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Swift to have, been guided in this affair by mere caprice and humour, he cannot but be feen in a moft ungracious light, and confidered as a man utterly devoid of humanity: for it is generally agreed, that Stella's immature death was occafioned by the peculiarity of his conduct towards her. It appears by feveral little incidents, that the regretted and difapproved this conduct, and that fhe fometimes reproached him with unkindnefs; for to fuch regret and reproach he certainly alludes, in the following verfe on her birth-day, in 1726.
"O, then, whatever heav'n intends, "Take pity on your pitying friends : "Nor let your ills affect your mind, "To fancy they can be unkind; "Me, furely, me you ought to fpare, "Who gladly would your fufferings fhare." It is faid the Dean did at length earnestly defire, that he might be publicly owned as his wife; but as her health was then declining, fhe faid it was too late, and infifted, that they should continue to live as they had lived before. To this the Dean in his turn confented, and fuffered her to difpofe entirely of her own fortune, by her own name, to a public charity, when fhe died.
From the death of Stella his life became much retired, and the aufterity of his temper increased: he could not enjoy his public
days; these entertainments were therefore difcontinued, and he fometimes avoided the company of his moft intimate friends: but in time he grew more defirous of company. In 1732, he complains, in a letter to Mr. Gay, that "he had a large house, and should
hardly find one vifitor, if he was not able to hire him with a bottle of wine:" and, in another to Mr. Pope, that "he was in dan66 ger of dying poor and friendlefs, even his "female friends having forfaken him; "which," as he says, "vexed him moft." These complaints were afterwards repeated in a ftrain of yet greater fenfibility and self-pity: "All my friends have forfaken me:"
"Vertiginofus, inops, furdus, male gratus
"Deaf, giddy, helpless, left alone,
As he lived much in folitude, he frequently amused himself with writing; and it is very remarkable, that although his mind was greatly depreffed, and his principal enjoyment at an end when Mrs. Johnfon died, yet there is an air of levity and trifling in fome of the pieces he wrote afterwards, that is not to be found in any other: fuch in particular are his Directions to fervants, and feveral of his letters to his friend Dr. Sheridan. In 1733, when the attempt was made to repeal VOL. I.
the test act in Ireland, the diffenters often affected to call themfelves Brother-proteftants, and Fellow-christians, with the members of the established church. Upon this occafion the Dean wrote a fhort copy of verfes*, which fo provoked one Bettefworth, a lawyer and member of the Irish parliament, that he fwore, in the hearing of many perfons, to revenge himself either by murdering or maiming the author; and, for this purpose, he engaged his footman, with two ruffians, to fecure the Dean wherever he could be found. This being known, thirty of the nobility and gentry, within the liberty of St. Patrick's, waited upon the Dean in form, and prefented a paper fubfcribed with their names, in which they folemnly engaged, in behalf of themfelves and the reft of the liberty, to defend his perfon and fortune, as the friend and benefactor of his country. When this paper was delivered, Swift was in bed, deaf and giddy, yet made a shift to dictate a proper anfwer +. Thefe fits of deafness and
* Thus at the bar that blockhead Betterworth,
The Dean's anfwer was as follows.
I receive, with great thankfulness, thefe many kind expreffions of your concern for my fafety, as
and giddinefs, which were the effects of his furfeit, before he was twenty years old, became more frequent and violent in proportion as he grew into years: and in 1736, while he was writing a fatire on the Irish parliament, which he called The Legion Club, he was feized with one of thefe fits, the effect of which was fo dreadful, that he left the poem unfinished, and never afterwards attempted a composition either in profe or verle that required a courfe of thinking, or perhaps more than one fitting to finish.
well as your declared resolution to defend me (as * far as the laws of God and man will allow) againit all murderers and ruffians, who fhall attempt to enter into the liberty with any bloody and wicked defigns upon my life, my limbs, my houfe, or my goods. Gentlemen, my life is in the hands of God, ⚫ and, whether it may be cut off by treachery, or open violence, or by the common way of other men, as long as it continues, I fhall ever bear a grateful memory for this favour you have fhewn, beyond my expectation, and almost exceeding my withes. The • inhabitants of the liberty, as well as thofe of the neighbourhood, have lived with me in great amity for near twenty years; which I am confident will ne ver diminish during my life. I am chiefly forry, that, by two cruel diforders of deafness and giddi• nefs, which have purfued me for four months, I am not in a condition either to hear or to receive you, ⚫ much less to return you my moft fincere acknowledgements, which in juftice and gratitude I ought to do. May God bless you and your families in this world, • and make you for ever happy in the next.'.
..From this time his memory was perceived gradually to decline, and his paffions to pervert his understanding; and in 1741, he was fo very bad, as to be utterly incapable of converfation. Strangers were not permitted to approach him, and his friends found it neceffary to have guardians appointed of his perfon and estate. Early in 1741, his reafon was fubverted, and his rage became abfolute madness. In October his left eye; fwelled to the fize of an egg, and several large boils broke out on his arms and body; the extreme pain of which kept him awake near a month, and, during one week, it was with difficulty that five perfons reftrained him by mere force from pulling out his own eyes. Upon the fubfiding of thefe tumours, he knew thofe about him; and appeared fo far to have recovered his understanding and temper, that there were hopes he might once more enjoy fociety. Thefe hopes, however, were but of fhort duration: for, a few days afterwards, he funk into a state of total infenfibility, flept much, and could not, without great difficulty, be prevailed on to walk cross the room. This was the effect of another bodily disease, his brain being loaded with water. Mr. Stevens, an ingenious clergyman of Dublin, pronounced this to be the cafe during his illness; and upon opening his body, it appeared that he was not miftaken. After the Dean had continued filent