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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Dean Swift

  • [Jonathan Swift, a celebrated satirist, born in Dublin, Nov. 30, 1667; published “The Tale of a Tub,” 1704; became intimate with Bolingbroke, Pope, and Harley; appointed dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, 1713; wrote “Gulliver’s Travels,” 1726–27; died, after a failure of his mental faculties, October, 1745.]
  • If you like the terms of the loan, down with the dust!

  • A short charity sermon on the text, “He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.”
  • Any man may get a reputation for benevolence by judiciously laying out five pounds a year.

    The chief end of all my labor is to vex the world, rather than to divert it.

  • Letter to Pope.
  • Great God! what a genius I had when I wrote that book!

  • Of the “Tale of a Tub.”
  • Send me your bill of company.

  • To a lord who said he would send him his bill of fare, when inviting him to dinner.
  • His impromptu epitaph on Vanbrugh, the architect, is well-known:—
  • “Lie heavy on him, Earth, for he
  • Laid many a heavy load on thee.”
  • He said to an elderly gentleman who had lost his spectacles, “If this rain continues all night, you will certainly find them in the morning,” punning on spectacula in Virgil’s line,—
  • “Nocte totâ pluit, redeunt spectacula mane.”
  • Swift made an even wittier quotation, when a lady at an entertainment at Dublin Castle knocked a violin off the table with her mantle:—
  • “Mantua væ miseræ nimium vicina Cremonæ;”
  • literally,—
  • “Mantua too near, alas! to miserable Cremona.”
  • The Jesuit Père Arnoud saw Marie de Medici enter Notre Dame, where he was preaching during Passion Week. Obliged to begin his sermon anew, he addressed to the queen the line of Virgil,—
  • “Infandum regina jubes renovare dolorem.”
  • Æneid, II. 2.
  • “Thou bidst me, queen, renew a grief no words can speak.”
  • Long’s Translation.
  • The best of life is just tolerable: ’tis the most we can make of it.

  • When a quack pretended to cure agues, and wrote “egoes” on his sign, Swift was sure “the cure was not made by a spell.”
  • He gave a Mr. Coote a letter of introduction to Pope in these words: “Though this little fellow be a justice of the peace and a member of our Irish House of Commons, yet he may not be altogether unworthy of your acquaintance.”
  • When asked at a sheriff’s dinner to drink to the trade of Ireland, he replied, “Sir, I drink no memories.”
  • Yes, and you are reeling it home.

  • When a drunken weaver staggered against him, saying he had been spinning it out.
  • After the dissipated Duke of Wharton had been narrating his frolics, Swift said to him, “My lord, let me recommend one more to you. Take a frolic to be good: rely upon it, you will find it the pleasantest frolic you were ever engaged in.”
  • When asked the easiest and at the same time the most difficult thing a man could do: “Bolt a door.”
  • In a letter to Bolingbroke, March 21, 1729, he said he did not wish “to die here in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole.”
  • Walking once with Pope and Addison, Swift stopped to look at a tree dead at the top. “I shall end like it,” he remarked.—JOHNSON: Life. He died mad. His last words were, as Handel was announced, “Ah, a German and a genius! a prodigy, admit him!”
  • “From Marlborough’s eyes the streams of dotage flow,
  • And Swift expires a driveller and a show.”
  • JOHNSON: Vanity of Human Wishes.
  • “No one could be an ill-tempered man,” said Fox, “who wrote so much nonsense as Swift did.”
  • Coleridge called Swift “the soul of Rabelais dwelling in a dry place.”