The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753),Vol. V.
Theophilus Cibber

Part 2 out of 6

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.

After many sollicitations and delays, a subscription was at last raised,
which did not amount to fifty pounds a year, though twenty were paid by
one gentleman. He was, however, 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 oeconomist.

Full of these salutary resolutions, he quitted London in 1739. He was
furnished with fifteen guineas, and was told, that they would be
sufficient, not only for the expence 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 14th 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

After some stay at Bristol, he retired to Swansea, the place originally
proposed for his residence, where he lived about a year very much
disatisfied with the diminution of his salary, for the greatest part of
the contributors, irritated by Mr. Savage's letters, which they imagined
treated them contemptuously, withdrew their subscriptions. At this
place, as in every other, he contracted an acquaintance with those who
were most distinguished in that country, among whom, he has celebrated
Mr. Powel, and Mrs. Jones, by some verses inserted in the Gentleman's
Magazine. Here he compleated his tragedy, of which two acts were wanting
when he left London, and was desirous of coming to town to bring it on
the stage. This design was very warmly opposed, and he was advised by
his chief benefactor, who was no other than Mr. Pope, to put it in 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, 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 soon after this quitted Swansea,
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 he never considered 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.

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 conversion could not compensate; for what trader would
purchase such airy satisfaction, with 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? Distress at last
stole upon him by imperceptible degrees; his conduct had already wearied
some of those who were at first enamoured of his conversation; but he
still might have devolved to others, whom he might have entertained with
equal success, had not the decay of his cloaths made it no longer
consistent with decency 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
compleat his misery, he was 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 go 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 waited 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

He continued to bear these severe pressures, 'till the landlady of a
coffee-house, to whom he owed about eight pounds, compleated his
wretchedness. He was arrested by order of this woman, and conducted to
the house of a Sheriff's Officer, where he remained some time at a great
expence, in hopes of finding bail. This expence he was enabled to
support by a present from Mr. Nash of Bath, who, upon hearing of his
late mis-fortune, sent him five guineas. No friends would contribute to
release him from prison at the expence of eight pounds, and therefore he
was removed to Newgate. He bore this misfortune with an unshaken
fortitude, and indeed the treatment he met with from Mr. Dagg, the
keeper of the prison, greatly softened the rigours of his confinement.
He was supported by him at his own table, without any certainty of
recompence; 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 the prison, than he had been accustomed to undergo the
greatest part of his life. Virtue is undoubtedly most laudable in that
state which makes it most difficult; and therefore the humanity of the
gaoler certainly deserves this public attestation.

While Mr. Savage was in prison, he began, and almost finished a satire,
which he entitled London and Bristol Delineated; in order to be revenged
of those who had had no more generosity for a man, to whom they
professed friendship, than to suffer him to languish in a gaol for eight
pounds. He had now ceased from corresponding with any of his
subscribers, except Mr. Pope, who yet continued to remit him twenty
pounds a year, which he had promised, and by whom he expected to be in a
very short time enlarged; because he had directed the keeper to enquire
after the state of his debts.

However he took care to enter his name according to the forms of the
court, that the creditors 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 expence. This he treated as an
empty menace, and had he not been prevented by death, he would have
hastened the publication of the satire, only to shew how much he was
superior to their insults.

When he had been six months in prison, he received from Mr. Pope, 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. 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 the keeper saw him was on July 31, when Savage, seeing him at his
bed-side, said, with 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 church-yard of St. Peter, at the expence of
the keeper.

Such were the life and death of this unfortunate poet; 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 a 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 judgment
was eminently exact, both with regard to writings and to men. The
knowledge of life was his chief attainment. He was born rather to bear
misfortunes greatly, than to enjoy prosperity with moderation. He
discovered an amazing firmness of spirit, in spurning those who presumed
to dictate to him in the lowest circumstances of misery; but we never
can reconcile the idea of true greatness of mind, with the perpetual
inclination Savage discovered to live upon the bounty of his friends. To
struggle for independence appears much more laudable, as well as a
higher instance of spirit, than to be the pensioner of another.

As Savage had seen so much of the world, and was capable of so deep a
penetration into nature, it was strange he could not form some scheme of
a livelihood, more honourable than that of a poetical mendicant: his
prosecuting any plan of life with diligence, would have thrown more
lustre on his character, than, all his works, and have raised our ideas
of the greatness of his spirit, much, beyond the conduct we have already
seen. If poverty is so great an evil as to expose a man to commit
actions, at which he afterwards blushes, to avoid this poverty should be
the continual care of every man; and he, who lets slip every opportunity
of doing so, is more entitled to admiration than pity, should he bear
his sufferings nobly.

Mr. Savage's temper, in consequence of the dominion of his passions, was
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 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.
He would even betray those secrets, which, in the warmth of confidence,
had been imparted to him. His veracity was often questioned, and not
without reason. 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, but his partiality might have sometimes the effect of

In the words of the celebrated writer of his life, from whom, as we
observed in the beginning, we have extracted the account here given, we
shall conclude this unfortunate person's Memoirs, which were so various
as to afford large scope for an able biographer, and which, by this
gentleman, have been represented with so great a mastery, and force of
penetration, that the Life of Savage, as written by him, is an excellent
model for this species of writing.

'This relation (says he) will not be wholly without its use, if those,
who languish under any part of his sufferings, should be enabled to
fortify their patience, by reflecting that they feel only those
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 can
supply the want of prudence, and that negligence and irregularity long
continued, will make knowledge useless, wit ridiculous, and genius

[1] However slightly the author of Savage's life passes over the less
amiable characteristics of that unhappy man; yet we cannot but
discover therein, that vanity and ingratitude were the principal
ingredients in poor Savage's composition; nor was his veracity
greatly to be depended on. No wonder therefore, if the good-natur'd
writer suffer'd his better understanding to be misled, in some
accounts relative to the poet we are now speaking of.--Among many,
we shall at present only take notice of the following, which makes
too conspicuous a figure to pass by entirely unnoticed.

In this life of Savage 'tis related, that Mrs. Oldfield was very
fond of Mr. Savage's conversation, and allowed him an annuity,
during her life, of 50 l.--These facts are equally ill-grounded:--
There was no foundation for them. That Savage's misfortunes pleaded
for pity, and had the desired effect on Mrs. Oldfield's compassion,
is certain:--But she so much disliked the man, and disapproved his
conduct, that she never admitted him to her conversation, nor
suffer'd him to enter her house. She, indeed, often relieved him
with such donations, as spoke her generous disposicion.--But this
was on the sollicitation of friends, who frequently set his
calamities before her in the most piteous light; and from a
principle of humanity, she became not a little instrumental in
saving his life.

[2] Lord Tyrconnel delivered a petition to his majesty in Savage's
behalf: And Mrs. Oldfield sollicited Sir Robert Walpole on his
account. This joint-interest procured him his pardon.

* * * * *


was born in the county of Cavan, where his father kept a public house. A
gentleman, who had a regard for his father, and who observed the son
gave early indications of genius above the common standard, sent him to
the college of Dublin, and contributed towards the finishing his
education there. Our poet received very great encouragement upon his
setting out in life, and was esteemed a fortunate man. The agreeable
humour, and the unreserved pleasantry of his temper, introduced him to
the acquaintance, and established him in the esteem, of the wits of that
age. He set up a school in Dublin, which, at one time, was so
considerable as to produce an income of a thousand pounds a year, and
possessed besides some good livings, and bishops leases, which are
extremely lucrative.

Mr. Sheridan married the daughter of Mr. Macpherson, a Scots gentleman,
who served in the wars under King William, and, during the troubles of
Ireland, became possessed of a small estate of about 40 l. per annum,
called Quilca. This little fortune devolved on Mrs. Sheridan, which
enabled her husband to set up a school. Dr. Sheridan, amongst his
virtues, could not number oeconomy; on the contrary, he was remarkable
for profusion and extravagance, which exposed him to such
inconveniences, that he was obliged to mortgage all he had. His school
daily declined, and by an act of indiscretion, he was stript of the best
living he then enjoyed. On the birth-day of his late Majesty, the Dr.
having occasion to preach, chose for his text the following words,

Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

This procured him the name of a Jacobite, or a disaffected person, a
circumstance sufficient to ruin him in his ecclesiastical capacity. His
friends, who were disposed to think favourably of him, were for softning
the epithet of Jacobite into Tory, imputing his choice of that text,
rather to whim and humour, than any settled prejudice against his
Majesty, or the government; but this unseasonable pleasantry was not so
easily passed over, and the Dr. had frequent occasion to repent the
choice of his text.

Unhappy Sheridan! he lived to want both money and friends. He spent his
money and time merrily among the gay and the great, and was an example,
that there are too many who can relish a man's humour, who have not so
quick a sense of his misfortunes. The following story should not have
been told, were it not true.

In the midst of his misfortunes, when the demands of his creditors
obliged him to retirement, he went to dean Swift, and sollicited a
lodging for a few days, 'till by a proper composition he might be
restored to his freedom. The dean retired early to rest. The Dr.
fatigued, but not inclinable to go so soon to bed, sent the servant to
the dean, desiring the key of the cellar, that he might have a bottle of
wine. The dean, in one of his odd humours, returned for answer, he
promised to find him a lodging, but not in wine; and refused to send the
key. The Dr. being thunderstruck at this unexpected incivility, the
tears burst from his eyes; he quitted the house, and we believe never
after repeated the visit.

Dr. Sheridan died in the year 1738, in the 55th year of his age. The
following epitaph for him was handed about.

Beneath this marble stone here lies
Poor Tom, more merry much than wise;
Who only liv'd for two great ends,
To spend his cash, and lose his friends:
His darling wife of him bereft,
Is only griev'd--there's nothing left.

When the account of his death was inserted in the papers, it was done in
the following particular terms;

'September 10, died the revd. Dr. Thomas Sheridan of Dublin. He was a
great linguist, a most sincere friend, a delightful companion, and the
best Schoolmaster in Europe: He took the greatest care of the morals
of the young gentlemen, who had the happiness of being bred up under
him; and it was remarked, that none of his scholars ever was an
Atheist, or a Free-Thinker.'

We cannot more successfully convey to the reader a true idea of Dr.
Sheridan, than by the two following quotations from Lord Orrery in his
life of Swift, in which he occasionally mentions Swift's friend.

'Swift was naturally fond of seeing his works in print, and he was
encouraged in this fondness by his friend Dr. Sheridan, who had the
Cacoethea Scribendi, to the greatest degree, and was continually
letting off squibs, rockets, and all sorts of little fire-works from
the press; by which means he offended many particular persons, who,
although they stood in awe of Swift, held Sheridan at defiance. The
truth is, the poor doctor by nature the most peacable, inoffensive man
alive, was in a continual state of warfare with the Minor Poets, and
they revenged themselves; or, in the style of Mr. Bays, often gave him
flash for flash, and singed his feathers. The affection between
Theseus and Perithous was not greater than the affection between Swift
and Sheridan: But the friendship that cemented the two ancient heroes
probably commenced upon motives very different from those which united
the two modern divines.'

'Dr. Sheridan was a school-master, and in many instances, perfectly
well adapted for that station. He was deeply vers'd in the Greek and
Roman languages; and in their customs and antiquities. He had that
kind of good nature, which absence of mind, indolence of body, and
carelessness of fortune produce: And although not over-strict in his
own conduct, yet he took care of the morality of his scholars, whom he
sent to the university, remarkably well founded in all kind of
classical learning, and not ill instructed in the social duties of
life. He was slovenly, indigent, and chearful. He knew books much
better than men; And he knew the value of money least of all. In this
situation, and with this disposition, Swift fattened upon him as upon
a prey, with which he intended to regale himself, whenever his
appetite should prompt him. Sheridan was therefore certainly within
his reach; and the only time he was permitted to go beyond the limits
of his chain, was to take possession of a living in the county of
Corke, which had been bestowed upon him, by the then lord lieutenant
of Ireland, the present earl of Granville. Sheridan, in one fatal
moment, or by one fatal text, effected his own ruin. You will find the
story told by Swift himself, in the fourth volume of his works [page
289. in a pamphlet intitled a Vindication of his Excellency John Lord
Carteret, from the charge of favouring none but Tories,
High-Churchmen, and Jacobites.] So that here I need only tell you,
that this ill-starred, good-natur'd, improvident man returned to
Dublin, unhinged from all favour at court, and even banished from the
Castle: But still he remained a punster, a quibbler, a fiddler, and a
wit. Not a day passed without a rebus, an anagram, or a madrigal. His
pen and his fiddle-stick were in continual motion; and yet to little
or no purpose, if we may give credit to the following verses, which
shall serve as the conclusion of his poetical character.'

With music and poetry equally bless'd[1],
A bard thus Apollo most humbly address'd,
Great author of poetry, music, and light,
Instructed by thee, I both fiddle and write:

Yet unheeded I scrape, or I scribble all day,
My tunes are neglected, my verse flung away.
Thy substantive here, Vice Apollo [2] disdains,
To vouch for my numbers, or list to my strains.
Thy manual sign he refuses to put
To the airs I produce from the pen, or the gut:
Be thou then propitious, great Phoebus, and grant
Belief, or reward to my merit, or want,
Tho' the Dean and Delany [3] transcendently shine,
O! brighten one solo, or sonnet of mine,
Make one work immortal, 'tis all I request;
Apollo look'd pleas'd, and resolving to jest,
Replied--Honest friend, I've consider'd your case.
Nor dislike your unmeaning and innocent face.
Your petition I grant, the boon is not great,
Your works shall continue, and here's the receipt;
On Roundo's[4] hereafter, your fiddle-strings spend.
Write verses in circles, they never shall end.

Dr. Sheridan gained some reputation by his Prose-translation of Persius;
to which he added a Collection of the best Notes of the Editors of this
intricate Satyrist, who are in the best esteem; together with many
judicious Notes of his own. This work was printed in 12mo. for A.
Millar, 1739.

One of the volumes of Swift's Miscellanies consists almost entirely of
Letters between the Dean and the Dr.


[1] Not a first rate genius, or extraordinary proficient, in either.

[2] Dr. Swift.

[3] Now Dean of Downe.

[4] A Song, or peculiar kind of Poetry, which returns to the beginning
of the first verse, and continues in a perpetual rotation.

* * * * *


When the life of a person, whose wit and genius raised him to an
eminence among writers of the first class, is written by one of uncommon
abilities:--One possess'd of the power (as Shakespear says) _of looking
quite thro' the deeds of men_; we are furnished with one of the highest
entertainments a man can enjoy:--Such an author also presents us with a
true picture of human nature, which affords us the most ample
instruction:--He discerns the passions which play about the heart; and
while he is astonished with the high efforts of genius, is at the same
time enabled to observe nature as it really is, and how distant from
perfection mankind are in this world, even in the most refined state of
humanity. Such an intellectual feast they enjoy, who peruse the life of
this great author, drawn by the masterly and impartial hand of lord
Orrery. We there discern the greatness and weakness of Dean Swift; we
discover the patriot, the genius, and the humourist; the peevish master,
the ambitious statesman, the implacable enemy, and the warm friend. His
mixed qualities and imperfections are there candidly marked: His errors
and virtues are so strongly represented, that while we reflect upon his
virtues, we forget he had so many failings; and when we consider his
errors, we are disposed to think he had fewer virtues. With such candour
and impartiality has lord Orrery drawn the portrait of Swift; and, as
every biographer ought to do, has shewn us the man as he really was.

Upon this account given by his lordship, is the following chiefly built.
It shall be our business to take notice of the most remarkable passages
of the life of Swift; to omit no incidents that can be found concerning
him, and as our propos'd bounds will not suffer us to enlarge, we shall
endeavour to display, with as much conciseness as possible, those
particulars which may be most entertaining to the reader.

He was born in Dublin, November the 30th, 1667, and was carried into
England soon after his birth, by his nurse, who being obliged to cross
the sea, and having a nurse's fondness for the child at her breast,
convey'd him ship-board without the knowledge of his mother or
relations, and kept him with her at Whitehaven in Cumberland, during her
residence about three-years in that place. This extraordinary event made
his return seem as if he had been transplanted to Ireland, rather than
that he owed his original existence to that soil. But perhaps he tacitly
hoped to inspire different nations with a contention for his birth; at
least in his angry moods, when he was peevish and provoked at the
ingratitude of Ireland, he was frequently heard to say, 'I am not of
this vile country, I am an Englishman.' Such an assertion tho' meant
figuratively, was often received literally; and the report was still
farther propagated by Mr. Pope, who in one of his letters has this
expression. 'Tho' one, or two of our friends are gone, since you saw
your native country, there remain a few.' But doctor Swift, in his
cooler hours, never denied his country: On the contrary he frequently
mentioned, and pointed out, the house where he was born.

The other suggestion concerning the illegitimacy of his birth, is
equally false. Sir William Temple was employed as a minister abroad,
from the year 1665, to the year 1670; first at Brussels, and afterwards
at the Hague, as appears by his correspondence with the earl of
Arlington, and other ministers of state. So that Dr. Swift's mother, who
never crossed the sea, except from England to Ireland, was out of all
possibility of a personal correspondence with Sir William Temple, till
some years after her son's birth. Dr. Swift's ancestors were persons of
decent and reputable characters. His grand-father was the Revd. Mr.
Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodridge, near Ross in Herefordshire. He enjoyed
a paternal estate in that county, which is still in possession of his
great-grandson, Dean Swift, Esq; He died in the year 1658, leaving five
sons, Godwin, Thomas, Dryden, Jonathan, and Adam.

Two of them only, Godwin and Jonathan, left sons. Jonathan married Mrs.
Abigail Erick of Leicestershire, by whom he had one daughter and a son.
The daughter was born in the first year of Mr. Swift's marriage; but he
lived not to see the birth of his son, who was born two months after his
death, and became afterwards the famous Dean of St. Patrick's.

The greatest part of Mr. Jonathan Swift's income had depended upon
agencies, and other employments of that kind; so that most of his
fortune perished with him[1], and the remainder being the only support
that his widow could enjoy, the care, tuition, and expence of her two
children devolved upon her husband's elder brother, Mr. Godwin Swift,
who voluntarily became their guardian, and supplied the loss which they
had sustained in a father.

The faculties of the mind appear and shine forth at different ages in
different men. The infancy of Dr. Swift pass'd on without any marks of
distinction. At six years old he was sent to school at Kilkenny, and
about eight years afterwards he was entered a student of Trinity College
in Dublin. He lived there in perfect regularity, and under an entire
obedience to the statutes; but the moroseness of his temper rendered him
very unacceptable to his companions, so that he was little regarded, and
less beloved, nor were the academical exercises agreeable to his genius.
He held logic and metaphysics in the utmost contempt; and he scarce
considered mathematics, and natural philosophy, unless to turn them into
ridicule. The studies which he followed were history and poetry. In
these he made a great progress, but to all other branches of science, he
had given so very little application, that when he appeared as a
candidate for the degree of batchelor of arts, he was set aside on
account of insufficiency.

'This, says lord Orrery, is a surprising incident in his life, but it is
undoubtedly true; and even at last he obtained his admission Speciali
Gratia. A phrase which in that university carries with it the utmost
marks of reproach. It is a kind of dishonourable degree, and the record
of it (notwithstanding Swift's present established character throughout
the learned world) must for ever remain against him in the academical
register at Dublin.'

The more early disappointments happen in life, the deeper impression
they make upon the heart. Swift was full of indignation at the treatment
he received in Dublin; and therefore resolved to pursue his studies at
Oxford. However, that he might be admitted Ad Eundem, he was obliged to
carry with him the testimonium of his degree. The expression Speciali
Gratia is so peculiar to the university of Dublin, that when Mr. Swift
exhibited his testimonium at Oxford, the members of the English
university concluded, that the words Speciali Grata must signify a
degree conferred in reward of extraordinary diligence and learning. It
is natural to imagine that he did not try to undeceive them; he was
entered in Hart-Hall, now Hartford-College, where he resided till he
took his degree of master of arts in the year 1691.

Dr. Swift's uncle, on whom he had placed his chief dependance, dying in
the Revolution year, he was supported chiefly by the bounty of Sir
William Temple, to whose lady he was a distant relation. Acts of
generosity seldom meet with their just applause. Sir William Temple's
friendship was immediately construed to proceed from a consciousness
that he was the real father of Mr. Swift, otherwise it was thought
impossible he could be so uncommonly munificent to a young man, so
distantly related to his wife.

'I am not quite certain, (says his noble Biographer) that Swift himself
did not acquiesce in the calumny; perhaps like Alexander, he thought the
natural son of Jupiter would appear greater than the legitimate son of

As soon as Swift quitted the university, he lived with Sir William
Temple as his friend, and domestic companion. When he had been about two
years in the family of his patron, he contracted a very long, and
dangerous illness, by eating an immoderate quantity of fruit. To this
surfeit he used to ascribe the giddiness in his head, which, with
intermissions sometimes of a longer, and sometimes of a shorter
continuance, pursued him till it seemed to compleat its conquest, by
rendering him the exact image of one of his own STRULDBRUGGS; a
miserable spectacle, devoid of every appearance of human nature, except
the outward form.

After Swift had sufficiently recovered to travel, he went into Ireland
to try the effects of his native air; and he found so much benefit by
the journey, that pursuant to his own inclinations he soon returned into
England, and was again most affectionately received by Sir William
Temple, whose house was now at Sheen, where he was often visited by King
William. Here Swift had frequent opportunities of conversing with that
prince; in some of which conversations the king offered to make him a
captain of horse: An offer, which in his splenetic dispositions, he
always seemed sorry to have refused; but at that time he had resolved
within his own mind to take orders, and during his whole life his
resolutions, like the decrees of fate, were immoveable. Thus determined,
he again went over to Ireland, and immediately inlisted himself under
the banner of the church. He was recommended to lord Capel, then
Lord-Deputy, who gave him, the first vacancy, a prebend, of which the
income was about a hundred pounds a year.

Swift soon grew weary of a preferment, which to a man of his ambition
was far from being sufficiently considerable. He resigned his prebend in
favour of a friend, and being sick of solitude he returned to Sheen,
were he lived domestically as usual, till the death of Sir William
Temple; who besides a legacy in money, left to him the care and trust of
publishing his posthumous works.

During Swift's residence with Sir William Temple he became intimately
acquainted with a lady, whom he has distinguished, and often celebrated,
under the name of Stella. The real name of this lady was Johnson. She
was the daughter of Sir William Temple's steward; and the concealed but
undoubted wife of doctor Swift. Sir William Temple bequeathed her in his
will 1000 l. as an acknowledgment of her father's faithful services. In
the year 1716 she was married to doctor Swift, by doctor Ashe, then
bishop of Clogher.

The reader must observe, there was a long interval between the
commencement of his acquaintance with Stella, and the time of making her
his wife, for which (as it appears he was fond of her from the beginning
of their intimacy) no other cause can be assigned, but that the same
unaccountable humour, which had so long detained him from marrying,
prevented him from acknowledging her after she was his wife.

'Stella (says lord Orrery) was a most amiable woman both in mind and
person: She had an elevated understanding, with all the delicacy, and
softness of her own sex. Her voice, however sweet in itself, was still
rendered more harmonious by what she said. Her wit was poignant without
severity: Her manners were humane, polite, easy and unreserved.--
Wherever she came, she attracted attention and esteem. As virtue was her
guide in morality, sincerity was her guide in religion. She was
constant, but not ostentatious in her devotions: She was remarkably
prudent in her conversation: She had great skill in music; and was
perfectly well versed in all the lesser arts that employ a lady's
leisure. Her wit allowed her a fund of perpetual cheerfulness within
proper limits. She exactly answered the description of Penelope in

A woman, loveliest of the lovely kind,
In body perfect, and compleat in mind.'

Such was this amiable lady, yet, with all these advantages, she could
never prevail on Dr. Swift to acknowledge her openly as his wife. A
great genius must tread in unbeaten paths, and deviate from the common
road of life; otherwise a diamond of so much lustre might have been
publickly produced, although it had been fixed within the collet of
matrimony: But that which diminished the value of this inestimable jewel
in Swift's eye was the servile state of her father.

Ambition and pride, the predominant principles which directed all the
actions of Swift, conquered reason and justice; and the vanity of
boasting such a wife was suppressed by the greater vanity of keeping
free from a low alliance. Dr. Swift and Mrs. Johnson continued the same
oeconomy of life after marriage, which they had pursued before it. They
lived in separate houses; nothing appeared in their behaviour
inconsistent in their decorum, and beyond the limits of platonic love.
However unaccountable this renunciation of marriage rites might appear
to the world, it certainly arose, not from any consciousness of a too
near consanguinity between him and Mrs. Johnson, although the general
voice of some was willing to make them both the natural children of Sir
William Temple. Dr. Swift, (says lord Orrery) was not of that opinion,
for the same false pride which induced him to deny the legitimate
daughter of an obscure servant, might have prompted him to own the
natural daughter of Sir William Temple.[2]

It is natural to imagine, that a woman of Stella's delicacy must repine
at such an extraordinary situation. The outward honours she received are
as frequently bestowed upon a mistress as a wife; she was absolutely
virtuous, and was yet obliged to submit to all the appearances of vice.
Inward anxiety affected by degrees the calmness of her mind, and the
strength of her body. She died towards the end of January 1727,
absolutely destroy'd by the peculiarity of her fate; a fate which
perhaps she could not have incurred by an alliance with any other person
in the world.

Upon the death of Sir William Temple, Swift came to London, and took the
earliest opportunity of delivering a petition to King William, under the
claim of a promise made by his majesty to Sir William Temple, that Mr.
Swift should have the first vacancy which might happen among the
prebends of Westminster or Canterbury. But this promise was either
totally forgotten, or the petition which Mr. Swift presented was drowned
amidst the clamour of more urgent addresses. From this first
disappointment may be dated that bitterness towards kings and courtiers,
which is to be found so universally dispersed throughout his works.

After a long and fruitless attendance at Whitehall, Swift reluctantly
gave up all thoughts of a settlement in England: Pride prevented him
from remaining longer in a state of servility and contempt. He complied
therefore with an invitation from the earl of Berkley (appointed one of
the Lords Justices in Ireland) to attend him as his chaplain, and
private secretary.--Lord Berkley landed near Waterford, and Mr. Swift
acted as secretary during the whole journey to Dublin. But another of
lord Berkley's attendants, whose name was Bush, had by this time
insinuated himself into the earl's favour, and had whispered to his
lordship, that the post of secretary was not proper for a clergyman, to
whom only church preferments could be suitable or advantageous. Lord
Berkley listened perhaps too attentively to these insinuations, and
making some slight apology to Mr. Swift, divested him of that office,
and bestowed it upon Mr. Bush.

Here again was another disappointment, and a fresh object of
indignation. The treatment was thought injurious, and Swift expressed
his sensibility of it in a short but satyrical copy of verses, intitled
the Discovery. However, during the government of the Earls of Berkley
and Galway, who were jointly Lords Justices of Ireland, two livings,
Laracor and Rathbeggan, were given to Mr. Swift. The first of these
rectories was worth about 200, and the latter about 60 l. a year; and
they were the only church preferments which he enjoyed till he was
appointed Dean of St. Patrick's, in the year 1713.

Lord Orrery gives the following instances of his humour and of his

As soon as he had taken possession of his two livings, he went to reside
at Laracor, and gave public notice to his parishioners, that he would
read prayers on every Wednesday and Friday. Upon the subsequent
Wednesday the bell was rung, and the rector attended in his desk, when
after having sat some time, and finding the congregation to consist only
of himself and his clerk Roger, he began with great composure and
gravity; but with a turn peculiar to himself. "_Dearly beloved_ Roger,
_the scripture moveth you and me in sundry places, &c_." And then
proceeded regularly thro' the whole service. This trifling circumstance
serves to shew; that he could not resist a vein of humour, whenever he
had an opportunity of exerting it.

The following is the instance of his pride. While Swift was chaplain to
lord Berkley, his only sister, by the consent and approbation of her
uncle and relations, was married to a man in trade, whose fortune,
character, and situation were esteemed by all her friends, and suitable
to her in every respect.

But the marriage was intirely disagreeable to her brother. It seemed to
interrupt those ambitious views he had long since formed: He grew
outragious at the thoughts of being brother-in law to a trademan. He
utterly refused all reconciliation with his father; nor would he even
listen to the entreaties of his mother, who came over to Ireland under
the strongest hopes of pacifying his anger; having in every other
instance found him a dutiful and obedient son: But his pride was not to
be conquered, and Mrs. Swift finding her son inflexible, hastened back
to Leicester, where she continued till her death.

During his mother's life time, he scarce ever failed to pay her an
annual visit. But his manner of travelling was as singular as any other
of his actions. He often went in a waggon, but more frequently walked
from Holyhead to Leicester, London, or any other part of England. He
generally chose to dine with waggoners, ostlers, and persons of that
rank; and he used to lye at night in houses where he found written over
the door, Lodgings for a Penny. He delighted in scenes of low life. The
vulgar dialect was not only a fund of humour for him; but seems to have
been acceptable to his nature, as appears from the many filthy ideas,
and indecent expressions found throughout his works.

A strict residence in a country place was not in the least suitable to
the restless temper of Swift. He was perpetually making excursions not
only to Dublin, and other places in Ireland, but likewise to London; so
rambling a disposition occasioned to him a considerable loss. The rich
deanery of Derry became vacant at this time, and was intended for him by
lord Berkley, if Dr. King, then bishop of Derry, and afterwards
archbishop of Dublin, had not interposed; entreating with great
earnestness, that the deanery might be given to some grave and elderly
divine, rather than to so young a man 'because (added the bishop) the
situation of Derry is in the midst of Presbyterians, and I should be
glad of a clergyman, who might be of assistance to me. I have no
objection to Mr. Swift. I know him to be a sprightly ingenious young
man; but instead of residing, I dare say he will be eternally flying
backwards and forwards to London; and therefore I entreat that he may be
provided for in some other place.'

Swift was accordingly set aside on account of youth, and from the year
1702, to the change of the ministry in the year 1710, few circumstances
of his life can be found sufficiently material to be inserted here. From
this last period, 'till the death of Queen Anne, we find him fighting on
the side of the Tories, and maintaining their cause in pamphlets, poems,
and weekly papers. In one of his letters to Mr. Pope he has this
expression, 'I have conversed, in some freedom, with more ministers of
state, of all parties, than usually happens to men of my level; and, I
confess, in their capacity as ministers I look upon them as a race of
people, whose acquaintance no man would court otherwise, than on the
score of vanity and ambition.' A man always appears of more consequence
to himself, than he is in reality to any other person. Such, perhaps,
was the case of Dr. Swift. He knew how useful he was to the
administration in general; and in one of his letters he mentions, that
the place of historiographer was intended for him; but in this
particular he flattered himself; at least, he remained without any
preferment 'till the year 1713, when he was made dean of St. Patrick's.
In point of power and revenue, such a deanery might be esteemed no
inconsiderable promotion; but to an ambitious mind, whose perpetual view
was a settlement in England, a dignity in any other country must appear
only a profitable and an honourable kind of banishment. It is very
probable, that the temper of Swift might occasion his English friends to
wish him promoted at a distance. His spirit was ever untractable. The
motions of his genius were often irregular. He assumed more of the air
of a patron, than of a friend. He affected rather to dictate than
advise. He was elated with the appearance of enjoying ministerial
confidence. He enjoyed the shadow indeed, but the substance was detained
from him. He was employed, not entrusted; and at the same time he
imagined himself a subtle diver, who dextrously shot down into the
profoundest regions of politics, he was suffered only to sound the
shallows nearest the shore, and was scarce admitted to descend below the
froth at the top. Swift was one of those strange kind of Tories, who
lord Bolingbroke, in his letter to Sir William Wyndham, calls the
Whimsicals, that is, they were Tories attach'd to the Hanoverian
succession. This kind of Tory is so incongruous a creature, that it is a
wonder ever such a one existed. Mrs. Pilkington informs us, that Swift
had written A Defence of the last Ministers of Queen Anne, from an
intention of restoring the Pretender, which Mr. Pope advised him to
destroy, as not one word of it was true. Bolingbroke, by far the most
accomplished man in that ministry (for Oxford was, in comparison of him,
a statesman of no compass) certainly aimed at the restoration of the
exiled family, however he might disguise to some people his real
intentions, under the masque of being a Hanoverian Tory. This serves to
corroberate the observation which lord Orrery makes of Swift: 'that he
was employed, not trusted, &c.'

By reflexions of this sort, says lord Orrery, we may account for his
disappointment of an English bishopric. A disappointment, which, he
imagined, he owed to a joint application, made against him to the Queen,
by Dr. Sharp, archbishop of York, and by a lady of the highest rank and
character. Archbishop Sharpe, according to Swift's account, had
represented him to the Queen as a person, who was no Christian; the
great lady had supported the assertion, and the Queen, upon such
assurances, had given away the bishopric, contrary to her Majesty's
intentions. Swift kept himself, indeed, within some tolerable bounds
when he spoke of the Queen; but his indignation knew no limits when he
mentioned the archbishop, or the lady.

Most people are fond of a settlement in their native country, but Swift
had not much reason to rejoice in the land where his lot had fallen; for
upon his arrival in Ireland to take possesion of the deanery, he found
the violence of party raging in that kingdom to the highest degree. The
common people were taught to consider him as a Jacobite, and they
proceeded so far in their detestation, as to throw stones and dirt at
him as he passed thro' the streets. The chapter of St. Patrick's, like
the rest of the kingdom, received him with great reluctance. They
opposed him in every point he proposed. They avoided him as a
pestilence, and resisted him as an invader and an enemy to his country.
Such was his first reception, as dean of St. Patrick's. Fewer talents,
and less firmness must have yielded to so outrageous an opposition. He
had seen enough of human nature to be convinced that the passions of
low, self-interested minds ebb and flow continually. They love they know
not whom, they hate they know not why. They are captivated by words,
guided by names, and governed by accidents. But to few the strange
revolutions in this world, Dr. Swift, who was now the detestion of the
Irish rabble, lived to be afterwards the most absolute monarch over
them, that ever governed men. His first step was to reduce to reason and
obedience his revd. brethren the the chapter of St. Patrick's; in which
he succeeded so perfectly, and so speedily, that, in a short time after
his arrival, not one member in that body offered to contradict him, even
in trifles: on the contrary, they held him in the highest respect and
veneration, so that he sat in the Chapter-House, like Jupiter in the
Synod of the Gods.

In the beginning of the year 1714 Swift returned to England. He found
his great friends, who sat in the seat of power, much disunited among
themselves. He saw the Queen declining in her health, and distressed in
her situation; while faction was exerting itself, and gathering new
strength every day. He exerted the utmost of his skill to unite the
ministers, and to cement the apertures of the state: but he found his
pains fruitless, his arguments unavailing, and his endeavours, like the
stone of Sisyphus, rolling back upon himself. He retired to a friend's
house in Berkshire, where he remained 'till the Queen died. So fatal an
event terminated all his views in England, and made him return as fast
as possible to his deanery in Ireland, oppressed with grief and
discontent. His hopes in England were now crushed for ever. As Swift was
well known to have been attached to the Queen's last ministry, he met
with several indignities from the populace, and, indeed, was equally
abused by persons of all ranks and denominations. Such a treatment
soured his temper, confined his acquaintance, and added bitterness to
his stile.

From the year 1714, 'till he appeared in the year 1720 a champion for
Ireland, against Wood's halfpence, his spirit of politics and patriotism
was kept almost closely confined within his own breast. Idleness and
trifles engrossed too many of his leisure hours; fools and sycophants
too much of his conversation. His attendance upon the public service of
the church was regular and uninterrupted; and indeed regularity was
peculiar to all his actions, even in the meerest trifles. His hours of
walking and reading never varied. His motions were guided by his watch,
which was so constantly held in his hand, or placed before him on the
table, that he seldom deviated many minutes in the revolution of his
exercises and employments. In the year 1720 he began to re-assume, in
some degree, the character of a political writer. A small pamphlet in
defence of the Irish Manufactures was his first essay in Ireland in that
kind of writing, and to that pamphlet he owed the turn of the popular
tide in his favour. It was entitled, A Proposal for the Universal Use of
Irish Manufacture in Clothes and Furniture of Houses, &c. utterly
rejecting and renouncing every thing wearable that comes from England.
This proposal immediately raised a very violent flame. The Printer was
prosecuted, and the prosecution had the same effect, which generally
attends those kind of measures. It added fuel to flame. But his greatest
enemies must confess, that the pamphlet is written in the stile of a man
who had the good of his country nearest his heart, who saw her errors,
and wished to correct them; who felt her oppressions, and wished to
relieve them; and who had a desire to rouze and awaken an indolent
nation from a lethargic disposition, that might prove fatal to her
constitution. This temporary opposition but increased the stream of his
popularity. He was now looked upon in a new light, and was distinguished
by the title of THE DEAN, and so high a degree of popularity did he
attain, as to become an arbitrator, in disputes of property, amongst his
neighbours; nor did any man dare to appeal from his opinion, or murmur
at his decrees.

But the popular affection, which the dean had hitherto acquired, may be
said not to have been universal, 'till the publication of the Drapier's
Letters, which made all ranks, and all professions unanimous in his
applause. The occasion of those letters was, a scarcity of copper coin
in Ireland, to so great a degree, that, for some time past, the chief
manufacturers throughout the kingdom were obliged to pay their workmen
in pieces of tin, or in other tokens of suppositious value. Such a
method was very disadvantageous to the lower parts of traffic, and was
in general an impediment to the commerce of the state. To remedy this
evil, the late King granted a patent to one Wood, to coin, during the
term of fourteen years, farthings and halfpence in England, for the use
of Ireland, to the value of a certain Aim specified. These halfpence and
farthings were to be received by those persons, who would voluntarily
accept them. But the patent was thought to be of such dangerous
consequence to the public, and of such exorbitant advantage to the
patentee, that the dean, under the character of M. B. Drapier, wrote a
Letter to the People, warning them not to accept Wood's halfpence and
farthings, as current coin. This first letter was succeeded by several
others to the same purpose, all which are inserted in his works.

At the sound of the Drapier's trumpet, a spirit arose among the people.
Persons of all ranks, parties and denominations, were convinced that the
admission of Wood's copper must prove fatal to the commonwealth. The
Papist, the Fanatic, the Tory, the Whig, all listed themselves
volunteers, under the banner of the Drapier, and were all equally
zealous to serve the common cause. Much heat, and many fiery speeches
against the administration were the consequence of this union; nor had
the flames been allayed, notwithstanding threats and proclamations, had
not the coin been totally suppressed, and Wood withdrawn his patent. The
name of Augustus was not bestowed upon Octavius Caesar with more
universal approbation, than the name of the Drapier was bestowed upon
the dean. He had no sooner assumed his new cognomen, than he became the
idol of the people of Ireland, to a degree of devotion, that in the most
superstitious country, scarce any idol ever obtained. Libations to his
health were poured out as frequent as to the immortal memory of King
William. His effigies was painted in every street in Dublin.
Acclamations and vows for his prosperity attended his footsteps wherever
he passed. He was consulted in all points relating to domestic policy in
general, and to the trade of Ireland in particular; but he was more
immediately looked upon as the legislator of the Weavers, who frequently
came in a body, consisting of 40 or 50 chiefs of their trade, to receive
his advice in settling the rates of their manufactures, and the wages of
their journeymen. He received their address with less majesty than
sternness, and ranging his subjects in a circle round his parlour, spoke
as copiously, and with as little difficulty and hesitation, to the
several points in which they supplicated his assistance, as if trade had
been the only study and employment of his life. When elections were
depending for the city of Dublin, many Corporations refused to declare
themselves, 'till they had consulted his sentiments and inclinations,
which were punctually followed with equal chearfulness and submission.

In this state of power, and popular admiration, he remained 'till he
lost his senses; a loss which he seemed to foresee, and prophetically
lamented to many of his friends. The total deprivation of his senses
came upon him by degrees. In the year 1736 he was seized with a violent
fit of giddiness; he was at that time writing a satirical poem, called
The Legion Club; but he found the effects of his giddiness so dreadful,
that he left the poem unfinished, and never afterwards attempted a
composition, either in verse or prose. However, his conversation still
remained the same, lively and severe, but his memory gradually grew
worse and worse, and as that decreased, he grew every day more fretful
and impatient. In the year 1741, his friends found his passions so
violent and ungovernable, his memory so decayed, and his reason so
depraved, that they took the utmost precautions to keep all strangers
from approaching him; for, 'till then, he had not appeared totally
incapable of conversation. But early in the year 1742, the small remains
of his understanding became entirely confused, and the violence of his
rage increased absolutely to a degree of madness. In this miserable
state he seemed to be appointed the first inhabitant of his own
Hospital; especially as from an outrageous lunatic, he sunk afterwards
to a quiet speechless ideot; and dragged out the remainder of his life
in that helpless situation. He died towards the latter end of October
1745. The manner of his death was easy, without the least pang, or
convulsion; even the rattling of his throat was scarce sufficient to
give an alarm to his attendants, 'till within some very little time
before he expired. A man in possession of his reason would have wished
for such a kind dissolution; but Swift was totally insensible of
happiness, or pain. He had not even the power or expression of a child,
appearing for some years before his death, referred only as an example
to mortify human pride, and to reverse that fine description of human
nature, which is given us by the inimitable Shakespeare. 'What a piece
of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form
and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in
apprehension how like a God! the beauty of the world! the paragon of
animals!' Swift's friends often heard him lament the state of childhood
and idiotism, to which some of the greatest men of this nation were
reduced before their death. He mentioned, as examples within his own
time, the duke of Marlborough and lord Somers; and when he cited these
melancholy instances, it was always with a heavy sigh, and with gestures
that shewed great uneasiness, as if he felt an impulse of what was to
happen to him before he died. He left behind him about twelve thousand
pounds, inclusive of the specific legacies mentioned in his will, and
which may be computed at the sum of twelve hundred pounds, so that the
remaining ten thousand eight hundred pounds, is entirely applicable to
the Hospital for Idiots and Lunatics; an establishment remarkably
generous, as those who receive the benefit, must for ever remain
ignorant of their benefactor.

Lord Orerry has observed, that a propension to jocularity and humour is
apparent in the last works of Swift. His Will, like all his other
writings, is drawn up in his own peculiar manner. Even in so serious a
composition, he cannot help indulging himself in leaving legacies, that
carry with them an air of raillery and jest. He disposes of his three
best hats (his best, his second best, and his third best beaver) with an
ironical solemnity, that renders the bequests ridiculous. He bequeaths,
'To Mr. John Grattan a silver-box, to keep in it the tobacco which the
said John usually chewed, called pigtail.' But his legacy to Mr. Robert
Grattan, is still more extraordinary. 'Item, I bequeath to the Revd. Mr.
Robert Grattan, Prebendary of St. Audeon's, my strong box, on condition
of his giving the sole use of the said box to his brother, Dr. James
Grattan, during the life of the said Doctor, who hath more occasion for

These are so many last expressions of his turn, and way of thinking, and
no doubt the persons thus distinguished looked upon these instances as
affectionate memorials of his friendship, and tokens of the jocose
manner, in which he had treated them during his life-time.

With regard to Dean Swift's poetical character, the reader will take the
following sketch of it in the words of Lord Orrery. 'The poetical
performances of Swift (says he) ought to be considered as occasional
poems, written either to pleasure[3], or to vex some particular persons.
We must not suppose them designed for posterity; if he had cultivated
his genius that way, he must certainly have excelled, especially in
satire. We see fine sketches in several of his pieces; but he seems more
desirous to inform and strengthen his mind, than to indulge the
luxuriancy of his imagination. He chuses to discover, and correct errors
in the works of others, rather than to illustrate, and add beauties of
his own. Like a skilful artist, he is fond of probing wounds to their
depth, and of enlarging them to open view. He aims to be severely
useful, rather than politely engaging; and as he was either not formed,
nor would take pains to excel in poetry, he became in some measure
superior to it; and assumed more the air, and manner of a critic than a
poet.' Thus far his lordship in his VIth letter, but in his IXth, he
adds, when speaking of the Second Volume of Swift's Works, 'He had the
nicest ear; he is remarkably chaste, and delicate in his rhimes. A bad
rhime appeared to him one of the capital sins of poetry.'

The Dean's poem on his celebrated Vanessa, is number'd among the best of
his poetical pieces. Of this lady it will be proper to give some
account, as she was a character as singular as Swift himself.

Vanessa's real name was Esther Vanhomrich[4]. She was one of the
daughters of Bartholomew Vanhomrich, a Dutch merchant of Amsterdam; who
upon the Revolution went into Ireland, and was appointed by king William
a commissioner of the revenue. The Dutch merchant, by parsimony and
prudence, had collected a fortune of about 16,000 _l_. He bequeathed an
equal division of it to his wife, and his four children, of which two
were sons, and two were daughters. The sons after the death of their
father travelled abroad: The eldest died beyond sea; and the youngest
surviving his brother only a short time, the whole patrimony fell to his
two sisters, Esther and Mary.

With this encrease of wealth, and with heads and hearts elated by
affluence, and unrestrained by fore-sight or discretion, the widow
Vanhomrich, and her two daughters, quitted their native country for the
more elegant pleasures of the English court. During their residence at
London, they lived in a course of prodigality, that stretched itself far
beyond the limits of their income, and reduced them to great distress,
in the midst of which the mother died, and the two daughters hastened in
all secresy back to Ireland, beginning their journey on a Sunday, to
avoid the interruption of creditors. Within two years after their
arrival in Ireland, Mary the youngest sister died, and the small remains
of the shipwreck'd fortune center'd in Vanessa.

Vanity makes terrible devastations in a female breast: Vanessa was
excessively vain. She was fond of dress; impatient to be admired; very
romantic in her turn of mind; superior in her own opinion to all her
sex; full of pertness, gaiety, and pride; not without some agreeable
accomplishments, but far from being either beautiful or genteel:
Ambitious at any rate to be esteemed a wit; and with that view always
affecting to keep company with wits; a great reader, and a violent
admirer of poetry; happy in the thoughts of being reputed Swift's
concubine; but still aiming to be his wife. By nature haughty and
disdainful, looking with contempt upon her inferiors; and with the
smiles of self-approbation upon her equals; but upon Dr. Swift, with the
eyes of love: Her love was no doubt founded in vanity.

Though Vanessa had exerted all the arts of her sex, to intangle Swift in
matrimony; she was yet unsuccessful. She had lost her reputation, and
the narrowness of her income, and coldness of her lover contributed to
make her miserable, and to increase the phrensical disposition of her
mind. In this melancholly situation she remained several years, during
which time Cadenus (Swift) visited her frequently. She often press'd him
to marry her: His answers were rather turns of wit, than positive
denials; till at last being unable to sustain the weight of misery any
longer, she wrote a very tender epistle to him, insisting peremptorily
upon a serious answer, and an immediate acceptance, or absolute refusal
of her as his wife. His reply was delivered by his own hand. He brought
it with him when he made his final visit; and throwing down the letter
upon the table with great passion, hastened back to his house, carrying
in his countenance the frown of anger, and indignation. Vanessa did not
survive many days the letter delivered to her by Swift, but during that
short interval she was sufficiently composed, to cancel a will made in
his favour, and to make another, wherein she left her fortune (which by
a long retirement was in some measure retrieved) to her two executors,
Dr. Berkley the late lord bishop of Cloyne, and Mr. Marshal one of the
king's Serjeants at law. Thus perished under all the agonies of despair,
Mrs. Esther Vanhomrich; a miserable example of an ill-spent life,
fantastic wit, visionary schemes, and female weakness.

It is strange that vanity should have so great a prevalence in the
female breast, and yet it is certain that to this principle it was
owing, that Swift's house was often a seraglio of very virtuous women,
who attended him from morning till night, with an obedience, an awe, and
an assiduity that are seldom paid to the richest, or the most powerful
lovers. These ladies had no doubt a pride in being thought the
companions of Swift; but the hours which were spent in his company could
not be very pleasant, as his sternness and authority were continually
exerted to keep them in awe.

Lord Orrery has informed us, that Swift took every opportunity to expose
and ridicule Dryden, for which he imagines there must have been some
affront given by that great man to Swift. In this particular we can
satisfy the reader from authentic information.

When Swift was a young man, and not so well acquainted with the world as
he afterwards became, he wrote some Pindaric Odes. In this species of
composition he succeeded ill; sublimity and fire, the indispensable
requisites in a Pindaric Ode not being his talent. As Mr. Dryden was
Swift's kinsman, these odes were shewn to him for his approbation, who
said to him with an unreserved freedom, and in the candour of a friend,
'Cousin Swift, turn your thoughts some other way, for nature has never
formed you for a Pindaric poet.'

Though what Dryden observed, might in some measure be true, and Swift
perhaps was conscious that he had not abilities to succeed in that
species of writing; yet this honest dissuasive of his kinsman he never
forgave. The remembrance of it soured his temper, and heated his
passions, whenever Dryden's name was mention'd.

We shall now take a view of Swift in his moral life, the distinction he
has obtained in the literary world having rendered all illustrations of
his genius needless.

Lord Orrery, throughout his excellent work, from which we have drawn our
account of Swift, with his usual marks of candour, has displayed his
moral character. In many particulars, the picture he draws of the Dean
resembles the portrait of the same person as drawn by Mrs. Pilkington.

'I have beheld him (says his lordship) in all humours and dispositions,
and I have formed various speculations from the several weaknesses to
which I observed him liable. His capacity, and strength of mind, were
undoubtedly equal to any talk whatsoever. His pride, his spirit, or his
ambition (call it by what name you please) was boundless; but his views
were checked in his younger years, and the anxiety of that
disappointment had a sensible effect upon all his actions. He was sour
and severe, but not absolutely ill-natur'd. He was sociable only to
particular friends, and to them only at particular hours. He knew
politeness more than he practiced it. He was a mixture of avarice and
generosity; the former was frequently prevalent, the latter seldom
appeared unless excited by compassion. He was open to adulation, and
would not, or could not, distinguish between low flattery and just
applause. His abilities rendered him superior to envy. He was
undisguised, and perfectly sincere. I am induced to think that he
entered into orders, more from some private and fixed resolution, than
from absolute choice: Be that as it may, he performed the duties of the
church with great punctuality, and a decent degree of devotion. He read
prayers, rather in a strong nervous voice, than in a graceful manner;
and although he has been often accused of irreligion, nothing of that
kind appeared in his conversation or behaviour. His cast of mind induced
him to think and speak more of politics than religion. His perpetual
views were directed towards power; and his chief aim was to be removed
to England: But when he found himself entirely disappointed, he turned
his thoughts to opposition, and became the Patron of Ireland.'

Mrs. Pilkington has represented him as a tyrant in his family, and has
discovered in him a violent propension to be absolute in every company
where he was. This disposition, no doubt, made him more feared than
loved; but as he had the most unbounded vanity to gratify, he was
pleased with the servility and awe with which inferiors approached him.
He may be resembled to an eastern monarch, who takes delight in
surveying his slaves, trembling at his approach, and kneeling with
reverence at his feet.

Had Swift been born to regal honours, he would doubtless have bent the
necks of his people to the yoke: As a subject, he was restless and
turbulent; and though as lord Orrery says, he was above corruption, yet
that virtue was certainly founded on his pride, which disdained every
measure, and spurned every effort in which he himself was not the

He was certainly charitable, though it had an unlucky mixture of
ostentation in it. One particular act of his charity (not mentioned,
except by Mrs. Pilkington, in any account of him yet published) is well
worthy of remembrance, praise, and imitation:--He appropriated the sum
of five-hundred pounds intirely to the use of poor tradesmen and
handicraftsmen, whose honesty and industry, he thought merited
assistance, and encouragement: This he lent to them in small loans, as
their exigencies required, without any interest; and they repaid him at
so much per week, or month, as their different circumstances best
enabled them.--To the wealthy let us say--

"Abi tu et fac similiter."


[1] Lord Orrery, page 6.

[2] The authors of the Monthly Review have justly remarked, that this
observation of his lordship's seems premature.

The same public rumour, say they, that made HER Sir William Temple's
daughter, made HIM also Sir William's son: Therefore he (Swift)
could never with decency, have acknowledged Mrs. Johnson as his
wife, while that rumour continued to retain any degree of credit;
and if there had been really no foundation for it, surely it might
have been no very hard task to obviate its force, by producing the
necessary proofs and circumstances of his birth: Yet, we do not
find that ever this was done, either by the Dean or his relations.

[3] We are assured, there was one while a misunderstanding subsisting
between Swift and Pope: But that worthy gentleman, the late general
Dormer (who had a great regard for both) reconciled them, e'er it
came to an open rupture:--Though the world might be deprived by the
general's mediation of great matter of entertainment, which the
whetted wit of two such men might have afforded; yet his
good-nature, and sincere friendship, deserves to be remember'd with
honour.--This gentleman Mr. Cibber senior was very intimate with,
and once hinted to him, 'He was concerned to find he stood so ill in
the Dean's opinion, whose great parts, wit, genius, &c. he held in
the highest estimation; nor could he easily account for the Dean's
so frequently appearing his enemy, as he never knowingly had
offended him; and regretted the want of an opportunity of being
better acquainted with him.'--The general had also a great regard
for Mr. Cibber, and wished to bring them together on an agreeable
footing:--Why they were not so, came out soon after.--The secret
was,--Mr. Pope was angry; [for the long-latent cause, look into Mr.
Cibber's letter to Mr. Pope.] Passion and prejudice are not always
friends to truth;--and the foam of resentment never rose higher,
than when it boil'd and swell'd in Mr. Pope's bosom: No wonder then,
that his misrepresentation might make the Dean believe, Mr. Cibber
was not unworthy of that satire and raillery (not always just
neither, and sometimes solicited) which is not unsparingly thrown on
him in the Dean's works:--That this was the case, appears from the
following circumstance.

As soon as Mr. Cibber's Apology was first printed, it was
immediately carried over to Dublin, and given to Mr. Faulkner (an
eminent printer and bookseller there) by a gentleman, who wished to
see an edition of it in Ireland; Mr. Faulkner published it, and the
success thereof was so great, some thousands thereof were disposed
of in a very short time: Just before the intended edition appeared,
the Dean (who often visited Mr. Faulkner) coming into the shop,
asked, 'What new pieces were likely to come forth?'--Mr. Faulkner
gave Mr. Cibber's Apology to him;--The Dean's curiosity
[Transcriber's note: 'curosity' in original] was pretty strong to
see a work of that uncommon sort:--In short, he stay'd and dined
there; and did not quit the house, or the book, 'till he had read it
through: He advised Faulkner, to lose no time in printing it; and
said, he would answer for it's success:--He declared, he had not
perus'd any thing a long time that had pleas'd him so much; and
dwelt long in commendation of it: He added, that he almost envy'd
the author the pleasure he must have in writing it;--That he was
sorry he had ever said any thing to his disadvantage; and was
convinced Cibber had been very much misrepresented to him; nor did
he scruple to say, that, as it had been formerly the fashion to
abuse Cibber, he had unwarily been drawn into it by Pope, and
others. He often, afterwards, spoke in praise of Mr. Cibber, and his
writing in general, and of this work in particular.--He afterwards
told Mr. Faulkner, he had read Cibber's Apology thro' three times;
that he was more and more pleased with it: That the style was not
inferior to any English he had ever read: That his words were
properly adapted: His similes happy, uncommon, and well chosen: He
then in a pleasant manner said--'You must give me this book, which
is the first thing I ever begg'd from you.' To this, we may be sure
Mr. Faulkner readily consented. Ever after in company, the Dean gave
this book a great character.--Let the reader make the application of
this true and well known fact.

[4] The name is pronounced Vannumery.

* * * * *


This lady was born in Ireland; and, as Mrs. Barber judiciously remarks,
was one of the most extraordinary women that either this age, or perhaps
any other, ever produced. She died in the year 1733, at the age of 27,
and was allowed long before to be an excellent scholar, not only in
Greek and Roman literature, but in history, divinity, philosophy, and

Mrs. Grierson (says she) 'gave a proof of her knowledge in the Latin
tongue, by her dedication of the Dublin edition of Tacitus to the lord
Carteret, and by that of Terence to his son, to whom she likewise wrote
a Greek epigram. She wrote several fine poems in English[1], on which
she set so little value, that she neglected to leave copies behind her
of but very few.

'What makes her character the more remarkable is, that she rose to this
eminence of learning merely by the force of her own genius, and
continual application. She was not only happy in a fine imagination, a
great memory, an excellent understanding, and an exact judgment, but had
all these crowned by virtue and piety: she was too learned to be vain,
too wise to be conceited, too knowing and too clear-sighted to

'If heaven had spared her life, and blessed her with health, which she
wanted for some years before her death, there is good reason to think
she would have made as great a figure in the learned world, as any of
her sex are recorded to have done.

'As her learning and abilities raised her above her own sex, so they
left her no room to envy any; on the contrary, her delight was to see
others excel. She was always ready to advise and direct those who
applied to her, and was herself willing to be advised.

'So little did she value herself upon her uncommon excellences, that it
has often recalled to my mind a fine reflexion of a French author, _That
great geniuses should be superior to their own abilities._

'I perswade myself that this short account of so extraordinary a woman,
of whom much more might have been said, will not be disagreeable to my
readers; nor can I omit what I think is greatly to the lord Carteret's
honour, that when he was lord lieutenant of Ireland, he obtained a
patent for Mr. Grierson, her husband, to be the King's Printer, and to
distinguish and reward her uncommon merit, had her life inserted in it.'
Thus far Mrs. Barber. We shall now subjoin Mrs. Pilkington's account of
this wonderful genius.

'About two years before this, a young woman (afterwards married to Mr.
Grierson) of about eighteen years of age, was brought to my father[2],
to be by him instructed in Midwifry: she was mistress of Hebrew[3],
Greek, Latin, and French, and understood the mathematics as well as most
men: and what made these extraordinary talents yet more surprizing was,
that her parents were poor, illiterate, country people: so that her
learning appeared like the gift poured out on the apostles, of speaking
all languages without the pains of study; or, like the intuitive
knowledge of angels: yet inasmuch as the power of miracles is ceased, we
must allow she used human means for such great and excellent
acquirements. And yet, in a long friendship and familiarity with her, I
could never obtain a satisfactory account from her on this head; only
she said, she had received some little instruction from the minister of
the parish, when she could spare time from her needle-work, to which she
was closely kept by her mother. She wrote elegantly both in verse and
prose, and some of the most delightful hours I ever passed were in the
conversation of this female philosopher.

'My father readily consented to accept of her as a pupil, and gave her a
general invitation to his table; so that she and I were seldom asunder.
My parents were well pleased with our intimacy, as her piety was not
inferior to her learning. Her turn was chiefly to philosophical or
divine subjects; yet could her heavenly muse descend from its sublime
height to the easy epistolary stile, and suit itself to my then gay


[1] Mrs. Barber has preserved several specimens of her talent in this
way, which are printed with her own poems.

[2] Dr. Van Lewen of Dublin, an eminent physician and man-midwife.

[3] Her knowledge of the Hebrew is not mentioned by Mrs. Barber.


* * * * *


The Revd. Dr. Birch, who has prefixed a life of Mrs. Cockburn before the
collection he has made of her works, with great truth observes, that it
is a justice due to the public, as well as to the memory of Mrs.
Cockburn, to premise some account of so extraordinary a person.
"Posterity, at least, adds he, will be so sollicitous to know, to whom
they will owe the most demonstrative and perspicuous reasonings, upon
subjects of eternal importance; and her own sex is entitled to the
fullest information about one, who has done such honour to them, and
raised our ideas of their intellectual powers, by an example of the
greatest extent of understanding and correctness of judgment, united to
all the vivacity of imagination. Antiquity, indeed, boasted of its
Female Philosophers, whose merits have been drawn forth in an elaborate
treatise of Menage[1]. But our own age and country may without injustice
or vanity oppose to those illustrious ladies the defender of Lock and
Clark; who, with a genius equal to the most eminent of them, had the
superior advantage of cultivating it in the only effectual method of
improvement, the study of a real philosophy, and a theology worthy human
nature, and its all-perfect author. [Transcriber's note: closing quotes
missing from original.]

She was the daughter of captain David Trotter, a Scots gentleman, and
commander of the royal navy in the reign of Charles II. He was highly in
favour with that prince, who employed him as commodore in the demolition
of Tangier, in the year 1683. Soon after he was sent to convoy the fleet
of the Turkey company; when being seized by the plague, then raging at
Scanderoon, he died there. His death was an irreparable loss to his
family, who were defrauded of all his effects on board his ship, which
were very considerable, and of all the money which he had advanced to
the seamen, during a long voyage: And to add to this misfortune, the
goldsmith, in whose hands the greatest part of his money was lodged,
became soon after a bankrupt. These accumulated circumstances of
distress exciting the companion of king Charles, the captain's widow was
allowed a pension, which ended with that king's life; nor had she any
consideration for her losses in the two succeeding reigns. But queen
Anne, upon her accession to the throne, granted her an annual pension of
twenty pounds.

Captain Trotter at his death, left only two daughters, the youngest of
whom, Catherine, our celebrated author, was born in London, August 16,
1679. She gave early marks of her genius, and was not passed her
childhood when she surprized a company of her relations and friends with
extemporary verses, on an accident which had fallen under her
observation in the street. She both learned to write, and made herself
mistress of the French language, by her own application and diligence,
without any instructor. But she had some assistance in the study of the
Latin Grammar and Logic, of which latter she drew up an abstract for her
own use. The most serious and important subjects, and especially
[Transcriber's note: 'espepecially' in original] those of religion, soon
engaged her attention. But not withstanding her education, her intimacy
with several families of distinction of the Romish persuasion exposed
her, while very young, to impressions in favour of that church, which
not being removed by her conferences with some eminent and learned
members of the church of England, she followed the dictates of a
misguided conscience, and embraced the Romish communion, in which she
continued till the year 1707.

She was but 14 years of age, when she wrote a copy of verses upon Mr.
Bevil Higgons's sickness and recovery from the small pox, which are
printed in our author's second volume. Her next production was a Tragedy
called Agnes de Castro, which was acted at the Theatre-royal, in 1695,
when she was only in her seventeenth year, and printed in 1696. The
reputation of this performance, and the verses which she addressed to
Mr. Congreve upon his Mourning Bride, in 1697, were probably the
foundation of her acquaintance with that admirable writer.

Her second Tragedy, intitled Fatal Friendship, was acted in 1698, at the
new Theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields. This Tragedy met with great
applause, and is still thought the most perfect of her dramatic
performances. Among other copies of verses sent to her upon occasion of
it, and prefixed to it, was one from an unknown hand, which afterwards
appeared to be from the elegant pen of Mr. Hughs, author of the Siege of
Damascus [2].

The death of Mr. Dryden engaged her to join with several other ladies in
paying a just tribute to the memory of that great improver of the
strength, fulness, and harmony of English verse; and their performances
were published together, under the title of the Nine Muses; or Poems
written by so many Ladies, upon the Death of the late famous John
Dryden, Esq;

Her dramatic talents not being confined to Tragedy, she brought upon the
stage, in 1701, a Comedy called Love at a Loss; or most Votes carry it,
published in May that year. In the same year she gave the public her
third Tragedy, intitled, The Unhappy Penitent, acted at the
Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane. In the dedication to Charles lord Hallifax,
she draws the characters of several of the most eminent of her
predecessors in tragic poetry, with great judgment and precision. She
observes, that Shakespear had all the images of nature present to him,
studied her thoroughly, and boldly copied all her various features: and
that though he chiefly exerted himself on the more masculine passions,
it was the choice of his judgment, not the restraint of his genius; and
he seems to have designed those few tender moving scenes, which he has
given us, as a proof that he could be every way equally admirable. She
allows Dryden to have been the most universal genius which this nation
ever bred; but thinks that he did not excel in every part; for though he
is distinguished in most of his writings, by greatness and elevation of
thought, yet at the same time that he commands our admiration of
himself, he little moves our concern for those whom he represents, not
being formed for touching the softer passions. On the other hand, Otway,
besides his judicious choice of the fable, had a peculiar art to move
compassion, which, as it is one of the chief ends of Tragedy, he found
most adapted to his genius; and never venturing where that did not lead
him, excelled in the pathetic. And had Lee, as she remarks, consulted
his strength as well, he might have given us more perfect pieces; but
aiming at the sublime, instead of being great, he is extravagant; his
stile too swelling; and if we pursue him in his flight, he often carries
us out of nature. Had he restrained that vain ambition, and intirely
applied himself to describe the softest of the passions (for love, of
all the passions, he seems best to have understood, if that be allowed a
proper subject for Tragedy) he had certainly had fewer defects.

But poetry and dramatic writing did not so far engross the thoughts of
our author, but that she sometimes turned them to subjects of a very
different nature; and at an age when few of the other sex were capable
of understanding the Essay of Human Understanding, and most of them
prejudiced against the novelty of its principles; and though she was at
that time engaged in the profession of a religion not very favourable to
so rational a philosophy as that of Mr. Lock; yet she had read that
incomparable book, with so clear a comprehension, and so unbiassed a
judgment, that her own conviction of the truth and importance of the
notions contained in it, led her to endeavour that of others, by
removing some of the objections urged against them. She drew up
therefore a Defence of the Essay, against some Remarks which had been
published against it in 1667. The author of these remarks was never
known to Mr. Lock, who animadverted upon them with some marks of
chagrin, at the end of his reply to Stillingfleet, 1697. But after the
death of the ingenious Dr. Thomas Burner, master of the Charter-House,
it appeared from his papers, that the Remarks were the product of his
pen. They were soon followed by second Remarks, printed the same year,
in vindication of the first, against Mr. Lock's Answer to them; and in
1699, by Third Remarks, addressed likewise to Mr. Lock. Mrs. Trotter's
Defence of the Essay against all these Remarks was finished so early as
the beginning of December 1701, when she was but 22 years old. But being
more apprehensive of appearing before the great writer whom she
defended, than of the public censure, and conscious that the name of a
woman would be a prejudice against a work of that nature, she resolved
to conceal herself with the utmost care. But her title to the reputation
of this piece did not continue long a secret to the world. For Mrs.
Burnet, the late wife of Dr. Burnet, bishop of Sarum, a lady of an
uncommon degree of knowledge, and whose Method of Devotion, which passed
through several editions, is a proof of her exemplary piety, and who, as
well as that prelate, honoured our author with a particular friendship,
notwithstanding the difference of her religion, being informed that she
was engaged in writing, and that it was not poetry, was desirous to know
the subject. This Mrs. Trotter could not deny a lady of her merit, in
whom she might safely confide, and who, upon being acquainted with it,
shewed an equal sollicitude that the author might not be known. But
afterwards finding the performance highly approved by the bishop her
husband, Mr. Norris of Bemmerton, and Mr. Lock himself; she thought the
reasons of secrecy ceased, and discovered the writer; and in June 1707
returned her thanks to Mrs. Trotter, then in London, for her present of
the book, in a letter which does as much honour to her own
understanding, principles and temper, as to her friend, to whom she
addressed it. Dr. Birch has given a copy of this letter.

Mr. Lock likewise was so highly satisfied with the Defence, (which was
perhaps the only piece that appeared in favour of his Essay, except one
by Mr. Samuel Bold, rector of Steeple in Dorsetshire, 1699) that being
in London, he desired Mr. King, afterwards lord high chancellor, to make
Mrs. Trotter a visit, and a present of books; and when she had owned
herself, he wrote to her a letter of compliment, a copy of which is
inserted in these memoirs.

But while our author continued to shew the world so deep a penetration
into subjects of the most difficult and abstract kind, she was still
incapable of extricating herself from those subtilties and perplexities
of argument, which retained her in the church of Rome. And the sincerity
of her attachment to it, in all its outward severities, obliged her to
so strict an observance of its fasts, as proved extremely injurious to
her health. Upon which Dr. Denton Nicholas, a very ingenious learned
physician of her acquaintance, advised her to abate of those rigours of
abstinence, as insupportable to a constitution naturally infirm.

She returned to the exercise of her dramatic genius in 1703, and having
fixed upon the Revolution of Sweden under Gustavus Erickson (which has
been related in prose with so much force and beauty by the Abbe Vertot)
for the subject of a Tragedy, she sent the first draught of it to Mr.
Congreve, who returned her an answer, which, on account of the just
remarks upon the conduct of the drama, well deserves a place here, did
it not exceed our proposed bounds, and therefore we must refer the
reader to Dr. Birch's account. This Tragedy was acted in 1706, at the
Queen's Theatre in the Hay-Market, and was printed in quarto.

By a letter from Mrs. Trotter to her friend George Burnet of Kemnay in
Scotland, Esq; then at Geneva, dated February 2, 1703-4, it appears that
she then began to entertain more moderate notions of religion, and to
abate of her zeal for the church of Rome. Her charitableness and
latitude of sentiments seems to have increased a-pace, from the farther
examination which she was now probably making into the state of the
controversy between the church of Rome and the Protestants; for in
another letter to Mr. Burnet, of August 8, 1704, she speaks to the
subject of religion, with a spirit of moderation unusual in the
communion of which she still professed herself.

'I wish, (says she) there was no distinction of churches; and then I
doubt not there would be much more real religion, the name and notion of
which I am so sorry to observe confined to the being of some particular
community; and the whole of it, I am afraid, placed by most in a zeal
of those points, which make the differences between them; from which
mistaken zeal, no doubt, have proceeded all the massacres,
persecutions, and hatred of their fellow christians, which all churches
have been inclined to, when in power. And I believe it is generally
true, that those who are most bigotted to a sect, or most rigid and
precise in their forms and outward discipline, are most negligent of
the moral duties, which certainly are the main end of religion. I have
observed this so often, both in private persons and public societies,
that I am apt to suspect it every where.'

The victory at Blenheim, which exercised the pens of Mr. Addison and Mr.
John Philips, whose poems on that occasion divided the admiration of the
public, tempted Mrs. Trotter to write a copy of verses to the duke of
Marlborough, upon his return from his glorious campaign in Germany,
December, 1704. But being doubtful with respect to the publication of
them, she sent them in manuscript to his grace; and received for answer,
that the duke and duchess, and the lord treasurer Godolphin, with
several others to whom they were shewn, were greatly pleased with them;
and that good judges of poetry had declared, that there were some lines
in them superior to any that had been written on the subject. Upon this
encouragement she sent the poem to the press.

The high degree of favour with which she was honoured by these
illustrious persons, gave her, about this time, hopes of some
establishment of her fortune, which had hitherto been extremely narrow
and precarious. But though she failed of such an establishment, she
succeeded in 1705, in another point, which was a temporary relief to
her. This particular appears from one of her letters printed in the
second volume; but of what nature or amount this relief was, we do not

Her enquiries into the nature of true religion were attended with their
natural and usual effects, in opening and enlarging her notions beyond
the contracted pale of her own church. For in her letter of the 7th of
July 1705, to Mr. Burnet, she says, 'I am zealous to have you agree with
me in this one article, that all good christians are of the same
religion; a sentiment which I sincerely confess, how little soever it is
countenanced by the church of Rome.' And in the latter end of the
following year, or the beginning of 1707, her doubts about the Romish
religion, which she had so many years professed, having led her to a
thorough examination of the grounds of it, by consulting the best books
on both sides of the question, and advising with men of the best
judgment, the result was a conviction of the falseness of the
pretensions of that church, and a return to that of England, to which
she adhered during the rest of her life. In the course of this enquiry,
the great and leading question concerning A Guide in Controversy, was
particularly discussed by her; and the two letters which she wrote upon
it, the first to Mr. Bennet, a Romish priest, and the second to Mr.
H----, who had procured an answer to that letter from a stranger, Mr.
Beimel's indisposition preventing him from returning one, were thought
so valuable on account of the strength and perspicuity of reasoning, as
well as their conciseness, that she consented to the importunity of her
friends, for their publication in June 1707, under the following title,
A Discourse concerning a Guide in Controversies; in two Letters: Written
to one of the Church Church of Rome, by a Person lately converted from
that Communion; a later edition of them being since printed at Edinburgh
in 1728 in 8vo. Bishop Burnet wrote the preface to them, though without
his name to it; and he observes, that they might be of use to such of
the Roman Catholics as are perswaded, that those who deny the
infallibility of their church, take away all certainty of the Christian
religion, or of the authority of the scriptures. This is the main topic
of those two letters, and the point was considered by our author as of
such importance, that she procured her friend Mrs. Burnet to consult Mr.
(afterwards Dr.) Clark upon it, and to show him a paper, which had been
put into her hands, urging the difficulties on that article, on the side
of the Papists. The sentiments of that great man upon this subject are
comprised in a letter from Mrs. Burnet to Mrs. Trotter, of which our
editor has given a copy, to which we refer the reader in the 31st page
of his account.

In 1708 our author was married to Mr. Cockburn, the son of Dr. Cockburn,
an eminent and learned divine of Scotland, at first attached to the
court of St. Germains, but obliged to quit it on account of his
inflexible adherence to the Protestant religion; then for some time
minister of the Episcopal church at Amsterdam, and at last collated to
the rectory of Northaw in Middlesex, by Dr. Robinson bishop of London,
at the recommendation of Queen Anne. Mr. Cockburn, his son, soon after
his marriage with our author, had the donative of Nayland in Sussex,
where he settled in the same year 1708; but returned afterwards from
thence to London, to be curate of St. Dunstan's in Fleet-street, where
he continued 'till the accession of his late majesty to the throne, when
falling into a scruple about the oath of abjuration, though he always
prayed for the King and Royal Family by name, he was obliged to quit
that station, and for ten or twelve years following was reduced to great
difficulties in the support of his family; during which time he
instructed the youth of the academy in Chancery-Lane, in the Latin
tongue. At last, in 1726, by consulting the lord chancellor King and his
own father, upon the sense and intent of that oath, and by reading some
papers put into his hands, with relation to it, he was reconciled to the
taking of it. In consequence of this, being the year following invited
to be minister of the Episcopal congregation at Aberdeen in Scotland, he
qualified himself conformably to the law, and, on the day of his present
Majesty's accession, preached a sermon there on the duty and benefit of
praying for the government. This sermon being printed and animadverted
upon, he published a reply to the remarks on it, with some papers
relating to the oath of abjuration, which have been much esteemed. Soon
after his settlement at Aberdeen, the lord chancellor presented him to
the living of Long-Horsely, near Morpeth in Northumberland, as a means
of enabling him to support and educate his family; for which purpose he
was allowed to continue his function at Aberdeen, 'till the negligence
and ill-behaviour of the curates, whom he employed at Long Horsely,
occasioned Dr. Chandler, the late bishop of Durham, to call him to
residence on that living, 1737; by which means he was forced to quit his
station at Aberdeen, to the no small diminution of his income. He was a
man of considerable learning; and besides his sermon abovementioned, and
the vindication of it, he published, in the Weekly Miscellany, A Defence
of Prime Ministers, in the Character of Joseph; and a Treatise of the
Mosaic Design, published since his death.

Mrs. Cockburn, after her marriage, was entirely diverted from her
studies for many years, by attending tending upon the duties of a wife
and a mother, and by the ordinary cares of an encreasing family, and the
additional ones arising from the reduced circumstances of her husband.
However, her zeal for Mr. Lock's character and writings drew her again
into the public light in 1716, upon this occasion.

Dr. Holdsworth, fellow of St. John's College in Oxford, had preached on
Easter-Monday, 1719 20, before that university, a sermon on John v. 28,
29, which he published, professing in his title page to examine and
answer the Cavils, False Reasonings, and False Interpretations of
Scripture, of Mr. Lock and others, against the Resurrection of the Same
Body. This sermon did not reach Mrs. Cockburn's hands 'till some years
after; when the perusal of it forced from her some animadversions, which
she threw together in the form of a letter to the Dr. and sent to him in
May 1724, with a design of suppressing it entirely, if it should have
the desired effect upon him. After nine months the Dr. informed her,
that he had drawn up a large and particular answer to it, but was
unwilling to trust her with his manuscript, 'till she should publish her
own. However, after a long time, and much difficulty, she at last
obtained the perusal of his answer; but not meeting with that conviction
from it, which would have made her give up her cause, she was prevailed
on to let the world judge between them, and accordingly published her
Letter to Dr. Holdsworth, in January 1726 7, without her name, but said
in the title page to be by the author of, A Defence of Mr. Lock's Essay
of Human Understanding. The Dr. whose answer to it was already finished,
was very expeditious in the publication of it in June 1727, in an 8vo
volume, under the title of A Defence of the Doctrine of the Resurrection
of the same Body, &c.

Mrs. Cockburn wrote a very particular reply to this, and entitled it, A
Vindication of Mr. Lock's Principles, from the injurious Imputations of
Dr. Holdsworth. But though it is an admirable performance, and she was
extremely desirous of doing justice to Mr. Lock and herself, yet not
meeting with any Bookseller willing to undertake, nor herself being able
to support the expence of the impression, it continued in manuscript,
and was reserved to enrich the collection published after her death.

Her Remarks upon some Writers in the Controversy concerning the
Foundation of Moral Duty and Moral Obligation were begun during the
winter of the year 1739, and finished in the following one; for the
weakness of her eyes, which had been a complaint of many years standing,
not permitting her to use, by candlelight, her needle, which so fully
employed her in the summer season, that she read little, and wrote less;
she amused herself, during the long winter-evenings, in digesting her
thoughts upon the most abstract subjects in morality and metaphysics.
They continued in manuscript till 1743, for want of a Bookseller
inclined to accept the publication of them, and were introduced to the
world in August that year, in The History of the Works of the Learned.
Her name did not go with them, but they were Inscribed with the utmost
Deference to Alexander Pope, Esq; by an Admirer of his moral Character;
for which she shews a remarkable zeal in her letters, whenever she has
occasion to mention him. And her high opinion of him in that respect,
founded chiefly on his writings, and especially his letters, as well as
her admiration of his genius, inspired her with a strong desire of being
known to him; for which purpose she drew up a pretty long letter to him
about the year 1738: but it was never sent. The strength, clearness, and
vivacity shewn in her Remarks upon the most abstract and perplexed
questions, immediately raised the curiosity of all good judges about the
concealed writer; and their admiration was greatly increased when her
sex and advanced age were known. And the worthy Dr. Sharp[3], archdeacon
of Northumberland, who had these Remarks in manuscript, and encouraged
the publication of them, being convinced by them, that no person was
better qualified for a thorough examination of the grounds of morality,
entered into a correspondence with her upon that subject. But her ill
state of health at last interrupted her prosecution of it; a
circumstance to be regretted, since a discussion carried on with so much
sagacity and candour on both sides, would, in all probability, have left
little difficulty remaining on the question.

Dr. Rutherforth's Essay on the Nature and Obligations of virtue,
published in May 1744, soon engaged her thoughts, and notwithstanding
the asthmatic disorder, which had seized her many years before, and now
left her small intervals of ease, she applied herself to the confutation
of that elaborate discourse; and having finished it with a spirit,
elegance, and perspicuity equal, if not superior to all her former
writings, transmitted her manuscript to Mr. Warburton, who published it
in 8vo. with a Preface of his own, in April 1747, under the title of
Remarks upon the Principles and Reasonings of Dr. Rutherforth's Essay on
the Nature and Obligations of Virtue, in Vindication of the contrary
Principles and Reasons inforced in the Writings of the late Dr. Samuel

The extensive reputation which this and her former writings had gained
her, induced her friends to propose to her, the collecting and
publishing them in a body. And upon her consenting to the scheme, which
was to be executed by subscription, in order to secure to her the full
benefit of the edition, it met with a ready encouragement from all
persons of true taste; but though Mrs. Cockburn did not live to
discharge the office of editor, yet the public has received the
acquisition by her death, of a valuable series of letters, which her own
modesty would have restrained her from permitting to see the light. And
it were to be wished that these two volumes, conditioned for by the
terms of subscription, could have contained all her dramatic writings,
of which only one is here published. But as that was impossible, the
preference was, upon the maturest deliberation, given to those in prose,
as superior in their kind to the most perfect of her poetical, and of
more general and lasting use to the world.

The loss of her husband on the 4th of January 1748, in the 71st year of
his age, was a severe shock to her; and she did not long survive him,
dying on the 11th of May, 1749, in her 71st year, after having long
supported a painful disorder, with a resignation to the divine will,
which had been the governing principle of her whole life, and her
support under the various trials of it. Her memory and understanding
continued unimpaired, 'till within a few days of her death. She was
interred near her husband and youngest daughter at Long-Horsley, with
this short sentence on their tomb:

Let their works praise them in the gates.
Prov. xxxi. 31.

They left only one son, who is clerk of the cheque at Chatham, and two

Mrs. Cockburn was no less celebrated for her beauty, in her younger
days, than for her genius and accomplishments. She was indeed small of
stature, but had a remarkable liveliness in her eye, and delicacy of
complexion, which continued to her death. Her private character rendered
her extremely amiable to those who intimately knew her. Her conversation
was always innocent, useful and agreeable, without the least affectation
of being thought a wit, and attended with a remarkable modesty and
diffidence of herself, and a constant endeavour to adapt her discourse
to her company. She was happy in an uncommon evenness and chearfulness
of temper. Her disposition was generous and benevolent; and ready upon
all occasions to forgive injuries, and bear them, as well as
misfortunes, without interrupting her own ease, or that of others, with
complaints or reproaches. The pressures of a very contracted fortune
were supported by her with calmness and in silence; nor did she ever
attempt to improve it among those great personages to whom she was
known, by importunities; to which the best minds are most averse, and
which her approved merit and established reputation mould have rendered

The collection now exhibited to the world is, says Dr. Birch, and we
entirely agree with him, so incontestable a proof of the superiority of
our author's genius, as in a manner supersedes every thing that can be
said upon that head. But her abilities as a writer, and the merit of her
works, will not have full justice done them, without a due attention to
the peculiar circumstances, in which they were produced: her early
youth, when she wrote some, her very advanced age, and ill state of
health, when she drew up others; the uneasy situation of her fortune,
during the whole course of her life; and an interval of near twenty
years in the vigour of it, spent in the cares of a family, without the
least leisure for reading or contemplation: after which, with a mind so
long diverted and incumbered, resuming her studies, she instantly
recovered its intire powers, and in the hours of relaxation from her
domestic employments, pursued, to their utmost limits, some of the
deepest enquiries of which the human mind is capable!

CONTENTS of the First Volume of Mrs. COCKBURN'S Works.

I. A Discourse concerning a Guide in Controversy. First published in
1707, with a preface by bishop Burnet.

II. A Defence of Mr. Lock's Essay of Human Understanding. First
published in 1702.

III. A Letter to Dr. Holdsworth, concerning the Resurrection of the
same Body. First published in 1726.

IV. A Vindication of Mr. Lock's Christian Principles, from the
injurious Imputations of Dr. Holdsworth. Now first published.

V. Remarks upon some Writers in the Controversy, concerning the
Foundation of Moral Virtue, and Moral Obligation. With some Thoughts
concerning Necessary Existence; the Reality and Infinity of Space; the
Extension and Place of Spirits; and on Dr. Watts's Notion of Substance.
First published in 1743.

CONTENTS of the Second Volume.

I. Remarks upon Dr. Rutherforth's Essay on the Nature and Obligations of
Virtue. First published in the year 1747.

II. Miscellaneous Pieces. Now first printed. Containing a Letter of
Advice to her Son.--Sunday's Journal.--On the Usefulness of Schools and
Universities.--On the Credibility of the Historical Parts of Scripture.
--On Moral Virtue.--Notes on Christianity as old as the Creation.--On
the Infallibility of the Church of Rome.--Answer to a Question
concerning the Jurisdiction of the Magistrate over the Life of the
Subject.--Remarks on Mr. Seed's Sermon on Moral Virtue.--Remarks upon
an Enquiry into the Origin of Human Appetites and Affections.

III. Letters between Mrs. Cockburn and several of her Friends. These
take up the greatest part of the volume.

IV. Letters between the Rev. Dr. Sharp, Archdeacon of Northumberland and
Mrs. Cockburn concerning the Foundation of Moral Virtue.

V. Fatal Friendship, a Tragedy.

VI. Poems on several Occasions. There are very few of these, and what
there are, are of little note. Her poetical talent was the smallest and
least valuable of our author's literary accomplishments.


[1] Historia Mulierum Philosopharum. 8vo. Lyons. 1690.

[2] Dr. Birch mentions also Mr. Higgons's verses on this occasion, and
gives a copy of a complimentary letter to our author, from Mr.
George Farquhar.

[3] Author of an excellent pamphlet, entitled, Two Dissertations
concerning the Etymology and Scripture-meaning of the Hebrew Words
Elohim and Berith. Vide Monthly Review.

* * * * *


This Gentleman was descended from a very ancient, and considerable
family in the county of Leicester, and received his education in St.
John's college Cambridge, where he wrote his Pastorals, a species of
excellence, in which he is thought to have remarkably distinguished
himself. When Mr. Philips quitted the university, and repaired to the
metropolis, he became, as Mr. Jacob phrases it, one of the wits at
Buttons; and in consequence of this, contracted an acquaintance with
those bright genius's who frequented it; especially Sir Richard Steele,
who in the first volume of his Tatler inserts a little poem of this
author's dated from Copenhagen, which he calls a winter piece; Sir
Richard thus mentions it with honour. 'This is as fine a piece, as we
ever had from any of the schools of the most learned painters; such
images as these give us a new pleasure in our fight, and fix upon our
minds traces of reflexion, which accompany us wherever the like objects

This short performance which we shall here insert, was reckoned so
elegant, by men of taste then living, that Mr. Pope himself, who had a
confirmed aversion to Philips, when he affected to despise his other
works, always excepted this out of the number.

It is written from Copenhagen, addressed to the Earl of Dorset, and
dated the 9th of May 1709.


From frozen climes, and endless tracks of snow,
From streams that northern winds forbid to flow;
What present shall the Muse to Dorset bring,
Or how, so near the Pole, attempt to sing?
The hoary winter here conceals from sight,
All pleasing objects that to verse invite.
The hills and dales, and the delightful woods,
The flow'ry plains, and silver streaming floods,
By snow distinguished in bright confusion lie,
And with one dazling waste, fatigue the eye.

No gentle breathing breeze prepares the spring,
No birds within the desart region sing.
The ships unmov'd the boist'rous winds defy,
While rattling chariots o'er the ocean fly.
The vast Leviathan wants room to play,
And spout his waters in the face of day.
The starving wolves along the main sea prowl,
And to the moon in icy valleys howl,
For many a shining league the level main,
Here spreads itself into a glassy plain:
There solid billows of enormous size,
Alps of green ice, in wild disorder rise.

And yet but lately have I seen ev'n here,
The winter in a lovely dress appear.
Ere yet the clouds let fall the treasur'd snow,
Or winds begun through hazy skies to blow;
At ev'ning a keen eastern breeze arose;
And the descending rain unsully'd froze.
Soon as the silent shades of night withdrew,
The ruddy morn disclos'd at once to view,
The face of nature in a rich disguise,
And brighten'd every object to my eyes:

And ev'ry shrub, and ev'ry blade of grass,
And ev'ry pointed thorn seem'd wrought in glass.
In pearls and rubies rich, the hawthorns show,
While through the ice the crimson berries glow.
The thick sprung reeds, the watry marshes yield,
Seem polish'd lances in a hostile field.
The flag in limpid currents with surprize,
Sees crystal branches on his fore-head rise.
The spreading oak, the beech, and tow'ring pine,
Glaz'd over, in the freezing aether shine.
The frighted birds, the rattling branches shun.
That wave and glitter in the distant sun.

When if a sudden gust of wind arise,
The brittle forest into atoms flies:
The crackling wood beneath the tempest bends,
And in a spangled show'r the prospect ends.
Or, if a southern gale the region warm,
And by degrees unbind the wintry charm,
The traveller, a miry country sees,
And journeys sad beneath the dropping trees.

Like some deluded peasant, Merlin leads
Thro' fragrant bow'rs, and thro' delicious meads;
While here inchanted gardens to him rise,
And airy fabrics there attract his eyes,
His wand'ring feet the magic paths pursue;
And while he thinks the fair illusion true,
The trackless scenes disperse in fluid air,
And woods, and wilds, and thorny ways appear:
A tedious road the weary wretch returns,
And, as he goes, the transient vision mourns.

But it was not enough for Sir Richard to praise this performance of Mr.
Philips. He was also an admirer of his Pastorals, which had then
obtained a great number of readers: He was about to form a Critical
Comparison of Pope's Pastorals, and these of Mr. Philips; and giving in
the conclusion, the preference to the latter. Sir Richard's design being
communicated to Mr. Pope, who was not a little jealous of his
reputation, he took the alarm; and by the most artful and insinuating
method defeated his purpose.

The reader cannot be ignorant, that there are several numbers in the
Guardian, employed upon Pastoral Poetry, and one in particular, upon the
merits of Philips and Pope, in which the latter is found a better
versifier; but as a true Arcadian, the preference is given to Philips.
That we may be able to convey a perfect idea of the method which Mr.
Pope took to prevent the diminution of his reputation, we shall
transcribe the particular parts of that paper in the Guardian, Number
XL. Monday April the 27th.

I designed to have troubled the reader with no farther discourses of
Pastorals, but being informed that I am taxed of partiality, in not
mentioning an author, whose Eclogues are published in the same volume
with Mr. Philips's, I shall employ this paper in observations upon him,
written in the free spirit of criticism, and without apprehensions of
offending that gentleman, whose character it is, that he takes the
greatest care of his works before they are published, and has the least
concern for them afterwards. I have laid it down as the first rule of
Pastoral, that its idea should be taken from the manners of the Golden
Age, and the moral formed upon the representation of innocence; 'tis
therefore plain, that any deviations from that design, degrade a poem
from being true Pastoral.

So easy as Pastoral writing may seem (in the simplicity we have
described it) yet it requires great reading, both of the ancients and


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