Page images

afterwards instance two collec- are among his redeeming feat

tions of correspondence which signally reveal character,-informal diaries before whose "glass" the letter-writer truly "dresses his own soul. Did space permit, we might have mounted higher. For all annalists and essayists are born diarists or the reverse. Herodotus is a diarist by nature; so, if less primitively, is Tacitus; so eminently are Froissart and Burnet; so, after his manner, is Macaulay. Not so are Thucydides or Clarendon or Gibbon. Montaigne is a diarist; Bacon, the opposite. It is a difference of temperaments-the difference between the authors of the 'Spectator' and the author of the 'Rambler,' between Goldsmith and Smollett, Sterne and Fielding. Rousseau is a diarist even in his so-called 'Philosophy'; Voltaire, a "Philosopher" even in his 'Notes sur les Anglois.'

If ever a man was designed to keep a diary, it was Pepys. He is naïve and communicative to a fault. Seated in his own confessional, he unbosoms his memory and absolves his conscience. The journal was composed in cipher. Mrs Pepys could have made nothing of it; it was never apparently meant for perusal. This typical bourgeois of his day, fussy and pompous, petty and busybodying, regular in his irregularities as in his expenditure, thrifty, vain, and passionately inquisitive, would retire into his sanctum, produce the treasured pages, and find his relief in the truthful industry of his chronicle. For truth and industry

ures. "With my eyes mighty weary and my head full of care how to get my accounts and business settled against my journey, home to supper and bed," he writes in the face of his infirmity. So is fortitude. There is a genuine pathos in the words which close the diary when blindness was threatening the little Secretary to the Admiralty with its terrors. From henceforth he "must be contented to set down no more than is fit for them and all the world to know; or if there be anything, I must endeavour to keep a margin in my book open, to add here and there a note in shorthand with my own hand. And so I betake myself to that course which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave: for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me!" Sturdy, stoical-nay, in a sense piouspetit maître, for all his foibles and frailties! His periodical headache of repentance is followed by the periodical draught of peccadillo. Though he has no deep sense of life's mystery, he does realise his accountability to God-a prosaic accountability like those official audits that so taxed his diligence. never whimpers or makes excuse. Nor does he brave it out, like that German colonel whom Königsmarck suborned to stab Mr Thynne, and who averred, as he marched to execution, that he did not care for death a rush, and that he hoped "God would treat him like a gentleman." No, Pepys only regrets


and things at home and abroad; despatched his Reverence of but it is photographic, it lacks Laracor to obtain remission of distinction and temperament. the First Fruits, had Swift Evelyn himself may be well never penned his history of the portrayed by his own account Last Four Years of Queen of his younger brother, "A Anne, for which purpose he resober, prudent, worthy gentle- claimed the Journal, we should man. A country magnate who have lost at once the miniasurvived terrible crises, trav- tures and the picture—the minelled much when travel was iatures of his own soul and a rarity, he always preserved Stella's, the picture of those an open heart and an open two turbid years and nine mind as well as an open house. months, the quintessence of its He maps out rather than paints trifles alike and its tremendous his stormy, stirring periods. issues, its cabals, its inner and His own individuality does not outer life, all rendered with a modify or tinge his theme. One faithfulness born of yearning phase of his, however, we feel and a force native to that selfconstrained to rescue: "This torturing genius. He shuts the day I paid all my debts to a door of his London, Chelsea, or farthing, O blessed day!" Kensington lodging after his Some seven years only divide restless day of dictatorial busithe close of his almanac and the ness; he dismisses the drunken threshold of 'The Journal to Patrick. At once, as by enStella,' but the gulf between chantment, the willows, the them in attraction is immeas- canal, the cherry-trees, above urable. Swift's diary of two all, the two ladies of Laracor, worlds - his own and hers arise before him. He listens whose letters have unfortunate- to them; he answers them with ly perished-stands out unique, abrupt ejaculations, with soft the most entrancing and the whispers ; he invests their most tragic of all extant jour- merest bagatelles with actuality nals. It haunts one like a re- and importance, just as long frain. The mere step in style afterwards in his "Gulliver.' from the quaint affectations of We are as deeply concerned to Pepys and the colourless gravity know if that box reached Stella of Evelyn to Swift's nervous as we are to learn the last disdiction, his terse impetuosity, closure of the wonderful Mr St his repressed fondness, his em- John which the masterful Presto phasised hardness, his little imparts to his "State-girls.” pathetic language, his large in- He will assert himself even here dignant irony, is the step from and outdo them; he will write still life to breathing, from "five for two" of theirs; he lecture to literature, from what dashes it all off uncorrected at must always remain ancient to redhot speed. He "cannot put what will never cease to be out the candle till he has bid modern. Yet we owe its pre- them good-night." He "must servation to a double accident. always be in conversation with Had the Irish bishops never M. D., and M. D. with Presto."

[ocr errors]

"As hope saved, nothing gives Presto any dream of happiness but a letter now and then from his dearest M. D." 66 'Yes, faith and when I write to M. D. I am happy too; it is just as if methinks you were here and I prating to you and telling you where I have been. 'Well,' says you, 'Presto come, where have you been to-day? Come let's hear now.' And so then I answer." He peeps over their hand at cards; he toasts them both at coxcomb 66 Jemmy Leigh's." Is Stella jealous of his present to Dingley? Dingley is buxom and healthy, and must care for Stella. He takes a fancy to Lady Ashburnham because she resembles Stella. Of Stella he dreams over and over again. "God Almighty bless her for her kindness to poor Presto: a merry Christmas and a happy New Year; and pray God we may never keep them asunder again." "God Almighty bless poor dear Stella and send her a great many birthdays, all happy and healthy, wealthy and with me ever together." "When I find you are happy and merry there, it makes me so here, and I can hardly imagine you absent when I am reading your letter or writing to you. No, faith you are just here upon this little paper, and therefore I see and talk with you every evening constantly.' "M. D.'s felicity is the great end I aim at in all my pursuits." He supervises her exercise, her spelling, her books. He is anxious about her eyes and her horse. He will become a china-maniac for her sake. Has she received the

[ocr errors]

palsy water her mother left for her yet? Presto in one brief fortnight shoots up into a great man on whom Harley and St John and the Tory wits have fastened; ay, and he has fastened them too! But, "Believe me, no man breathing at present has less share of happiness in life than I. I do not say I am unhappy at all, but that everything here is tasteless to me for want of being where I would be. And so a short sigh and no more of this." "Yet the day came when he returned as Dean to the place where he would be' without exultation, and with a long pang far more piteous than this short sigh." "Miss Hessy" had already in that first year entered on the scene. We have taken the trouble to count how many times Presto dined at Mrs Vanhomrigh's till the beginning of 1712. There are over fifty occasions of those five o'clock dinners, usually with an avowed and uneasy excuse. It was so rainy; he had hurt his shin and must eat at a neighbour's; he only dined "gravely" with the extravagant widow and her

smart set.

But afterwards the pretexts end and the dinners are unconfessed. During the initial period his very excuses plead for Swift. His association with the susceptible Vanessa resembled Goethe's with Bettina; and the pupil would, like Bettina, have receded, a childlike episode, had not Vanessa proved of another mould. The clue, on the other hand, to Swift's association with Stella is the analogy of Goethe's with Mina

Herzlieb. The
of passion with duty, of pla-
tonic friendship with stifling
prudence, that is mirrored in


same conflict some coals on my fire, after Patrick was gone to bed; and there I saw in a closet a poor linnet he has bought to bring over to Dingley: it cost him sixpence, and is as tame as a dormouse. I believe he does not know he is a bird. Where you put him there he stands, and seems to have neither hope nor fear." Nor does he relate how Swift turned aside that the proud, heartbroken Duke of Ormond might wipe the tears for his daughter from his eyes.

distracts and distorts the lacerated being of Swift. His character was not unlike his own portrait of the ill-starred Duchess of Hamilton, who "seldom spared anybody that gave her the least provocation, by which she had many enemies and few friends." To these few he clung violently and intensely. Does any one doubt Swift's unfeigned and radical tenderness of heart? Let him read in these pages of his kindness to Mrs Long, the poor bankrupt beauty; of his dutiful attendance on the old, bedridden Mrs Wesley; of his fatherly goodness to young Harrison; of his devotion to Harley, Peterborough, Atterbury, Lewis, Arbuthnot; of his eager offices for his political enemies Addison, Steele, Phillips, and Rowe; of his methodical almsgiving; of his resolve "in honour and conscience to use all my little credit towards helping forward men of worth in the world." That resolve hindered his own advancement; it helped Pope, Gay, and Diaper; it made Parnell and Bishop Berkeley. He was no sentimentalist, but under the fountain of bitterness welled something sweet and delicious. Beneath that savage ambition throbbed poet's heart. Thackeray, unjust to Swift and over-generous to Addison, never excerpted that passage about the linnet: "I went last night to put

Nor the following

about the Duchess of Hamilton after her husband's fatal duel with Lord Mohun: "I have been with her two hours and am just come away. I never saw so melancholy a scene; for indeed all reasons for real grief belong to her; nor is it possible for anybody to be a greater loser in all regards. She has moved my very soul." Nor how he played with Lady Masham's children. Yet this extraordinary man is, like Hamlet, "very proud, revengeful, ambitious." For those who affront himself, the Church, or his friends, he will have no mercy. Like Tarquin, he knocks off the tallest heads with his implacable stick. When Lady Masham's attendance at Court was imperative for the Cause, he blames her for sitting by the sick-bedside of the very child with whom he had romped. This is how a he mentions his only sister, who had long before displeased him by her marriage: "Mrs Fenton writes to me as one dying, and desires I would think of her son; I have not

answered her letter." When cleavage Swift would fain be Swift was very ill, and that same sister called to see him, he denied her admittance, but nevertheless he stinted himself to make her an allowance.

The severe illness of Swift is the dividing line of the Journal. Before it, all is high hope, excited elasticity, intermeddling triumph, and confiding affection. After it, comes a listless and saturnine depression. It was not all Miss Hessy. The great men who court him put him off. He is weary of disregarded counsel and society's school for scandal. Now and again the old burst of love and loyalty struggles through the gloom. But gradually the stern melancholy settles on him. He neglects Stella's birthday congratulations; he becomes more and more suspicious and reticent. And what a world is that which he subdues! The prodigy Bolingbroke manoeuvring and misunderstood. Intrepid Oxford loitering through crisis to catastrophe. The dilatory Queen, emancipated from Whig tutelage, but under the thumb of orthodox Archbishop of York and homely Mrs Masham

[blocks in formation]

friends, and gets him to dine with Mrs Secretary St John. Discarded Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, vowing vengeance and clutching gold. Witty, versatile Lady Orkney. Pert, flirting Lady Betty Germaine. Sweet, weeping Mrs St John. Swaggering, raking Sir Andrew Fountaine. Rich, stingy Sir Thomas Mansel. Sanguine, stock-jobbing Stratford. The gallants strut and chatter in the Mall. The newsmongering busybodies flit from coffee - house to coffee house. The very footmen hold their own Parliament outside Westminster Hall and elect their Speaker. Calmly in the background sit Somers, Halifax, and Walpole, concocting their revenge and awaiting their success. Guiscard stabs Harley, and ensures Oxford's popularity.

The magnifico - Ambassador Monteleon scrapes and bows to the great Doctor Swift. Prince Eugene comes in to trouble the land. The


expensive Duc D'Aumont hurries over from France, and has his ambassadorial house burned over him. It is a Whig plot. So is the disturbance on Queen Elizabeth's birthday. The town takes its cue from the men of letters. Everybody is inventing conspiracies or unearthing them. Spying Abbés Gautier and Dubois confabulate at Windsor over the treaty of Utrecht with its formulating genius. A bishop goes to preside over the congress that is to kill the war. Oxford and Bolingbroke refuse mutual quarter. The Government are "driv

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »