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editor of such psalms) to signify that the vocal part should be performed solo; while the term “Selah” may denote the proper intervals for the interlude or chorus. The officer intended is, doubtless, the superintendent, or “leader” of the Levitical orchestra in the temple. The concluding word in, expresses the mode of the musical performance (the style being probably indicated by the time of the title) as being, "by means of the Negináh,” which, as being derived from 2, to strike the chords, “ to play,” probably designates some form of stringed instrument, as if it were said, harpsichord. The suffix “my” can hardly be pressed to show any special invention or participation in the performance by the writer, (compare Isaiah xxxviii, 20,) but seems to be used vaguely (as in the clause preceding) to express simply his sympathy or concurrence in the music.
ART. V.-DEAN SWIFT.
The Works of Jonathan Swift, D.D., Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin. With Copious Notes and Additions, and a Memoir of the Author. By Thomas Roscoe. Complete in six volumes. New York: Derby & Jackson.
THERE is scarcely to be found in literature a term more vague than “ classic.” It is presumed to indicate some undefined excellence in an author to whom it is applied. For ages the ancient writers of Greece and Rome occupied this niche in the temple of fame, far beyond the reach of rivalry. To this day the word retains so much of its old and special signification, that a man can scarcely vindicate a claim to be called a classical scholar unless he is familiar with the renowned authors of Greece and Rome.
The term “classic,” however, has no such exclusive application as of old. We have voted our favorite modern authors cards of admission into the charmed circle. An enterprising American publishing house has recently issued the works of a dozen English authors, who are catalogued as “Standard British Classics." To this choice library Addison, Smollett,
and Swift contribute six volumes each, while Sterne, De Foe, and Johnson furnish each but two. Seldom in any convivial assembly did the words of Dr. Johnson bear such a proportion to those of his companions as in this collection of British classics. As if in compensation, however, Boswell is allowed to present four volumes, with Dr. Johnson as his subject.
In this coterie of British classics there is no one who appears so unexpectedly to himself as Dean Swift. He was always sufficiently careful of his personal appearance in gay and fashionable circles, but for this unexpected presentment he manifestly made no special preparation. He is not clad in costume which he has carefully adjusted in reference to a fine appearance before posterity. He appears in plain every-day apparel. All his productions are of a practical character, written for immediate effect. Yet no author, who has treated solely on the ephemeral topics of his time, has ever appeared so well in the presence of posterity. Here is a collection of political pamphlets, thrown off in haste to subserve the fleeting purposes of the hour, which it seems the world will not willingly let die. This is a literary example well worthy of study. Here is an artist who never gave out that he “painted for immortality;" who applied the colors to the canvas for the amusement and instruction of his own times, and yet did his work so well that succeeding ages demand the right to be amused and edified by the same effective means.
Many Grub-street bards, learned prelates, and literary lords, ambitious of fame, have chosen to dwell upon “glittering generalities” as the best means of gaining their end. Failing to gain the attention and applause of their own times, they have found fault with the age. Presuming that there must be an immortal principle in their works, they have hoped to find at length an appreciating public. They sadly missed the immortality they aimed at, and the world does not imagine herself the loser that they have gone to oblivion. The lesson to be learned by the literary man is, that he should practically and earnestly further by his writings the great ends of the
age in which he lives. If he does this with genius worthy of distinction, he is more likely to be known and honored in future ages than if he makes recognition by posterity his only end. Dean Swift trod no new and unexplored highway to immortality, but pursued the broad and humble road along which were plodding all the plain pedestrians of his day. The reason why he is known while his fellow-travelers are forgotten is, that he pursued his course with more energy and vigor than they all.
Dean Swift is now introduced for the first time in due form to readers on this side of the Atlantic. His Gulliver's Travels have indeed been repeatedly published in America, yet no complete edition of his works has, until recently, been issued in this country.
The editor has, perhaps, done his peculiar and proper work well enough, though it seems to have amounted to little more than appending an occasional note to explain some of the more obvious political references in the satires. His work as a biographer is indifferently done. The voluminous “Life," which precedes the Works, is set forth with little skillfulness of style. As a writer, he seems to emulate the faults and avoid the virtues of his illustrious subject. He evidently lacks the rugged common sense of Swift. In his first paragraph he sets forth the remarkable" coincidence that the works of Swift were originally published in the reign of a queen, and now Mr. Roscoe's complete edition sees the light under the auspicious scepter of another female sovereign !
Mr. Roscoe combines the office of the special pleader with that of biographer, and seems determined to procure the acquittal of his client on all the charges which society has preferred against him. To effect this end facts are placed in situations prominent or obscure, as suits the purpose; Addison and Johnson are accused of envy; and Sir Walter Scott, a former biographer, who has always been regarded sufficiently charitable, is charged with admitting too many circumstances injurious to the memory of Dr. Swift. Jonathan Swift was of an old family.” As things old are
“ liable to be, it was also a “decayed family." The decay in such cases consists in poverty, with inconvenient pride and superannuated aristocracy.
Swift's grandfather had ten sons and four daughters, and possessed no landed estate with which to endow them. They were, consequently, under the necessity of applying themselves. to such pursuits as would secure a subsistence. Godwin, the
eldest, was at first a barrister of Gray's Inn. Subsequently going to Ireland, and being so fortunate as to contract a matrimonial alliance with a noble family of that island, he attained to the attorney-generalship of the palatinate of Tipperary. Godwin's success attracted his four brothers to follow him to that auspicious province. One of them was Jonathan, the father of the dean, who had also entered the profession of the law. He had a brief career, dying soon after his arrival in Ireland. He had been married but two years, and had made but slender provision for his family. Under these inauspicious circumstances, seven months after his father's death, Jonathan Swift was born on the 30th of November, 1667.
When but a few months old he was carried away to England by his nurse. There he remained until he was six years old, his mother dreading to expose him to the dangers of a voyage.
Soon after his return to Ireland he was placed at school in Kilkenny. Having remained here eight years, he entered the University of Dublin. The course of collegiate training at that day was very unreasonable. Swift had a decidedly practical mind and a keen sense of the ludicrous, and the consequence was, that he fully appreciated the scholastical absurdities with which he came in contact. Very naturally, but unwisely, he gave his college course as small a portion of his time as possible. As an inevitable result he was considered a blockhead, and received his degree, as the college record declared, speciala gratia. His own observation and experience pertaining to the pedantry of the schools gave edge to the keenest satire in his "Tale of a Tub,” which was conceived
“ and partly written while he was at college.
In his twenty-first year Swift left the University with no regrets, and after reaching England proceeded on foot to his mother's residence in Leicestershire. He consulted her as to his future course, and she advised him to apply to Sir William Temple, who had married a relation of hers. He was received with great kindness by that distinguished gentleman, who gave him a home under his roof. As Sir William was advanced in age, and much disabled by disease, he found the assistance of his young friend invaluable in his literary labors. The advice of the distinguished author and statesman was of great value to Swift in the prosecution of his studies, to which he now applied himself with more assiduity than in his college days.
In the fourth year of his residence with Sir William Temple he proceeded to Oxford, and received his master's degree. Such was the kindness with which he was treated during his residence there of six weeks, that he ever afterward regarded Oxford with more affection than Dublin, his “mother university.”
The king had great confidence in Sir William Temple, and frequently visited Moor Park to consult him on important measures of public policy. As Sir William was frequently confined to his room by indisposition on these occasions, Swift was often commissioned to communicate his patron's views to the king. The king and the young secretary met on very familiar terms. This intimacy no doubt kindled in Swift some hopes of advancement by royal favor; but he lived long enough to learn how uncertain a thing is the sunshine of princely smiles.
Swift being anxious to establish himself on an independent footing, consulted his patron on the subject. The conference proved quite unsatisfactory. Swift had now become quite useful, and, indeed, necessary to Sir William, who seems to have been slow to assist him to a situation out of unwillingness to lose his society and assistance. Swift at length grew weary of waiting for preferment from his patron, and announced his determination of going to Ireland to take holy orders. He was ordained by the Bishop of Derry in 1694, and immediately entered upon the small living of Kilroot, in the diocese of Connor.
Very soon Sir William Temple learned by the loss of his young friend's society to appreciate it more highly, and became very urgent in his solicitations for his return to Moor Park. As Swift found himself almost “buried alive" in his obscure living in Ireland, he was not long deaf to his old patron's entreaties, and returned to Moor Park in 1696, where he remained until Sir William's death in 1698.
By his connection with Sir William Temple he gained no material advantage save that which his own industry and energy would have given him in any other place favorable to study. Sir William left him a paltry legacy of one hundred pounds, leaving him unprovided for in that which he most de