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This practice Lord Orrery imputes to his innate love of grossness and vulgarity: some may ascribe it to his desire of surveying human life through all its varieties and others, perhaps with equal probability, to a passion which seems to have been deeply fixed in his heart, the love of a shilling.
In time he began to think that his attendance at Moor-park deserved some other recompence than the pleasure, however mingled with improvement, of Temple's conversation; and grew so impatient, that (1694) he went away in discontent.
Temple, conscious of having given reason for complaint, is said to have made him Deputy Master of the Rolls in Ireland; which, according to his kinsman's account, was an office which he knew him not able to discharge. Swift therefore resolved to enter into the Church, in which he had at first no higher hopes, than of the chaplainship to the Factory at Lisbon; but being recommended to Lord Capel, he obtained the prebend of Kilroot in Connor, of about a hundred pounds a year.
But the infirmities of Temple made a companion like Swift so necessary, that he invited him back, with a promise to procure him English preferment in exchange for the prebend, which he desired him to resign. With this request Swift complied, having perhaps equally repented their separation, and they lived on together with mutual satisfaction; and, in the four years that passed between his return and Temple's death, it is probable that he wrote the "Tale of a Tub" and the "Battle of the Books."
Swift began early to think, or to hope, that he was a poet, and wrote Pindarick Odes to Temple, to the king, and to the Athenian Society, a knot of
obscure men*, who published a periodical pamphlet of answers to questions, sent, or supposed to be sent, by letters. I have been told that Dryden, having perused these verses, said, "Cousin Swift, you will "never be a poet;" and that this denunciation was the motive of Swift's perpetual malevolence to Dryden.
In 1699 Temple died, and left a legacy with his manuscripts to Swift, for whom he had obtained, from King William, a promise of the first prebend that should be vacant at Westminster or Canterbury.
That this promise might not be forgotten, Swift dedicated to the king the posthumous works with which he was intrusted; but neither the dedication, nor tenderness for the man whom he once had treated with confidence and fondness, revived in King William the remembrance of his promise. Swift awhile attended the Court; but soon found his solicitations hopeless.
He was then invited by the Earl of Berkeley to accompany him into Ireland, as his private secretary; but, after having done the business till their arrival at Dublin, he then found that one Bush had persuaded the earl that a clergyman was not a proper secretary, and had obtained the office for himself. In a man like Swift, such circumvention and inconstancy must have excited violent indignation.
But he had yet more to suffer. Lord Berkeley had the disposal of the deanery of Derry, and Swift expected to obtain it; but by the secretary's influence, supposed to have been secured by a bribe, it was bestowed on somebody else; and Swift was dismissed
The Publisher of this Collection was John Dunton. R.
with the livings of Laracor and Rathbeggin in the diocese of Meath, which together did not equal half the value of the deanery.
At Laracor he increased the parochial duty by reading prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and performed all the offices of his profession with great decency and exactness.
Soon after his settlement at Laracor, he invited to Ireland the unfortunate Stella, a young woman whose name was Johnson, the daughter of the steward of Sir William Temple, who, in consideration of her father's virtues, left her a thousand pounds*. With her came Mrs. Dingley, whose whole fortune was twenty-seven pounds a-year for her life. With these ladies he passed his hours of relaxation, and to them he opened his bosom; but they never resided in the same house, nor did he see either without a witness. They lived at the Parsonage, when Swift was away; and, when he returned, removed to a lodging, or to the house of a neighbouring clergyman.
Swift was not one of those minds which amaze the world with early pregnancy: his first work, except his few poetical Essays, was the "Dissentions in "Athens and Rome," published (1701) in his thirty-fourth year. After its appearance, paying a visit to some bishop, he heard mention made of the new pamphlet that Burnet had written, replete with
* How does it appear that Stella's father was steward to Sir William Temple? In his will he does not say one word of her father's services, and did not leave Esther Johnson a thousand pounds, but a lease. His bequest runs thus: "I leave the "lease of some lands I have in Morris-town, in the county of "Wicklow, in Ireland, to Esther Johnson, servant to my sister "Gifford." M.
political knowledge. When he seemed to doubt Burnet's right to the work, he was told by the bishop, that he was "a young man;" and, still persisting to doubt, that he was " a very positive young man."
Three years afterwards (1704) was published "The Tale of a Tub:" of this book charity may be persuaded to think that it might be written by a man of a peculiar character without ill intention; but it is certainly of dangerous example. That Swift was its author, though it be universally believed, was never owned by himself, nor very well proved by any evidence; but no other claimant can be produced, and he did not deny it when Archbishop Sharpe and the Dutchess of Somerset, by shewing it to the queen, debarred him from a bishoprick.
When this wild work first raised the attention of the publick, Sacheverell, meeting Smalridge, tried to flatter him, by seeming to think him the author; but Smalridge answered with indignation, "Not "all that you and I have in the world, nor all that "ever we shall have, should hire me to write the "Tale of a Tub."
The digressions relating to Wotton and Bentley must be confessed to discover want of knowledge or want of integrity; he did not understand the two controversies, or he willingly misrepresented them. But Wit can stand its ground against Truth only a little while. The honours due to Learning have been justly distributed by the decision of posterity.
"The Battle of the Books" is so like the "Com"bat des Livres," which the same question concerning the Ancients and Moderns had produced in France, that the improbability of such a coincidence
of thoughts without communication is not, in my opinion, balanced by the anonymous protestation prefixed, in which all knowledge of the French book is peremptorily disowned. *
For some time after Swift was probably employed in solitary study, gaining the qualifications requisite for future eminence. How often he visited England, and with what diligence he attended his parishes, I know not. It was not till about four years afterwards that he became a professed author; and then one year (1708) produced "The Sentiments of a "Church-of-England Man;" the ridicule of Astrology under the name of "Bickerstaff;" the " Argu"ment against abolishing Christianity;" and the defence of the "Sacramental Test."
"The Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man" is written with great coolness, moderation, ease, and perspicuity. The "Argument against abolishing "Christianity" is a very happy and judicious irony. One passage in it deserves to be selected.
"If Christianity were once abolished, how could "the free-thinkers, the strong reasoners, and the "men of profound learning, be able to find another
subject so calculated, in all points, whereon to "display their abilities? What wonderful produc"tions of wit should we be deprived of from those, "whose genius, by continual practice, hath been
wholly turned upon raillery and invectives against "religion, and would therefore never be able to
shine, or distinguish themselves, upon any other "subject! We are daily complaining of the great
* See Sheridan's Life, edit. 1784, p. 525, where are some remarks on this passage. R.