Article 15

ART. XV. An Essay on the earlier part of the Life of Swift, by the Rev. John Barrett, D. D. and Vice Provost of Trinity College, Dublin. To which are subjoined various pieces ascribed to Swift, Two of his original Letters, and Extracts from his Remarks on Bishop Burnett's History. pp. 232. 8vo. London. Johnson, 1808.

[pp. 162-177] [original article in PDF format]

  1. THE biography of literary men is often obscure during the earlier period of their lives. The youthful poet or philosopher is probably a man of low birth, unmarked by his companions, unless for whimsical, or perhaps unamiable peculiarities, imperceptible to those whose notice confers temporary distinction; while his growing talents are noticed only by the teacher under whom he studies, or a friend or two of congenial disposition, as obscure as himself. Of such it maybe said with more truth than of the potent house to whom the similies were applied, that 'you must mark the greatness in the stream which you cannot trace to the source; you must mark the dignity in the full grown oak which you can never derive from the sapling.' The author, in his full blown fame, becomes the general object of investigation and remark; his story may be found in the criticisms of his rivals, and in the panegyrics of his admirers; in the malevolent records of the satirists, or the good humoured gossippings of the Boswells of the day.

  2. There is no writer to whom this applies more closely than to Swift. Of his life, before he became the literary assistant of Sir William Temple, we know little or nothing. Even during this space of comparative notoriety, we find no anecdotes, which any one thought it worth his while to preserve, of an ignoble dependant. The crouds that surrounded Temple, and, while they were really dazzled by his rank and station, affected to be solely attracted by respect for his literary character, could not discover in the humble chaplain, or reader, a greater than him whom they had come forth to admire. Even his patron, himself a man of genius, was more repelled by the peculiarities of Swift's manners, than conciliated by his unremitted services and attentions; and although Temple, in his declining years, was incapable of living without Swift, yet he appears to have felt as little concern for the state of poverty and dependence into which he was likely to fall at his death, as he probably did for the posthumous fate of the pair of old crutches, without which, when alive, he could not have stirred a step. It was not until the 'Remarks [162] on the contests and dissentions between Athens and Rome' introduced Swift to the notice of Somers that he was considered as 'a fellow of mark and likelihood.' When he once shot above the ground, however, his growth was uncommonly rapid. As he attached himself to Hailey and St. John, with all the zeal of a new convert, and as they were both men highly capable of appreciating his talents, Swift soon became indispensable to their counsels. The world, as the higher classes call themselves, saw with astonishment an Irish Vicar scarely known, but by a suspicion of having written a book* which he durst not avow, rise at once, and without passing through the subordinate forms, into the independent and familiar counsellor of those who ruled the nation; and, with its customary acquiescence, after staring at such a phenomenon for the usual space, gave Swift credit for all the talent necessary to justify this sudden promotion. Neither he nor his admirers were then desirous to look back; and a slight wish to ascertain the heraldic coat of his forefathers, is the only circumstance in his curious and minute journal to Stella, which, in this halcyon period, intimates a wish to refer to his birth, or to the earlier part of his life. His enemies might not have been so remiss—but although it was understood that his passage through the University had not been with uninterrupted honour, yet as that University was Trinity College, Dublin, the occurrences of his youth were almost as inaccessible to the London politicians, as if he had been educated at Padua or Gottingen. In the latter, but more glorious part of his career, when the Dean of St. Patrick's shone forth upon Ireland 'her first and almost her last patriot,' when, to continue the expressive words of an animated writer, 'he saved her by his courage, improved her by his authority, adorned her by his talents, and exalted her by his fame,' when he was the darling of her oppressed natives, and the dread of her oppressive rulers; where was the man who dared to drag from the records of his College, anecdotes which might cloud his earlier history, or tarnish by reflection the well-earned fame of his later years?

  3. The time at length arrived when gratitude ceased to be reverential, and political or personal enmity to be active and malignant. The spirit of literary gossipping, without a better or worse motive than mere curiosity, began to investigate those parts of Swift's early life, which afforded foundation for private anecdote, [163] that 'sweet poison for the age's tooth.' It was in the first place discovered that Swift had received his bachelor's degree ex speciali gratia, which does not mean, as one would suppose, a reward confered for distinguished success, but è contra, that the party would have been set aside for insufficiency, had not the College given that out of mere favour, which could not be claimed from merit. A report was next circulated by Mr. Richardson, in a letter to Lady Braidshaigh, 22d April, 1752.

    'I am very well warranted by the son of an eminent divine, a prelate who was for three years' what is called his chum, in the following account of that fact. Dr. Swift made as great a progress in his learning at the University of Dublin in his youth, as any of his cotemporaries; but was so very ill-natured and troublesome, that he was made Terræ Filius,—on purpose to have a pretence to expel him. He raked up all the scandal against the Heads of that University, that a severe inquirer, and a still severer temper, could get together into his harangue. He was expelled in consequence of his abuse; and having his discessit, afterwards got admitted at Oxford to his degree.'

  4. The present tract of Dr. Barrett, though stiled generally an essay on the earlier part of the life of Swift, refers entirely to the truth of this anecdote, and ought rather to have been termed an essay on his conduct while in Trinity College. It bears sufficient testimony to the very laborious and industrious character of the investigator, and presents some facts which the admirers of Swift will deem highly acceptable. But unfortunately Dr. Barrett is not gifted with the power of explicit argument, or distinct arrangement; and as the question is m itself puzzled by the technicalities of buttery books, similarity of names, and crabbed abbreviations of College records, it would require a very accurate and practised reasoner to draw a result from the evidence. We are sensible of Dr. Barrett's toil, we are confident of his integrity, we give him thanks for investigations which probably he alone would have had patience to make; but the whole resolves into the exclamation of one of Foote's characters to his wife: 'Hold, hold! we shall never understand all these he's and she's; this may be all very true, but, as I hope to be saved, thou art the worst teller of a story'------There are two buttery books in the records of Trinity College, called the senior books, and there was or should have been a third, called a junior buttery book, which, to Dr. Barrett's great discomfiture, is missing. We really cannot sympathise with his regret; on the contrary, such confusion do the two existing records make in his argument, that [164] a third must, we think, have destroyed it utterly. Still more to perplex the skein which the learned Vice Provost has undertaken to unravel, there were two Swifts at College at the same time, the celebrated Jonathan, and Thomas his cousin. As the devil would have it, these cousins entered College on the same day. The ingenuity of the keeper of one register, indeed, distinguished them by the titles of Swift senior and junior, though not by those names which their godfathers had bestowed; and Dr. Barrett successfully establishes that the future Dean of St. Patrick was Swift junior. This distinction is again confounded by the keeper of the 2d senior book omitting Thomas's title of senior; and again the identity of his person is, in our author's apprehension, ascertained, because, according to the College rules, the name of Swift the younger ought not to be found in that book at all. It also unluckily happened that both the Swifts, at least after they took their degrees, were extremely unruly, guilty of town-haunting, and negligence of various academical duties, as well as repeated contumacy. They were also associated with one John Jones, Warren, Web, Bredy, and others, all lads of dissipated habits. The various penalties on these offenders are all on the record, which is sedulously explored by Dr. Barrett, for the purpose of extracting some special offence and punishment undergone by Swift, to justify the current report that he had fallen under a severe academical censure in Ireland. In other words

    --------Among this crew of drunkards,
    Is he to fix on Jonathan some action,
    That might offend the University.
  5. Of lesser faults he has discovered an abundant store, though there may be some doubt how far they should all be laid to the door of Jonathan, as Thomas probably had his share of them. The record bears,

    'Mr. Warren, Sir Swift senior, Sir Swift junior, Web, Bredy, Series, and Johnson the pensioner, for notorious neglect of duties and frequenting the town, were admonished,'

    'And note also, that one of the above (Bredy) was expelled, 19th September, 1687, "for writing and publishing a scandalous libel on some ladies of quality."

    'Let us next inquire and see what account the Buttery Books give of Swift's attendance on duties. From them we learn, that the duties to which students were then liable, were these:

    'Chapel—hall—surplice—catechism—lectures in Greek, Hebrew, mathematics, as also morning lecture; also disputations and declamations. Of these the first four were in force all the year: the lectures, [165] only in term. And I further find, that between the periods of 14 November, 1685, and 8 October, 1687, (being the time comprized in the first and only Junior Book I could get) he had punishments on him, whether confirmed or taken off, upwards of seventy weeks: that after he had received the above-mentioned punishments, he appears both out of commons and unpunished, for ten weeks and upwards; whence, (as I do not believe the censure wrought any reformation in him) I am inclined to believe that he spent the three or four months subsequent to his censure, in the country, his high spirit being unable to brook the disgrace. During other periods he was frequently out of commons; thus, previously to 20 March, l685-6; also from May 1 to 18, l686; and from 28 August to l6 October, 1686; and from 27 November, l686, to January 8, 1686-7; but he has punishments confirmed on him, in those times; whence I conclude that he was then in college, notwithstanding he was out of Commons. Most of his punishments are for non-attendance in chapel; the amount is 1l. 19s. 4d. confirmed, and 19s. 10d. taken off.—For surplice (that is, for non-attendance in chapel at those times when surplices are required to be worn) 11s. 4d. confirmed: and 6s. 6d. taken off.—Of his other punishments, those for lectures appear all confirmed; and are, for catechism 3s. Greek lecture 9d. Hebrew lecture 8d. mathematic lecture 1s. 10d.; and those for missing night-rolls, or town-haunting (that is, for halls*) amount to 3l. 4d.; but are all taken off, the admonition being substituted in their place.' p.10-12.

  6. These various delinquencies were, however, succeeded by one of greater enormity, and the punishment attached to it alienated Swift's affections for ever from his Alma Mater. The record is in these words, 1688, November 30.

    'Nemini obscurum, &c. &c. Constat vero Dom. Web, Dom. Sergeant, Dom. Swift, Maynard, Spencer, et Fisher, huic legi contravenisse, tam seditiones sive dissensiones domesticas excitando, quam juniorem decanum ejusque monita canternnendo, eundemque minacibus verbis contemptus et contumaciæ plenis lacessendo, unde gravissimas pœnas commeriti sunt, &c. Placuit Dom. Web, Dom. Swift, et Dom. Sergeant, omni gradu suspendendos tam suscepto quam suscipiendo, &c. Ast. verò Dom. Swift et Dom. Sergeant, quoniam caeteris adhuc intolerabilius se gesserunt, ab eodem decano publicè in Aulâ flexis genubus secundum præscriptam formulam die tertio Decembris proximè futuri, horâ nonâ antemeridiana veniam petere.'

    '1688-9, January the 8th. The persons suspended by the decree of November 30, were restored,' p. 14. [165]

  7. Hence it appears that Swift was compelled, on his knees, to crave pardon in the public hall for his academic offences, and insolence to his superiors; and this, it would seem, was the most severe penalty which he sustained at College. Richardson is therefore incorrect in supposing that Swift was expelled for having written a Tripos, when Terræ Filius.* But Dr. Barrett farther proves that the offending Terræ Filius was personated, and the offensive Tripos written, by a John Jones, who in July, 1688, was degraded from his degree, for the false and scandalous aspersions thrown out by him upon that occasion. So far, therefore, we have sailed before the wind, and made out three points, subversive of the story delivered to Richardson. For 1st. Swift was not expelled at all; 2d. the punishment or penance imposed on him, had no relation to the affair of the Tripos. 3dly. He was not even Terræ Filius; and a Mr. Jones was punished as the author of that Diatribe. It was with some surprise, therefore, that we found Dr. Barrett, after proceeding thus far in disproving the allegation in question, suddenly change his note, and argue in the very teeth of his own evidence, that Swift was the author of the piece for which Jones was punished. He enters on this venturous task, with shewing that Jones was the friend of Swift—or rather that a certain John Jones, who appears to be the same person with Jones the Terræ Filius, was a school-master in Dublin about the end of the seventeenth century. This is not very clearly proved. But, supposing this identity made out, Dr. Barrett next shews that all Swift's relations, admitted into College while this Jones taught a school, were educated at the said school. And upon these 'facts,' Dr. Barrett assumes a great intimacy between Swift and Jones, which he says will not permit us to doubt that they were well acquainted when members of the same College. Besides, the Dean, in a letter to William Tisdall, desires to be remembered to 'Ryves, Delly, Jones, and other friends.' On this important piece of evidence there rests unfortunately some doubt: for previous editors have supposed that one Dean Jones, distinct from Jones the school-master, is the person for whom this remembrance is intended. [167]

  8. The external evidence amounts therefore to this. Swift was a class-fellow of one John Jones, degraded from his degree for false and scandalous reflections in a Tripos. But this John Jones is supposed to have been the same with a person who taught a school at Dublin, and educated certain pupils connected with Swift's family. Moreover, it is shrewdly suspected that Swift once sent his compliments to him—Ergo, there was such friendship and intimacy between Swift and Jones, as to warrant a belief that the former wrote the libel for which the latter was degraded. This is what Dr. Barrett calls external proof!

  9. For internal proof we are referred to the Tripos itself, published in this volume, which has scarcely a few tolerable jests to qualify a mass of scurrilous and obscene ribaldry, for which Sir Jones deserved not only degradation from his academical knighthood, but to be tossed in a blanket by the college bedmakers. We are unwilling to stain our paper by extracts from a satire at once dull, fulsome, and pedantic. The following summary may be perused, however, without offence, and is at least as witty as any part of the filth through which we have been compelled to wade.

    'And now belike I have made a fair afternoon's work on't: I have not left myself one friend of the Mammon of Unrighteousness. If I go to the kitchen, the Steward will be my enemy as long as he breathes; if to the cellar, the Butler will dash my ale with water: and the clerk of the buttery will score up my offences five-fold. If I betake myself to the library, Ridley's ghost will haunt me, for scandalizing him with the name of Freemason. If I fly to the Divines for succour, Dean Manby and Archdeacon Baynard will pervert me; Dr. King will break my head because I am a Priscian: and Dr. Foy is so full of spleen, he'll worry me. Mrs. Horncastle and Sir Maddison will talk with me. Mother Jenkinson won't furnish me with cale and bacon on Christmas-day, and Dr. Loftus will bite me. The virtuosi will set their brains a-work, for gimcracks to pull my eyes out. The Freemasons will banish me their lodge, and bar me the happiness of kissing long Laurence. And the Astronomers won't allow me one good star, nor inform me when the sun will be totally eclipsed, that I may provide myself with candles. Mr. Loftus and Mr. Lloyd will nose me; Mr. Allen will eat me without salt; Dr. Acton too, I fear, will fall on me. Nay, the very Provost will shake his head at me, and scour away from me: but that which makes my calamity most insupportable, and me weary of your company, is, that in all my tribulation, you do nothing but laugh at me; and therefore I take my leave.'[168]

  10. The following note, exquisite in simplicity, is subjoined by the editor.

    'From this passage it appears, that the author of this performance had no malicious intentions towards the persons whom he censured; but only wished to indulge a little pleasantry, which, he conceived, the usual practice on such occasions warranted.'

    This inference would be undeniable, if an audience never laughed at any jests but what were good humoured and inoffensive.

  11. The internal evidence for depriving Jones of the credit of this precious composition, and ascribing it to Swift, is classed under different heads. 1. In the Tripos, abstract science and deep points of divinity are held in little estimation. Logic is declared to be as dull as a "Trinity-day sermon." Now Swift himself wrote a Trinity-day sermon, in which he treated enquiry into abstruse points of doctrine as superfluous. 2. The Terræ Filius lashes freemasonry; and Swift has written a letter on that very subject. 3. The Tripos calls Colonel Hewson 'the blind cobler,' which tallies with the zeal of Swift against innovators in church and state. 4. The piece is utterly beastly, and exceeds in loathsomeness all but the dirtiest of the Dean's acknowledged compositions. 5. Resemblances may be found between passages in the Tripos and others taken from Swift's works, too marked to be merely accidental. Thus, in the Tale of a Tub, a father bequeaths three coats to his three sons; and in the Tripos Mrs. Mary Hewetson bequeaths to different members of the college, her brains, her tongue, her teeth, her hair, her coloured silk petticoat, her looking-glass, night-rail, tooth-pick and patch-box. Item. In the Tale of a Tub, it is remarked that a monkey delights in hunting and devouring 'certain beasts familiar to man;' and in the Tripos a monkey devours a pair of old leather breeches. 6. Swift took pleasure in Macaronic Latin, in which the satire is partly written. 7. Lloyd, whom Swift thoroughly hated, is abused in the satire, (and the Dr. might have added, so is St. George Ashe, his very intimate friend, whom he entirely loved.) 8. The poetical part breathes the very spirit of Swift.—Gentle reader, to this we demur: judge thou between us.

    There's scarce a well-drest coxcomb, but will own
    Tommy's the prettiest spark about the town.
    This all the tribe of fringe and feather say,
    Because he nicely moves by Algebra; [169]
    And does with method tie his cravat string,
    Takes snuff with art, and shows his sparkling ring:
    Can set his foretop, manage well his wig,
    Can act a proverb, and can dance a jig;
    Does sing French songs; can rhyme, and furnish chat
    To inquisitive Miss, from Letter or Gazette;
    Knows the affair of cockpit and the race,
    And who were conquerors at either place:
    If Crop or Trotter took the prize away,
    And who a fortune gain'd the other day.
    He swings fring'd gloves, sees plays, writes billet-doux,
    Fill'd up with beauty, love, oaths, lies, and vows;
    Does scent his eyebrows, perfum'd comfits eat,
    And smells like phœnix' nest, or civet cat;
    Does shave with pumice stone, compose his face,
    And rolls his stockings by a looking-glass.
    Accomplish'd thus, Tommy, you'll grant, I hope,
    A pretty spark at least, if not a fop.
  12. Who will venture to say of these lines with their flatness and their expletives, that they ascertain their parentage, and are aut Erasmi aut Diaboli? The last argument adduced by Dr. Barrett is of so singular a texture, and illustrates so happily the peculiarities of his logic, that we must quote the very words lest we be suspected of having sophisticated the record.

    "My hate, whose lash just Heaven has long decreed,
    "Shall on a day make Sin and Folly bleed."

    Mr. Sheridan, struck with the thought contained in these lines supposes them to prognosticate his future exertions against Sin and Folly: but I am much inclined to think that they rather point to something past, than prophesy any thing future. For I reason thus: These lines plainly imply a consciousness of Swift, of his own great powers to make Sin and Folly bleed. Now whence did he acquire this consciousness, or how came he to know that he possessed these powers? The natural answer will be, Because he had made trial of them, and succeeded in lashing Vice in the person of Doyle, and Folly in that of Weaver: in short, because he had composed the Tripos, and was well acquainted with the effects which it produced.'

  13. This argument is too conclusive to admit of reply, yet it may lead to some singular alterations in the law of evidence; as it will become necessary for uniformity's sake, to hold that a resolution to set out for Ireland next month, is proof positive that the party has been in Ireland the month preceding, for whence could he derive a certainty that it was possible for him to travel [170] to that country, if not from the experience of a journey already made to it.

  14. Upon the whole, although Dr. Barrett's reasons are as two grains of wheat in a bushel of chaff, we do not mean to deny that Swift may have contributed, in some degree, to the invective delivered by the Terræ Filius. There are a few passages, though but a few, that indicate some power of humour in the author; and as a satire of this kind is probably rehearsed among the students, and altered and augmented before delivery, we can readily believe that Swift, who, about that time, appears to have been a contumacious disorderly youth, and whose talents for ridicule were so exquisite, may have been of counsel and assistance to Sir Jones the Terræ Filius. It is difficult otherwise to account for the rise of the report mentioned by Richardson. But if Swift's accession be admitted, it seems probable that the memory of his college companion had confused a number of facts happening near the same period, and had stated that Swift was made Terræ Filius on purpose that his indulgence of a well-known satirical vein might give a pretence for his expulsion; instead of saying, that as the aid he had given to Jones, the real Terræ Filius, could not be ascertained and punished, the first occasion was taken which his subsequent conduct afforded, to inflict upon him a severe penance. Accordingly the punishment imposed on Swift followed within a month or two of the delivery of the Tripos. But whether this be the case, or whether the reporter had altogether confounded the incident of Swift's punishment with that of Jones, we cannot but think that the writer of the Odes to the Athenian Society, might by perseverance have attained the giddy elevation of Pindar, if, being the author of the Tripos, he afterwards rose to be the first satirist in our language.

  15. There is a singular commentary by Dr. Barrett, on an obscure passage in the Tale of a Tub, wherein Camelion and Moulinavent are mentioned as sworn enemies of the sect of Æolists. These have been interpreted to mean Churchmen and Infidels; but Dr. Barrett conceives they mean the Church and State, and thus he argues:

    'MOULINAVENT has four arms; these are the four sceptres (of England, Scotland, France and Ireland), issuing from the centre of the coin, and including the arms of those kingdoms. A windmill (which is what the word moulin à vent means) is a proper image of the State or Monarchy, whose condition is subject to much alteration and many vicissitudes.—As for the Camelion, it is an animal [171] that lives upon air, and refunds no part of it by eructation. This is an image of the Church of England; whose articles acknowledge the inspiration of Holy Scripture, whilst its members make no pretences to supernatural powers, or to the possession of inspiration in themselves, but have an established Liturgy and set form of prayer, and do not make use of extemporaneous praying and preaching, here called Eructations. This Church, Dryden had represented under the image of a panther; and Swift (in imitation of him I suppose) compares it to a camelion. But further: the camelion lives upon air, and varies his colours according as the objects that surround him vary: and will not this be a just representation of those ecclesiastics (if there be any such) who exist on the promises of the great, and rise to power by complying with their variable humours?

    We submit to the judgment of the candid reader, whether these arguments be not borrowed from the reasoning by which Lord Peter proved a loaf of bread to be a shoulder of mutton.

  16. The poetical pieces which follow the essay have different degrees of merit. They are chiefly extracted from a miscellaneous manuscript in the library of Trinity College, called the Whimsical Medley. Most of them ascertain their paternity at once, as, for example, a parody on the Blessington address, to her Majesty, beginning thus:

    From a town that consists of a church and a steeple,
    With three or four houses, and as many people,
    There went an Address in great form and good order,
    Composed, as 'tis said, by Will Crowe, their Recorder.
    And thus it began to an excellent tune:
    Forgive us, good Madam, that we did not, as soon
    As the rest of the cities and towns of this Nation,
    Wish your Majesty joy on this glorious occasion.
    Not that we're less hearty or loyal than others,
    But having a great many sisters and brothers,
    Our borough in riches and years far exceeding,
    We let them speak first, to show our good breeding.'
  17. The same stile of sarcasm marks a satire, entitled the 'Conference between Sir H. P--ce's Chariot, and Mrs. D. St--d's Chair.' It has some of Swift's coarseness, but a great deal of his humour, and therefore lays claim to a place in his works, with a better grace than the Tripos, which has enough of the first, with very little of what alone tempts us to endure it. The lady, whose sedan chair is introduced as a party in the dialogue, is distinguished by Swift in his journal to Stella, as that owl Countess Doll of Meath, with her feathers and her foppery. [172] And his dislike survived the grave; for he celebrated her death, and that of her second husband, General Georges, in a satirical elegy on Dicky and Dolly. Most of the other pieces in the collection we readily acknowledge as Swift's composition; but hesitate as to one or two. 'The Swan Tripe Club, in Dublin,' may certainly be his, although written in a style and manner distinct from his subsequent publications. It is a satire upon the Tory Clergy of England, those whom Swift, during the greater part of his life, considered as the only valuable part of the clerical order. Its authenticity rests with Tonson, who published it in 1706, as written by the author of the 'Tale of a Tub.' That piece Swift never owned; and indeed it was repeatedly ascribed both to his cousin Thomas Swift, and to Dr King; the latter of whom was publicly named as the author. The authority of title pages in those days was, as we learn from the complaints of Pope, very slender; and no bookseller was deemed to have committed felony without benefit of his clergy, in filching the good name of some well-known author to place in the front of his book. If we judge from internal evidence, we own ourselves uncertain. On the one hand, Swift was, at the time of publication, a whig in secular politics; but on the other, he was always a high churchman where the church was concerned; and it is difficult to reconcile his opposition to the repeal of the Test Act, which was serious and obstinate even when he enjoyed the friendship of Lord Somers, with the low church or moderate sentiments which the poem displays and enforces. It is also remarkable, that amid the numerous charges with which Swift was assailed, that of clerical apostacy was never objected to him, although the present poem, if generally believed to be his, would have afforded good ground for such an accusation. In point of style, it differs, as we have already said, from his subsequent productions, and exhibits an ambitious imitation of Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel, rather than the short terse measure in which he latterly exerted his strength. Yet the piece, though very unequal, bears marks of satirical powers, and may have been written by him before he had formed and adopted his own very peculiar vein of poetry. The following short character will give the reader some idea of the whole.

    'Immortal Crab stands firmly to the truth,
    And with sage nod commands the list'ning youth;
    In whom rank spleen has all its vigour shewn,
    And blended all its curses into one; [173]
    O'er-flowing gall has chang'd the crimson flood,
    And turn'd to vinegar the wretch's blood.
    Nightly on bended knees the musty put
    Still saints the spigot, and adores the butt;
    With fervent zeal the flowing liquor plies,
    But damns the moderate bottle for its size.
    His liquid vows cut swiftly thro' the air,
    When glorious red has whetted him to prayer;
    Thrifty of time, and frugal of his ways,
    Tippling he rails, and as he rails he prays.'
  18. We have no hesitation in adopting as Swift's the parody on Baron Lovell's Address to a Grand Jury; and very little in rejecting as apocryphal two poems, called Orpheus Burlesqued, and Acteon, or the origin of Horn Fair. These last-mentioned pieces resemble the stile of Dr. King much more than that of the Dean; and, as they are found in the "Whimsical Medley," we cannot help thinking that they may have been among those with which he solaced his retirement at Mountown, in the neighbourhood of Dublin.

  19. There follow several of those pieces which passed between Sheridan, Jackson, Delany, and other of the Dean's familiar friends, who accommodated themselves to his humour, and diverted the growing evils of his constitution. The fastidious taste of many critics has rejected these as trifling and puerile. To us, whom experience has rendered glad to measure excellence rather by its approach to the mark which was levelled at by the author, than by considering whether he might not have taken a more distant and more ambitious aim; who feel no way affronted at being made of the Dean's family party, and diverted without the ceremony paid to strangers, and who hold a good riddle better than twenty indifferent epic poems; the additions to Swift's collection of whimsicalities are not unacceptable. Lord Orrery is welcome, with aristocratic complacency, to point out to his son the superior respect and delicacies which Swift threw into the poems addressed, as his Lordship thinks proper to style it, to those 'more exalted friends, whose stations and character did him honour: 'and some of whom are now only known to us, because he did them the honour so to address them. Our plebeian disposition renders us quite as well contented with his more familiar effusions. We should have been glad, no doubt, to see Scipio's deportment to consuls and praetors; but, as far as our own amusement is concerned, we would rather have requested admission to his parties with Lælius, when the [174] chief object was gathering cockle-shells. We, therefore, receive with gratitude these additions to the Swiftiana, and could point out many passages in which they are absolutely necessary to explain those formerly published. Thus, in the admirable epistle from Swift's cook-maid to Sheridan, she charges him with an offence towards the Dean, not hitherto to be traced in their poetical correspondence:

    'You said you would eat grass on his grave?—A Christian eat grass!
    Whereby you show that you are either a goose or an ass.'
  20. In one of the poems here printed for the first time, we find the couplet supposed to have excited the damsel's indignation: Sheridan, upbraided as the bird of the capitol, answers

    I'll write while I have half an eye in my head;
    I'll write while I live, and I'll write when you're dead;
    Though you call me a goose, you pitiful slave!
    I'll feed on the grass that grows on your grave.
  21. This publication also contains two original letters from the Dean, both highly valuable and characteristic. In the first, addressed to Dr. Jenny, he vindicates himself from the absurd and invidious accusation that the incomparable piece of humour, called Hamilton's Bawn, was a libel on Sir Arthur Acheson, and his lady. In the second letter, addressed to the Reverend Mr. Brandreth, the Dean gives a picture of Ireland, such as he alone could draw, and even he but in the very spring-tide of his misanthropy.

  22. 'If you are not an excellent philosopher, I allow you personate one perfectly well; and if you believe yourself, I heartily envy you; for I never yet saw in Ireland a spot of earth two feet wide, that had not in it something to displease. I think I once was in your county, Tipperary, which is like the rest of the whole kingdom, a bare face of nature, without houses or plantations: filthy cabins, miserable, tattered, half starved creatures, scarce in human shape; one insolent, ignorant, oppressive squire to be found in twenty miles riding; a parish-church to be found only in a summer day's journey, in comparison of which an English farmer's barn is a cathedral; a bog of fifteen miles round; every meadow a slough, and every hill a mixture of rock, heath, and marsh; and every male and female, from the farmer inclusive to the day-labourer, infallibly a thief, and consequently a beggar, which in this island are terms convertible. The Shannon is rather a lake than a river, and has not the sixth part of the stream that runs under London Bridge. There is not an acre of land in Ireland turned to half its advantage; yet it is better improved [175] than the people: and all these evils are effects of English tyranny; so your sons and grandchildren will find; to their sorrow. Cork indeed was a place of trade; but for some years past is gone to decay; and the wretched merchants, instead of being dealers, are dwindled into pedlars and cheats. I desire you will not write such accounts to your friends in England. Did you ever see one cheerful countenance among our country vulgar? unless once a year at a fair or on a holiday, when some poor rogue happened to get drunk, and starved the whole week after. You will give a very different account of your winter campaign, when you can't walk five yards from your door without being mired to your knees, nor ride half a mile without being in slough to your saddle-skirts; when your landlord must send twenty miles for yeast, before he can brew or bake; and the neighbours for six miles round must club to kill a mutton. Pray take care of damps, and when you leave your bedchamber, let a fire be made, to last till night; and after all, if a stocking happens to fall off a chair, you may wring it next morning.—I nunc, et tecum versus meditare canoros.'

  23. These letters are added by Mr. Malone to Dr. Barrett's collection.

  24. It only remains to notice the concluding pages, which are filled by the Dean's remarks on Burnet's History of his own Times. Swift's decided hatred to the Bishop of Sarum had already displayed itself in his poignant ironical preface to the Introduction of his third volume on the Reformation. Nor is his pen more merciful upon the former occasion, while, recording on the margin, the Bishop's slips in style, facts, and politics. Burnet has now nearly found his level. And though his clumsy and slovenly language, his extreme personal vanity, his gross and inconsistent credulity, will prevent his ever laying claim to the title of an historian; yet, as a writer of memoirs, his spirit of honesty and of liberty, his intimate acquaintance with the great men and important transactions of his time, place his work above the desultory criticism even of Swift. The wrath of the Dean is chiefly excited by the passages in which the high church clergy are assailed, or the low churchmen exalted, or the sectaries apologized for. It usually vents itself in the pithy annotations of 'Ah, rogue! dog! a Scotch dog! partial dog!' and so forth. In a few places the remarks are curious, and corroborate or contradict, on authority, the facts in the text. In most they are sarcastic, as for example: Burnet having stated that Paradise Lost 'was esteemed the beautifulest and perfectest poem that ever was writ, at least in our language.' Swift adds, 'A mistake—for it is in English.' Again, the [176] Bishop having said, that Charles II. never treated Nell Gwynn 'with the decencies of a mistress,' the shrewd and malicious commentator asks, 'Pray what decencies are these?' And Burnet having stated that the French released 25000 Dutch prisoners for 50,000. crowns, Swift exclaims, 'What ten shillings a piece! By much too dear for a Dutchman'. These may serve as a specimen of the remarks. But by far the most witty sarcasm refers to the Earl of Argyle, described by Burnet as 'a solemn sort of man, grave, sober, and free of all scandalous vices:' Swift, 'as a man is free of a corporation, he means.'

  25. Upon the whole we dismiss this volume with warm approbation of Dr. Barrett's zeal in the cause which he has undertaken. It gives us sincere pleasure to see those labouring in the cause of literature, whose academical situation and offices afford them leisure and opportunity to ply effectually their honourable task. We cannot, it is true, extend our unlimited approbation to all parts of the learned editor's essay; but he knows well 'non cuivis,' &c. and if the plummet of our understanding be not altogether equal to sound the depth of his logic, we readily acknowledge that he is not bound to find us both argument and comprehension. In short, we request him to believe, that we have read with attention the rules for conducting literary controversy, which the learned Mr. Bickerstaff insists upon in his letter to Partridge, are sensible that the cause of useful knowledge cannot be advanced if men of public spirit are superciliously treated for their ingenious attempts, and only differ from him after the modest manner that becomes a philosopher, and pace tanti viri.

  26. The work is published separately; but it is also incorporated with the new edition of Swift's works, published by Mr. John Nicholls. [177]