1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Jonathan Swift

Robert Southey, in Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807) 2:41.



Swift was born amid poverty and difficulties, seven months after the death of his father: under the protection of his uncle Godwin Swift, he was admitted a student of Trinity College Dublin, where, by his application to books of history and poetry, and neglect of academick studies, he lost his bachelor's degree, to which he was admitted at last speciali gratia. In 1688, he put himself under the protection of Sir William Temple, to whom his mother was related, and who became much attached to him, and introduced him to King William, who on the death of Sir William treated him with neglect. Swift was henceforward disappointed in various ways, and to that circumstance may be attributed the singularity of his temper. In 1713, he was made Dean of St. Patrick's, and though on first taking possession of his stall he received many mortifications, he continued to support his rank with elegance and decorum; his household being under the management of a person whose extraordinary history is interwoven with that of his own life, and whom he celebrates under the name of Stella. Her charms both of person and mind were extraordinary; but though after sixteen years of attachment, during which every sacrifice except that of virtue was made by the lady, when he married her they continued to live separately. After her death the austerity of his temper increased, and frequent returns of a periodical illness undermined his health and faculties: for one whole year he continued in a state of silent idiocy, and not more than two or three times afterwards, at different intervals, every shewed any consciousness of impression from external objects.

His political works are perspicuous, manly, and simple; as addresses to the people, his letters from the DRAPIER are models. His poetry was written only for the entertainment of friends.