Monday, 26 October 2020

Swift Resolutions

 Patrick Kurp's post this morning, on growing older, put me in mind (and him too, I'm sure) of Swift's 'Resolutions When I Come to Be Old'.  One of his most direct and straightforwardly human pieces of writing, it dates from 1699, when Swift was only 32 and Gulliver's Travels was 27 years in the future:

-Not to marry a young Woman.
-Not to keep young Company unless they reely desire it.
-Not to be peevish or morose, or suspicious.
-Not to scorn present Ways, or Wits, or Fashions, or Men, or War, &c.
-Not to be fond of Children, or let them come near me hardly.
-Not to tell the same story over and over to the same People.
-Not to be covetous.
-Not to neglect decency, or cleenlyness, for fear of falling into Nastyness.
-Not to be over severe with young People, but give Allowances for their youthfull follyes and weaknesses.
-Not to be influenced by, or give ear to knavish tatling servants, or others.
-Not to be too free of advise, nor trouble any but those that desire it.
-To desire some good Friends to inform me wch of these Resolutions I break, or neglect, and wherein; and reform accordingly.
-Not to talk much, nor of my self.
-Not to boast of my former beauty, or strength, or favor with Ladyes, &c.
-Not to hearken to Flatteryes, nor conceive I can be beloved by a young woman, et eos qui hereditatem captant, odisse ac vitare.
-Not to be positive or opiniative.
-Not to sett up for observing all these Rules; for fear I should observe none.

Number five is a strange kind of resolution, especially as being with children can be one of the great pleasures and consolations of old age. However, other than that, they strike me as pretty sound – especially, perhaps, the last one. Sadly, by the time Swift reached his old age, he was suffering from dementia. 'I shall be like that tree,' he is supposed to have said, pointing to a stag-headed specimen. 'I shall die at the top.'

1 comment:

  1. Not to be positive or opinionative? I think it is Johnson who tells the story of Swift doubting some bishop's assertion that so-and-so had written Tale of a Tub. The bishop first told him that he "was a very positive young man", and on his persisting told him that he "was a very young man."