In 1728, in "about eight months," says Wilde, "he had half a dozen attacks of the giddiness and sickness, each of which lasted about three weeks." But in 1731 he wrote to Mr. Gay, "The giddiness I was subject to, instead of coming seldom and violent, now constantly attends me more or less, though in a more peaceable manner, yet such as will not qualify me to live among the young and healthy." In 1736, writing to Pope, "years and infirmities have quite broke me. I mean that continual disorder in my head." In 1737, to Alderman Barker, "I am forced to tell you my health is much decayed; my deafness and giddiness more frequent; spirits I have none left; my memory is almost gone."
Long before, however, these symptoms had commenced. Impairment of memory he complained of as early as 1713, after the attack of shingles; and later on in the same year he speaks of his horrible melancholy changing into dullness, and from thenceforth increasing irritability of temper and mental depression are traceable throughout his history and correspondence. Not that he was at any time really of unsound mind or incapable; for, when in 1737, in the Bettesworth affair, a gratifying address was presented to him, it i s recorded that "when this paper was delivered Swift was in bed, giddy and deaf, having been some time before seized with one of his fits; but he dictated an answer in which there is all the dignity of habitual pre-eminence and all the resignation of humble piety."
The above quotations are but a selection from a far greater number of references which might be made to Swift's letters and journals, affording conclusive evidence, as I venture to think, that he suffered from twenty years of age from the disease, whose characteristic symptoms are, "that the patient is suddenly seized with vertigo and a feeling of nausea or positive sickness, with great constitutional depression and faintness. Usually the giddiness comes on simultaneously with ringing or buzzing in one or, it may be, both ears."—Ferrier.
It has this year been pointed out by Féré, in the "Revue de Médecine," that there are two forms of the disease to be recognized, "une forme grave avec état vertigineux à peu près permanent interrompu par les paroxysmes, et une forme moins fâcheuse, constitutée par des accès séparés par des périodes de santé parfaite. . . . Dans la forme bénigne [of which Swift's was an example] les accès ne se produisent quelquefois qu'à des distances très éloignées. E. Ménière cite une malade qui eut une rémission de onze mois. Pendant ces périodes d'accalmie, la surdité persiste avec une intensité variable, et elle s'accompagne souvent des sensations subjectives intermittentes de l'ouïe. La maladie elle-même dure tant que la surdité n'est pas absolue."
Up to the date to which we have traced the progress of the disease, it appears to have been purely a physical malady, with no mental symptoms, unless some degree of loss of memory can be so called.