Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Swift, Theophilus

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SWIFT, THEOPHILUS (1746–1815), Irish writer, born, probably in Hertfordshire, in 1746, was son of Deane Swift of Dublin, by his wife, daughter of Mrs. Martha Whiteway, his cousin. Both father and mother were cousins of Dr. Jonathan Swift [q. v.]

The father, Deane Swift (1707–1783), son of Deane Swift (d. 1713) ‘of Reper's Rest, near Dublin, Ireland, gent.,’ and grandson of Godwin Swift (uncle of Dr. Jonathan Swift), matriculated from St. Mary Hall, Oxford, on 10 Oct. 1734, and graduated B.A. in 1736. The name Deane came from his great-grandfather, Admiral Richard Deane [q. v.] His cousin, the dean of St. Patrick's, commended him to Pope in 1739. having been assured of his good name at Oxford by Principal William King [q. v.] He enjoyed the small ‘paternal estate’ of the Swifts at Goodrich in Hertfordshire, and died at Worcester on 12 July 1783. Deane Swift is remembered for his publication in 1755 of ‘An Essay upon the Life, Writings, and Character of Dr. Jonathan Swift, interspersed with some Animadversions upon the Remarks of a late critical author [the Earl of Orrery],’ London, 8vo; he was also responsible for vols. xv. xvi. xxi. xxii. and xxiii. in the large octavo edition of Swift's ‘Works’ (ed. John Hawkesworth, 1769), containing the bulk of Swift's correspondence; and he rendered valuable aid to Nichols in his edition of Swift's ‘Works.’ From his mother-in-law, Mrs. Whiteway, Deane Swift obtained forty of the letters of the ‘Journal to Stella,’ which he edited; the original manuscripts are now lost.

Theophilus was educated at Oxford, matriculating at St. Mary Hall on 24 March 1763, and graduating B.A. in 1767. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1774, and, after practising for a few years, settled in Ireland on inheriting some property in Limerick by the death of his father in 1783. He lived in Dublin, where his eccentric opinions and habits attracted attention. In 1789 some hostile remarks on Colonel Charles Lennox (afterwards fourth Duke of Richmond and Lennox) [q. v.], in a pamphlet on Lennox's duel with the Duke of York, led to a duel between Swift and Lennox, which took place in a field near the Uxbridge Road, London, on 3 July. Swift, who was wounded, issued ‘A Letter to the King on the Conduct of Colonel Lennox,’ 1789. He had subsequently some unpleasant controversies with the fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, whom he abused because his son Deane, a student there, ‘the cleverest lad in all Ireland,’ had not been awarded any distinctions at his examinations. In his ‘Animadversions on the Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin’ (1794), he charged some of the fellows with having broken the rule which prohibited them from marrying. He was prosecuted for libel and was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment, while one of his adversaries, the Rev. Dr. Burrowes, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment for libelling him. Swift also had an angry correspondence, which was published in 1811, with the Rev. Dr. Dobbin, whose daughter, after accepting his offer of marriage, had broken her promise. Swift died in 1815 in Dublin. His works are: 1. ‘The Gamblers,’ a poem (anon.), 1777. 2. ‘The Temple of Folly,’ in four cantos, London, 4to, 1787. 3. ‘Poetical Address to His Majesty,’ 4to, 1788. 4. ‘The Female Parliament,’ a poem, 4to, 1789. 5. ‘The Monster at Large,’ 8vo, 1791. 6. ‘An Essay on Rime’ (‘Transactions of Royal Irish Academy’), 1801. 7. ‘Correspondence with the Rev. Dr. Dobbin,’ 8vo, 1811. Theophilus gave a few anecdotes to Sir Walter Scott for his ‘Life’ of Swift.

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 181, v. 387–91; Scott's Works of Swift, i. 498; Moore's Diary, i. 37–8; Gent. Mag. 1803 i. 160; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Nichols's Herald and Genealogist, vii. 550; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland.]

D. J. O'D.