The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to Mrs. Pratt - 1
TO MRS. PRATT,
ON HER PRESENT OF A FIRE SCREEN, ADORNED WITH PAINTED MAPS.
MARCH 18, 1724-5.
MRS. Fitzmaurice did the unkindest thing she could imagine; she sends an open note by a servant (for she was too much a prude to write me a letter), desiring that the dean of St. Patrick's should inquire for one Howard, master of a ship, who had brought over a screen to him, the said dean, from Mrs. Pratt. Away I ran to the customhouse, where they told me the ship was expected every day: but the God of winds, in confederacy with Mrs. Fitzmaurice to teaze me, kept the ship at least a month longer, and left me miserable in a state of impatience, between hope and fear, worse than a lady who is in pain that her clothes will not be ready against the birth day. I will not move your good nature, by representing how many restless nights and days I have passed, with what dreams my sleep hath been disturbed, where I sometimes saw the ship sinking, my screen floating in the sea, and the mermaids struggling which of them should get it for her own apartment. At last Mr. Medlycott, whose heart inclines him to pity the distressed, gave me notice of its safe arrival: he interposed his authority, and, overruling the tedious forms of the customhouse, sent my screen to the deanery, where it was immediately opened, on Tuesday, the 16th instant, three minutes seven seconds after four o'clock in the afternoon, the day being fair, but somewhat windy, the sun in Aries, and the moon within thirty-nine hours eight seconds and a half of being full; all which I had, by consulting Ptolemy, found to be fortunate incidents, prognosticating, that, with due care, my screen will escape the mops of the housemaid, and the greasy hands of the footmen.
At the opening the screen just after dinner, some company of both sexes were present: the ladies were full of malice, and the men of envy, while I remained very affectedly calm. But all agreed, that nothing showed a better judgment, than to know how to make a proper present, and that no present could be more judiciously chosen; for no man in this kingdom wanted a screen so much as myself, and besides, since I had left the world, it was very kind to send The World to me. However, one of the ladies affirmed, "That your gift was an open reflection upon my age; that she had made the same present some time ago to her grandfather; and that she could not imagine how any of her sex would send a screen to a gentleman, without a design to insinuate, that he was absolutely un homme sans consequence." For my own part, I confess, I never expected to be sheltered by the world, when I have been so long endeavouring to shelter myself from
See how ill you bestow your favour, where you meet with nothing but complaints and reproaches instead of acknowledgments, for thinking, in the midst of courts and diversions, upon an absent and insignificant man, buried in obscurity: but I know it is as hard to give thanks as to take them; therefore I shall say no more, than that I receive your acceptable present, just as I am sure you desire I should. Though I cannot sit under my own vine, or my own fig-tree, yet I will sit under my own screen, and bless the giver; but I cannot promise it will add one jot to the love and esteem I have for you, because it is impossible for me to be more than I have always been, and shall ever continue, Madam,
Your most obedient and obliged servant,
I just observe, that the two celestial maps are placed at the bottom, within two inches of the ground; which is the most fashionable circumstance in the whole work.
I sometimes dine in a third place with your stoick Mr. Pratt; and find he continues in health, but of late very busy, and a courtier.
I desire to present my most humble service to my lady Savile.
Mr. Fitzmaurice dines temperately at a tavern: and sometimes with clergymen, for want of better company.
Mr. Medlycott dines with me every Sunday, and goes to church like any thing.
Mrs. Fitzmaurice is left desolate; I reckoned but fifteen ladies and five gentlemen the other night in her play room, and I condoled with her upon it. It is thought she will fall out with my lady Carteret, for drawing away her company; but at present they are very great, as I find by consulting them both.
I think you are acquainted with lady Worseley; if so, tell her how angry I am, at her not coming to Ireland as I expected, and was told she was actually landed; wherupon, being at that time confined by a deafness, I writ her a most cavalier letter, which, being brought back, I tore in a rage.
Miss Carteret is every day getting new magazines of arms, to destroy all England upon her return.