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“other subject, through all art or nature, could “ have produced Tindal for a profound author, or “ furnished him with readers? It is the wise choice “ of the subject that alone adorns and distinguishes “ the writer. For had an hundred such pens as “these been employed on the side of religion, they “would have immediately sunk into silence and « oblivion.”
The unreasonableness of a Test is not hard to be proved; but perhaps it must be allowed that the proper test has not been chosen.
The attention paid to the papers, published under the name of “ Bickerstaff,” induced Steele, when he projected the “ Tatler,” to assume an appellation which had already gained possession of the reader's notice.
In the year following he wrote a “ Project for “the Advancement of Religion," addressed to Lady Berkeley; by whose kindness it is not unlikely that he was advanced to his benefices. To this project, which is formed with great purity of intention, and displayed with sprightliness and elegance, it can only be objected, that, like many projects, it is, if not generally impracticable, yet evidently hopeless, as it supposes more zeal, concord and perseverance, than a view of mankind gives reason for expecting
He wrote likewise this year a “Vindication of “Bickerstaff;" and an explanation of an “Ancient
Prophecy,” part written after the facts, and the rest never completed, but well planned to excite amazement.
Soon after began the busy and important part of
Swift's life. He was employed (1710) by the primate of Ireland to solicit the queen for a remission of the First Fruits and Twentieth Parts to the Irish Clergy. With this purpose he had recourse to Mr. Harley, to whom he was mentioned as a man neglected and oppressed by the last ministry, because he had refused to co-operate with some of their schemes. What he had refused has never been told; what he had suffered was, I suppose, the exclusion from a bishopric by the remonstrances of Sharpe, whom he describes as “the harmless tool “ of others' hate," and whom he represents as afterwards “suing for pardon.”
Harley's designs and situation were such as made him glad of an auxiliary so well qualified for his service; he therefore soon admitted him to familiarity, whether ever to confidence some have made a doubt; but it would have been difficult to excite his zeal without persuading him that he was trusted, and not very easy to delude him by false persuasions.
He was certainly admitted to those meetings in which the first hints and original plan of action are supposed to have been formed; and was one of the sixteen Ministers, or agents of the Ministry, who met weekly at each other's houses, and were united by the name of “ Brother.”
Being not immediately considered as an obdurate Tory, he conversed indiscriminately with all the wits, and was yet the friend of Steele; who, in the “ Tatler,” which began in April, 1709, confesses the advantage of his conversation, and mentions something contributed by him to his paper. But he was now immerging into political controversy; for the
year 1710 produced the “Examiner,” of which Swift wrote thirty-three papers. In argument he may be allowed to have the advantage; for where a wide system of conduct, and the whole of a public character, is laid open to enquiry, the accuser having the choice of facts, must be very unskilful if he does not prevail; but, with regard to wit, I am afraid none of Swift's papers will be found equal to those by which Addison opposed him. He wrote in the year 1711 a “Letter to the Octo
“ “ ber Club,” a number of Tory Gentlemen sent from the country to parliament, who formed themselves into a club, to the number of about a hundred, and met to animate the zeal and raise the expectations of each other. They thought, with great reason, that the Ministers were losing opportunities; that sufficient use was not made of the ardour of the nation ; they called loudly for more changes, and stronger efforts; and demanded the punishment of part, and the dismission of the rest, of those whom they considered as public robbers.
Their eagerness was not gratified by the queen, or by Harley. The queen was probably slow because she was afraid ; and Harley was slow because he was doubtful : he was a Tory only by necessity, or for convenience; and, when he had power in his hands, had no settled purpose for which he should employ it; forced to gratify to a certain degree the Tories who supported him, but unwilling to make his re
* Sheridan says, that Addison's last Whig Examiner was published Oct. 12, 1711; and Swift's first Examiner, on the 10th of the following Norember.
concilement to the Whigs utterly desperate, he corresponded at once with the two expectants of the Crown, and kept, as has been observed, the succession undetermined. Not knowing what to do, he did nothing; and, with the fate of a double dealer, at last he lost his power, but kept his enemies.
Swift seems to have concurred in opinion with the “ October Club;" but it was not in his power to quicken the tardiness of Harley, whom he stimulated as much as he could, but with little effect. He that knows not whither to go, is in no haste to move. Harley, who was perhaps not quick by nature, became yet more slow by irresolution: and was content to hear that dilatoriness lamented as natural, which he applauded in himself as politic.
Without the Tories, however, nothing could be done; and, as they were not to be gratified, they must be appeased; and the conduct of the Minister, if it could not be vindicated, was to be plausibly excused.
Early in the next year he published a “ Proposal “ for correcting, improving, and ascertaining the “ English Tongue,” in a Letter to the Earl of Oxford; written without much knowledge of the general nature of language, and without any accurate enquiry into the history of other tongues. The certainty and stability which, contrary to all experience, he thinks attainable, he proposes to secure by
, instituting an academy; the decrees of which every man would have been willing, and many would have been proud, to disobey, and which, being renewed by successive elections, would in a short time have differed from itself.
Swift now attained the zenith of his political importance : he published (1712) the “Conduct of “the Allies,” ten days before the Parliament assembled. The purpose was to persuade the nation to a peace; and never had any writer more success. The people, who had been amused with bonfires and tri. umphal processions, and looked with idolatry on the General and his friends, who, as they thought, had made England the arbitress of nations, were confounded between shame and rage, when they found that “mines had been exhausted, and millions de“stroyed,” to secure the Dutch or aggrandize the emperor, without any advantage to ourselves; that we bad been bribing our neighbours to fight their own quarrel; and that amongst our enemies we might number our allies.
That is now no longer doubted, of which the nation was then first informed, that the war was unnecessarily protracted to fill the pockets of Mar)borough ; and that it would have been continued without end, if he could have continued his annual plunder. But Swift, I suppose, did not yet know what he has since written, that a commission was drawn which would have appointed him General for life, had it not become ineffectual by the resolution of Lord Cowper, who refused to seal..
“ Whatever is received,” says the schools, “ is "received in proportion to the recipient.” The power of a political treatise depends much upon the disposition of the people; the nation was then combustible, and a spark set it on fire. It is boasted, that between November and January eleven thou.