The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From John Gay and Catherine Hyde to Jonathan Swift - 4

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JULY 18, 1731.

YOU are my dear friend, I am sure, for you are hard to be found: that you are so, is certainly owing to some evil genius. For, if you say true, this is the very properest place you can repair to. There is not a head here upon any of our shoulders, that is not, at sometimes, worse than yours can possibly be at the worst; and not one to compare with yours, when at best, except your friends are your sworn liars. So in one respect at least, you will find things just as they could be wished. It is farther necessary to assure you, that the duchess is neither healthy nor young; she lives in all the spirits she can, and with as little grandeur as she can possibly. She too, as well as you, can scold, and command; but she can be silent, and obey, if she pleases; and then for a good nurse, it is out of dispute, that she must prove an excellent one, who has been so experienced in the infirmities of others, and of her own. As for talking nonsense, provided you do it on purpose, she has no objection: there is some sense in nonsense, when it does not come by chance. In short, I am very sure, that she has set her heart upon seeing you at this place. Here are women enough to attend you, if you should happen not to approve of her. She has not one fine lady belonging to her, or her house. She is impatient to be governed, and is cheerfully determined, that you shall quietly enjoy your own will and pleasure as long as ever you please.

You shall ride, you shall walk, and she will be glad to follow your example: and this will be doing good at the same time to her and yourself. I had not heard from you so long, that I was in fears about you, and in the utmost impatience for a letter. I had flattered myself, your lawsuit was at an end, and that your own money was in your own pocket; and about a month ago, I was every day expecting a summons to Bristol. Your money is either getting or losing something; for I have placed it in the funds. For I am grown so much a man of business, that is to say, so covetous, that I cannot bear to let a sum of money lie idle. Your friend Mrs. Howard is now countess of Suffolk. I am still so much a dupe, that I think you mistake her. Come to Amesbury, and you and I will dispute this matter; and the duchess shall be judge. But I fancy you will object against her; for I will be so fair to you, as to own; that I think she is of my side: but, in short, you shall choose any impartial referee you please. I have heard from her; Mr. Pope has seen her; I beg you would suspend your judgment till we talk over this affair together; for, I fancy, by your letter, you have neither heard from her, or seen her, so that you cannot at present be as good a judge as we are. I will be a dupe for you at any time, therefore I beg it of you, that you would let me be a dupe in quiet.

As you have had several attacks of the giddiness you at present complain of, and that it has formerly left you, I will hope, that at this instant you are perfectly well; though my fears were so very great, before I received your letter, that I may probably flatter myself, and think you better than you are. As to my being a manager for the duke, you have been misinformed. Upon the discharge of an unjust steward, he took the administration into his own hands. I own, I was called in to his assistance, when the state of affairs was in the greatest confusion. Like an ancient Roman, I came, put my helping hand to set affairs right, and as soon as it was done, I am retired again as a private man.

What you imagined you heard her say, was a good deal in her style: it was a thousand to one she had said so, but I must do her the justice to say, that she did not, either in thought or word. I am sure she wants to be better acquainted with you, for which she has found out ten thousand reasons, that we will tell you, if you will come.

By your letter, I cannot guess whether we are likely to see you or not. Why might not the Amesbury downs make you better?


Mr. Gay tells me, I must write upon his line for fear of taking up too much room. It was his fault that I omitted my duty in his last letter, for he never told me one word of writing to you, till he had sent away his letter. However, as a mark of my great humility, I shall be ready and glad to ask you pardon upon my knees, as soon as ever you come, though not in fault. I own this is a little mean spirited, which I hope will not make a bad impression, considering you are the occasion. I submit to all your conditions, so pray, come; for, I have not only promised myself, but Mr. Gay also, the satisfaction to hear you talk as much nonsense as you can possibly utter.

You will read in the Gazette of a friend of yours, who has lately had the dignity of being disgraced[1]: for he, and every body, except five or six, look upon it in the same light. I know, were you here, you would congratulate him upon it. I paid the twelve pounds to Mrs. Lancelot, for the uses you directed. I have no scheme at present, either to raise my fame or fortune. I daily reproach myself for my idleness. You know one cannot write when one will. I think and reject: one day or other, perhaps, I may think on something that may engage me to write. You and I are alike in one particular, I wish to be so in many; I mean, that we hate to write upon other folks hints. I love to have my own scheme, and to treat it in my own way. This, perhaps, may be taking too much upon myself, and I may make a bad choice; but I can always enter into a scheme of my own with more ease and pleasure, than into that of any other body. I long to see you; I long to hear from you; I wish you health; I wish you happiness; and I should be very happy myself to be witness that you enjoyed my wishes.

  1. William Pulteney, esq., who on the 1st of July, 1731, was, by order of king George II, struck out of the list of the privy council, and put out of all the commissions of the peace.