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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/Jonathan Swift Journal Entry

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 19

DR. SWIFT'S ACCOUNT OF HIS MOTHER'S DEATH, 1710.


Mem. On Wednesday, between seven and eight, in the evening, May 10, 1710, I received a letter in my chamber at Laracor (Mr. Percival and John Beaumont being by) from Mrs. Fenton, dated May 9th, with one enclosed, sent from Mrs. Worrall at Leicester to Mrs. Fenton, giving an account, that my dear mother Mrs. Abigail Swift died that morning, Monday, April 24, 1710[1], about ten o'clock, after a long sickness, being ill all winter, and lame, and extremely ill a month or six weeks before her death. I have now lost my barrier between me and death; God grant I may live to be as well prepared for it, as I confidently believe her to have been! If the way to Heaven be through piety, truth, justice, and charity, she is there[2]. J. S.


  1. "1710, April 27, Abigail Swift, widow, aged 70 years, buried." Register of St. Martin's, Leicester.
  2. This memorandum is copied from one of the account books, which Dr. Swift always made up yearly, and on each page entered minutely all his receipts and expenses in every month, beginning his year from Nov. 1. He observed the same method all his lifetime till his last illness. At the foot of that page which includes his expenses in the month of May 1710, at his glebe house in Laracor, in the county of Meath, where he was then resident, are the above remarkable words; which show at the same time his filial piety, and the religious use which he thought it his duty to make of that melancholy event. He always treated his mother, during her life, with the utmost duty and affection; and she sometimes came to Ireland, to visit him after his settlement at Laracor. She lodged at Mr. Brent's the printer, in George's lane, Dublin; and once asked her landlady, "Whether she could keep a secret?" Who replied, "She could very well." Upon which, she enjoined her not to make the matter publick, which she was now going to communicate to her. "I have a spark in this town, that I carried on a correspondence with while I was in England. He will be here presently, to pay his addresses; for he has heard by this time of my arrival. But I would not have the matter known." Soon after this, a rap was heard at the door; and Dr. Swift walked up stairs. Mrs. Brent retired; but, after a little time, she was called; and then Mrs. Swift introduced her visitor, and said, "This is my spark I was telling you of: this is my lover; and indeed the only one I shall ever admit to pay their addresses to me." The doctor smiled at his mother's humour, and afterward payed his duty to her every day unsuspected by Mrs. Brent, whom he invited some years afterward to take care of his family affairs, when he became dean of St. Patrick's. And when she died, he continued her daughter (Mrs. Ridgeway, then a poor widow) in the same office.