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Press to their standard, hither all repair,
LINES ADDRESSED TO ADDISON.
1 Allucling to the initials, CLI0, with which Aldison signed all his papers in the Spectator.
Her graceful port, and her celestial mien,
Contending nations ancient Homer claim,
JONATHAN SWIFT. 1667–1745.
Of the varied life of this eccentric divine, so numerous and able have been the details, that had we room to enter into the consideration of it at length, it would be quite an unnecessary work. We will therefore give but a mere sketch of it, referring the reader for more full biographies to the works men. tioned below.'
He was born in Dublin, in 1667, and was educated at Dublin Universily. At the age of twenty-one he obtained the patronage of Sir William Temple, under whose roof, at Moor Park, in Surrey, he resided as an amanuensis and a companion until the death of his patron in 1698. Here he wrote his celebrated treatise, entitled “The Battle of the Books," against Bentley; and whilo here he « took orders in the church.” Upon the death of Temple, he was in
1 Hawkesworth, Sheridan, and Nichols have all prefixed a llfe of Swift to their edition of his works. But the best edition is that of Sir Walter Scott, with life, 19 vols. 8vo, of which a second edition has been published. Read also, a life of the same, in the sd vol. of " Drake's Essays;" ap. other in " Johnson's Lives," and a very able article in the 17th vol. of the Edinburgh Review
vited by the Earl of Berkeley to Ireland, and after many disappointments he obtained the living of Laracor,' where, in 1704, he published, anonymously, that remarkable work, “ The Tale of a Tub.” It was designed as a burlesque and satire upon the disputes among the Papists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians, and for keenness and humor it has, perhaps, never been equalled. In 1713 he was rewarded with the deanery of St. Patrick's, in Dublin; but the return of the Whig party into power, on the accession of the House of Hanover, destroyed all his hopes of further preferment. For some years after, he was employed almost entirely in political and occasional writings, full of virulence and bitterness against many of the men and things of his age, and which are now but little read. In 1724 he became almost an object of idolatry to the Irish by publishing a series of letters under the feigned name of M. B. Drapier, against one William Wood. This Wood had obtained a patent for coining half-pence for the use of Ireland, to the enormous amount of £180,000, and Swift, in his “ Drapier's Letters," exposed the fraud, and tha ruinous consequences to the nation, with such power of reason, and sarcasm, and invective, that the patent was annulled, and the half-pence withdrawn by the government. The following short extract will give an idea of the style and humor of these “ Letters:"
wood's HALF-PENCE. I am very sensible that such a work as I have undertaken might have worthily employed a much better pen : but when a house is attempted to be robbed, it often happens that the weakest in the farnily runs first to stop the door. All the assistance I had wwere some informations from an eminent person, whereof I am afraid I have spoiled a few, by endeavoring to make them of a piece with my own productions, and the rest I was not able to manage. I was in the case of David, who could not move in the armor of Saul, and therefore I rather chose to attack this uncir. cumcised Philistine (Wood I mean) with a sling and a stone. And I may say for Wood's honor, as well as my own, that he resembles Goliath in many circumstances very applicable to the present purpose : for Goliath had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of BRASS; and he had greaves of ERASS upon his legs, and a target of Brass between his shoulders. In short he was, like Mr. Wood, all over Brass, and he defied the armies of the living God.-Goliath's conditions of combat were likewise the same with these of Wood: if he prevail against us, then shall we be his servants. But if it happens that I prevail over him, I renounce the other part of the condition ; he shali never be a servant of mine ; for I do not think him fit to be trusted in any honest man's shop.
I In the county of Meath, north-west of Dublin. While here, he appointed the reading of prayers every Wednesday and Friday. Upon the first Wednesday, after he bell had ceased ringing for some time, finding that the congregation consisted only of himself and his clerk, Roger, he began : "Dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture moveth you and me in sundry places," &c, and then pro ceeaed regularly through the whole service.
In 1726 appeared the most perfect of the larger conipositions of Swit, and that by which he will probably be longest remembered—“Gulliver's Travels." It is a production entirely unique in English literature. Its main design is, under the form of fictitious travels, to satirize mankind and the institutions of civilized countries; but the scenes and nations which it describes are so wonderful and amusing, that the book is as great a favorite with children as with those misanthropic spirits who delight in contemplating the imperfections of human nature. In the latter part of his life, he published another burlesque on the social world, entitled “Polite Conversation," being an almost exact representation of the unpremeditated talk of ordinary persons. A still more ludicrous and satirical work appeared after his death, under the title of “ Di. rections to Servants." His most important political tracts were, « The Conduct of the Allies," « The Public Spirit of the Whigs,” and “ A History of the Four last Years of Queen Anne."
In 1736 Swist was seized with a violent fit of giddiness, while writing a satirical poem called the “Legion Club," which he never finished. From that time he grew worse and worse, till, in 1741, his friends found his passions so violent and ungovernable, bis memory so decayed, and his reason so depraved, that they were obliged to keep all strangers from him. In 1742, after a week of indescribable bodily suffering, he sank into a state of quiet idiocy, in which he continued till the 19th of October, 1745, when he gently breathed his last.
As a writer, the prose works of Swift are among the best specimens we possess of a thorough English style. “He knew," says Dr. Blair, “beyond almost any man, the purity, the extent, the precision of the English language; and, therefore, to such as wish to attain a pure and correct style, he is one of the most useful models. But we must not look for much ornament and grace in his language. His haughty and morose genius made him despise any embellishment of this kind, as beneath his dignity. He delivers his sentiments in a plain, downright, positive manner, like one who is sure he is in the right, and is very indifferent whether you are pleased or not. His sentences are commonly negligently arranged; distinctly enough as to sense, but without any regard to smoothness of sound; often without much regard to compactness or elegance." The following selections are given as specimens of his best style:
COUNTRY HOSPITALITY. Those inferior duties of life, which the French call les petites morales, or the smaller morals, are with us distinguished by the name of good manners or breeding. This I look upon, in the general notion of it, to be a sort of artificial good sense, adapted to the meanest capacities, and introduced to make mankind easy in their commerce with each other. Low and little understandings, without some rules of this kind, would be perpetually wandering into a thousand indecencics and irregularities in behavior; and in their ordinary conversation, fall into the same boisterous familiari. ties that one observes among them where intemperance has quite taken away the use of their reason. In other instances it is odd to consider, that for want of common discretion, the very end of good breeding is wholly perverted ; and civility, intended to make us easy, is employed in laying chains and fetters upon us, in de
barring us of our wishes, and in crossing our most reasonable de sires and inclinations.
This abuse reigns chiefly in the country, as I found to my vexa. tion when I was last there, in a visit I made to a neighbor about two miles from my cousin. As soon as I entered the parlor, they put me into the great chair that stood close by a huge fire, and kept me there by force until I was almost stifled. Then a boy came in a great hurry to pull off my boots, which I in vain op. posed, urging that I must return soon after dinner. In the mean time, the good lady whispered her eldest daughter, and slipped a key into her hand; the girl returned instantly with a beer-glass half full of aqua mirabilis and sirup of gilly flowers. I took as much as I had a mind for, but madam vowed I should drink it off; for she was sure it would do me good after coming out of the cold air; and I was forced to obey, which absolutely took away my stomach. When dinner came in, I had a mind to sit at a distance from the fire ; but they told me it was as much as my life was worth, and sat me with my back just against it. Although my appetite was quite gone, I was resolved to force down as much as I could, and desired the leg of a pullet. “Indeed, Mr. Bickerstaff," says the lady, “you must eat a wing, to oblige me;" and so put a couple upon my plate. I was persecuted at this rate during the whole meal: as often as I called for small beer, the master tipped the wink, and the servant brought me a brimmer of October.
Some time after dinner, I ordered my cousin's man, who came with me, to get ready the horses ; but it was resolved I should not stir that night; and when I seemed pretty much bent upon going, they ordered the stable door to be locked, and the children hid my cloak and boots. The next question was, What would I have for supper? I said, I never eat any thing at night; but was at last, in my own defence, obliged to name the first thing that came into my head. After three hours, spent chiefly in apologies for my entertainment, insinuating to me, “ That this was the worst time of the year for provisions; that they were at a great distance from any market ; that they were afraid I should be starved ; and that they knew they kept me to my loss;" the lady went, and left me to her husband; for they took special care I should never be alone. As soon as her back was turned, the little misses ran backward and forward every moment, and constantly as they came in, or went out, made a courtesy directly at me, which, in good manners, I was forced to return with a bow, and “your humble servant, pretty miss.” Exactly at eight, the mother came up, and discovered, by the redness of her face, that supper was not far off. It was twice as large as the dinner, and my persecution doubled in proportion I desired at my usual hour to go to my repose, and