« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
fix months, before he knew, or so much as suspected that he ever read prayers to his family. Which nevertheless he constantly did, at a fixed hour every night in his own bedchamber, to which the servants regularly and silently resorted, at the time appointed, without any notice from a bell, or audible call of any kind, except the striking of a clock. And I am well assured, that when he lived in Lon, don, his constant way was to go to early prayers, and sacrament; which he thought made him less distinguished in his devotions. But though in his private capacity he indulged himself in bis own method of paying his devotions, yet when his duty called on hin either as a parish priest, or dean, no one performed all the functions of that sacred office in a more exemplary manner, because in this case nothing of ostentation could be imputed to him. Of this doctor Delany gives several instances, and concludes with a very remarkable one, where he says, after a good deal of meditation upon Swift's character, as a man of true religion, I think I have found out one proof of it so clear and incontestable, as may well supersede the necessity of any other. His cathedral of St. Patrick's, is the only church in that city, wherein the primitive practice of receiving the sacrament every Lord's day was renewed, and is still continued; and to the best of my remembrance and belief, renewed in his time. At least, as he was ordinary there, it could not be continued without his consent; and it is most certain that he constantly attended that holy office; consecrated and adroinis. tered the sacrament in person. Nor do I believe he ever once failed to do so, when it was in his
I mean when he was not sick, or absent at too great a distance.
His attention to the economy of his cathedral was such, that he would not suffer a shilling of its revenues to be alienated from its proper use, even for the purposes of charity. If any thing of that kind was proposed, his answer was, that this money was appropriated; but he would give out of his own pocket, in proportion to his income, as much toward
purpose, as any of them would in proportion to theirs. Then turning to the person who made the proposal, “ You, sir, declare upon
your conscience, that the person you now solicit for, is a proper object of Christian charity. My deanery is worth seven hundred pounds a year ;
your prebend, worth two; if you will give two “ shillings to this charity, I will give seven, or any
greater sum in the same proportion.”
His strict religious attention to the revenues of the deanery, was so great, that he never failed to sacrifice his own present emoluments, to the reasonable prospects of a future sufficient maintenance for his successors and chapter. One instance of this appeared most remarkably in the great decline, and almost total decay of his understanding. He had resolved many years before, never to renew a certain lease of lands belonging to the deanery, without raising the rent thirty pounds a year. The tenant had often applied to him for a renewal upon other terms, but to no purpose. And finding now that Swift's understanding was in the decay, and his avarice remarkably predominant; he thought this the proper season to make his last effort for a renewal, and tempt him with such a fine, as he was sure the dean
could not resist in those circumstances. Accordingly he made his attempt; but to as little purpose as ever he had done before, the dean remaining immovable. He refused a large fine, at a time when he loved money incomparably beyond any thing else in the world, and raised the rent, as he had long since resolved to do. I visited him the next day after the renewal of this lease, and inquiring after his health, he told me in a tone of heavy complaint, that his memory was almost totally gone, and his understanding going; but that he had yesterday done something for the benefit of his successor, but he had forgot what ; but doctor Wilson (who then lived in the house with him) would
I inquired, and was informed of this renewal, as I have now related it.
As an ecclesiastick, he was scrupulously exact in the exercise of his function, as well with regard to temporal, as spiritual things. He expended more money to support and adorn his cathedral, than had been applied to the same use in any period since it was first built. He was extremely exact and conscientious in promoting the members of the choir according to their merit, and never advanced any person to a vicarage, who was not qualified for it in all respects, whatever their interest, or however recommended. He once refused a vicarage to a person for whom lady Carterct was very importunate ; at the same time de claring to her ladyship, that, if it had been in his power to have made the gentleman a dean, or a bishop, he would have obliged her willingly, because, he said, deaneries and bishopricks were preferments in which merit bad no concern; but the merit of a vicar woull be brought to the test every day.
It happened that a young gentleman of his choir being abroad with his gun, suffered irreparable hurt by its going off accidentally. When the dean heard of it he expressed great concern, and having paused a little, “ well,” said he, “this will be a good oppor“ tunity at once to reward merit, and alleviate dis“tress ; I will make him a vicar;" which he did accordingly the same hour.
The poor in the liberty of his cathedral, were better regulated than any other in the kingdom ; they were all badged, and were never found begging out of their district. For some of these he built and furnished a little almshouse, being assisted in this by some voluntary contributions; and preserved among them uncommon cleanliness and decency, by constantly visiting them in person.
In the distribution of his charity, that he might proportion his bounty to the necessities and merits of the different objects he met with, and yet give but one piece of money at a time, he constantly kept a pocket full of all sorts of coin, from a silver threepence to a crown piece.
He was a strenuous supporter of all the rights and · privileges belonging to his deanery, against all incroachments attempted by his powerful neighbour the archbishop of Dublin; in opposition to whom he determined to assert his right of absence without his grace's permission, at the expense of several hundred pounds, at a time when he did not believe he should ever again claim the privilege for himself; but because he would not endanger the liberty of his successor by an injurious precedent.
In contradiction to the account given of the great decorum and solemnity with which Swift performed all religious duties, there are two stories told by Vol. I.
lord Orrery, to which I can give no credit. The first is thus related by his lordship : “ As soon as “ he had taken possession of his two livings, he “ went to reside at Laracor, and gave publick notice “ to his parishioners, that he would read prayers
every Wednesday and Friday. Upon the subse
quent Wednesday the bell was rung, and the rec“ to rattended in his desk; when after having sat
some time, and finding the congregation to con“sist only of himself, and his clerk Roger, he began “ with great composure and gravity, but with a turn “ peculiar to himself, · Dearly beloved Roger-the “ Scripture moveth you and me in sundry places,'
&c.-And then proceeded regularly through the “ whole service. I mention this trifling circumstance “ only to show you, that he could not resist a vein of “ humour, whenever he had an opportunity of exert
Now to suppose that a man of Swift's religious turn, should have made such a mockery of this solemn act of worship, and afterward go through the whole service, notwithstanding the many absurdities that would follow in the course of it, from there being no congregation present, merely for the sake of a paltry jest, is too gross an imposition to be easily swallowed. It is not indeed improbable, that Sivift afterward, in relating this circumstance, might have said, he had a mind to begin the service with“ Dearly beloved Roger,” &c. and they who hcard this, as is frequently the case on such occasions, thought it would improve the story much by making him carry it into execution, and related it accordingly. The other story is thus told by his lordship. “ His humorous disposition tempted him to actions “ inconsistent with the dignity of a clergyman ; and