Slike strani
PDF
ePub

(i)

SWIFT.

A

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

JONATHAN SWIFT was, according to an account faid to be written by himself, the son of Jonathan Swift, an attorney, and was born at Dublin on St. Andrew's day, 1667: according to his own report, as delivered by Pope to Spence, he was born at Leicester, the fon of a clergyman, who was minifter of a parish in Herefordshire . During his life †. the place of his birth was undetermined. He was

* Mr. Sheridan in his Life of Swift obferves, that this account was really written by the Dean, and now exifts in his own handwriting in the library of Dublin College. R.

+ Spence's Anecdotes, vol. II. p. 273.

VOL. XI.

B

[ocr errors]

contented to be called an Irifhman by the Irifh; but would occafionally call himself an Englishman. The queftion may, without much regret, be left in the obfcurity in which he delighted to involve it.

Whatever was his birth, his education was Irish. He was fent at the age of fix to the fchool at Kilkenny, and in his fifteenth year (1682) was admitted into the University of Dublin.

In his academical ftudies he was either not diligent or not happy. It must disappoint every reader's expectation, that, when at the ufual time he claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he was found by the examiners too confpicuously deficient for regular admisfion, and obtained his degree at last by special favour; a term used in that univerfity to denote want of merit.

Of this difgrace it may be eafily fuppofed that he was much ashamed, and fhame had its proper effect in producing reformation. He refolved from that time to ftudy eight hours a-day, and continued his industry for seven years, with what improvement is fufficiently known. This part of his story well deferves to be remembered; it may afford useful adinonition and powerful encouragement to men, whofe abilities have been made for a time useless by their paffions or pleasures, and who, having loft one part of life in idlenefs, are tempted to throw away the remainder in defpair.

In this course of daily application he continued three years longer at Dublin; and in this time, if the obfervation of an old companion may be trusted, he drew the firft fketch of his "Tale of a Tub."

When he was about one-and-twenty (1688), being by the death of Godwin Swift his uncle, who had fup

fupported him, left without fubfiftence, he went to confult his mother, who then lived at Leicester, about the future course of his life; and by her direction folicited the advice and patronage of Sir William Temple, who had married one of Mrs. Swift's relations, and whofe father Sir John Temple, Mafter of the Rolls in Ireland, had lived in great familiarity of friendship with Godwin Swift, by whom Jonathan had been to that time maintained.

Temple received with fufficient kindness the nephew of his father's friend, with whom he was, when they converfed together, fo much pleafed, that he detained him two years in his house. Here he became known to King William, who fometimes vifited Temple when he was disabled by the gout, and, being attended by Swift in the garden, fhewed him how to cut afparagus in the Dutch way.

King William's notions were all military; and he expreffed his kindness to Swift by offering to make him a captain of horse.

When Temple removed to Moor-park, he took Swift with him; and when he was confulted by the Earl of Portland about the expedience of complying with a bill then depending for making parliaments triennial, against which King William was ftrongly prejudiced, after having in vain tried to fhew the Earl that the propofal involved nothing dangerous to royal power, he fent Swift for the fame purpose to the King. Swift, who probably was proud of his émployment, and went with all the confidence of a young man, found his arguments, and his art of displaying them, made totally ineffectual by the predeter

B 2

contented to be called an Irifhman by the Irifh; but would occafionally call himself an Englishman. The question may, without much regret, be left in the obfcurity in which he delighted to involve it.

Whatever was his birth, his education was Irish. He was fent at the age of fix to the school at Kilkenny, and in his fifteenth year (1682) was admitted into the University of Dublin.

In his academical ftudies he was either not diligent or not happy. It muft disappoint every reader's expectation, that, when at the ufual time he claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he was found by the examiners too conspicuously deficient for regular admiffion, and obtained his degree at laft by special favour; a term used in that univerfity to denote want of merit.

Of this difgrace it may be eafily fuppofed that he was much ashamed, and fhame had its proper effect in producing reformation. He refolved from that time to ftudy eight hours a-day, and continued his industry for seven years, with what improvement is fufficiently known. This part of his story well deferves to be remembered; it may afford useful adinonition and powerful encouragement to men, whofe abilities have been made for a time useless by their paffions or pleasures, and who, having loft one part of life in idlenefs, are tempted to throw away the remainder in defpair.

In this courfe of daily application he continued three years longer at Dublin; and in this time, if the obfervation of an old companion may be trufted, he drew the firft sketch of his "Tale of a Tub."

When he was about one-and-twenty (1688), being by the death of Godwin Swift his uncle, who had

fup

« PrejšnjaNaprej »