Imágenes de páginas

In May, 1690, suffering from attacks of vertigo and deafness, Swift returned to Ireland in the hope that a change of climate might benefit him and that there might be an opening for work more congenial. He carried a letter of recommendation to Sir Robert Southwell, the Irish secretary, which stated that the bearer was honest, diligent, wrote a good hand, and knew Latin, Greek, and a little French. In view of Swift's later achievements in literature and politics, we cannot say that this letter of recommendation errs by over-statement of ability.

Failing to find congenial employment in Ireland, he returned to Moor Park. In 1692, Oxford, recognizing the years of graduate study at Trinity and also the influence of Temple, conferred the degree of M.A. upon Swift. About this time Temple began to entrust him with more important duties. He had the honor of an interview with King William III, in which he tried to persuade that dignitary of the importance of signing the Triennial Act, a bill to have Parliament meet every three years.

In 1694 Swift again left Moor Park, was ordained deacon in October, and priest in January, 1695. Temple assisted him to procure the prebend of Kilroot, a small charge worth about £100 a year. This holding he resigned two years later, but before this, May, 1696, he had tired of Ireland and returned to Moor Park, where he remained until Temple's death in 1699.

In 1700 we find Swift at Laracor, a village about twenty miles from Dublin. This place, with the addition of several minor charges, gave him an income of £230 a year. His congregation at Laracor sometimes numbered fewer than fifteen. There is a story that on a stormy day, when the congregation consisted of but Roger, the sexton, Swift gravely began the service with, Dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture moveth thee and me."

Romance. -Swift, as has been said, is a strange character, proud and sensitive in his relations with men, fond of the admiration of women, but not always admirable in his treatment of those who fell under the spell of his personality. He was not without a high opinion of woman's worth, and yet his bluntness verged upon brutality, as in the case of Vanessa and Lady Bur


lington. The three women who play a part in the romance of Swift's life are Miss Waring (Varina), Esther Johnson (Stella), and Hester Vanhomrigh (Vanessa).

Varina. - It was while at Kilroot that Swift met Miss Waring, the sister of an old Trinity College chum. From a letter addressed to her in April, 1696, we gather that Swift was desperately in love:

“Surely, Varina, you have but a very mean opinion of the joys that accompany a true, honorable, unlimited love; yet ... all other sublunary things are dross in comparison. Is it possible you can be yet insensible to the prospect of a rapture and delight so innocent and exalted ?”

For some years she refused the advances of this ardent lover, who was willing to "forego all for her sake," on the plea of her own ill-health and his lack of means to support a family. But in 1700, when his fortune had slightly improved, she became the urgent wooer and Swift the reluctant lover. In May, 1700, he

. wrote a letter in which he raises objections and imposes conditions of a most unloverlike character. Among other questions, he asks whether she will be willing to improve her mind, whether she will always have enough good nature “as to endeavor by soft words to smooth any rugged humor occasioned by the cross incidents of life? Shall the place wherever your husband is thrown be more welcome than courts or cities without him?” When she shall be ready to answer questions such as these, he shall be ready to marry her "whether your person be beautiful or your fortune be large. Cleanliness in the first, and competency in the other, is all I look for.” It should be needless to add that the studied insults of this letter had the desired effect, and henceforth Varina passed out of the life of Swift.

Hester.- Hester Vanhomrigh, or Vanessa, as Swift familiarly called her, was the daughter of the widow of a Dutch merchant. Swift had met the family as early as 1708, but it was two years later, while Swift was in London, that his frequent visits to the family brought about an intimacy that resulted in a strong friendship between Swift and Hester, and then ripened into love, at least on the part of Hester. She was then in her twenty-first year, attractive, intellectual, and with a taste for the higher arts. When he left London for Ireland in 1713, Vanessa was desperately in love. Upon his return in 1714, their association was resumed. Upon the death of Mrs. Vanhomrigh he wrote a kind and sympathetic letter, even offering to become surety in case she needed to borrow money; but a little later, knowing that he must soon return again to Ireland, and fearing she might wish to follow him, he became moody and cold. When she indicated an intention of coming to Ireland, after his departure from London, he unsuccessfully tried to dissuade her. At the time when his relations with Stella were most friendly, he continued on friendly terms with Vanessa, although he was hoping to relieve himself of an embarrassing situation by finding an admirer for Vanessa. It seems evident that she wasted her youth in a hopeless passion for Swift, who probably never intended to marry her, but who was weak enough to crave the flattery of an admiration which he could not return. By the year 1723, feeling that her health was failing, and wishing to know definitely her place in the affections of Swift, she wrote a letter to him, demanding a final decision as to his preference between her and Stella. Swift

acted with the fury into which an irresolute man always falls when he at last finds himself face to face with stern necessity. He took Vanessa's letter, and rode off with it to Marley Abbey. Striding into the lady's apartment, he flung her letter on the table, and departed without a word. We know from Vanessa herself that Swift's countenance was preeminently fitted to express the emotion of infuriated rage. No words were needed to tell her that all was over between them.”

Although she died in May of the same year, it is hardly fair to infer that her death was caused by her disappointment. One does not experience any regret, however, at learning that before her death she revoked a will she had made in favor of Swift.

Stella. - While the story of the relationship of Swift and Stella is not altogether a satisfactory one, it has more of pleasantness than either of the preceding two. Her life is interwoven with almost the whole of Swift's. When he first came to Moor

Park, he found there a young girl of little more than eight years of age, living in the family of Temple with her widowed mother. Attracted from the first by the bright and winsome ways of the little dark-eyed girl, the lonely and unappreciated young secretary enjoyed many an hour in tutoring her, unconsciously developing an interest and laying “the foundations of an intimacy the tale of which is the most fascinating in romantic history.For thirty years, in whatever other directions Swift's affections may have temporarily swayed, Stella retained the largest part in the heart of the great satirist.

After the death of Temple, Swift suggested to the homeless Stella and her friend Mrs. Dingley that they could live more economically in Ireland than in England. Says Leslie Stephen: “This change of abode naturally made people talk. ...

Swift was now (1701) in his thirty-fourth year, and Stella a singularly beautiful and attractive girl of twenty. The anomalous connexion was close, and yet most carefully guarded against scandal. In Swift's absence, the ladies occupied his apartments at Dublin. When he and they were in the same place, they took separate lodgings. Twice, it seems, they accompanied him on visits to England. But Swift never saw Esther Johnson except in presence of a third person.”

[ocr errors]

His Journal to Stella, covering a period of two years and a half, 1710–13, is a revelation of the intimacy between the two, as well as of the opinion held by Swift of the men whom he met. He characterizes Bolingbroke as a "thorough rake;" Oxford, as a "pure trifler;" Marlborough, as “covetous as hell and as ambitious as a prince of it." We catch glimpses of Congreve, , now almost blind; of Arbuthnot, genial and friendly; of Steele, gay and irresponsible; and of Queen Anne, the taciturn. At a time when partisanship in politics was running high, he writes of Addison: “ Mr. Addison and I are as different as black and white, and I believe our friendship will go off, ... but I love him still as well as ever, though we seldom meet.”

The “little language” which he used in his Journal to Stella is probably a reminiscence of their early days at Moor Park. He frequently addresses Stella and Mrs. Dingley as “Sirrahs,"

[ocr errors]

"Girls,” “Dearest Lives." He writes, “I assure oo it im vely late now; but zis goes to-morrow; and I must have some time to converse with our own deerichar MD (my dear, probably]. Nite de deer Sollahs." And again, “And now let us see what this saucy, dear letter of MD

says. .. What says Pdf [Podefar, possibly poor, dear, foolish rogue] to me, pray? says it. Come and let me answer for


ladies. Hold up your head like a good letter.”

There has been much discussion pro and con as to whether Swift and Stella were married. Lord Orrery, in his life of Swift, published in 1751, thinks that “Stella was the concealed but undoubted wife of Dr. Swift, and, if my informations are

, right, she was married to him in the year 1716 by Dr. Ashe, then Bishop of Clogher.” Three years later Dr. Delaney agrees with Orrery without producing any evidence for his belief, and Mr. Deane Swift, in a publication of 1756, repeats the statement. Samuel Madden, a man of erratic character, repeated the rumor to Dr. Samuel Johnson. But on the whole, there is no proof supporting the theory that Swift and Stella were married. There is no record of the marriage, nor did Swift, a man averse to subterfuge, ever acknowledge Stella as his wife. In his last will and testament he calls Stella a single woman, and in all references to her after her death he calls her his “dearest friend." Most significant of all, Mrs. Dingley, Stella's closest companion for many years, Mrs. Brent, Swift's housekeeper, and Dr. John Lyon, a close friend of the dean's in his declining years, all denied the story of the marriage.

Stella died on January 28, 1728. Ill himself and unable to attend the funeral, Swift wrote a eulogy from which we quote these extracts:

"This day, being Sunday, January 28, 1728, about eight o'clock at night, a servant brought me a note with an account of the death of the truest, most virtuous, and valuable friend that I, or perhaps any other person, was ever blessed with. ...

“Never was any of her sex born with better gifts of the mind, or who more improved them by reading and conversation. Yet her memory was not of the best, and was impaired in the latter years of her life. But I

« AnteriorContinuar »