|Birth: ||Mar. 18, 1681|
|Death: ||Jan. 27, 1728|
Muse of Jonathan Swift. She is best remembered for the relationship she had with English satirist, Jonathan Swift . They first met at Moore Park, the estate of Sir William Temple. She was the eight-year-old daughter of a widowed housekeeper and companion to Temple’s widowed sister. Her baptismal record has her name as “Hester” but she was called “Esther”, using this name on legal documents including her will. She was fourteen years Swift’s junior. As a distant relative of Temple’s late wife, Swift had become part household being Sir William’s secretary and accountant. During this time, Hester benefited from Swift’s project of teaching her reading, writing and the social graces of becoming a lady as her mother had been born into a poor family with little education or graces. Swift later wrote about Hester, “She is good at comprehending, remembering and retaining.” She remained at the estate while Swift attended Oxford earning his Master’s degree. At this point, Swift had decided to go in the church ministry accepting a position in Ireland as a parish vicar for a year and a half before returning to Temple’s estate. By that time, Hester had become a beautiful posed young lady of fifteen. Swift wrote that she was “looked upon as one of the most beautiful, graceful, and agreeable young women in London, only a little too fat. Her hair was blacker than a raven, and every feature of her face in perfection.” Upon Temple’s death in 1699, she received a thousand pounds and some land from Temple. She also was remembered in his sister’s will. This inheritance has led to questions of what was the actual relationship between her and Sir William Temple. Also, a small inheritance had been left to Swift by Temple. Having to leave Moore Park, the couple settled in the village called Laracor in Ireland, where Swift was the parish vicar of a congregation of fifteen. Living in separate houses, they were very careful not to cause a scandal. When Hester was 29 years old, she became the prototype for character “Stella” in Swift’s work “Journal of Stella”. Afterward, she often was called “Stella”. She did have another suitor, Rev. William Tisdell, for a short time; however he married someone else after words from Swift drove him away. In 1752, seven years after Swift’s death, John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork and of Orrery in his remarks on Swift, said that “Stella” was “the concealed, but undoubted, wife of Dr. Swift. . . . If my informations are right, she was married to Dr. Swift in the year 1716, by Dr. Ashe, then Bishop of Clogher.” Lord Orrery was a close friend of Swift and author of “Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift”. Over the years, others have agreed with this declaration, while others have published their opinions and reasoning in disagreement with Orrery’s statement. At one point, Hester did experience the depression of having a very wealthy woman, Esther “Vanessa” Vanhomrigh, come between her and Swift. This was a long-time affair, which she did not know about until it was almost over. Swift's 1713 poem “Cadenus and Vanessa” proves his feelings for this other woman. After removing Swift’s name from her will, Vanhomrigh died in 1723. During the remainder of “Stella’s” life, Swift repeatedly spoke of her as a friend instead of his wife, and of himself as one who had never married. He went on to write his famous “Gulliver’s Travels” and many other publications. Sadly, “Stella” died after a long illness. Swift had been living mainly in England for a couple of years when he heard that she was on her deathbed. Although he had months to return to Ireland, he did not do so. He later wrote it would have been too upsetting for both them if he had gone to her bedside while she was dying. Stella was buried by torch light on January 30th in the same manner as Swift directed himself to be buried and near the same hour. As Dean of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin at the time, he did not witness her burial but retired to his nearby apartment closing the curtain so as not to see the light from the church used during the burial. It is well-documented that he grieved for her the rest of his life. He wrote of her as “the truest, most virtuous and valuable friend that I, or perhaps any other person, was ever blessed with”. His final resting place is next to hers. (bio by: Linda Davis)
"Underneath lie interred the mortal Remains of Mrs HESTER JOHNSON better known to the World by the name of STELLA under which she is celebrated in the Writings of Dr. JONATHAN SWIFT Dean of this Cathedral.
She was a person of extraordinary endowments and accomplishments in body, mind and behavior; justly admired and respected by all who knew her, on account of her many eminent virtues, as well as her great natural and acquired perfections.
She dyed January the 27th 1727-8, in the 46th year of her age; and by her will be bequeathed one thousands toward the support of a chaplain to the hospital founded in this city by Dr.Steevens"
Saint Patrick's Cathedral
County Dublin, Ireland
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: David Conway
Record added: Oct 19, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 5859149
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