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Tas principal scenes of residence of Dean Swift lie in Ireland. Johnson, in his life of the Dean, makes it doubtful whether he was really an Englishman or an Irishman by birth. He says: “Jonathan Swift was, according to an account said to be written by himself, the son of Jonathan Swift, an attorney, and was born at Dublin, on St. Andrew's day, 1667; according to his own report, as delivered by Pope to Spence, he was born at Leicester, the son of a clergyman, who was minister of a parish in Herefordshire. During his life, the place of his birth was undetermined. He was contented to be called an Irishman by the Irish, but would occasionally call himself an Englishman. The question may, without much regret, be left in the obscurity in which he delighted to involve it."
There has long ceased to be any obscurity about the matter. His relations, justly proud of the connexion, have set that fully in the light which Swift himself characteristically wrapped in mystification. He was of an English family, originally of Yorkshire ; but his grandfather, Thomas Swift, was vicar of Goodrich, in Herefordshire. Taking an active part with Charles I. against the Parliament, he was expelled from his living; yet he died at Goodrich, and was buried under the altar there. The account of the plundering of his parsonage by the Parliament army, given in the appendix to Scott's life of the Dean, is so lively a description of such an affair, that I will transcribe it :
“When the Earl of Stamford was in Herefordshire, in October 1642, and pillaged all that kept faith and allegiance to the king, information was given to Mrs. Swift, wife of Thomas Swift, parson of Goodrich, that her house was designed to be plundered. To prevent so great a danger, she instantly repaired to Hereford, where the earl then was, some ten miles from her own home, to petition him that no violence might be offered to her house or goods. He most nobly, and according to the goodness of his disposition, threw the petition away, and swore no small oaths that she should be plundered to-morrow. The good gentlewoman, being out of hope to prevail, and seeing that there was no good to be done by petitioning him, speeds home as fast as she could, and that night removes as much of her goods as the shortness of the time would permit. Next morning, to make good the Earl of Stamford's word, Captain Kirle's troop, consisting of seventy horse and thirty foot, which were hangers onbirds of prey-came to Mr. Swift's house. There they took away all his provision of victuals, corn, household stuff, which was not conveyed away. They empty his beds, and fill the ticks with malt; they rob him of his cart and six horses, and make this part of their theft the means to convey away the rest. Mrs. Swift, much affrighted to see such a sight as this, tħought it best to save herself though she lost her goods; therefore, taking up a young child in her arms, began to secure herself by flight; which one of the troopers perceiving, he commanded her tr stay, or, holding his pistol to her breast, threatened to shoot her dead. She, good woman, fearing death whether she went or returned, at last, shunning that death which was next unto her, she retires back to her house, where she saw herself undone, and yet durst not oppose, or ask why they did so. Having thus rifled the house and gone, next morning early, she goes again to Hereford, and there again petitions the earl to show some compassion to her and her ten children, and that he would be pleased to cause her horses and some part of her goods to be restored to her. The good earl was so far from granting her petition that he would not vouchsafe so much as to read it. When she could not prevail herself, she makes use of the mediation of friends. These have the repulse also, his lordship remaining inexorable, without any inclination to mercy,
At last, hoping that all men's hearts were not adamant relentless, she leaves the earl, and makes her addresses to Captain Kirle, who, upon her earnest entreaty, grants her a protection for what was left; but for restitution there was no hope of that. This protection cost her no less than thirty shillings. It seems paper and ink are dear in those parts. And now, thinking herself secure in his protection, she returns home, in hope that what was left she might enjoy in peace and quietness. She had not been long at home but Captain Kirle sends her word, that if it pleased her, sho might buy four of her own six horses again, assuring her by her father's servant and tenant, that she should not fear being plundered any more by the Earl of Stamford's forces, while they were in those parts. Encouraged by these promises, she was content to buy her own, and deposited eight pounds ten shillings for four of her horses. And now conceiving the storm to be blown over, and all danger past, and placing much confidence in her purchased protection, she causes all her goods secured in her neighbours' houses to be brought home; and since it could not be better, rejoiced that she had not lost all. She had not enjoyed these thoughts long, but Captain Kirle sent unto her for some vessels of cyder, whereof having tasted, but not liking it, since he could not have drink for himself he would have provender for his horses, and therefore, instead of cyder, he demands ten bushels of oats. Mrs. Swift, seeing that the denial might give some ground for a quarrel, sent him word that her husband had not two bushels of oats in a year for tythes, nor did they grow any on their glebe, both of which were most true. Yet, to show how willing she was, to her power, to comply with him, that the messengers might not return empty, she sent him forty shillings to buy oats. Suddenly after, the captain of Goodridge castle sends to Mr. Swift's house for victual and corn. Mrs. Swift instantly shows him her protection. He, to answer show with show, shows her his warrant; and so without any regard to her protection, seizeth upon that provision which was in the house, together with the cyder which Captain Kirle had refused. Hereupon Mrs. Swift writes to Captain Kirle, complaining of this injury, and the affront done to him in slighting his protection ; but before the messenger could return with an answer to her letter, some from the castle come a second time to plunder the house, and they did what they came for. Presently after comes a letter from Captain Kirle in answer to Mrs. Swift's, that the Earl of Stamford did by no means approve of the injuries done to her, and withal, by word of mouth, sends to her for more oats. She, perceiving that as long as she gave they would never leave asking, resolved to be drilled no more. The return not answering expectation, on the third of December, Captain Kirle's lieutenant, attended by a considerable number of dragoons, comes to Mr. Swift's house, and demands entrance; but the doors being kept shut against them, and not being able to force them, they broke down two iron bars in a stone window, and so, with swords drawn and pistols cocked, they enter the house. Being entered, they take all Master Swift's and his wife's apparel, his books and his children's clothes, they being in bed ; and these poor children that hung by their clothes, unwilling to part with them, they swung them about until, their hold-fast failing, they dashed them against the walls. They took away all his servants' clothes, and made so clean work with one that they left him not a shirt to cover his nakedness. There was one of the children, an infant, lying in the cradle ; they robbed that, and left not the poor soul a rag to defend it from the cold. They took away all the iron, pewter, and brass ; and a very fair cupboard of glasses, which they could not carry away, they broke to pieces ; and the four horses lately redeemed are with them lawful prize again, and nothing left of all the goods but a few stools, for his wife, children, and servants to sit down and bemoan their distressed condition. Having taken away all, and being gone, Mrs. Swift, in compassion to her poor infant in the cradle, took it up, almost starved with cold, and wrapped it in a petticoat, which she took off from herself; and now hoped, that having nothing to lose would be a better protection for their persons than that which they purchased of Captain Kirle for thirty shillings. But as if Job's messenger would never make an end, her three maidservants, whom they in the castle had compelled to carry the poultry to the castle, return and tell their mistress, that they in the castle said they had a warrant to seize upon Mrs. Swift and bring her into the castle, and that they would make her three maid-servants wait on her there, and added things not fit for them to speak nor us to write. Hereupon Mrs. Swift fled to the place where her husband, for fear of the rebels, had withdrawn himself. She had not been gone two hours, but they come from the castle, and bring with them, three teams to carry away what was before designed for plunder, but wanted means of conveyance. When they came, there was a batch of bread hot in the oven. This they seize on; her children on their knees entreat but for one loaf, and at last, with much importunity, obtained it; but before the children had eaten it, they took even that one loaf away, and left them destitute of a morsel of bread amongst ten children. Ransacking every corner of the house, that nothing might be left behind, they find a small pewter dish in which the dry-nurse had put pap to feed the poor infant, the mother who gave it suck being fled to save her life. This they seize on too. The nurse entreats for God's sake that they would spare that, pleading that in the mother's absence it was all the substance which was or could be provided to sustain the life of the child, that' knew not the right hand from the left,' a motive which prevailed with God himself, though justly incensed against Nineveh.
“ Master Swift's eldest son, a youth, seeing this barbarous cruelty, demanded of them a reason for this so hard usage. They replied that his father was a traitor to the king and parliament, and added, that they would keep them so short, that they would eat the very flesh from their arms; and to make good their word, they threaten the miller, that, if he ground any corn for these children, they would .grind him in his own mill; and not contented with this, they go to Mr. Swift's next neighbour, whose daughter was his servant, and take him prisoner: they examine him on oath what goods of Mr. Swift's he had in his custody. He professing that he had none, they charge him to take his daughter away from Mr. Swift's service, or else they threaten to plunder him; and to make sure work, they make him give them security to obey all their commands. Terrified with this, the neighbours stand afar off
, and pity the distressed condition of these persecuted children, but dare not come or send to their relief. By this means the children and servants had no sustenance, hardly anything to cover them, from Friday, six o'clock at night, until Saturday, twelve at night, until at last, the neighbours, moved with the lamentable cries and complaints of the children and servants, one of the neighbours, overlooking all difficulties, and showing that he durst be charitable, in despite of these monsters, ventured in, and brought them some provision. And if the world would know what it was that so exasperated these rebels against this gentleman, the Earl of Stamford, a man that is not bound to give an account of all his actions, gave two reasons for it. First, because he had bought arms, and conveyed them into Monmouthshire, which, under his lordship's good favour, was not so ; and, secondly, because not long before, he preached a sermon in Rosse, upon that text, "Give unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's,' in which his lordship said he had spoken treason in endeavouring to give Cæsar more than his due. These two crimes cost Mr. Swift no less than 3001.” *
With the memory of such things as these in the family, there need be no wonder at the Dean's decided tendency to toryism. His father and three uncles, that is four out of ten sons, and three or four daughters of the persecuted clergyman fled to Ireland, where the eldest son, Godwin Swift, a barrister, married a relative of the Marchioness of Ormond, and was made, by the Marquis of Ormond, his attorney-general in the palatinate of Tipperary. This Godwin married the co-heiress of Admiral Deane; the second son, a daughter of Sir William Davenant. Another was Mr. Dryden Swift, so called after his mother, who was a Dryden, and a near relation of the poet's. Thus Swift was of good family and alliance. He was the only son of Jonathan Swift, the eighth son of Thomas Swift, the vicar of Goodrich, who was so plundered. His mother was Abigail Erick, of Leicestershire, descended from the most ancient family of the Ericks, who derive their lineage from Erick the Forester, a great commander, who raised an army to oppose the invasion of William the Conqueror, by whom he was vanquished, but afterwards employed to command that prince's forces. In his old age he retired to his house in Leicestershire, where his family continued ever since, has produced many eminent men, and is still represented by the Heyricks of Leicester town, and the Herricks of Beaumanor.
Swift's father was a solicitor, and steward to the Society of the King's Inn, Dublin ; but he died before Swift was born, and left his mother in such poverty, that she was not able to defray the expenses of her husband's funeral. He was born on the 30th of November, 1667, St. Andrew's-day, in a small house now called No. 7, in Hoey'scourt, Dublin, which is still pointed out by the inhabitants of that quarter, and by the antiquity of its appearance seems to vindicate the truth of the tradition. Here a circumstance occurred to him as singular as the case of his father, who, as a child in the cradle, had his clothes stripped from him by the troopers of Captain Kirle. His nurse was a woman of Whitehaven, and being obliged to go thither, in order to see a dying relative from whom she expected a legacy, out of sheer affection for the child, she stole on shipboard, unknown to his mother and uncle, and carried him with her to Whitehaven, where he continued for almost three years. For when the matter
* Mercurius Rusticus. London, 1638.