Normally, when Swift comes into our minds, we think of him as a man filled with a savage indignation that never ceased to lacerate his heart; as a man who throughout his life wrote the most withering, even bitter, satires; and to think of him dying is to think of an empire falling. Or we consider him to have lived as an unhappy being, suffering one gruelling disappointment after another and, for some reason, or reasons, inhibited in his loves. We are inclined to forget that when St. John was most politically harried, nothing would refresh him more than ‘to walk in the Park with the jocose Dean’: that Swift could be seen to ‘laugh and shake in Rab’lais’ easy Chair’; and we may not remember that Ford could write to him as one of ‘those who are formed for mirth and society’. (8 July 1736.) After all, a man cannot live wrathfully all the time; a balance is needed, and it would seem that Swift’s saeva indignatio was offset, even perhaps sustained, by his enormous gaiety. It is this aspect that I should like to try to consider here.
KeywordsEasy Chair Political Friend Usual Seriousness Silver Spoon Conversational Tone
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- Joseph Spence, Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters of Books and Men (London, 1820), pp. 19–20.Google Scholar