Five Miscellaneous Essays

Five Miscellaneous Essays

Five Miscellaneous Essays

Five Miscellaneous Essays

Excerpt

Although the five essays collected in this volume were, in their own time and afterward, both famous and influential, they are probably not much read today. Nonetheless, I believe that they can please and instruct twentieth-century readers, not only because of the charm of their style, but because to a considerable extent they reveal the temperament of a very human writer, as well as place us on what may be thought of as the continental divide between the old and vanishing late middle ages and the Renaissance on the one hand, and our own odd though familiar world on the other. Students in seventeenth- or eighteenth-century courses may know one or two of them, and every specialist in the life and works of Jonathan Swift or in the intellectual history of the Restoration period must take them into account. Temple will always be interesting as the earliest patron of Swift and as, in perhaps indeterminable ways, one of the formative influences on his mind and character. But he also exists as an important, if minor, representative figure in his own right.

1. TEMPLE'S LIFE AND CHARACTER

When, in 1699, Sir William Temple died at Moor Park, he was one of the most famous men in England. Diplomat, adviser of Charles II (whose offer of the secretaryship of state he had thrice refused), friend of King William III, historian and essayist, he had played important roles in the political and intellectual life of his time. Abruptly, as it seemed to those who did not know him or understand his motives, he had given up in 1681 what seemed a splendid public career to go into complete retirement in the country for the rest of his life. Swift, in a memorandum, wrote of him:

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.