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wrote his poem of ‘Cadenus and Vanessa’ on the occasion. On her mother’s
death, the young lady and her sister followed him to Ireland; the
intercourse was continued, and the proposal renewed on her part. This it
was absolutely necessary to decline, as the Dean was already married;
but he lived with Stella on the same distant footing as before, and was
reluctant either to inflict pain, or to forego his own pleasure, by an
avowal of the insuperable obstacle. Vanessa continued to receive his
visits, but so guardedly as not absolutely to forfeit her good name. She
became however more and more urgent; and peremptorily pressed him to
accept or reject her as his wife. Failing to obtain a direct answer, she
addressed a note to Miss Johnson, desiring to know whether she were
married to him, or not. Stella sent this note to Swift, who in a
paroxysm of anger rode to Vanessa’s house, threw a paper containing her
own note on the table, and quitted her without a word. This blow she did
not survive many weeks. She died in 1723, having first cancelled a will
in the Dean’s favour.

Vanessa by will ordered her correspondence with Swift to be published,
as well as ‘Cadenus and Vanessa,’ in which he had proclaimed her
excellence and confessed his love. The letters were suppressed; the poem
was published. This, whether meant as an apology for herself, or as a
posthumous triumph over her more successful rival, occasioned a great
shock and distress both to Stella and the Dean. It is said that at
length, probably as a softening to the mortification incident to the
public discovery of his passion for Vanessa, he desired that Stella
might be publicly owned as his wife; but her health was rapidly
declining. She said, perhaps petulantly, “It is too late,” and insisted
that they should continue to live as before. To this the Dean consented,
and allowed her to dispose of her fortune, by her own name, in public
charity. She died in 1727.

By Stella’s death Swift’s happiness was deeply affected. He became by
degrees more misanthropic, and ungovernable in temper; and more miserly
in his personal habits, while at the same time he devoted to charity a
large part, it is said one-third, of his income. In 1736 his deafness
and giddiness became alarming, and his mental powers gradually declined.
In 1741 his friends found it necessary that guardians should be
appointed over his person and estate. In 1742 his reason was entirely
overthrown; he became lethargic and, except at short intervals,
speechless. On the 30th of November his housekeeper told him that the
customary preparations were making to celebrate his birthday: he found
words to answer, “It is all folly; they had better let it alone.” He
died the latter end of October, 1745; in his seventy-eighth year. With
the exception of some few legacies, he left his fortune, amounting to
about twelve thousand pounds, to the building of an hospital for idiots
and lunatics.

The extent and variety of Swift’s writings render it necessary to
confine our notice to two or three of his most curious productions. Of
the ‘Tale of a Tub,’ which, being regarded as an attack upon all
religion, brought down a weight of censure on the author, against which
he protested in the preface to a later edition, Dr. Johnson says that
“it has little resemblance to his other pieces. It exhibits a vehemence
and rapidity of mind, a copiousness of images, and vivacity of diction,
such as he afterwards never possessed or never exerted. It is a mode so
distinct and peculiar, that it must be considered by itself; what is
true of that is not true of anything else which he has written. In his
other works is found an equable tenor of easy language, which rather
trickles than flows.”

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ are now probably better known to the public than
any other of his productions. That work is a moral and political
romance, exhibiting a wonderful specimen of irregular genius. Not only
are human actions placed in the most unfavourable light, but human
nature itself is libelled. His wayward temper and his ill-concealed
disappointment had put him out of conceit with the world; misanthropy
had made some inroad into his heart, and, with his pen in his hand, he
indulged in the expression of it with affected exaggeration. But however
offensive to good feeling the satire might be, the imagination and wit
which pervade this extraordinary work will always attract some readers,
while the simple, circumstantial air of truth with which such
extravagant fictions are related is a source of amusement to less
refined tastes.

Neither are the ‘Drapier’s Letters,’ written in 1724, less remarkable,
although the temporary nature of the subject has divested them of all
interest, except as samples of the powers of his mind and the character
of his style. Lord Orrery calls them “those brazen monuments of his
fame.” A patent had been taken out by one Wood for a copper coinage for
Ireland, to the amount of one hundred and eighty thousand pounds in
halfpence and farthings, by which the projector, at least as was alleged
by the opponents of the ministry, would have gained exorbitant profit,
and the nation would of course have incurred proportionate loss. The
Dean, in the character of a Drapier, wrote a series of letters, exposing
the folly and mischief of giving gold and silver for a debased coin
probably not worth a third of its nominal value. He urged the people to
refuse this copper money; and the nation acted on the Drapier’s advice.
The government took the alarm at this seditious resistance to the King’s
patent, and offered three hundred pounds reward for the discovery of the
author of the fourth letter; but his precautions were so well taken, and
his popularity so universal, that, though known to be the author, the
proclamation failed to touch him. The popular indignation rose to such a
height that Wood was compelled to withdraw his patent, and the base
money was totally suppressed. From this time forward the Dean, who at
his first arrival in Ireland had been most unpopular, possessed
unlimited influence; he was consulted on all measures of domestic
policy; persons of all ranks either courted or feared him; national
gratitude was expressed by all ranks in their various ways; the Drapier
was a toast at every convivial meeting, and the sign of his head insured
custom to an ale-house.

His letters are remarkable for the pure English of their style: there is
little of solid information to be derived from them; but the most
trifling anecdotes of distinguished men find ready acceptation with a
large class of readers.

As a poet, in the higher sense of the word, we rank Swift’s claims to
honour very humbly. But he possessed uncommon power of correct, easy,
and familiar versification; which, with his racy vein of humour, will
secure him admirers among those who can pardon his offensive grossness.

Delany, an Irishman to the backbone, gives the following character of
him: “No man ever deserved better of any country, than Swift did of his;
a steady, persevering, inflexible friend; a wise, a watchful, and a
faithful counsellor, under many severe trials and bitter persecutions,
to the manifest hazard both of his liberty and fortune.” With respect to
his conversation and private economy some particulars may be worth
mentioning. His rule never to speak more than a minute at a time, and to
wait for others to take up the conversation, it were well if professed
talkers would adopt. He excelled in telling a story, but told the same
too often; an infirmity which grew on him, as it does on others, in
advancing life. He was churlish to his servants, but in the main a kind
and generous master. He was unceremonious and overbearing, sometimes
brutal; but in company which he respected, not coarse, although his
politeness was in a form peculiar to himself. He considered wealth as
the pledge of independence; but his frugality towards the close of his
life amounted to avarice. As we have represented some features of his
character in no very amiable light, we will conclude with an anecdote
which shows the kindly portion of his nature to advantage. In the high
tide of his influence, he was often rallied by the ministers for never
coming to them without a Whig in his sleeve: whatever might have been
his expectations from the unsolicited gratitude of his party, he never
pressed his own claims personally; but he often solicited favours from
Lord Oxford in behalf of Addison, Congreve, Rowe, and Steele. Personal
merit rather than political principles directed his choice of friends.
His intimacy with Addison was formed when they used to meet at the
parties of Lord Halifax or Lord Somers, who were leaders of the Whigs;
but it continued unabated when the Tories had gained the ascendency.

Swift’s works have gone through many editions in various forms. The
latest and best is that of Sir Walter Scott. That man must be considered
fortunate in his biographers, of whom memoirs have been handed down,
with more or less detail, by Lord Orrery, Dr. Delany, Dr. Hawkesworth,
Dr. Sheridan, Dr. Johnson, and Sir W. Scott.

[Illustration: [Gulliver in Lilliput, from a Design by Stothard.]]


_Engraved by J. Posselwhite._


_From the original Picture by Sir G. Kneller in the Hall of Christ
Church, Oxford._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._



John Locke was born August 29, 1632, at Wrington, a village of
Somersetshire, about eight miles from Bristol. He was the eldest of two
sons of John Locke, a man of some property, who had been bred to the
law, but became afterwards a captain under Cromwell. In those turbulent
times he met with losses which diminished his fortune, and he left an
inconsiderable inheritance to his son. Locke received his education at
Westminster School, and Christ Church, Oxford. While an undergraduate he
was chosen to write a welcome on the occasion of a visit which Cromwell
paid to that University, just after the conclusion of his peace with the
Dutch. This he did in a laudatory copy of verses in English and Latin,
comparing the great Protector to Julius for warlike, and to Augustus for
peaceful, accomplishments. This and some Latin verses, prefixed to a
work of Sydenham’s, are Locke’s only poetical attempts. There is little
merit in either. He was a great admirer of the meagre verse of Sir
Richard Blackmore, which is no great evidence of his poetical taste.
Between the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts he was elected
Student of his college. From that time he applied himself diligently,
for many years, to the study of medicine, without, however, practising
it as a matter of gain. The weakness of his health probably gave this
turn to his thoughts: his brother died of consumption; and he himself
was apprehensive through life of falling a victim to the same disease.
In 1664 he went abroad as secretary to Sir W. Swan, envoy to the court
of Brandenburg; and on his return to Oxford the year following, he
applied himself to the discovery of the effects of the air on the human
frame. His first work, published in 1667, was a register of the
variations in the atmosphere, determined between certain periods by the
common instruments, as a supplement to a work by Boyle.

He was amusing himself with such enquiries, when one of the slight but
important accidents of life brought him an acquaintance, whose influence
determined his future course. A friend, being obliged to take a journey,
desired Locke to make his excuses to Lord Ashley (afterwards Earl of
Shaftesbury) for not having procured for him some mineral waters against
his arrival in Oxford. When Lord Ashley did arrive, Locke carried this
message to him. They were mutually pleased with each other, and this
acquaintance speedily grew up into a strict friendship. Locke’s advice
determined Lord Ashley to submit to a surgical operation, by which, it
is said, the life of the patient was saved; and he was received into the
house, and practised his profession in the family and amongst a few
private friends of his noble patron. While living in this way, his
thoughts were turned into the channel of politics by the advice of his
new associates; and, taking up that study earnestly, he was soon able to
advise and assist Ashley in all his plans of state, becoming at the same
time the referee of his private affairs. This warm friendship is
singular, considering the purity of Locke’s life, and the notoriously
bad character, public and private, of his noble patron. But the latter
was an eloquent orator, and an admirable talker; and it was probably
this latter quality which attached Locke so much. He had so great an
esteem for good conversation, as to give it a first place in the
formation of a man’s mind, calling books the raw material, and social
talk, with meditation, the true architects of our mental constructions.
In 1668 Locke attended the Earl and Countess of Northumberland to
France. But some accident caused him soon to return to his old residence
with Shaftesbury, for whom he drew up the fundamental laws of Carolina,
which had just been granted to him and other lords. Two of the articles
of this settlement gave great offence to the clergy, and were expunged.
They are remarkable, and should be mentioned. One was, “That no man that
doth not acknowledge a God, and that God publicly worshipped, should be
a freeman or inhabitant of Carolina.” The other was a proposition, that
any seven persons agreeing in a form of worship should be esteemed a
church, and be supported by the state. The Church of England, however,
was alone established in that colony. In 1671 Locke began to form his
great Essay on the Human Understanding; but his engagements with
Shaftesbury prevented its immediate completion. The year following, his
patron becoming Chancellor, Locke was made secretary of presentations,
which office he speedily lost on the partial disgrace of the Earl, who,
still remaining President of the Board of Trade, appointed him secretary
to a commission of inquiry into the state of trade, and the colonial
plantations. This office he also lost in the same manner, upon Lord
Shaftesbury’s total disgrace in 1674.

Having retained his studentship, Locke then retired to Oxford, partly
for his health’s sake, and partly to pursue his old medical studies. He
took the degree of Bachelor of Medicine in this year. It appears that he
continued to pay some attention to these studies until an advanced age:
for in 1697 he communicated to the Royal Society the history of a
curious case which he had seen at the great hospital of La Charité,
during his residence in Paris. In 1675, in hope of obtaining relief from
an asthmatical complaint, he went to Montpellier. There was also another
reason for this journey. He had just published an anonymous pamphlet for
Shaftesbury, blaming the conduct of the House of Lords in the matter of
the Test Act, containing a vehement abuse of the bishops, and of what he
called their favourite doctrine, “the divine right” of kings and
priests. This pamphlet does not appear in the folio edition of his
works; it was anonymous, like most of his other productions. The odium
consequent upon it made his absence from England expedient, if not
necessary. During his stay abroad Locke kept a journal of what he saw,
did, and thought. In it we find the heads of many of his future works,
which are very concise and valuable; but the narrative is dry, and the
attempts at humour not very successful: he seems however to have been as
observant of what relates to the external world, as he was of the
intellectual. In 1679, Shaftesbury, on being made President of the
Council, summoned Locke to England. But the old statesman’s favour was
short lived: he was committed to the Tower in July, 1681, and soon after
his release, retired to Holland, where he died in January, 1683. Locke
accompanied him, and continued his faithful services until death. For
seventeen years he had been Shaftesbury’s constant partizan and adviser;
and the odium attached to that nobleman clung to himself, and prevented
his return to England for many years. In 1683 he was reported by the
English envoy at the Hague to be on terms of intimacy with the
malcontents in Holland; upon which the secretary (Sunderland) wrote to
Dr. Fell, the Dean of Christ Church, ordering his expulsion from
college. This mandate was not immediately complied with: the Dean
declared that for many years he had watched the conduct of Locke, and
even tried to entrap him into an exposure of his political sentiments,
but had always found him too wary. He allowed Locke time to come and
defend himself, which he would not do, and then expelled him from his

On the accession of James II., William Penn, the quaker of Pennsylvania,
being in some favour with the King, would have procured a pardon for
Locke, but he refused the offer, through a friend, as having been guilty
of no crime. In May, 1685, the English ambassador demanded him of the
States-General, of the pretext that he was concerned in the unsuccessful
expedition of the Duke of Monmouth. It is supposed that he owed this bad
turn partly to the malice of the envoy himself, as his name did not
appear in the list of those required which was sent from England. He
neither liked the person nor the invasion of the duke, and was at
Utrecht when the armament of that unfortunate nobleman sailed from the
Texel. Locke was not given up, but was obliged to hide himself for about
a year in the house of his friend M. Veen, at Amsterdam, receiving
assurance from the local authorities that timely warning should be given
him of pressing danger. He was obliged to conceal himself so closely as
only to take his exercise during the night. It is probable that the real
cause of this persecution was his first letter on Toleration, written in
Latin about this time, and addressed to his friend Limborch, the
sentiments of which were peculiarly offensive to the English court.

Locke had now time to attend to his own affairs, being no longer taken
up with those of a patron. He busied himself in the completion of his
Essay concerning Human Understanding, which was not, however, printed
till 1689. The extracting of passages from various works for reviewal in
Le Clerc’s literary journal, the Bibliothèque Universelle, the formation
and continuation of a small society for the weekly discussion of all
subjects, the members of which were his friends Le Clerc, Limborch,
Guenelon, and others, and the abridgment of his Essay, served to fill up
his time during the remainder of his stay in Holland. In 1689 he
published a second letter on Toleration, and early in the same year
returned to his native country in the fleet which conducted the Princess
of Orange to the throne of England. The Revolution had completely
changed the face of affairs in Locke’s favour; he was considered a
martyr to its principles, and was esteemed accordingly by its authors.
On his return he immediately petitioned William to cause him to be
reinstated in his studentship; but the College refused to restore him,
offering at the same time to make him a supernumerary student. This he
would not accept; because he felt it not to be a full reparation of the
injustice he had suffered. He allowed the matter to drop.

If Locke had been ambitious, his path to political advancement was now
open. William offered him the ambassadorship to the Imperial Court, or
to that of Brandenburg. He refused both these high appointments; but
accepted a Commissionership of Appeals from his friend Lord Mordaunt,
afterwards Earl of Peterborough. This office was worth only £200 a year.
His friends Sir Francis and Lady Masham (a daughter of the celebrated
Cudworth) prevailed on him to take apartments in their house at Oates in
Essex; between which place and his office in London he spent the
remainder of his life. In 1690 Locke published his Treatise on Civil
Government. The folio edition of his Essay, and a Letter on Education,
appeared in the latter part of the same year. In 1692 he produced a
third Letter on Toleration. The state of the coinage being a subject of
great importance at that time, he took it into consideration, and
published ‘Certain Thoughts on the State of English Silver Money, &c.,’
in a letter to a member of parliament. This treatise was thought so
good, that when the matter was inquired into by the government, Locke
was consulted, and his advice taken with respect to the new coinage. In
consequence of this important assistance, he received from William III.
a Commissionership of Foreign Trade and Plantations, the value of which
was £1000 a year. The King was exceedingly desirous of a comprehension
with the dissenters, and to forward his views Locke wrote his
‘Reasonableness of Christianity.’ This book involved him in a religious
controversy with Dr. Edwards, who attacked its opinions in his ‘Socinian
Unmasked,’ to which Locke replied by two vindications, each of them
longer than the original work. No sooner had he finished this labour
than he was called upon to encounter a fresh and more able antagonist.
Toland and some other Unitarians having turned to their own use some of
the arguments in Locke’s Essay, Dr. Stillingfleet, the learned Bishop of
Worcester, confounded Locke with that party. In his defence of the
doctrine of the Trinity the Bishop severely censured various passages of
Locke’s great work, as tending to subvert some of the fundamental
doctrines of Christianity; Locke replied, and there was an alternation
of answers between them till the Bishop’s death. That event took place
soon after Locke’s third answer, which was the last thing he ever
published. These replies of Locke are reputed to be most finished
specimens of a grave and subtle irony, too refined perhaps to be
generally perceived by the uninitiated eye.

In 1700 Locke’s weak state of health induced him to retire from public
life. He resigned his situation in a personal interview with the King,
giving no previous notice of his intention to the conductors of the
government, and refusing the pension which his master wished him to
accept. He took up his residence at Oates, where he passed the remainder
of his life in reading and contemplating the Scriptures. He often
regretted that he had not more occupied himself in this study. The piety
of his latter years was without formality or ostentation, not arising
from that sense of disappointment, or irksomeness for want of
employment, which often leads men to seek refuge in a late devotion.
Neither Locke’s mental nor bodily senses failed him to his last moments,
though the year before his death was passed in extreme weakness. On
taking the sacrament he declared “that he was in peace with all men, and
in sincere union with the Church of Christ, by whatever name
distinguished.” The affectionate attentions of Lady Masham softened the
pain of his last illness, and he died gently in his chair while she was
reading to him one of the Psalms of David, October 28, 1704, in his
seventy-third year. He died, unmarried, from the natural decay of an
originally weak constitution. He was buried in the churchyard at High
Laver, near Oates, under a decent monument. His epitaph had been written
some years before, by himself, in Latin[3]. He left behind him many
unpublished works, among which his ‘Conduct of the Understanding’ stands
highest. ‘An Examination of Malebranche’s opinion of seeing all things
in God; ‘A Discourse of Miracles;’ part of a fourth letter on the
subject of Toleration; some imperfect memorial sketches of the life of
the Earl of Shaftesbury; a new method for a commonplace-book; and
paraphrases of several of the epistles of St. Paul, make up the list of
his posthumous works, almost all of which were translated into French by
Le Clerc and others, and appeared (together with those published by
himself) in three folio volumes, not many years after his death. A great
many of his letters to his friends Molyneux and Limborch are also
published in this edition. There remain many more which have been given
to the world by various hands, addressed to the Earl of Peterborough,
Dr. Mapletoft, &c., and to Newton. In Lord King’s life of Locke his
correspondence with the latter is given at full length, and is very
curious,—chiefly relating to subjects they were both engaged in, the

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