Sunday, August 24, 2008

Literary/Historical Question

I was re-reading on of CS Forester's Hornblower novels (The Happy Return) when I came across the following passage:
But Hornblower could give no vent to the flood of protest which was welling up within him. His cautious mind told him that a mad-man in a ship as small as the lugger must of necessity be chained to the deck, and his conscience reminded him uneasily of the torments he had seen el Supremo inflict without expostulation. This Spanish way of making a show out of insanity and greatness was repulsive cnough, but could be paralleled often enough in English history. One of the greatest writers of the English language, and a dignitary of the Church to boot, had once been shown in his dotage for a fee. There was only one line of argument which he could adopt.
'You are going to hang him, mad as he is?' he asked. *With no chance of making his peace with God?'
The Spaniard shrugged.
'Mad or sane, rebels must hang. Your Excellency must know that as well as I do.'
Who was this writer and 'dignatary of the Church' who comes to Hornblower's mind? I know that Jonathan Swift was a writer and clergyman, and that his mind went in old age, but I've never heard of him being 'shown in his dotage for a fee'. Was it someone else?


gengulphus said...

Yes, surely Swift.

Dr Johnson (Vanity of Human Wishes):

From Marlb’rough’s eyes the streams of dotage flow,
And Swift expires, a driv’ler and a show.

gengulphus said...

And so sadly different from the entertaining departure that he himself had envisaged in Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift: