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NOWHERE in the annals of our history is recorded an odder phase of curious fortune than that by which Bishop Berkeley, of Cloyne, was enabled early in the eighteenth century to sail o'erseas to Newport, Rhode Island, there to build (in 1729) the beautiful old place, Whitehall, which is still standing. Hundreds of interested visitors drive every summer to the old house, to take a cup of tea, to muse on the strange story with which the ancient dwelling is con­nected, and to pay the meed of respectful memory to the eminent philosopher who there lived and wrote.

The poet Pope once assigned to this bishop "every virtue under heaven," and this high reputation a study of the man's character faithfully confirms. As a stu­dent at Dublin University, George Berke­ley won many friends, because of his handsome face and lovable nature, and many honours by reason of his brilliancy in mathematics. Later he became a fel­low of Trinity College, and made the ac­quaintance of Swift, Steele, and the other members of that brilliant Old World liter­ary circle, by all of wham he seems to have been sincerely beloved.

A large part of Berkeley's early life was passed as a travelling tutor, but soon after Pope had introduced him to the Earl of Burlington, he was made dean of Derry, through the good offices of that gentleman, and of his friend, the Duke of Grafton, then Lord Lieutenant of Ire­land. Berkeley, however, never cared for personal aggrandisement, and he had long been cherishing a project which he soon announced to his friends as a "scheme for converting the savage Americans to Chris­tianity by a college to be erected in the Summer Islands, otherwise called the Isles of Bermuda."

In a letter from London to his life-long friend and patron, Lord Percival, then at Bath, we find Berkeley, under date of March, 1723, writing thus of the enter­prise which had gradually fired his imag­ination: "It is now about ten months since I have determined to spend the residue of my days in Bermuda, where I trust in Providence I may be the mean instrument of doing great good to man­kind. The reformation of manners among the English in our western plantations, and the propagation of the gospel among the American savages, are two points of high moment. The natural way of doing this is by founding a college or seminary in some convenient part of the West Indies, where the English youth of our plantations may be educated in such sort as to supply their churches with pastors of good. morals and good learning a thing (God knows) much wanted. In the same seminary a number of young American savages may also be educated until they have taken the degree of Master of Arts. And being by that time well instructed in the Christian religion, practical mathematics, and other liberal arts and sciences, and early imbued with public-spirited principles and inclina­tions, they may become the fittest instru­ments for spreading religion, morals, and civil life among their countrymen, who can entertain no suspicion or jealousy of men of their own blood and language; as they might do of English missionaries, who can never be well qualified for that work."

Berkeley then goes on to describe the plans of education for American youths which he had conceived, gives his reasons for preferring the Bermudas as a site for the college, and presents a bright vision of an academic centre from which should radiate numerous beautiful influences.) that should make for Christian civilisation in America. Even the gift of the best dean­ery in England failed to divert him from thoughts of this Utopia. "Derry," he wrote, "is said to be worth £1,500 per annum, but I do not consider it with a view to enriching myself. I shall be perfectly contented if it facilitates and recommends my scheme of Bermuda."

But the thing which finally made it possible for Berkeley to come to America, the incident which is responsible for Whitehall's existence to-day in a grassy valley to the south of Honeyman's Hill, two miles back from the " second beach," at Newport, was the tragic ending of as sad and as romantic a story as is to be found anywhere in the literary life of England.

Swift, as has been said, was one of the friends who was of great service to Berke­ley when he went up to London for the first time. The witty and impecunious dean had then been living in London for more than four years, in his "lodging in Berry Street," absorbed in the political intrigue of the last years of Queen Anne, and sending to Stella, in Dublin, the daily journal, which so faithfully preserves the incidents of those years. Under date of an April Sunday in 1713, we find in this journal these lines, Swift's first mention of our present hero: "I went to court to-day on purpose to present Mr. Berkeley, one of our fellows at Trinity College. That Mr. Berkeley is a very ingenious man, and a great philosopher, and I have mentioned him to all the ministers, and have given them some of his writings; and I will favour him as much as I can."

In the natural course of things Berkeley soon heard much, though he saw scarcely anything, of Mrs. Vanhomrigh and her daughter, the latter the famous and un­happy "Vanessa," both of whom were set­tled at this time in Berry Street, near Swift, in a house where, Swift writes to Stella, "I loitered hot and lazy after my morning's work," and often dined "out of mere listlessness," keeping there "my best gown and perriwig" when at Chelsea.

Mrs. Vanhomrigh was the widow of a Dutch merchant, who had followed William the Third to Ireland, and there obtained places of profit, and her daughter, Esther, or Hester, as she is variously called, was a girl of eighteen when she first met Swift, and fell violently in love with him. This passion eventually proved the girl's perdi­tion, and was, as we shall see, the cause of a will which enabled Dean Berkeley to carry out his dear and cherished scheme of coming to America.

Swift's journal, frank about nearly everything else in the man's life, is significantly silent concerning Esther Vanhom­righ. And in truth there was little to be said to anybody, and nothing at all to be confided to Stella, in regard to this unhappy affair. That Swift was flattered to find this girl of eighteen, with beauty and accomplishment, caring so much for him, a man now forty-four, and bound by honour, if not by the Church, to Stella, one cannot doubt. At first, their relations seem to have been simply those of teacher and pupil, and this phase of the matter it is which is most particularly described in the famous poem, "Cadenus and Vanessa;" written at Windsor in 1713, and first pub­lished after Vanessa's death.

Human nature has perhaps never before or since presented the spectacle of a man of such transcendent powers as Swift in­volved in such a pitiable labyrinth of the affections as marked his whole life. Pride or ambition led him to postpone indefi­nitely his marriage with Stella, to whom he was early attached. Though he said he "loved her better than his life a thou­sand millions of times," he kept her  always hanging on in a state of hope de­ferred, injurious alike to her peace and her reputation. And because of Stella, he dared not afterward with manly sincerity admit his undoubted affection for Vanessa. For, if one may believe Doctor Johnson, he married Stella in 1716, -- though he died without acknowledging this union, -- and the date given would indicate that the ceremony occurred while his devotion to his young pupil was at its height.

Touching beyond expression is the story of Vanessa after she had gone to Ireland, as Stella had gone before, to be near the presence of Swift. Her life was one of deep seclusion, chequered only by the oc­casional visits of the man she adored, each of which she commemorated by planting with her own hand a laurel in the garden where they met. When all her devotion and her offerings had f ailed to impress him, she sent him remonstrances which reflect the agony of her mind:

"The reason I write to you," she says, "is because I cannot tell it you should I see you. For when I begin to complain, then you are angry; and there is some­thing in your looks so awful, that it strikes me dumb. Oh! that you may have but so much regard for me left that this com­plaint may touch your soul with pity. I say as little as ever I can. Did you but know what I thought, I am sure it would move you to forgive me, and believe that I cannot help telling you this and live."

Swift replies with the letter full of ex­cuses for not seeing her oftener, and ad­vises her to "quit this scoundrel island." Yet he assures her in the same breath, "que jamais personne du monde a ete aimee, honoree, estimee, adoree, par votre ami que vous."

The tragedy continued to deepen as it approached the close. Eight years had Vanessa nursed in solitude the hopeless attachment. At length (in 1723) she wrote to Stella to ascertain the nature of the connection between her and Swift. The latter obtained the fatal letter, and rode instantly to Marley Abbey, the residence of Vanessa. "As he entered the apart­ment," to quote the picturesque language Scott has used in recording the scene, "the sternness of his countenance, which was peculiarly formed to express the stronger passions, struck the unfortunate Vanessa with such terror, that she could scarce ask whether he would not sit down. He answered by flinging a letter on the table; and instantly leaving the house, mounted his horse, and returned to Dublin. When Vanessa opened the packet, she found only her own letter to Stella. It was her death­ warrant. She sunk at once under the disappointment of the delayed, yet cher­ished hopes which had so long sickened her heart, and beneath the unrestrained wrath of him for whose sake she had in­dulged them. How long she survived this last interview is uncertain, but the time does not seem to have exceeded a few weeks."

Strength to revoke a will made in favour of Swift, and to sign another (dated May 1, 1723) which divided her estate between Bishop Berkeley and Judge Marshall, the poor young woman managed to summon from somewhere, however. Berkeley she knew very slightly, and Mar­shall scarcely better. But to them both she entrusted as executors her correspondence with Swift, and the poem, "Cadenus and Vanessa," which she ordered to be pub­lished after her death.

Doctor Johnson, in his "Life of Swift," says of Vanessa's relation to the misan­thropic dean, " She was a young woman fond of literature, whom Decanus, the dean (called Cadenus by transposition of the letters), took pleasure in directing and interesting till, from being proud of his praise, she grew fond of his person. Swift was then about forty-seven, at the age when vanity is strongly excited by the amorous attention of a young woman."

The poem with which these two lovers are always connected, was founded, according to the story, on an offer of mar­riage made by Miss Vanhomrigh to Doctor Swift. In it, Swift thus describes his situation:

"Cadenus, common forms apart,

In every scene had kept his heart;

Had sighed and languished, vowed and writ

For pastime, or to show his wit,

But books and time and state affairs

Had spoiled his fashionable airs;

He now could praise, esteem, approve,

But understood not what was love:

His conduct might have made him styled

A father and the nymph his child.

That innocent delight he took

To see the virgin mind her book,

Was but the master's secret joy

In school to hear the finest boy."

That Swift was not always, however, so Platonic and fatherly in his expressions of affection for Vanessa, is shown in a "Poem to Love," found in Miss Vanhom­righ's desk after her death, in his hand­writing. One verse of this runs:

"In all I wish how happy should I be,

Thou grand deluder, were it not for thee.

So weak thou art that fools thy power despise,

And yet so strong, thou triumph'st oer the wise

After the poor girl's unhappy decease."

Swift hid himself for two months in the south of Ireland. Stella was also shocked by the occurrence, but when some one re­marked in her presence, apropos of the poem which had just appeared, that Vanessa must have been a remarkable woman to inspire such verses, she observed with perfect truth that the dean was quite capa­ble of writing charmingly upon a broom­stick.

Meanwhile Berkeley was informed of the odd stroke of luck by which he was to gain a small fortune. Characteristically, his thoughts turned now more than ever to his Bermuda scheme. "This provi­dential event," he wrote, "having made many things easy in my private affairs which were otherwise before, I have high hopes for Bermuda."

Swift bore Berkeley absolutely no hard. feeling on account of Vanessa's substitu­tion of his name in her will. He was quite as cordial as ever. One of the witty dean's most remarkable letters, addressed to Lord Carteret, at Bath, thus describes Berkeley's previous career and present mission:

"Going to England very young, about thirteen years ago, the bearer of this became founder of a sect called the Immaterialists, by the force of a very curious book upon that subject.. . . He is an absolute philosopher with regard to money, titles, and power; and for three years past has been struck with a notion. of founding a university at Bermudas by a charter from the Grown. . . . He showed me a little tract which he designs to publish, and there your Excellency will see his whale scheme of the life academico-philosophical, of a college founded for Indian scholars and missionaries, where he most exorbi­tantly proposes a whole hundred pounds a year for himself. . . . His heart will be broke if his deanery be not taken from him, and left to your Excellency's disposal. I discouraged him by the coldness of Courts and Ministers, who will interpret all this as impossible and a vision; but nothing will do."

The history of Berkeley's reception in London, when he came to urge his project, shows convincingly the magic of the man's presence and influence. His conquests spread far and fast. In a generation represented by Sir Robert Walpole, the scheme met with encouragement from all sorts of people, subscriptions soon reaching £5,000, and the list of promoters including even Sir Robert himself. Bermuda became the fashion among the wits of London, and Bolingbroke wrote to Swift that he would "gladly exchange Europe far its charms – only not in a missionary capacity."

But Berkeley was not satisfied with mere subscriptions, and remembering what Lord Percival had said about the protection and aid of government he interceded with George the First, and obtained royal encouragement to hope. for a grant of £20,000 to endow the Bermuda college. During the four years that followed, he lived in London, negotiating with brokers, and otherwise forwarding his enterprise of social idealism. With Queen Caroline, consort of George the Second, he used to dispute two days a week concerning his favourite plan.

At last his patience was rewarded. In September, 1728, we find him at Greenwich, ready to sail for Rhode Island. "Tomorrow," he writes on September 3 to Lord Percival, "we sail down the river. Mr. James and Mr. Dalton go with me; so doth my wife, a daughter of the late Chief Justice Forster, whom I married since I saw your lordship. I chose her for her qualities of mind, and her unaffected inclination to books. She goes with great thankfulness, to live a plain farmer's life, and wear stuff of her own spinning. I have presented her with a spinning-wheel. Her fortune was £2,000 originally, but travelling and exchange have reduced it to less than £1,500 English money. I have placed that, and about £600 of my own, in South Sea annuities."

Thus in the forty-fourth year of his life, in deep devotion to his ideal, and full of glowing visions of a Fifth Empire in the West, Berkeley sailed for Rhode Island in a "hired ship of two hundred and fifty tons."


The New England Courier of that time gives this picture of his disembarkation at Newport: "Yesterday there arrived here Dean Berkeley, of Londonderry. He is a gentleman of middle stature, of an agreeable, pleasant, and erect aspect. He was ushered into the town with a great number of gentlemen, to whom he behaved himself after a very complaisant manner."

So favourably was Berkeley impressed by Newport that he wrote to Lord Percival: "I should not demur about situating our college here." And as it turned out, Newport was the place with which Berkeley's scheme was to be connected in history. Far it was there that he lived all three years of his stay, hopefully awaiting from England the favourable news that never came.

In loyal remembrance of the palace of his monarchs, he named his spacious home in the sequestered valley Whitehall. Here he began domestic life, and became the father of a family. The neighbouring groves and the cliffs that skirt the coast offered shade and silence and solitude very soothing to his spirit, and one wonders not that he wrote, under the projecting rock that still bears his name, "The Minute Philosopher," one of his most noted works. The friends with whom he had crossed the ocean went to stay in Boston, but no solicitations could withdraw him from the quiet of his island home. "After my long fatigue of business," he told Lord Percival, "this retirement is very agreeable to me; and my wife loves a country life and books as well as to pass her time continually and cheerfully without any other conversation than her husband and the dead." For the wife was a mystic and a quietist.

But though Berkeley waited patiently for developments which should denote the realisation of his hopes, he waited always in vain. From the first he had so planned his enterprise that it was at the mercy of Sir Robert Walpole; and at last came the crisis of the project, with which the astute financier had never really sympathised. Early in 1730, Walpole threw off the mask. "If you put the question to me as a minister," he wrote Lord Percival, "I must and can assure you that the money shall most undoubtedly be paid – as soon as suits with public convenience; but if you ask me as a friend whether Dean Berkeley should continue in America, expecting the payment of £200,000, I advise him by all means to return to Europe, and to give up his present expectations."

When acquainted by his friend Percival with this frank statement, Berkeley accepted the blow as a philosopher should. Brave and resolutely patient, he prepared for departure. His books he left as a gift to the library of Yale College, and his farm of Whitehall was made over to the same institution, to found three scholarships for the encouragement of Greek and Latin study. His visit was thus far from being barren of results. He supplied a decided stimulus to higher education in the colonies, in that he gave out counsel and help to the men already working for the cause of learning in the new country. And he helped to form in Newport a philosophical reunion, the effects of which were long felt.

In the autumn of 1731 he sailed from Boston for London, where he arrived in January of the next year. There a bishopric and twenty years of useful and honourable labour awaited him. He died at Oxford, whence he had removed from his see at Cloyne, on Sunday evening, January 14, 1753, while reading aloud to his family the burial service portion of Corinthians. He was buried in the Cathedral of Christ Church.

Of the traces he left at Newport, there still remain, beside the house, a chair in which he was wont to write, a few books and papers, the organ presented by him to Trinity Church, the big family portrait, by Smibert – and the little grave in Trinity churchyard, where, on the south side of the Kay monument, sleeps "Lucia Berkeley, obiit, the fifth of September, 1731." Moreover the memory of the man's beautiful, unselfish life pervades this section of Rhode Island, and the story of his sweetness and patience under a keen and unexpected disappointment furnishes one of the most satisfying pages in our early history.

The life of Berkeley is indeed greater than anything that he did, and one wonders not as one explores the young preacher's noble and endearing character that the distraught Vanessa fastened upon him, though she knew him only by reputation, as one who would make it his sacred duty, to do all in his power to set her memory right in a censorious world.

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