IRISH WIT AND HUMOR,
SWIFT, CURRAN, O'LEARY AND O'CONNELL.
J. A. McGEE, 9 BARCLAY STREET.
Entered according to the act of Congress, in the year 1871, by James McGee in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Stereotyped at the New York Catholic Protectory, West Chester, N. Y.
His Birth—Singular Event 9
A Certificate of Marriage 10
Grace after Dinner 11
The Three Crosses 13
Chief Justice Whitshed 12
To Quilca 16
Mr. Pulteney 16
Resolutions when I come to be Old 17
Miss Bennet 19
The Feast of O'Rourke 20
Swift's Behavior at Table 24
Countess of Burlington 25
Swift's Political Principles 27
Swift's Charity 29
Public Absurdity in Ireland 30
Swift's Peculiarity of Humor 30
Dr. Bolton 32
The Scriblerus Club 33
The Upstart 36
Meditation upon a broomstick 37
Cossing a Dog 39
Trade of Ireland 40
A Beggar's Wedding 41
The Pies—Short Charity Sermon 43
A Courtier's Retort—Lying 44
Dr. Sacheverell 45
Taxing the Air—Wisdom 46
Epitaph on Judge Boat 47
On Stephen Duck, the Thresher and Favorite Poet 47
Dialogue between Swift and his Landlord 48
Roger Cox 50
Roger and the Poultry 52
Kelly the Blacksmith 52
Birth-day Presents 53
The Dean's Contributory Dinner 56
Swift and Bettesworth 58
Swift among the Lawyers 61
Preaching Patriotism 61
Swift and his Butler 63
His Saturnalia 65
The Dean and Faulkner 66
Swift, Arbuthnot, and Parnell 67
Dean Swift and the Preacher who stole his sermon 69
Swift's queer Testimonial to his Servant 71
Swift at Thomastown 73
Swift's Last Lines 77
JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN.
His birth 79
Curran as Punch's Man 80
At a debating Society 80
The Bank—Duel with St. Leger 82
The Monks of the Screw 83
Lord Avonmore 84
His first Client 86
Curran and the Informer 89
Lord Clare 93
Curran's Eloquence 94
Scene between Fitzgibbon and Curran 96
Defence of Rowan 98
Encounter with a Fishwoman 114
Curran and Lord Erskine 114
Duel with Bully Egan 116
Massy versus Headfort 116
The Serenading Lover 121
Employment of Informers 128
Curran and the Farmer 130
Curran and the Judge 132
Curran's quarrel with Fitzgibbon 133
High Authority 136
Red Tape—Curran and the Mastiff 137
His birth 139
Controversy with an Infidel 140
Interview with Dr. Mann 144
Controversy with John Wesley 145
Meeting of O'Leary and Wesley 151
Dr. O'Leary and Father Callanan 152
O'Leary and the Quakers 154
His Reception by the Volunteers 155
O'Leary and John O'Keefe 157
O'Leary and the Irish Parliament 159
His Interview with Daniel Danser 162
A Fop 164
His Person—Captain Rock 166
Lots drawn to have him at dinner 168
Reply to charge of Recantation 171
O'Leary and the Rector 173
Lady Morgan 174
A Batch of Interesting Anecdotes 175
A Dog's Religion 179
Howard and Mr. Henry Shears 180
His Habits of study 181
Edmond Burke 182
His Charity 183
O'Leary versus Curran 184
His triumph over Dr. Johnson 186
A Nolle Prosequi 187
The Prince of Wales 188
The Closing Scenes of his Life 189
Darby Moran 193
A Dead Man with Life in Him 194
A Young Judge Done 196
O'Connell and a Snarling Attorney 197
His encounter with Biddy Moriarty 201
O'Connell and a Bilking Client 207
Sow-West and the Wigs 209
Election and Railway Dinners 211
Scene at Killiney 213
An Insolent Judge 214
A Witness Cajoled 216
His Duel with Captain D'Esterre 217
O'Connell and Secretary Goulburn 225
Entrapping a Witness 220
Gaining over a Jury 227
Paddy and the Parson 229
A Martial Judge 230
Retentive Memory 231
A Political Hurrah at a Funeral 233
Refusal of Office 233
A Mistaken Frenchman 234
Epistolary Bores 235
Sir R. Peel's Opinion of O'Connell 237
Anecdote of O'Connell's Uncle 237
A Slight Rebuke 238
IRISH WIT AND HUMOR.
Dr. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's, was born A.D. 1667, in Hoey's Court, Dublin, the fourth house, right hand side, as you enter from Werburgh-street. The houses in this court still bear evidence of having been erected for the residence of respectable folks. The "Dean's House," as it is usually designated, had marble chimney-pieces, was wainscotted from hall to garret, and had panelled oak doors, one of which is in possession of Doctor Willis, Rathmines—a gentleman who takes a deep interest in all matters connected with the history of his native city.
When Swift was a year old, an event happened to him that seems very unusual; for his nurse, who was a woman of Whitehaven, being under the absolute necessity of seeing one of her relations, who was then extremely sick, and from whom she expected a legacy; and being extremely fond of the infant, she stole him on shipboard unknown to his mother and uncle, and carried him with her to Whitehaven, where he continued for almost three years. For, when the matter was discovered, his mother sent orders by all means not to hazard a second voyage till he could be better able to bear it. The nurse was so careful of him that before he returned he had learned to spell; and by the time that he was five years old, he could read any chapter in the Bible.
After his return to Ireland he was sent at six years old to the school of Kilkenny, from whence at fourteen he was admitted into the Dublin University.
A CERTIFICATE OF MARRIAGE.
Swift, in one of his pedestrian journeys from London towards Chester, is reported to have taken shelter from a summer tempest under a large oak on the road side, at no great distance from Litchfield. Presently, a man, with a pregnant woman, wore driven by the like impulse to avail themselves of the same covert. The Dean, entering into conversation, found the parties were destined for Litchfield to be married. As the situation of the woman indicated no time should be lost, a proposition was made on his part to save them the rest of the journey, by performing the ceremony on the spot. The offer was gladly accepted, and thanks being duly returned, the bridal pair, as the sky brightened, was about to return: but the bridegroom suddenly recollecting that a certificate was requisite to authenticate the marriage, requested one, which the Dean wrote in these words:
Under an oak, in stormy weather, I joined this rogue and wench together, And none but he who rules the thunder, Can put this wench and rogue asunder.
GRACE AFTER DINNER.
Swift was once invited by a rich miser with a large party to dine; being requested by the host to return thanks at the removal of the cloth, uttered the following grace:—
Thanks for this miracle!—this is no less Than to eat manna in the wilderness. Where raging hunger reign'd we've found relief, And seen that wondrous thing, a piece of beef. Here chimneys smoke, that never smok'd before, And we've all ate, where we shall eat no more!
THE THREE CROSSES.
Swift in his journeys on foot from Dublin to London, was accustomed to stop for refreshments or rest at the neat little ale-houses at the road's side. One of these, between Dunchurch and Daventry, was formerly distinguished by the sign of the Three Crosses, in reference to the three intersecting ways which fixed the site of the house. At this the Dean called for his breakfast, but the landlady, being engaged with accommodating her more constant customers, some wagoners, and staying to settle an altercation which unexpectedly arose, keeping him waiting, and inattentive to his repeated exclamations, he took from his pocket a diamond, and wrote on every pane of glass in her best room:—
TO THE LANDLORD.
There hang three crosses at thy door: Hang up thy wife, and she'll make four.
CHIEF JUSTICE WHITSHED.
Swift, in a letter to Pope, thus mentions the conduct of this worthy Chief Justice:—
"I have written in this kingdom a discourse to persuade the wretched people to wear their own manufactures instead of those from England: this treatise soon spread very fast, being agreeable to the sentiments of a whole nation, except of those gentlemen who had employments, or were expectants. Upon which a person in great office here immediately took the alarm; he sent in haste to Lord Chief Justice Whitshed, and informed him of a seditious, factious, and virulent pamphlet, lately published, with a design of setting the two kingdoms at variance, directing at the same time that the printer should be prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law. The Chief Justice had so quick an understanding that he resolved, if possible, to outdo his orders. The grand juries of the county and city were practised effectually with to represent the said pamphlet with all aggravating epithets, for which they had thanks sent them from England, and their presentments published for several weeks in all the newspapers. The printer was seized, and forced to give great bail: after this trial the jury brought him in not guilty, although they had been culled with the greatest industry. The Chief Justice sent them back nine times, and kept them eleven hours, until, being tired out, they were forced to leave the matter to the mercy of the judge, by what they call a special verdict. During the trial, the Chief Justice, among other singularities, laid his hand on his breast, and protested solemnly that the author's design was to bring in the Pretender, although there was not a single syllable of party in the whole treatise, and although it was known that the most eminent of those who professed his own principles publicly disallowed his proceedings. But the cause being so very odious and unpopular, the trial of the verdict was deferred from one term to another, until, upon the arrival of the Duke of Grafton, the Lord Lieutenant, his Grace, after mature advice and permission from England, was pleased to grant a nolle prosequi."
CHIEF JUSTICE WHITSHED'S MOTTO ON HIS COACH.
Libertas et natale solum. Liberty and my native country.
Libertas et natale solum; Fine words! I wonder where you stole 'em: Could nothing but thy chief reproach Serve for a motto on thy coach? But let me now the words translate: Natale solum:—my estate: My dear estate, how well I love it! My tenants, if you doubt, will prove it. They swear I am so kind and good, I hug them till I squeeze their blood. Libertas bears a large import: First, how to swagger in a court; And, secondly, to show my fury Against an uncomplying Jury; And, thirdly, 'tis a new invention To favor Wood, and keep my pension: And fourthly, 'tis to play an odd trick, Get the Great Seal, and turn out Brod'rick. And, fifthly, you know whom I mean, To humble that vexatious Dean; And, sixthly, for my soul to barter it For fifty times its worth to Carteret. Now since your motto thus you construe, I must confess you've spoken once true. Libertas et natale solum, You had good reason when you stole 'em.
ON THE SAME UPRIGHT CHIEF JUSTICE WHITSHED.
In church your grandsire cut his throat: To do the job too long he tarried, He should have had my hearty vote, To cut his throat before he married.
This was a country house of Dr. Sheridan's, where Swift and some of his friends spent a summer in the year 1725, and being in very bad repair, Swift wrote the following lines on the occasion:—
Let me thy properties explain; A rotten cabin dropping rain: Chimneys with scorn rejecting smoke: Stools, tables, chairs and bedsteads broke. Here elements have lost their uses, Air ripens not, nor earth produces: In vain we make poor Shelah toil, Fire will not roast, nor water boil. Through all the valleys, hills, and plains, The goddess Want in triumph reigns; And her chief officers of state; Sloth, Dirt, and Theft, around her wait.
Swift says, in a letter to Mr. Pulteney: "I will do an unmannerly thing, which is to bequeath you an epitaph for forty years hence, in two words, ultimus Britannorum. You never forsook your party. You might often have been as great as the court can make any man so; but you preserved your spirit of liberty when your former colleagues had utterly sacrificed theirs; and if it shall ever begin to breathe in these days, it must entirely be owing to yourself and one or two friends; but it is altogether impossible for any nation to preserve its liberty long under a tenth part of the present luxury, infidelity, and a million of corruptions. We see the Gothic system of limited monarchy is extinguished in all the nations of Europe. It is utterly extirpated in this wretched kingdom, and yours must be next. Such has ever been human nature, that a single man, without any superior advantages either of body or mind, but usually the direct contrary, is able to attach twenty millions, and drag them voluntarily at his chariot wheels. But no more of this: I am as sick of the world as I am of age and disease. I live in a nation of slaves, who sell themselves for nothing."
RESOLUTIONS WHEN I COME TO BE OLD.
These resolutions seem to be of that kind which are easily formed, and the propriety of which we readily admit at the time we make them, but secretly never design to put them in practice.
1. Not to marry a young woman.
2. Not to keep young company, unless they really desire it.
3. Not to be peevish, or morose, or suspicious.
4. Not to scorn present ways, or wits, or fashions, or men, or war, &c.
5. Not to be fond of children.
6. Not to tell the same story over and over to the same people.
7. Not to be covetous.
8. Not to neglect decency or cleanliness, for fear of falling into nastiness.
9. Not to be over severe with young people, but to give allowance for their youthful follies and weaknesses.
10. Not to be influenced by, or give ear to, knavish tattling servants, or others.
11. Not to be too free of advice, nor trouble any but those who desire it.
12. To desire some good friends to inform me which of these resolutions I break or neglect, and wherein; and reform accordingly.
13. Not to talk much, nor of myself.
14. Not to boast of my former beauty or favor with ladies, &c.
15. Not to hearken to flatteries, or believe I can be beloved by a young woman.
16. Not to be positive or opiniative.
17. Not to set up for observing all these rules, for fear I should observe none.
This lady was a celebrated beauty in her day, and often mentioned by Swift. Dr. Arbuthnot thus speaks of her in one of his letters: "Amongst other things, I had the honor to carry an Irish lady to court that was admired beyond all the ladies in France for her beauty. She had great honors done her. The hussar himself was ordered to bring her the King's cat to kiss. Her name is Bennet."
This circumstance gave rise to the following lines by the Dean:—
For when as Nelly came to France, (Invited by her cousins) Across the Tuileries each glance Kill'd Frenchmen by whole dozens.
The king, as he at dinner sat, Did beckon to his hussar, And bid him bring his tabby cat For charming Nell to buss her.
The ladies were with rage provok'd, To see her so respected; The men look'd arch as Nelly strok'd, And puss her tail erected.
But not a man did look employ, Except on pretty Nelly; Then said the Duke de Villeroi, Ah! qu'elle est bien jolie!
The courtiers all with one accord, Broke out in Nelly's praises: Admir'd her rose, and lis sans farde, Which are your terms Francaises.
THE FEAST OF O'ROURKE.
Swift had been heard to say more than once that he should like to pass a few days in the county of Leitrim, as he was told that the native Irish in that part were so obstinately attached to the rude manners of their ancestors, that they could neither be induced by promises, nor forced by threats, to exchange them for those of their neighbors. Swift, no doubt, wished to know what they would get by the exchange. Mr. Core was resolved that the Dean should be indulged to the fullest extent of his wish; for this purpose he had a person posted in Cavan, who was to give him immediate notice when the Dean arrived in that town, which he usually did once a year, and where he remained a day or two or longer, if the weather was not fair enough to travel. The instant Mr. Gore was informed of the Dean's arrival, he called and invited him to pass a few days at a noble mansion which he had just finished on a wing of his own estate in that county. The Dean accepted the invitation; and, as the season was fine, every thing as he advanced excited his attention; for, like other men, he was at times subject to "the skyey influence," and used to complain of the winds of March, and the gloom of November.
Mr. Gore had heard so much of Swift's peculiar manners that he was determined he should have his way in every thing; but was resolved, however, that he should be entertained in the old Irish style of hospitality, which Mr. Gore always kept up to such a degree, that his house might be called a public inn without sign. The best pipers and harpers were collected from every quarter, as well as the first singers, for music is an essential ingredient in every Irish feast. The Dean was pleased with many of the Irish airs, but was peculiarly struck with the Feast of O'Rourke, which was played by Jeremy Dignum, the Irish Timotheus, who swept the lyre with flying fingers, when he was told that in the judgment of the Dean, he carried off the spolia opima from all the rest of the musical circle. The words of the air were afterwards sung by a young man with so much taste and execution, that the Dean expressed a desire to have them translated into English. Dr. Gore told him that the author, a Mr. Macgowran, lived at a little distance, and that he would be proud to furnish a literal translation of his own composition either in Latin or English, for he was well skilled in both languages. Mr. Gore accordingly sent for the bard, the Laureate of the Plains, as he called himself, who came immediately. "I am very well pleased," said the Dean, "with your composition. The words seem to be what my friend Pope calls 'an echo to the sense.'" "I am pleased and proud," answered Macgowran, "that it has afforded you any amusement: and when you, Sir," addressing himself to the Dean, "put all the strings of the Irish harp in tune, it will yield your Reverence a double pleasure, and perhaps put me out of my senses with joy." Macgowran, in a short time, presented the Dean with a literal translation, for which he rewarded him very liberally, and recommended him to the protection of Mr. Gore, who behaved with great kindness to him as long as he lived. To this incident we are indebted for the translation of a song or poem, which may be called a true picture of an Irish feast, where every one was welcome to eat what he pleased, to drink what he pleased, to say what he pleased, to sing what he pleased, to fight when he pleased, to sleep when he pleased, and to dream what he pleased; where all was native—their dress the produce of their own shuttle—their cups and tables the growth of their own woods—their whiskey warm from the still and faithful to its fires! The Dean, however, did not translate the whole of the poem; the remaining stanzas were translated some years since by Mr. Wilson, as follow:—
Who rais'd this alarm? Says one of the clergy, And threat'ning severely, Cease fighting, I charge ye.
A good knotted staff, The full of his hand, Instead of the Spiradis, Back'd his command.
So falling to thrash, Fast as he was able, A trip and a box Stretch'd him under the table.
Then rose a big friar, To settle them straight, But the back of the fire Was quickly his fate.
From whence he cried out, Do you thus treat your pastors! Ye that scarcely were bred To the sewn wise masters;
That when with the Pope I was getting my lore, Ye were roasting potatoes At the foot of Sheemor.
SWIFT'S BEHAVIOR AT TABLE.
Swift's manner of entertaining his guests, and his behavior at table, were curious. A frequent visitor thus described them: He placed himself at the head of the table, and opposite to a great pier glass, so that he could see whatever his servants did at the marble side-board behind his chair. He was served entirely in plate, and with great elegance. The beef being once over-roasted, he called for the cook-maid to take it down stairs and do it less. The girl very innocently replied that she could not. "Why, what sort of a creature are you," exclaimed he, "to commit a fault which cannot be mended?" Then, turning to one that sate next to him, he said very gravely, that he hoped, as the cook was a woman of genius, he should, by this manner of arguing, be able, in about a year's time, to convince her she had better send up the meat too little than too much done: at the same time he charged the men-servants, that whenever they thought the meat was ready, to take it up, spit and all, and bring it up by force, promising to assist them in case the cook resisted. Another time the Dean turning his eye towards the looking-glass, espied the butler opening a bottle of ale, and helping himself. "Ha, friend," said the Dean, "sharp is the word with you, I find: you have drunk my ale, for which I stop two shillings out of your board wages this week, for I scorn to be outdone in any thing, even in cheating."
COUNTESS OF BURLINGTON.
Swift was dining one day with the Earl of Burlington soon after his lordship's marriage, when that nobleman, expecting some diversion from Swift's oddities of behavior, purposely neglected to name him to his lady, who was entirely ignorant of the Dean's person. The Dean generally wore his gowns till they were quite rusty, which being the case, she supposed him to be some clergyman of no great consequence. After dinner, the Dean said to her, "Lady Burlington, I hear you can sing; come, sing me a song." The Lady, disgusted with this unceremonious way of asking such a favor, positively refused him. He said she could sing, or he would make her. "What, madam, I suppose you take me for one of your poor paltry English hedge-parsons; sing, when I bid you!" As the Earl did nothing but laugh at his freedom, the lady was so vexed that she burst into tears, and retired. His first compliment when he saw her a little time afterwards was, "Pray, madam, are you as proud and ill-natured now as when I saw you last?" To which she replied with the greatest good humor, "No, Mr. Dean; I will sing for you now, if you please." From this time he conceived the greatest esteem for her, and always behaved with the utmost respect. Those who knew Swift, took no offence at his bluntness of behavior. It seems Queen Caroline did not, if we may credit his words in the verses on his own death.
SWIFT'S POLITICAL PRINCIPLES.
In a letter to Pope, alluding to the days when he took part in politics, he thus expresses himself:—
"I had likewise in those days a mortal antipathy to standing armies in times of peace. Because I always took standing armies to be only servants, hired by the master of the family to keep his own children in slavery; and because I conceived that a prince who could not think himself secure without mercenary troops, must needs have a separate interest from that of his subjects.
"As to Parliaments, I adored the wisdom of that Gothic institution which made them annual, and I was confident that our liberty could never be placed upon a firm foundation until that ancient law were restored among us. For who sees not, that while such assemblies are permitted to have a longer duration, there grows up a commerce of corruption between the ministry and the deputies, wherein they both find account, to the manifest danger of liberty; which traffic would neither answer the design nor expense, if parliaments met once a year.
"I ever abominated that scheme of politics (now about thirty years old) of setting up a moneyed interest in opposition to that of the landed: for I conceived there could not be a truer maxim in government than this, that the possessors of the soil are the best judges of what is for the advantage of the kingdom. If others had thought the same way, funds of credit and South Sea projects would neither have been felt nor heard of.
"I could never see the necessity of suspending any law upon which the liberty of the most innocent persons depend: neither do I think this practice has made the taste of arbitrary power so agreeable as that we should desire to see it repeated. Every rebellion subdued, and plot discovered, contributes to the firmer establishment of the Prince: in the latter case, the knot of conspirators is entirely broken, and they are to begin their work anew under a thousand disadvantages; so that those diligent inquiries into remote and problematical guilt, with a new power of enforcing them by chains and dungeons to every person whose face a minister thinks fit to dislike, are not only opposite to that maxim which declares it better that ten guilty men should escape than one innocent suffer, but likewise leave a gate wide open to the whole tribe of informers, the most accursed, and prostitute, and abandoned race that God ever permitted to plague mankind."
One cold morning a poor ancient woman sat at the deanery steps a considerable time, during which the dean saw her through a window, and, no doubt, commiserated her desolate condition. His footman happened to go to the door, and the poor creature besought him to give a paper to his reverence. The servant read it, and told her his master had something else to do than to mind her petition. "What is that you say, fellow?" said the dean, putting his head out of the window; "come up here directly." The man obeyed him, and was ordered to tell the woman to come up to him. After bidding her to be seated, he directed some bread and wine to be given to her; after which, turning round to the man, he said, "At what time did I order you to open and read a paper directed to me? or to refuse a letter from any one? Hark you, sirrah, you have been admonished by me for drunkenness, idleness, and other faults; but since I have discovered your inhuman disposition, I must dismiss you from my service: so pull off your clothes, take your wages, and let me hear no more of you."
PUBLIC ABSURDITIES IN IRELAND.
Among the public absurdities in Ireland, Swift notices the insurance office against fire; the profits of which to the amount of several thousand pounds, were annually remitted to England. "For," observes he, "as if we could well spare the money, the society-marks upon our houses spread faster and further than the colony of frogs; and we are not only indebted to England for the materials to light our own fires, but for engines to put them out."
SWIFT'S PECULIARITY OF HUMOR.
Trifles become of some consequence when connected with a great name, or when they throw any light on a distinguished character. Spence thus relates a story told by Pope: "Dr. Swift had an odd blunt way that is mistaken by strangers for ill nature. It is so odd that there is no describing it but by facts. I'll tell you one that first comes into my head. One evening Gay and I went to see him: you know how intimately we were all acquainted. On our coming in, "Hey-day, gentlemen (says the Doctor), what's the meaning of this visit? How came you to leave all the Lords that you are so fond of, to come here to see a poor Dean?" "Because we would rather see you than any of them." "Ay, any one that did not know you so well as I do, might believe you. But since you are come, I must get some supper for you, I suppose." "No, Doctor, we have supped already." "Supped already, that's impossible! why it is not eight o'clock yet. That's very strange! But, if you had not supped, I must have got something for you. Let me see what should I have had? A couple of lobsters; ay, that would have done very well; two shillings: tarts, a shilling. But you will drink a glass of wine with me, though you supped so much before your usual time only to spare my pocket." "No, we had rather talk with you than drink with you." "But if you had supped with me, as in all reason you ought to have done, you must then have drank with me. A bottle of wine, two shillings—two and two is four, and one is five; just two and sixpence a piece. There, Pope, there's half-a-crown for you; and there's another for you, Sir; for I won't save any thing by you, I am determined." This was all said and done with his usual seriousness on such occasions; and in spite of every thing we could say to the contrary, he actually obliged us to take the money."
Dr. Theophilus Bolton was not only a learned divine, but a very fine gentleman. His merit as a preacher was so eminent that it was early rewarded with a mitre. Swift went to congratulate him on the occasion, when he observed that as his lordship was a native of Ireland, and had now a seat in the House of Peers, he hoped he would employ his eloquence in the service of his distressed country. The prelate told him the bishopric was but a very small one, and he could not hope for a better if he disobliged the court. "Very well," said Swift; "then it is to be hoped when you have a better you will become an honest man." "Ay, that I will, Mr. Dean." "Till then, my lord, farewell," answered Swift. The prelate was soon translated to a richer see, on which occasion Swift called to remind him of his promise; but to no purpose: there was an arch-bishopric in view, and till that was obtained nothing could be done. Having in a few years attained this object likewise, he then waited on the Dean, and told him, "I am now at the top of my preferment, for I well know that no Irishman will ever be made primate; therefore, as I can rise no higher in fortune or station, I will most zealously promote the good of my country." From that he became a most active patriot.
THE SCRIBLERUS CLUB.
Before Swift retired to Ireland, Mr. Pope, Dr. Arbuthnot, Mr. Gay, Mr. Parnell, Mr. Jervas, and Swift formed themselves into a society called the Scriblerus Club. They wrote a good many things in conjunction, and, according to Goldsmith, Gay was usually the amanuensis. The connection between these wits advanced the fame and interest of them all. They submitted their several productions to the review of their friends, and readily adopted alterations dictated by taste and judgment, unmixed with envy, or any sinister motive.
When the members of the Scriblerus Club were in town, they were generally together, and often made excursions into the country. They generally preferred walking to riding, and all agreed once to walk down to Lord Burlington's about twelve miles from town. It was Swift's custom in whatever company he might visit to travel, to endeavor to procure the best bed for himself. To secure that, on the present occasion, Swift, who was an excellent walker, proposed, as they were leaving town, that each should make the best of his way. Dr. Parnell, guessing the Dean's intentions, pretended to agree; but as his friend was out of sight, he took a horse, and arrived at his Lordship's by another way, before Swift. Having acquainted his noble host with the other's design, he begged of him to disappoint it. It was resolved that Swift should be kept out of the house. Swift had never had the small-pox, and was, as all his friends knew, very much afraid of catching that distemper. A servant was despatched to meet him as he was approaching the gate, and to tell him that the small-pox was raging in the house, that it would be unsafe for him to enter the doors, but that there was a field-bed in the summer house in the garden, at his service. Thither the Dean was under the necessity of betaking himself. He was forced to be content with a cold supper, whilst his friends, whom he had tried to outstrip, were feasting in the house. At last after they thought they had sufficiently punished his too eager desire for his own accommodation, they requested his lordship to admit him into the company. The Dean was obliged to promise he would not afterwards, when with his friends, attempt to secure the best bed to himself. Swift was often the butt of their waggery, which he bore with great good humor, knowing well, that though they laughed at his singularities, they esteemed his virtues, admired his wit, and venerated his wisdom.
Many were the frolics of the Scriblerus Club. They often evinced the truth of an observation made by the poet, "dulce est desipere in loco."
The time for wits to play the fool, is when they are met together, to relax from the severity of mental exertion. Their follies have a degree of extravagance much beyond the phlegmatic merriment of sober dulness, and can be relished by those only, who having wit themselves, can trace the extravagance to the real source.
This society carefully abstained from their frolics before the stupid and ignorant, knowing that on no occasion ought a wise man to guard his words and actions more than when in the company of fools.
How long the Scriblerus Club lasted is not exactly ascertained, or whether it existed during the intimacy between Swift and Addison, previous to the Doctor's connection with the Tory ministry.
There was one character which, through life, always kindled Swift's indignation, the haughty, presuming, tyrannizing upstart! A person of this description chanced to reside in the parish of Laracor. Swift omitted no opportunity of humbling his pride; but, as he was as ignorant as insolent, he was obliged to accommodate the coarseness of the lash to the callosity of the back. The following lines have been found written by Swift upon this man:—
The rascal! that's too mild a name; Does he forget from whence he came; Has he forgot from whence he sprung; A mushroom in a bed of dung; A maggot in a cake of fat, The offspring of a beggar's brat. As eels delight to creep in mud, To eels we may compare his blood; His blood in mud delights to run; Witness his lazy, lousy son! Puff'd up with pride and insolence, Without a grain of common sense, See with what consequence he stalks, With what pomposity he talks; See how the gaping crowd admire The stupid blockhead and the liar. How long shall vice triumphant reign? How long shall mortals bend to gain? How long shall virtue hide her face, And leave her votaries in disgrace? ——Let indignation fire my strains, Another villain yet remains— Let purse-proud C——n next approach, With what an air he mounts his coach! A cart would best become the knave, A dirty parasite and slave; His heart in poison deeply dipt, His tongue with oily accents tipt, A smile still ready at command, The pliant bow, the forehead bland——
MEDITATION UPON A BROOMSTICK.
This single stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that neglected corner, I once knew in a flourishing state in a forest; it was full of sap, full of leaves, and full of boughs: but now in vain does the busy art of man pretend to vie with nature, by tying that withered bundle of twigs to its sapless trunk. It is now at best but the reverse of what it was, a tree turned upside down, the branches on the earth, and the root in the air. It is now handled by every dirty wench, condemned to do her drudgery, and by a capricious kind of fate, destined to make her things clean, and be nasty itself. At length, worn out to the stumps in the service of the maids, it is either thrown out of doors, or condemned to the last use, of kindling a fire. When I beheld this, I sighed and said within myself, Surely, mortal man is a broomstick! Nature sent him into the world strong and lusty, in a thriving condition, wearing his own hair on his head, the proper branches of this reasoning vegetable, until the axe of intemperance has lopped off his green boughs, and left him a withered trunk: he then flies to art, and puts on a periwig, valuing himself upon an unnatural bundle of hairs, all covered with powder, that never grew upon his head; but now, should this, our broomstick, pretend to enter the scene, proud of those birchen spoils it never bore, and all covered with dust, though the sweepings of the finest lady's chamber, we should be apt to ridicule and despise its vanity. Partial judges that we are of our own excellencies, and other men's defaults!
But a broomstick, perhaps you will say, is an emblem of a tree standing on its head; and pray what is man but a topsy-turvy creature, his animal faculties perpetually mounted on his rational, his head where his heels should be, groveling on the earth! and yet, with all his faults, he sets up to be a universal reformer and corrector of abuses, a remover of grievances, * * sharing deeply all the while in the very same pollutions he pretends to sweep away: his last days are spent in slavery to women, and generally the least deserving; till worn to the stumps like his brother besom, he is either kicked out of doors, or made use of to kindle flames for others to warm themselves by.
COSSING A DOG.
In a humorous paper written in 1732, entitled, "An Examination of certain Abuses, Corruptions, and Enormities in the city of Dublin," Swift mentions this diversion, which he ludicrously enough applies to the violent persecutions of the political parties of the day. The ceremony was this: A strange dog happens to pass through a flesh market; whereupon an expert butcher immediately cries in a loud voice and proper tone, coss, coss, several times. The same word is repeated by the people. The dog, who perfectly understands the terms of art, and consequently the danger he is in, immediately flies. The people, and even his own brother animals, pursue: the pursuit and cry attend him perhaps half a mile; he is well worried in his flight; and sometimes hardly escapes. "This," adds Swift, "our ill-wishers of the Jacobite kind are pleased to call a persecution; and affirm, that it always falls upon dogs of the Tory principles."
TRADE OF IRELAND.
Swift being one day at a sheriffs feast, among other toasts the chairman called out, "Mr. Dean, the Trade of Ireland." The Dean answered, "Sir, I drink no memories." The idea of the answer was evidently taken from Bishop Brown's book against "Drinking the Memories of the dead," which had just then appeared, and made much noise.
A BEGGAR'S WEDDING.
As Swift was fond of scenes in low life, he missed no opportunity of being present at them when they fell in his way. Once when he was in the country, he received intelligence that there was to be a beggar's wedding in the neighborhood. He was resolved not to miss the opportunity of seeing so curious a ceremony; and that he might enjoy the whole completely, proposed to Dr. Sheridan that he should go thither disguised as a blind fiddler, with a bandage over his eyes, and he would attend him as his man to lead him. Thus accoutred, they reached the scene of action, where the blind fiddler was received with joyful shouts. They had plenty of meat and drink, and plied the fiddler and his man with more than was agreeable to them. Never was a more joyful wedding seen. They sung, they danced, told their stories, cracked jokes, &c., in a vein of humor more entertaining to the two guests than they probably could have found in any other meeting on a like occasion. When they were about to depart, they pulled out the leather pouches, and rewarded the fiddler very handsomely.
The next day the Dean and the Doctor walked out in their usual dress, and found their companions of the preceding evening scattered about in different parts of the road and the neighboring village, all begging their charity in doleful strains, and telling dismal stories of their distress. Among these they found some upon crutches, who had danced very nimbly at the wedding, others stone-blind, who were perfectly clear-sighted at the feast. The Doctor distributed among them the money which he had received as his pay; but the Dean, who mortally hated these sturdy vagrants, rated them soundly; told them in what manner he had been present at the wedding, and was let into their roguery; and assured them, if they did not immediately apply to honest labor, he would have them taken up and sent to gaol. Whereupon the lame once more recovered their legs, and the blind their eyes, so as to make a very precipitate retreat.
Swift, in passing through the county of Cavan, called at a homely but hospitable house, where he knew he should be well received. The Lady Bountiful of the mansion, rejoiced to have so distinguished a guest, runs up to him, and with great eagerness and flippancy asks him what he will have for dinner. "Will you have an apple-pie, sir? Will you have a gooseberry-pie, sir? Will you have a cherry-pie, sir? Will you have a currant-pie, sir? Will you have a plum-pie, sir? Will you have a pigeon-pie, sir?" "Any pie, madam, but a magpie."
SHORT CHARITY SERMON.
The Dean once preached a charity sermon in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, the length of which disgusted many of his auditors; which, coming to his knowledge, and it falling to his lot soon after to preach another sermon of the like kind in the same place, he took special care to avoid falling into the former error. His text was, "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will he pay him again." The Dean, after repeating his text in a more than commonly emphatical tone, added, "Now, my beloved brethren, you hear the terms of this loan; if you like the security, down with your dust." The quaintness and brevity of the sermon produced a very large contribution.
A COURTIER'S RETORT.
While the prosecution for the Draper's fourth letter was depending, Swift one day waited at the Castle for an audience of Lord Carteret, the Lord Lieutenant, till his patience was exhausted; upon which he wrote the following couplet on a window, and went away:—
"My very good Lord, 'tis a very hard task, For a man to wait here who has nothing to ask."
The Earl, upon this being shown to him, immediately wrote the following answer underneath:—
"My very good Dean, there are few who come here, But have something to ask, or something to fear."
Swift could not bear to have any lies told him, which his natural shrewdness and knowledge of the world generally enabled him to detect; and when the party attempted to palliate them, his usual reply was—"Come, come, don't attempt to darn your cobwebs."
Some time after the expiration of Dr. Sacheverell's punishment, having been silenced three years from preaching, and his sermon ordered to be burned, the ministry treated him with great indifference, and he applied in vain for the vacant rectory of St. Andrew's, Holborn. Having, however, a slender acquaintance with Swift, he wrote to him for his interest with government in his behalf, stating how much he had suffered in the cause of the ministry. Swift immediately carried his letter to Lord Bolingbroke, then Secretary of State, who railed much at Sacheverell, calling him a busy intermeddling fellow; a prig and an incendiary, who had set the kingdom in a flame which could not be extinguished, and therefore deserved censure instead of reward. Although Swift had not a much better opinion of the Doctor than Lord Bolingbroke, he replied, "True, my Lord; but let me tell you a story. In a sea fight in the reign of Charles the Second, there was a very bloody engagement between the English and Dutch fleets, in the heat of which a Scotch sea-man was very severely bit by a louse on his neck, which he caught; and stooping down to crack it between his nails, many of the sailors near him had their heads taken off by a chain-shot from the enemy, which dashed their blood and brains about him; on which he had compassion upon the poor louse, returned him to his place and bid him live there at discretion, for as he had saved his life, he was bound in gratitude to save his." This recital threw my Lord Bolingbroke into a violent fit of laughing, who, when it was over, said, "The louse shall have the living for your story." And soon after Sacheverell was presented to it.
TAXING THE AIR.
Lady Carteret, wife of the Lord Lieutenant, said to Swift, "The air of Ireland is very excellent and healthy." "For God's sake, madam," said Swift, "don't say so in England; for if you do, they will certainly tax it."
Wisdom (said the Dean) is a fox, who, after long hunting, will at last cost you the pains to dig out: it is a cheese, which, by how much the richer, has the thicker, the homelier, and the coarser coat, and whereof to a judicious palate the maggots are the best; it is a sack-posset, wherein the deeper you go you will find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a hen, whose cackling we must value and consider, because it is attended with an egg; but then, lastly, it is a nut, which, unless you choose with judgment, may cost you a tooth, and pay you with nothing but a worm.
EPITAPH ON JUDGE BOAT.
Here lies Judge Boat within a coffin, Pray, gentlefolks, forbear your scoffin'; A Boat a judge! yes, where's the blunder A wooden Judge is no such wonder! And in his robes you must agree, No Boat was better dekt than he. 'Tis needless to describe him fuller, In short he was an able sculler.
ON STEPHEN DUCK, THE THRESHER AND FAVORITE POET.
The thresher Duck could o'er the Queen prevail, The proverb says, "no fence against a flail." From threshing corn he turns to thresh his brains, For which her Majesty allows him gains. Though 'tis confest, that those who ever saw His poems, think them all not worth a straw! Thrice happy Duck, employed in threshing stubble, Thy toil is lessen'd and thy profits double.
DIALOGUE BETWEEN SWIFT AND HIS LANDLORD.
The three towns of Navan, Kells, and Trim, which lay in Swift's route on his first journey to Laracor, seem to have deeply arrested his attention, for he has been frequently heard to speak of the beautiful situation of the first, the antiquity of the second, and the time-shaken towers of the third. There were three inns in Navan, each of which claims to this day the honor of having entertained Dr. Swift. It is probable that he dined at one of them, for it is certain that he slept at Kells, in the house of Jonathan Belcher, a Leicestershire man, who had built the inn in that town on the English model, which still exists, and, in point of capaciousness and convenience, would not disgrace the first road in England. The host, whether struck by the commanding sternness of Swift's appearance, or from natural civility, showed him into the best room, and waited himself at table. The attention of Belcher seems to have won so far upon Swift as to have produced some conversation. "You're an Englishman, Sir?" said Swift. "Yes, Sir." "What is your name?" "Jonathan Belcher, Sir." "An Englishman and Jonathan too, in the town of Kells—who would have thought it! What brought you to this country?" "I came with Sir Thomas Taylor, Sir; and I believe I could reckon fifty Jonathans in my family, Sir." "Then you are a man of family?" "Yes, Sir; I have four sons and three daughters by one mother, a good woman of true Irish mould." "Have you been long out of your native country?" "Thirty years, Sir." "Do you ever expect to visit it again?" "Never." "Can you say that without a sigh?" "I can, Sir; my family is my country!" "Why, Sir, you are a better philosopher than those who have written volumes on the subject. Then you are reconciled to your fate?" "I ought to be so; I am very happy; I like the people, and, though I was not born in Ireland, I'll die in it and that's the same thing." Swift paused in deep thought for near a minute, and then with much energy repeated the first line of the preamble of the noted Irish statute—Ipsis Hibernis Hiberniores!—"(The English) are more Irish than the Irish themselves."
What perhaps contributed more than any thing to Swift's enjoyment, was the constant fund of amusement he found in the facetious humor and oddity of the parish clerk, Roger Cox. Roger was originally a hatter in the town of Cavan, trot, being of a lively jovial temper, and fonder of setting the fire-side of a village alehouse in a roar, over a tankard of ale or a bowl of whiskey, with his flashes of merriment and jibes of humor, than pursuing the dull routine of business to which fate had fixed him, wisely forsook it for the honorable function of a parish clerk, which he considered as an office appertaining in some wise to ecclesiastical dignity; since by wearing a band, no small part of the ornament of the Protestant clergy, he thought he might not unworthily be deemed, as it were, "a shred of the linen vestment of Aaron." Nor was Roger one of those worthy parish clerks who could be accused of merely humming the psalms through the nostrils as a sack-butt, but much oftener instructed and amused his fellow-parishioners with the amorous ditties of the Waiting Maid's Lamentation, or one of those national songs which awake the remembrance of glorious deeds, and make each man burn with the enthusiasm of the conquering hero. With this jocund companion Swift relieved the tediousness of his lonesome retirement; nor did the easy freedom which he indulged with Roger ever lead his humble friend beyond the bounds of decorum and respect.
Roger's dress was not the least extraordinary feature of his appearance. He constantly wore a full-trimmed scarlet waistcoat of most uncommon dimensions, a light grey coat, which altogether gave him an air of singularity and whim as remarkable as his character.
To repeat all the anecdotes and witticisms which are recorded of the prolific genius of Roger in the simple annals of Laracor, would fill a little volume. He died at the good old age of ninety.
Soon after Swift's arrival at Laracor, he gave public notice that he would read prayers every Wednesday and Friday. On the first of those days after he had summoned his congregation, he ascended the desk, and after sitting some time with no other auditor than his clerk Roger, he rose up and with a composure and gravity that, upon this occasion, were irresistibly ridiculous, began—"Dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture moveth you and me in sundry places," and so proceeded to the end of the service. The story is not quite complete. But the fact is, that when he went into the church he found Roger alone, and exclaimed with evident surprise, "What, Roger! none here but you?" "Yes, sir," replied Roger drily (turning over the book to find the lessons, for the day), "sure you are here too."
ROGER AND THE POULTRY.
There happened, while Swift was at Laracor, the sale of a farm and stock, the farmer being dead. Swift chanced to walk past during the auction just as a pen of poultry had been put up. Roger bid for them, and was overbid by a farmer of the name of Hatch. "What, Roger, won't you buy the poultry?" exclaimed Swift. "No, sir," said Roger, "I see they are just a'going to Hatch."
KELLY THE BLACKSMITH.
Although Roger took the lead, he did not monopolize all the wit, of the parish. It happened that Swift, having been dining at some little distance from Laracor, was returning home on horseback in the evening, which was pretty dark. Just before he reached Kellistown, a neighboring village, his horse lost a shoe. Unwilling to run the risk of laming the animal by continuing his ride in that condition, he stopped at one Kelly's, the blacksmith of the village, where, having called the man, he asked him if he could shoe a horse with a candle. "No," replied the smutty son of Vulcan, "but I can with a hammer." Swift, struck with the reply, determined to have a little more conversation with him. Accordingly, he alighted and went into the cabin, which was literally rotten, but supported, wherever it had given way at different times, with pieces of timber. Swift, as was usual with him, began to rate poor Kelly soundly for his indolence in not getting his house put into better repair, in which the wife joined. "Hold, Doctor, for one moment!" exclaimed Kelly, "and tell me, whether you ever saw a rotten house better supported in all your life."
It was for many years a regular custom with Swift's most intimate friends to make him some presents on his birth day. On that occasion, 30th November, 1732, Lord Orrery presented him with a paper book, finely bound, and Dr Delany with a silver standish, accompanied with the following verses;—
TO DR. SWIFT, WITH A PAPER BOOK, BY JOHN, EARL OF ORRERY
To thee, Dear Swift, those spotless leaves I send; Small is the present, but sincere the friend. Think not so poor a book below thy care; Who knows the price that thou canst make it bear? Tho' tawdry now, and like Tyralla's face, The spacious front shines out with borrow'd grace; Tho' pasteboards, glitt'ring like a tinsell'd coat, A rasa tabula within denote; Yet if a venal and corrupted age, And modern vices should provoke thy rage; If, warn'd once more by their impending fate, A sinking country and an injured state Thy great assistance should again demand, And call forth Reason to defend the land; Then shall we view these sheets with glad surprise Inspired with thought, and speaking to our eyes: Each vacant space shall then, enrich'd, dispense True force of eloquence and nervous sense; Inform the judgment, animate the heart, And sacred rules of policy impart. The spangled cov'ring, bright with splendid ore, Shall cheat the sight with empty show no more; But lead us inward to those golden mines, Where all thy soul in native lustre shines. So when the eye surveys some lovely fair, With bloom of beauty, graced with shape and air, How is the rapture heightened when we find The form excelled by her celestial mind!
VERSES LEFT WITH A SILVER STANDISH ON THE DEAN'S DESK, BY DR. DELANY.
Hither from Mexico I came, To serve a proud Iernian dame; Was long submitted to her will, At length she lost me at Quadrille. Through various shapes I often passed, Still hoping to have rest at last; And still ambitious to obtain Admittance to the patriot Dean; And sometimes got within his door, But soon turn'd out to serve the poor; Not strolling idleness to aid, But honest industry decay'd. At length an artist purchased me, And wrought me to the shape you see. This done, to Hermes I applied: "O Hermes! gratify my pride! Be it my fate to serve a sage, The greatest genius of his age; That matchless pen let me supply, Whose living lines will never die!" "I grant your suit," the god replied, And here he left me to reside.
VERSES BY SWIFT, ON THE OCCASION.
A paper Book is sent by Boyle, Too neatly gilt for me to soil: Delany sends a Silver Standish, When I no more a pen can brandish. Let both around my tomb be placed, As trophies of a muse deceas'd: And let the friendly lines they writ, In praise of long departed wit, Be graved on either side in columns, More to my praise than all my volumes; To burst with envy, spite, and rage, The Vandals of the present age.
THE DEAN'S CONTRIBUTORY DINNER.
Dean Swift once invited to dinner several of the first noblemen and gentlemen in Dublin. A servant announced the dinner, and the Dean led the way to the dining-room. To each chair was a servant, a bottle of wine, a roll, and an inverted plate. On taking his seat, the Dean desired the guests to arrange themselves according to their own ideas of precedence, and fall to. The company were astonished to find the table without a dish or any provisions. The Lord Chancellor, who was present, said, "Mr. Dean, we do not see the joke." "Then I will show it you," answered the Dean, turning up his plate, under which was half-a-crown and a bill of fare from a neighboring tavern. "Here, sir," said he, to his servant, "bring me a plate of goose." The company caught the idea, and each man sent his plate and half-a-crown. Covers, with everything that the appetites of the moment dictated, soon appeared. The novelty, the peculiarity of the manner, and the unexpected circumstances, altogether excited the plaudits of the noble guests, who declared themselves particularly gratified by the Dean's entertainment. "Well," said the Dean, "gentlemen, if you have dined, I will order dessert." A large roll of paper, presenting the particulars of a splendid dinner, was produced, with an estimate of expense. The Dean requested the accountant-general to deduct the half-crowns from the amount, observing, "that as his noble guests were pleased to express their satisfaction with the dinner, he begged their advice and assistance in disposing of the fragments and crumbs," as he termed the balance mentioned by the accountant-general—which was two hundred and fifty pounds. The company said, that no person was capable of instructing the Dean in things of that nature. After the circulation of the finest wines, the most judicious remarks on charity and its abuse were introduced, and it was agreed that the proper objects of liberal relief were well-educated families, who from affluence, or the expectation of it, were reduced through misfortune to silent despair. The Dean then divided the sum by the number of his guests, and addressed them according to their respective private characters, with which no one was, perhaps, better acquainted. "You, my Lords," said the Dean to several young noblemen, "I wish to introduce to some new acquaintance, who will at least make their acknowledgment for your favors with sincerity. You, my reverend Lords," addressing the bishops present, "adhere so closely to the spirit of the Scriptures, that your left hands are literally ignorant of the beneficence of your right. You, my Lord of Kildare, and the two noble lords near you, I will not entrust with any part of this money, as you have been long in the usurious habits of lending your own on such occasions; but your assistance, my Lord of Kerry, I must entreat, as charity covereth a multitude of sins."
SWIFT AND BETTESWORTH.
Dean Swift having taken a strong dislike to Sergeant Bettesworth, revenged himself by the following lines in one of his poems:
So at the bar the booby Bettesworth, Tho' half-a-crown outpays his sweat's worth, Who knows in law nor text nor margent, Calls Singleton his brother sergeant.
The poem was sent to Bettesworth, when he was in company with some of his friends. He read it aloud, till he had finished the lines relating to himself. He then flung it down with great violence, trembled and turned pale. After some pause, his rage for a while depriving him of utterance, he took out his penknife, and swore he would cut off the Dean's ears with it. Soon after he went to seek the Dean at his house; and not finding him at home, followed him to a friend's, where he had an interview with him. Upon entering the room, Swift desired to know his commands. "Sir," says he, "I am Sergeant Bet-tes-worth;" in his usual pompous way of pronouncing his name in three distinct syllables. "Of what regiment, pray?" says Swift. "O, Mr. Dean, we know your powers of raillery; you know me well enough, that I am one of his majesty's sergeants-at-law." "What then, sir?" "Why then, sir, I am come to demand of you, whether you are the author of this poem (producing it), and the villanous lines on me?" at the same time reading them aloud with great vehemence of emphasis, and much gesticulation. "Sir," said Swift, "it was a piece of advice given me in my early days by Lord Somers, never to own or disown any writing laid to my charge; because, if I did this in some cases, whatever I did not disown afterwards would infallibly be imputed to me as mine. Now, sir, I take this to have been a very wise maxim, and as such have followed it ever since; and I believe it will hardly be in the power of all your rhetoric, as great a master as you are of it, to make me swerve from that rule." Bettesworth replied, "Well, since you will give me no satisfaction in this affair, let me tell you, that your gown is alone your protection," and then left the room.
The sergeant continuing to utter violent threats against the Dean, there was an association formed and signed by all the principal inhabitants of the neighborhood, to stand by and support their generous benefactor against any one who should attempt to offer the least injury to his person or fortune. Besides, the public indignation became so strong against the sergeant, that although he had made a considerable figure at the bar, he now lost his business, and was seldom employed in any suit afterwards.
SWIFT AMONG THE LAWYERS.
Dean Swift having preached an assize sermon in Ireland, was invited to dine with the Judges; and having in his sermon considered the use and abuse of the law, he then pressed a little hard upon those counsellors, who plead causes which they knew in their consciences to be wrong. When dinner was over, and the glass began to go round, a young barrister retorted upon the dean; and after several altercations, the counsellor asked him, "If the devil was to die, whether a parson might not be found, who, for money, would preach his funeral?" "Yes," said Swift, "I would gladly be the man, and I would then give the devil his due, as I have this day done his children."
Dean Swift is said to have jocularly remarked, that he never preached but twice in his life, and then they were not sermons, but pamphlets. Being asked, upon what subject? he replied, they were against Wood's halfpence. One of these sermons has been preserved, and is from this text, "As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men." Its object was to show the great want of public spirit in Ireland, and to enforce the necessity of practising that virtue. "I confess," said he, "it was chiefly the consideration of the great danger we are in, which engaged me to discourse to you on this subject, to exhort you to a love of your country, and a public spirit, when all you have is at stake; to prefer the interest of your prince and your fellow subjects before that of one destructive impostor, and a few of his adherents."
"Perhaps it may be thought by some, that this way of discoursing is not so proper from the pulpit; but surely when an open attempt is made, and far carried on, to make a great kingdom one large poor-house; to deprive us of all means to excite hospitality or charity; to turn our cities and churches into ruins; to make this country a desert for wild beasts and robbers; to destroy all arts and sciences, all trades and manufactures, and the very tillage of the ground, only to enrich one obscure ill-designing projector, and his followers; it is time for the pastor to cry out that the wolf is getting into his flock, to warn them to stand together, and all to consult the common safety. And God be praised for his infinite goodness, in raising such a spirit of union among us at least in this point, in the midst of all our former divisions; which union, if it continues, will in all probability defeat the pernicious design of this pestilent enemy to the nation."
It will scarcely be credited, that this dreadful description, when stripped of its exaggerations, meant no more than that Ireland might lose about six thousand a year during Wood's patent for coining halfpence!
SWIFT AND HIS BUTLER
During the publication of the Drapers Letters, Swift was particularly careful to conceal himself from being known as the author. The only persons in the secret, were Robert Blakely, his butler, whom he employed as an amanuensis, and Dr. Sheridan. It happened, that on the very evening before the proclamation, offering a reward of L300 for discovering the author of these letters, was issued, Robert Blakely stopped out later than usual without his master's leave. The dean ordered the door to be locked at the accustomed hour, and shut him out. The next morning the poor fellow appeared before his master with marks of great contrition. Swift would hear no excuses, but abusing him severely, bade him strip off his livery, and quit the house instantly. "What!" said he, "is it because I am in your power that you dare to take these liberties with me? get out of my house, and receive the reward of your treachery."
Mrs. Johnson (Stella), who was at the deanery, did not interfere, but immediately dispatched a messenger to Dr. Sheridan, who on his arrival found Robert walking up and down the hall in great agitation. The doctor bade him not be uneasy, as he would try to pacify the dean, so that he should continue in his place. "That is not what vexes me," replied Robert, "though to be sure I should be sorry to lose so good a master; but what grieves me to the soul, is, that my master should have so bad an opinion of me, as to suppose me capable of betraying him for any reward whatever." When this was related to the dean, he was so struck with the honor and generosity of sentiment, which it exhibited in one so humble in life, that he immediately restored him to his situation, and was not long in rewarding his fidelity.
The place of verger to the cathedral becoming vacant, Swift called Robert to him, and asked him if he had any clothes of his own that were not a livery? Robert replying in the affirmative, he desired him to take off his livery, and put them on. The poor fellow, quite astonished, begged to know what crime he had committed, that he was to be discharged. The dean bade him do as he was ordered; and when he returned in his new dress, the dean called all the other servants into the room, and told them that they were no longer to consider him as their fellow-servant Robert, but as Mr. Blakely, verger of St. Patrick's Cathedral; an office which he had bestowed on him for his faithful services, and as a proof of that sure reward, which honesty and fidelity would always obtain.
Dean Swift, among other eccentricities, determined upon having a feast once a year, in imitation of the Saturnalia in ancient Rome. In this project he engaged several persons of rank, and his plan was put in execution at the deanery house. When all the servants were seated, and every gentleman placed behind his own servant, the Dean's footman, who presided, found fault with some meat that was not done to his taste; and imitating his master on such occasions, threw it at him. But the Dean was either so mortified by the reproof, or so provoked at the insult, that he flew into a violent passion, beat the fellow, and dispersed the whole assembly.—Thus abruptly terminated the Dean's Saturnalia.
THE DEAN AND FAULKNER.
George Faulkner, the Dublin printer, once called on Dean Swift on his return from London, dressed in a rich coat of silk brocade and gold lace, and seeming not a little proud of the adorning of his person: the Dean determined to humble him. When he entered the room, and saluted the Dean with all the respectful familiarity of an old acquaintance, the Dean affected not to know him; in vain did he declare himself as George Faulkner, the Dublin printer; the Dean declared him an impostor, and at last abruptly bade him begone. Faulkner, perceiving the error he had committed, instantly returned home, and resuming his usual dress, again went to the Dean, when he was very cordially received. "Ah, George," said he, "I am so glad to see you, for here has been an impudent coxcomb, bedizened in silks and gold lace, who wanted to pass himself off for you; but I soon sent the fellow about his business; for I knew you to be always a plain dressed and honest man, just as you now appear before me."
SWIFT, ARBUTHNOT, AND PARNELL.
Swift, Arbuthnot, and Parnell, taking the advantage of a fine frosty morning, set out together upon a walk to a little place which Lord Bathurst had, about eleven miles from London. Swift, remarkable for being an old traveller, and for getting possession of the best rooms and warmest beds, pretended, when they were about half way, that he did not like the slowness of their pace; adding, that he would walk on before them, and acquaint his lordship with their journey. To this proposal they readily agreed; but as soon as he was out of sight, sent off a horseman by a private way (suspecting their friend's errand), to inform his lordship of their apprehensions. The man arrived in time enough to deliver his message before Swift made his appearance. His lordship then recollecting that the dean never had the small-pox, thought of the following stratagem. Seeing him coming up the avenue, he ran out to meet him, and expressed his happiness at the sight of him. "But I am mortified at one circumstance," continued his lordship, "as it must deprive me of the pleasure of your company; there is a raging small-pox in the house: I beg, however, that you will accept of such accommodation as a small house at the bottom of the avenue can afford you." Swift was forced to comply with this request: and in this solitary situation, fearful of speaking to any person around him, he was served with dinner. In the evening, the wits thought proper to release him, by going down to him in a body, to inform him of the deception, and to tell him that the first best room and bed in the house were at his service. Swift, though he might be inwardly chagrined, deemed it prudent to join in the laugh against himself; they adjourned to the mansion-house, and spent the evening in a manner easily to be conceived by those who are in the least acquainted with the brilliancy of their powers.
DEAN SWIFT AND THE PREACHER WHO STOLE HIS SERMON.
The eccentric Dean Swift, in the course of one of those journies to Holyhead, which, it is well known, he several times performed on foot, was travelling through Church Stretton, Shropshire, when he put up at the sign of the Crown, and finding the host to be a communicative good-humored man, inquired if there was any agreeable person in town, with whom he might partake of a dinner (as he had desired him to provide one), and that such a person should have nothing to pay. The landlord immediately replied, that the curate, Mr. Jones, was a very agreeable, companionable man, and would not, he supposed, have any objection to spend a few hours with a gentleman of his appearance. The Dean directed him to wait on Mr. Jones, with his compliments, and say that a traveller would be glad to be favored with his company at the Crown, if it was agreeable. When Mr. Jones and the Dean had dined, and the glass began to circulate, the former made an apology for an occasional absence, saying that at three o'clock he was to read prayers and preach at the church. Upon this intimation, the Dean replied, that he also should attend prayers. Service being ended, and the two gentlemen having resumed their station at the Crown, the Dean began to compliment Mr. Jones on his delivery of a very appropriate sermon; and remarked, that it must have cost him (Mr. Jones) some time and attention to compose such a one.
Mr. Jones observed, that his duty was rather laborious, as he served another parish church at a distance; which, with the Sunday and weekly service at Church Stretton, straitened him much with respect to the time necessary for the composition of sermons; so that when the subjects pressed, he could only devote a few days and nights to that purpose.
"Well," says the Dean, "it is well for you to have such a talent; for my part, the very sermon you preached this afternoon, cost me some months in the composing." On this observation, Mr. Jones began to look very gloomy, and to recognize his companion. "However," rejoined the Dean, "don't you be alarmed; you have so good a talent at delivery, that I hereby declare, you have done more honor to my sermon this day, than I could do myself; and by way of compromising the matter, you must accept of this half-guinea for the justice you have done in the delivery of it."
SWIFT'S QUEER TESTIMONIAL TO HIS SERVANT.
Dean Swift, standing one morning at the window of his study, observed a decent old woman offer a paper to one of his servants, which the fellow at first refused in an insolent and surly manner. The woman however pressed her suit with all the energy of distress, and in the end prevailed. The dean, whose very soul was compassion, saw, felt, and was determined to alleviate her misery. He waited most anxiously for the servant to bring the paper; but to his surprise and indignation, an hour elapsed, and the man did not present it. The dean again looked out. The day was cold and wet, and the wretched petitioner still retained her situation, with many an eloquent and anxious look at the house. The benevolent divine lost all patience, and was going to ring the bell, when he observed the servant cross the street, and return the paper with the utmost sang froid and indifference. The dean could bear no longer; he threw up the sash, and loudly demanded what the paper contained. "It is a petition, please your reverence," replied the woman. "Bring it up, rascal!" cried the enraged dean. The servant, surprised and petrified, obeyed. With Swift, to know distress was to pity it; to pity to relieve. The poor woman was instantly made happy, and the servant almost as instantly turned out of doors, with the following written testimonial of his conduct. "The bearer lived two years in my service, in which time he was frequently drunk and negligent of his duty; which, conceiving him to be honest, I excused; but at last detecting him in a flagrant instance of cruelty, I discharge him." Such were the consequences of this paper, that for seven years the fellow was an itinerant beggar; after which the dean forgave him; and in consequence of another paper equally singular, he was hired by Mr. Pope, with whom he lived till death removed him.
SWIFT AT THOMASTOWN.
Dean Swift had heard much of the hospitable festivities of Thomastown, the seat of Mr. Matthew (See Anecdotes of Conviviality), from his friend Dr. Sheridan, who had been often, a welcome guest, both on account of his convivial qualities, and as being the preceptor of the nephew of Mr. Matthew. He, at length, became desirous of ascertaining with his own eyes, the truth of a report, which he could not forbear considering as greatly exaggerated. On receiving an intimation of this from Sheridan, Mr. Matthew wrote a polite letter to the Dean, requesting the honor of a visit, in company with the doctor, at his next school vacation. They accordingly set out on horseback, attended by a gentleman who was a near relation to Mr. Matthew.
They had scarcely reached the inn where they intended to pass the first night, and which, like most of the Irish inns at that time, afforded but miserable entertainment, when they were surprised by the arrival of a coach and six horses, sent to convey them the remainder of the journey to Thomastown; and at the same time, bringing a supply of the choicest viands, wines, and other liquors, for their refreshment. Swift was highly pleased with this uncommon mark of attention paid him; and the coach proved particularly acceptable, as he had been a good deal fatigued with his day's journey.
When they came in sight of the house, the Dean, astonished at its magnitude, cried out, "What, in the name of God, can be the use of such a vast building?" "Why, Mr. Dean," replied the fellow traveller before mentioned, "there are no less than forty apartments for guests in that house, and all of them probably occupied at this time, except what are reserved for us." Swift, in his usual manner, called out to the coachman, to stop, and drive him back to Dublin, for he could not think of mixing with such a crowd. "Well," said he, immediately afterwards, "there is no remedy, I must submit, but I have lost a fortnight of my life."
Mr. Mathew received him at the door with uncommon marks of respect; and then conducting him to his apartments, after some compliments, made his usual speech, acquainting him with the customs of the house, and retired, leaving him in possession of his castle. Soon after, the cook appeared with his bill of fare, to receive his directions about supper; and the butler at the same time, with a list of wines, and other liquors. "And is all this really so?" said Swift, "and may I command here, as in my own house?" His companion assured him he might, and that nothing could be more agreeable to the owner of the mansion, than that all under his roof should live comformably to their own inclinations, without the least restraint. "Well then," said Swift, "I invite you and Dr. Sheridan to be my guests, while I stay; for I think I shall scarcely be tempted to mix with the mob below."
Three days were passed in riding over the demesne, and viewing the various improvements, without ever seeing Mr. Mathew, or any of the guests; nor were the company below much concerned at the dean's absence, as his very name usually inspired those who did not know him, with awe; and they were afraid that his presence would put an end to the ease and cheerfulness which reigned among them. On the fourth day, Swift entered the room where the company were assembled before dinner, and addressed Mr. Mathew, in a strain of the highest compliment, expatiating on all the beauties of his improvements, with all the skill of an artist, and with the taste of a connoisseur. Such an address for a man of Swift's character, could not fail of being pleasing to the owner, who was, at the same time, the planner of these improvements; and so fine an eulogium from one, who was supposed to deal more largely in satire, than panegyric, was likely to remove the prejudice entertained against his character, and prepossessed the rest of the company in his favor. He concluded his speech by saying: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am come to live among you, and it shall be no fault of mine, if we do not pass our time agreeably."
In a short time, all restraint on his account disappeared, he entered readily into all the little schemes for promoting mirth; and every day, with the assistance of his coadjutor, produced some new one, which afforded a good deal of sport and merriment. In short, never were such joyous scenes know at, Thomastown before. When the time came, which obliged Sheridan to return to his school, the company were so delighted with the dean, that they earnestly entreated him to remain there some time longer; and Mr. Mathew himself for once broke through a rule which he observed, of never soliciting the stay of any guest. Swift found himself so happy, that he readily yielded to their solicitations; and instead of a fortnight, passed four months there, much to his satisfaction, and that of all those who visited the place during that time.
SWIFT'S LAST LINES.
In one of those lucid intervals which varied the course of Swift's unhappy lunacy, his guardians or physicians took him out to give him an airing. When they came to the Phoenix park, Swift remarked a new building which he had never seen, and asked what it was designed for? Dr. Kingsbury answered, "That, Mr. Dean, is the magazine for arms and powder, for the security of the city." "Oh! oh!" says the dean, pulling out his pocket-book, "let me take an item of that. This is worth remarking; my tablets, as Hamlet says, my tablets—memory, put down that." He then produced the following lines, being the last he ever wrote:
Behold! a proof of Irish sense! Here Irish wit is seen, When nothing's left for our defence, We build a magazine.
The Dean then put up his pocket-book, laughing heartily at the conceit, and clenching it with, "After the steed's stolen, shut the stable door."
JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN.
John Philpot Curran was born at Newmarket, a small village in the county of Cork, on the 24th of July, 1750. His father, James Curran, was seneschal of the manor, and possessed of a very moderate income. His mother was a very extraordinary woman. Eloquent and witty, she was the delight of her neighbors, and their chronicle and arbitress. Her stories were of the olden time, and made their way to the hearts of the people, who delighted in her wit and the truly national humor of her character. Little Curran used to hang with ecstasy upon his mother's accents, used to repeat her tales and her jests, and caught up her enthusiasm. After her death, he erected a monument over her remains, upon which the following memorial was inscribed:—
"Here lieth all that was mortal of Martha Curran—a woman of many virtues, few foibles, great talents, and no vice. This tablet was inscribed to her memory by a son who loved her, and whom she loved."
CURRAN AS PUNCH'S MAN.
Curran's first effort in public commenced when a boy in the droll character of Mr. Punch's man. It occurred in this way: One of the puppet-shows known as "Punch and Judy," arrived at Newmarket, to the great gratification of the neighborhood. Young Curran was an attentive listener at every exhibition of the show. At length, Mr. Punch's man fell ill, and immediately ruin threatened the establishment. Curran, who had devoured all the man's eloquence, offered himself to the manager as Mr. Punch's man. His services were gladly accepted, and his success so complete, that crowds attended every performance, and Mr. Punch's new man became the theme of universal panegyric.
CURRAN AT A DEBATING SOCIETY.
Curran's account of his introduction and debut at a debating society, is the identical "first appearance" of hundreds. "Upon the first of our assembling," he says, "I attended, my foolish heart throbbing with the anticipated honor of being styled 'the learned member that opened the debate,' or 'the very eloquent gentleman who has just sat down.' All day the coming scene had been flitting before my fancy, and cajoling it. My ear already caught the glorious melody of 'Hear him! hear him!' Already I was practising how to steal a sidelong glance at the tears of generous approbation bubbling in the eyes of my little auditory,—never suspecting, alas! that a modern eye may have so little affinity with moisture, that the finest gunpowder may be dried upon it. I stood up; my mind was stored with about a folio volume of matter; but I wanted a preface, and for want of a preface, the volume was never published. I stood up, trembling through every fibre: but remembering that in this I was but imitating Tully, I took courage, and had actually proceeded almost as far as 'Mr. Chairman,' when, to my astonishment and terror, I perceived that every eye was riveted upon me. There were only six or seven present, and the little room could not have contained as many more; yet was it, to my panic-stricken imagination, as if I were the central object in nature, and assembled millions were gazing upon me in breathless expectation. I became dismayed and dumb. My friends cried 'Hear him!' but there was nothing to hear. My lips, indeed, went through the pantomime of articulation; but I was like the unfortunate fiddler at the fair, who, coming to strike up the solo that was to ravish every ear, discovered that an enemy had maliciously soaped his bow; or rather, like poor Punch, as I once saw him, grimacing a soliloquy, of which his prompter had most indiscreetly neglected to administer the words." Such was the debut of "Stuttering Jack Curran," or "Orator Mum," as he was waggishly styled; but not many months elapsed ere the sun of his eloquence burst forth in dazzling splendor.