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Swift At Thomastown

Irish Humour Home

Dean Swift had heard much of the hospitable festivities of Thomastown,
the seat of Mr. Matthew (See Anecdotes of Conviviality), from his friend
Dr. Sheridan, who had been often, a welcome guest, both on account of
his convivial qualities, and as being the preceptor of the nephew of Mr.
Matthew. He, at length, became desirous of ascertaining with his own
eyes, the truth of a report, which he could not forbear considering as
greatly exaggerated. On receiving an intimation of this from Sheridan,
Mr. Matthew wrote a polite letter to the Dean, requesting the honor of a
visit, in company with the doctor, at his next school vacation. They
accordingly set out on horseback, attended by a gentleman who was a near
relation to Mr. Matthew.

They had scarcely reached the inn where they intended to pass the first
night, and which, like most of the Irish inns at that time, afforded but
miserable entertainment, when they were surprised by the arrival of a
coach and six horses, sent to convey them the remainder of the journey
to Thomastown; and at the same time, bringing a supply of the choicest
viands, wines, and other liquors, for their refreshment. Swift was
highly pleased with this uncommon mark of attention paid him; and the
coach proved particularly acceptable, as he had been a good deal
fatigued with his day's journey.

When they came in sight of the house, the Dean, astonished at its
magnitude, cried out, What, in the name of God, can be the use of such
a vast building? Why, Mr. Dean, replied the fellow traveller before
mentioned, there are no less than forty apartments for guests in that
house, and all of them probably occupied at this time, except what are
reserved for us. Swift, in his usual manner, called out to the
coachman, to stop, and drive him back to Dublin, for he could not think
of mixing with such a crowd. Well, said he, immediately afterwards,
there is no remedy, I must submit, but I have lost a fortnight of my

Mr. Mathew received him at the door with uncommon marks of respect; and
then conducting him to his apartments, after some compliments, made his
usual speech, acquainting him with the customs of the house, and
retired, leaving him in possession of his castle. Soon after, the cook
appeared with his bill of fare, to receive his directions about supper;
and the butler at the same time, with a list of wines, and other
liquors. And is all this really so? said Swift, and may I command
here, as in my own house? His companion assured him he might, and that
nothing could be more agreeable to the owner of the mansion, than that
all under his roof should live comformably to their own inclinations,
without the least restraint. Well then, said Swift, I invite you and
Dr. Sheridan to be my guests, while I stay; for I think I shall scarcely
be tempted to mix with the mob below.

Three days were passed in riding over the demesne, and viewing the
various improvements, without ever seeing Mr. Mathew, or any of the
guests; nor were the company below much concerned at the dean's absence,
as his very name usually inspired those who did not know him, with awe;
and they were afraid that his presence would put an end to the ease and
cheerfulness which reigned among them. On the fourth day, Swift entered
the room where the company were assembled before dinner, and addressed
Mr. Mathew, in a strain of the highest compliment, expatiating on all
the beauties of his improvements, with all the skill of an artist, and
with the taste of a connoisseur. Such an address for a man of Swift's
character, could not fail of being pleasing to the owner, who was, at
the same time, the planner of these improvements; and so fine an
eulogium from one, who was supposed to deal more largely in satire, than
panegyric, was likely to remove the prejudice entertained against his
character, and prepossessed the rest of the company in his favor. He
concluded his speech by saying: And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am
come to live among you, and it shall be no fault of mine, if we do not
pass our time agreeably.

In a short time, all restraint on his account disappeared, he entered
readily into all the little schemes for promoting mirth; and every day,
with the assistance of his coadjutor, produced some new one, which
afforded a good deal of sport and merriment. In short, never were such
joyous scenes know at, Thomastown before. When the time came, which
obliged Sheridan to return to his school, the company were so delighted
with the dean, that they earnestly entreated him to remain there some
time longer; and Mr. Mathew himself for once broke through a rule which
he observed, of never soliciting the stay of any guest. Swift found
himself so happy, that he readily yielded to their solicitations; and
instead of a fortnight, passed four months there, much to his
satisfaction, and that of all those who visited the place during that

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