Page images

at law, gentlemen whofe characters are excellent in the highest degrée +.

SUCH was the fate of Vanessa. And, surely, those whom pity could not reftrain from being diligent to load her memory with reproach, to conftrue appearances in the worft fenfe, to aggravate folly into vice, and diftrefs into infamy, have not much exalted their own character, or ftrengthened their claim to the candour of others. If Vaneffa, by her fondness for the gaieties of life, encouraged by the example, and perhaps influenced by the authority of a mother, leffened her fortune at an age when" few have been discreet; it cannot be denied, that the retrieved it by prudence and economy, at an age when many have continued diffolute; and was frugal, after the habit of expence had made frugality difficult. If' fhe could not fubdue a paffion which has tyrannized over the strongest and pureft minds, fhe does not appear to have known that it was criminal, or to have defired that it might be unlawfully gratified. She preffed a perfon whom the believed fingle, to marry her but it does not therefore follow, that the was his concubine; much lefs that the defired to be reputed fo, and was then folicitoas to incur the infamy which has been fince thrown upon her. It cannot furely be believed, that the fhamelefs and reputed concubine, even of Swift, would have been vifited by ladies of credit and fashion, or folicited) in marriage by two clergymen of eminence and fortune, to whom her ftory and character must have been' well known. Befides, Dr Berkeley, after having carefully perufed all the letters that paffed between them," which Vaneffa directed to be publifhed, with the poem, found, that they contained nothing that could. bring the leaft difgrace upon the Dean. Hers, indeed, were full of paffionate declarations of her love; his contained only compliments, excufes, apologies, and thanks for trifling prefents. There was not in in either the leaft trace of a criminal commerce; which, if there had been any fuch, it would, in fo long an intercourfe, have been extremely difficult to avoid and if the defi1 VOL. I.

↑ See vol. 6. p. 12. 13.

[ocr errors]


red to be reputed his concubine*, it cannot be fuppo... fed that the concealed any letter which would have pro ved that she was fo, especially as it would have gratified her refentment against him, for refufing to make her his wife. [7. R. p. 121, 122, 123.]

IF it appears, therefore, that there was as no criminal commerce between them, and that the did not defire the world fhould believe there had been any; it follows, from her directing the publication of the poem, of which perhaps the poffeffed the only copy, that, in her fenfe of the verfes, none of them implied a fact which would dishonour her memory. And this appears alfo to have been the opinion of her executors, who, tho' they fuppreffed the letters, because they contained nothing that could do her honour, yet published the poem; by which it muft therefore be fuppofed they did not think the would be difgraced. [7. R. p. 123.]

[ocr errors]

IT has indeed been faid, that Vaneffa, from the time fhe was deferted, devoted herself, like Ariadne, to Bacchus," [7, R. p. 123.]: and perhaps it is true, that, in the anguish of difappointed defire, fhe had recourfe to that dreadful opiate, which never fails to complicate difeafe with trouble, to leave the fufferer more wretched when its operation is at an end; to divide life into frenzy and despair, and at once to haften the approach. and increase the terrors of death But it cannot be thought, that when the made her will, fhe was either intoxicated or delirious, because the perfect exercife of reafon is ef fential to the validity of the act. No particular of her diftrefs, therefore, can weaken the arguments drawn from the direction in her will to publish the poem and the letters, of which the gratification of her vanity was. fo evidently the motive, that it is difficult to conceive how it could be overlooked.

[ocr errors]

FROM 1716 to 1720 is a chafm in the Dean's life, which it has been found difficult to fill up. That he had no need to repeat his college-exercifes, has been thewn already; and that, in this interval, he went thro'. a voluminous courfe of ecclefiaftical hiftory [3. R. p. 101.], feems farther improbable, by a letter to Lord Bolingbroke, dated April 5. 1729 [vol. 4. p. 91.]; in

• Sce vol. 6, p. 11.

which it appears, that he was then reading Baronius, and Baronius was the only piece of church-history that was found in his library. Lord Ofrery thinks, with great reafon, that he employed this time upon Gulliver's Travels. [0. let. 16.] F

-THE author of the Obfervations indeed fuppofes the Dean's genius to be verging towards a decline in the year 1723, and that Gulliver's Travels were written affer that time; but in both these fuppofitions he is pro& bably mistaken; tho' in the former he feems to be favoured by a paffage in a letter written by the Dean himfelf to Mr Pope, dated Sept. 20, 1723. [vol 4. p.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

THAT his genius was not declining in 1723, appears by the Drapier's Letters, which were not written till 1724; and of these the Observator himself fays, his genius never thone out in greater ftrength than on that and the fubfequent occafions" a truth which is univerfally acknowledged. That Gulliver's Travels were written before that time, is equally evident: for Swift went into the north of Ireland early in the fpring of 1725; and, in a letter to Dr Sheridan, during his refidence there, he puts him in mind of his defcription of the Yahoos [vol. 4. p. 234.]. So that Sheridan must have feen the Travels in manufcript, at leaft in the year 1724. The Dean also, in a letter to Mr Pope, dated Sept. 29. 1725 (vol. 4. p. 45.}.fays, "Oh! if the world had but a dozen of Arbuthnots in it, I would burn my Travels." It may reasonably be concluded, therefore, that his Travels were then all written, and sthat at this time he was reviewing and retouching them for the prefs; efpecially as they were published in 1726; and as he was otherwife employed in 1724, they must have been written at leaft before 1723

UPON the whole, perhaps, it is not an extravagant conjecture, that having, according to his own account, wholly neglected his ftudies for the first three years of his refidence at the deanery, and indulged the refentment which his difappointments had produced, till it could be contained no longer, he conceived the firft notion of expreffing it in fuch a manner as might correct the enormities which he expofed; and with this view immediately


f 2

[ocr errors]

immediately began his Travels, of which the firft copy was probably finished before the year 1720.

ABOUT this time, the Dean, who had already acqui red the character of a humourift and a wit, was first regarded with general kindness, as the patriot of Ireland. He wrote a proposal for the univerfal use of Irish manufactures [vol. 3. p. 3.]; a tract which, as it was apparently calculated for the fervice of Ireland, and zealoufly condemned a facrifice of intereft to England, made -him very popular. But this fervice would not perhaps have been fo long and fo zealously remembered, if a profecution had not been commenced against the printer. As foon as this meafure was taken, the importance of the work was eftimated by the diligence of the government to fupprefs it; and the zeal and integrity of the writer were measured by the danger he had incurred. No public notice, however, was taken of the Dean on this occafion; and Waters, the printer, after having been long haraffed and imprisoned, at length obtained a Noli profequi.

[ocr errors]


In the year 1710, Swift began to reaflume, in fome degree, the character of a political writer. A small pamphlet in defence of the Irish manufactures, was, I believe, his firft effay, in Ireland, in that kind of writing; and to that pamphlet he owed the turn of the popular tide in his favour. His fayings of wit and humour had been handed about, and repeated from time to time among the people. They had the effect of an artful preface, and had pre-engaged all readers in his favour. They were adapted to the understanding, and pleafed the imagination of the vulgar: and he was now looked upon in a new light, and diftinguished by the title of THE DEAN

The flux and reflux of popular love and hatred are equally violent. They are often owing to accidents, but sometimes to the return of reafon, which, unaffifted by education, may not be able to guide the lower clafs of people into the right track at the beginning, but will be fufficient to keep them in it, when experience has pointed out the road. The pamphlet propofing the univerfal ufe of Irish mahufactures within the kingdom, had captivated all hearts, Sofne little pieces of poetry to the fame purpose were no less acceptable and engaging The attachment, which the Dean bore to the true intereft of Ireland, was no longer doubted. His patriotilm was as manifeft as his wit. He was looked upon with pleasure and respect, as he paffed thro' the ftreets: and he had attained fo high a degree of popularity, as to become an arbitrator in the difputes of property among his neighbours; nor did any man dare to appeal from his opinion, or to murmur at his decrees, 0. let. 6.


THE Dean did not again appear in his political character till the year 1724. A patent having been iniquitoufly procured by one Wood to coin 180,000 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 Drapier, wrote a series 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 > effigies, and every voice with acclamations; and Wood, tho he was long fupported by those who prostituted the higbeft delegated authority to the vileft purposes, was at length compelled to withdraw his patent, and his money was totally fuppreffed *}

[ocr errors]

UPON the arrival of Lord Carteret, foon after the pablication of the fourth letter, feveral paffages were



The popular affection which the Dean had hitherto acquired, may be faid not to have been universal, till the publication of the Drapier's letters, which made all ranks and all profeffions unani. mous in his applaufe. The occafion of those letters was a scarcity of copper coin in Ireland, to fo great a degree, that for fome time paft the chief manufacturers throughout the kingdom were obliged to pay their workmen in pieces of tin, or in other tokens ** of fuppofititions value. : Such a method was very disadvantageous to the lower parts of traffick, and was in general an impediment to the commerce of the ftate. To remedy this evil the late King granted 4 patent to William Wood, to coin, during the term of fourteen years, farthings and halfpence in England for the ufe of Ireland; to the value of a certain fum fpecified. These halfpente and farthings were to be received by those persons who would vpluntarily accept them But the patent was thought of such dangerous confequence to the public, and of fuch exorbitant advantage patentee, that the Dean, under the character of M. B. Drapier, wrote a letter to the people, warning them not to accept Wood's halfpenee and farthings as current coin. This first letter was fucceeded by feveral others to the fame purpose, all which are inferted in his works-At the found of the Drapier's trumpet, &c. [fee vol. 3. p. 23. in the notes] This is the most fuccinct account that can be given of an affair, which alarmed the whole Irish nation to a d degree, that in a lefs loyal kingdom must have fomented a rebellion but the ftedfaft loyalty of the Irith, and their true devotion to the prefent royal family, is immoveable and altho this unfortunate nation may not hitherto have found many diftinguishing marks of favour and indulgence from the throne, yet it is to be hoped in-time they may meet with their reward. 0. let.^62


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »