תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In a short poem on the Presbyterians, whom he always regarded with detestation, he bestowed one stricture upon Bettesworth, a lawyer eminent for his insolence to the clergy, which, from very considerable reputation, brought him into immediate and universal contempt.

Bettesworth, enraged at his disgrace and loss, went to Swift, and demanded whether he was the author of that poem. “ Mr. Bettesworth,” answered he, “ I was in my youth acquainted with great şi lawyers, who, knowing my disposition to “ satire, advised me, that, if any scoundrel

or blockhead whom I had lampooned 5 should ask, Are you

the author of this paper, " I should tell him that I was not the author; « and therefore I tell you, Mr. Bettesworth, $6 that I am not the author of these lines.

Bettesworth was so little fatisfied with this account, that he publickly professed his refolution of a violent and corporal revenge; but the inhabitants of St. Patrick's district embodied themselves in the Dean's defence; and Bettesworth declared in Parliament, that Swift had deprived him of twelve hundred pounds a year.

.

Swift was popular a while by another mode of beneficence. He fet aside fome hundreds to be lent in small sums to the poor, from five shillings, I think, to five pounds. He took no interest, and only required that, at repayment, a small fee should be given to the accomptant; but he required that the day of promised payment should be exactly kept. A severe and punctilious temper is ill qualified for transactions with the poor; the day was often broken, and the loan was not repaid. This might have been easily foreseen; but for this Swift had made no provision of patience or pity. He ordered his debtors to be sued. A severe creditor has no popular character; what then was likely to be said of him who employs the catchpoll under the appearance of charity? The clamour against him was loud, and the resentment of the populace outrageous; he was therefore forced to drop his scheme, and own the folly of expecting punctuality from the poor.

His afperity continually inereasing, condemned him to folitude; and his resentment of solitude sharpened his asperity.

He was

not,

1

not, however, totally deserted: fome men of learning, and some women of elegance, often visited him; and he wrote from time to time either verse or prose; of his verses he willingly gave copies, and is supposed to have felt no discontent when he saw them printed. His favourite maxim was vive la bagatelle; he thought trifles a necessary part of life, and perhaps found them necessary to himself. It seems impossible to him to be idle, and his disorders made it difficult or dangerous to be long seriously studious, or laboriously diligent. The love of ease is always gaining upon age, and he had one temptation to petty amusements peculiar to himself; whatever he did, he was sure to hear applauded; and such was his predominance over all that approached, that all their applauses were probably sincere.

He that is much flattered, foon learns to flatter himself: we are commonly taught our duty by fear or shame, and how can they act upon the man who hears nothing but his own praises?

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

As his years increased, his fits of giddiness and deafness grew more frequent, and his

deafness

5

they

deafness made conversation difficult; grew likewise more severe, till in 1736, as he was writing a poem called The Legion Club, he was seized with a fit so painful, and so long continued, that he never after thought it

proper to attempt any work of thought or labour.

He was always careful of his money, and was therefore no liberal entertainer; but was less frugal of his wine than of his meat. When his friends of either sex came to him, in expectation of a dinner, his custom was to give every one a shilling, that they might please themselves with their provision. At last his avarice grew too powerful for his kindness; he would refuse a bottle of wine, and in Ireland no man visits where he cannot drink.

Having thus excluded conversation, and desisted from study, he had neither business nor amusement; for having, by some ridiculous resolution or mad vow, determined never to wear spectacles, he could make little use of books in his later years: his ideas,

therefore,

therefore, being neither renovated by difcourse nor increased by reading, wore gradually away, and left his mind vacant to the vexations of the hour, till at last his

anger was heightened into madness.

He however permitted one book to be published, which had been the production of former years; Polite Conversation, which appeared in 1738. The Directions for Servants was printed soon after his death. These two performances fhew a mind incessantly attentive, and, when it was not employed upon great things, busy with minute occurrences. It is apparent that he must have had the habit of noting whatever he observed; for such a number of particulars could never have been allembled by the power of recollection.

ap

He grew more violent; and his mental powers declined till (1741) it was found necessary that legal guardians should be pointed of his person and fortune. He now loft diftinction. His madness was compounded of rage and fatuity. The last face that

« הקודםהמשך »