Sybil le Brocquy, Cadenus: a Resassessment in the Light of New Evidence of the Relationships between Swift, Stella, and Vanessa (Dublin: Dolmen 1962), 160pp.

Le Brocquy argues that Swift conducted a protracted love affair with Vanessa, producing a child during a sojourn together in Berkshire in 1713, which child was fostered out to the printer Kendall, whose wife’s maiden name M’Loghin was given him (Bryan M’Loghlin), and that Vanessa, when she knew herself to be dying of tuberculosis as her siblings had died before her, turned to Stella requesting that she look to the child’s welfare, whereon Stella’s hatred of deceit compelled her to confront Swift, who in turn savagely berated Vanessa, accelerating her death (possibly through despair and drink), and triggering the famous alertation in her will; but that Stella and Swift were later somewhat reconciled, and that Stella took Bryan M’Loghlin into her household, so that he appears in her will as a child living with her ‘on charity’; that an overheard conversation concerning the ‘owning’ of some matter relates to this. In an appendix she lends support and extends Denis Johnston’s theory that Swift was the illegitimate son of Sir John Temple (not Sir William).

Elements of the Argument
IDENTIFIES the child Bryan M’Loghlin, recipient of a bequest in Stella’s will as ‘a child who now lives with me and whom I keep on charity’, and cites the account by Monck Berkeley in his Literary Relics (Jan. 1786), of Richard Brennan’s telling him that a certain young boy was favoured in the Deanery; Brennan was Swift’s bellringer at the cathedral and the man accredited with holding the Dean in his dying moments, and was himself in penury after his death; Le Brocquy considers that Vanessa probably bore a child to Swift in Oct. 1714, while in Letcombe, Berkshire. (See Sybil Le Brocquy, Cadenus, 1962, p.39); not also that the child Bryan is mentioned in Swift’s poem on the death of Mrs. Dingley’s dog

TRACES Kendall [mentioned in the letter of 1 June, 1722, supra] to a bookbinder in St. Andrew’s Parish, who married a M’Loughlin, being the name of the child in the keeping of Vanessa

INFERS that Kendall provided the place of assignation for Swift and Vanessa in Dublin. A letter of Vanessa’s, written four years before the publication of Gulliver’s travels, clearly shows that she had read the manuscript, and had therefore been intimate with him during that period; Swift himself speaks of seeing her every week of their acquaintance, and also of their meetings in which ‘the same scene has passed forty time [...] yet each has ses agréments particuliers’ (Letter from Clogher, 1 June, 1722)

CONJECTURES that, having nursed tubercular siblings, Vanessa was herself dying in the Spring of 1723; that she wrote to Stella seeking a home for her son by Swift, Brian O’Loughlin; in consequence of her admissions, Stella had seen Swift in his naked shame; she was noted as a woman of honour who despised hypocrisy; there was no appeal (p.105); CITES a poem on ‘curst Discretion’, by Swift which was found in Vanessa’s papers on her death, and which suggests that he learned to regard his discretion as his greatest enemy; refers also to a sentence in the letter to Varina: ‘Love, with the gall of too much discretion, is a thousand times worse than with none at all.’ (Le Brocquy, p.48).

CITES overheard conversation during Stella’s last illness in which the Dean was heard to say ‘Well, my dear, if you wish it, it shall be owned’, to which she replied, ‘It is too late.’ (Le Brocquy, p.114).

CONTENDS that on Stella’s retirement to Woodford after the crisis, Delany was the ‘informant’ of whom he himself wrote at second-hand in his account of the matter, viz., [...] there my informant often saw her and, I have reason to believe, used his utmost endeavour to relieve, support and amuse her in this sad situation.’ (Cited Le Brocquy, p.99-100, with the comment that Dr. Delany was himself the informant.)

DRAWS ATTENTION to an entry in the burials Register of St. patrick’s Cathedaral, dated Aug. 21 1731, recording a burial without a name: ‘Intr’d in the Tomb of the Old Churchyard, falling at a date that may coincided with the demise of Bryan M’Loghlin. (p.117, and pl. facing).

CITES Letitia Pilkington’s testimony that her mother vomited when she first she read ‘The Lady’s Dressing Room’, and further comments, ‘It is as if some demon drave a lapsed lover to desecrate, with obscene scrawlings, the shrine at which he had once worshipped.’ (p.118)

CITES a persistent legend that, after his death an envelope was found on which the words ‘Only a woman’s hair’, the hair being brown, not black - as Stella’s was (p.118)

APPENDIX (I) supports Denis Johnston’s theory that Thomas, Jane, and Jonathan Swift were all in fact illegitimate children of Sir William Temple by Abigail Erick of Dublin, for whom a specially licensed marriage to Swift’s ‘father’ was seemingly secured in June 1664; she further reflects on the story of Swift’s removal by an overly-affectionate nurse and then brought back to Dublin by the same; she offers the explanation that Jonathan, having been identified as an infant prodigy in the age of infant prodigies, became the object of educational investment beyond his siblings by his real father.

CITES quotes Hawkesworth, on the kidnapping: ‘again carried to England by his nurse and replaced under the protection of his Uncle Godwin’; these events characterised by Swift as ‘very unusuell’ (p.123)

CONSIDERS that a MS record of the Dean ‘putting on mourning for his dead sister’ in Dec. 1737 properly refers to the demise of his unacknowledged brother Thomas Swift, in Northampton (recorded in parish records as brother of Dean Swift of Dublin), of whom he may have gained knowledge by that date. She further conjectures that the contents of a trunk gone missing through some fault of Mr. Fenton may have contained papers intended for Swift with such disclosures in them. (131-36).

Quotations from Swift’s Journal to Stella
‘The Lord Treasurer said he would not be satisfied, but that I must be the prebendary of Windsor. Thus he perplexes things [...] I confess, as much as I love England, I am so angry at these treatment that, if I had my choice, I would rather have St. Patrick’s [...] . Neither can I feel joy at passing my days in Ireland; and I confess I thought the Ministry would not let me go [...] The Duke of Ormond is to send over an order, making me Dean of St Patrick’s [...; &c.]; also, ‘I am condemned to life in Ireland, and all the Court and Ministry did for me was to let me choose my station in the country where I am banished.’; ‘I stayed but a fortnight in Dublin, very sick; and returned not one visit of a hundred that were made to me, but all to the Dean, and none to the Doctor. I am riding here for life, and think I am something better, and hate the thoughts of Dublin, and prefer a field-bed and an earthen floor before the great house there, which they say is mine. I design to spend the greatest part of the time I stay in Ireland here in the cabin where I am now writing, neither will I leave the Kingdom till I am sent for; and if they have no further service for me I will never see England again. At my first coming I thought I should have died with discontent, and was horribly melancholy while they were installing me: but it began to wear off and change to dullness [...] I must go and take my bitter draught to cure my head, which is really spoilt by the bitter draughts the public have given me.’ (Letter to Vanessa, from Laracor; 8th June 1713); text of verses nailed to door of St. Patrick’s on installation of Jon. Swift; reputedly by Bishop of Killala: ‘Today this Temple gets a Dean,/Of parts and fame uncommon;/Used both to pray, and to profane,/To serve both God and Mammon [...] /This Place he got by wit and rhyme,/And many ways most odd;/And might a Bishop be in time,/Did he believe in God [...] /Look down, St Patrick, look, we pray/On thine own Church and Steeple;/Convert thy Dean on this great Day,/Or else, God help the People.’ (Le Brocquy, p.33); Swift’s letter of to Lord Bolingbroke: ‘My birth, although from a family not undistinguished in its time, is many degrees inferior to yours. All my pretensions upon persona and parts, infinitely so. I am a younger son of younger sons. You were born to a great fortune [...] (Dublin, 31 Oct. 1729).

Letter of Dr Evans, Bishop of Meath, to Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘I think it not improper to acquaint your Grace with a passage lately happened here wherein Jonathan Swift is said to be pretty much concerned. A young woman, Mrs. Van Omrig (a pretended vain wit), and ye Dean had great friendship, many letters and papers passed betwixt them (the subject I know nothing of); they give out, there was a marriage promise between them, but this I can’t affirm [...] In April, last, she discovered the D was married to Mrs. Johnson (a natural daughter of Sir W. Temple, a very good woman), upon which she expressed great indignation, making a new will and leaving all to Dr. Berkeley of this College [...] and to one of Mr. Marshall, who was charged by her (on her deathbed) to print all the letters and papers which had passed between the D and herself [...] Ye Archbishop of Dublin and ye whole Irish posse have (I fear) prevailed with Mr. Marshall (ye lady’s executor) not to print the papers, etc., as she desired, lest one of their own dear joyes should be trampled on by the Philistines.’ (Le Brocquy, p.43-44)

Swift’s earliest extant letter, wooing Miss Waring: ‘Surely, Varina, you have but a mean opinion of the joys that accompany a true, honourable, unlimited love; yet either nature or our ancestors have hugely deceived us, or else all sublunary things are dross in comparison. Is it possible that you cannot be yet unsensible to the prospect of a rapture and delight so innocent and so exalted? Trust me, Varina, Heaven has given us nothing else worth the loss of a though. Ambition, high appearance, friends and fortune are all tasteless and insipid when they come in competition; yet millions of such glorious minutes we are perpetually losing, for every losing, irrecoverably losing, to gratify empty forms and wrong notions [...] To resist the violence of our inclinations in the beginning is a strain of self denial that may have some pretences to set up for a virtue; but when they are grounded at first upon reason, when they have taken firm root and grown to a height, it is folly - folly as well as injustice - to withstand their dictates; for this passion has a property peculiar to itself, to be more commendable in its extremes; and it is as possible to err in the excess of piety as of love.’ ([q.d.]; cited; Le Brocquy, pp.47-48), and further, to Vanessa: ‘I am confident you came chiding into the world and will continue so while you are in it.’

At the death of Vanessa’s sister Malkin from consumption Swift distanced himself from Vanessa with the advice: ‘In God’s sake get your friends about you, to advise and order everything in the forms [...] I want comfort myself in this case and can give little. Time alone must give it to you. Nothing now is your part but decency’. Le Brocquy ascribes some elements of the language of Gulliver’s Travels and the Houynnhyms to the secret language of the Journal; also sees the term somerset (in lieu of somersaults) descriptive of courtiers antics in Gulliver’s Travels as a slight on the Duchess of Somerset.

Quotations from Swift’s Correspondence with Vanessa
‘This morning a woman, who does business with me, told me she heard I was in love with one - naming you, and twenty particulars, that little master and I visited you, and that the A-B did so; and that you had an abundance of wit, etc. I every feared the tattle of this nasty town and told you so; and that was the reason why I said to you long ago that I would see you seldom when you were in Ireland. And I must beg you to be easy if, for some time, I visit you seldomer, and not in so particular a manner. I will see you at the latter end of the week, if possible. These are accidents in life that are necessary and most be submitted to; and tattle, by the help of discretion, will wear off. (Swift to Vanessa; undated lettered; cited in Le Brocquy, p.39-40).

‘[...] But now, when my misfortunes are increased by being in a disagreeable place, amongst strange, prying, deceitful people, whose company is so far from an amusement that it is a very great punishment you fly from me and give me no reason but that we are amongst fools and must submit. I am very well satisfied that we are amongst such but know no reason for having my happiness sacrifice to their caprice. You once had a maxim, which was to act what was right and not to mind what the world said. I wish you would keep it now. Pray what can be wrong in seeing and advising an unhappy young woman? I can’t imagine. You can’t but know that you frowns make my life unsupportable. You have taught me to distinguish, and then you leave me miserable [...]. I have a nobler soul tat to sit struggling with misfortunes, when at the end I can’t promise myself any real happiness. Forgive me; and I beg you’d believe it is in my power to avoid complaining as I do.’ (Letter from Vanessa to Swift, ‘Dublin 1714’; Le Brocquy, p.57-58).

Swift’s most complimentary letter to Vanessa, written in French and dates 12th May 1719, tells her that her commandment is something that he dares not violate; that she is incapable of ‘sottise’; that ‘j’ya toujours remarqué que ni en conversation particuliere ni generale aucun mot a echappe de votre bouche, wui pavouat etre mieux exprimé’; and that ‘la coquetrie, l’affectation, la pruderie sont des imperfections que vous n’avais jamais connu’; … [&c.] (cited Le Brocquy, pp.61-62).

On “Drinking Coffee”
‘A fig for partridges and quails;/Ye dainties, I know nothing of ye,/But on the highest mount in Wales/Would choose in peace to drink my coffee’’ (Letter to Vanessa, 12 Aug. 1720, Le Brocquy, pp.72-73).

Swift’s letter for 15 Oct. 1720 and days following (from London): ‘October 18th - I am getting an ill head in this cursed town, for want of exercise. I wish I were to walk with you fifty ties about your garden, and the - drink your coffee’; before the end of the letter he tells her he has dreamt of her in the early morning, but all too briefly, and that there would be reproaches ‘when next she drank her coffee’; Soon after she is writing, ‘Oh, -, -, -, how you have forgot me. You endeavour by severities to force me from you [...]. Put my passion under the utmost restraint, send me as distant from you as the earth will allow, yet you cannot banish those charming ideas, which will ever sticky my me, whilst I have the use of memory. Nor is the love I bear you only seated in my soul, for there is not a single atom of my frame that is not blended with it. Therefore, don’t flatter yourself that separation will every change my sentiments, for I find myself unquiet in the midst of silence and my heart is at once pierced by sorrow and by love. For Heaven’s sake tell me what has caused this prodigious change in you, which I have found of late [...] don’t suffer me to live a life like a languishing death, which is the only life I can lead, if you have lost any of your tenderness for me. (Celbridge, 1720; le Brocquy, p.80-81).

Writing to Vanessa from Gaulstown, nr. Kinnegad, Swift writes again of ‘coffee’ and makes the profession that Le Brocquy chooses as the title of her second book: ‘I can say no more, being called away, mais soyez assurée que jamais personne du monde a été, honorée, estimée, adorée par votre ami que vous. I drank no coffee since I left you, nor intend to till I see you again. There is no worth drinking but yours, if myself may be the judge.’ (15 July, 1721; Le Brocquy, p.85)

‘It would have been infinitely better to have met Kendall, and so forth, where one might pass three or four hours in drinking coffee in the morning, or dining tete-a-tete and drinking coffee again till seven.’ (Clogher, 1 June, 1722; Le Brocquy, p.87).

Later on in the same, he writes: ‘God send you though your law and your reference; and remember that riches are nine parts in ten of all that is good in life, and health is the tenth. Drinking coffee comes long after, and yet it is the eleventh; but without two former you cannot drink it right; and remember the china in the old house, and Ryder Street, and the Colonel’s journey to France, and the London Wedding, and the sick lady at Windsor, and the strain by the books at London [...] .’ (Le Brocquy, p.88).

‘There is a pleasure in being reverenced, and that is alwayw in your powers, by your superioirity of sense and an easy fortune. The best maxim I know in this life is, to drink your coffee when you can, and when you cannot, to be easy without it. While you continue to be splenetic, count upon it I will always preach. Thus much I sympathise with you, that I am not cheerful enough to write, for I believe coffee once a week is necessary to that.’ (Letter from Loughgall, 13 July 1722; Le Brocquy, p.94).

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