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discharge. Swift therefore resolved to enter into the church, in which he had at first no higher hopes than of the chaplainship to the factory at Lisbon ; but being recommended to lord Capel, he obtained the prebend of Kilroot in Conner, of about a hundred pounds a year.
But the infirmities of Temple made a companion like Swift so necessary, that he invited him back, with a promise to procure him English preferment in exchange for the prebend, which he desired him to re. sign. With this request Swift quickly complied, having perhaps equally repented their separation, and they lived on together with mutual satisfaction; and, in the four years that passed between his return and Temple's death, it is probable that he wrote the “ Tale of a Tub" and the “ Battle of the Books."
Swift began early to think, or to hope, that he was a poet, and wrote Pindaric odes to Temple, to the king, and to the Athenian society, a knot of obscure men, * who published a periodical pamphlet of answers to questions, sent or supposed to be sent, by letters. have been told that Dryden, having perused these verses, said, “ Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet ;" and that this denunciation was the motive of Swift's perpetual malevolence to Dryden,
In 1699 Temple died, and left a legacy with his manuscripts to Swift, for whom he had obtained, from king William, a promise of the first prebend that should be vacant at Westminster or Canterbury.
That this promise might not be forgotten, Swift dedicated to the king the posthumous works with which he was intrusted ; but neither the dedication, nor tenderness for the man whom he once had treated with confidence and fondness, revived in king William the
The publisher of this collection was John Dunton. R.
remembrance of his promise. Swift awhile attended the court; but soon found his solicitations hopeless.
He was then invited by the earl of Berkeley to accompany him into Ireland, as his private secretary ; but, after having done the business till their arrival at Dublin, he then found that one Bush had persuaded the earl that a clergyman was not a proper secretary, and had obtained the office for himself, In a man like Swift, such circumvention and inconstancy must have excited violent indignation,
But he had yet more to suffer. Lord Berkeley had the disposal of the Deanery of Derry, and Swift expect ed to obtain it; but by the secretary's influence, supposed to have been secured by a bribe, it was bestowa ed on somebody else ; and Swift was dismissed with the livings of Laracor and Rathbiggin in the diocese of Meath, which together did not equal half the value of the deanery.
At Laracor he increased the parochial duty by reading prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and performed all the offices of his profession with great decency and exactness.
Soon after his settlement at Laracor, he invited to Ireland the unfortunate Stella, a young woman whose name was Johnson, the daughter of the steward of sir William Temple, who, in consideration of her father's virtues, left her a thousand pounds. With her came Mrs. Dingley, whose whole fortune was twenty-seven pounds a year for her life. With these ladies he passed his hours of relaxation, and to them he opened his hosom; but they never resided in the same house, nor did he see either without a witness. They lived at the parsonage, when Swift was away; and when he returned, removed to a lodging, or to the house of a neighbouring clergyman.
Swift was one of those minds which amaze the world with early pregnancy ; his first work, except a few poetical essays, was the “ Dissentions in Athens and Rome,” published (1701) in his thirty-fourth year. After its appearance, paying a visit to some bishop, he heard mention made of the new pamphlet that Burnet had written, replete with political knowledge. When he seemed to doubt Burnet's right to the work, he was told by the bishop, that he was a young man ;" and still persisting to doubt, that he was “ a very positive young
inan." Three years afterwards (1704) was published the “ Tale of a Tub:” of this book charity may be persuaded to think that it might be written by a man of a peculiar character without ill intention ; but it is certainly of dangerous example, That Swift was its author, though it be universally believed, was never owned by himself nor very well proved by any evidence ; but no other claimant can be produced, and he did not deny it when archbishop Sharpe and the duchess of Somerset, by shiewing it to the queen, debarred him from a bishopric.
When this wild work first raised the attention of the public, Sacheverell, meeting Smalridge, tried to flatter him, by seeming to think him the author; but Smalridge answered with indignation, “ Not all that you and I have in the world, nor all that ever we shall have should hire me to write the “ Tale of a Tub."
The digressions relating to Wotton and Bentley must be confessed to discover want of knowledge or want of integrity ; he did not understand the two controversies, or he willingly misrepresented them. But wit can stand its ground against truth only a little while, The honours due to learning have been justly distributed by the decision of posterity.
6 The Battle of the Books" is so like the « Combat des Livres," which the same question concerning the ancients and moderns had produced in France, that the improbability of such a coincidence of thoughts without communication is not, in my opinion, balanced by the anonymous protestation prefixed, in which all knowledge of the French book is peremtorily disowned.*
For some time after Swift was probably employed in solitary study, gaining the qualifications iequisite, for future eminence. How often he visited England, and with what diligence he attended his parishes, I know not. It was not till about four years afterwards that he became a professed author; and then one year (1708) produced “ The Sentiments of a Church of England man;" the ridicule of astrology under the name of “Bickerstaff;" the “ Argument against abolishing Christianity ;" and the defence of the “ Sacramental Test.”
“ The Sentiments of a Church of England Man” is written with great coolness, moderation, ease, and perspicuity. The “ Argument against abolishing Christianity” is a very happy and judicious irony. One passage in it deserves to be selected.
“ If Christianity were once abolished, how could the free-thinkers, the strong reasoners, and the men of profound learning, be able to find another subject so calculated, in all points, whereon to display their abilities? What wonderful productions of wit should we be deprived of from those, whose genius, by continual practice, hath been wholly turned upon railery and invective against religion, and would therefore never be able to shine, or distinguish themselves, upon any oth
• See Sheridan's life. edit. 1784, p. 525; where are some remarks on this passage. R.
er subject? We are daily complaining of the great decline of wit among us, and would take away the greatest, perhaps the only, topic we have left. Who would ever have suspected Asgill for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the inexhaustible stock of Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with materials? What other subject, through all art or nature, could have produced Tindal for a profound author, or furnished him with readers? It is the wise choise of the subject that alone adorns and distinguishes the writer. For had a hundred such pens as these been employed on the side of religion, they would have immediately sunk into silence and oblivion.
The reasonableness of a test is not hard to be proved, but perhaps it must be allowed that the proper test hast not been chosen.
The attention paid to the papers published under the name of Bickerstaff,” induced Steele, when he projected “ The Tatler,” to assume an appellation which had already gained possession of the reader's notice.
In the year following he wrote a “ Project for the Advancement of Religion," addressed to lady Berkeley; by whose kindness it is not unlikely that he was advanced to his benefices. To this project, which is formed with great purity of intention, and displayed with sprightliness and elegance, it can only be objected that, like many projects it is, if not generally impracticable, yet evidently hopeless, as it supposes more zeal, concord, and perseverance, than a view of mankind gives reason for expecting.
He wrote likewise this year“ A Vindication of Bickerstaff; and an explanation of “An Ancient Prophecy," part written after the facts, and the rest never completed, but well planned to -excite amazement. VOL. III.