he took
care to enter his name according to the forms of the court, that the
creditor might be obliged to make him some allowance, if he was
continued a prisoner, and when on that occasion he appeared in the
hall, was treated with very unusual respect. But the resentment of
the city was afterwards raised by some accounts that had been spread
of the satire; and he was informed that some of the merchants
intended to pay the allowance which the law required, and to detain
him a prisoner at their own expense. This he treated as an empty
menace; and perhaps might have hastened the publication, only to
show how much he was superior to their insults, had not all his
schemes been suddenly destroyed.

When he had been six months in prison, he received from one of his
friends, in whose kindness he had the greatest confidence, and on
whose assistance he chiefly depended, a letter that contained a
charge of very atrocious ingratitude, drawn up in such terms as
sudden resentment dictated. Henley, in one of his advertisements,
had mentioned "Pope's treatment of Savage." This was supposed by
Pope to be the consequence of a complaint made by Savage to Henley,
and was therefore mentioned by him with much resentment. Mr. Savage
returned a very solemn protestation of his innocence, but, however,
appeared much disturbed at the accusation. Some days afterwards he
was seized with a pain in his back and side, which, as it was not
violent, was not suspected to be dangerous; but growing daily more
languid and dejected, on the 25th of July he confined himself to his
room, and a fever seized his spirits. The symptoms grew every day
more formidable, but his condition did not enable him to procure any
assistance. The last time that the keeper saw him was on July the
31st, 1743; when Savage, seeing him at his bedside, said, with an
uncommon earnestness, "I have something to say to you, sir;" but,
after a pause, moved his hand in a melancholy manner; and, finding
himself unable to recollect what he was going to communicate, said,
"'Tis gone!" The keeper soon after left him; and the next morning
he died. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Peter, at the
expense of the keeper.

Such were the life and death of Richard Savage, a man equally
distinguished by his virtues and vices; and at once remarkable for
his weaknesses and abilities. He was of a middle stature, of a thin
habit of body, a long visage, coarse features, and melancholy
aspect; of a grave and manly deportment, a solemn dignity of mien,
but which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into an engaging
easiness of manners. His walk was slow, and his voice tremulous and
mournful. He was easily excited to smiles, but very seldom provoked
to laughter. His mind was in an uncommon degree vigorous and
active. His judgment was accurate, his apprehension quick, and his
memory so tenacious, that he was frequently observed to know what he
had learned from others, in a short time, better that those by whom
he was informed; and could frequently recollect incidents with all
their combination of circumstances, which few would have regarded at
the present time, but which the quickness of his apprehension
impressed upon him. He had the art of escaping from his own
reflections, and accommodating himself to every new scene.

To this quality is to be imputed the extent of his knowledge,
compared with the small time which he spent in visible endeavours to
acquire it. He mingled in cursory conversation with the same
steadiness of attention as others apply to a lecture; and amidst the
appearance of thoughtless gaiety lost no new idea that was started,
nor any hint that could be improved. He had therefore made in
coffee-houses the same proficiency as others in their closets; and
it is remarkable that the writings of a man of little education and
little reading have an air of learning scarcely to be found in any
other performances, but which perhaps as often obscures as
embellishes them.

His judgment was eminently exact both with regard to writings and to
men. The knowledge of life was indeed his chief attainment; and it
is not without some satisfaction that I can produce the suffrage of
Savage in favour of human nature, of which he never appeared to
entertain such odious ideas as some who perhaps had neither his
judgment nor experience, have published, either in ostentation of
their sagacity, vindication of their crimes, or gratification of
their malice.

His method of life particularly qualified him for conversation, of
which he knew how to practise all the graces. He was never vehement
or loud, but at once modest and easy, open and respectful; his
language was vivacious or elegant, and equally happy upon grave and
humorous subjects. He was generally censured for not knowing when
to retire; but that was not the defect of his judgment, but of his
fortune: when he left his company he used frequently to spend the
remaining part of the night in the street, or at least was abandoned
to gloomy reflections, which it is not strange that he delayed as
long as he could; and sometimes forgot that he gave others pain to
avoid it himself.

It cannot be said that he made use of his abilities for the
direction of his own conduct; an irregular and dissipated manner of
life had made him the slave of every passion that happened to be
excited by the presence of its object, and that slavery to his
passions reciprocally produced a life irregular and dissipated. He
was not master of his own motions, nor could promise anything for
the next day.

With regard to his economy, nothing can be added to the relation of
his life. He appeared to think himself born to be supported by
others, and dispensed from all necessity of providing for himself;
he therefore never prosecuted any scheme of advantage, nor
endeavoured even to secure the profits which his writings might have
afforded him. His temper was, in consequence of the dominion of his
passions, uncertain and capricious; he was easily engaged, and
easily disgusted; but he is accused of retaining his hatred more
tenaciously than his benevolence. He was compassionate both by
nature and principle, and always ready to perform offices of
humanity; but when he was provoked (and very small offences were
sufficient to provoke him), he would prosecute his revenge with the
utmost acrimony till his passion had subsided.

His friendship was therefore of little value; for though he was
zealous in the support or vindication of those whom he loved, yet it
was always dangerous to trust him, because he considered himself as
discharged by the first quarrel from all ties of honour and
gratitude; and would betray those secrets which in the warmth of
confidence had been imparted to him. This practice drew upon him an
universal accusation of ingratitude; nor can it be denied that he
was very ready to set himself free from the load of an obligation;
for he could not bear to conceive himself in a state of dependence,
his pride being equally powerful with his other passions, and
appearing in the form of insolence at one time, and of vanity at
another. Vanity, the most innocent species of pride, was most
frequently predominant: he could not easily leave off, when he had
once begun to mention himself or his works; nor ever read his verses
without stealing his eyes from the page, to discover in the faces of
his audience how they were affected with any favourite passage.

A kinder name than that of vanity ought to be given to the delicacy
with which he was always careful to separate his own merit from
every other man's, and to reject that praise to which he had no
claim. He did not forget, in mentioning his performances, to mark
every line that had been suggested or amended; and was so accurate
as to relate that he owed three words in "The Wanderer" to the
advice of his friends. His veracity was questioned, but with little
reason; his accounts, though not indeed always the same, were
generally consistent. When he loved any man, he suppressed all his
faults; and when he had been offended by him, concealed all his
virtues; but his characters were generally true, so far as he
proceeded; though it cannot be denied that his partiality might have
sometimes the effect of falsehood.

In cases indifferent he was zealous for virtue, truth, and justice:
he knew very well the necessity of goodness to the present and
future happiness of mankind; nor is there perhaps any writer who has
less endeavoured to please by flattering the appetites, or
perverting the judgment.

As an author, therefore, and he now ceases to influence mankind in
any other character, if one piece which he had resolved to suppress
be excepted, he has very little to fear from the strictest moral or
religious censure. And though he may not be altogether secure
against the objections of the critic, it must however be
acknowledged that his works are the productions of a genius truly
poetical; and, what many writers who have been more lavishly
applauded cannot boast, that they have an original air, which has no
resemblance of any foregoing writer, that the versification and
sentiments have a cast peculiar to themselves, which no man can
imitate with success, because what was nature in Savage would in
another be affectation. It must be confessed that his descriptions
are striking, his images animated, his fictions justly imagined, and
his allegories artfully pursued; that his diction is elevated,
though sometimes forced, and his numbers sonorous and majestic,
though frequently sluggish and encumbered. Of his style the general
fault is harshness, and its general excellence is dignity; of his
sentiments, the prevailing beauty is simplicity, and uniformity the
prevailing defect.

For his life, or for his writings, none who candidly consider his
fortune will think an apology either necessary or difficult. If he
was not always sufficiently instructed in his subject, his knowledge
was at least greater than could have been attained by others in the
same state. If his works were sometimes unfinished, accuracy cannot
reasonably be expected from a man oppressed with want, which he has
no hope of relieving but by a speedy publication. The insolence and
resentment of which he is accused were not easily to be avoided by a
great mind irritated by perpetual hardships and constrained hourly
to return the spurns of contempt, and repress the insolence of
prosperity; and vanity surely may be readily pardoned in him, to
whom life afforded no other comforts than barren praises, and the
consciousness of deserving them.

Those are no proper judges of his conduct who have slumbered away
their time on the down of plenty; nor will any wise man easily
presume to say, "Had I been in Savage's condition, I should have
lived or written better than Savage."

This relation will not be wholly without its use, if those who
languish under any part of his sufferings shall be enabled to
fortify their patience by reflecting that they feel only these
afflictions from which the abilities of Savage did not exempt him;
or those who, in confidence of superior capacities or attainments,
disregard the common maxims of life, shall be reminded that nothing
will supply the want of prudence; and that negligence and
irregularity, long continued, will make knowledge useless, wit
ridiculous, and genius contemptible.


An account of Dr. Swift has been already collected, with great
diligence and acuteness, by Dr. Hawkesworth, according to a scheme
which I laid before him in the intimacy of our friendship. I cannot
therefore be expected to say much of a life, concerning which I had
long since communicated my thoughts to a man capable of dignifying
his narrations with so much elegance of language and force of

Jonathan Swift was, according to an account said to be written by
himself, the son of Jonathan Swift, an attorney, and was born at
Dublin on St. Andrew's day, 1667: according to his own report, as
delivered by Pope to Spence, he was born at Leicester, the son of a
clergyman who was minister of a parish in Herefordshire. During his
life the place of his birth was undetermined. He was contented to
be called an Irishman by the Irish; but would occasionally call
himself an Englishman. The question may, without much regret, be
left in the obscurity in which he delighted to involve it.

Whatever was his birth, his education was Irish. He was sent at the
age of six to the school at Kilkenny, and in his fifteenth year
(1682) was admitted into the University of Dublin. In his
academical studies he was either not diligent or not happy. It must
disappoint every reader's expectation, that, when at the usual time
he claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he was found by the examiners
too conspicuously deficient for regular admission, and obtained his
degree at last by SPECIAL FAVOUR; a term used in that university to
denote want of merit.

Of this disgrace it may be easily supposed that he was much ashamed,
and shame had its proper effect in producing reformation. He
resolved from that time to study eight hours a day, and continued
his industry for seven years, with what improvement is sufficiently
known. This part of his story well deserves to be remembered; it
may afford useful admonition and powerful encouragement to men whose
abilities have been made for a time useless by their passions or
pleasures, and who having lost one part of life in idleness, are
tempted to throw away the remainder in despair. In this course of
daily application he continued three years longer at Dublin; and in
this time, if the observation and memory of an old companion may be
trusted, he drew the first sketch of his "Tale of a Tub."

When he was about one-and-twenty (1688), being by the death of
Godwin Swift, his uncle, who had supported him, left without
subsistence, he went to consult his mother, who then lived at
Leicester, about the future course of his life; and by her direction
solicited the advice and patronage of Sir William Temple, who had
married one of Mrs. Swift's relations, and whose father Sir John
Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, had lived in great
familiarity of friendship with Godwin Swift, by whom Jonathan had
been to that time maintained.

Temple received with sufficient kindness the nephew of his father's
friend, with whom he was, when they conversed together, so much
pleased, that he detained him two years in his house. Here he
became known to King William, who sometimes visited Temple, when he
was disabled by the gout, and, being attended by Swift in the
garden, showed him how to cut asparagus in the Dutch way. King
William's notions were all military; and he expressed his kindness
to Swift by offering to make him a captain of horse.

When Temple removed to Moor Park, he took Swift with him; and when
he was consulted by the Earl of Portland about the expedience of
complying with a bill then depending for making parliaments
triennial, against which King William was strongly prejudiced, after
having in vain tried to show the earl that the proposal involved
nothing dangerous to royal power, he sent Swift for the same purpose
to the king. Swift, who probably was proud of his employment, and
went with all the confidence of a young man, found his arguments,
and his art of displaying them, made totally ineffectual by the
predetermination of the king; and used to mention this
disappointment as his first antidote against vanity. Before he left
Ireland he contracted a disorder, as he thought, by eating too much
fruit. The original of diseases is commonly obscure. Almost
everybody eats as much fruit as he can get, without any great
inconvenience. The disease of Swift was giddiness with deafness,
which attacked him from time to time, began very early, pursued him
through life, and at last sent him to the grave, deprived of reason.
Being much oppressed at Moor Park by this grievous malady, he was
advised to try his native air, and went to Ireland; but finding no
benefit, returned to Sir William, at whose house he continued his
studies, and is known to have read, among other books, Cyprian and
Irenaeus. He thought exercise of great necessity, and used to run
half a mile up and down a hill every two hours.

It is easy to imagine that the mode in which his first degree was
conferred left him no great fondness for the University of Dublin,
and therefore he resolved to become a Master of Arts at Oxford. In
the testimonial which he produced the words of disgrace were
omitted; and he took his Master's degree (July 5, 1692) with such
reception and regard as fully contented him.

While he lived with Temple, he used to pay his mother at Leicester a
yearly visit. He travelled on foot, unless some violence of weather
drove him into a waggon; and at night he would go to a penny
lodging, where he purchased clean sheets for sixpence. This
practice Lord Orrery imputes to his innate love of grossness and
vulgarity: some may ascribe it to his desire of surveying human
life through all its varieties: and others, perhaps with equal
probability, to a passion which seems to have been deeply fixed in
his heart, the love of a shilling. In time he began to think that
his attendance at Moor Park deserved some other recompense than the
pleasure, however mingled with improvement, of Temple's
conversation; and grew so impatient, that (1694) he went away in
discontent. Temple, conscious of having given reason for complaint,
is said to have made him deputy Master of the Rolls in Ireland;
which, according to his kinsman's account, was an office which he
knew him not able to discharge. Swift therefore resolved to enter
into the Church, in which he had at first no higher hopes than of
the chaplainship to the Factory at Lisbon; but being recommended to
Lord Capel, he obtained the prebend of Kilroot in Connor, of about a
hundred pounds a year. But the infirmities of Temple made a
companion like Swift so necessary, that he invited him back, with a
promise to procure him English preferment in exchange for the
prebend, which he desired him to resign. With this request Swift
complied, having perhaps equally repented their separation, and they
lived on together with mutual satisfaction; and, in the four years
that passed between his return and Temple's death, it is probable
that he wrote the "Tale of a Tub," and the "Battle of the Books."

Swift began early to think, or to hope, that he was a poet, and
wrote Pindaric Odes to Temple, to the king, and to the Athenian
Society, a knot of obscure men, who published a periodical pamphlet
of answers to questions, sent, or supposed to be sent, by letters.
I have been told that Dryden, having perused these verses, said,
"Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet;" and that this denunciation
was the motive of Swift's perpetual malevolence to Dryden. In 1699
Temple died, and left a legacy with his manuscripts to Swift, for
whom he had obtained, from King William, a promise of the first
prebend that should be vacant at Westminster or Canterbury. That
this promise might not be forgotten, Swift dedicated to the king the
posthumous works with which he was intrusted; but neither the
dedication, nor tenderness for the man whom he once had treated with
confidence and fondness, revived in King William the remembrance of
his promise. Swift awhile attended the Court; but soon found his
solicitations hopeless. He was then invited by the Earl of Berkeley
to accompany him into Ireland, as his private secretary; but, after
having done the business till their arrival at Dublin, he then found
that one Bush had persuaded the earl that a clergyman was not a
proper secretary, and had obtained the office for himself. In a man
like Swift, such circumvention and inconstancy must have excited
violent indignation. But he had yet more to suffer. Lord Berkeley
had the disposal of the deanery of Derry, and Swift expected to
obtain it; but by the secretary's influence, supposed to have been
secured by a bribe, it was bestowed on somebody else; and Swift was
dismissed with the livings of Laracor and Rathbeggin in the diocese
of Meath, which together did not equal half the value of the
deanery. At Laracor he increased the parochial duty by reading
prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and performed all the offices of
his profession with great decency and exactness.

Soon after his settlement at Laracor, he invited to Ireland the
unfortunate Stella, a young woman whose name was Johnson, the
daughter of the steward of Sir William Temple, who, in consideration
of her father's virtues, left her a thousand pounds. With her came
Mrs. Dingley, whose whole fortune was twenty-seven pounds a year for
her life. With these ladies he passed his hours of relaxation, and
to them he opened his bosom; but they never resided in the same
house, nor did he see either without a witness. They lived at the
Parsonage when Swift was away, and, when he returned, removed to a
lodging, or to the house of a neighbouring clergyman.

Swift was not one of those minds which amaze the world with early
pregnancy: his first work, except his few poetical Essays, was the
"Dissensions in Athens and Rome," published (1701) in his thirty-
fourth year. After its appearance, paying a visit to some bishop,
he heard mention made of the new pamphlet that Burnet had written,
replete with political knowledge. When he seemed to doubt Burnet's
right to the work, he was told by the bishop that he was "a young
man," and still persisting to doubt, that he was "a very positive
young man."

Three years afterwards (1704) was published "The Tale of a Tub;" of
this book charity may be persuaded to think that it might be written
by a man of a peculiar character without ill intention; but it is
certainly of dangerous example. That Swift was its author, though
it be universally believed, was never owned by himself, nor very
well proved by any evidence; but no other claimant can be produced,
and he did not deny it when Archbishop Sharp and the Duchess of
Somerset, by showing it to the queen, debarred him from a bishopric.
When this wild work first raised the attention of the public,
Sacheverell, meeting Smalridge, tried to flatter him by seeming to
think him the author, but Smalridge answered with indignation, "Not
all that you and I have in the world, nor all that ever we shall
have, should hire me to write the 'Tale of a Tub.'"

The digression relating to Wotton and Bentley must be confessed to
discover want of knowledge or want of integrity; he did not
understand the two controversies, or he willingly misrepresented
them. But Wit can stand its ground against Truth only a little
while. The honours due to Learning have been justly distributed by
the decision of posterity.

"The Battle of the Books" is so like the "Combat des Livres," which
the same question concerning the Ancients and Moderns had produced
in France, that the improbability of such a coincidence of thoughts
without communication, is not, in my opinion, balanced by the
anonymous protestation prefixed, in which all knowledge of the
French book is peremptorily disowned.

For some time after, Swift was probably employed in solitary study,
gaining the qualifications requisite for future eminence. How often
he visited England, and with what diligence he attended his
parishes, I know not. It was not till about four years afterwards
that he became a professed author; and then one year (1708) produced
"The Sentiments of a Church of England Man;" the ridicule of
Astrology under the name of "Bickerstaff;" the "Argument against
abolishing Christianity;" and the defence of the "Sacramental Test."

"The Sentiments of a Church of England Man" is written with great
coolness, moderation, ease, and perspicuity. The "Argument against
abolishing Christianity" is a very happy and judicious irony. One
passage in it deserves to be selected:--

"If Christianity were once abolished, how could the free-thinkers,
the strong reasoners, and the men of profound learning, be able to
find another subject so calculated, in all points, whereon to
display their abilities? What wonderful productions of wit should
we be deprived of from those whose genius, by continual practice,
hath been wholly turned upon raillery and invectives against
religion, and would therefore never be able to shine or distinguish
themselves upon any other subject! We are daily complaining of the
great decline of wit among us, and would take away the greatest,
perhaps the only topic we have left. Who would ever have suspected
Asgill for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the inexhaustible
stock of Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with
materials? What other subject, through all art or nature, could
have produced Tindal for a profound author, or furnished him with
readers? It is the wise choice of the subject that alone adorns and
distinguishes the writer. For had a hundred such pens as these been
employed on the side of religion, they would have immediately sunk
into silence and oblivion."

The reasonableness of a "Test" is not hard to be proved; but perhaps
it must be allowed that the proper test has not been chosen. The
attention paid to the papers published under the name of
"Bickerstaff," induced Steele, when he projected the Tatler, to
assume an appellation which had already gained possession of the
reader's notice.

In the year following he wrote a "Project for the Advancement of
Religion," addressed to Lady Berkeley, by whose kindness it is not
unlikely that he was advanced to his benefices. To this project,
which is formed with great purity of intention, and displayed with
sprightliness and elegance, it can only be objected, that, like many
projects, it is, if not generally impracticable, yet evidently
hopeless, as it supposes more zeal, concord, and perseverance than a
view of mankind gives reason for expecting. He wrote likewise this
year a "Vindication of Bickerstaff," and an explanation of an
"Ancient Prophecy," part written after the facts, and the rest never
completed, but well planned to excite amazement.

Soon after began the busy and important part of Swift's life. He
was employed (1710) by the Primate of Ireland to solicit the queen
for a remission of the First Fruits and Twentieth Parts to the Irish
Clergy. With this purpose he had recourse to Mr. Harley, to whom he
was mentioned as a man neglected and oppressed by the last Ministry,
because he had refused to co-operate with some of their schemes.
What he had refused has never been told; what he had suffered was, I
suppose, the exclusion from a bishopric by the remonstrances of
Sharp, whom he describes as "the harmless tool of others' hate," and
whom he represents as afterwards "suing for pardon."

Harley's designs and situation were such as made him glad of an
auxiliary so well qualified for his service: he therefore soon
admitted him to familiarity, whether ever to confidence some have
made a doubt; but it would have been difficult to excite his zeal
without persuading him that he was trusted, and not very easy to
delude him by false persuasions. He was certainly admitted to those
meetings in which the first hints and original plan of action are
supposed to have been formed; and was one of the sixteen ministers,
or agents of the Ministry, who met weekly at each other's houses,
and were united by the name of "Brother." Being not immediately
considered as an obdurate Tory, he conversed indiscriminately with
all the wits, and was yet the friend of Steele; who, in the Tatler,
which began in April, 1709, confesses the advantage of his
conversation, and mentions something contributed by him to his
paper. But he was now emerging into political controversy; for the
year 1710 produced the Examiner, of which Swift wrote thirty-three
papers. In argument he may be allowed to have the advantage: for
where a wide system of conduct, and the whole of a public character,
is laid open to inquiry, the accuser, having the choice of facts,
must be very unskilful if he does not prevail: but with regard to
wit, I am afraid none of Swift's papers will be found equal to those
by which Addison opposed him.

He wrote in the year 1711 a "Letter to the October Club," a number
of Tory gentlemen sent from the country to Parliament, who formed
themselves into a club, to the number of about a hundred, and met to
animate the zeal and raise the expectations of each other. They
thought, with great reason, that the Ministers were losing
opportunities; that sufficient use was not made of the ardour of the
nation; they called loudly for more changes, and stronger efforts;
and demanded the punishment of part and the dismission of the rest,
of those whom they considered as public robbers. Their eagerness
was not gratified by the queen, or by Harley. The queen was
probably slow because she was afraid; and Harley was slow because he
was doubtful; he was a Tory only by necessity, or for convenience;
and, when he had power in his hands, had no settled purpose for
which he should employ it; forced to gratify to a certain degree the
Tories who supported him, but unwilling to make his reconcilement to
the Whigs utterly desperate, he corresponded at once with the two
expectants of the Crown, and kept, as has been observed, the
succession undetermined. Not knowing what to do, he did nothing;
and, with the fate of a double dealer, at last he lost his power,
but kept his enemies.

Swift seems to have concurred in opinion with the "October Club;"
but it was not in his power to quicken the tardiness of Harley, whom
he stimulated as much as he could, but with little effect. He that
knows not whither to go, is in no haste to move. Harley, who was
perhaps not quick by nature, became yet more slow by irresolution;
and was content to hear that dilatoriness lamented as natural, which
he applauded in himself as politic. Without the Tories, however,
nothing could be done; and, as they were not to be gratified, they
must be appeased; and the conduct of the Minister, if it could not
be vindicated, was to be plausibly excused.

Early in the next year he published a "Proposal for Correcting,
Improving, and Ascertaining the English Tongue," in a Letter to the
Earl of Oxford; written without much knowledge of the general nature
of language, and without any accurate inquiry into the history of
other tongues. The certainty and stability which, contrary to all
experience, he thinks attainable, he proposes to secure by
instituting an academy; the decrees of which every man would have
been willing, and many would have been proud, to disobey, and which,
being renewed by successive elections, would in a short time have
differed from itself.

Swift now attained the zenith of his political importance: he
published (1712) the "Conduct of the Allies," ten days before the
Parliament assembled. The purpose was to persuade the nation to a
peace; and never had any writer more success. The people, who had
been amused with bonfires and triumphal processions, and looked with
idolatry on the General and his friends, who, as they thought, had
made England the arbitress of nations, were confounded between shame
and rage, when they found that "mines had been exhausted, and
millions destroyed," to secure the Dutch or aggrandise the Emperor,
without any advantage to ourselves; that we had been bribing our
neighbours to fight their own quarrel; and that amongst our enemies
we might number our allies. That is now no longer doubted, of which
the nation was then first informed, that the war was unnecessarily
protracted to fill the pockets of Marlborough; and that it would
have been continued without end, if he could have continued his
annual plunder. But Swift, I suppose, did not yet know what he has
since written, that a commission was drawn which would have
appointed him General for life, had it not become ineffectual by the
resolution of Lord Cowper, who refused the seal.

"Whatever is received," say the schools, "is received in proportion
to the recipient." The power of a political treatise depends much
upon the disposition of the people; the nation was then combustible,
and a spark set it on fire. It is boasted, that between November
and January eleven thousand were sold: a great number at that time,
when we were not yet a nation of readers. To its propagation
certainly no agency of power or influence was wanting. It furnished
arguments for conversation, speeches for debate, and materials for
parliamentary resolutions. Yet, surely, whoever surveys this
wonder-working pamphlet with cool perusal, will confess that its
efficacy was supplied by the passions of its readers; that it
operates by the mere weight of facts, with very little assistance
from the hand that produced them.

This year (1712) he published his "Reflections on the Barrier
Treaty," which carries on the design of his "Conduct of the Allies,"
and shows how little regard in that negotiation had been shown to
the interest of England, and how much of the conquered country had
been demanded by the Dutch. This was followed by "Remarks on the
Bishop of Sarum's Introduction to his third Volume of the History of
the Reformation;" a pamphlet which Burnet published as an alarm, to
warn the nation of the approach of Popery. Swift, who seems to have
disliked the bishop with something more than political aversion,
treats him like one whom he is glad of an opportunity to insult.

Swift, being now the declared favourite and supposed confidant of
the Tory Ministry, was treated by all that depended on the Court
with the respect which dependents know how to pay. He soon began to
feel part of the misery of greatness; he that could say that he knew
him, considered himself as having fortune in his power.
Commissions, solicitations, remonstrances crowded about him; he was
expected to do every man's business; to procure employment for one,
and to retain it for another. In assisting those who addressed him,
he represents himself as sufficiently diligent; and desires to have
others believe what he probably believed himself, that by his
interposition many Whigs of merit, and among them Addison and
Congreve, were continued in their places. But every man of known
influence has so many petitions which he cannot grant, that he must
necessarily offend more than he gratifies, because the preference
given to one affords all the rest reason for complaint. "When I
give away a place," said Lewis XIV., "I make a hundred discontented,
and one ungrateful."

Much has been said of the equality and independence which he
preserved in his conversation with the Ministers; of the frankness
of his remonstrances, and the familiarity of his friendship. In
accounts of this kind a few single incidents are set against the
general tenour of behaviour. No man, however, can pay a more
servile tribute to the great, than by suffering his liberty in their
presence to aggrandise him in his own esteem. Between different
ranks of the community there is necessarily some distance; he who is
called by his superior to pass the interval, may properly accept the
invitation; but petulance and obtrusion are rarely produced by
magnanimity; nor have often any nobler cause than the pride of
importance, and the malice of inferiority. He who knows himself
necessary may set, while that necessity lasts, a high value upon
himself; as, in a lower condition, a servant eminently skilful may
be saucy; but he is saucy only because he is servile. Swift appears
to have preserved the kindness of the great when they wanted him no
longer; and therefore it must be allowed, that the childish freedom,
to which he seems enough inclined, was overpowered by his better
qualities. His disinterestedness has likewise been mentioned; a
strain of heroism which would have been in his condition romantic
and superfluous. Ecclesiastical benefices, when they become vacant,
must be given away; and the friends of power may, if there be no
inherent disqualification, reasonably expect them. Swift accepted
(1713) the deanery of St. Patrick, the best preferment that his
friends could venture to give him. That Ministry was in a great
degree supported by the clergy, who were not yet reconciled to the
author of the "Tale of a Tub," and would not without much discontent
and indignation have borne to see him installed in an English
cathedral. He refused, indeed, fifty pounds from Lord Oxford; but
he accepted afterwards a draught of a thousand upon the Exchequer,
which was intercepted by the queen's death, and which he resigned,
as he says himself, "multa gemens, with many a groan." In the midst
of his power and his politics, he kept a journal of his visits, his
walks, his interviews with Ministers, and quarrels with his servant,
and transmitted it to Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Dingley, to whom he knew
that whatever befell him was interesting, and no accounts could be
too minute. Whether these diurnal trifles were properly exposed to
eyes which had never received any pleasure from the presence of the
Dean may be reasonably doubted: they have, however, some odd
attraction; the reader, finding frequent mention of names which he
has been used to consider as important, goes on in hope of
information; and as there is nothing to fatigue attention, if he is
disappointed he can hardly complain. It is easy to perceive, from
every page, that though ambition pressed Swift into a life of
bustle, the wish for a life of ease was always returning. He went
to take possession of his deanery as soon as he had obtained it; but
he was not suffered to stay in Ireland more than a fortnight before
he was recalled to England, that he might reconcile Lord Oxford and
Lord Bolingbroke, who began to look on one another with malevolence,
which every day increased, and which Bolingbroke appeared to retain
in his last years.

Swift contrived an interview, from which they both departed
discontented; he procured a second, which only convinced him that
the feud was irreconcilable; he told them his opinion, that all was
lost. This denunciation was contradicted by Oxford; but Bolingbroke
whispered that he was right. Before this violent dissension had
shattered the Ministry, Swift had published, in the beginning of the
year (1714), "The Public Spirit of the Whigs," in answer to "The
Crisis," a pamphlet for which Steele was expelled from the House of
Commons. Swift was now so far alienated from Steele, as to think
him no longer entitled to decency, and therefore treats him
sometimes with contempt, and sometimes with abhorrence. In this
pamphlet the Scotch were mentioned in terms so provoking to that
irritable nation, that resolving "not to be offended with impunity,"
the Scotch lords in a body demanded an audience of the queen, and
solicited reparation. A proclamation was issued, in which three
hundred pounds were offered for the discovery of the author. From
this storm he was, as he relates, "secured by a sleight;" of what
kind, or by whose prudence, is not known; and such was the increase
of his reputation, that the Scottish nation "applied again that he
would be their friend." He was become so formidable to the Whigs,
that his familiarity with the Ministers was clamoured at in
Parliament, particularly by two men, afterwards of great note,
Aislabie and Walpole. But, by the disunion of his great friends,
his importance and designs were now at an end; and seeing his
services at last useless, he retired about June (1714) into
Berkshire, where, in the house of a friend, he wrote what was then
suppressed, but has since appeared under the title of "Free Thoughts
on the present State of Affairs." While he was waiting in this
retirement for events which time or chance might bring to pass, the
death of the Queen broke down at once the whole system of Tory
politics; and nothing remained but to withdraw from the
implacability of triumphant Whiggism, and shelter himself in
unenvied obscurity.

The accounts of his reception in Ireland, given by Lord Orrery and
Dr. Delany, are so different, that the credit of the writers, both
undoubtedly veracious, cannot be saved, but by supposing, what I
think is true, that they speak of different times. When Delany
says, that he was received with respect, he means for the first
fortnight, when he came to take legal possession; and when Lord
Orrery tells that he was pelted by the populace, he is to be
understood of the time when, after the Queen's death, he became a
settled resident.

The Archbishop of Dublin gave him at first some disturbance in the
exercise of his jurisdiction; but it was soon discovered, that
between prudence and integrity, he was seldom in the wrong; and
that, when he was right, his spirit did not easily yield to

Having so lately quitted the tumults of a party, and the intrigues
of a court, they still kept his thoughts in agitation, as the sea
fluctuates a while when the storm has ceased. He therefore filled
his hours with some historical attempts, relating to the "Change of
the Ministers," and "The Conduct of the Ministry." He likewise is
said to have written a "History of the Four last Years of Queen
Anne," which he began in her lifetime, and afterwards laboured with
great attention, but never published. It was after his death in the
hands of Lord Orrery and Dr. King. A book under that title was
published with Swift's name by Dr. Lucas; of which I can only say,
that it seemed by no means to correspond with the notions that I had
formed of it, from a conversation which I once heard between the
Earl of Orrery and old Mr. Lewis.

Swift now, much against his will, commenced Irishman for life, and
was to contrive how he might be best accommodated in a country where
he considered himself as in a state of exile. It seems that his
first recourse was to piety. The thoughts of death rushed upon him
at this time with such incessant importunity, that they took
possession of his mind, when he first waked, for many years
together. He opened his house by a public table two days a week,
and found his entertainments gradually frequented by more and more
visitants of learning among the men, and of elegance among the
women. Mrs. Johnson had left the country, and lived in lodgings not
far from the deanery. On his public days she regulated the table,
but appeared at it as a mere guest, like other ladies. On other
days he often dined, at a stated price, with Mr. Worral, a clergyman
of his cathedral, whose house was recommended by the peculiar
neatness and pleasantry of his wife. To this frugal mode of living,
he was first disposed by care to pay some debts which he had
contracted, and he continued it for the pleasure of accumulating
money. His avarice, however, was not suffered to obstruct the
claims of his dignity; he was served in plate, and used to say that
he was the poorest gentleman in Ireland that ate upon plate, and the
richest that lived without a coach. How he spent the rest of his
time, and how he employed his hours of study, has been inquired with
hopeless curiosity. For who can give an account of another's
studies? Swift was not likely to admit any to his privacies, or to
impart a minute account of his business or his leisure.

Soon after (1716), in his forty-ninth year, he was privately married
to Mrs. Johnson, by Dr. Ashe, Bishop of Clogher, as Dr. Madden told
me, in the garden. The marriage made no change in their mode of
life; they lived in different houses, as before; nor did she ever
lodge in the deanery but when Swift was seized with a fit of
giddiness. "It would be difficult," says Lord Orrery, "to prove
that they were ever afterwards together without a third person."

The Dean of St. Patrick's lived in a private manner, known and
regarded only by his friends; till, about the year 1720, he, by a
pamphlet, recommended to the Irish the use, and consequently the
improvement, of their manufactures. For a man to use the
productions of his own labour is surely a natural right, and to like
best what he makes himself is a natural passion. But to excite this
passion, and enforce this right, appeared so criminal to those who
had an interest in the English trade, that the printer was
imprisoned; and, as Hawkesworth justly observes, the attention of
the public being, by this outrageous resentment, turned upon the
proposal, the author was by consequence made popular.

In 1723 died Mrs. Van Homrigh, a woman made unhappy by her
admiration of wit, and ignominiously distinguished by the name of
Vanessa, whose conduct has been already sufficiently discussed, and
whose history is too well known to be minutely repeated. She was a
young woman fond of literature, whom Decanus, the dean, called
Cadenus by transposition of the letters, took pleasure in directing
and instructing: till, from being proud of his praise, she grew
fond of his person. Swift was then about forty-seven, at an age
when vanity is strongly excited by the amorous attention of a young
woman. If it be said that Swift should have checked a passion which
he never meant to gratify, recourse must be had to that extenuation
which he so much despised, "men are but men;" perhaps, however, he
did not at first know his own mind, and, as he represents himself,
was undetermined. For his admission of her courtship, and his
indulgence of her hopes after his marriage to Stella, no other
honest plea can be found than that he delayed a disagreeable
discovery from time to time, dreading the immediate bursts of
distress, and watching for a favourable moment. She thought herself
neglected, and died of disappointment, having ordered, by her will,
the poem to be published, in which Cadenus had proclaimed her
excellence and confessed his love. The effect of the publication
upon the Dean and Stella is thus related by Delany:--

"I have good reason to believe that they both were greatly shocked
and distressed (though it may be differently) upon this occasion.
The Dean made a tour to the south of Ireland for about two months at
this time, to dissipate his thoughts and give place to obloquy. And
Stella retired (upon the earnest invitation of the owner) to the
house of a cheerful, generous, good-natured friend of the Dean's,
whom she always much loved and honoured. There my informer often
saw her, and, I have reason to believe, used his utmost endeavours
to relieve, support, and amuse her, in this sad situation. One
little incident he told me of on that occasion I think I shall never
forget. As his friend was an hospitable, open-hearted man, well
beloved and largely acquainted, it happened one day that some
gentlemen dropped in to dinner, who were strangers to Stella's
situation; and as the poem of 'Cadenus and Vanessa' was then the
general topic of conversation, one of them said, 'Surely that
Vanessa must be an extraordinary woman that could inspire the Dean
to write so finely upon her.' Mrs. Johnson smiled, and answered,
'that she thought that point not quite so clear; for it was well
known that the Dean could write finely upon a broomstick.'"

The great acquisition of esteem and influence was made by the
"Drapier's Letters," in 1724. One Wood, of Wolverhampton, in
Staffordshire, a man enterprising and rapacious, had, as is said, by
a present to the Duchess of Munster, obtained a patent, empowering
him to coin one hundred and eighty thousand pounds of halfpence and
farthings for the kingdom of Ireland, in which there was a very
inconvenient and embarrassing scarcity of copper coin, so that it
was possible to run in debt upon the credit of a piece of money; for
the cook or keeper of an alehouse could not refuse to supply a man
that had silver in his hand, and the buyer would not leave his money
without change. The project was therefore plausible. The scarcity,
which was already great, Wood took care to make greater, by agents
who gathered up the old halfpence; and was about to turn his brass
into gold, by pouring the treasures of his new mint upon Ireland,
when Swift, finding that the metal was debased to an enormous
degree, wrote letters, under the name of M. B. Drapier, to show the
folly of receiving, and the mischief that must ensue by giving gold
and silver for coin worth perhaps not a third part of its nominal
value. The nation was alarmed; the new coin was universally
refused, but the governors of Ireland considered resistance to the
king's patent as highly criminal; and one Whitshed, then Chief
Justice, who had tried the printer of the former pamphlet, and sent
out the jury nine times, till by clamour and menaces they were
frightened into a special verdict, now presented the Drapier, but
could not prevail on the grand jury to find the bill.

Lord Carteret and the Privy Council published a proclamation,
offering three hundred pounds for discovering the author of the
Fourth Letter. Swift had concealed himself from his printers and
trusted only his butler, who transcribed the paper. The man,
immediately after the appearance of the proclamation, strolled from
the house, and stayed out all night, and part of the next day.
There was reason enough to fear that he had betrayed his master for
the reward; but he came home, and the Dean ordered him to put off
his livery, and leave the house; "for," says he, "I know that my
life is in your power, and I will not bear, out of fear, either your
insolence or negligence." The man excused his fault with great
submission, and begged that he might be confined in the house while
it was in his power to endanger the master; but the Dean resolutely
turned him out, without taking further notice of him, till the term
of the information had expired, and then received him again. Soon
afterwards he ordered him and the rest of his servants into his
presence, without telling his intentions, and bade them take notice
that their fellow-servant was no longer Robert the butler, but that
his integrity had made him Mr. Blakeney, verger of St. Patrick's, an
officer whose income was between thirty and forty pounds a year; yet
he still continued for some years to serve his old master as his

Swift was known from this time by the appellation of The Dean. He
was honoured by the populace as the champion, patron, and instructor
of Ireland; and gained such power as, considered both in its extent
and duration, scarcely any man has ever enjoyed without greater
wealth or higher station. He was from this important year the
oracle of the traders, and the idol of the rabble, and by
consequence was feared and courted by all to whom the kindness of
the traders or the populace was necessary. The Drapier was a sign;
the Drapier was a health; and which way soever the eye or the ear
was turned, some tokens were found of the nation's gratitude to the

The benefit was indeed great; he had rescued Ireland from a very
oppressive and predatory invasion, and the popularity which he had
gained he was diligent to keep, by appearing forward and zealous on
every occasion where the public interest was supposed to be
involved. Nor did he much scruple to boast his influence; for when,
upon some attempts to regulate the coin, Archbishop Boulter, then
one of the justices, accused him of exasperating the people, he
exculpated himself by saying, "If I had lifted up my finger, they
would have torn you to pieces." But the pleasure of popularity was
soon interrupted by domestic misery. Mrs. Johnson, whose
conversation was to him the great softener of the ills of life,
began in the year of the Drapier's triumph to decline, and two years
afterwards was so wasted with sickness that her recovery was
considered as hopeless. Swift was then in England, and had been
invited by Lord Bolingbroke to pass the winter with him in France;
but this call of calamity hastened him to Ireland, where perhaps his
presence contributed to restore her to imperfect and tottering
health. He was now so much at ease, that (1727) he returned to
England, where he collected three volumes of Miscellanies in
conjunction with Pope, who prefixed a querulous and apologetical

This important year sent likewise into the world "Gulliver's
Travels," a production so new and strange, that it filled the reader
with a mingled emotion of merriment and amazement. It was received
with such avidity, that the price of the first edition was raised
before the second could be made; it was read by the high and the
low, the learned and illiterate. Criticism was for a while lost in
wonder; no rules of judgment were applied to a book written in open
defiance of truth and regularity. But when distinctions came to be
made, the part which gave the least pleasure was that which
describes the Flying Island, and that which gave most disgust must
be the history of Houyhnhnms.

While Swift was enjoying the reputation of his new work, the news of
the king's death arrived, and he kissed the hands of the new king
and queen three days after their accession. By the queen, when she
was princess, he had been treated with some distinction, and was
well received by her in her exaltation; but whether she gave hopes
which she never took care to satisfy, or he formed expectations
which she never meant to raise, the event was that he always
afterwards thought on her with malevolence, and particularly charged
her with breaking her promise of some medals which she engaged to
send him. I know not whether she had not, in her turn, some reason
for complaint. A letter was sent her, not so much entreating, as
requiring her patronage of Mrs. Barber, an ingenious Irishwoman, who
was then begging subscriptions for her Poems. To this letter was
subscribed the name of Swift, and it has all the appearance of his
diction and sentiments; but it was not written in his hand, and had
some little improprieties. When he was charged with this letter, he
laid hold of the inaccuracies, and urged the improbability of the
accusation, but never denied it: he shuffles between cowardice and
veracity, and talks big when he says nothing. He seems desirous
enough of recommencing courtier, and endeavoured to gain the
kindness of Mrs. Howard, remembering what Mrs. Masham had performed
in former times; but his flatteries were, like those of other wits,
unsuccessful; the lady either wanted power, or had no ambition of
poetical immortality. He was seized not long afterwards by a fit of
giddiness, and again heard of the sickness and danger of Mrs.
Johnson. He then left the house of Pope, as it seems, with very
little ceremony, finding "that two sick friends cannot live
together;" and did not write to him till he found himself at
Chester. He turned to a home of sorrow: poor Stella was sinking
into the grave, and, after a languishing decay of about two months,
died in her forty-fourth year, on January 28, 1728. How much he
wished her life his papers show; nor can it be doubted that he
dreaded the death of her whom he loved most, aggravated by the
consciousness that himself had hastened it.

Beauty and the power of pleasing, the greatest external advantages
that woman can desire or possess, were fatal to the unfortunate
Stella. The man whom she had the misfortune to love was, as Delany
observes, fond of singularity, and desirous to make a mode of
happiness for himself, different from the general course of things
and order of Providence. From the time of her arrival in Ireland he
seems resolved to keep her in his power, and therefore hindered a
match sufficiently advantageous by accumulating unreasonable
demands, and prescribing conditions that could not be performed.
While she was at her own disposal he did not consider his possession
as secure; resentment, ambition, or caprice might separate them: he
was therefore resolved to make "assurance doubly sure," and to
appropriate her by a private marriage, to which he had annexed the
expectation of all the pleasures of perfect friendship, without the
uneasiness of conjugal restraint. But with this state poor Stella
was not satisfied; she never was treated as a wife, and to the world
she had the appearance of a mistress. She lived sullenly on, in
hope that in time he would own and receive her; but the time did not
come till the change of his manners and depravation of his mind made
her tell him, when he offered to acknowledge her, that "it was too
late." She then gave up herself to sorrowful resentment, and died
under the tyranny of him by whom she was in the highest degree loved
and honoured. What were her claims to this eccentric tenderness, by
which the laws of nature were violated to restrain her, curiosity
will inquire; but how shall it be gratified? Swift was a lover; his
testimony may be suspected. Delany and the Irish saw with Swift's
eyes, and therefore add little confirmation. That she was virtuous,
beautiful, and elegant, in a very high degree, such admiration from
such a lover makes it very probable: but she had not much
literature, for she could not spell her own language; and of her
wit, so loudly vaunted, the smart sayings which Swift himself has
collected afford no splendid specimen.

The reader of Swift's "Letter to a Lady on her Marriage," may be
allowed to doubt whether his opinion of female excellence ought
implicitly to be admitted; for, if his general thoughts on women
were such as he exhibits, a very little sense in a lady would
enrapture, and a very little virtue would astonish him. Stella's
supremacy, therefore, was perhaps only local; she was great because
her associates were little.

In some Remarks lately published on the Life of Swift, his marriage
is mentioned as fabulous, or doubtful; but, alas! poor Stella, as
Dr. Madden told me, related her melancholy story to Dr. Sheridan,
when he attended her as a clergyman to prepare her for death; and
Delany mentions it not with doubt, but only with regret. Swift
never mentioned her without a sigh. The rest of his life was spent
in Ireland, in a country to which not even power almost despotic,
nor flattery almost idolatrous, could reconcile him. He sometimes
wished to visit England, but always found some reason of delay. He
tells Pope, in the decline of life, that he hopes once more to see
him; "but if not," says he, "we must part as all human beings have

After the death of Stella, his benevolence was contracted, and his
severity exasperated; he drove his acquaintance from his table, and
wondered why he was deserted. But he continued his attention to the
public, and wrote from time to time such directions, admonitions, or
censures, as the exigence of affairs, in his opinion, made proper;
and nothing fell from his pen in vain. In a short poem on the
Presbyterians, whom he always regarded with detestation, he bestowed
one stricture upon Bettesworth, a lawyer eminent for his insolence
to the clergy, which, from very considerable reputation, brought him
into immediate and universal contempt. Bettesworth, enraged at his
disgrace and loss, went to Swift, and demanded whether he was the
author of that poem? "Mr. Bettesworth," answered he, "I was in my
youth acquainted with great lawyers, who, knowing my disposition to
satire, advised me, that if any scoundrel or blockhead whom I had
lampooned should ask, 'Are you the author of this paper?' I should
tell him that I was not the author; and therefore, I tell you, Mr.
Bettesworth, that I am not the author of these lines."

Bettesworth was so little satisfied with this account, that he
publicly professed his resolution of a violent and corporal revenge;
but the inhabitants of St. Patrick's district embodied themselves in
the Dean's defence. Bettesworth declared in Parliament that Swift
had deprived him of twelve hundred pounds a year.

Swift was popular awhile by another mode of beneficence. He set
aside some hundreds to be lent in small sums to the poor, from five
shillings, I think, to five pounds. He took no interest, and only
required that, at repayment, a small fee should be given to the
accountant, but he required that the day of promised payment should
be exactly kept. A severe and punctilious temper is ill qualified
for transactions with the poor: the day was often broken, and the
loan was not repaid. This might have been easily foreseen; but for
this Swift had made no provision of patience or pity. He ordered
his debtors to be sued. A severe creditor has no popular character;
what then was likely to be said of him who employs the catchpoll
under the appearance of charity? The clamour against him was loud,
and the resentment of the populace outrageous; he was therefore
forced to drop his scheme, and own the folly of expecting
punctuality from the poor.

His asperity continually increasing, condemned him to solitude; and
his resentment of solitude sharpened his asperity. He was not,
however, totally deserted; some men of learning, and some women of
elegance, often visited him; and he wrote from time to time either
verse or prose: of his verses he willingly gave copies, and is
supposed to have felt no discontent when he saw them printed. His
favourite maxim was "Vive la bagatelle:" he thought trifles a
necessary part of life, and perhaps found them necessary to himself.
It seems impossible to him to be idle, and his disorders made it
difficult or dangerous to be long seriously studious, or laboriously
diligent. The love of ease is always gaining upon age, and he had
one temptation to petty amusements peculiar to himself; whatever he
did, he was sure to hear applauded; and such was his predominance
over all that approached, that all their applauses were probably
sincere. He that is much flattered soon learns to flatter himself;
we are commonly taught our duty by fear or shame, and how can they
act upon the man who hears nothing but his own praises? As his
years increased, his fits of giddiness and deafness grew more
frequent, and his deafness made conversation difficult; they grew
likewise more severe, till in 1736, as he was writing a poem called
"The Legion Club," he was seized with a fit so painful and so long
continued, that he never after thought it proper to attempt any work
of thought or labour. He was always careful of his money, and was
therefore no liberal entertainer, but was less frugal of his wine
than of his meat. When his friends of either sex came to him in
expectation of a dinner, his custom was to give every one a
shilling, that they might please themselves with their provision.
At last his avarice grew too powerful for his kindness; he would
refuse a bottle of wine, and in Ireland no man visits where he
cannot drink. Having thus excluded conversation, and desisted from
study, he had neither business nor amusement; for, having by some
ridiculous resolution, or mad vow, determined never to wear
spectacles, he could make like little use of books in his latter
years; his ideas, therefore, being neither renovated by discourse,
nor increased by reading, wore gradually away, and left his mind
vacant to the vexations of the hour, till at last his anger was
heightened into madness. He, however, permitted one book to be
published, which had been the production of former years--"Polite
Conversation," which appeared in 1738. The "Directions for
Servants," was printed soon after his death. These two performances
show a mind incessantly attentive, and, when it was not employed
upon great things, busy with minute occurrences. It is apparent
that he must have had the habit of noting whatever he observed; for
such a number of particulars could never have been assembled by the
power of recollection. He grew more violent, and his mental powers
declined, till (1741) it was found necessary that legal guardians
should be appointed of his person and fortune. He now lost
distinction. His madness was compounded of rage and fatuity. The
last face that he knew was that of Mrs. Whiteway; and her he ceased
to know in a little time. His meat was brought him cut into
mouthfuls: but he would never touch it while the servant stayed,
and at last, after it had stood perhaps an hour, would eat it
walking; for he continued his old habit, and was on his feet ten
hours a day. Next year (1742) he had an inflammation in his left
eye, which swelled it to the size of an egg, with boils in other
parts; he was kept long waking with the pain, and was not easily
restrained by five attendants from tearing out his eye.

The tumour at last subsided; and a short interval of reason ensuing;
in which he knew his physician and his family, gave hopes of his
recovery; but in a few days he sank into a lethargic stupidity,
motionless, heedless, and speechless. But it is said that after a
year of total silence, when his housekeeper, on the 30th of
November, told him that the usual bonfires and illuminations were
preparing to celebrate his birthday, he answered, "It is all folly;
they had better let it alone."

It is remembered that he afterwards spoke now and then, or gave some
intimation of a meaning; but at last sank into a perfect silence,
which continued till about the end of October, 1744, when, in his
seventy-eighth year, he expired without a struggle.

When Swift is considered as an author, it is just to estimate his
powers by their effects. In the reign of Queen Anne he turned the
stream of popularity against the Whigs, and must be confessed to
have dictated for a time the political opinions of the English
nation. In the succeeding reign he delivered Ireland from plunder
and oppression: and showed that wit, confederated with truth, had
such force as authority was unable to resist. He said truly of
himself, that Ireland "was his debtor." It was from the time when
he first began to patronise the Irish, that they may date their
riches and prosperity. He taught them first to know their own
interest, their weight, and their strength, and gave them spirit to
assert that equality with their fellow-subjects to which they have
ever since been making vigorous advances, and to claim those rights
which they have at last established. Nor can they be charged with
ingratitude to their benefactor; for they reverenced him as a
guardian, and obeyed him as a dictator.

In his works he has given very different specimens both of
sentiments and expression. His "Tale of a Tub" has little
resemblance to his other pieces. It exhibits a vehemence and
rapidity of mind, a copiousness of images, and vivacity of diction,
such as he afterwards never possessed, or never exerted. It is of a
mode so distinct and peculiar, that it must be considered by itself;
what is true of that, is not true of anything else which he has
written. In his other works is found an equable tenour of easy
language, which rather trickles than flows. His delight was in
simplicity. That he has in his works no metaphor, as has been said,
is not true; but his few metaphors seem to be received rather by
necessity than choice. He studied purity; and though perhaps all
his strictures are not exact, yet it is not often that solecisms can
be found; and whoever depends on his authority may generally
conclude himself safe. His sentences are never too much dilated or
contracted; and it will not be easy to find any embarrassment in the
complication of his clauses, any inconsequence in his connections,
or abruptness in his transitions. His style was well suited to his
thoughts, which are never subtilised by nice disquisitions,
decorated by sparkling conceits, elevated by ambitious sentences, or
variegated by far-sought learning. He pays no court to the
passions; he excites neither surprise nor admiration: he always
understands himself, and his readers always understand him: the
peruser of Swift wants little previous knowledge; it will be
sufficient that he is acquainted with common words and common
things; he is neither required to mount elevations, nor to explore
profundities; his passage is always on a level, along solid ground,
without asperities, without obstruction. This easy and safe
conveyance of meaning it was Swift's desire to attain, and for
having attained he deserves praise. For purposes merely didactic,
when something is to be told that was not known before, it is the
best mode; but against that inattention by which known truths are
suffered to lie neglected, it makes no provision; it instructs, but
does not persuade.

By his political education he was associated with the Whigs; but he
deserted them when they deserted their principles, yet without
running into the contrary extreme; he continued throughout his life
to retain the disposition which he assigns to the "Church-of-England
Man," of thinking commonly with the Whigs of the State, and with the
Tories of the Church. He was a Churchman, rationally zealous; he
desired the prosperity, and maintained the honour of the clergy; of
the Dissenters he did not wish to infringe the Toleration, but he
opposed their encroachments. To his duty as Dean he was very
attentive. He managed the revenues of his church with exact
economy; and it is said by Delany, that more money was, under his
direction, laid out in repairs, than had ever been in the same time
since its first erection. Of his choir he was eminently careful;
and though he neither loved nor understood music, took care that all
the singers were well qualified, admitting none without the
testimony of skilful judges.

In his church he restored the practice of weekly communion, and
distributed the sacramental elements in the most solemn and devout
manner with his own hand. He came to church every morning, preached
commonly in his turn, and attended the evening anthem, that it might
not be negligently performed. He read the service, "rather with a
strong, nervous voice, than in a graceful manner; his voice was
sharp and high-toned, rather than harmonious." He entered upon the
clerical state with hope to excel in preaching; but complained that,
from the time of his political controversies, "he could only preach
pamphlets." This censure of himself, if judgment be made from those
sermons which have been printed, was unreasonably severe.

The suspicions of his irreligion proceeded in a great measure from
his dread of hypocrisy; instead of wishing to seem better, he
delighted in seeming worse than he was. He went in London to early
prayers, lest he should be seen at church; he read prayers to his
servants every morning with such dexterous secrecy, that Dr. Delany


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