Page images

no more

who was fifteen years older, and whose whole fortune, though she was related to Sir William, was than an annuity of 27 1. [D. S. p. 85. 86. 90.) Whether Swift at this time defired the company of Stella as. a wife or a friend, is not certain ; but the reason which she and her companion then gave for their leaving Eng. land, was, that in Ireland the interest of money was high, and provifions were cheap. It appears, however, that other reasons were fufpected in the neighbourhood of Moorpark : for Mr Thomas Swift, the rector of Puttenham, in a letter, dated Feb. 5. 1706, inquires " whether Jonathan was married, or whether he had “ been able to refift the charms of both those gentle. " women who marched from Moorpark to Dublin, with " à resolution to engage him +". [D. S. P: 86. 87.] It appears too, that Swift, if he did not address her himself, yet contrived to break off a treaty of marriage with another, by persuading her to infilt upon terms with which the gentleman could not comply 1. But C2

what† The beauty and gracefulness of Mis Johnson's person back been remarked by Swift about two years before Sir William Temple's death, but never, we may be fure, had he made her the least advances. I am inclined however to think, that'having ob served her to be a delightful girl, and of a genius quick and lively, he had given her some instructions for the improvement of her mind in those happy years of ductility, when the foul is apt to receive all the finest impressions; which, like feed thrown upon a rich and fertile foil, might have prejudiced her inclinations to have í a tenderness for him. D. S. p. 85. 86.

# Dr Swift made no addresses to this charming fair upon her firft arrival in Ireland, when she was in the prime of her life, and splen, dor of her beauty. However, the gracefulness of her person, and the politeness of her conversation, were not to be resisted by a gentleman of wit and learning, who was an intimate friend of the Doctor, and with whom The had frequently converfed. This genteman declared his passion, and made her proposals of marriage. -Mrs Johnson discovered no repugnancy to the match; but iill she would be advised by Dr Swift. The Doctor, perhaps loth to be feparated from fo delightful a companion, threw an obstacle in the way that was not to be surmounted. The gentleman had a benefice in the church of a considerable value about 100 miles from Dublin, which required his attendance. Dr Swift, in order to bring matters to a final issue, made bim an overture, that he should settle upon his wife 100 h. a-year for pin-money. The lover in.


whatever was Swift's attachment to Mrs Johnson, every possible precaution was taken to prevent scandal. They never lived in the same house. When Swift was absent from Laracor, Mrs Johnson and her friend resided at the parsonage ; when he returned, they removed either to the house of Dr Raymond, vicar of Trim, a gentleman of great hospitality, and Swift's intimate friend, or to a lodging provided for them in the neighbourhood : neither were they ever known to meet but in the prefence of a third person. [D. S. p. 90.] Swift made frequent excurfions to Dublin, and some to London: but Mrs Johnson was buried in folitude and obscurity ; she was known only to a few of Swift's most intimate acquaintance, and had no female companion except her friend Mrs Dingley, who was by all accounts a very infipid companion *

In 1701, Swift took his Doctor's degree ; and in 1702, soon after the death of King William, he went to England, for the first time after his settlement at Laracor; a journey which he frequently repeated during the reign of Queen Anne. Mrs Johnson was once also in Eng


deed, though extremely captivated with the charms of his mistress, was by no means delighted with this proposal; 'he desired, however, that he might have a night's time to consider of it. And the next morning, contrary to expectation, he agreed to the terms. Swift, never at a loss for some uncommon flight of imagination, in sted further, that he Mould live in Dublin, and keep a coach for his wife. The gentleman had more honour than to promise what he could not perform; and so the match was broken off. D. S. p. 87. 89.–See Lord Orrery's account of this lady, and of Dr Swift's correspondence with her, in vol. 4. p. 291. in the notes.

This course of life, so very singular in a fine woman, abstracted Mrs Johnson in a great measure from the converse of her own fex. She lived, I cannot absolutely say by her own choice, wholly in the circle of books and men: a life fo unnatural to the sweetness and delicacy of a tender female constitution, that I cannot suppose it, with all its glittering advantages in the way of science, to have been near so eligible to the lovely Mrs Johnson, as that open free converse with the world, which is totally unacquainted with every colour and species of involuntary confinement. However, that greatness of mind, which inspires, like the demon of Socrates, courage and resolution into the souls of the innocent, comforted and fupported the religious and virtuous Mrs Johnson, under all the bitterness and pressures of her restraint. D. S. p. 90.91.

land in 1705 ; but returned in a few months, and never afterwards crossed the channel. [D. S. p. 90.]

He soon became eminent as a writer, and in that cha: raeter at least was known to the great men in both the factions, which were distinguished hy the names of Whig and Tory *. He had been educated among the Whigs; but he at length attached himself to the Tories, because, as he said, the Whigs had renounced their old principles, and received others, which their forefathers held in utter abhorrence t. [0 let. 4.] He did not с 3


• Two creatures, says a modern author, who are born with a secret antipathy to each other, and engage as naturally when they meet, as the elephant and rhinoceros. In a mixture of these two jarring animals consisted the first ministry of Q: Anne ; but the greater share of the administration was committed to the Whigs, who, with indefatigable industry, soon ingrossed the whole; inclosing their sovereign within their own fortifications, and keeping her captive within their own walls. The Queen, whose heart was naturally inclined towards the Tories, remained an unwilling prifoner several years to the Whigs; till Mr Harley, with a Tory army, undermined all the Whiggish fortresses, levelled their works to the ground, feized the princess, -and, during the remainder of her life, surrounded and defended her with a new set of troops under the command of the Duke of Ormond. 0. let. 4.

+ The effeêts of power and ambition are extraordinary and boundless. They, blind our faculties, they stagger our resolution, and they subvert our nature. Not all the metamorphoses of Ovid can produce a parallel equal to the change that appears in the same man, when from a patriot he becomes a courtier. Yet, it may be asserted, and will redound to the honour of Dr Swift, that when he rose into the confidence and efteem of those great men who fat at the helm of affairs during the last years of Q. Anne's reign, he scarce ever lost himself, or grew giddy by the plenitude of power, and the exalted station of frequently appearing in the confidence and favour of the reigning minister. He may have been carried away by inconsiderate passion, but he was not to be swayed by deliberate evil.He may have erred in judgment, but he was upright in intention. The welfare and prosperity of these kingdoms were the constant aim of his politics, and the immediate... Tubject of his thoughts and writings. 0. let. 4.


[ocr errors]

however write any political pamphlet from the year 1701 * to the year 1708 t, [D. S. p. 148.]

But though, by his frequent excursions to England, and a long absence from his cures, he appears to have


* In 1701 Dr Swift having wrote the piece intitled, A discourse of the contests and diffenfions in Athens and Rome (in vol. s.p.8.] returned from England to Ireland; where having met with old Bp Sheridan, at his uncle William Swift's in Dublin, the Bishop, after some conversation with him about affairs in England, asked him if he had read that pamphlet, and what reputation it carried at London? The Doctor told him modestly, that he had read it, and that, as far as he had observed, it was very well liked at London. Very well liked! said the Bishop, with some emotion; yes, Sir, it is one of the finest tracts that ever was written. Well, surely Bishop Burnet is one of the best writers in the whole world! Bishop Burnet, my Lord! said the Doctor: Why, my Lord, Bifhop Burnet was not the author of that discourse. Not the author of it? said the Bishop, Why, Sir, there is never a man in England except the Bishop capable of writing it. I can assure your Lordship, replied the Doctor, Bishop Burnet was not the author of it. Not the author of it? said the Bishop: Pray, Sir, give me your reason for thinking so. Because, my Lord, said Swift, that discourse is not written in the Bishop's style. Not in the Bishop's style? replied old Sheridan, with some degree of contempt. No, my Lord, the style of that pamphlet is, I think, wholly different from the style of the Bishop. Oh, Mr Swift, replied Sheridan, I have had a long acquaintance with your uncles, and an old friendship for all your family, and really I have a great regard for you in particular. But let me advise you, for you are still a very young man; I know you have a good share of abilities, and are a good fcholar; however, let me assure you notwithstanding, that you are still a great deal too young to pronounce your judgment on the Style of authors. I am greatly obliged to your Lordship, replied Swift, for the good opinion you are pleased to entertain of me; but ftill I am to assure your Lordship, that Bishop Burnet was not the author of that discourse. Well, Sir, said the Bishop, let me know who it was that did write it. Why, really, my Lord, replied Swift, I writ it myself. And this was the first time that ever he acknowledged bimself to be the author of that famous tract. D. S. p. 122, 3•

| During this interval, Dr Swift had worked hard within those fubterraneous passages, where, as has been hinted in a former note, the mine was formed that blew up the Whiggith rainparts, and opened a way for the Tories to the Queen. Swift was to the Ta ries what Cæfar was to the Romans, at once a leader of their armies, and an historiographer of their triumphs. He resided very much in England: his inclinations were always there,

0. let. 4.

delayed the execution of his purpose to excel as a preacher ; yet he used to declare, that he did not renounce it till his acquaintance with Harley ; nor did he ever mention his subsequent attachment to politics, without indubitable signs of penitence and regret. 13. R. p. 43. 42. 266.]

It is probable, that he hoped to exert himself more effectually in the church, by acquiring some other preferment, and that, with this view, he was follicitous to be near the court: for before his acquaintance with Lord Oxford, a bishoprick was intended for him by the Queen. But Abp Sharpe, and a certain great Lady, having misrepresented his principles and character, her Majesty gave it to another * Of this injury, however, the Archbishop was afterwards truly sensible, expressed great forrow for it, and desired his forgiveness. [7 R. P. 271.]

After this disappointment it was not long before a new scene opened before him ; for in 1710, being then in England, he was impowered by his Grace the Lord Primate of Ireland, to solicit the Queen to exonerate the clergy of Ireland from paying the twentieth parts and first fruits. And upon this occafion his acquaintance with Harley commenced *.

As soon as he had received the Bishop's letter, instructions, and authority, he resolved to apply to Mr Harley, not only because he was a principal perfon in the Queen's ministry, but because, by his interest, the fame favour had been granted to the clergy of England. That he might not wait upon Mr Harley, to whom his name was well known, wholly without recommendation, he got himself represented as a person who had been extremely ill used by the last ministry, because he would not go certain lengths which they would have


Abp Sharpe reprefented him as a person who was not a Christian, and the great lady supported the asperfion. Swift kept himself indeed within some tolerable bounds, when he spoke of the Queen : but his indignation knew no limits, wben he mentioned the Archbishop or the lady, Q. let. 4.

+ See the letters that passed between Dr Swift and the Irih BiShops on this occasion, in vol. 4. p. 212.-237.

« PreviousContinue »