Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/835

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DEAN SWIFT'S DISEASE.

housekeeper removing a knife from him as he was going to catch at it, he shrugged his shoulders, and rocking himself, he said, 'I am what I am. I am what I am'; and about six minutes afterward repeated the same words two or three times over. Sometimes he will not utter a syllable, at other times he will speak incoherent words; but he never yet, as far as I could hear, talked nonsense, or said a foolish thing. About four months ago he gave me great trouble. he seemed to have a mind to talk to me. In order to try what he would say, I told him I came to dine with him, and immediately his housekeeper, Mrs. Ridgeway, said, 'Won't you give Mr. Swift a glass of wine, sir?' he shrugged his shoulders, just as he used to do when he had a mind that a friend should not spend the evening with him. Shrugging his shoulders, your lordship may remember, was as much as to say, 'You'll ruin me in wine.' I own I was scarce able to bear the sight. Soon after he again endeavored, with a good deal of pain, to find words to speak to me; at last, not being able, after many efforts, be gave a heavy sigh, and I think was afterward silent. This puts me in mind of what he said about five days ago. He endeavored several times to speak to his servant [now and then he calls him by his name]; at last, not finding words to express what he would be at, he said, 'I am a fool.' Not long ago the servant took up his watch that lay upon the table, to see what o'clock it was; he said, Bring it here,' and when it was brought, he looked very attentively at it. Some time ago the servant was breaking a large, stubborn coal, he said, 'That's a stone, you blockhead.' In a few days, or some very short time after guardians had been appointed for him, I went into his dining-room, where he was walking; I said something to him very insignificant, I know not what, but, instead of making any kind of answer to it, he said, 'Go, go,' pointing with his hand to the door, and immediately afterward, raising his hand to his head, he said, 'My best understanding,' and so broke off abruptly, and walked away."

These two letters are stated by Sir William Wilde to be the only account of the last three years of Swift's life that has come down to us. He died October 19, 1745, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. His death, according to Lord Orrery, being easy, without the least pang or convulsion; but according to Faulkner, being one of "great agony, with strong convulsive fits" for thirty-six hours before. The only record of the autopsy which was made is that Mr. Whiteway "opened the skull, and found much water in the brain." A more interesting record, however, remains in the plaster cast of Swift's head. Of this Sir Walter Scott says that "the expression is most unequivocally maniacal, and one side of the mouth horribly contorted downward as if in pain." But Sir William Wilde, whose observation we greatly prefer in such a matter, says: "The expression is remarkably placid, but there is an evident drag on the left side of the mouth, exhibiting a paralysis of the facial muscles to the right side. Upon the