After leaving college, he spent almost ten years as the private secretary of Sir William Temple, at Moor Park in Surrey, about forty miles southwest of London. Temple had been asked to furnish some employment for the young graduate because Lady Temple was related to Swift’s mother. Here Swift was probably treated as a dependent, and he had to eat at the second table. Finally, this life became so intolerable that he took holy orders and went to a little parish in Ireland; but after a stay of eighteen months he returned to Moor Park, where he remained until Temple’s death in 1699. Swift then went to another little country parish in Ireland. From there he visited London on a mission in behalf of the Episcopal Church in Ireland. He quarreled with the Whigs, became a Tory, and assisted that party by writing many political pamphlets. The Tory ministry soon felt that it could scarcely do without him. He dined with ministers of state, and was one of the most important men in London; but he advanced the interests of his friends much better than his own, for he got little from the government except the hope of becoming bishop. In 1713 he was made dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. In 1714, Queen Anne died, the Tories went out of power, and Swift returned to Ireland, a disappointed man. He passed the rest of his life there, with the exception of a few visits to England.
[Illustration: MOOR PARK. From a drawing.]
When English politicians endeavored to oppress Ireland with unjust laws, Swift championed the Irish cause. A man who knew him well, says: “I never saw the poor so carefully and conscientiously attended to as those of his cathedral.” He gave up a large part of his income every year for the poor. In Dublin he was looked upon as a hero. When a certain person tried to be revenged on Swift for a satire, a deputation of Swift’s neighbors proposed to thrash the man. Swift sent them home, but they boycotted the man and lowered his income L1200 a year.
During the last years of his life, Swift was hopelessly insane. He died in 1745, leaving his property for an asylum for lunatics and incurables.
[Illustration: SWIFT AND STELLA. From the painting by Dicksee.]
The mysteries in Swift’s life may be partly accounted for by the fact that during many years he suffered from an unknown brain disease. This affection, the galling treatment received in his early years, and the disappointments of his prime, largely account for his misanthropy, for his coldness, and for the almost brutal treatment of the women who loved him.
Swift’s attachment to the beautiful Esther Johnson, known in literature as Stella, led him to write to her that famous series of letters known as the Journal to Stella, in which he gives much of his personal history during the three sunniest years of his life, from 1710 to 1713, when he was a lion in London. Thackeray says: “I know of nothing more manly, more tender, more exquisitely touching, than some of these brief notes, written in what Swift calls his ’little language’ in his Journal to Stella.”