Page images

had lived before. Mrs. Dingley was ftill the infeparable companion of Stella, wherever fhe went; and she never refided at the Deanry, except when the Dean had his fits of giddinefs and deafnefs. Till this time he had. continued his vifits to Vaneffa, who preferved her reputation and friends, and was vifited by many perfons of rank, character, and fortune, of both fexes: but now his vifits were less frequent. In 1717, her fifter died; and the whole remains of the family-fortune centering in Vaneffa, fhe retired to Selbridge, a small house and estate about twelve miles from Dublin, which had been purchased by her father. From this place fhe wrote frequently to the Dean, and he answered her letters: She preffed him to marry her, but he rallied, and ftill avoided a pofitive denial. She preffed him ftill more, either to accept or refuse her as a wife; upon which he wrote an answer, and delivered it with his own hand. The receipt of this, which probably communicated the fatal fecret of his marriage with Stella, the unhappy lady did not furvive many weeks; however, the was fufficiently compofed to cancel a will the had made in the Dean's favour, and to make an other, in which fhe left her fortune to her two executors, Dr. Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, and Mr. Marshall, one of the King's ferjeants at law.

[ocr errors]

From 1716 to 1720, is a chaẩm in the


Dean's life, which it has been difficult to fill up: Lord Orrery thinks, with great reason, that he employed this time upon Gulliver's Travels. This work is a moral political romance, in which Swift has exerted the ftrongest efforts of a fine irregular genius: but while his imagination and wit delight, it is hardly poffible not to be fometimes offended with his fatire, which fets not only all human actions, but human nature itself, in the worst light. The truth is, Swift's difappointments had rendered him fplenetic and angry with the whole world, and he frequently indulged himself in a mifanthropy that is intolerable; he has done fo particularly in fome parts of this work. About this time the Dean, who had already acquired the character of a humorist and wit, was firft. regarded with general kindness, as the patriot of Ireland. He writ a propofal for the Irish manufactures, which made him very popular; the more fo, as it immediately raised a violent flame, fo that a profecution was commenced against the printer. In 1724, he writ the Drapier's Letters; those brazen momonuments of his fame, as Lord Orrery calls them. A patent having been iniquitoufly procured by one Wood, to coin 180,000 1. in copper, for the ufe of Ireland, by which he would have acquired exorbitant gain, and proportionably impoverished the nation; the Dean, in the character of a draper, wrote a feries


of letters to the people, urging them not to receive this copper-money. Thefe letters united the whole nation in his praife, filled every street with his effigy, and every voice with acclamations; and Wood, though fupported for fome time, was at length compelled to withdraw his patent, and his money was totally fuppreffed. From this time the Dean's influence in Ireland was almoft without bounds: He was confulted in whatever related to domestic policy, and particularly to trade. The weavers always confidered him as their patron and legiflator, after his propofal for the ufe of Irish manufactures; and when elections were depending for the city of Dublin, many corporations refufed to declare themselves, till they knew his fentiments and inclinations. Over the populace he was the moft abfolute monarch that ever governed men; and he was regarded by persons of every rank with veneration and esteem.

He was several times in England on a visit to Mr. Pope, after his fettlement at the deanry, particularly in 1726 and 1727. On the 28th of January 1727, died his beloved Stella, in the 44th year of her age, regretted by the Dean, with fuch excefs of affection, as the keenest fenfibility only could feel, and the most excellent character excite; fhe had. been declining from the year 1724. Stella was a moft amiable woman, both in perfon


and mind. Her ftature was tall, her hair and eyes black, her complexion fair and delicate, her features regular, foft, and animated, her fhape eafy and elegant, and her manner feminine, polite, and graceful: There was natural music in her voice, and complacency in her afpect: fhe abounded with wit, which was always accompanied with good nature; her virtue was founded upon humanity, and her religion upon reafon; her morals were uniform, but not rigid, and her devotion was habitual, but not oftentatious. "Why the Dean did not fooner marry this "moft excellent perfon; why he married. "her at all; why his marriage was fo cau


tiously concealed; and why he was never "known to meet her but in the prefence of "a third perfon, are inquiries which no man "can answer," fays the writer of his life, "without abfurdity." Nor fo far at least, if not fomething farther, we think, may be anfwered, and without abfurdity too. "He "did not marry her fooner," we say, because his original intention was not to marry her at all he never fuffered his behaviour towards females to exceed the limits of Platonic love; and the innocence of his commerce with Vaneffa feems now to be acknowledged by every body, as well as by this writer. "He did marry her at length," probably to cure and put an end to thofe conftant uneafineffes and jealoufies, which his frequent visits to Vanef



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

fa muft naturally raife in her. "His marriage was cautioufly concealed," because he never intended to acknowledge her as his wife; and he was. cautious never to meet "her but in the prefence of a third perfon," because, by reafon of his known intimacy and connection with Stella above all other women, her character was greatly expofed to unfavourable fufpicions, and therefore to be guarded with all poffible care and tenderness against them. Thus, this author's inquiries may manifeftly be answered. without abfurdity: but the main, and, indeed, fole difficulty is, why Swift should not defire a nearer commerce with such a woman as Stella, and confequently acknowledge and receive her publicly as his wife. Yet the anfwer has been made a thousand times, though no body feems to acquiefce in it; namely, that he was not made like other men.' Add to this, that Swift was a man of great pride, and could not have borne to be defpifed, however fecretly; that he loved female converfe, and to be courted and admired by wits of that fex, of which Stella was at the head; that he despaired of supporting that dignity and credit, even with the delicate Stella, in a ftate of nearer commerce, which he was always fure of preferving at fome diftance: Add all these confiderations together, and the folution of this mighty mystery may probably not appear impoflible. Suppofing

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »