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idea that they could possibly appear either impressive or entertaining, it presented without these accompaniments. A considerable ))art of the pleasure we derive from the voyages of Gulliver, in short, is of the same description with that which we receive from those of Sinbad the sailor; and is chiefly Heightened, we believe, by the greater brevity and minuteness of ¡he story, and the superior art that is employed to give it an appearance oftrulh and probability, in the very midst of its wonders. Among those arts, as Mr. Scott has judiciously observed, one of ihe most important is the exact adaptation of the narrative to the condition of its supposed author.
"The character-of the imaginary traveller is exactly that of Dampier, or any oilier sturdy nautical wanderer of the period, endowed with courage and common sense, who sailed through distant seas, without losing a single English prejudice which lie had brought from Portsmouth or Plymouih. and on his return gave a grave and simple narrative of what he had seen or heard in foreign countries. The character is perhaps strictly English, and can be hardly relished by a foreigner. The reflections and observations of Gulliver are never more refined or deeper than might be expected from a plain master of a merchantman, or surgeon in the Old Jewry; and there was such a reality given to his whole person, that one seaman is said to have sworn he knew Captain CJulliver very well, but he lived at Wapping, not at Roiherhithe. It is the contrast between the natural ease and simplicity of such a style, and the marvels which the volume contains, that forms one great charm of this memorable satire on the imperfections, follies, and vices of mankind. The exact calculations preserved in the first and second part, have also the effect of qualifying the extravagance of the fable. It is said that in natural objects where proportion is exactly preserved, the marvellous, whether the object be gigantic or diminutive, ig lessened in the eves of the spectator; and it is certain, in general, that proportion formt* ancs4enti.il attribute of truth, and consequently of verisimilitude, or that which renders n narration probnine. Il tlie reader is disposed to griiiit the traveller hie postulates as to the existence of the strange people whom he visits, it would be difficult to detect any inconsistency in his narrative. On the contrary, il would seem that he and they con duct themselves towards each other, precisely as must necessarily have happened in the respective circumstances which the author has supposed. In this point of view, perhaps the highest praise that i-iiuld have been bestowed on (Julliver's Travels was the censure of a learned Irish prelate, who paid the bonk confined tome thiiiL's whicli he could not prevail upon himself to bel.eve."—Vol. i. pp. 340, 341.
That the interest does not arise from the satire but from the plausible description of physical wonders, seems to be farther proved by the fact, that the parts which please the least are those in which there is most satire and least of those wonders. In the vovaee to Laputa, after the first description of the flying island, the attention is almost exclusively directed to intellectual absurdities: and every one is aware of the dulncss that is the result. Even as a satire, indeed, this part is extremely poor and defective: nor can any thing »how more clearly the author'? incapacity for large and comprehensive views than hie signal failure in all those parts which invite him to such contemplations. In the
multitude of his vulgar and farcical representations of particular errors in philosophy, he nowhere appears to have any sense of ils true value or principles; but satisfies himself with collecting or imagining a number of fantastical quackeries, which tend to illustrate nothing but his contempt for human understanding. Even where his subject eeerae to invite him to something of a higher flight, he uniformly shrinks back from it. and taki s shelter in common-place derision. V.'hat. lor instance, can be poorer lhan the use he makes of the evocation of the illustrious dead—in which Hannibal is conjured up, just to eay that he had not a drop of vinegar hi his camp: and Aristotle, to ask two of his commentators, "whether the rest of the tribe were as great dunces as themselves?'' The voyage to the Houyhnhmns is commonly supposed to displease by its vile and degrading representations of human nature; but. if we do not strangely mistake our own feelings on the subject, the impression it produces is not so much that of disgust as of dulnese. The picture is not only extravagant, but bald and tame in the highest degree; while the story is not enlivened by any of those numerous and uncommon incidents which are detailed in the two first parts, with such an inimitable air of probability as almost to persuade us of their reality. For the rest, we have observed already, that the scope of the whole work, and indeed of all his writings, is to degrado and vilify human nature; and though some of the images which occur in this part maybe rather coarser than the others, we do not think the difference so considerable as to account for its admitted inferiority in the power of pleasing.
His only other considerable works in prose, are the <: Polite Conversation." which we think admirable in its sort, and excessively entertaining; and the "Directions to Servants," which, though of a lower pitch, contains as much perhaps of his peculiar, vigorous and racy humour, as any one of his productions. The Journal to Stella, which was certainly never intended for publication, is not to be judged of as a literary -work at all —but to us it is the most interesting of all his productions—exhibiting not only a minute and masterly view of a very extraordinary political crisis, but a truer, and, upon the whole, a more favourable picture of ais own mind, than can be gathered from all the rest of his writings—together with innumerable anecdotes characteristic not only of various eminent individuals, but of the private matiner.s and public taste and morality of trie times, more nakedly and surely authentic than any thing that can be derived from contemporary publications.
Of his Poetry, we do not think there is much to be said;—for we cannot persuade ourselves that Swift was in any respect a poet. It would be proof enough, we think, just to observe, that, though a popular and most miscellaneous writer, he does not mention the name of Shakespeare above two or three times in any part of his works, and Ъя» nowhere said a word in his praise. His partial editor admits that he has produced nothing which can be called either sublime or pathetic: and \ve are of the same opinion as to the beautiful. The merit of correct rhymes and easy diction, we shall not deny him; but the diction is almost invariably that of the most ordinary prose, and the matter of his piecí-б no otherwise poetical, than that the Muses and some other persons of the Heathen mythology are occasionally mentioned. He has written lampoons and epigrams, and satirical ballads and abusive songs in great abundance, and with infinite success. But these things are not poetry ;—and are better ¡л verse than in prose, for no other reason than that the sting is more easily remembered, and the ridicule occasionally enhanced, by the hint of a ludicrous parody, or the drollery of an extraordinary rhyme. His witty verges, when they are not made up of mere filth and venom, seem mostly framed on the model of Hudibras; and are chiefly remarkable, like those of his original, for the easy and apt application of homely and familiar phrases, !u illustrate ingenious sophistry or unexpected allusions. One or two of his imitations of Horace, are executed with spirit and elegance, and are the best, we think, of his familiar pieces; unless we except the verses on his own death, in which, however, the great charm arises, as we have just stated, from the singular ease and exactness with which he has imitated the style of ordinary society, ami the neatness with which he has brought together and reduced to metre such a number к natural, characteristic, and common-place expressions. The Gulenus and Vanessa is, '•! itself, completo proof that he had in him вдг.е of the elements of poetry. It was writ'>•!! when his faculties were in their perfection, and his heart animated with all the tenderness of which it was ever capable—and yt it is as cold and as flat as the ice of Thule. though describing a real passion, and a real perplexity, there is not a spark of fire nor a throb of emotion in it from one end to the other. All the return he makes to the warmhearted creature who had put her destiny into his hands, consists in a frigid mythological fiction, in which ho sets forth, that Venus and 'h° Graces lavished their gifts on her in her i'i!.'irifv. and moreover got Minerva, by a trick, to inspire her with wit and wisdom. The style »mere prose—or rather a string of familiar and vnlgar phrases tacked together in rhyme, lie th« general tissue of his poetry. HowT'-T, it has been called not only easy but ''•••;ant; by some indulgent critics—and therp!"re. as we take it for granted nobody reads it now-a-days, we shall extract a few lines at random, to abide the censure of the judicious. To us they seem to be about as much poetry as so many lines out of Coke upon Littleton.
"Rut in ihe pools we may find
Which keeps the peace among the gods,
Vol. Jtiv. pp, 448, 449.
The Rhapsody of Poetry, and the Legion Club, are the only two pieces in which there is the least glow of poetical animation ; though, in the latter, it takes the shape of ferocious and almost frantic invective, and, in the former, shines out but by fits in the midst of the usual small wares of cant phrases and snappish misauthropy. In the Rhapsody, the following lines, for instance; near the beginning, are vigorous and energetic.
"Not empire to the rising sun
Not beggar's brai on bulk begot;
Vol. iiv. pp. 310, 311.
Yet. immediately after this nervous and poetical line, he drops at once into the lowness of vulgar flippancy.
"What hnpc of custom in the fair,
While not a soul demands your ware Î" &c.
There are undoubtedly many strong lines, and much cutting satire in this poem; but the staple is a mimicry of Hudibra?, without the richness or compression of Butler; as, for example,
"And here я simile comes pat in:
Vol. xiv. pp. 311, 312.
The Legion Club is a satire, or rather a tremendous invective on the Irish House of Commons, who had incurred the reverend author's displeasure for entertaining some propositions about alleviating the burden of the tithes in Ireland; and is chiefly remarkable, on the whole, as a proof of the extraordinary liberty of the press which was indulged to the disaffected in those days—no prosecution having been instituted, either by that Honourable House itself, or by any of the individual members, who are there attacked in a way in which no public men were ever attackedj before or since. It is also deserving of attention, as the most thoroughly animated, fierce, and energetic, of all Swift's metrical compositions; and though the animation be altogether of a ferocious character, and seems occasionally to verge upon absolute insanity, there is still a force and a terror about it which redeems it from ridicule, and makes us shudder at the sort of demoniacal inspiration with which the malison is vented. The invective of Swift appears in this, and some other pieces, like the infernal fire of Milton's rebel angels, which •
"Scorched »nd blasted and o'erthrew—"
and was launched even against the righteous with such impetuous fury,
"That whom il hit none on iheir feet might stand, Thoush standing else as rocks—but down they
fell By thousands, angel on archangel rolled."
It is scarcely necessary to remark, however, that there is never the least approach to dignity or nobleness in the style of these terrible invectives: and that they do not even pretend to the tone of a high-minded disdain or generous impatience of unworthiness. They are honest, coarse, and violent effusions of furious anger and rancorous hatred; and their effect depends upon the force, heartiness, and apparent sincerity with which those feelings are expressed. The author's object is simply to vilify his opponent,—by no means to do honour to himself. If he can make his victim writhe, he cares not what may be thought of his tormentor ;—or rather, he is contented, provided he can make Aim sufficiently disgusting, that a good share of the filth which he throws should stick to his own lingers; and that he should himself excite some of the loathing of which his enemy is the principal object. In the piece now before us, many of the I>ersonalities are too coarse and filthy to be quoted; but the very opening shows the spirit in which it ie written.
"As I eiroll the rity oft I
"Tell us what the pile contains?
Such a noise and such haranguing,
When a brother thief is hanging:
Such a rout and such a rabble
Run to hear Jackpudding gabble:
Such a crowd their ordure throws
On a far less villain's nose.
Hear the rattling thunder drop,
While the devil upon the roof
(If the devil be thunder proof)
Should with poker fiery red
Crack the stones, and meli the lead;
Drive them down on every scull,
When the den of thieves is full;
Quite destroy the harpies' nest;
How then might our isle be blest!
Sell the nation for a pin;
While they sit a picking straws,
Let them rave at making laws;
While they never hold their tongue,
Let them dabble in their dung;
Let them form a grand committee,
How to plague and starve the city;
Let them stare, and storm, and frown
When they see a clergy gown;
Let them, ere they crack a louse;
Call for th1 orders Ы the House;
Let them, with their gosling quills,
Scribble senseless heads of bills;
We may, while they strain their Croate,
Wipe our noses with their votes.
Stuff his guts with flax and grass;
But before the priest he fleeces,
Tear tjie Bible all to pieces:
At the parsons, Tom, halloo, boy!
Worthy offspring of a shoeboy,
Footman! traitor! vile seducer!
Perjur'd rebel! brib'd accuser!
Lay thy paltry privilege aside,
Sprung from Papists, and a regicide!
Fall a working like a mole,
Raise the dirt about your hole!"
Vol. x. pp. 548—550.
This is strong enough, we suspect, for most readers; but we shall venture on a few line? more, to show the tone in which the leading characters in the country might be libelled by name and surname in those days. "In the porch Brinreiis stands,
Shows a bribe in all his hands;
Briareus the secretary,
I5ul we mortals call him Carey.
When the rogues their country fleece,
They may hope for pence a-ptcce.
To put on a fool's disguise,
To bespeak some approbation,
And be thought a near relation.
When she saw three hundred brutee
All involv'd in wild disputes.
Roaring lili their lunge were spent,
Privilege Of Paiu.iament,
Now a new misfortune feels,
Dreading to be laid by th' heels," Sit. "Keeper, show me where to fix
On the puppy pair of Dicks:
By their lantern jaws and leathern.
You might swear they both are brethren:
Diek Fit/baker, Dick ihc player!
Old acquaintance, nrc you there?
Dear companions, hug nnd kiss.
Tonst Old (ïlorious in your;
Tic llicm. keeper, in a tether,
Let them starve and stink together;
Boih are apt to he unruly,
Lash them daily, lash them duly;
Though 'tis hopeless to reclaim them,
Scorpion rods, perhaps, may tame them."
Such were the libels which a Tory writer found it safe to publish under a Whig administration in 1736; and we do not find that any national disturbance arose from their impunity,—ihough the libeller was the most celebrated and by far the most popular writer of the age. Nor was it merely the exasperation o! bad fortune that put that polite party npon the use of this discourteous style of discussion. In all situations, the Tories have been the ?reat libellers—and. as is fitting, the great prosecutors of libels; and even in this early age of their glory, had themselves, when in power, encouraged the same licence of defamation, and in the same hands. It will scarcely be believed, that the following character of the Earl of Wharton, then actually Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was publicly printed and sold, with his Lordship's name ami addition at full length, in 1710, and was one of the first productions by which the reverend penman bucklered the cause of the Ton- ministry, and revenged himself on a parsimonious patron. We cannot afford to give it at full length—but this specimen will answer our purpose.
"Thomas, Earl of Wharton, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, by the force of a wonderful constitution, hae eome years passed his grand climaieric, without any visible effects of old age, either on his body or his mind; and in spite of a continual prostitution to those vices which usually wear out both. His behaviour is in all the forms of a young man at fiveand-twenty. Whether he walks, or whistles, or talks bawdy, or calls names, he acquits himself in eich, beyond a templar of three years' standing.— He seems to be but an ill dissembler, and an ill liar, «llhough they are the two talents he most practises, ind most values himself upon. The ends he has rained by lying, appear to be more owing to the frequency, than the art of them: his lies being sometimes detected in an hour, ofien in a clay, and always in a week. He tells them freely in mixed companies, although he knows half of those that bear him to be his enemies, and is sure they will discover them the moment they leave him. Hn íwenrs solemnly he loves and will serve you: and your back is no sooner turned, but he Jells those »bom him, you are a don and a rascal. He goes constantly to prayers in the forms of his place, and *ill mlk bawdy and blasphemy at the chapel-door. He « a presbylerian in politics, and an atheist in religion; but he chooses at present to whore wifh a papw.—He has sunk his fortune by endeavouring )" ran one kingdom, and has raised it by going far m the ruin of another.
"He bears the gallantries of his lady with the indifference of a stoic; and thinks them well reconiptnsed, by a return of children to support his fjmily, without the fatigues of being a fnther.
"He his three predominant passions, which von will seldom find united in the same man. as arising from different dispositions of mind, and naturally '¡waning each other: these are, love of power, bve of money, and love of pleasure; thev ride him 'mietimes by turns, sometimes all together. .Sinre lit went into Ireland, he seems most disposed to 'he second, and has met with great success; having gained by his goverment. of under two years, five-and-forty thousand pounds by the most favour•He computation, half in the regular way, and half it) the prudential.
"He was never yet known to refuse, or keep a promise, as I remember he told a ladv, but wiih an tioeption to the promise he then made (which was Ю gel her a pension); ye' he broke even that, and, IronfeM, deceived us both. But here I desire to
distinguish between a promise and a bargain; for he will be sure to keep the latter, when he has the fairest offer."—Vol. iv. pp. 149—152.
We have not left ourselves room now to say much of Swift's style, or of the general character of his literary genius:—But our opinion may be collected from the remarks we have made on particular passages, and from our introductory observations on the school or class of authors, with whom he must undoubtedly be rated. On the subjects to which he confines himself, he is unquestionably a strong, masculine, and perspicuous writer. He is never finical, fantastic, or absurd—takes advantage of no equivocations in argument—and puts on no tawdriness for ornament. Dealing always with particulars, he is safe from all great and systematic mistakes: and, in fact, reasons mostly in a series of small and minute propositions, in the handling of which, dexterity is more requisite than genius; and practical good sense, with an exact knowledge of transactions, of far more importance than profound and high-reaching judgment. He did not write history or philosophy, but party pamphlets and journals ;— not satire, but particular lampoons;—not pleasantries for all mankind, but jokes for a particular circle. Even in his pamphlets, the broader questions of party are always waved, to make way for discussions of personal or immediate interest. His object is not to show that the Tories have better principles of government than the Whigs,—but to prove Lord Oxford an angel, and Lord Somers a fiend, to convict the Duke of Marlborough of avarice or Sir Richard Steele of insolvency ;—not to point out the wrongs of Ireland, in the depression of her Catholic population, her want of education, or the discouragement of her industry; but to raise an outcry against an amendment of the copper or the gold coin, or against a parliamentary proposition for remitting the tithe of asistment. For those ends, it cannot be denied, that he chose his means judiciously, and used them with incomparable skill and spirit. But to choose such ends, we humbly conceive, was not the part either of a high intellect or a high character; and his genius must share in the disparagement which ought perhaps to be confined to the impetuosity and vindictiveness of his temper.
Of his style, it has been usual to speak with great, and, we think, exaggerated praise. It is less mellow than Drvden's—less elegant than Pope:s or Addison's—less free and noble than Lord Bolingbroke's—and utterly without the glow and loftiness which belonged to our earlier masters. It is radically a low and homely style—without grace and without affectation; and chiefly remarkable foi a croat choice and profusion of common words and expressions. Other writers, who have used a plain and direct style, have been for the most part jejune and limited in their diction, and generally give us an impression of the poverty as well as thf lameness of thuir language: but Swift, without ever trespassing into figured or poetical expressions, or ever emulo jinp a word that can be called fine, or pedantic, has a pr«ligiouj variety of good set phrases always at his command, and displays a sort of homely richness, like the plenty of an old Knglish dinner, or the wardrobe of a wealthy burgess. This taste for the plain and substantial was fatal to his poetry, which subsists not on such elements: but was in the highest degree favourable to the effect of his humour, very much of which depends on the imposing gravity with which it is delivered, and on the various turns and heightenings it may receive from a rapidly shifting and always appropriate expression. Almost all his works, after The Tale of a Tub, seem to have been written very fast, and with very little minute care of the diction. For his own ease, therefore, it is probable they were all pitched on a low key, and set about on the ordinary tone of a familiar letter or conversation; as that from which there was a little hazard of falling, even in moments of negligence, and from which any rise that could be effected, must always be easy and conspicuous. A man fully possessed of his subject, indeed, and confident of his cause, may almost always •write with vigour and effect, if he can get over the temptation of writing finely, and really confine himself to the strong and clear exposition of the matter he has to bring forward. Half of the affectation and offensive pretension we meet with in authors, arises from a want of matter,—and the other half, from a paltry ambition of being eloquent ana ingenious out of place. Swift had complete confidence in himself; and had too much real business on his hands, to be at leisure to intrigue for the fame of a fine writer ;—in consequence of which, his writings are more admired by the judicious than if he had bestowed all his attention on their style. He was so much a man of business, indeed, and so much accustomed to consider his writings merely as means for the attainment of a practical end— whether that end was the strenirtheninsr of a party, or the wounding a foe—that he not only disdained the reputation of a composer of pretty sentences, bot seems to have been thoroughly nidifièrent to all sorts of literary fame. He enjoyed the notoriety and influence which ho had procured by his writings; but it was the clory of having carried his point, and not of having written well, that he valued. As soon as his publications had served their turn, they seem to have been entirely forgotten by their author;—and, desirous as he was of being ric 1er, he appears to have thought as little of making money as immortality by means of them. He mentions somewhere,
that except 300Í. which he got for Gulliver, ho never made a farthing by any of his writings. Pope understood his trade better.—and not only made knowing bargains for his own works, but occasionally borrowed his friends' pieces, and pocketed the price of the whole. This was notoriously the case with three volumes of Miscellanies, of which the greater part were from the pen of Swift.
In humour and in irony, and in the talent of debasing and defiling what he hated, we jom with all the world in thinking the Dean of St. Patrick's without a rival. His humour, thouirh sufficiently marked and peculiar, is not to be easily defined. The nearest description we can give of it, would make it consist in expressing sentiments the most absurd and ridiculous—the most shocking and atrocious —or sometimes the most energetic and original—in a sort of composed, calm, and unconscious way, as if they were plain, undeniable, commonplace truths, which no person could dispute, or expect to gain credit by announcing —and in maintaining them, always in the gravest and most familiar language, with a consistency which somewhat palliates their extravagance, and a kind of perverted ingenuity, which seems to give pledge for their sincerity. The secret, in short, seems to consist in employing the language of hurr, Ые good sense, and simple undoubting conviction, to express, in their honest nakedness, sentiments which it is usually thought necessary to disguise under a thousand pretences—or truths which are usually introduced with a thousand apologies. The basis of the art is the personating a character of great simplicity and openness, for whom the conventional or artificial distinctions of society are supposed to have no existence; and making use oí lb¡5 character as an instrument to strip vice and folly of their disguises, and expose guilt in all its deformity, and truth in all its terrors. Independent of the moral or satire, of which they may thus be the vehicle, a great part of the entertainment to be derived from works of humour, arises from the contrast between the grave, unsuspecting indifference of the character personated, and the ordinary feelings of the world on the subjects which he discusses. This contrast it is easy to heighten, by all sorts of imputed absurdities: in which case, the humour degenerates into mere farce and buffoonery. Swift has yielded a little to this temptation in The Tale of a Tub; but scarcely at all in Gulliver, or any of his later writings in the same style. Of his talent for reviling, we have already said at least enough, in some of the preceding pages.