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a month without sleeping, and five men were needed to prevent his tear ing out the eye with his nails. One of his last words was, "I am a foo." When his will was opened, it was found that he left his whole fortune to build a madhouse.
These passions and these miseries were necessary to inspire Gulliver's Travels and the Tale of a Tub.
A strange and powerful form of mind, too, was necessary, as English as his pride and his passions. Swift has the style of a surgeon and a judge, cold, grave, solid, unadorned, without vivacity or passion, manly and practical. He desired neither to please, nor to divert, nor to carry people away, nor to move the feelings; he never hesi tated, nor was redundant, nor was excited, nor made an effort. He expressed his thoughts in a uniform tone, with exact, precise, often harsh terms, with familiar comparisons, levelling a within reach of his hand, even the loftiest things-especially the lofties:
have died with discontent, and was horribly melancholy while they were installing me." He found tears, distrust, resentment, cold silence, in place of familiarity and tenderness. He married Miss Johnson from a feeling of duty, but in secret, and on condition that she should only be his wife in She was twelve years dying; Swift went away to England as often as he could. His house was a hell to him; it is thought that some secret physical cause had influenced his loves and his marriage. Delany, his biographer, having once found him talking with Archbishop King, saw the archbishop in tears, and Swift rushing by, with a countenance full of grief, and a distracted air. "Sir," said the prelate, "you have just met the most unhappy man upon earth; but on the subject of his wretchedness you must never ask a question." Esther Johnson died. Swift's anguish, the spectres by which he was haunted, the remembrance of the two women, slowly ruined and killed by his fault, continually encompassed him with such horrors, that only his end reveals them. "It is time-with a brutal and always haughty for me to have done with the world and so I would . . . and not die here in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole." Overwork and excess of emotion had made him ill from his youth; he was subject to giddiness; he lost He knows the items as well as the his hearing. He had long felt that sum total, He not only familiarly and reason was deserting him. One day vigorously seized on every object, but he was observed "gazing intently at he also decomposed it, and kept an inthe top of a lofty elm, the head of ventory of its details. His imagination which had been blasted. Upon his was as minute as it was energetic. He friend's approach, he pointed to it, could give you a statement of dry facts significantly adding, "I shall be like on every event and object, so connected that tree, and die first at the top."" and natural as to deceive any man. His memory left him; he received the Gulliver's Travels read like a log-book. attentions of others with disgust, some- Isaac Bickerstaff's predictions were times with rage. He lived alone, taken literally by the inquisition in gloomy, unable to read. It is said that Portugal. His account of M. du Bauhe passed a whole year without utter-drier seems an authentic translation. ing a word, hating the sight of a hu- He gives to an extravagant romance the man being, walking ten hours a day, a air of a genuine history. By this maniac, then an idiot. A tumor came thorough knowledge of details be imon one of his eyes, so that he continued ports into literature the positive spirit These words are taken from a letter to of men of business and experience. Miss Vanhomrigh, 8th July, 1713, and cannot Nothing could be more vigorous, narrefer to her death, which took place in 1721. row, unhappy, for nothing could be more destructive. No greatness, false or true, can stand before him; whatsoever he fathoms and takes in hand loser
Letter to Bolingbroke, Dublin, March 21, 1728, xvii. 276. Roscoe's Life of Swift, . 80,
coolness. He knows life as a banker knows accounts; and his total once made up, he scorns or knocks down the babblers who dispute it in his presence.
at once its prestige and value. Whilst | mind and superiority of intelligence he decomposes he displays the real the one for the public and the fools, the ugliness, and removes the fictitious other for artists and philosophers: the beauty of objects. Whilst he brings one consists in seeing nothing, the them to the level of common things, other in seeing all. We will respect he suppresses their real beauty, and the respectable, if we see only the surgives them a fictitious ugliness. He face-if we take them as they are, if we presents all their gross features, and let ourselves be duped by the fine show nothing but their gross features. Look which they never fail to present. We with him into the physical details of will revere the gold-embroidered gar science, religion, state, and with him ments with which our masters bedizer reduce science, religion, state, to the themselves, and we will never dream of low standing of every-day events; with examining the stains hidden under the him you will see here a Bedlam of embroidery. We will be moved by the shrivelled-up dreamers, narrow and big words which they pronounce in a chimerical brains, busy in contradicting sublime voice, and we will never see in each other, picking up meaningless their pockets the hereditary phrasephrases in mouldy books, inventing book from which they have taken them. conjectures, and crying them up for We will punctiliously bring them our truth; there, a band of enthusiasts, money and our services; the custom mumbling phrases which they do not will seem to us just, and we will accept understand, adoring figures of rhetoric the goose-dogma, that a goose is bound as mysteries, attaching ideas of holiness to be roasted. But, on the other hand, or impiety to lawn-sleeves or postures, we will tolerate and even love the spending in persecutions or genuflex- world, if, penetrating to its nature, we ions the surplus of sheepish or ferocious take the trouble to explain or imitate folly with which an evil fate has its mechanism. We will be interested crammed their brains; there, again, in passions by an artist's sympathy or a flocks of idiots pouring out their blood philosopher's comprehension; we will and treasure for the whims or plots of find them natural whilst admitting their a carriage-drawn aristocrat, out of force, or we will find them necessary respect for the carriage which they whilst computing their connection; we themselves have given him. What will cease to be indignant against the part of human nature or existence can powers which produce fine spectacles continue great and beautiful, before a or will cease to be roused by the remind which, penetrating all details, bounds which the law of cause and perceives men eating, sleeping, dress- effect had foretold. We will admire ing, in all mean and low actions, de- the world as a grand drama, or as an grading every thing to the level of invincible development; and we will vulgar events, trivial circumstances of be preserved by imagination or by logic dress and cookery? It is not enough from slander or disgust. We will exfor the positive mind to see the springs, tract from religion the lofty truths pulleys, lamps, and whatever there is which dogmas hide, and the generous objectionable in the opera at which he instincts which superstition conceals is present; he makes it more objection- We will perceive in the state the infi able by calling it a show. It is not nite benefits which no tyranny abolishes enough not to ignore any thing; we and the sociable inclinations which no must also refuse to admire. He treats wickedness uproots. We will dis things like domestic utensils; after tinguish in science the solid doctrines reckoning up their materials, he gives which discussion never shakes, the them a vile name. Nature for him is liberal notions which the shock of but a caldron, and he knows the pro- systems purifies and unfolds, the splen portion and number of the ingredients did promises which the progress of the simmering in it. In this power and present time opens up to the ambition this weakness we see beforehand the of the future. We can thus escape misanthropy and the talent of Swift. hatred by the nullity or the greatness of the prospect, by the inability to dis cover contrasts, or by the power ↳ dis
There are, 'ndeed, but two modes of agreeing with the world: mediocrity of
cover the harmony of contrasts. Raised | standards or as a balance, a sort of above the first, sunk beneath the last, secondary States, which, like he two Beeing evil and disorder, ignoring good- old orders in Rome, legally endeavor ness and harmony, excluded from love to monopolize the government. So, the and calmness, given up to indignation English constitution was never more and bitterness, Swift found neither a than a transaction between distinct cause to cherish, nor a doctrine to es- powers, compelled to tolerate each tablish; he employs the whole force other, disposed to encroach on each of an excellently armed mind and a other, occupied in treating with each thoroughly trained character in decry- other. Politics for them are a domes ing and destroying: all his works are tic interest, for the French an occupapamphlets tion of the mind; Englishmen make them a business, the French a dis cussion.
At this time, and in his hands, the newspaper in England attained its proper character and its greatest force. Literature entered the sphere of politics. To understand what the one became, we must understand what the other was: art depended upon political business, and the spirit of parties made the spirit of writers.
Thus their pamphlets,notably Swift's seem to us only half literary. For ar argument to be literary, it must not address itself to an interest or a faction, but to the pure mind: it must be based on universal truths, rest on absolute justice, be able to touch all human reasons; otherwise, being local, it is simply useful: nothing is beautiful but In France a theory arises-eloquent, what is general. It must also be deharmonious, and generous; the young veloped regularly by analysis, and with are enamoured of it, wear a cap and exact divisions; its distribution must sing songs in its honor: at night, the give a picture of pure reason; the orcitizens, while digesting their dinner, der of ideas must be inviolable; every read it and delight in it; some, hot-mind must be able to draw thence with headed, accept it, and prove to them-ease a complete conviction; its method, selves their strength of mind by ridi- its principles, must be sensible throughculing those who are behind the times. On the other hand, the established people, prudent and timid, are mistrustful: being well off, they find that every thing is well, and demand that things shall continue as they are. Such are the two parties in France, very old, as we all know; not very earnest, as everybody can see. They must talk, be enthusiastic, reason on speculative opinions, glibly, about an hour a day, indulging but outwardly in this taste; but these parties are so equally levelled that they are at bottom all the same: The we understand them rightly, we will find in France only two parties, the men of twenty and the men of forty. English parties, on the other hand, were always compact and living bodies, united by interests of money, rank, and conscience receiving theories only as
In his Thoughts on Religion (viii. 173) he
out, in all places and at all times. The desire to prove well must be added to the art of proving well; the writer must announce his proof, recall it, present it under all its faces, desire to penetrate minds, pursue them persistently in all their retreats; but at the same time he must treat his hearers like men worthy of comprehending and applying general truths; his discourse must be lively, noble, polished, and fervid, so as to suit such subjects and such minds. It is thus that classical prose and French prose are eloquent, and that political dissertations or religious controversies have endured as models of art.
This good taste and philosophy are wanting in the positive mind; it wishes to attain not eternal beauty but present success. Swift does no. address men in general, but certain says: "The want of belief is a defect that men. He does not speak to reasoners, ought to be concealed, when it cannot be over- but to a party; he does not care to come. "I look upon myself, in the capacity teach a truth, but to make an impres of a clergyman, to be one appointed by Provision; his aim is not to enlighten that dence for defending a post assigned me, and for gaining over as many enemies as I can." isolated part of man, called his mind
every common necessa y of life depend upon it. Therefore I do most earnestly exhort you as men, as Christians, as parents, and as lovers of your country, to read this paper with the utmost attention, or get it read to you by others; which that you may do at the less expence, have ordered the printer to sell it at the lowest
We see popular distrust spring up at a glance; this is the style which reaches workmen and peasants; this simplic ity, these details, are necessary to penetrate their belief. The author is like a draper, and they trust only men of their own condition. Swift goes or. to accuse Wood, declaring that his copper pieces are not worth one-eighth their nominal value. There is no trace of proof: no proofs are required to convince the people; it is enough to repeat the same accusation again and again, to abound in intelligible examples, to strike eye and ear. The imag.
but to stir up the mass of feelings and prejudices which constitute the actual man. Whilst he writes, his public is before his eyes: fat squires, puffed out with port wine and beef, accustoned at the end of their meals to bawl loyally for church and king; gentlemen farmers, bitter against London luxury and the new importance of merchants; clergymen bred on pedantic sermons, and old-established hatred of dissenters and papists. These people have not mind enough to pursue a fine deduction or understand an abstract principle. A writer must calculate the facts they know, the ideas they have received, the interests that move them, and recall only these facts, reason only from these ideas, set in motion only these interests. It is thus Swift speaks, without development, without logical hits, without rhetorical effects, but with extraordinary force and suc-ination once gained, they will go on cess, in phrases whose accuracy his contemporaries inwardly felt, and which they accepted at once, because they simply told them in a clear form and openly, what they murmured obscurely and to themselves. Such was the power of the Examiner, which in one year transformed the opinion of three king-it with the Parliament or people of Ireland? doms; and particularly of the Drapier's Letters, which made a government withdraw one of their measures. Small change was lacking in Ireland, and the English ministers had given a certain William Wood a patent to coin one hundred and eight thousand pounds of copper money. A commission, of which Newton was a member, verified the pieces made, found them good, and several competent judges still think that the measure was loyal and serviceable to the land. Swift roused the people against it, spoke to them in an 'ntelligible style, and triumphed over
cominon sense and the state.*
"Brethren, friends, countrymen, and fellowsubjects, what I intend now to say to you is, next to your duty to God and the care of your salvation, of the greatest concern to you and your children: your bread and clothing, and
Whatever has been said, I do not think that he wrote the Drapier's Letters, whilst thinking the introduction of small copper coin an advantage for Ireland. It was possible, for Swift more than for another, to believe in a ministerial job. He seems to me to have been at bottom an honest man.
shouting, convincing themselves by their own cries, and incapable of rea soning. Swift says to his adversaries:
"Your paragraph relates further that Si Isaac Newton reported an assay taken at the Tower of Wood's metal; by which it appears that Wood had in all respects performed his contract. His contract? With whom? Was
Are not they to be the purchasers? But they
tent to coin no more (than forty thousand
plices think fit to employ themselves. But
Swift gets angry and does not answer
the good arguments of their opponents | terrible rancor. Vast passion and will only increase their desire to knock pride, like the positive Drapier's " them down. mind just now described, have given all the blows their force. We should read his Public Spirit of the Whigs, against Steele. Page by page Steele is torn to pieces with a calmness and scorn never equalled. Swift approaches regularly, leaving no part untouched, heaping wound on wound, every blow sure, knowing beforehand their reach and depth. Poor Steele, a vain thoughtless fellow, is in his hands like Gulliver amongst the giants; it is a pity to see a contest so unequal; and this contest is pitiless. Swift crushes him carefully and easily, like an obnoxious animal. The unfortunate man, formerly an officer and a semi-literary man, had made awkward use of constitutional words:
Now see how a mass of examples makes a gratuitous assertion probable: "Your Newsietter says that an assay was made of the coin. How impudent and ins-pportable is this! Wood takes care to coi à a dozen or two halfpence of good metal, sends them to the Tower, and they are approved; And these must answer all that he has already trined, or shall coin for the future. It is true, ir deed, that a gentleman often sends to my shop for a pattern of stuff; I cut it fairly off, and if ae likes it, he comes or sends and compares the pattern with the whole piece, and probably we come to a bargain. But if I were to buy a hundred sheep, and the grazier should bring me one single wether, fat, and well fleeced, by way of pattern, and expect the same price round for the whole hundred, without suffering me to see them before he was paid, or giving me good security to restore my money for those that were lean, or shorn, or scabby, I would be none of his customer. I have heard of a man who had a mind to sell his house, and therefore carried a piece of brick in his pocket, which he showed as a pattern to encourage purchasers; and this is directly the case in point with Mr. Wood's
A burst of laughter follows; butchers and bricklayers were gained over. As a finish, Swift showed them a practical expedient, suited to their understanding and their rank in life:
"The common soldier, when he goes to the market or ale-house, will offer his money; and if it be refused, perhaps he will swagger and hector, and threaten to beat the butcher or alewite, or take the goods by force, and throw them the bad half-pence. In this and the like cases, the shopkeeper or victualler, or any other tradesman, has no more to do than to demand ten times the price of his goods, if it is to be paid in Wood's money; for example, twentypence of that money for a quart of ale, and so in all things else, and never part with his goods till he gets the money." ↑
Public clamor overcame the English Government; they withdrew the money and paid Wood a large indemnity. Such is the merit of Swift's argunents; good tools, trenchant and hanly, neither elegant nor bright, but whose value is proved by their effect.
The whole beauty of these pamphlets is in their tone. They have neither the generous fie of Pascal, nor the bewildering gayety of Beaumarchais, nor the chiselled delicacy of Paul Louis Courier, but an overwhelming air of superiority and a bitter and
Drapier's Letters, vii.; Letter 2, 114. ↑ Ibid. Letters, 108.
"Upon this rock the author... is perpetually splitting, as often as he ventures out beyond the narrow bounds of his literature. He has a confused remembrance of words since he left the university, but has lost half their meaning, and puts them together with no regard, except to their cadence; as I remember a fellow nailed up maps in a gentleman's closet, some sidelong, others upside down, the better to adjust them to the pannels." *
When he judges he is worse than when he proves; witness his Short Character of Thomas Earl of Wharton. He pierces him with the formulas of official politeness; only an Englishman is capable of such phlegm and such haughtiness:
"I have had the honour of much conversation how indifferent he is to applause, and how in with his lordship, and am thoroughly convinced He is without the sensible of reproach. sense of shame, or glory, as some men are without the sense of smelling; and therefore, a good name to him is no more than a precious ointment would be to these. Whoever, for the sake of others, were to describe the nature of a serpent, a wolf, a crocodile or a fox, must be understood to do it without any personal love or hatred for the animals themselves. In the neither personally love nor hate. I see him at same manner his excellency is one whom I court, at his own house, and sometimes at mine, for I have the honour of his visits; and wher these papers are public, it is odds but he wil tell me, as he once did on a like occasion, "that he is damnably mauled," and the with the easiest transition in the world, ask an at the
*The Public Spirit of the Whigs, iv. 405. See also in the Examiner the pamphlet against Marlborough under the name of Crassus, and the comparison between Roman generosity and English meanness.