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a "habit to be laid aside whenever he took sober resolutions, and which, should he enter the church, he should not find it hard to lay down at the porch.” This is base language, and that of Scott is hardly better. He says—“it is probably to a habit, at first indulged only from vanity or for the sake of amusement, that we are to trace the well-known circumstances which embittered his life, and impaired his reputation."
And is this all ? Are habits of indulging vanity, and of amusing oneself with the affections and the happiness of others, to be thus coolly talked of? “ Circumstances which embittered his life, and impaired his reputation,” indeed! Swift had the greatest right to embitter his own life, and impair his own reputation, if he pleased, but that is not the question ; it was because he most recklessly, for the indulgence of his vanity and his self-love, embittered the lives of those who listened to him, and impaired their reputations, that he was culpable in proportion to his brilliant powers, and placed himself thereby in the category of heartless villains. These are severe words ; but I have always felt, and still cannot avoid feeling, that their application to Swift is most just and necessary. Perhaps no instance of mere meanness was ever more striking than that shown in his second courtship. The lady in this case was not a simple country girl, but was Jane Waryng, the sister of an ancient college companion ; to this young lady, in his affected pastoral style, he had given the name of Varina. Let it be remembered that this was in Ireland, while he was bearing the name and performing the functions of a clergyman. His suit for this lady was continued for four or five years with all the appearances and protestations of the deepest attachment; he proposed marriage in the most unequivocal terms. The young lady does not seem to have responded very cordially to his advances for a long time, in fact, till that very response put a speedy end to the disgraceful farce. When she did agree to accept him and his offer, " he seemed,” says Scott, “ to have been a little startled by her sudden offer of capitulation.” He then assumed quite another tone ;-let Scott's own language relate what he did : " Swift charged Varina with want of affection, and indifference ; stated his own income in a most dismal point of view, yet intimated that he might well pretend to a better fortune than she was possessed of! He was so far from retaining his former opinion as to the effects of a happy union, that he inquired whether the physicians had got over some scruples they appeared to entertain on the subject of her health. (He had made this delicate health before a plea for entreating her to put herself under his care.) Lastly, he demanded peremptorily to know whether she would undertake to manage their domestic affairs with an income of rather less than three hundred pounds a-year ; whether she would engage to follow the methods he should point out for the improvement of her mind; whether she could bend all her affections to the same direction which he should give his own, and so govern her passions, however justly provoked, as at all times to resume her good humour at his approach ; and, finally, whether she could account the place where he resided more
welcome than courts and cities without him ?
These premises agreed, as indispensable to please those who, like himself, were deeply read in the world,' he intimates his willingness to wed her, though without personal beauty or large fortune."
This language requires no comment; it is the vile shuffle of a contemptible fellow, who, taken at his word, then bullies and insults to get off again.
His next victim was Esther Johnson, the Stella of this strange history. This young lady was the daughter of the steward of Sir William Temple at Moorpark; she was fatherless when Swift commenced his designs upon her; her father died soon after her birth, and her mother and sister resided in the house at Moorpark, and were treated with particular regard and esteem by the family. Miss Esther Johnson, who was much younger than Swift, was beautiful, lively, and amiable. Swift devoted himself to her as her teacher, and under advantage of his daily office and position, engaged her young affections most absolutely. So completely was it understood by her that they were to be married when Swift's income warranted it, that on the death of Temple, and Swift's preferment to the living of Laracor in Ireland, she was induced by him to come over and fix her residence in Trim near him, under the protection of a lady of middle age, Mrs. Dingley. The story is too well known to be minutely followed ; Swift acquired such complete mastery over her, that he kept her near him, and at his command, the greater part of his life, but would neither marry her, nor allow her to marry anyone else, though she had excellent offers. It was not till many years afterwards, when this state of dependence, uncertainty, and arbitrary selfishness had nearly worn her to death; and when these were aggravated by fears for her reputation, and then by the appearance of a rival on the scene, that she extorted from him a marriage which was still kept a profound secret, unacknowledged, and which left her just in the position she was in before, that of a mere companion in presence of a third party, when he chose. The rival just nuentioned was a Miss Vanhomrigh, the daughter of a widow lady, whose house he frequented during his life in London. This young lady, to whom he, on his uniform plan, which tended to prevent unpleasant claims by the evidence of letters, gave the name of Vanessa, as he termed himself Cadenus, was high-spirited and accomplished. When Swift, in his usual manner, had for a long time paid every marked attention to Miss Vanhomrigh, and was regarded both by herself and the whole family as an acknowledged lover
, yet never came to plain terms, the young lady came boldly to them herself. The gay deceiver was thunderstruck: he had for years been living in the most intimate state of confidence with Stella, as her affianced lover; she had all the claims of honour and affection upon him that a wife could have; for, though maintaining the strictest propriety of life under the closest care of Mrs. Dingley, she was devoting her time, her thoughts, the very flower of her life, and the hazard of her good name, to his social happiness. This plain dealing, therefore, on the part of Vanessa, was an embarrassing blow. “We cannot doubt,"
says Scott, " that he actually felt" the shame, disappointment, guilt, surprise, “ expressed in his celebrated poem, though he had not the courage to take the open and manly course of avowing those engagements with Stella, or other impediments, which prevented his accepting the hand and fortune of her rival."
The fox in fact was taken in his wiles. He had more on his hands than with all his cunning he knew how to manage. His selfish tyranny had been able to control and put off poor Stella, but Vanessa was a different kind of subject, and occasioned him great alarm and anxiety. He retired to Ireland; but this did not mend the matter, it tended rather to make it worse ; for Miss Vanhomrigh had property there, and speedily announced to the guilty Dean her presence in Dublin. He was now in as pretty a fix as one could wish such a double-dealer to be. “The claims of Stella,” says Scott, “were preferable in point of date, and to a man of honour and good faith, in every respect inimitable. She had resigned her country, her friends, and even hazarded her character, in hope of one day being united to Swift. But if Stella had made the greater sacrifice, Vanessa was the more important victim. She had youth, fortune, fashion; all the acquired accomplishments and information in which Stella was deficient; possessed at least as much wit, and certainly higher powers of imagination. She had, besides, enjoyed the advantage of having in a manner compelled Swift to hear and reply to the language of passion. There was in her case no Mrs. Dingley, no convenient third party, whose presence in society and community in correspondence necessarily imposed on both a restraint, convenient perhaps to Swift, but highly unfavourable to Stella."
The consequences were such as might be expected. Swift endeavoured to temporize and amuse Miss Vanhomrigh, and to induce her to return to England, but in vain. She never ceased to press the, to her, important question, and to keep him in what he used to call "a quickset hedge." She importuned him with complaints of cruelty and neglect, and it was obvious that any decisive measure to break this acquaintance would be attended with some such tragic consequence, as, though late, at length concluded their story. He was thus compelled to assume a demeanour of kindness and affection to Vanessa, which, of course, soon was reported to Stella, and began to produce in her the most fatal symptoms. Her heart was wrung by fears and jealousies ; her health gave way; and Swift was compelled to a private marriage, in order not to clog his conscience with ħer murder. The conditions of this marriage were, that it should continue a strict secret from the public, and that they should continue to live separately, and in the same guarded manner as before. The grand business of his life now was to soothe and wheedle Vanessa, and to play the hypocrite lover to her while he was the husband of another woman; a fine situation for a clergyman and a dean! This, we may believe, with a woman of Miss Vanhomrigh's temperament, was no easy task. His next plan was to try to get rid of her by inducing her to marry some one else, and for this purpose he presented to her Dean Winter, a gentleman of character and
fortune, and Dr. Price, afterwards Archbishup of Cashel. It was in vain ; she rejected such offers peremptorily, and at length, as if to hide her vexation and seek repose in nature, she retired to Marley Abbey, her house and property, near Celbridge. But the dreams of love and jealousy pursued her thither with only the more force. Sbe heard whispers of Stella being actually the wife of Swift, and she determined to know the truth. For this purpose she wrote at once to Stella, and put the plain question to her. The result of this was rapid and startling. In a few days she saw the Dean descend from his horse at her gate, and advance to her door, dark and fierce as a thunder-cloud. He entered, threw down a letter upon the table before her, and with a look black as night, stalked out again without a word, mounted, and rode away. As soon as Miss Vanhomrigh recovered in some degree from her terror and amazement, she took up the letter, opened it, and found it her own to Stella !
Stella herself confirmed the fatal truth by a candid avowal, and Miss Vanhomrigh sank under the shock. For eight years, trusting probably to the promises of Swift, and the apparently failing health of Stella, she had maintained the unequal contest with her deeprooted passion and Swift's mysterious conduct, but this revelation of his villany was her death. However, she lived only to revoke in haste her will, which had been made in favour of Swift, and to leave her fortune to Mr. Marshall, afterwards one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, and Dr. Berkeley, the celebrated pbilosopher, and afterwards Bishop of Cloyne ; and to command the publication of all the letters which had passed between Swift and herself, as well as the celebrated poem of Čadenus and Vanessa.
Stella died in 1727-8, having borne the secret and corroding suffering of the position imposed by the selfishness of Swift for upwards of thirty years. Mrs. Whiteway, a lady who was on terms of great intimacy with Swift, and spent much time at the deanery of St. Patrick's, stated that when Stella was on her death-bed she expostulated with Swift on his having kept their marriage unnecessarily secret, and expressed her fear that it might leave a stain on her reputation; to which Swift replied, “Well, my dear, if you wish it, it shall be owned.” Stella replied, “ It is too late!"
“ he received this report of Mrs. Whiteway with pleasure, as vindicating the Dean from the charge of cold-blooded" and hard-hearted cruelty to the unfortunate Stella, when on the verge of existence.” How does it vindicate him from any such charge? The avowal was never made by him ; and so dubious was the very fact of the marriage left, as far as any act of Swift's was concerned, that its very existence has since been strenuously denied, especially by Mr. Jonck Mason in his History of St. Patrick's Cathedral. The simple truth is, that the whole of Swift's conduct to Stella for thirty-three years was a piece of "cold blooded and hard-hearted cruelty," which admits of no defence. Such was the treatment which all ladies who manifested an attachment to Swift received at his hands ; is it any wonder that such a man went mad ?
These circumstances have given a singular character to the bio
graphy of Swift; the letters of Stella and Vanessa, which have been published, convert it by their passion and heart-eloquence into a species of romance ; in which, however, Swift himself plays the part of a very clever, witty, and domineering, but certainly not attractive, hero. Moorpark will always possess an interest connected with Stella It was amið its pleasant groves that, young, beautiful, and confiding, she indulged with Swift in those dreams of after-life which he was so bitterly to falsify. There is a cavern about three quarters of a mile from the mansion, called Mother Ludlam's Hole, which the country tradition represents as having been a frequent resort of Swift and Stella in their walks. It lies halfway down the side of the hill covered with wood, towards the southern extremity of the park. It seems to have been hewn out of the sandstone rock, and to have increased considerably in its dimensions since it was described by Grose. The greatest height of this excavation may be about twelve feet, and its breadth twenty, but at the distance of about thirty feet from the entrance it becomes so low and narrow as to be passable only by a person crawling on his hands and knees. From the bottom of the cave issues a small, clear stream, and two stone benches have been placed for the accommodation of visitors. The gloom and uncertain depth of the grotto, the sound of the water, and the beauty of the surrounding solitary scene, surveyed through the dark arched entrance, shagged with weeds and the roots of trees, give the spot an impressive effect. Hauff has introduced this cavern into a drama called “ Ludlam's Höhle.”
Grose gives a jocose account of the origin of the name of the cave. Old Mother Ludlam, he tells us, was a white witch ; one who neither killed hogs, rode on broomsticks, nor made children vomit nails and crooked pins, but, on the contrary, did all the good she could. That the country people, when in want of any article,-say a frying-pan or a spade, -would come to the cave at midnight, and turning three times round, would three times say, “Pray, good Mother Ludlam, lend me such a thing, and I will return it within two days.” The next morning, on going there again, the article would be found laid at the entrance of the cave. At length the borrower of a large cauldron was not punctual in returning it, which so irritated the good mother, that when it did come she refused to take it in again, and in course of time it was conveyed away to Waverley Abbey, and, at the dissolution of the monasteries, was deposited in Frensham church. From the hour of the non-appearance of the cauldron, however, at its proper time, Mother Ludlam never would lend the slightest thing. Moorpark is now a water establishment, conducted by Dr. Lane.
The resorts and residences of Swift in London, during his life there, have no very peculiar interest. He frequented freely the houses of the great political characters with whom he was connected, His immediate friends were Harley, Bolingbroke, and Godolphin. He was a frequent attendant at Leicester-house, the court of the Prince of Wales, afterwards George II. He was on the most familiar terms with all the literati, Gay, Pope, Addison, and, for a considerable