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“In opposition to this society, there sprang up another, composed of scarecrows and skeletons, who, being very meagre and envious, did all they could to thwart the designs of their bulky brethren, whom they represented as men of dangerous principles, till at length they worked them out of the favor of the people, and, consequently, out of the magistracy. These factions tore the corporation in pieces for several years, till at length they came to this accommodation : that the two bailiffs of the town should be annually chosen out of the clubs, by which means the principal magistrates are at this day coupled like rabbits, one fat and one lean.
“ The Humdrum club, of which I was formerly an unworthy member, was made up of very honest gentlemen of peaceable disposition, that used to sit together, smoke their pipes, and say nothing till midnight. The Mum club (as I am informed) is an institution of the same nature, and as great an enemy to noise.
“ After these two innocent societies, I cannot forbear mentioning a very mischievous one that was erected in the time of King Charles II.: I mean the club of duelists, into which none was to be admitted who had not fought his man. The president of it was said to have killed half a dozen in single combat; but as for the other members, they took their seats according to the number of their slain. There was likewise a side-table, for such as had only drawn blood, and shown a laudable ambition of taking the first opportunity to qualify themselves for the first table. This club, consisting only of men of honor, did not continue long, most of the members of it being put to the sword, or hanged, a little after its institution.
“Our modern celebrated clubs are founded upon eating and drinking, which are points wherein most men agree, and in which the learned and the illiterate, the dull and the airy, the philosopher and the buffoon, can all of them bear a part. When men are thus knit together by a love of society, not a spirit of faction, and do not meet to censure or annoy those that are absent, but to enjoy one another; when they are thus combined for their own improvement, or for the good of others, or at least to relax themselves from the business of the day by an innocent and cheerful conversation, — there may be something very useful in these little institutions and establishments.”
Addison's prose style has ever since his day been regarded as a model, and stands for that which is most stately and polished in English prose. In spite of the fact that his carefully worded sentences sound a little stiff and old-fashioned, we cannot help feeling their charm as they flow from his pen; and there are few names in literature that excite a warmer personal interest in those who are familiar with his life and his writings than the name of Joseph Addison.
ON THE GREAT DEAN SWIFT.
HE last writer whom we shall include in the Augustan age is JONATHAN SWIFT, who was a clergyman of the
English Church and was appointed to the deanery 1667-1745
of the Cathedral of St. Patrick's, in Ireland, which gave him the title of Dean Swift, by which he is best known. He began life, like so many other great men, without fortune, and as a young man was a secretary and a poor dependent in the family of Sir William Temple. Swift seems to have felt poverty and dependence on a rich patron very bitterly. It soured him, and spoiled his manners all his life long, at least, this is the only explanation, except natural ill-temper, of the fact that his manners were brusque and disagreeable to the worst degree, although, in spite of this, he had many friends, and won the affection of two lovable and accomplished women. His conduct to these two women, both of whom were devoted to him, was heartless; his behavior to people who befriended him was often rude and uncivil; and if we may judge of him through his biographies, he is a man whom we should prefer to know only in his writings. But there he appears a great
He was a versatile writer, and whatever he wrote was at once noted. His satires in prose were as keen as Pope's rhymed satires; he was as shrewd an observer and could hit off the follies of the age as cleverly as Addison or Steele ; he almost rivalled De Foe in his power of painting fiction with the hues of truth; and he was a clever poet besides. Whatever he does, the quality that impresses one in his work is power.
The first work which drew notice was The Battle of the Books. The question had been raised in France whether modern writers were not as great as the ancient writers. This dispute spread to England. Naturally, in the state of public taste, the greater part of the reading world thought it a dangerous heresy to assert that a modern writer could equal those of Greece and Rome, and the valiant few who dared to stand by this idea were hooted at in disdain. In The Battle of the Books, Swift sided with the majority, and assailed with the arrows of his satire those who ventured to plead for the moderns.
The Battle of the Books was soon followed by the Tale of a Tub, which made a sensation in literary circles that we could hardly appreciate in reading it nowadays. This was the story of three sons who, on the death of their father, are each bequeathed a coat that, with proper usage, should last a lifetime. These three sons are Peter (the Papist), Martin (the English Church), and Jack (the Dissenter). In those days the pulpits of Dissenting preachers were called “ tubs," in derision, whence Swift got the title for his book of The Tale of a Tub.
The trouble that these three brothers have with their coats, and the shifts they are put to to wear them in conformity to their father's will, is very droll to read about, even when we do not care to follow out the satire. I hardly need tell you that although Martin has some share in the ridicule, yet his coat is in very good condition, and comes out bravely beside those of his brothers, Jack and Peter.
Gulliver's Travels appeared about twenty years after The Tale of a Tub. In the mean time, Swift had written many prose tracts and several poems. During this time he was made Dean of St. Patrick's. He was one of those men who, like Dryden, exercised a power over their age. He could wield this power over men and affairs even from his remote post in Ireland ; and when he went to London (and his visits there were frequent) the great metropolis felt his presence. He was a guest at the houses of the great, the Scriblerus Club were honored to have him as a member, and he was the friend of Pope, Gay, Addison, and of all the famous men of this Augustan age.
Gulliver's Travels will live when all the religious and political quarrels that it laughs at are altogether forgotten. It is the account of the travels of a respectable English man who meets with most extraordinary adventures, which are related in the same realistic way in which De Foe tells his stories. Gulliver is first shipwrecked in the country of the Lilliputians, or little people. Finding himself safe from the sea, and once more on firm earth, he lies down, overpowered with fatigue, and falls into a deep sleep. When he wakes he finds himself besieged by an army of little beings three inches in height, who have erected scaling-ladders to climb upon his body, and are walking about all over him. They have brought their ropes and cables (of the size of common thread), and made an ingenious array of bonds to fasten him to the earth. At the first movement he makes on waking, he breaks a great part of the network of bonds that fastens him ; then the little army discharge a flight of arrows, which prick him like needles. Finding, however, that he is not disposed to harm them, they at last lead the “man-mountain," as they call him, to the presence of their emperor, and he is entertained with princely hospitality in the kingdom of Lilliput. He thus gives an account of his manner of living :
“ And here it may perhaps divert the curious reader to give some account of my domestics and my manner of living in this country during a residence of nine months and thirteen days. Having a head mechanically turned, and being likewise forced by necessity, I had made for myself a table and chair, convenient enough, out of the largest trees in the royal park. Two hundred seamstresses were employed to make me shirts and linen for my bed and table, all of the strongest and coarsest kind they could get; which, however, they were forced to quilt together in several folds, for the thickest was some degrees finer than lawn. Their linen is usually three inches wide, and three feet make a piece. The seamstresses took my measure as I lay on the ground, one standing at my neck and another at my mid-leg with a strong cord extended that each held by the end,
while a third measured the length of the cord with a rule of an inch long. Then they measured my right thumb, and desired no more, for, by mathematical computation, that twice round the thumb is once round the wrist, and so on to the neck and waist;
and by the help of my old shirt, which I displayed before them on the ground for a pattern, they fitted me exactly. Three hundred tailors were employed in the same manner to make me clothes; but they had another contrivance for taking my measure. I kneeled down, and they raised a ladder from the ground to my neck; upon this ladder one of them mounted, and let fall a plumb-line from my collar to the floor, which just answered the length of my coat; but my waist and arms I measured myself. When my clothes were finished (which was done in my house, for the largest of theirs would not have been able to hold them) they looked like the patchwork made by the ladies in England, only that mine were all of a color.
“ I had three hundred cooks to dress my victuals in little convenient huts built about my house, where they and their families lived and prepared me two dishes apiece; I took up twenty waiters in my hand, and placed them on the table; a hundred more attended below on the ground, some with dishes of meat, and some with barrels of wine and other liquors slung on their shoulders, all which the waiters above drew up, as I wanted, in a very ingenious manner, by certain cords, as we draw the bucket up a well in Europe. A dish of their meat was a good mouthful, and a barrel of their liquor a reasonable draught. Their mutton yields to ours, but their beef is excellent. I have had a sirloin so large that I have been forced to make three bites of it; but this is rare. My servants were astonished to see me eat it, bones and all, as in this country we do the leg of a lark. Their geese and turkeys I usually eat at a mouthful, and I confess they far excel ours. Of their smaller fowls I could take up twenty or thirty at the end of my knife.
“One day his imperial majesty (the Emperor of Lilliput], being informed of my way of living, desired that himself and his royal consort, with the young princes of the blood of both sexes, might have the happiness,' as he pleased to call it, of dining with me.' They came accordingly, and I placed them in chairs of state upon my table, just over against me, with their guards about them. Flimnap, the lord high treasurer, attended them likewise with his white staff; and I observed he often looked on me with a sour countenance, which I would not seem to regard, but eat more than usual, in honor of my dear country, as well as to fill the court with admiration. I have some private