« PreviousContinue »
The original Manuscript in his own Hand is lodged
in the University Library of Dublin.
HE family of the Swifts was ancient in York
fhire; from them descended a noted person, who passed under the name of Cavaliero Swift, a man of wit and humour. He was made an Irish Peer by King James or King Charles the First, with the title of Baron Carlingford, but never was in that kingdom. Many traditional pleasant stories are related of him, which the family planted in Ireland hath received from their parents. This Lord died without issue, male ; and his heiress, whether of the first or second descent, was married to Robert Fielding, Efq; commonly called handsome Fielding; she brought him a considerable estate in Yorkshire, which he squandered away, but had no children; the Earl of Eglington married another coheiress of the same family, as he hath often told me.
Another of the same family was Sir Edward Swift, well known in the times of the great rebellion and usurpation, but I am ignorant whether he left heirs or not.
of the other branch, whereof the greatest part settled in Ireland, the founder was William Swift, Prebendary of Canterbury, towards the last years of Queen Elisabeth, and during the reign of King James the First. He was a Divine of some distinction: there is a fermon of his extant, and the title is to be seen in the catalogue of the Bodleian Library, but I never could get a copy, and I suppose it would now be of little value.
This William married the heiress of Philpot, I suppose a Yorkshire Gentleman, by whom he got a very considerable estate, which however she kept in her own power; I know not by what artifice. She was a ca. pricious, ill-natured and passionate woman, of which I have been told several instances. And it hath been a continual tradition in the family, that she absolutely disinherited her only son Thomas, for no greater crime than that of robbing an orchard when he was a boy. And thus much is certain, that except a church or chapter lease, which was not renewed, Thomas never enjoyed more than one hundred pounds a year, which was all at Goodrich, in Herefordshire, whereof not above one half is now in the poffeffion of a greatgreat grandson.
His original picture is now in the hands of Godwin Swift, of Dublin, Esq; his great grandson, as well as that of his wife's, who seems to have a good deal of the shrew in her countenance; whose arms of an heiress are joined with his own ; and by the last he seems to have been a person somewhat fantastick; for in these he gives as his device a dolphin (in those days
H h 3
called a Swift) twisted about an anchor, with this motto, Festina Lente.
There is likewise a seal with the same coat of arms (his not joined with his wife's) which the faid William commonly made use of, and this is also now in the possession of Godwin Swift above mentioned. .
His eldest son Thomas feems to have been a Clergyman before his father's death. He was Vicar of Good. rich, in Herefordshire, within a mile or two of Ross: he had likewise another church living, with about one hundred pounds a year in land, as I have already mentioned. He built a house on his own land in the vil, lage of Goodrich ; which, by the architecture, denotes the builder to have been fornewhat whimsical and fingular, and very much towards a projector. The house is above a hundred years old, and still in good repair, inhabited by a tenant of the female line, but the landlord, a young Gentleman, lives upon his own estate in Ireland.
This Thomas was distinguished by his courage, as well as his loyalty to King Charles the First, and the sufferings he underwent for that Prince, more than any person of his condition in England. Some historians of those times relate several particulars of what he acted, and what hardships he underwent for the person and cause of that blessed martyr'd Prince. He was plunviered by the Roundheads fix and thirty times, some say above fifty. He engaged his finall estate, and gathered all the money he could get, quilted it in his waistcoat, got off to a town held for the King, where being asked by the Governor, who knew him well, what he could do for his Majesty ? Mr. Swift said, he would give the King his coat, and, stripping it off, presented it to the Governor'; who observing it to be worth little, Mr. Swift said, then take my waistcoat;
he bid the Governor weigh it in his hand, who ordering it to be ripped, found it lined with three hundred broad pieces of gold, which as it proved a feasonable relief, must be allowed an extraordinary supply from a private Clergyman with ten children, of a small estate, 17 so often plundered, and foon after turned out of his livings in the church.
At another time being informed that three hundred horse of the rebel party intended in a week to pass over a certain river, upon an attempt against the Cavaliers, Mr. Swift having a head mechanically turned, he contrịved certain pieces of iron with three spikes, whereof one must always be with the point upwards: he placed them over night in the ford, where he received notice that the rebels would pass early the next morning, which they accordingly did, and lost two hundred of their men, who were drowned or trod to death by the falling of their horses, or torn by the spikes.
His fons, whereof four were fettled in Ireland (driven thither by their sufferings, and by the death of their father) related many other passages, which they learned either from their father himself, or from what had been told them by the most credible persons of HerefordThire, and some neighbouring counties; and which some of those sons often told to their children; many of which are still remembered, but many more forgot.
He was deprived of both his church livings sooner than most other loyal Clergymen, upon account of his superior zeal for the King's cause, and his estate sequeltered. His preferments, at least that of Goodrich, were given to a fanatical faint, who fcrupled not, however, to conform upon the Restoration, and lived many years, I think till affer the Revolution: I have foen many persons at Goodrich, who knew and told me his name, which I cannot now remember,
H h 4
The Lord Treasurer Oxford told the Dean that he had among his father's (Sir Edward Harley's) papers, several letters from Mr. Thomas Swift writ in those times, which he promised to give to the grandson, whose life I am now writing; but never going to his house in Herefordshire while he was Treasurer, and the Queen's death happening in three days after his removal, the Dean went to Ireland, and the Earl being tried for his life, and dying while the Dean was in Ireland, he could never get them,
Mr. Thomas Swift died in the year 1658, and in the 63d year of his age : his body lies under the altar at Goodrich, with a short inscription. He died about two years before the return of King Charles the Second, who by the recommendation of some prelates had pramised, if ever God should restore him, that he would promote Mr. Swift in the church, and other ways reward his family, for his extraordinary services and zeal, and persecutions in the royal cause ; but Mr. Swift's merit died with himself.
He left ten fons and three or four daughters, moft of which lived to be men and women: his eldest son Godwin Swift, of the Inner-Temple, Esq; (lo stiled by Guiļlem the herald; in whose book the family is described at large) was I think called to the bar before the Restoration. He married a relation of the old Marchioness of Ormond, and upon that account, as well as his father's loyalty, the old Duke of Ormond made him his attorney-general in the palatinate of Tipperary. He had four wives, one of which, to the great offence of his family, was coheiress to Admiral Deane, who was one of the Regicides. Godwin left several children, who have all estates. He was an illpleader, but perhaps a little too dexterous in the subtle parts of the law,