Page images

confidered as the highest degree of reproach and difhonour. Stung with the difgrace, he ftudied eight hours a day, for seven years following. He commenced these studies at the univerfity of Dublin, where he continued them three years: and, during this time, he drew up the first fketch of his Tale of a Tub; for Waffenden Warren, Efq; a gentleman of fortune near Belfaft in Ireland, who was chamber-fellow with Swift, déclared that he then faw a copy of it in Swift's own hand-writing.

In 1688, his uncle Godwin was feized with a lethargy, and foon deprived both of his fpeech and memory: by which accident Swift being left without fupport, took a journey to Leicester, that he might confult with his mother what courfe of life to puffue. At this time Sir William Temple was in high reputation, and honoured with the confidence and familiarity of King William. His father, Sir John Temple, had been mafter of the rolls in Ireland, and contracted an intimate friendfhip with Godwin Swift, which continued till his death; and Sir William, who inherited his title and eftate, had married a lady to whom Mrs. Swift was related; fhe therefore advised her fon to communicate his fituation to Sir William, and follicit his direction what to do. Sir William received him with great kindness, and Swift's firft vifit continued two years. Sir William had been ambassador and mediator of a general peace at Nimeguen be


fore the Revolution, in which character he became known to the Prince of Orange, who frequently vifited him at Sheen, after his arrival in England, and took his advice in affairs of the utmost importance. Sir William being then lame with the gout, Swift used to attend his Majefty in the walks about the garden, who admitted him to fuch familiarity, that he fhewed him how to cut afparagus after the Dutch manner, and once offered to make him a captain of horse; but Swift had fixed his mind upon an ecclesiastical life.

About this time a bill was brought into the house for triennial parliaments, to which the King was very averfe, but fent however to confult Sir William Temple, who foon afterwards fent Swift to Kenfington with the whole account in writing, to convince the King how ill he was advised.. This was Swift's firft embaffy to court, who, though he underftood English hiftory, and the matter in hand. very well, yet did not prevail. Soon after this tranfaction he was feized with the return of a diforder, which, he had. contracted in Ireland, by eating a great quantity of fruit, and which afterwards gradually increased, though. with irregular intermiffions, till it terminated in a total debility of body and mind.

[ocr errors]

About a year after his return from Ireland, he thought it expedient to take his mafter of arts degree at Oxford; and accordingly was admitted

b 3

[ocr errors]

admitted ad eundem on the 14th of June 1692, 'with many civilities. Thefe, fome fay, pro"ceeded from a mifunderstanding of the words "Speciali gratia, in his teftimonium from Dublin, which were there fuppofed to be a compliment paid to uncommon merit; but are more probably afcribed by others, to his known connection with Sir William Temple. It is eafy to conceive, however, that Swift, after his reputation was established, might, while he was fporting with this incident in the gaiety of his heart, pretend a mistake which never happened. From Oxford he "returned to Sir William Temple, and affifted him in revifing his works: He alfo corrected and improved his own Tale of a Tub, and added the Digreflions. From the converfation of Sir William, Swift greatly increased his political knowledge; but fufpecting Sir William of neglecting to provide for him, merely that he might keep him in his family, he at length refented it so warmly, that, in 1694, a quarrel enfued, and they parted.

Swift, during his refidence with Sir William, had never failed to vifit his mother sat Leicester once a year, and his manner of travelling was very extraordinary. He always went on foot, except the weather was very bad, and then he would fometimes take fhelter in a waggon. He chofe to dine at obfcure alehoufes among pedlars and oftlers, and to lie where he faw written over the door, Lodgings

Lodgings for a penny; but he used to bribe the maid with a tefter for a fingle bed, and elean Theets.

His refolution was now to take orders and foon after obtained a recommendation sto Lord Capel, then lord-deputy of Ireland, who gave him the prebend of Kilroot, in the diocefe of Connor, worth about rooh fer annum. But Sir William, who had been used -to the converfation of Swift,foon found that -he could not be content to live without him ; vand therefore urged him to refign his pre-. bend in favour of a friend,' promifing to obtain preferment for him in England, if he would return. Swift confented, and Sir William was fo well pleafed with this act of kindness, that, during the remainder of his life, which was about four years, his behaviour was fuch as produced the utmoft harmony between them. Swift, as a teftimony of his friendship and efteem, wrote the Battle of the Books, of which Sir William is the hero and Sir William, when he died, left him a pecuniary legacy, and his pofthu"mous works *.

[ocr errors]

Upon the death of Sir William Temple, Swift applied by-petition to King William, for the first vacant prebend of Canterbury or Weftminster, for which the royal promife

[ocr errors]

* Two volumes of Sir William's Letters, which he dedicated to his Majesty.


had been obtained by his late patron, whofe posthumous works he dedicated to his Majefty, to facilitate the success of that applica tion. But it does not appear, that, after the death of Sir William, the King took the leaft notice of Swift. After this he accepted an invitation from the Earl of Berkeley, appointed one of the lords juftices of Ireland, to attend him as chaplain and private fecretary; but he was foon removed from this post, upon a pretence that it was not fit for a clergyman. This disappointment was presently followed by another; for when the deanry of Derry became vacant, and it was the Earl of Berkeley's turn to dispose of it, Swift, inftead of receiving it as an atonement for his late ufage, was put off with the livings of Laracor and Rathbegging, in the diocese of Meath, which together did not amount to half its value. He went to refide at Laracor, and performed the duties of a parish prieft. with the utmost punctuality and devotion.. He was indeed always very devout, not only in his public and folemn addreffes to God,, but in his domeftic and private exercises and yet, with all this piety in his heart, he could not forbear indulging the peculiarity of his humour, when an opportunity offered, what-ever might be the impropriety of the time and place. Upon his coming to Laracor, he gave public notice, that he would read prayers on Wednesday and Friday, which had


« PreviousContinue »