Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Dean Swift at Button's


It was just after Queen Anne's accession that Swift made acquaintance with the leaders of the wits at Button's. Ambrose Philips refers to him as the strange clergyman whom the frequenters of the Coffee-house had observed for some days. He knew no one, no one knew him. He would lay his hat down on a table, and walk up and down at a brisk pace for half an hour without speaking to any one, or seeming to pay attention to anything that was going forward. Then he would snatch up his hat, pay his money at the bar, and walk off, without having opened his lips. The frequenters of the room had christened him "the mad parson." One evening, as Mr. Addison and the rest were observing him, they saw him cast his eyes several times upon a gentleman in boots, who seemed to be just come out of the country. At last, Swift advanced towards this bucolic gentleman, as if intending to address him. They were all eager to hear what the dumb parson had to say, and immediately quitted their seats to get near him. Swift went up to the country gentleman, and in a very abrupt manner, without any previous salute, asked him, "Pray, Sir, do you know any good weather in the world?" After staring a little at the singularity of Swift's manner and the oddity of the question, the gentleman answered, "Yes, Sir, I thank God I remember a great deal of good weather in my time."—"That is more," replied Swift, "than I can say; I never remember any weather that was not too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry; but, however God Almighty contrives it, at the end of the year 'tis all very well."

Sir Walter Scott gives, upon the authority of Dr. Wall, of Worcester, who had it from Dr. Arbuthnot himself, the following anecdote—less coarse than the version generally told. Swift was seated by the fire at Button's: there was sand on the floor of the coffee-room, and Arbuthnot, with a design to play upon this original figure, offered him a letter, which he had been just addressing, saying at the same time, "There—sand that."—"I have got no sand," answered Swift, "but I can help you to a little gravel." This he said so significantly, that Arbuthnot hastily snatched back his letter, to save it from the fate of the capital of Lilliput.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. II
London, 1866