Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ashe, St. George

ASHE, ST. GEORGE (1658?–1718), Irish bishop, descended from a Wiltshire family which had settled in Ireland, was born at Roscommon, educated at Dublin, and became a fellow of Trinity College in 1679. During the Revolution he left the country, and was chaplain to Lord Paget, the ambassador of William III at Vienna. He returned, and became provost of Trinity in his thirty-fourth year in 1692. He was made bishop of Cloyne in 1695; was translated to Clogher in 1697, and to Derry in 1716-17. He died at Dublin 27 Feb. 1717-18, and left his mathematical books to Trinity College. He published three sermons and contributed some papers upon modes of geometrical demonstration and observations on natural phenomena to the Royal Society, of which he was a fellow (Phil. Transactions, Nos. 116, 162, 164, 171, 176, 220, 228, 243). He also succeeded Molyneux as secretary to the Irish Philosophical Society. He is best known from his intimacy with Swift, who was his pupil at Trinity College, and who became his lifelong friend. Frequent references to him in the 'Journal to Stella' show that Swift was his constant correspondent, and consulted him on many matters of business. He was one of three brothers; Tom Ashe, the eldest, was a squire with an estate of 1,000l. a year in Meath; Dillon Ashe, a clergyman, was vicar of Finglas from 1694 to 1716, when he was succeeded by the poet Parnell. All three were friends of Swift, and joined in his favourite amusement of making execrable puns at Lord Pembroke's viceregal court; their slang language constructed of puns being called Castilian (Forster, Life of Swift, p. 191). Dillon seems to have been an undignified and claret-loving priest. Swift says that 'Dilley's' red face will 'whiz' in the Bath waters; and that the rabble will say, 'There goes a drunken parson,' and, 'which is worse, will say true' (Journal to Stella, 10 April 1711). The bishop was a man of high character; Addison was charmed with him; and Sir A. Fountaine said to Swift that there was not a bishop in England with half his wit. He was intimate with Hester Johnson (Stella); the younger Sheridan says (Life of Swift, p. 280), on the authority of Mrs. Sican, that Ashe, at Swift's desire, inquired 'into the cause of Stella's melancholy in 1716, and performed the marriage ceremony which was the consequence of her explanation. The statement that Swift and Stella were married by Ashe in 1716 is also made by Lord Orrery, by Dr. Johnson on the authority of Dr. Madden, and by Monck Berkeley on the authority of his grandmother, the widow of Bishop Berkeley. The bishop was travelling on the continent as tutor to Ashe's only son, St. George Ashe, from 1715 to 1720. He could hardly have received the statement from Ashe himself; and it is still doubtful whether the marriage took place. It is plain, however, that Ashe was one of Swift's most trusted and valued friends, and had the confidence of Stella.

[Ware's Bishops of Ireland (ed. Harris); Swift's Works; Forster's and Craik's Lives of Swift.]

L. S.