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His delight was in simplicity. That he has in his works no metaphor, as has been said, is not true; but his few metaphors seem to be received rather by necessity than choice. He studied purity; and though perhaps all his strictures are not exact, yet it is not often that solecisms can be found; and whoever depends on his authority may generally conclude himself safe. His sentences are never too much dilated or contracted; and it will not be easy to find any embarrassment in the complication of his clauses, any inconsequence in his connections, or abruptness in his transitions.
His style was well suited to his thoughts, which are never subtilised by nice disquisitions, decorated by sparkling conceits, elevated by ambitious sentences, or variegated by far-sought learning. He pays no court to the passions; he excites neither surprise nor admiration; he always understands himself; and his reader always understands him: the peruser of Swift wants little previous knowledge; it will be sufficient that he is acquainted with cominon words and common things; he is neither required to mount elevations, nor to explore profundities; his passage is always on a level, along solid grdund, without asperities, without obstruction.
This easy and safe conveyance of meaning it was Swift's desire to attain, and for having attained he deserves praise. For purposes merely didactic, when something is to be told that was not known before it is the best mode; but against that in ifeat. tention by which known truths are suffered to lie neglected, it makes no provision 3 it instructs, but does not persuade.
By his political education he was associated with the Whigs; but he deserted them when they deserted their principles, yet without running into the contrary extreme; he continued throughout his life to retain the disposition which he assigns to the "Church-of-England Man," of thinking commonly with the Whigs of the State, and with the Tories of the Church.
He was a churchman, rationally zealous; he desired the prosperity, and maintained the honour of the Clergy; of the Dissenters he did not wish to infringe the toleration, but he opposed their encroachments.
To his duty as Dean he was very attentive. He managed the revenues of his church with exact ceconomy; and it is said by Delany, that more money was, under his direction, laid out in repairs, than had ever been in the same time since its first erection. Of his choir he was eminently careful; and, though he neither loved nor understood music, took care that all the singers were well qualified, admitting none without the testimony of skilful judges.
In his church he restored the practice of weekly communion, and distributed the sacramental elements in the most solemn and devout manner with his own hand. He came to church every morning, preached commonly in his turn, and attended the evening anthem, that it might not be negligently performed.
He read the service, "rather with a strong, ner"vous voice, than in a graceful manner; his voice "was sharp and high-toned, rather than h&rmo"nious."
He entered upon the clerical state with hope to excel in preaching; but complained, that, from the time of his political controversies, " he could only "preach pamphlets." This censure of himself, if judgment be made from those sermons which have been printed, was unreasonably severe, s . The suspicions of his irreligion proceeded in a great measure from the dread of hypocrisy; instead of wishing to seem better, he delighed in seeming worse than he was. He went in London to early y prayers, lest he should be seen at church; he read prayers to his servants every morning with such dexterous secrecy, that Dr. Delany was six months in his house before he knew it. He was not only careful to hide the good which he did, but willingly incurred the suspicion of evil which he did not. He forgot what himself had formerly asserted, that hypocrisy is less mischievous than open impiety. Dr. Delany, with all his zeal for his honour, has justly condemned this part of his character.
The person of Swift had not many recommendations. He had a kind of muddy complexion, which, though he washed himself with oriental scrupulosity, did not look clear. He had a countenance sour and severe, which he seldom softened by any appearance of gaiety. He stubl>ornly resisted any tendency to laughter.
To his domestics he was naturally rough; and a man of a rigorous temper, with that vigilance of minute attention. which his works discover, must have been a master that few could bear. That he was disposed to do his servants good, on important occasions, is no great mitigation; benefaction can be but rare, and tyrannic peevishness is perpetual. He did not spare the servants of others. Once, when he dined alone with the Earl of Orrery, he said of one that waited in the room, "That man "has, since we sat to the table, committed fifteen "faults." What the faults were, Lord Orrery, from whom I had the story, had not been attentive enough to discover. My number may perhaps not be exact.
In his oeconomy he practised a peculiar and offensive parsimony, without disguise or apology. The practice of saving being once necessary, became habitual, and grew first ridiculous, and at last detestable. But his avarice, though it might exclude pleasure, was never suffered to encroach upon his virtue. He was frugal by inclination, but liberal by principle; and if the purpose to which he destined his little accumulations be remembered, with his distribution of occasional charity, it will perhaps appear, that he only liked one mode of expence better than another, and saved merely that he might have something to give. He did not grow rich by injuring his successors, but left both Laracor and the Deanery more valuable than he found them.— With all this talk of his covetousness and generosity, it should be remembered, that he was never rich. The revenue of his Deanery was not much more than seven hundred a year.
His beneficence was not graced with tenderness or civility; he relieved without pity, and assisted without kindness; so that those who were fed by him could hardly love him.
He made a rule to himself to give but one piece at a time, and therefore always stored his pocket with coins of different value.
Whatever he did, he seemed willing to do in a manner peculiar to himself, without sufficiently considering, that singularity, as it implies a contempt of the general practice, is a kind of defiance which justly provokes the hostility of ridicule; he, therefore, who indulges peculiar habits, is worse than others, if he be not better.
Of his humour, a story told by Pope* may afford a specimen.
"Dr. Swift has an odd, blunt way, that is mis"taken by strangers for ill-nature.—'Tis so odd, "that there's no describing it but by facts. I'll tell "you one that first comes into my head. One even"ing, Gay and I went to see him: you know how "intimately we were all acquainted. On our coming "in, 'Heyday, gentlemen (says the Doctor), what's "the meaning of this visit? How came you to "leave the great Lords that you are so fond of, to "come hither to see a poor Dean !'—' Because we "would rather see you than any of them.''— ' Ay, *l any one that did not know so well as I do might tl believe you. But since you are come, I must get "some supper for you, I suppose.'—'No, Doctor. "we have supped already.'—4 Supped already? that's u impossible! why,'tis not eight o'clock yet.—That's "very strange; but if you had not supped, I must "have got something for you.—Let me see, what "should I have had? A couple of lobsters; ay, "that would have done very well; two shillings—