Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/296

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284
A NOTE ON FORSTER'S SWIFT.

British Museum, of the genuine and complete text of the first one and the last twenty-four of the letters which make up what is called the Journal to Stella. Here for the first time we read, just as they were written, the "little language" and the caressing diminutives and abbreviations Swift used with his darling; the delightful, fantastic, secret, childish, infinitely tender babblement, never weary of repeating itself, welling up amidst and around the records of the ruggedest affairs of State, like perennial springs of pure sweet water in a region of savage rocks. He was fighting Titanically a Titanic battle; and night and morning, in bed before he rose, in bed before he slept, he found refreshment and peace in these infantine outpourings of innocent love. The sternest cynics have such soft places in their heart of hearts! incomparably softer than the softness of unctuous sentimentalists; liquid with living fountains where these are boggy with ooze.

I have quoted Mr. Forster's very fair judgment on the biographies by Dr. Johnson and Sir Walter Scott. It must be added that of the two writers of most authority who have since dealt with the life and character of Swift, Macaulay does him even less justice than did Johnson, and Thackeray not much more. Both, and Thackeray in particular, were impressed by the supremacy of his genius; but both were essentially out of sympathy with the man. Thackeray, although vulgarly charged with cynicism, was less a cynic than a worldling of genius who had cynical moods. He had a great deal of genuine respect for the established, the customary, the common-place, and was altogether more ironical in tone than in fact when he classed himself among the Snobs he satirised so keenly, though he was certainly a very superior specimen of the class. One of the common threads interwoven with the finer and richer threads of his fabric, was a very soft