The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From John Boyle to Deane Swift - 1

MARSTON, DEC. 4, 1742.

I AM much obliged to you for the full, though melancholy, account you have sent me of my ever honoured friend. It is the more melancholy to me, as I have heard him often lament the particular misfortune incident to human nature, of an utter deprivation of senses many years before a deprivation of life. I have heard him describe persons in that condition, with a liveliness and a horrour, that on this late occasion have recalled to me his very words. Our litany, methinks should have an addition of a particular prayer against this most dreadful misfortune. I am sure mine shall. The bite of a mad dog (a most tremendous evil) ends soon in death; but the effects of his loss of memory may last even to the longest age of man; therefore I own my friendship for him has now changed my thoughts and wishes into the very reverse of what they were, I rejoice to hear he grows lean. I am sorry to hear his appetite is good. I was glad when there seemed an approaching mortification in his eyelid. In one word, the man I wished to live the longest I wish the soonest dead. It is the only blessing that can now befal him. His reason will never return; or if it should, it will only be to show him the misery of having lost it. I am impatient for his going where imperfection ceases, and where perfection begins; where Wilsons cannot break in and steal, and where envy, hatred, and malice have no influence or power. While he continues to breathe, he is an example, stronger and more piercing than he or any other divine could preach, against pride, conceit, and vain glory. Good God! doctor Swift beaten and marked with stripes by a beast in human shape, one Wilson[1]. But he is not only an example against presumption and haughtiness, but in reality an incitement to marriage. Men in years ought always to secure a friend to take care of declining life, and watch narrowly as they fall the last minute particles of the hourglass. A bachelor will seldom find, among all his kindred, so true a nurse, so faithful a friend, so disinterested a companion, as one tied to him by the double chain of duty and affection. A wife could not be banished from his chamber, or his unhappy hours of retirement; nor had the dean felt a blow, or wanted a companion, had he been married, or, in other words, had Stella lived. All that a friend could do, has been done by Mrs. Whiteway; all that a companion could persuade, has been attempted by Mrs. Ridgeway. The rest — but I shall run on for ever, and I set out at first only with an intention of thanking you for your letter, and assuring you that

I am, sir, your most obedient humble servant,

P. S. I beg to hear from you from time to time, if any new occurrence happens in the dean's unhappy state.

  1. Dr. Francis Wilson was prebendary of Kilmactolway, and rector of Clondalkin, in the diocese of Dublin, the great tithes of which belong to the deanery of St. Patrick's. Dr. Wilson, who lived in the centre of this prebend and parish, and was well acquainted with the country, farmed these tithes of Dr Swift on very reasonable terms, greatly to his own advantage. When the dean was much in the decline of life, he invited Dr. Wilson to accept of apartments for himself and his wife in the deanery house at Dublin; where they had very good lodgings, with the benefit of his servants and stables. Dr. Swift's memory failing him greatly at this time, Wilson took the advantage of carrying him to his house at Newland, within four miles of Dublin, and endeavoured to intoxicate him with liquor, which he could not accomplish; and, on their return to Dublin, solicited Dr. Swift to make him subdean of St. Patrick's, and turn out Dr. Wynne, a very worthy and hospitable gentleman, which Dr. Swift refused; on which, Dr. Wilson, in a most outrageous manner, insulted the dean, beat him very severely, took him by the throat, and would have choked him, had it not been for the dean's footman and coachman, who rescued him out of the hands of Wilson. This affair made a great noise; Wilson was forbidden the dean's house, and died soon after. To this same "beast in human shape," as lord Orrery justly calls him, Dr. Swift had bequeathed "the works of Plato in three folio volumes, the earl of Clarendon's history in three folio volumes, and my best Bible, together with thirteen small Persian pictures in the drawingroom, and the small silver tankard given to me by the contribution of some friends whose names are engraved at the bottom of the said tankard."