Page images
PDF
EPUB

« I meddle not with his faults, as he was a minister of state," are his manly expressions ;“ but you know his personal kindness to me was excessive; he distinguished and chose me above all men when he was great ; and his letter to me the other day was the most moving imaginable.”! It lessens not the merit of this sacrifice, that, within three days, fate closed the prospects of the Tory party by the death of Queen Anne, when the accession of George I. confounded the triumphant Bolingbroke and the disgraced Oxford in common peril and proscription.

Swift, under a shock sudden and overwhelming to his party in general, and deeply fraught with personal hatred to so active a partisan as himself, lost neither presence of mind, courage, nor perse

He gave the bold opinion, that it was yet possible to rally the Tories, providing common misfortune could unite those whom success had separated. He exhorted Bolingbroke to place himself at the head of the high-church party; and, like a veteran who assumes his arms to succour in peril the standard from which he had retired while it was victorious, he offered his own services in the field of political contest in the beginning of winter.2

verance.

time, in the edition of Swift's Works to which these Memoirs are prefixed, (vol. xix., p. 272.) shows that this proposal was not made in ceremony, but that Swift actually applied for license of absence to attend his patron. The direction is lost, but it was probably addressed to Archdeacon Walls, as in another letter to him, (Works, vol. xvi., p. 190,) he mentions having corresponded with him on the subject.

i Letter to Miss Vanhomrigh. Ibid., vol. xix., p. 340. • Swift's Works, vol. xvi., p. 189.

It was on this occasion that Arbuthnot used the memorable expression, Dean Swift keeps up his noble spirit, and, though like a man knocked down, you may behold him still with a stern countenance, and aiming a blow at his adversaries." But the spirit of the Tories was totally broken, as is well described in a desponding letter of Lewis. And on the subject of reconciliation, Bolingbroke avowed such an inveteracy of hatred against Oxford, that he would rather have laid down his own life, than made common cause with him in defending that of both. His flight, and that of Ormond, with the imprisonment of Oxford, Wyndham, Prior, and others, completed the discomfiture and dispersion of Queen Anne's last ministry. These events took place when Swift himself, under the frown of power, had sought refuge in Ireland from the evils and dangers which impended over all the late ministers, and their adherents.

It was now he experienced that height of unpopularity which the narrative of Lord Orrery has somewhat anticipated. The Irish Protestants, remembering the civil wars of 1689 and 1690, looked with utter abhorrence on all who were suspected of being favourable to the interest of the house of Stuart. This was the charge brought against Queen Anne's last ministry by their successors ; it was countenanced by a remarkable passage in the declaration of the Chevalier de St George, expressing the good intentions of his sister in his favour, when prevented by death; and, if limited to Bolingbroke's intrigues, that statesman's subsequent

1 Swift's Works, vol. xvi., p. 214. * Ibid. p. 191.

conduct, as well as Ormond's, give it great probability. But the spirit of party made no distinction. All who had favoured the high-church interest were involved in a sweeping charge of Jacobitism, of which calumny Swift had his share. Libels on libels were showered against him ; the rabble insulted him as he walked the street; and even young men of rank forgot his station and their own so far as to set the same example of wanton brutality. Nor was this the worst evil of his situation.

His

i Such disgraceful occurrences occasioned the following petition to the House of Lords, on the wanton aggression of one of their members : • The humble Petition of JONATHAN SWIFT, D.D. and Dean of the Cathedral of St Patrick's, Dublin.

“ Most humbly showeth, “ That your petitioner is advised by his physicians, on account of his health, to go often on horseback; and there being no place, in winter, so convenient for riding as the strand toward Howth, your petitioner takes all opportunities that his business or the weather will permit, to take that road : That in the last Session of Parliament, in the midst of winter, as your petitioner was returning from Howth, with his two servants, one before, and the other behind him, he was pursued by two gentlemen in a chaise, drawn by two high-mettled horses, in so violent a manner, that his servant, who rode behind him, was forced to give way, with the utmost peril of his life; whereupon your petitioner made what speed he could, riding to the right and left above fifty yards to the full extent of the said road ; but the two gentlemen driving a light chaise, drawn by fleet horses, and intent upon mischief, turned faster than your petitioner, endeavouring to overthrow him: That by great accident your petitioner got safe to the side of a ditch, where the chaise could not safely pursue; and the two gentlemen stopping their career, your petitioner mildly expostulated with them; whereupon one of the gentlemen said, Damn

you,

is not the road as free for us as for you?' and calling to his servant who rode behind him, said, • Tom,' (or

former friends, including many who owed him civility and gratitude, paid court to the opposite party, by treating him with rudeness and insult. some such name,) is the pistol loaden with ball?' To which the servant answered, “Yes, my lord,' and gave him the pistol. Your petitioner often said to the gentleman, Pray, sir, do not shoot, for my horse is apt to start, by which my life may be endangered.' The chaise went forward, and your petitioner took the opportunity to stay behind. Your petitioner is informed, that the person who spoke the words above-mentioned, is of your lordships' house, under the style and title of Lord Blaney; whom your petitioner remembers to have intro. duced to Mr Secretary Addison, in the Earl of Wharton's government, and to have done him other good offices at that time, because he was represented as a young man of some hopes, and a broken fortune: That the said Lord Blaney, as your petitioner is informed, is now in Dublin, and sometimes attends your lordships' house. And your petitioner's health still requiring that he should ride, and being confined in winter to go on the same strand, he is forced to enquire from every one he meets, whether the said lord be on the same strand; and to order his servants to carry arms to defend him against the like, or a worse insult, from the said lord, for the consequences of which your petitioner cannot answer.

“ Your petitioner is informed by his learned counsel, that there is no law now in being, which can justify the said lord, under colour of his peerage, to assault any of his majesty's subjects on the king's highway, and put them in fear of their lives, without provocation, which he humbly conceives, that by only happening to ride before the said lord, he could not possibly give.

“ Your petitioner, therefore, doth humbly implore your lordships, in your great prudence and justice, to provide that he may be permitted to ride with safety on the said strand, or any other of the king's highways, for the recovery of his health, so long as he shall demean himself in a peaceable manner, without being put into continual fears of his life, by the force and arms of the said Lord Blaney."

Among these, Sir Thomas Southwell, one of the commissioners of the revenue, often mentioned as a friend in Swift's Letters and Journal, distinguished himself, by an

1

man

He was obliged to secure his papers against the researches of government;' and it would seem that a packet, addressed to him from the Duke of Ormond's chaplain, was seized by a messenger. The slight authority upon which it is affirmed, that Dean Swift actually absconded, lest he should be made answerable for the treasonable contents, may justly be neglected, since no steps were taken against a

so obnoxious to government, who would scarcely have been overlooked, had there occurred any grounds on which he could be made personally responsible. That he was considered, however, as a person disaffected, and liable to accusation, is evident from an expression of his old correspondent, Archbishop King, who seems to have yielded to no one in the art of conveying a sarcasm under the mask of a friendly wish or amicable caution. “ We have a strong report that my Lord Bolingbroke will return here and be pardoned: certainly it must

swering Swift, when he had addressed him on some ordinary occasion of business. “ I'll hold you a groat, Mr Dean, I do not know you.” Afterwards, when created Lord Southwell, he expressed regret for his conduct during the heat of party, and attempted to regain Swift's acquaintance, by saluting him with great politeness. But the Dean retorted his rudeness, prefaced by his own cant phrase, “ I'll hold you a groat, my lord, I do not know you.”

i See his Works, vol. xvi., p. 224.

9 The authority for the whole story is but slender. Tindal, in his Continuation of Rapin, copies, without quoting, the words of Oldmixon, and Oldmixon refers to the Annals of Boyer. “ Posterity," says Oldmixon, “ will be in amazement to find not one of these libellers made an example.” And undoubtedly, posterity has been induced, from that very circumstance, greatly to doubt the grounds on which the historian has accused them.

« PreviousContinue »