The Life of Rev. Dr. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick’s Dublin, by Thomas Sheridan, MA (London: Printed for C. Bathhurst, W. Strahan, B. Collins, J. F. and C. Rivington, L. Davis, W. Owen, J. Dodsley, T. Longman, R. Baldwin, T. Cadell, J. Nichols, T. Egerton, and W. Bent. MDCCLXXXIV [1784])

Contents of the First Volume [of which no second]: Dedication [ to Sir George Savile]; Introduction; Life of Doctor Swift; Sect. I: From his Birth to the Death of Sir William Temple; Sect. II: From the Death of Sir William Temple to the Time of Swift’s Introduction to Lord Oxford [31]; Sect. III: From his Introductin to Mr. Harley, to the Death of the Queen [63]; Sect. IV: A Review of his Conduction during his Connection with the Queen’s last Ministry [165}; Sect. V: From his Return to Ireland to his Death [210]; Sect. VI: Private Memoirs of Swift [283]; Sect. VII: Various anecdotes of Swift [395]; Sect. VIII: Anecdotes of the Family of Swift, written by himself [545]; His Will [557]. Front. plate of Swift, also a Plate of Dr. Thomas Sheridan, Cook sculpt. [368 facing].

Extracts: ‘His reputation for wisdom and integrity was so great, that he was consulted by the several corporations in all matters relative to trade, and chosen umpire of any differences among them, nor was there ever any appeal from his sentence. In a city where the police was perhaps on a worse footing than that of any in Europe, he in a great measure supplied the deficiency, by his own personal authority, taking notice of all public nuisances, and seeing them removed [271]. He assumed the office of Censor General, which he rendered as formidable as that of ancient Rome. In short, what by the acknowledged superiority of his talents, his inflexible integrity, and his unwearied endavurs in serving the public, he obtained such an ascendancy over his countrymen, as perhaps no private citizen ever attained in any ageor country. Hwas was known over the whole kingdom my the title of THE DEAN, given to him by way of pre-eminence, as it were by common consent; and when THE DEAN was mentioned, it walways carried with it the idea of the first and greatest man in the kingdom. The DEAN said this; THE DEAN did that; whatever he said or did was received as infallibly right; with the same degree of implicit credit given to it, as was paid to the Stagyrite of old, or to the modern Popes. We may judge of the greatness of his influence, from a passage in a letter of Lord Carteret to him, March 24 1732, “I know by experience how much the city of Dublin thinks itself under your protection; and how strictly they used to obey all orders fulminated from the sovereignty of St. Patrick’s”. And in the postscript to another of march 24 1736, he says, “When people ask me how I governed Ireland? I Say, that I pleased Dr. Swift.”

‘But great as his popularity was, it was chiefly confined to the middling, and lower class of mankind. To the former of these his chief applications wre made, upon a maxim of his own, “That the little virtue left in the world, is chiefly to be found [273] among the middle rank of mankind, who are neither allured out of her paths by ambition, nor driven by poverty.”

‘All of this class he secured almost to a man. And by the lower ranks, and rabble in general, he was reverenced almost to adoration. They were possessed with an enthusiastic love to his person, to protect which they would readily hazard their lives; yet on his appearance among them, they felt something like a religious awe, as if in the presence of one of a superior order of beings. At the very sight of him, when engaged in any riotous proceedings, they would instantly fly different ways, like scholboys at the approach of their master; and he has often been known, with a word, and lifting up his arm, to disperse mobs, that would have stood the brunt of the Civil and Military power united.

‘As to the upper class of mankind, he looked upon them as incorrigible, and therefore had scarcely any intercourse with them. He says himself, that he had little personal acquaintance with any Lord Spirital or Temporal in the kingdom; and he considered the Members of the House of Commons in general, as a set of venal prostitutes, who sacrificed their principles, and betrayed theinterests of their country, to gratify their ambition or avarice. With thesehe livev in a continued state of warfare, makign them feel severely the sharp stings of his satyr; while the, on the other hand, dreading, and therefore hating him more than any man in the world, endeavoured to retaliate on him by every species of obloquy.’ [273].

‘The learned Mr. Harris, in his Philological Enquiries, has the following passage: “Misanthropy is so dangerous a thing, and goes so far in sapping the very foundations of morality and religion, that I esteem the last part of Swift’s Gulliver (that I mean rleative to his Houyhnhnms and Yahos) to be a worse book to peruse, and those which we are forbid, as the most flagitious and obscene. One absurdity of this author (a wretched Philosopher, though a great Wit) is well worth remarking - in order to render the nature of man odious, and the mature of beasts amiable, he is compelled to give human characters to his hearsts, and beastly characters to his men; so that we are to admire the beasts, not for being beasts, but amiable men; and ot deset the men, not for being men, but detestable beasts.” I believe so strange an interpreation of an author’s meaning, never fell from the pen of any commentator. He first assumes that the end proposed by Swift in this fable, is, to render the nature of man odious, and the nature of beats amiable. This surely was a most unaccountable design in any human creature; and before it can be admitted, it ought to be first proved that Swift was of a beastly disposition, which engaged him on the side of his fellow brutes. And if this were his object, no mortal every used more unlikely means to attain [510] it, and no one ever more completely failed of his end. By representing a beast in a human form, without any one characteristical mark of man, he could hardly expect to render human hature itself odious: and by exhibiting so strange a phaenomenon as the soul of man actuating a quadupede, and regulating this conduct by the rules of right reason, he could as little hope to render the nature of irrational beasts more amiable. And accordingly I believe no mortal ever had a worse opinion of human nature, from his description of the Yahoos; nor a beter of the brute creation, from that of the Houyhnhnms. And all the ill effect produced by this fable, has been turned onthe author himself, by raising the general indignation of mankind against him, from a mistaken view of his intention: so that the Writer of the above remarks, need not have prohibited the reading of that part of Gulliver with such solemnity, as it never did, nor never can make one proselyte to Misanthropy, whereof he seems so apprehensive; but on the contrary may be productve of great good, from the moral so evidentaly to be deduced from it, as has already been made to appear. . ... [t]he absurdity belongs to the commentator, not the author’ [511]

 

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