The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 15/Journal to Stella – Letter 23

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Chelsea, May 12, 1711.

I SENT you my twenty-second this afternoon in town. I dined with Mr. Harley and the old club, lord Rivers, lord keeper, and Mr. secretary. They rallied me last week, and said I must have Mr. St. John's leave, so I writ to him yesterday, that foreseeing I should never dine again with sir Simon Harcourt, knight, and Robert Harley, esq., I was resolved to do it to day. The jest is, that before Saturday next we expect they will be lords: for Mr. Harley's patent is drawing to be earl of Oxford. Mr. secretary and I came away at seven, and he brought me to our town's end in his coach; so I lost my walk. St. John read my letter to the company, which was all raillery, and passed purely.

13. It rained all last night and this morning as heavy as lead; but I just got fair weather to walk to town before church. The roads are all over in deep puddle. The hay of our town is almost fit to be mowed. I went to court after church (as I always do on Sundays) and then dined with Mr. secretary, who has engaged me for every Sunday: and poor MD dined at home upon a bit of veal, and a pint of wine. Is it not plaguy insipid to tell you every day where I dine; yet now I have got into the way of it, I cannot forbear it neither. Indeed, Mr. Presto, you had better go answer MD's letter, N. 14. I'll answer it when I please, Mr. doctor. What's that you say? The court was very full this morning, expecting Mr. Harley would be declared earl of Oxford, and have the treasurer's staff. Mr. Harley never comes to court at all; somebody there asked me the reason; Why, said I, the lord of Oxford knows. He always goes to the queen by the back stairs. I was told for certain, your jackanapes, lord Sautry[1], was dead; captain Cammock assured me so; and now he's alive again, they say; but that shan't do: he shall be dead to me as long as he lives. Dick Tighe and I meet and never stir our hats. I am resolved to mistake him for Witherington, the little nasty lawyer that came up to me so sternly at the castle the day I left Ireland. I'll ask the gentleman I saw walking with him, how long Witherington has been in town.

14. I went to town to day by water. The hail quite discouraged me from walking, and there is no shade in the greatest part of the way: I took the first boat, and had a footman my companion; then went again by water, and dined in the city with a printer, to whom I carried a pamphlet in manuscript, that Mr. secretary gave me. The printer sent it to the secretary for his approbation, and he desired me to look it over, which I did, and found it a very scurvy piece. The reason I tell you so, is because it was done by your parson Slap, Scrap, Flap, (what d'ye call him) Trap, your chancellor's chaplain. 'Tis called A Character of the present Set of Whigs, and is going to be printed, and no doubt the author will take care to produce it in Ireland. Dr. Freind was with me, and pulled out a twopenny pamphlet just published, called The State of Wit, giving a character of all the papers that have come out of late. The author seems to be a whig, yet he speaks very highly of a paper called the Examiner, and says the supposed author of it is Dr. Swift. But above all things he praises the Tatlers and Spectators; and I believe Steele and Addison were privy to the printing of it. Thus is one treated by these impudent dogs. And that villain Curl has scraped up some trash, and calls it Dr. Swift's Miscellanies with the name at large: and I can get no satisfaction of him. Nay, Mr. Harley told me he had read it, and only laughed at me before lord keeper, and the rest. Since I came home I have been sitting with the prolocutor, dean Atterbury, who is my neighbour over the way; but generally keeps in town with his convocation. 'Tis late, &c.

15. My walk to town to day was after ten, and prodigiously hot: I dined with lord Shelburne, and have desired Mrs. Pratt, who lodges there, to carry over Mrs. Walls's tea; I hope she will do it, and they talk of going in a fortnight. My way is this: I leave my best gown and periwig at Mrs. Vanhomrigh's, then walk up the Pall mall, through the park, out at Buckingham house, and so to Chelsea a little beyond the church: I set out about sunset, and get here in something less than an hour: it is two good miles and just five thousand seven hundred and forty-eight steps; so there is four miiles a day walking, without reckoning what I walk while I stay in town. When I pass the mall in the evening it is prodigious to see the number of ladies walking there, and I always cry shame at the ladies of Ireland, who never walk at all, as if their legs were of no use, but to be laid aside. I have been now almost three weeks here, and I thank God, am much better in my head, if it does but continue. I tell you what, if I was with you, when we went to Stoyte at Donnybrook, we would only take a coach to the hither end of Stephen's green, and from thence go every step on foot, yes faith, every step; it would do: DD[2] goes as well as Presto. Every body tells me I look better already; for faith I looked sadly, that's certain. My breakfast is milk porridge: I don't love it, faith I hate it, but 'tis cheap and wholesome; and I hate to be obliged to either of those qualities for any thing.

16. I wonder why Presto will be so tedious in answering MD's letters; because he would keep the best to the last, I suppose. Well, Presto must be humoured, it must be as he will have it, or there will be an old to do. Dead with heat, are not you very hot? My walks make my forehead sweat rarely; sometimes my morning journey is by water, as it was to day with one parson Richardson, who came to see me, on his going to Ireland; and with him I send Mrs. Walls's tea, and three books I got from the lords of the treasury for the college[3]. I dined with lord Shelburne to day; lady Kerry and Mrs. Pratt are going likewise for Ireland. Lord I forgot, I dined with Mr. Prior to day, at his house, with dean Atterbury and others; and came home pretty late, and I think I'm in a fuzz, and don't know what I say, never saw the like.

17. Sterne came here by water to see me this morning, and I went back with him to his boat. He tells me, that Mrs. Edgeworth married a fellow in her journey to Chester: so I believe she little thought of any body's box but her own. I desired Sterne to give me directions where to get the box in Chester, which he says he will to morrow, and I will write to Richardson to get it up there as he goes by, and whip it over. It is directed to Mrs. Curry: you must caution her of it, and desire her to send it you when it comes. Sterne says Jemmy Leigh loves London mightily; that makes him stay so long, I believe, and not Sterne's business, which Mr. Harley's accident has put much backward. We expect now every day that he will be earl of Oxford and lord treasurer. His patent is passing; but they say, lord keeper's not yet, at least his son, young Harcourt, told me so t'other day. I dined to day privately with my friend Lewis at his lodgings at Whitehall. T'other day at Whitehall I met a lady of my acquaintance, whom I had not seen before since I came to England: we were mighty glad to see each other, and she has engaged me to visit her, as I design to do. It is one Mrs. Colledge; she has lodgings at Whitehall, having been seamstress to king William, worth three hundred a year. Her father was a fanatick joiner, hanged for treason in Shaftsbury's plot. This noble person and I were brought acquainted, some years ago, by lady Berkeley. I love good creditable acquaintance; I love to be the worst of the company: I am not of those that say, for want of company welcome trumpery. I was this evening with lady Kerry and Mrs. Pratt at Vauxhall, to hear the nightingales; but they are almost past singing.

18. I was hunting the secretary to day in vain about some business, and dined with colonel Crowe, late governor of Barbadoes, and your friend Sterne was the third: he is very kind to Sterne, and helps him in his business, which lies asleep till Mr. Harley is lord treasurer, because nothing of moment is now done in the treasury, the change being expected every day. I sat with dean Atterbury till one o'clock after I came home; so 'tis late, &c.

19. Do you know that about our town we are mowing already and making hay, and it smells so sweet as we walk through the flowery meads; but the haymaking nymphs are perfect drabs, nothing so clean and pretty as farther in the country. There is a mighty increase of dirty wenches in straw hats since I knew London. I staid at home till five o'clock, and dined with dean Atterbury: then went by water to Mr. Harley's, where the Saturday club was met, with the addition of the duke of Shrewsbury. I whispered lord Rivers, that I did not like to see a stranger among us: and the rogue told it aloud: but Mr. secretary said, the duke writ to have leave; so I appeared satisfied, and so we laughed. Mr. secretary told me the duke of Buckingham had been talking to him much about me, and desired my acquaintance. I answered, It could not be: for he had not made sufficient advances. Then the duke of Shrewsbury said, he thought that duke was not used to make advances. I said, I could not help that; for I always expected advances in proportion to men's quality, and more from a duke than other men. The duke replied, that he did not mean any thing of his quality; which was handsomely said enough: for he meant his pride: and I have invented a notion to believe that nobody is proud. At ten all the company went away; and from ten till twelve Mr. Harley and I sat together, where we talked through a great deal of matters I had a mind to settle with him, and then walked, in a fine moonshine night, to Chelsea, where I got by one. Lord Rivers conjured me not to walk so late; but I would, because I had no other way; but I had no money to lose.

20. By what lord keeper told me last night, I find he will not be made a peer so soon: but Mr. Harley's patent for earl of Oxford is now drawing, and will be done in three days. We made him own it, which he did scurvily, and then talked of it like the rest. Mr. secretary had too much company with him to day; so I came away soon after dinner. I give no man liberty to swear or talk bdy, and I found some of them were in constraint, so I left them to themselves. I wish you a merry Whitsuntide, and pray tell me how you pass away your time: but faith, you are going to Wexford, and I fear this letter is too late; it shall go on Thursday, and sooner it cannot, I have so much business to hinder me answering yours. Where must I direct in your absence? Do you quit your lodgings?

21. Going to town this morning, I met in the Pall mall a clergyman of Ireland, whom I love very well and was glad to see, and with him a little jackanapes of Ireland too, who married Nanny Swift, uncle Adam's daughter, one Perry; perhaps you may have heard of him. His wife has sent him here to get a place from Lownds; because my uncle and Lownds married two sisters[4], and Lownds is a great man here in the treasury: but by good luck I have no acquaintance with him: however, he expected I should be his friend to Lownds, and one word of mine, &c. the old cant. But I will not go two yards to help him. I dined with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, where I keep my best gown and periwig to put on when I come to town and be a spark.

22. I dined to day in the city, and coming home this evening, I met sir Thomas Mansel and Mr. Lewis in the park. Lewis whispered me, that Mr. Harley's patent for earl of Oxford was passed in Mr. secretary St. John's office; so to morrow or next day I suppose he will be declared earl of Oxford, and have the staff. This man has grown by persecutions, turnings out, and stabbing. What waiting, and crowding, and bowing, will be at his levee? yet, if human nature be capable of so much constancy, I should believe he will be the same man still, bating the necessary forms of grandeur he must keep up. 'Tis late sirrahs, and I'll go sleep.

23. Morning. I sat up late last night, and waked late to day; but will now answer your letter in bed before I go to town, and will send it to morrow; for perhaps you mayn't go so soon to Wexford. No, you are not out in your number: the last was Number 14, and so I told you twice or thrice; will you never be satisfied? What shall we do for poor Stella? Go to Wexford, for God's sake: I wish you were to walk there by three miles a day, with a good lodging at every mile's end. Walking has done me so much good, that I cannot but prescribe it often to poor Stella. Parvisol has sent me a bill for fifty pounds, which I am sorry for, having not written to him for it, only mentioned it two months ago; but I hope he will be able to tell you what I have drawn upon him for: he never sent me any sum before but one bill of twenty pounds, half a year ago. You are welcome as my blood to every farthing I have in the world: and all that grieves me is, I am not richer, for MD's sake, as hope saved. I suppose you give up your lodgings when you go to Wexford; yet that will be inconvenient too: yet I wish again you were under the necessity of rambling the country till Michaelmas, faith. No, let him keep the shelves, with a pox; yet they are exacting people about those four weeks, or Mrs. Brent may have the shelves, if she please. I am obliged to your dean for his kind offer of lending me money. Will that be enough to say? A hundred people would lend me money, or to any man who has not the reputation of a squanderer. O faith, I should be glad to be in the same kingdom with MD, however, although you were at Wexford. But I am kept here by a most capricious fate, which I would break through, if I could do it with decency or honour. To return without some mark of distinction, would look extremely little;, and I would likewise gladly be somewhat richer than I am. I will say no more, but beg you to be easy, 'till fortune take her course, and to believe that MD's felicity is the great end I aim at in all my pursuits. And so let us talk no more on this subject, which makes me melancholy, and that I would fain divert. Believe me, no man breathing at present has less share of happiness in life than I: I do not say I am unhappy at all, but that every thing here is tasteless to me for want of being where I would be. And so a short sigh, and no more of this. Well, come and let's see what's next, young women. Pox take Mrs. Edgworth and Sterne: I will take some methods about that box. What orders would you have me give about the picture? Can't you do with it as if it were your own? No, I hope Manley will keep his place; for I hear nothing of sir Thomas Frankland's losing his. Send nothing under cover to Mr. Addison, but to Erasmus Lewis, esq., at my lord Dartmouth's office at Whitehall. Direct your outside so. Poor dear Stella, don't write in the dark, nor in the light neither, but dictate to Dingley; she is a naughty healthy girl, and may drudge for both. Are you good company together? and don't you quarrel too often? Pray, love one another, and kiss one another just now, as Dingley is reading this; for you quarrelled this morning just after Mrs. Marget had poured water on Stella's head: I heard the little bird say so. Well, I have answered every thing in your letter that required it, and yet the second side is not full. I'll come home at night, and say more; and to morrow this goes for certain. Go, get you gone to your own chambers, and let Presto rise like a modest gentleman, and walk to town. I fancy I begin to sweat less in the forehead by constant walking than I used to do; but then I shall be so sunburnt, the ladies won't like me. Come, let me rise, sirrahs, Morrow. At night. I dined with Ford to day at his lodgings, and I found wine out of my own cellar, some of my own chest of the great duke's wine: it begins to turn. They say wine with you in Ireland is half a crown a bottle. 'Tis as Stella says, nothing that once grows dear in Ireland ever grows cheap again, except corn, with a pox, to ruin the parson. I had a letter to day from the archbishop of Dublin, giving me farther thanks about vindicating him to Mr. Harley and Mr. St. John, and telling me a long story about your mayor's election, wherein I find he has had a finger, and given way to farther talk about him; but we know nothing of it here yet. This walking to and fro, and dressing myself, takes up so much of my time, that I cannot go among company so much as formerly; yet what must a body do? I thank God, I yet continue much better since I left the town; I know not how long it may last. I am sure it has done me some good for the present. I do not totter as I did, but walk firm as a cock, only once or twice for a minute, I don't know how; but it went off, and I never followed it. Does Dingley read my hand as well as ever? Do you, sirrah? Poor Stella must not read Presto's ugly small hand. Preserve your eyes. If you be wise. Your friend Walls's tea will go in a day or two toward Chester by one parson Richardson. My humble service to her, and to good Mrs. Stoyte, and Catherine; and pray walk while you continue in Dublin. I expect your next but one will be from Wexford. God bless dearest MD.

24. Morning. Mr. secretary has sent his groom hither to invite me to dinner to day, &c. God Almighty for ever bless and preserve you both, and give you health, &c. Amen. Farewell, &c.

Don't I often say the same thing two or three times in the same letter, sirrah?

Great wits, they say, have but short memories; that's good vile conversation.

  1. Bury baron of Sautry, a title now extinct.
  2. In this passage DD signifies both Dingley and Stella.
  3. The university of Dublin.
  4. Gay addressed some humourous verses, "To my very ingenious and worthy Friend William Lownds, esq., Author of that celebrated Treatise in folio, called The Land Tax Bill."