The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Swift to Pope - 26

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FEB. 9, 1735-6.

I CANNOT properly call you my best friend, because I have not another left who deserves the name, such a havock have time, death, exile, and oblivion made. Perhaps you would have fewer complaints of my ill health and lowness of spirits, if they were not some excuse for my delay of writing even to you. It is perfectly right what you say of the indifference in common friends, whether we are sick or well, happy or miserable. The very maid servants in a family have the same notion: I have heard them often say, oh, I am very sick, if any body cared for it! I am vexed when my visiters come with the compliment usual here, Mr. dean I hope you are very well. My popularity that you mention is wholly confined to the common people, who are more constant than those we miscal their betters. I walk the streets, and so do my lower friends, from whom and from whom alone, I have a thousand hats and blessings upon old scores, which those we call the gentry have forgot. But I have not the love, or hardly the civility, of any one man in power or station; and I can boast that I neither visit or am acquainted with any lord temporal or spiritual in the whole kingdom; nor am able to do the least good office to the most deserving man, except what I can dispose of in my own cathedral upon a vacancy. What has sunk my spirits more than even years and sickness, is, reflecting on the most execrable corruptions that run through every branch of publick management.

I heartily thank you for those lines translated, Singula de nobis anni[1], &c. You have put them in a strong and admirable light; but however I am so partial, as to be more delighted with those which are to do me the greatest honour I shall ever receive from posterity, and will outweigh the malignity of ten thousand enemies. I never saw them before, by which it is plain that the letter you sent me miscarried. — I do not doubt that you have choice of new acquaintance, and some of them may be deserving: for, youth is the season of virtue: corruptions grow with years, and I believe the oldest rogue in England is the greatest. You have years enough before you to watch whether these new acquaintance will keep their virtue when they leave you and go into the world; how long will their spirit of independency last against the temptations of future ministers, and future kings. As to the new lord lieutenant, I never knew any of the family; so that I shall not be able to get any job done by him for any deserving friend.

  1. The circling years on human pleasures prey,
    They steal my humour and my mirth away.