The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 15/Journal to Stella – Letter 29

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London, Aug. 25, 1711.

I HAVE got a pretty small gilt sheet of paper to write to MD. I have this moment sent my 28th by Patrick, who tells me has put it in the postoffice: 'tis directed to your lodgings: if it wants more particular direction, you must set me right. It is now a solar month and two days since the date of your last, N. 18, and I reckon you are now quiet at home, and thinking to begin your 19th, which will be full of your quarrel between the two houses, all which I know already. Where shall I dine to morrow? can you tell? Mrs. Vanhomrigh boards now, and cannot invite one; and there I used to dine when I was at a loss; and all my friends are gone out of town, and your town is now at the fullest with your parliament and convocation. But let me alone, sirrahs, for Presto is going to be very busy; not Presto, but t'other I.

26. People have so left the town, that I am at a loss for a dinner, it is a long time since I have been at London upon a Sunday; and the ministers are all at Windsor. It cost me eighteen pence in coach hire before I could find a place to dine in. I went to Frankland's, and he was abroad, and the drab his wife looked out of window, and bowed to me without inviting me up; so I dined with Mr. Coote, my lord Montrath's brother; my lord is with you in Ireland. This morning at five my lord Jersey died of the gout in his stomach, or apoplexy, or both; he was abroad yesterday, and his death was sudden: he was chamberlain to king William, and a great favourite, turned out by the queen as a tory, and stood now fair to be privy seal; and by his death will, I suppose, make that matter easier, which has been a very stubborn business at court, as I have been informed. I never remembered so many people of quality to have died in so short a time.

27. I went to day into the city to thank Stratford for my books, and dine with him, and settle my affairs of my money in the bank, and receive a bill for Mrs. Wesley for some things to buy for her; and the d a one of all these could I do. The merchants were all out of town, and I was forced to go to a little hedge place for my dinner. May my enemies live here in summer! and yet I am so unlucky that I cannot possibly be out of the way at this juncture. People leave the town so late in summer, and return so late in winter, that they have almost inverted the seasons. It is autumn this good while in St. James's park; the limes have been losing their leaves, and those remaining on the trees are all parched: I hate this season, where every thing grows worse and worse. The only good thing of it is the fruit, and that I dare not eat. Had you any fruit at Wexford? a few cherries, and durst not eat them. I do not hear we have yet got a new privy seal. The whigs whisper, that our new ministry differ among themselves, and they begin to talk out Mr. secretary; they have some reasons for their whispers, although I thought it was a greater secret. I do not much like the posture of things; I always apprehended, that any falling out would ruin them, and so I have told them several times. The whigs are mighty full of hopes at present; and whatever is the matter, all kind of stocks fall. I have not yet talked with the secretary about Prior's journey. I should be apt to think it may foretell a peace; and that is all we have to preserve us. The secretary is not come from Windsor; but I expect him to morrow. Burn all politicks!

28. We begin to have fine weather, and I walked to day to Chelsea, and dined with the dean of Carlisle, who is laid up with the gout. It is now fixed that he is to be dean of Christchurch in Oxford. I was advising him to use his interest to prevent any misunderstanding between our ministers; but he is too wise to meddle, though he fears the thing and consequences as much as I. He will get into his own warm quiet deanery, and leave them to themselves; and he is in the right. — When I came home to night I found a letter from Mr. Lewis, who is now at Windsor; and in it, forsooth, another which looked like Presto's hand; and what should it be but a 19th from MD? O faith, I scaped narrowly, for I sent my 28th but on Saturday; and what should I have done if I had two letters to answer at once? I did not expect another from Wexford, that's certain. Well, I must be contented; but you are dear saucy girls, for all that, to write so soon again, faith; an't you?

29. I dined to day with lord Abercorn, and took my leave of them; they set out to morrow for Chester; and, I believe, will now fix in Ireland. They have made a pretty good journey of it: his eldest son is married to a lady with ten thousand pounds; and his second son has, t'other day, got a prize in the lottery of four thousand pounds, beside two small ones of two hundred pound each: nay, the family was so fortunate, that my lord bestowing one ticket, which is a hundred pounds, to one of his servants, who had been his page, the young fellow got a prize, which has made it another hundred. I went in the evening to lord treasurer, who desires I will dine with him to morrow, when he will show me the answer he designs to return to the letter of thanks from your bishops in Ireland. The archbishop of Dublin desired me to get myself mentioned in the answer which my lord would send; but I sent him word I would not open my lips to my lord upon it. He says, it would convince the bishops of what I have affirmed, that the first fruits were granted before the duke of Ormond was declared governor; and I writ to him, that I would not give a farthing to convince them. My lord treasurer began a health to my lord privy seal; Prior punned, and said it was so privy, he knew not who it was, but I fancy they have fixed it all, and we shall know to morrow. But what care you who is privy seal, saucy sluttikins?

30. When I went out this morning, I was surprised with the news, that the bishop of Bristol is made lord privy seal. You know his name is Robinson, and that he was many years envoy in Sweden. All the friends of the present ministry are extreme glad, and the clergy above the rest. The whigs will fret to death to see a civil employment given to a clergyman. It was a very handsome thing in my lord treasurer, and will bind the church to him for ever. I dined with him to day, but he had not written his letter; but told me, he would not offer to send it without showing it to me; he thought that would not be just, since I was so deeply concerned in the affair. We had much company; lord Rivers, Marr, and Kinnoul, Mr. secretary, George Granville, and Masham; the last has invited me to the christening of his son to morrow se'nnight, and on Saturday I go to Windsor with Mr. secretary.

31. Dilly and I walked to day to Kensington to lady Mountjoy, who invited us to dinner. He returned soon to go to the play, it being the last that will be acted for some time: he dresses himself like a beau, and no doubt makes a fine figure. I went to visit some people at Kensington; Ophy Butler's wife there lies very ill of an ague, which is a very common disease here, and little known in Ireland. I am apt to think we shall soon have a peace, by the little words I hear thrown out by the ministry. I have just thought of a project to bite the town. I have told you, that it is now known that Mr. Prior has been lately in France. I will make a printer of my own sit by me one day, and I will dictate to him a formal relation of Prior's journey, with several particulars, all pure invention; and I doubt not but it will take.

Sept. 1. Morning. I go to day to Windsor with Mr. secretary; and lord treasurer has promised to bring me back. The weather has been fine for some time, and I believe we shall have a great deal of dust. At night. Windsor. The secretary and I and brigadier Sutton dined to day at Parson's green, at my lord Peterborow's house, who has left it and his gardens to the secretary during his absence. It is the finest garden I have ever seen about this town, and abundance of hot walls for grapes, where they are in great plenty, and ripening fast. I durst not eat any fruit, but one fig; but I brought a basket full to my friend Lewis here at Windsor. Does Stella never eat any? what, no apricots at Donnybrook? nothing but claret and ombre? I envy people maunching and maunching[1] peaches and grapes, and I not daring to eat a bit. My head is pretty well, only a sudden turn any time makes me giddy for a moment, and sometimes it feels very stuffed; but if it grows no worse, I can bear it very well. I take all opportunities of walking; and we have a delicious park here just joining to the castle, and an avenue in the great park very wide and two miles long, set with a double row of elms on each side. Were you ever at Windsor? I was once a great while ago; but had quite forgotten it.

2. The queen has the gout, and did not come to chapel, nor stir out from her chamber, but received the sacrament there: as she always does the first Sunday in the month. Yet we had a great court, and among others, I saw your Ingoldsby, who seeing me talk very familiarly with the keeper, treasurer, &c. came up and saluted me, and began a very impertinent discourse about the siege of Bouchain. I told him, I could not answer his questions, but I would bring him one that should; so I went and fetched Sutton (who brought over the express about a month ago) and delivered him to the general, and bid him answer his questions; and so I left them together. Sutton after some time came back in rage; finds me with lord Rivers and Masham, and there complains of the trick I had played him, and swore he had been plagued to death with Ingoldsby's talk. But he told me, Ingoldsby asked him what I meant by bringing him; so I suppose, he smoked me a little. So we laughed, &c. My lord Willoughby, who is one of the chaplains, and prebendary of Windsor, read prayers last night to the family; and the bishop of Bristol, who is dean of Windsor, officiated last night at the cathedral. This they do to be popular, and it pleases mightily. I dined with Mr. Masham, because he lets me have a select company. For the court here have got by the end a good thing I said to the secretary some weeks ago. He showed me his bill of fare to tempt me to dine with him; poh, said I, I value not your bill of fare, give me your bill of company. Lord treasurer was mightily pleased, and told it every body, as a notable thing. I reckon upon returning to morrow; they say the bishop will then have the privy seal delivered him at a great council.

3. Windsor still. The council was held so late to day, that I do not go back to town till to morrow. The bishop was sworn privy counsellor, and had the privy seal given him: and now the patents are passed for those who were this long time to be made lords or earls. Lord Raby, who is earl of Strafford, is on Thursday to marry a namesake of Stella's; the daughter of sir H. Johnson in the city; he has threescore thousand pounds with her, ready money; beside the rest at the father's death. I have got my friend Stratford to be one of the directors of the South Sea company, who were named to day. My lord treasurer did it for me a month ago: and one of those whom I got to be printer of the Gazette, I am recommending to be printer to the same company. He treated Mr. Lewis and me to day at dinner. I supped last night and this with lord treasurer, keeper, &c. and took occasion to mention the printer. I said, it was the same printer, whom my lord treasurer has appointed to print for the South Sea company; he denied, and I insisted on it; and I got the laugh on my side.

London, 4. I came as far as Brentford in lord Rivers's chariot, who had business with lord treasurer; then I went into lord treasurer's: we stopped at Kensington, where lord treasurer went to see Mrs. Masham, who is now what they call in the straw. We got to town by three, and I lighted at lord treasurer's; who commanded me not to stir: but I was not well; and when he went up, I begged the young lord to excuse me, and so went into the city by water, where I could be easier, and dined with the printer, and dictated to him some part of Prior's journey to France. I walked from the city, for I take all occasions of exercise. Our journey was horrid dusty.

5. When I went out to day, I found it had rained mightily in the night, and the streets were as dirty as winter; it is very refreshing after ten days dry. I went into the city and dined with Stratford, thanked him for his books, gave him joy of his being director, of which he had the first notice by a letter from me. I ate sturgeon, and it lies on my stomach. I almost finished Prior's journey at the printer's, and came home pretty late with Patrick at my heels.

7. Morning. But what shall we do about this letter of MD's, N. 19? not a word answered yet, and so much paper spent? I cannot do any thing in it, sweethearts, till night. At night. O Lord, O Lord, the greatest disgrace that ever was has happened to Presto. What do you think; but when I was going out this forenoon a letter came from MD, N. 20, dated at Dublin. O dear, O dear; O sad, O sad. Now I have two letters together to answer: here they are, lying together. But I will only answer the first; for I came in late. I dined with my friend Lewis at his lodgings, and walked at six to Kensington to Mr. Masham's christening. It was very private; nobody there but my lord treasurer, his son, and son-in-law, that is to say, lord Harley, and lord Dupplin, and lord Rivers and I. The dean of Rochester christened the child, but soon went away. Lord treasurer and lord Rivers were godfathers, and Mrs. Hill, Mrs. Masham's sister, godmother. The child roared like a bull, and I gave Mrs. Masham joy of it; and she charged me to take care of my nephew, because Mr. Masham being a brother of our society, his son you know is consequently a nephew. Mrs. Masham sat up dressed in bed, but not as they do in Ireland with all smooth about her, as if she was cut off in the middle; for you might see the counterpane (what d'ye call it?) rise above her hips and body. There's another name of the counterpane, and you'll laugh now, sirrahs. George Granville came in at supper, and we staid still eleven, and lord treasurer set me down at my lodging in Suffolk street. Did I ever tell you that lord treasurer hears ill with the left ear, just as I do? he always turns the right; and his servants whisper him at that only. I dare not tell him, that I am so too, for fear he should think I counterfeited, to make my court.

6. You must read this before the other; for I mistook, and forgot to write yesterday's journal, it was so insignificant: I dined with Dr. Cockburn, and sat the evening with lord treasurer, till ten o'clock. On Thursdays he has always a large select company, and expects me. So good night for last night, &c.

8. Morning. I go to Windsor with lord treasurer to day, and will leave this behind me to be sent to the post. And now let us hear what says the first letter, N. 19. You are still at Wexford, as you say, madam Dingley. I think no letter from me ever yet miscarried. And so Inish-Corthy[2], and the river Slainy; fine words those in a lady's mouth. Your hand like Dingley's, you scambling, scattering, sluttikin? Yes mighty like indeed, is not it[3]? Pisshh, don't talk of writing or reading till your eyes are well, and long well; only I would have Dingley read sometimes to you, that you may not quite lose the desire of it. God be thanked that the ugly numbing is gone. Pray use exercise when you go to town. What game is that ombra[4] which Dr. Elwood and you play at? is it the Spanish game ombre? Your card purse! you a card purse? you a fiddlestick. You have luck indeed; and luck in a bag. What a devil is that eight shilling tea-kettle? copper, or tin japanned? It is like your Irish politeness, raffling for tea-kettles. What a splutter you keep to convince me that Walls has no taste? My head continues pretty well. Why do you write, dear sirrah Stella, when you find your eyes so weak that you cannot see? what comfort is there in reading what you write, when one knows that? So Dingley can't write because of the clutter of new company come to Wexford? I suppose the noise of their hundred horses disturbs you; or, do you lie in one gallery, as in an hospital? what; you are afraid of losing in Dublin the acquaintance you have got in Wexford; and chiefly the bishop of Raphoe, an old, doating, perverse coxcomb? Twenty at a time at breakfast. That is like five pounds at a time, when it was never but once. I doubt, madam Dingley, you are apt to lie in your travels, though not so bad as Stella; she tells thumpers, as I shall prove in my next, if I find this receives encouragement. So Dr. Elwood[5] says. There are a world of pretty things in my works. A pox on his praises! an enemy here would say more. The duke of Buckingham would say as much, though he and I are terribly fallen out; and the great men are perpetually inflaming me against him: they bring me all he says of me, and, I believe, make it worse out of roguery. No, 'tis not your pen is bewitched, madam Stella, but your old scrawling, splay-foot, pot-hooks[6], s, s, ay that's it: there the s, s, s, there, there, that's exact. Farewell, &c.

Our fine weather is gone, and I doubt we shall have a rainy journey to day. Faith, 'tis shaving day, and I have much to do.

When Stella says her pen is bewitched, it was only because there was a hair in it. You know the fellow they call God-help-it had the same thoughts of his wife, and for the same reason. I think this is very well observed, and I unfolded the letter to tell you it.

Cut off those two notes above; and see the nine pounds endorsed, and receive the other; and send me word how my accounts stand, that they may be adjusted by Nov. 1. Pray be very particular: but the twenty pounds I lend you is not to be included; so make no blunder. I won't wrong you; nor you shan't wrong me; that's the short. O Lord, how stout Presto is of late! But he loves MD more than his life a thousand times, for all his stoutness; tell him that; and I'll swear it, as hope saved, ten millions of times, &c. &c.

I open my letter once more to tell Stella, that if she does not use exercise after her waters, it will lose all the effects of them: I should not live, if I did not take all opportunities of walking. Pray, pray, do this to oblige poor Presto.

  1. As the provincial word maunching echoes rather better to this action of the jaws than the proper term munching, it is therefore here retained.
  2. The name of a town in the county of Wexford.
  3. These words in Italicks are written in strange mishapen letters, inclining to the right hand, in imitation of Stella's writing.
  4. In Stella's spelling. It is an odd thing that a woman of Stella's understanding should spell extremely ill.
  5. Senior fellow of Trinity college, Dublin, and member of parliament for that university.
  6. These words in Italicks, and the two effes that follow, are miserably scrawled, in imitation of Stella's hand.