Swift At Thomastown

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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