« AnteriorContinuar »
members of the choir according to their merit, and never advanced any person to a vicarage, who was not qualified for it in all respects, whatever their interests or however recommended. He once refused a vicarage to a person for whom Lady CARTERET was very importunate, at the same time declaring to her ladyship, that if it had been in his power to have made the gentleman a Dean or a Bishop, he would have obliged her willingly, because, he said, deaneries and bishopricks were preferments in which merit had no concern, but the merit of a vicar would be brought to the test every day. The instance he brings to illustrate this part of Swift's character, and to prove how exact and conscientious he was to fill his choir with such merit as all men were judges of, is that of a person promoted by him to a vicarage, because his gun had gone off accidentally and wounded him.
In his attempt to develope Swift's mysterious conduct, towards STELLA and VANESSA, he has certainly removed much of the mystery, but leaves SWIFT's character as liable to censure as he found it. When he allows that he had a love for VANESSA, and none for STELLA, and that he kept up a correspondence with VANESSA, which it was necessary to conceal from STELLA, he places his hero in a situation more irreconcilable with honour and humanity than perhaps he intended; and although his account of the whole transaction is minute and interesting, it may
be doubted whether it was ever read without feel. ings of a very different kind from what he meant to excite. Dr. Johnson has noticed the affair with more lenity; he has said all that can be said in excuse:
Mr. SHERIDAN's defence of the Fourth part of GULLIVER's Travels' is ingenious; but when he censures the opposition to this work as prejudice, he forgets that it is not the prejudice of the vulgar, but the opinion of every writer of piety or taste who has considered the subject... With respect to his attack on Dr. JOHNSON, except where he has corrected some mistakes in point of fact, it may safely be left unanswered. In this he was too obviously, imitating one of the virtues of his idol. He was taking that vengeance for which he had long prepared his mind. As a critic, Mr. SHERIDAN has not always been successful. Swift's style was, beyond all precedent, pure and precise, yet void of ornament or grace, and partook in some instances of the pride and dogmatism of its author: nor does his Biographer seem to be aware, that his most incorrect composition is his Proposal for correcting the English tongue.'
Those who wish to appreciate Swift's character with justice, must derive their information from his voluminous writings, which undoubtedly place him among the most illustrious ornaments of literature, as an author of incomparable ability, of multiform talent, and inexhaustible fancy. But the most charitable conclusion that can be formed of his private life, or the general tendency of his writings, will not, I fear, differ much from the opinion of a celebrated writer, who, with the truest relish for wit and humour, never losses sight of more important considerations.
• In Swift we see a turn of mind very different from that of the amiable Thomson, little relish for the sublime and beautiful, and a perpetual succession of violent emotions. All his
pictures of life seem to show, that deformity and meanness were the favourite objects of his attention, and that his soul was a constant prey to indignation, disgust, and other gloomy passions arising from such a view of things. And it is the tendency of almost all his writings (though it was not always the author's design) to commụnicate the same passions to his reader; insomuch, that, notwithstanding his erudi. tion, and knowledge of the world, his abilities as a popular orator and man of business, the energy of his style, the elegance of some of his verses, and his extraordinary talents in wit and humour, there is reason to doubt, whether by studying his works any person was ever much improved in piety or benevolence.'*
The next contributor to the TATLER whom we shall notice, is Mr. John Hughes, who is said to have been the author of the letter signed Josiah Couplet in No. 64; that signed Will Trusty in No. 73; a letter on the tendency of the work in No. 76; and the inventory of a beau's effects in No. 113. For these assignments, we have the authority of Mr. Duncombe. The Annotators on the Tatler suspect that he wrote the short letter signed Philanthropos in No. 66, and the whole of No. 194, a transposition of the tenth canto of the fourth book of Spenser. STEELE is supposed to have alluded to HUGHES in the character of Aletheus in No. 56. He was,' say the Annotators on the Tatler, the intimate friend of STEELE, and seems to have interested himself very particularly in those papers of this work which were written with a view to detect and expose the sharpers of that time.' Some
*Essays on Poetry and Music, p. 587, 4to. Edit. 1776.
farther notice will be taken of Mr. HUCHES among the authors of the SPECTATOR.
The · Medicine, a Tale,' in No. 2, was written by Mr. WILLIAM HARRISON, a young gentleman high in esteem, and (as Swift characterizes him) a little, pretty fellow, with a great
6 deal of wit, good sense, and good nature. For these and perhaps superior qualities, he has been praised, wept, and honoured, by Young in his Epistle to Lord LANSDOWNE.
Mr. HARRISON received the early rudiments of his education at Winchester School, and was afterwards fellow of New College Oxon. His circumstances were very indifferent, as he had no other income than forty pounds a year when tutor to one of the Duke of QUEENSBERRY'S
In this employment he attracted the favour of Swift, who obtained for him the em. ployment of Secretary to Lord RABY, asterwards Earl of STRAFFORD, and then ambas. sador at the Hague. A letter of his while at Utrecht, dated December 16, 1712, is printed in the Dean's works, from which it appears that his office was attended with much vexation and little advantage. Swift gives a remarkable instance of this, at the time HARRISON brought over the barrier treaty. Jan. 31, 1712-13, HARRISON was with me this morning; we talked three hours, and then I carried him to court. When we went down to the door of my lodging, I found a coach waited for him. I chid him for it: but he whispered me, it was impossible to be otherwise ; and in the coach he told me, he had not one farthing in his pocket to pay for it ; and therefore took the coach for the whole day, and intended to borrow money somewhere or other. So there was the Queen's Minister in,
trusted in affairs of the greatest importance, without a shilling in his pocket to pay a coach.' He died Feb. 14, 1712-13. He was professedly Editor of the spurious Tatler hereafter mentioned. Dr. Birch, in a note on his letter to SWIFT, has confounded him with THOMAS HARRISON, M. A. of Queen's College.*
The very humorous genealogy of the family of Bickerstaff in No. 11, is ascribed by STEELE in his · Preface to the Octavo Edition, 1710,'to · Mr. TWISDEN, who died at the battle of Mans, and has a monument in Westminster Abbey, suitable to the respect which is due to his wit and his valour.' HENEAGE TWISDEN was the seventh son of Sir WILLIAM TWISDEN, Bart. of Roydon Hall, East Peckham, Kent; and a youth of great expectations.
At the time of his death (1709, aged 29,) he was captain of foot in Sir RICHARD TEMPLE's regiment, and Aid-de-Camp to John Duke of ARGYLE, who commanded the right wing of the Confederate Army. Near his monument in the north aisle of the Abbey, are two other small ones to the memory of his brothers Josiah and John. Josiah was à captain of foot at the siege of Agremont, near Lisle in Flanders, and was killed by a cannon ball, in 1708, in the 23d year of his age. John was a lieutenant in the Admiral's ship, under Sir CLOUDESLEY SHOVEL, and perished with him in 1707, in the 24th year of his age.
The character of Aspasia, in No. 42, was written by CONGREVE. The person meant was Lady ELIZABETH HASTINGS, the daughter of Theophilus, the seventh Earl of Huntingdon, a lady cele
* Nichols's Select Collection of Poems, vol. iv. p. 181. In this Collection are all the Poems that can be traced to Mr. HARRISON, except Woodstock Park,' which is in DodsLEY's Collection.