The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From John Arbuthnot to Jonathan Swift - 20

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LONDON, JAN. 13, 1732.

I HAD the pleasure of receiving one from you by Mr. Pilkington. I thank you for the opportunity it gave me of being acquainted with a very agreeable ingenious man. I value him very much for his musick, which you give yourself an air of contemning; and I think I treated him in that way to a degree of surprise.

I have had but a melancholy sorrowful life for some time past, having lost my dear child, whose life, if it had so pleased God, I would have willingly redeemed with my own. I thank God for a new lesson of submission to his will, and likewise for what he has left me.

We have all had another loss of our worthy and dear friend Mr. Gay[1]. It was some alleviation of my grief to see him so universally lamented by almost every body, even by those who knew him only by reputation. He was interred at Westminster-Abbey, as if he had been a peer of the realm; and the good duke of Queensberry, who lamented him as a brother, will set up a handsome monument upon him. These are little affronts put upon vice and injustice, and is all that remains in our power. I believe the Beggar's Opera, and what he had to come upon the stage, will make the sum of the diversions of the town for some time to come. Curll (who is one of the new terrours of death) has been writing letters to every body for memoirs of his life. I was for sending him some, particularly, an account of his disgrace at court, which, I am sure, might have been made entertaining: by which I should have attained two ends at once, published truth, and got a rascal whipped for it. I was overruled in this. I wish you had been here, though I think you are in a better country. I fancy to myself, that you have some virtue and honour left, some small regard for religion. Perhaps christianity may last with you at least twenty or thirty years longer. You have no companies or stockjobbing, are yet free of excises; you are not insulted in your poverty, and told with a sneer, that you are a rich and a thriving nation. Every man that takes neither place nor pension, is not deemed with you a rogue, and an enemy to his country.

Your friends of my acquaintance are in tolerable good health. Mr. Pope has his usual complaints of head-ach and indigestion, I think, more than formerly. He really leads sometimes a very irregular life, that is, lives with people of superiour health and strength. You will see some new things of his, equal to any of his former productions. He has affixed to the new edition of his Dunciad, a royal declaration against the haberdashers of points and particles, assuming the title of criticks and restorers, wherein he declares, that he has revised carefully this his Dunciad, beginning and ending so and so, consisting of so many lines, and declares this edition to be the true reading; and it is signed by John Barber, major civitatis Londini.

I remember you, with your friends, who are my neighbours: they all long to see you. As for news, there is nothing here talked of but the new scheme of excise. You may remember, that a ministry in the queen's time, possessed of her majesty, the parliament, army, fleet, treasury, confederate, &c. put all to the test, by an experiment of a silly project of the trial of a poor parson[2]. The same game, in my mind, is playing over again, from a wantonness of power. Miraberis quam pauca sapientia mundus regitur.

I have considered the grievance of your wine: the friend that designed you good wine, was abused by an agent that he intrusted this affair to. It was not this gentleman's brother, whose name is de la Mar, to whom show what friendship you can. My brother is getting money now, in China, less, and more honestly, than his predecessors supercargoes; but enough to make you satisfaction, which, if he comes home alive, he shall do.

My neighbour the proseman is wiser, and more cowardly and despairing than ever. He talks me into a fit of vapours twice or thrice a week. I dream at night of a chain, and rowing in the gallies. But, thank God, he has not taken from me the freedom I have been accustomed to in my discourse, (even with the greatest persons to whom I have access) in defending the cause of liberty, virtue and religion: for the last, I have the satisfaction of suffering some share of the ignominy that belonged to the first confessors. This has been my lot, from a steady resolution I have taken of giving these ignorant impudent fellows battle upon all occasions. My family send you their best wishes, and a happy new year; and none can do it more heartily than myself, who am, with the most sincere respect, your most faithful humble servant.

  1. He died December 4, 1732.
  2. Dr. Sacheverell.