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coin, which was deficient in value and weight. When an official report from Sir Isaac Newton declared that the coins were correct in value and weight, Swift wrote another letter urging the people not to submit to being made the victim of Wood's avarice. "It is no loss of honor to submit to the lion," wrote Swift, “but who, with the figure of a man, can think with patience of being devoured alive by a rat?” A third letter asks, “Am I a free man in England and do I become a slave in six hours by crossing the Channel ?” Another letter, addressed to the whole people of Ireland, aroused the Irish feeling for national independence. The coinage of Wood's half-pence ceased. Ireland felt it had a powerful advocate in the Dean of St. Patrick. Cities presented Swift with the freedom of the city, and bonfires were lit in his honor. Swift was the most popular man in Ireland.
About 1729 appeared that most bitter and ironic A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people from being a burden to their parents or the country, and for making them beneficial to the public. The simple remedy was to take the children of the poor and sell them as food to the rich. Thus there would be more food and fewer mouths to feed. Such a remedy was, of course, to apply only to Ireland, "and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be upon earth.” There are many who condemn the satire of this Proposal as too revolting, but we can forgive the ferocity when we understand that Swift is here giving “ the most complete expression of burning indignation against intolerable wrongs." We can but name the titles of a few of the
pamphlets dealing with religious and literary topics. About 1709 he wrote Hints towards an Essay on Conversation; after his death was published Directions to Servants, ironic and coarse; in 1708 he wrote An Argument against Abolishing Christianity, an ironic masterpiecę
whose moral was that we should improve our Christianity; in 1712 he published a Proposal for correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English Tongue; and in 1721 A Letter of Advice to a young Poet.
Last Years.-Swift always resented that he was compelled to
live in Ireland, a place which he compared to a coal-pit, and at another time he said it was a “place good enough to die in.” After Stella's death in 1728 he became sour and misanthropic. As the years went on he lost his health, although he looked after the duties of his office as dean with ability and persistency. Although charged with avarice, he did a number of generous deeds. It may be kindly inferred that he was parsimonious in order to be generous.
His giddiness and deafness increased, and his melancholy verged on insanity. In 1740 he wrote to his cousin, Mrs. Whiteway:
“I have been very miserable all night, and today extremely deaf and full of pain. I am so stupid and confounded that I cannot express the mortification I am under both in body and mind. All I can say is, that I am not in torture: but I daily and hourly expect it. I hardly understand one word I write. I am sure my days will be very few, few and miserable they must be.”
In 1742 guardians were appointed to take care of him, owing to the dementia that afflicted him. He died on October 7, 1745, and was buried at St. Patrick's by the side of Stella. He left his fortune, ultimately amounting to about $50,000, for the founding of a hospital for the insane. In the epitaph written by himself occur these lines, which suggest themselves when we think of Swift:
“Ubi saeva indignatio
Cor ulterius lacerare nequit.”
As a Writer. Swift is not to be enrolled among the few greatest writers in English literature. He has the great merit of clearness; there is no doubt as to his meaning. Vigorous, idiomatic, precise, and clear - these are the adjectives that describe his style. But more than vigor and clearness are needed to produce the perfect style, if there be such a quality as perfection in style. We ask for warmth, fervor, and beauty; for delicacy and lightness of sentiment; for the genial sunshine and freshness of atmosphere that pervade the writings of sensitive
and large-souled men. But these qualities are wanting in the writings of Swift because they were wanting in Swift the man.
Swift is greatest as a satirist. He wrote poetry as well as prose, but the greatest satiric poetry cannot rank with the greatest poetry that inspires us with love for man and God. So, too, it may be said of prose that clearness and order and logic are admirable qualities; but to these should be added lofty ideals, the prophetic vision that kindles hope, and the loving sympathy that pities our frail humanity. It is because Swift is lacking in these latter qualities that he cannot be placed by the side of Milton and Wordsworth, of Chaucer and Carlyle.
Swift (Lives of the Poets). JOHNSON.
Swift (English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century). TRACKERAY. Magazines:
Life of Swift. THACKERAY. Liv. Age, vol. 45, p. 303.
OPE, the foremost representative of the English school of
classic poetry, in his own time was considered by many the greatest of English poets. That he ranks today much lower in the scale is due to the change of opinion as to what good poetry is. From Beowulf to Shakspere the natural development of English poetry had been through the expression of the vigorous life of the people. From such a people with its racial characteristics one would expect a literature imaginative, serious, mystic, and vital; in form it would be impressive with the dignity of Gothic massiveness rather than splendid with the regularity of classic proportion. But in Pope's time a foreign influence, the pseudo-classicism of the French school of Boileau, had deflected the natural development of English literature. Had the French admirers of the Latin and Greek classics been able to catch the large and generous spirit of the ancient classic writers, the results would have been far more beneficial to French literature. But it is an unfortunate habit of imitators to copy the least profitable characteristics and qualities; it is so easy to copy externals, tricks, and mannerisms, and so hard to comprehend the inner sources of power. The psuedo-classicism of the French and English school of literature is as remote from the magnificent art of the great Greek classics as a French salon is from the Vale of Tempe.
To be correct, to give the final polish to an old thought, to take Nature and dress it to advantage — this was the highest art; to be vigorous, to express feeling, to love and hate passionately, to let the poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven - this was ridiculous and crude. To take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts
of the world of thought and emotion, as did Shakspere, is, perhaps, well; but how much more proper to take the thoughts of Horace or Bolingbroke and dress them in the exquisite perfection of an heroic couplet (Such was the age of Pope — the era of common sense and reason))
Parentage and Childhood. - Alexander Pope was born on May 21, 1688, the year of the Revolution — the annus mirabilis, in which by the flight of one king and the arrival of another a new political era was inaugurated. His father was a linen merchant whose second wife had been Edith Turner, the daughter of a Yorkshire landowner whose children numbered seventeen. In later years the famous poet spoke of his family as having descended from the Earle of Downe, but he is the only authority for this statement. "The truth is that the poet's parents were a plain, honest, middle-class couple, gifted with plenty of common sense, and still more uncommon tact.” After the father had accumulated a small fortune, he bought a house and about twenty acres of land at Binfield, a village on the edge of Windsor Forest. Here he lived on his income of about four hundred pounds a year, taking an interest in gardening and achieving some local reputation for the superior quality of his artichokes. His son has described his father's character in these lines
'Stranger to civil and religious rage,
The mother seems also to have been a woman of very good sense, managing to keep on good terms with her son's varied friends.
Although both father and mother lived to an old age, they were not vigorously healthy people, the father having a slight curvature of the spine and the mother subject to severe nervous headaches. Pope himself physically was a weakling —