Southern Anthology

Families on the Frontiers of the Old South

Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift

Male 1667 - 1745  (77 years)

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  • Name Jonathan Swift 
    Born 30 Nov 1667  Dubln, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 19 Oct 1745  Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • Swift, Jonathan 1667-1745, dean of St. Patrick's and satirist, son of Jonathan Swift, by Abigail (Erick) of Leicester, was born at 7 Hoey's Court, Dublin, on 30 Nov. 1667 (a drawing of the house, now destroyed, is in Wilde's Closing Years of Swift's Life, p. 89). The elder Jonathan was a younger son of Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodrich, near Ross, by Elizabeth (Dryden), niece of Sir Erasmus, the grandfather of John, Dryden. Thomas Swift descended from a Yorkshire family, one of whom, Barnham, called Cavaliero Swifte, of an elder branch, was created Lord Carlingford in 1627 (for pedigrees of the Swift family see Monck Mason's St. Patrick's, pp. 225-6). The younger branch had settled at Canterbury. Thomas inherited from his mother a small estate at Goodrich, took orders, and was distinguished for his loyalty during the civil war; he subscribed money to the king, and invented warlike contrivances for the annoyance of the roundheads. When the roundheads gained the upper hand he naturally had to go through many troubles, which are recorded in Mercurius Rusticus (1685; reprinted in Monck Mason, p. 228). He died in 1658. He had ten sons and four daughters. The second son, Thomas, became a clergyman, married the daughter of Sir William D'Avenant [qv.], and was father of another Thomas (1666-1752), who became rector of Puttenham, Surrey. The eldest son, Godwin, was a barrister of Gray's Inn; he was four times married, and his wives, except the second, were heiresses. His first wife was connected with the Ormonde family; his third was daughter of Richard Deane [qv.], the regicide admiral; and the fourth a sister of Sir John Mead, an Irish lawyer, described in Mrs. Pilkington's Memoirs. Upon the Restoration, Godwin went to Ireland, where he was made attorney-general for the palatinate of Tipperary by the first Duke of Ormonde, lord-lieutenant from 1662 to 1664; he left fifteen sons and four daughters. He was a little too dexterous in the subtle parts of the law, according to his nephew Jonathan, and in later years lost much of his fortune by rash speculations. He prospered, however, for some time, and four of his brothers followed him to Ireland.

      Of these, Jonathan (the father of the satirist) became a member of the King's Inns, Dublin, and was appointed steward of the society on 25 Jan. 1665-6. Upon his marriage, a short time before, he had been able to settle an annuity of 20l. upon his wife. He died a little more than a year after his appointment, leaving her with an infant daughter Jane. Soon after the birth of Jonathan, seven months later, Abigail went to her family at Leicester. The child was left with a nurse, who became so fond of him that she took him with her when she had to return to her native place, Whitehaven, Cumberland. His mother was afraid to venture a second voyage, and he was kept nearly three years at Whitehaven. There his nurse taught him so well that at three years old he could read any part of the Bible. He was then sent back to Dublin. Shortly afterwards his mother settled at Leicester, leaving him in Ireland, where his uncle Godwin took charge of him. He was sent at the age of six to the grammar school of Kilkenny. Congreve, two years his junior, was a schoolfellow, and afterwards a friend; but nothing is known of Swift at this time beyond a trifling anecdote or two. On 24 April 1682 he was entered at Trinity College, Dublin, his cousin Thomas being entered on the same day. Thomas became a scholar in May 1684; but Jonathan was never elected. Swift's own account of his college career is that he was depressed by the ill-treatment of his nearest relations, and too much neglected his academic studies, for some parts of which he had no great relish by nature. He read history and poetry, and lived with great regularity; but was stopped of his degree for dulness and insufficiency, and at last admitted in a manner little to his credit, which is called in that college speciali gratia. In a college roll of the Easter term, 1685 (facsimile in Forster's Life of Swift, p. 38), he is marked bene for Greek and Latin, male for philosophy, and negligenter for theology. He had not done well enough, it appears, to be allowed one of the twelve terms necessary for admission to the exercise of the Bachelor of Arts degree. This however, according to custom, was granted to him by the special grace, and he graduated at the regular date, February 1685-6. Swift in later years told Mrs. Pilkington, and his biographers, Deane Swift and Sheridan, that he had really been a dunce. Sheridan (p. 5) also declares that Swift when in his last years repeated the exact arguments used in his degree exercise. He had been disgusted with the scholastic logic still taught at Dublin, and thought that he could reason as well without using the proper syllogistic forms. This dislike was characteristic of Swift's whole turn of thought, and probably explains in what sense we are to take the statement that he was a dunce, which, as Mrs. Pilkington observes, is very surprising if true.

      Swift continued his residence after taking the Bachelor of Arts degree. He became irregular in his conduct. According to Dr. Barrett (Essay, pp. 13, 14), he was constantly fined and censured for non-attendance at chapel and at the nightly roll-call. He was publicly censured for such offences (16 March 1687) with his cousin Thomas; and again (30 Nov. 1688) for insolence to the junior dean (Barrett's statements are sufficiently clear, though criticised by Forster, p. 34). Samuel Richardson (to Lady Bradshaigh, 22 April 1752) gives a story that Swift had been expelled from Dublin on account of an oration as terræ filius. One Jones, a contemporary, was actually punished, though not expelled, for such an oration in 1688. Barrett tried to make out that Swift was an accomplice in this wretched performance, which has accordingly been printed in his Works. The arguments, however, both from external and internal evidence, establish at the outside a bare possibility. Swift attributes his recklessness to the neglect of his relations. Was it not your uncle Godwin who educated you? he was asked. Yes, said Swift, he gave me the education of a dog. Then, was the reply, you have not the gratitude of a dog (Scott on the authority of Theophilus Swift). Godwin was at this period losing money (Deane Swift, pp. 41, 21), and in 1688 fell into a lethargy. Swift was apparently helped by his other uncles?William, whom he calls the best of his relations (to William Swift on 29 Nov. 1692), and Adam. Godwin's son Willoughby, settled in an English factory at Lisbon, sent him a present at a moment when he was almost in despair, and from that time, he says, he learnt to be a better economist (Deane Swift, p. 54). Swift, however, seems to have retained little regard for his family (ib. p. 353), and it is probable that their generosity was so administered as to hurt his pride. A desire for independence became a passion with him.

      The troubles which followed the expulsion of James II forced Swift to leave Dublin. He retired to his mother's house at Leicester. She was a cheerful frugal woman, who thought herself rich and happy on 20l. a year. She had a touch of humour, and amused herself, on a visit to Dublin in later years, by passing off her son to her landlady as a lover who had to visit her secretly. Swift was always a good son, and deeply affected by her death (24 April 1710). Mrs. Swift was now alarmed by her son's attentions to a certain Betty Jones. He explained to a friend that he despised the Leicester people as wretched fools, and that prudence and a cold temper prevented any thoughts of marriage. A person of great honour in Ireland had told him that his mind was like a conjured spirit which would do mischief if I did not give it employment. He had therefore permitted himself these little distractions (to Kendall, 11 Feb. 16 Feb. 1691-2).

      Sir William Temple, the statesman, was about this time retiring from Sheen to Moor Park, near Farnham in Surrey. Temple and his father had known Godwin Swift, and Lady Temple, it is said, was related to Swift's mother. Temple now took Swift into his family. He was, according to an untrustworthy report (Richardson to Lady Bradshaigh, quoting John, nephew of Sir W. Temple), to have 20l. a year and his board, and was not allowed to sit at table with his employer. He was by this time suffering from attacks of giddiness, attributed by himself to a surfeit of fruit. Physicians, he says, weakly imagined that his native air might be beneficial. On 28 May 1690, in any case, Temple recommended him to Sir Robert Southwell (1635-1702) [qv.], who had been appointed secretary of state for Ireland, and was to accompany William III on his expedition from England (Letter first published in Cunningham's edition of Johnson's Lives, iii. 160). Temple says that Swift knew Latin and Greek, some French, wrote a good hand, and was honest and diligent. He had kept Temple's accounts, served as amanuensis, and might wait on Southwell as a gentleman, act as clerk, or be appointed to a fellowship at Trinity College. Nothing came of this; but Swift was in Ireland in 1691, whence he returned in the autumn, and, after visiting Leicester, was again at Moor Park in February 1691-2. He was now thinking of taking orders. He was admitted in June to the Bachelor of Arts degree at Oxford on the strength of testimonials from Dublin, and on 5 July became M.A. as a member of Hart Hall. In November he writes that he is not to take orders until the king fulfils a promise to Temple of giving him a prebend. Temple is less forward than could be wished, finding the value of Swift's services to himself. Temple showed his rising estimate of Swift by introducing him to William III, who offered, it is said, to give the young man a troop of horse, and taught him how to cut asparagus (Deane Swift, p. 108; and see Faulkner's story in Scott, p. 29). In the spring of 1693 Temple sent Swift to William to persuade the king to consent to the bill for triennial parliaments. William's refusal to be convinced was, he says, the first incident that helped to cure him of vanity.

      Swift had already been trying his hand at literature. He wrote pindarics after the fashion of Cowley, one of which (dated 1691-2) appeared in the ?Athenian Mercury? of the eccentric John Dunton [q.v.], and is said by Johnson to have provoked Dryden's contemptuous remark, ?Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet.? Swift gave up pindarics; and two later epistles¾one to Congreve, and one to Temple upon his recovery from an illness¾begin to show genuine satirical power. He was becoming restless and doubtful as to his prospects. He had, he says, ?a scruple of entering into the church merely for support;? but Temple, who held the sinecure office of master of the rolls in Ireland, having offered him ?an employ of about 120l. a year? in that office, Swift thought his scruple removed, and returned to Ireland, where he was ordained deacon by Moreton, bishop of Kildare, on 28 Oct. 1694, and priest on 13 Jan. 1694-5 (Craik, p. 48 n.). Whatever the force of the scruples, Swift had become indignant at Temple's slowness in procuring him preferment (to Deane Swift, 3 June 1694). Temple was ?extremely angry? at his departure in May. When Swift reached Ireland, he found that the bishops demanded some testimonial as to his conduct during his stay in England, and he was forced to make an application to Temple (6 Oct. 1694) in sufficiently humiliating terms (the original letter in Swift's autograph is in the Rowfant Library). Temple gave the necessary document, and Swift had enough interest to obtain from Lord Capel, then lord-deputy, the prebend of Kilroot, near Belfast, worth about 100l. a year. A preposterous story of a criminal assault upon a farmer's daughter, discussed by some writers upon Swift, originated, as Scott shows, in the blunders of a lunatic. Swift carried on a flirtation with a Miss Jane Waring (?Varina?) of Belfast, sister of an old college friend. On 29 May 1696 he wrote her a letter full of extravagant protestations, offering to give up his prospects for her sake, or, if she will wait for him, to ?push his advancement? in England till he is in a position to marry her. Temple had been making fresh promises to induce him to return; and Swift accordingly went back to Moor Park in May 1696. He left John Winder in charge of his prebend, which in the course of the next year he resolved to resign. He obtained the succession to Kilroot for his friend Winder, a fact which was the foundation of a story told by Sheridan (p. 19) to prove his romantic benevolence. A letter to Winder (Forster, p. 84) shows that he had entertained hopes of patronage which were ruined by the fall of Lord Sunderland, and that he was being consulted in some political intrigues.

      Swift's relation to Temple had completely changed its character. Temple's age and previous history entitled him to the respect of a young man who depended upon his patronage; but he had sufficiently shown his need of Swift's services, and now treated him as a friend. Swift employed himself in preparing Temple's letters and memoirs for publication (Swift's letter in Courtenay's Sir W. Temple, ii. 243). Swift had also time for a great deal of reading, chiefly classical and historical (see Craik, pp. 56, 57 n.). He spent ten hours a day in study according to Deane Swift (p. 271), or eight according to Delany (p. 50), and now wrote the first of his books which became famous. Temple had in 1692 published his essay upon ancient and modern learning, which transplanted to England a controversy begun in France by Fontenelle. William Wotton [q.v.] had replied by ?Reflections? in 1694; and incidental points had started the famous controversy between Bentley and Charles Boyle [q.v.], supported by the wits of Christ Church. Swift hereupon wrote his prose mock heroic, ?The Battle of the Books,? in which Bentley and Wotton, as the representatives of modern pedantry, are transfixed by Boyle in a suit of armour given him by the gods as a representative of ?the two noblest of things, sweetness and light.? Wotton accused Swift of plagiarism from a French book by François de Callières (not ?Coutrey,? as Scott says; see Craik, p. 71). There are slight resemblances which suggest that Swift may have seen the book, though his denial implies that, if so, he had forgotten it. The book remained in manuscript until its publication in 1704, with a greater satire, the ?Tale of a Tub.? According to Deane Swift (p. 60) the ?Tale of a Tub? was revised by Temple. Deane Swift also says (p. 31) that a sketch had been seen by Waring when Swift was still at Trinity College. The report, if it had any foundation, probably referred to the later period when Waring met Swift at Kilroot. In any case, it was finished early in 1697, and circulated in manuscript with the ?Battle of the Books.? Johnson said to Boswell (24 March 1775) that the book had ?such a swarm of thoughts, so much of nature, and vigour, and life,? that Swift could not have written it. The inference only expresses Johnson's prejudice; and the authorship, never seriously doubted, was assumed by Swift in a letter to his publisher Tooke (29 June 1710). The power of the satire, which anticipates Carlyle's clothes philosophy as a general denunciation of shams and pedantry, is indisputable. The contemptuous ridicule of theological pedantry in particular produced very natural suspicions of Swift's orthodoxy. The ridicule which he directs against papists and dissenters was only too applicable to Christianity in general. For the present, however, the book was known only to Temple's circle. In 1710 Swift prefixed an anonymous ?Apology? to a fifth edition. Curll, in a ?Key,? had insinuated that Thomas Swift, Jonathan's cousin, who had been chaplain at Moor Park, was the chief author. Wotton, in his ?Defence? of his ?Reflections,? also calls Thomas the editor. Swift, in writing to his publisher Tooke, makes some contemptuous references to his ?little parson cousin,? whom he guesses to have been an accomplice in this.

      While at Moor Park Swift made occasional excursions to Leicester and elsewhere. He was fond of walking, and used, it is said, to interrupt his studies by running up a hill and back, half a mile in six minutes (Deane Swift, p. 272). He constantly preached the duty of exercise to his friends. He made some of his expeditions on foot, and liked to put up at wayside inns where ?lodgings for a penny? were advertised, and to enjoy the rough talk of wagoners and hostlers (Orrery, p. 34; Delany, p. 72). He showed his love of Moor Park Gardens by afterwards imitating them on a small scale in Ireland. The great charm of Moor Park, however, was of a different kind. Esther Johnson (1681-1728), born at Richmond, Surrey, on 13 March 1680-1 (Richmond Register), was the daughter of a merchant who died young. Her mother became the companion of Lady Giffard, sister of Temple, who, as a widow, went to live with her brother. The Johnsons also became inmates of the family. A writer in the ?Gentleman's Magazine? for November 1757 asserts that both Esther and Swift were Temple's natural children. The statement as to Swift is all but demonstrably false, and the other a gratuitous guess. The Rev. James Hay has tried to revive this hypothesis in ?Swift, the Mystery of his Life and Love,? 1891. Swift during his first stay at Moor Park took some part in Esther's early education, which seems to have been imperfect enough. When he returned in 1696 she had got over an early delicacy, was one of the most beautiful, graceful, and agreeable ?young women in London, only a little too fat.? Her ?hair was blacker than a raven, and every feature of her face in perfection? (?On the death of Mrs. Johnson?). Another member of the household was Rebecca Dingley, who was in some way related to the Temple family.

      Sir William Temple died on 26 Jan. 1698-9, and with him, as Swift noted at the time, died ?all that was good and amiable among mankind.? He left 100l. to Swift, and a lease of some lands in Ireland to Esther Johnson (Will in Courtenay's Temple, ii. 484-6). To Swift he also left the trust and profit of publishing his posthumous writings. Five volumes appeared in 1700, 1703, and 1709, for one of which Swift received 40l. (a presentation copy to Archbishop Marsh, with Swift's autograph, is now in Marsh's library, Dublin). The last volume, containing a ?third part? of Temple's ?Memoirs,? provoked an angry correspondence with Lady Giffard, who charged him with printing against Temple's wishes and from an ?unfaithful copy.? Swift defended himself successfully (see Courtenay, ii. 242-8; Forster, p. 99), but was alienated from the family. His hopes of preferment vanished, and he long afterwards declared that he owed no obligation to Temple, at ?whose death he was? as far to ?seek as ever? (to Palmerston, 29 Jan. 1725-6). In the ?Journal to Stella? there are various reminiscences of the days in which he had been treated ?like a schoolboy? and felt his dependence painful. He calls Temple, however, ?a man of sense and virtue? (notes on Burnet, ap. Scott's Swift, xii. 206), and praises him warmly in a memorandum printed in Scott's ?Life.? It was not Temple's fault, Swift admitted, that nothing had come of the connection. Temple had obtained a promise from the king of a prebend at Canterbury or Westminster. Swift went to London, and begged Henry Sidney, earl of Romney [q.v.], to obtain its fulfilment. Romney agreed to speak, but did not keep his word. Swift then accepted an offer from Lord Berkeley, who in the summer of 1699 was appointed one of the lords justices of Ireland. Swift was to be his chaplain and secretary, but, upon reaching Ireland, Berkeley gave the secretaryship to a Mr. Bush, who had persuaded him that it was unfit for a clergyman. The rich deanery of Derry becoming vacant, Swift applied for it, but Bush had been bribed by another candidate. Swift was told that he might still have it for 1,000l. He replied to the secretary and his master, ?God confound you both for a couple of scoundrels!? (Sheridan, p. 30). He wrote some verses in ridicule of the pair, and in consequence, or in spite, of this received in February 1699-1700 the livings of Laracor, Agher, and Rathbeggan. To these was added in 1700 the prebend of Dunlavin in St. Patrick's. The whole was worth about 230l. a year (Forster, p. 117), which to Swift, with his strictly economical habits, meant independence, so long as he had only himself to keep. Miss Waring apparently thought that the income would be enough for two. In a letter to her (4 May 1700) Swift, after demolishing this theory, offers still to take her as his wife, but upon terms so insulting as to make her acceptance incompatible with the slightest self-respect. This, perhaps the most unpleasant of his actions, produced the desired result. Laracor is a mile or two from Trim. Swift rebuilt the parsonage, made a fishpond, planted willows, and formed a garden. His congregation consisted of about fifteen persons, ?most of them gentle and all simple? (to King, 6 Jan. 1708-9; to Sterne, 17 April 1710). Orrery (p. 29) tells how he proposed to read prayers every Wednesday and Friday, and had to commence the exhortation with the words, ?Dearly beloved Roger, the scripture moveth you and me.? Swift, however, passed much of his time at Dublin, where he was familiar with the official society. Lady Betty Germain [see Germain, Lady Elizabeth], the daughter of Lord Berkeley, dated from this time a long friendship, and in 1700 he gave the first specimen of a peculiar vein of humour in the ?Petition of Mrs. Frances Harris.? He made various visits to London, where he spent altogether some four out of the next ten years, always finding time for a visit to his mother at Leicester. In February 1701 he took his D.D. degree at Dublin, and in April returned with Lord Berkeley to London. The impeachment of the whig lords was then exciting the political world, and a conversation with Berkeley led Swift to write his ?discourse on the dissensions in Athens and Rome.? The pamphlet was to show that the desirable balance of power had been upset by measures analogous to impeachments, and, though well written, appears now to be pedantic or ?academical.? It was, however, successful at the time, and was attributed to Somers and to Burnet. Bishop Sheridan told Swift himself, when he returned to Ireland, that it was written by Burnet, whereupon Swift could not refrain from claiming the authorship (Deane Swift, p. 122; Sheridan, p. 34). On his next visit to England he was welcomed as a promising whig author by Somers, Halifax, and Sunderland, who held out liberal prospects of preferment (Memoirs relating to the Change of Ministry). Though the impeached ministers are incidentally compared to Aristides and other virtuous persons, there is nothing in the pamphlet committing Swift to specifically whig doctrine. He says himself that this was the first occasion on which he began to trouble himself about the difference between whig and tory. On his return to Ireland in September 1701 Swift was accompanied by Esther Johnson, best known as Stella (though, according to Forster, the name was not given to her till after the famous journal), and her friend, Mrs. Dingley. Swift says (in his paper upon her death) that Stella's fortune was only 1,500l., and that she would get a better interest for her money in Ireland. The two ladies settled there permanently. During Swift's absence they lived in his houses at Dublin and Laracor, and when he was in Ireland took lodgings in his neighbourhood. Suggestions were naturally made that this implied a ?secret history.? Swift, however, carefully guarded against scandal. He never saw Stella except in presence of a third person, and says many years afterwards that he has not seen her in a morning these dozen years, except once or ?twice in a journey? (to Tickell, 7 July 1726). They visited England when Swift was there in 1705 and 1708 (Forster, pp. 131, 230; Craik, p. 176). In 1704 Dr. William Tisdal or Tisdall [q.v.], clergyman at Dublin, made an offer to Stella, and charged Swift with opposing his suit. In a remarkable letter (20 April 1704) Swift admits that if his ?fortune and humour? permitted him to think of marriage, he should prefer her to any one on earth. As matters are, however, he is prepared to give Tisdall a fair chance if he will make a proper application to the mother, and declares that he has been Tisdall's friend ?in the whole concern.? The letter, the tone of which is remarkably calm, has been variously interpreted. It admits an affection of which the natural end would be marriage. It may mean that he considered the obstacles in his own case to be so decisive that he could not fairly stand in the way of another match, or that he had private reasons for knowing Tisdall's suit to be hopeless, or that he did not choose to be forced to declare his intentions, and considered that he was giving Tisdall a sufficient hint to keep at a distance. It is certain that he afterwards speaks of Tisdall with marked dislike.

      Swift was again in England from April to November 1702, and from November 1703 till May 1704. The Occasional Conformity Bill was now exciting bitter contests in parliament. Swift was mightily urged ?by some great people? to write against the bill. His strong church prejudices made it difficult for him to agree with the whigs, although he still considered himself to belong to the party, and his chance of preferment depended upon them. Somers and Burnet assured him eagerly that they meant no harm to the church. He at last wrote, though with many qualms, but too late to publish (to Tisdall, 16 Dec. 1703 and 3 Feb. 1703-4). Before leaving London in 1704 he published the ?Battle of the Books? and the ?Tale of a Tub.? The authorship was secret, though known in the Moor Park time, and doubtless guessed by many of his friends.

      When he next came to London, in April 1705, he became known to the wits. Addison presented to him a copy of his travels (now in the Forster Library), inscribed ?to the most agreeable companion, the truest friend, and the greatest genius of the age.? The genius had no doubt been recognised in the ?Tale of a Tub.? Sheridan (p. 41) tells a story of the quaint behaviour at a coffee-house by which he got the name of the ?mad parson? and attracted the notice of the circle. He knew, however, enough distinguished men to have no difficulty about an introduction. The friendship with Addison was permanent, and is illustrated by one of his pleasantest pieces of humour, ?Baucis and Philemon,? a travesty of Ovid. Swift told Delany (p. 19) that Addison had made him ?blot fourscore lines, add fourscore, and alter fourscore? in a poem ?of not two hundred lines.? Swift exaggerated, but not very much. Forster found the original at Narford, the seat of Sir Andrew Fountaine, and gives the exact figures (Forster, pp. 164, &c.). Addison and Swift met constantly at this time, and never, says Delany, wished for a third person (Delany, p. 32; Forster, p. 159).

      Swift spent the whole of 1706 in Ireland, and returned to England in November 1707 with Lord Pembroke, who had been lord lieutenant for a time, and had thus made Swift's acquaintance. Swift had now an official mission. Queen Anne's bounty had been founded in England in 1704. A similar measure had been suggested for Ireland (see Swift to King, 31 Dec. 1704) some time before, and Swift was now instructed to apply to the English government to make the grant. Swift calculated that the surrender of the first-fruits and twentieths and certain other funds for the benefit of the church would cost the crown about 2,500l. a year (see his Memorial to Harley, 17 Nov. 1710). The negotiation dragged, and Swift remained in England till the beginning of 1709. He applied to Somers and other great men, and at last, in June 1708, had an interview with Godolphin. Godolphin intimated that some acknowledgment would be expected from the Irish clergy. The phrase meant that they should consent to the abolition of the test. This was regarded both by Swift and his clients as out of the question. He could for the present only wait for opportunities of further negotiation. He was still reckoned a whig. In January 1708 the bishopric of Waterford was vacant, and Somers, as Swift believed, pressed his claims upon the government (Forster, p. 211). Swift was bitterly disappointed when it was given to Thomas Milles [q.v.]. The fall of Harley in February marked the triumph of the whigs. When Somers and others came into office, Swift thought that the change might prove favourable to his cause and himself, though protesting that he would not make his fortune at the expense of the church (to King, 9 Nov. 1708). At the same time, however, he had thoughts of getting ?out of the way of the parties? by becoming secretary to Lord Berkeley's proposed embassy to Vienna.

      Meanwhile Swift was seeing much of Halifax, Addison, Steele, and Congreve. It was at the end of 1707 that he launched his famous joke against the astrologer John Partridge [q.v.] (1644-1715, for a full account of this performance). The name of Bickerstaff, under which he wrote, became famous, and was adopted by Steele for the ?Tatler.? He wrote some graver pamphlets: the ?Argument to prove the inconvenience of abolishing Christianity,? which showed that he could ridicule a deist as well as a papist or a presbyterian; a ?Project for the Advancement of Religion,? and the ?Sentiments of a Church of England Man.? In the ?Project? he suggested the plan adopted by Harley a little later for building fifty new churches in London. These pamphlets are remarkable as an exposition of his political principles at the time. He fully agrees with the whigs as accepting the ?revolution principles,? but holds that the state should vigorously support the church. The government therefore could not give the dissenters too ?much ease nor trust them with too little power.? The application of this principle to the Test Act is obvious, and is significant of Swift's position in the following months.

      In October 1708 the Earl of Wharton was appointed lord lieutenant. Swift waited upon him to press the first-fruits application. Wharton put him off with ?lame excuses,? which were repeated when Swift made a second attempt with the help of Somers. Perceiving that Wharton would endeavour to abolish the test, Swift wrote a pamphlet, his ?Letter on the Sacramental Test? (December 1708), in which for the first time his power as a political writer was revealed. It is a fierce attack upon the claims put forward by the Irish presbyterians, and amounts to a declaration of war to the knife. Swift carefully concealed the authorship, even from his correspondent, Archbishop King. He even complains to King that the author ?reflects upon me as a person likely to write for repealing the test? (to King 6 Jan. 1708-9). This apparently refers to a passage not discoverable and suppressed in the reprint of 1711 (see Forster, p. 250). The authorship, however, was suspected, according to Swift, by Wharton's secretary (Change of Ministry), and injured him with ministers. Swift in fact, while still hoping for preferment, was anonymously attacking a favourite measure of the advanced whigs. He was afterwards accused of having made an application to be Wharton's chaplain. Samuel Salter [q.v.] of the Charterhouse professed to have seen letters of Swift to Somers, and Somers's letters to Wharton, and reported Wharton's contemptuous answer: ?We cannot countenance these fellows. We have not character enough ourselves.? This, it is suggested, caused Swift's desertion of the whigs. Swift, however, writing at the time, states that he made no application to Wharton (to King, 30 Nov. 1708, and to Sterne same day). Before he left England Somers asked him to take a letter (no doubt of recommendation) to Wharton, but he ?absolutely refused,? though he finally consented to deliver it in Dublin some months later. Swift's account is clear and consistent, and Salter is described by Bishop Percy as a repeater of silly anecdotes (Nichols, Illustrations, viii. 160). The story is merely an instance of the calumnies suggested by Swift's change of party (the story told originally by Salter in the Gentleman's Magazine is given in the annotated Tatler, 1786, vol. v., with an answer by Theophilus Swift [q.v.]. It is also discussed in Monck Berkeley's Literary Relics, 1789, pp. xl, &c.; and see Scott's Swift, i. 99, &c., and Craik, p. 154 n.).

      Swift had still hopes of success in the ?first-fruits? business, and on 6 Jan. 1708-9 tells King that he has heard from Lord Pembroke that the concession had been made. On 26 March he has to explain that this was a delusion. He was suffering from bad attacks of his old complaint and greatly dispirited. He lingered in London till 3 May, when he called upon Halifax and begged a book, asking the donor to remember that it was the only favour he had ever received from him or his party. A few months later he endorsed a complimentary letter from the great man as a ?true original of courtiers and court promises? (Sheridan, p. 97). He sent two adulatory letters, however, to Halifax (Johnson, Lives of the Poets, ed. Cunningham, iii. 201) to remind him of his promise in case of accident. He left London on 3 May, and, after staying five weeks at Chester, reached Ireland on 30 June. He retired at once to Laracor, and saw nothing of any friends except Esther Johnson and Addison, who was now Wharton's secretary (Journal to Stella, 3 May 1711).

      When the whig ministry was breaking up in 1710, Swift remarked that he might expect something in ?a new world, since? he ?had the merit of suffering by not complying with the old? (to Tooke, 29 June 1710); he considered, that is, that preferment had been withheld by the whigs because he would not support their policy. There can in fact be no doubt that the secret of Swift's alienation from the whigs was his intense devotion to his order. He had imbibed in an intensified form all the prejudices of the Irish churchmen of his day. He hated with exceeding bitterness the presbyterians of the north, their Scottish allies, and the English dissenters. But he also heartily despised the Jacobites. James II had taught him and his friends a lesson in 1688, and his relations to Temple had thrown him into a whig connection at starting. As it became evident that whiggism meant alliance with dissent, Swift's distrust of the leaders deepened into aversion. He is indeed more to be blamed for adhering so long to so uncongenial a connection than for breaking it off so early. Unfortunately, Swift could never separate personal from public questions. He complained of not being rewarded for his services, not the less bitterly because he also boasted that he had never rendered them. He would not exculpate the whigs from ingratitude, though as whigs they had no reasons to be grateful. His complaints have therefore given plausibility to imputations of ?ratting? when in fact he was really discovering his genuine affinities, at a time, it is true, when the discovery coincided with his personal interests. In the summer of 1710 Swift was requested by the Irish bishops to take up once more the first-fruits negotiation, which would have better chance under a change of administration. He went to England, as he writes to Esther Johnson, with less desire than ever before. The famous ?Journal to Stella? begins from Chester on 2 Sept., and records his history minutely in the following years. He reached London on 7 Sept., and on the 9th writes to King that he was ?caressed by both parties.? The whigs took him to be ?a sort of bough for drowning men to lay hold of.? Godolphin, however, was ?morose.? Somers made explanations to which Swift listened coldly. Somers, he says (24 Jan. 1710-11), is a ?false, deceitful rascal.? Halifax asked him to dinner. He saw something of Addison, and contributed to Steele's ?Tatler.? Meanwhile the elections were going for the tories, and on 4 Oct. Swift saw Harley, to whom he had got himself represented as ?one extremely ill-used by the last ministry.? Harley welcomed him with effusion. Within a week he was treating Swift as an intimate friend, and promising to get the first-fruits business settled at once. Swift's exultation was mingled with triumph over those ?ungrateful dogs? the whigs. On 4 Nov. he writes to King to announce authoritatively that the first-fruits will be granted. The Irish bishops had meanwhile bethought themselves that Swift's whiggish connections might disqualify him as an intercessor, and proposed to take the matter out of his hands. Swift was angry, though no doubt amused by this unconscious testimony to his success. Harley had won not only the gratitude but the permanent devotion of his new friend. Swift, though seeing plainly the minister's faults, always speaks of him hereafter with the strongest personal affection.

      Swift began at once by political squibs, attacking his enemy Godolphin in ?Sid Hamet's Rod,? which had a great success, and producing in December what he rightly calls ?a damned libellous pamphlet? against the hated Wharton, of which two thousand copies were sold in two days (Journal, 15 Oct. 1710, and 1 Jan. 1710-1). He was already employed upon more important work. The ?Examiner? had been started as a weekly paper to support the tories, and had been for a time answered by Addison in a short-lived ?Whig Examiner.? Swift now took over the ?Examiner,? of which the original authors were tired, and wrote the numbers from 2 Nov. 1710 to 14 June 1711. Their success was unprecedented. With an air of downright common-sense and vigorous insistence upon the main points, Swift defends the ministerial policy. He expresses the general weariness of the war, which was now, he argued, being carried on for the benefit of Marlborough, the ?monied men,? and our Dutch allies; he appeals to the interests of the church and the landed men, and denounces some of his hated opponents. He often took credit for sparing Marlborough (Journal, 7 Jan., 12 Jan., and 18 Feb. 1710-1711), whom he heartily disliked, but still took to be necessary. The ?sparing? is not very evident now, but at the time Swift and his patron, Harley, appeared as too moderate to some of their own side. The ministry, as Swift says (4 March 1710-11), stood ?like an isthmus? between whigs and violent tories. Swift endeavoured to restrain the excess of zeal, and was very nervous at reports of Harley's ill-health. When, on 8 March 1711, Harley was stabbed by Guiscard, Swift was thrown into an agony of fear. He afterwards preserved Guiscard's knife as a memorial (Deane Swift, p. 163; Scott, i. 196 n.; Nichols, Lit. Illustr. v. 379). Swift took lodgings at Chelsea on 26 April to have the benefit of a walk to London. He often went to Windsor in the summer with ministers, and describes his journeys in his imitation of Horace (6th satire of 2nd book). He saw the queen occasionally, but Harley, it seems, never fulfilled his promise of presenting him formally at court. Prior's secret mission to Paris in the summer gave occasion for one of Swift's characteristic ?bites.? When it was made known by an accident, he wrote a mock account, supposed to come from a French valet, which is an amusing instance of his power of mystification. The serious purpose of the pamphlet was apparently to test the public feeling as to the peace negotiations. This gave the occasion for Swift's most important work at this time. In concert with St. John he prepared, during the summer, his pamphlet upon the ?Conduct of the Allies.? The whigs were to make a great effort at the meeting of parliament. They made an alliance with Nottingham [see Finch, Daniel, second Earl of Nottingham] by agreeing to accept the Occasional Conformity Bill; and the queen was thought to be drawn towards them by the influence of the Duchess of Somerset. Swift, as usual, took a gloomy view of political prospects. His pamphlet appeared on 27 Nov., and was greedily bought. It was a powerful defence of the thesis assumed in the ?Examiner,? that the war had been protracted against our true interests from corrupt motives, and solely to benefit our allies. When a vote hostile to the ministry was passed in the House of Lords, Swift was in despair and begged St. John to get him a secretaryship abroad, to which he might retreat if the ministry fell (Journal, 7 Dec. 1711). He recommended, however, strong measures all the more earnestly. On 13 Dec. he was alarmed by hearing that the chief justice (Parker) had threatened the printer of the ?Conduct of the Allies,? which he would not have had the impudence to do had he not anticipated a change. Swift consoled himself by writing the ?Windsor Prophecy,? a squib in which he charged the Duchess of Somerset with having red hair and having been concerned in the murder of her second husband [see under Seymour, Charles, sixth Duke of Somerset]. It was privately printed, and a dozen copies given to each of his friends at the Brothers' Club. Mrs. Masham persuaded him not to publish it; but it was probably shown to the queen, and would not conciliate her or her favourite (Journal, 23, 26, and 27 Dec. 1711). His anxiety was at last relieved by the creation of the twelve peers and the dismissal of Marlborough from all his offices at the end of the year.

      The tories were now triumphant; but success brought disunion. The October Club, composed of the more violent tories, complained that the ministry had not gone far enough. Swift endeavoured to pacify them by a ?twopenny pamphlet? of advice, and complains (ib. 28 Jan. 1711-12) that, though ?finely written,? it did not sell. The jealousies between Harley (now Lord Oxford) and St. John were becoming serious. Swift had noticed a discord soon after Guiscard's attempt, and had been labouring to effect a reconciliation (ib. 27 April, 15 and 27 Aug., and 20 Oct. 1711). He knew, he said, that he was endangering his own interests by acting an ?honest part,? but the jealousy was steadily growing. Swift, during the early part of 1712, speaks several times of his expectation of returning to Ireland, and is only detained by some piece of business (ib. 7, 27 Feb. 1711-12, 31 May, 17 June 1712). He had received promises from ministers at an early period, but professed to count little upon them (ib. 5 April, 22 May, 25 Aug. 1711). He was becoming discontented, and complains that he can help every one except himself (ib. 8 and 17 March 1711-12). He employed himself in some of his usual squibs and in helping to preface a famous ?Representation? from the House of Commons (ib. 8 March 1711-12). He wrote nothing, however, comparable to his previous efforts. A distressing illness at the end of March caused him to drop his regular ?Journal to Stella.? He wrote occasional letters, but the journal was suspended until the following December. He was at Windsor for some time in August and September, and was at work upon the book afterwards published as the ?History of the Last Four Years of Queen Anne? (ib. 15 Sept. 1712). His letters frequently complain of giddiness and depression of spirits, and the want of any personal result of his labours became vexatious. John Sharp, the archbishop of York [q.v.], is said to have complained to the queen of the irreligious tendency of the ?Tale of a Tub.? Swift calls Sharp his ?mortal enemy? (ib. 23 April 1713), and although, at the end, Sharp seems to have wished for a reconciliation, this plausible imputation would no doubt be a serious obstacle (see Swift, The Author upon Himself, 1713; and Delany, Observations, p. 270). At last, in the spring of 1713, there were several vacancies, and Swift told Oxford that he would at once go to Ireland if ?something honourable? were not immediately given to him. After a long dispute it was at last settled that John Sterne [q.v.], dean of St. Patrick's, should be made bishop of Dromore, and Swift promoted to the vacated deanery. The warrants were finally signed on 23 April, and Swift left London on 1 June, and was installed dean of St. Patrick's on the 13th.

      During his stay in London Swift had made himself conspicuous in society as well as in politics. His relations to the whigs had naturally cooled. Steele had lost his place as gazetteer, but had another small office, which Swift begged Harley not to take away. Harley consented, but stipulated that Steele should call with an apology for previous errors. Steele never came, being held back, as Swift thought, by Addison. Swift declared that he would never speak in their favour again (Journal, 22 Oct., 15 Dec. 1710, 4 Feb. 1710-11, 29 June 1711). The breach with Steele was complete, but he still occasionally saw Addison, and declares (14 Sept. 1711) that no man was ?half so agreeable to him.? Meanwhile he had been welcomed to the tables of ministers. Harley offered him a 50l. banknote for his services as ?a writer;? Swift insisted upon an apology, and, upon the quarrel being made up, was invited to one of Harley's Saturday dinners, with St. John and Harcourt, the lord-keeper (ib. 7 and 17 Feb., and 6 March 1710-11). He ?chid? Lord Rivers for presuming to join the party, and they all called him ?Jonathan.? They would, he replied, leave him Jonathan as they found him. In June he was one of the original members of the Brothers' Club (ib. 21 June 1711). The club held weekly dinners, and was intended, besides promoting sociability, to advise ministers to a worthy distribution of patronage to men of letters. Harley and Harcourt were excluded, apparently to secure the independence of the advice, but it included St. John and several tory peers; while literature was represented by Swift, Prior, Freind, and Arbuthnot. Political squibs were occasionally laid upon the table and subscriptions raised for poor authors. The club declined in 1713, but its members long addressed each other as ?brother.? Swift's ambition to become a patron of literature suggested the only pamphlet published with his name, a ?Proposal for Correcting ¼ the English Language? written in February 1711-12 (ib. 21 Feb. 1711-12). An academy was to be founded for this purpose. Swift speaks of this scheme on 22 June 1711, and continued to cherish it. The ministry had other things to think of. Swift was heartily desirous to help poor authors. He was perseveringly kind to William Harrison (1685-1713) [q.v.], and deeply affected by his death. He got help for him in his last illness and for William Diaper, a ?poor poet in a nasty garret.? He induced Oxford to make the first advances to Parnell, and recommended Berkeley (afterwards the bishop) to all the ministers (13 Jan. 1712-13 and 12 April 1713). He did a ?good day's work? by relieving his old schoolfellow Congreve of the fears of being turned out by the new ministry (22 June 1711), and obtained a promise of a place for Nicholas Rowe (27 Dec. 1712). The members, he says, complained that he never came to them ?without a whig in his sleeve.? Naturally, however, his intimates were chiefly tories, and the most eminent of the young men encouraged by him was Pope (first mentioned in his Journal, 13 March 1712-13). A passage frequently quoted from the ?Journal? of Bishop White Kennett [q.v.] describes Swift at court in 1713 touting for subscriptions to Pope's ?Homer,? and making an ostentatious display of his interest at court. It tends to confirm the unjust impression that Swift was a sycophant disguised as a bully. His self-assertion showed bad taste, but the independence was genuine, and the services of which he bragged were really performed. If he could be generous to dependents, he had no mercy upon his enemies, and complained that Bolingbroke was not active enough in ?swingeing? Grub Street assailants (28 Oct. 1712). He was sensitive to abuse, and was stung to the quick when Steele in the ?Guardian? of 12 May 1713, attacking an article in the ?Examiner,? insinuated that Swift was an accomplice, and hinted that he was an unbeliever. The ?Examiner? was now edited by William Oldisworth [q.v.], who was unknown to Swift, but who received occasional hints from government and took a gift from the Brothers' Club (1 Feb. and 12 March 1712-13). Swift wrote an indignant remonstrance to Addison denying all complicity with the ?Examiner,? and truly declaring that he had done his best to keep Steele's place for him. Steele unjustifiably refused to accept either statement, and they became bitter enemies.

      When Swift reached Dublin in 1713 he was received, according to Orrery (p. 49) and Sheridan (p. 183), with insults by the people generally. Delany (p. 87) denies this, which may perhaps refer to his arrival after the fall of the tories. He was, in any case, ?horribly melancholy.? The discord of the ministry was increasing. Swift fancied at one time (Journal, 8 April 1713) that he had effected a reconciliation. But he was entreated by his political friends to return to try the hopeless task again. He reached London in September, and found the political excitement rising; the new parliament was to be elected; the treaty of Utrecht had enraged the whigs; and the state of the queen's health threatened a political catastrophe at any moment. Swift showed his own bitterness by writing against Bishop Burnet and Steele. ?The Importance of the ?Guardian? considered? was his reply to Steele's ?Importance of Dunkirk considered.? ?The Public Spirit of the Whigs considered? replied to Steele's ?Crisis,? published in January 1713-14. (The ?Character of Steele? and another attack by ?Andrew Tripe? are attributed to Swift. The evidence, however, would be equally cogent against Pope or some other friend, whom Swift may possibly have encouraged to write. The internal evidence is not in favour of Swift's own authorship.). Swift's powerful invective was in striking contrast to Steele's feeble performance in an uncongenial field; and he treats both Steele and Burnet with contemptuous insolence. One of his aims was to repudiate the charge of jacobitism made against the tories. Swift's frequent denials that any jacobite intrigue existed (see especially letter to King, 16 Dec. 1716), though mistaken in fact, were certainly sincere. The ministers had an obvious interest in keeping him in the dark, if only that he might give the lie to dangerous reports more effectively. Steele was expelled from the House of Commons for the ?Crisis;? and the peers petitioned the crown for action against the unknown author of the ?Public Spirit.? Oxford offered a reward of 300l. for his discovery, and when the printers were summoned to the bar of the House, sent 100l. privately to Swift to pay for their damages.

      Meanwhile, the split between Oxford and Bolingbroke was widening. Swift, after vain expostulations, gave up the game, and retired at the end of May to the vicarage of an old friend at Upper Letcombe in Berkshire. He had shortly before (15 April) applied for the office of historiographer to the queen, which brought trifling profit, but would enable him to write his proposed history. He seems to have been greatly annoyed at Bolingbroke's failure to secure the success of this application (to Miss Vanhomrigh, 1 Aug. 1714). He tried at times to forget politics; he corresponded with Arbuthnot and Pope on the satire to be written by the ?Scriblerus Club,? an informal association of the tory wits started at this period, with which Oxford had found time to exchange verses in April. Politicians, however, entreated Swift to leave his retirement; and he was writing his ?Free Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs,? throwing the blame chiefly upon Oxford's vacillation, and recommending vigorous action against the whigs. The pamphlet, of which the authorship was to be carefully concealed (Ford to Swift, 20 July 1714), was too late. The final fall of Oxford was followed by the death of the queen (1 Aug.), and Swift saw at once that the case was hopeless. Lady Masham, who had helped Bolingbroke's intrigue, wrote on 29 July to entreat Swift to stay in England and support the queen, who had been, as she said, ?barbarously used? by Oxford. On 1 July, however, Swift had written a warm acknowledgment of gratitude to Oxford, whose resignation he anticipated. On 25 July, hearing that it was coming, he had written offering to accompany Oxford in his retreat. On 1 Aug. he tells Miss Vanhomrigh that he could not join with Bolingbroke; Oxford had accepted his offer in the ?most moving terms imaginable.? Swift could not refuse the fallen minister who, when in power, had been so good to him. Although condemning Oxford as a minister, he could not desert the friend. The queen's death ruined both ministers; and Swift on 16 Aug. left Berkshire for Ireland.

      Swift retired to what he always regarded as a place of exile in sullen despondency. In verses written in sickness he laments his solitude, and says that life is becoming a burden. He is living alone, he tells Pope next year (28 June 1715), in ?the corner of a vast unfurnished house.? Could he be easy, he asks, while his friends Oxford, Bolingbroke, and Ormonde were in danger of losing their heads? He wrote another affectionate letter to Oxford upon his impeachment (19 July 1715). Next year he bitterly resented a suggestion from King that Bolingbroke might be able to tell an ?ill story? of him (16 Dec. 1716). He declares his innocence of any plots in favour of the Pretender. King's suspicions had been stimulated by letters addressed to Swift and seized in the post office, but they were clearly groundless (see Craik, p. 306). Swift's chief amusement seems to have been in petty quarrels with the archbishop and his choir.

      To this period has been assigned his alleged marriage to Esther Johnson. The journal addressed to her during her stay in London, full of caresses so playful and intimate that to read them even now seems a breach of confidence, clearly suggests intention of marriage. He ostensibly joins her with Mrs. Dingley as ?M.D.,? but when he says (23 May 1711) that ?M.D.'s felicity is the great goal I aim at in all my pursuits,? there could be only one interpretation. In the journal Swift frequently mentions a Mrs. Vanhomrigh, with whom he often dined, and at whose lodgings he kept his ?best gown and periwig? when he was at Chelsea. Mrs. Vanhomrigh was the widow of a Dutch merchant who had followed William III to Ireland and obtained places of profit. He died in 1703, leaving about 16,000l. and four children. One son died early, and the other behaved ill (Orrery, p. 103; Deane Swift, pp. 257-262). In 1708 Mrs. Vanhomrigh, with her two daughters, Esther (born 14 Feb. 1689-1690; see Journal, 14 Feb. 1710-11, 14 Aug. 1711) and Mary, was living in London, where Swift met them in that year. The journal rarely mentions Esther, and the silence may be significant. An intimacy sprang up between her and Swift, which is described in his remarkable poem, ?Cadenus and Vanessa,? written at Windsor in 1713 (revised in 1719), but not then published. Swift's behaviour to women was always a mixture of tyrannising and petting. He often refers in later years to an ?edict? which he issued annually in London commanding all ladies to make the first advances. In 1709 he drew up a treaty setting forth the terms on which a beautiful Miss Long was to claim his acquaintance. ?Hessy? Vanhomrigh undertakes not to abet her in her ?contumacy.? He showed genuine kindness to Miss Long, who died in sad circumstances, to his great sorrow, in 1711 (Journal, 25 Dec. 1711). Miss Vanhomrigh became his devoted slave. The ?Cadenus and Vanessa? states that he at first regarded her as a master might regard a promising pupil. She startled him after a time by confessing that love had taken the place of admiration in her heart. He tried to persuade her to suppress her passion, but offered as much friendship as she pleased. She replied that she would now become his tutor; but the result of her instructions remained a secret. Swift wrote to her from Dublin in 1713, and from Letcombe in 1714, in terms implying close confidence, though expressing no special affection. Her mother died in the summer of 1714. Vanessa seems to have surprised Swift by an indiscreet visit at Letcombe soon afterwards. She was intending to return to Ireland with her sister, and he warns her that if she comes he will see her very seldom. She was in Dublin, however, in November 1714, and complains piteously of the restrictions upon their intercourse, of his ?killing words,? and the ?awful? look which ?strikes her dumb.? She settled at Marlay Abbey, near Celbridge, on the Liffey, where her sister died in 1720. The correspondence, which is fragmentary, shows that she wrote to him in terms of passionate adoration. He makes excuses for not seeing her oftener; he advises her (5 July 1721) to ?quit this scoundrel island,? and yet he assures her in the same breath ?que jamais personne du monde a été aimée, honorée, estimée, adorée par votre ami que vous.? In other passages he recalls old associations and uses fondling terms, while he yet seems to reproach her for yielding to morbid sentiment. It is also said that he favoured the proposals of marriage to her from another person (Deane Swift, p. 263). How far he was ?in love? with her is a matter of doubtful inference. The stronger his feeling, the greater would be the excuse for his behaviour to her. Reluctance to give her pain, and to sacrifice a friendship so valuable to himself in his retirement, might be pleaded as some extenuation of his temporising; but if, as is alleged, he was really married to Stella, he was clearly bound to speak out. In 1723 Vanessa wrote a letter to Stella (Sheridan, p. 290), or to Swift himself (Orrery, p. 113), asking whether they were married. Swift rode off to Celbridge in a fury, threw down the letter, and retired without speaking a word. Vanessa died before the autumn from the shock. She revoked a will in favour of Swift, and by another (dated 1 May 1723) divided her fortune between the famous Berkeley and Judge Marshall. She also entrusted to them as executors her correspondence with Swift (extracts from this were given by Sheridan, but it was first fully published in Scott's edition of the ?Works?) and ?Cadenus and Vanessa,? which was published after her death. Swift hid himself for two months in the south of Ireland. Stella was also shocked, but, when somebody remarked that Vanessa must have been a remarkable woman to inspire such poetry, observed that the dean could write well upon a broomstick (Delany, p. 57). The story of the marriage to Stella has been much discussed. Swift had sufficient reasons, in his passionate desire for independence, for not marrying before he had won his deanery. The profound depression into which he was thrown by the fall of his party, and the constant alarms as to his health, which made him old before his time, may well account for his not caring to marry on his return to Ireland. Nor does it seem necessary with some of his biographers to lay any particular stress upon the coldness of temperament of which he speaks. The marriage was, in any case, merely formal. Orrery (p. 22) states positively, and Delany (p. 52) confirms the statement, that Swift was privately married to Stella by St. George Ashe [q.v.], bishop of Clogher, in 1716. Deane Swift first thought the story to be an idle rumour (Craik, p. 529), but accepts it in his book (p. 92). Sheridan (p. 282) agrees in this, and adds that Swift found that Stella was depressed, and, on learning the cause through a common friend, declared that he was too old and too poor to marry, but consented to have the ceremony performed, which would at least prevent his marrying any one else. Sheridan gives Mrs. Sican, a friend of Swift's in his later years, for his authority. Monck Berkeley, in his ?Relics? (p. xxxvi), repeats the statement of the marriage by Ashe on the authority of his grandmother, Bishop Berkeley's widow, who told him that Berkeley himself had the story from Ashe. Berkeley in 1716 was travelling abroad as tutor to Ashe's son, and did not return till after Ashe's death (1718). It is hardly conceivable that Ashe should have at once written to communicate so confidential a transaction to his son's tutor, and the grandson could only have heard the story in his childhood. Johnson heard from Samuel Madden [q.v.] that Stella had told the story on her deathbed to Dr. Sheridan, Swift's old friend, the father of the biographer. Besides this, there is a story told by Delany (p. 56) that shortly before Vanessa's death Swift offered to own the marriage, and that Stella replied ?too late.? Stella told this to a friend well known to Delany, probably Sheridan. Deane Swift was told by Mrs. Whiteway, who lived with Swift in later years, that Stella had given the same account to Dr. Sheridan (unpublished letter to Orrery, written before Swift's death; quoted by Craik, p. 532). Theophilus, son of Deane Swift, told Scott a story which is apparently a distorted version of the same. Sheridan (p. 316) says that Stella begged Swift in presence of Dr. Sheridan, shortly before her death, to make the acknowledgment, and that Swift turned on his heel and left the room. He adds an erroneous statement that she altered her will in consequence. Her will (in which she appears as ?spinster?) was in accordance with a suggestion made by Swift (to Worrall, 15 July 1726). Dr. John Lyon [q.v.], who attended Swift in his last years, disbelieved the whole story, and says that Mrs. Dingley laughed at it as an ?idle tale.? Mrs. Brent, the dean's housekeeper, similarly disbelieved it.

      Sir Henry Craik, whose authority is very high, is convinced by the evidence. Forster (p. 140) thought it quite insufficient. The objections are obvious. The general curiosity which had been stimulated by the mystery made it quite certain that some such story would be told, and the tellers would have the glory of being in the secret. Orrery, Deane Swift, and the younger Sheridan are uncritical, and could only know the story at second-hand. Delany was an old friend of Swift, and his belief in the marriage is strongly in its favour; but he does not tell us by what evidence he was convinced. It seems to be clear from Mrs. Whiteway's evidence that the elder Sheridan (who died in 1738) received some statement from Stella, whom he certainly saw frequently in her last illness. The other stories seem to depend more or less directly upon Sheridan. It is impossible to say what precisely was Sheridan's own version of a story which became more circumstantial with repetitions, or how far he was simply reporting or interpreting Stella's own account. It does not appear on what ground the date and the name of Ashe were assigned. Experience in biography does not tend to strengthen belief in such anecdotes. On the whole, though the evidence has weight, it can hardly be regarded as conclusive. The ceremony, in any case, made no difference to the habits of the parties. They lived apart, and Stella used her maiden name in her will.

      Until he was over fifty Swift had not appeared as a patriot. He shared in an intensified form all the prejudices of the Irish churchman against dissenters, catholics, and jacobites. He was proud of being an Englishman, though he ?happened to be dropped? in Ireland (see letter to Grant, 23 March 1733-4, and Oxford, 14 June 1737). He could speak warmly of the natural intelligence of the native Irish (to Wogan, July 1732), but he considered them to be politically insignificant, and shows no desire for any change or for a relaxation of the penal laws. At this period, however, his prejudices were roused against the English government. The English colonists in Ireland were aggrieved by the restrictions upon Irish trade, and their oppressors were the hated whigs. Swift's eyes were opened, and his hatred of oppression was not the less genuine because first excited by his personal antipathies. The first symptom of his return to political warfare was the publication of a proposal for the universal use of Irish manufactures in 1720. He declared that the oppression of Ireland was calculated to call down a judgment from heaven, and says that whoever travels in the country will hardly think himself ?in a land where law, religion, and common humanity are professed.? The printer of the pamphlet was prosecuted, and the chief justice, Whitsted, after sending the jury back nine times, only induced them, after eleven hours' struggle, to return a special verdict. The prosecution had to be dropped. In 1722 a patent was given to William Wood, an English tradesman, to provide a copper coinage, which was much wanted in Ireland. Wood was to pay 1,000l. a year to the crown for fourteen years, and the Duchess of Kendal, the king's mistress, sold the patent to Wood for 10,000l. It seems that Wood was allowed to make a good bargain in order to be able to pay these sums. The real grievance, however, was not so much that the Irish had to pay a high price for their copper coinage, as that they had to pay a high price for the benefit of Wood and the duchess without being [1]
    Person ID I10447  Dickinson
    Last Modified 24 Aug 2013 

    Father Jonathan Swift,   b. ca. 1640, Goodrich, Herefordshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1666, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 26 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Mother Abigail Erick 
    Relationship Birth 
    Family ID F2866  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

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    Link to Google MapsDied - 19 Oct 1745 - Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland Link to Google Earth
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    Swift, Jonathan
    Swift, Jonathan

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    Letters

  • Sources 
    1. [S336351] Dictionary of National Biography, 63 volumes, Sir Sidney Lee, ed., (New York: McMillan and Company, 1885-1900), Public Domain.