Home  »  Volume IX: English FROM STEELE AND ADDISON TO POPE AND SWIFT  »  § 7. Intimacy with Harley and St. John

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

IV. Swift

§ 7. Intimacy with Harley and St. John

An attempt to lessen the power of the duke of Marlborough had come to nothing. Harley, just when he seemed to have attained success, lost his office; Marlborough and Godolphin joined the whigs, and, by the end of 1708, Somers was lord president of the council and Wharton lord lieutenant of Ireland. Swift was hoping for preferment for himself; but he informed correspondents that no promise of making his fortune would prevail on him to go against what became a man of conscience and truth and an entire friend to the established church. Hopes that had been held out to him came to nothing, and Swift retired to Ireland. A great change, however, was not far distant. The prosecution of Sacheverell gave the high church party its chance. The whigs were turned out of office: Harley became chancellor of the exchequer, and the new parliament of November, 1710, had a great tory majority. In September, Swift was again in London, and the events of the three following years, with all Swift’s thoughts and hopes, are set out before us in his letters to Esther Johnson and Mrs. Dingley, afterwards to be published as the Journal to Stella. In a very short time, Swift was in company with Harley and St. John. The whigs, he said, had clutched at him like a drowning man at a twig, but he minded them not. Harley listened to the proposals as to first fruits, showed familiarity with Swift’s Christian name and, in general, was excessively obliging. Swift confessed that he was willing to revenge himself upon his old friends, who had neglected him. “I will make them repent their ill-usage before I leave this place,” he said. But we must not forget that, in joining the tories, he was only rallying to the side with which he was really in sympathy. The interests of the church were paramount with him; and he had come to see that tories were the church’s natural guardians. In October, he attacked Godolphin in The Virtues of Sid Hamet the Magician’s Rod, and published a pamphlet against Wharton, charging him with nearly every crime.