Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Sunstroke to Switzerland >> Swift_P1

Swift

swifts, dublin, death, temple, ireland, position and mother

Page: 1 2 3 4

SWIFT, Jonathan, English clergyman, poet, political writer and satirist: b. Dublin, Ireland, 30 Nov. 1667; d. Dublin, 19 Oct. 1745. Swift was the posthumous son of Jonathan Swift, the neer-do-weel of a prosperous and pretty well-known family which had numbered several preachers in its course since the time of Robert Swifte (16th century) of Yorkshire, the earliest known of Swift's ancestors. The most famous member was Swift's grandfather, Thomas Swift (b. 1595), the famous Royalist vicar of Goodrich. Through Thomas Swift's marriage to Elizabeth Dryden, great-aunt of John Dryden, came Swift's relation to the poet. Swift's mother, Abigail Erick, of Leicestershire was a distant cousin of Sir William Temple and a woman of much character and wit.

Swift's life divides itself conveniently into three periods: to the death of his patron, Tem ple, in 1699; from that year, when he began to seek ecclesiastical and political preferment, to the close of his brilliant work for the Tory ministry at the death of Queen Anne, in 1714; and from the latter year till his death, during which period he was dean of Saint Patrick's in Dublin, where he almost continuously resided. The story is that he was taken at the age of one year from Dublin to Whitehaven, England, by his nurse, where he lived two years, learning to read in the interval. At the age of six he entered Kilkenny School at the charge of his uncle, Godwin Swift. Entering Trinity College, Dublin, in April 1682, he was graduated four years later without distinction, and the follow ing year was publicly censured, for neglect of his studies and for tavern-haunting. At this time he was probably pretty much depressed in spirits and was friendless. His dependence on the charity of his relatives was galling to his pride, and he was unhappy, but his delin quencies were not very serious. Driven from Ireland in the fall of 1688 by the rebellion of Tyrconnel, he and his mother retired to Leices tershire, whence, in 1689, he became secretary to Temple at Moor Park, near London. His gree of A.M. at Oxford in 1692. Returning to Temple but finding his position irritating, he re fused the latter's offer to obtain for him a clerk ship in the Irish Rolls, quarreled with his employer and entered the church. Ordained

deacon in October 1694, and priest in January of the following year, he obtained the living at Kilroot, Ireland. Tiring of his position, how ever, he applied to Temple for reinstatement, and the latter, glad of his help, called him back to a post of greater importance, early in 1696. Here Swift remained till his patron's death in January three years later.

The decade ending with that date is very im portant to the life of Swift. Intellectually, he was very active and, besides his routine duties, did a prodigious amount of reading. Though he did not always understand his motives ac curately, he was nevertheless not far from the truth when he described his temperament in a letter to a friend who had cautioned him to be ware of a marriage that his mother feared he was about to make. Protesting that he could have no thought of matrimony until his position in the world was secure, and adding that he was very hard to please, he continued: "How all that suits with my behaviour to the woman in hand you may easily imagine, when you know that there is something in me which must be employed, and when I am alone turns all, for want of practice, into speculation and thought; insornuch, that these seven weeks I have been here, I have writ and burnt, and writ again upon all manner of subjects, more nerhaps than any man in England. And this it is which a person of great honour in Ireland (who was pleased to stoop so low as to look into my mind) used to tell me that my mind was like a conjured spirit that would do mischief if I did not give it employment') (To Rev. John Kendall, 11 Feb. 1691). Whatever may have been the exact truth of the matter, Swift's con stitutional restlessness was aggravated by a malformation in the region of the ear, which, resulting in blood pressure, caused the attacks of giddiness and deafness to which he was always subject and which drove him to intense activity for relief (consult Craik, Appendix, XIII, and Collins, p. 237).

Page: 1 2 3 4