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This extraordinary man, whose talents have rey. dered his memory as illustrious as his eccentrici. sies made him remarkable, was born in Ireland, Nov. 30, 1667. He was the son of Mr. Jonathan Swift, who married a lady of the name of Erick, a native of Leicestershire, by whom he had a daughter; and a son (the subject of the present memoir) who was boru seven months after the death of his father, which event took place in Ireland, about two years after his marriage, at the house of his eldest brother, to whom he had gone over, from England, in the hope of pushing his fortune. In consequence of his premature death, his widow was left in very indigeñt circumstances, and she appears to have resided for a considerablperiod with the elder brother of ber deceased hus band, in whose house she gave birth to his posthumous son, whom she named Jonathan, after lijs father.
When an infant, Swift was put out to nurse. and so strong an affection does the woman to whom he was confided, appear to have entertained for him, that, when he was about a year old, be ing compelled to visit a sick relation, at Whitehaven, she took him with her, without informing either his mother or uncle of the circumstance; who, when they discovered the matter, would not suffer him to be brought back until he was three years old, fearing the fatigue of a second voyage might be too much for his infant frame. He was put to school at Kilkenny until he was fourteen years old, at which period he was admitted a student of Trinity College, Dublin. He appears, in a great measure, to have neglected his academic studies, and to bave devoted himself principally to history and poetry; for, at the end of four : years, he was refused his degree of B. A., although he at length obtained it. Speciali gratia, which in that university is considered the highest disgrace. He was sensible of this, and being stung to the quick, he devoted eight hours a day for the seven years following: and thus amply made up for his former neglecte
He had the misfortune in 1688 to lose all assistance from his uncle, who was seized with a lethargy; and being destitute of support, he left Ireland, and proceeded to Leicester, to consult with his mother, (who had returned to her native country some years before,) as to his future purexits in life. By her advice he applied to Sir Wm. Temple, to whom she was related by marriage, who received him with the greatest kindness, in whose house he resided several years, and by whose means he was introduced to King William, who appears to have noticed Swift, and even admitted him to great familiarity. He is said perBonally to have offered to give him a troup of horse"; but this offer was respectfully declined, as he had made up his mind to take orders.
We find, about this time, that a quarrel arose between Swift and his friend Sir W. Temple, the former suspecting the latter of neglect in his endeavours to provide for him, and they parted, but so deep-rooted does the affection appear to have been on both sides, that, although he he had
obtained the prebend of Kilroot in Ireland, worth then about £ 100. per annum, upon Sir William's writing, and urging him to forget their differences, and promising to forward his interests if he would revisit him, that he gave up the prebend, and returned to his friend, with whom he lived on the most affectionate terms for the remainder of Sir Wilham's life, which, however, lasted but four years after their reconciliation, and he left him a considerable legacy and all his papers, which were afterwards published, with a life, by Swift. • The limits to which we are compelled to confine our remarks, must excuse our passing over the political circumstances of Swift's life; we can only' briefly notice, that he was decidedly the most powerful political writer of his day'; and was courted by all parties, as well as dreaded-beloved in Treland, he maintained the most arbitrary sway over the opinions of the people; and it is even affirmed that whole corporations, at the election of Members for Parliament, would not declare what candidates they intended to support, until they had previously consulted Swift, and learned bis opinion. . • But the most extraordinary circumstance in the
life of this eminent man, was his connexion 'with Mrs. Johnson, (better known to the world as Stella.) This lady was the daughter of Sir W. l'emple's steward, at whose house Swift first became acquainted with her when quite 'a child. At the death of Sir William, who left her £1000, she was sixteen years old ; and about two years afterwards, in 1701, she left England with a Mrs. Dingley, at the invitation of Swift, and settled near him. Their intimacy was of that close nature, that they were constantly in each other's company; but never, except in the presence of Mrs. · Dingley, or that of a third person : indeed, the greatest care appears to have been taken, by
both parties, to prevent even the surmise of any im. proper connexion.-- When Swift visited England, these ladies regularly removed to his house in his absence, but on his return invariably went back to Lheir own. In 1713 Swift was presented to the deanery of St. Patrick's; and in 1716 he was married to Mrs. Johnson, after a Platonic courtship (if it may be so styled) of upwards of sixteen years, which continued even after their marriage, during the remainder of her life, as they lived precisely in the same state after the ceremony as they harl done before, the lady still residing with, and having for her companion, her friend Mrs. Dingley. No satisfactory explanation has ever been given of this most extraordinary attachment, which was mutual and intense ; although no doubt can be entertained, that it preyed greatly on the spirits of the lady, and contributed to shorten her life; for in 1727 she died, at the age of forty-four; a loss which the dean never got over: and after this event he gave way to a morose temper, which had shewn itself but faintly before, and which continued till a few years before his death, when he was reduced to a state of idiocy.
He died about the latter end of October, in the year 1745, in the seventy-eighth year of his age; and was buried in the great aisle of St. Patrick's cathedral; a misanthropical Lațin epitaph, written by himself, was placed over his remains, by his own desire.
As a writer, Swift may be considered as one of the most powerful; as an ecclesiastic (bating a few absurdities) one of the most unaffectedly pious; and as a man, one of the most benevolent, just, . and humane, that ever lived. Although in him. - self, and to those about him, delicate in bis actions and words, he gave loose, in some of his writings, to the most gross and filthy ideas, in the most reprehensible manner.