Page images

faid, with great appearances of regret, that it was too late; and from that day took all occafions to diftinguish Delany by the name of friend.

He had indeed no fkill in mufic, and so was not able to entertain his company with a fong, to which fome men of great dignity, and great parts, have condefcended; but his power of ridicule extended even to mufic, of which he gave an instance too fingular to be forgotten.

DR Pratt, who was then provost of Dublin college, had acquired much of the Italian tafte for mufic in his travels: and Tom Roffengrave, a celebrated performer, being just returned from Italy, played a voluntary at St Patrick's cathedral, where Dr Pratt heard him, and Swift was also present. The Doctor happened to dine at the deanery the fame day, and was fo extravagant in his encomiums on Roffengrave's voluntary, that feveral of the company faid they wished they had heard it, "Do you?" faid Swift; "then you fhall hear it still," and immediately he fung out fo lively, and yet fo ridiculous an imitation of it, that all the company were kept in continual laughter till it was over, except one old gentleman, who fat with great compofure; and tho' he liftened, yet fhewed neither curiofity nor approbation. After the entertainment, he was afked by fome of the company, How it happened that he had been no more affected by the mufic? To which he anfwered with great gravity, That he had heard Mr Roffengrave himself play it before.

SUCH was Swift as a companion. As a mafter he was not lefs remarkable or meritorious.

As he expected punctual, ready, and implicit obedience, he always tried his fervants when he hired them by fome teft of their humility. Among other questions, he always asked whether they understood cleaning fhoes; becaufe, faid he, my kitchen-wench has a fcullion that does her drudgery, and one part of the bufinefs of my groom and footman is conftantly to clean her shoes by turns. If they fcrupled this, the treaty was at an end; if not, he gave them a farther hearing.

His kitchen wench, however, was his cook, a woman of a large fize, robust constitution, and coarse fea


tures, whofe face was very much feamed with the fmallpox, and furrowed by age. This woman he always diftinguifhed by the name of Sweetheart. [vol. 6. p. 202.}


[ocr errors]

IT happened one day, that Sweetheart greatly overroafted the only joint he had for dinner; upon which he fent for her up, and with great coolness and gravity, "Sweetheart," fays he, "take this down into the kitchen, and do it lefs." She replied, That was impoffible. Pray then," faid he, "if you had roasted "it too little, could you have done it more?" Yes, the faid, he could eafily have done that. Why then, "Sweetheart," replied the Dean, let me advife you, "if you must commit a fault, commit a fault that can "be mended."

[ocr errors]

To the rest of his fervants indeed he appeared to be churlish and auftere; but in reality was one of the best mafters in the world. He allowed them board-wages at the highest rate then known; and if he employed them about any thing out of the ordinary courfe of their fervice, he always paid them to the full value of the work as he would have paid another. With thefe emoluments, and the fragments from.his table, he expected they fhould find themfelves in victuals, and all other neceflaries, except the liveries which he gave them. If, in this fituation, their expences were greater than their income, it was judged a fufficient reafon to discharge them; but on the contrary, as foon as they had faved a full year's wages, he conftantly paid them legal intereft for it, and took great.pleafure in feeing it accumulated to a fum which might fettle them in fome employment if he fhould die, or if they found it advisable to quite his fervice, which feldom happened. And he with whom his fervants live long, has indubitable witnesses that he is a good mafter.

It is alfo certain, that, notwithstanding the apparent aufterity of his temper, he did not confider his fervants as poor flaves, to whofe fervice he had a right, in confideration merely of his money, and owed them no reciprocal obligation.

He had a fervant whom he ufed to call Saunders, that lived long with him, and at length fell fick and died. In his fickness, which lafted many months,

h z


Swift took care that all poffible relief and affiftance should be afforded him; and when he died, he buried him in the fouth ifle of his cathedral, and erected a small piece of ftatuary to his memory, with this infcription:

Here lieth the body of

Alexander Magee, fervant to Dr Swift,
Dean of St Patrick's.

[ocr errors]

His grateful mafter caused this monument to be erected in memory of his difcretion, fidelity, and diligence, in that humble flation.

Ob. Mar. 24. 1721, ætat. 29.

In the original copy, which the author of the Obfer vations faw in the Dean's own hand, the expreffion was ftill ftronger, and more to the Dean's honour, thus:

His grateful friend and mafter.

But a perfon of the Dean's acquaintance, who is much more diftinguifhed for vanity than wifdom, prevailed upon him to leave out friend, even in oppofition to his own well known maxim, That a faithful fervant should always be confidered, not as a poor flave, but an humble friend. Of this perfon the name is not told; but to conceal it, is rather injuftice than mercy; for he ought, on this occafion, to inherit a difgrace at leaft propor tionate to the honour which he found means to withhold from Swift.

As a member of civil fociety, he was a zealous adva. cate for liberty, the detecter of fraud, and the fcourge of oppreffion. In his private capacity he was not only charitable, but generous; and whatever misanthropy may be found in his writings, there does not appear to have been any in his life.

His writings in defence of the poor infatuated people of Ireland are well known; and that he might not be wanting himself while he pleaded their caufe with others, he conftantly lent out a large fum of money in small portions to honeft, diligent, and neceffitous tradefinen, who paid it with a small gratuity by way of intereft to the


[ocr errors]

perfon who kept the account of the difbursements and weekly payments; for he received back these loans by a certain fum out of the weekly profit of the borrower's trade, in fuch proportions as that the whole fhould be repaid in a year.. [7. R. p. 203, 4.].

BESIDES this, he frequently gave away 5 and 10 f. when proper objects offered, without any parade. He was indeed diligent to relieve the poor, and at the fame time to encourage industry, even in the lowest station; and ufed regularly to vifit a great number of poor, chiefly women, as well in the public ftreets, as in the by-alleys; and under the arches of Dublin. Some of thefe fold plums, fome hobnails, others tape, and others gingerbread; fome knitted, fome darned stockings, and others cobbled fhoes; thefe women were most of them old, deformed, or crippled, and fome were all three. He faluted them with great kindness, afked how they throve, and what flock they had? If the ware of any of them was fuch as he could poffibly ufe, or pretend to ufe, he bought fome, and paid for every halfpenny worth fix pence; if not, he always added fomething to their tock, and ftrictly charged them to be induftrious and honest. [7. R. p. 132, 133.]

Ir. must be confeffed, that thefe acts of bounty did not appear to be the effects of compaffion: for of the foft fympathy with diftrefs that fometimes fparkles in the eye, and fometimes glows upon the cheek, he fhewed no fign; and he may therefore be fuppofed to have wanted it. However, it is certain, that he was wholly free from ill-nature; for a man can have no complacence in that evil which he is continually busy to remove.

His bounty had not indeed the indifcriminating ardour of blind inftinct; and, if it had, it would not have been the inftrument of equal happiness. To feed idlenefs, is to propagate mifery, and difcourage virtue: but to infure the reward of industry, is to beftow a benefit at once upon the individual and the public; it is to pre. ferve from defpair those who ftruggle with difficulty and difappointment; it is to fupply food and reft to that labour which alone can make food tafteful and reft fweet, and to invigorate the community by the full ufe of thofe members which would otherwife become not only ufe

h 3


lefs, but hurtful; as a limb in which the vital fluid ceafes to circulate, will not only wither but corrupt. In this view, then, the bounty of Swift was, like every other Christian duty, a reasonable fervice. And that he felt no fecret pleasure in the calamities of others, may be fairly concluded, not only from his general practice, but from many particular facts, in which he appears to have been watchful and zealous to alleviate diftrefs by unfolicited and unexpected liberality!


Ir happened, that a young gentleman of his choir, being abroad with his gun, fuffered irreparable hurt by its going off accidentally. When the Dean heard of it, he expreffed great concern; and, having paufed a little, "Well," faid he, "this will be a good time at once to "reward merit and alleviate diftrefs; I will make him a "vicar:" which he did accordingly the fame hour.

THERE are fome infirmities to which the mind as well as the body naturally becomes fubject in the decline of life. The defire of accumulating wealth almoft always increases in proportion as it becomes more abfurd; and those are most tenacious of money to whom money can be of leaft ufe. It has been generally faid, that this weakness is the effect of long acquaintance with mankind, who are found to deferve lefs confidence and lefs kindness as they are more known. And indeed, tho' this opinion fhould not hastily be admitted, it must yet be confeffed, that the first article in which men leffen their expences, is generally the money they have been ufed to give away, and that they gradually lose the inclination to do good as they acquire the power. But Swift, if he was not exempt from the infirmity, was yet clear of the vice. If his œconomy degenerated into avarice, it must be confeffed that his avarice did not contract his bounty; and he suffers no degradation in his moral character, who, when the practice of any virtue is become more difficult, is yet able to exert it in the fame degree.


SWIFT turned all the evil of exceffive frugality upon himfelf. It induced him to walk when he had been ufed to ride; and he would then fay he had earned a fhilling or eighteen pence, which he had a right to do what he pleafed with, and which he conftantly applied


« PreviousContinue »