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JONATHAN SWIFT, D.D.
HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL TRACTS-
WIFT'S writings for the Harley Administration form a
body of political literature as distinguished for its versatility as it is characteristic of the man and his times. It is true these writings are the expression of a party point of view and are often marred by a strong private and personal bias. As might be expected they evince much of the weakness which is inevitable to all purely special pleadings. In spite, however, of these blemishes, and in spite of the fact that they were written for an occasion, these political tracts are remarkable for their masterly presentation of special theses; for the simple and select expression of complicated conditions ; for their eloquence and passion; for their illuminating flashes of satire; and, more than all, for the power which lifts an argument for a party into the broader and larger field of a principle of a law of natiors., [yen the special pleadings, apart from the purpose they were intended to serve, have their spring in what, ic usę 2 metaphysical term, may be called “true universals.".
Swift had a terrible gift of insight into human raçure and a remarkable clarity of vision into the forces which condition the interaction and play of character on character. These attributes enabled him, not merely to see how and why events occurred, but how best to move those to whom he addressed himself, and thus effect the purpose in hand. Herein lay the weight of his influence as a pamphleteer on the people of his day. There is, in these writings, the fine
quality of great oratory. They persuade by their very simplicity, yet leave the impression of carefully reasoned conclusions from self-evident premises. They arrest attention at the outset, and they hold that attention in eager expectancy and interested curiosity to the very end.
Swift came to London, a humble petitioner on behalf of the clergy of Ireland. He left it finally, nearly four years later, a disappointed and saddened man, it is true, but his name had become a synonym for power. In those four years he had advanced from a seeker of favours into a dispenser of them. By his sheer personal genius of character he had obtained an influence of a kind which no purely literary man has ever obtained either before or since his time. So indispensable had he made himself to the ministers that his slightest fancies had but to be expressed to find fulfilment. With the successful issue to each effort came to his contemporaries the realization of the master-mind that had arisen in their midst. To Swift, however, success meant power and the right to use it. He knew himself, as all great minds know themselves, to be possessed of unusual gifts, and the vindication of himself in the eyes of the world brought with it a lordly complacency which came natural to him. To a man of his temper this complacency had little in it of humility: It meant an arrogant insistence upon himself as a Act. He had waited long for the opportuhity, and now tKat it had come, he made the fullest use of it to indulge his masterful character. In particular, he seemed to take delight in an almost brutal condescension to the lords and ladies of the social life above him. It mattered little who he or she was—Harley, St. John, the Duke of Buckingham, the Duchess of Shrewsbury, Lady Ashburnham, or any other-Swift made him understand that he was more than his equal. “I use them like dogs,” he wrote to Stella. The times bred the man—they were times full of meaning and potentiality for England then and to come, the struggle