The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 15/Journal to Stella – Letter 33
London, Oct. 23, 1711.
I DINED with lord Dupplin, as I told you I would, and put my thirty-second into the postoffice my own self; and I believe there has not been one moment since we parted, wherein a letter was not upon the road going or coming to or from P MD. If the queen knew it, she would give us a pension; for it is we bring good luck to their postboys and their packets: else they would break their necks and sink. But, an old saying and a true one; Be it snow or storm or hail, PMD's letters never fail: Cross winds may sometimes make them tarry; But PMD's letters can't miscarry. —— Terrible rain to day, but it cleared up at night enough to save my twelvepence coming home. Lord treasurer is much better this evening. I hate to have him ill, he is so confoundedly careless. I won't answer your letter yet, so be satisfied.
24. I called at lord treasurer's to day at noon; he was eating some broth in his bedchamber, undressed, with a thousand papers about him. He has a little fever upon him, and his eye terribly bloodshot; yet he dressed himself and went out to the treasury. He told me, he had a letter from a lady with a complaint asainst me; it was from Mrs. Cutts, a sister of lord Cutts, who writ to him, that I had abused her brother: you remember the Salamander, it is printed in the Miscellany. I told my lord, that I would never regard complaints, and that I expected whenever he received any against me, he would immediately put them into the fire, and forget them, else I should have no quiet. —— I had a little turn in my head this morning; which, though it did not last above a moment, yet being of the true sort, has made me as weak as a dog all this day. 'Tis the first I have had this half year. I shall take my pills if I hear of it again. I dined at lady Mountjoy's with Harry Coote, and went to see lord Pembroke upon his coming to town. — The whig party are furious against a peace, and every day some ballad comes out reflecting on the ministry on that account. The secretary St. John has seized on a dozen booksellers and publishers, into his messengers hands. Some of the foreign ministers have published the preliminaries agreed on here between France and England; and people rail at them as insufficient to treat a peace upon; but the secret is, that the French have agreed to articles much more important, which our ministers have not communicated, and the people, who think they know all, are discontented that there is no more. This was an inconvenience I foretold to the secretary; but we could contrive no way to fence against it. So there's politicks for you.
25. The queen is at Hampton court; she went on Tuesday in that terrible rain. I dined with Lewis at his lodgings, to dispatch some business we had. I sent this morning and evening to lord treasurer, and he is much worse by going out; I am in pain about evening. He has sent for Dr. Radcliffe; pray God preserve him. The chancellor of the exchequer showed me to day a ballad in manuscript against lord treasurer and his South Sea project; it is very sharply written: if it be not printed, I will send it you. If it be, it shall go in your packet of pamphlets. — I found out your letter about directions for the apron, and have ordered to be bought a cheap, green silk work apron; I have it by heart. I sat this evening with Mrs. Barton, who is my near neighbour. It was a delicious day, and I got my walk, and was thinking whether MD was walking too just at that time that Presto was. —— This paper does not cost me a farthing, I have it from the secretary's office. I long till to morrow to know how my lord treasurer sleeps this night, and to hear he mends: we are all undone without him; so pray for him, sirrahs, and don't stay too late at the dean's.
26. I dined with Mrs. Van; for the weather is so bad, and I am so busy, that I can't dine with great folks: and besides I dare eat but little, to keep my head in order, which is better. Lord treasurer is very ill, but I hope in no danger. We have no quiet with the whigs, they are so violent against a peace; but I'll cool them, with a vengeance, very soon. I have not heard from the bishop of Clogher, whether he has got his statues. I writ to him six weeks ago; he's so busy with his parliament. I won't answer your letter yet, say what you will, saucy girls.
27. I forgot to go about some business this morning, which cost me double the time; and I was forced to be at the secretary's office till four, and lose my dinner; so I went to Mrs. Van's, and made them get me three herrings, which I am very fond of, and they are a light victuals: besides, I was to have supped at lady Ashburnham's; but the drab did not call for us in her coach, as she promised, but sent for us, and so I sent my excuses. It has been a terrible rainy day, but so flattering in the morning, that I would needs go out in my new hat. I met Leigh and Sterne as I was going into the park. Leigh says he will go to Ireland in ten days, if he can get Sterne to go with him; so I will send him the things for MD, and I have desired him to inquire about the box. I hate that Sterne for his carelessness about it; but it was my fault.
29. I was all this terrible rainy day with my friend Lewis upon business of importance; and I dined with him, and came home about seven, and thought I would amuse myself a little after the pains I had taken. I saw a volume of Congreve's plays in my room, that Patrick had taken to read; and I looked into it, and in mere loitering read in it till twelve, like an owl and a fool: if ever I do so again; never saw the like. Count Gallas, the emperor's envoy, you will hear is in disgrace with us: the queen has ordered her ministers to have no more commerce with him; the reason is, the fool writ a rude letter to lord Dartmouth, secretary of state, complaining of our proceedings about a peace; and he is always in close confidence with lord Wharton, and Sunderland, and others of the late ministry. I believe you begin to think there will be no peace; the whigs here are sure it cannot be, and stocks are fallen again. But I am confident there will, unless France plays us tricks; and you may venture a wager with any of your whig acquaintance, that we shall not have another campaign. You will get more by it than by ombre, sirrah. — I let slip telling you yesterday's journal, which I thought to have done this morning, but blundered. I dined yesterday at Harry Coote's with lord Hatton, Mr. Finch, a son of lord Nottingham, and sir Andrew Fountaine. I left them soon; but hear they staid till two in the morning, and were all drunk; and so good night for last night, and good night for to night. You blundering goosecap, an't you ashamed to blunder to young ladies? I shall have a fire in three or four days now, oh ho.
30. I was to day in the city concerting some things with a printer, and am to be to morrow all day busy with Mr. secretary about the same. I won't tell you now; but the ministers reckon it will do abundance of good, and open the eyes of the nation, who are half bewitched against a peace. Few of this generation can remember any thing but war and taxes, and they think it is as it should be; whereas 'tis certain we are the most undone people in Europe, as I am afraid I shall make appear beyond all contradiction. But I forgot; I won't tell you what I will do, nor what I will not do: so let me alone, and go to Stoyte, and give goody Stoyte and Catherine my humble service; I love goody Stoyte better than goody Walls. Who'll pay me for this green apron? I will have the money; it cost ten shillings and sixpence. I think it plaguy dear for a cheap thing; but they said, that English silk would cockle, and I know not what. You have the making into the bargain. 'Tis right Italian: I have sent it and the pamphlets to Leigh, and will send the Miscellanies and spectacles in a day or two. I would send more; but faith I'm plaguy poor at present.
31. The devil's in this secretary; when I went this morning he had people with him; but says he, we are to dine with Prior to day, and then will do all our business in the afternoon: at two Prior sends word, he is otherwise engaged; then the secretary and I go and dine with brigadier Britton, sit till eight, grow merry, no business done; he is in haste to see lady Jersey, we part, and appoint no time to meet again. This is the fault of all the present ministers, teasing me to death for my assistance, laying the whole weight of their affairs upon it, yet slipping opportunities. Lord treasurer mends every day, though slowly: I hope he will take care of himself. Pray, will you send to Parvisol to send me a bill of twenty pounds as soon as he can, for I want money. I must have money; I will have money, sirrahs.
Nov. 1. I went to day into the city to settle some business with Stratford, and to dine with him; but he was engaged, and I was so angry I would not dine with any other merchant, but went to my printer, and ate a bit, and did business of mischief with him, and I shall have the spectacles and Miscellany to morrow, and leave them with Leigh. A fine day always makes me go into the city, if I can spare time, because it is exercise; and that does me more good than any thing. I have heard nothing since of my head, but a little, I don't know how, sometimes: but I am very temperate, especially now the treasurer is ill, and the ministers often at Hampton court, and the secretary not yet fixed in his house, and I hate dining with many of my old acquaintance. Here has been a fellow discovered going out of the East India house with sixteen thousand pounds in money and bills; he would have escaped, if he had not been so uneasy with thirst, that he stole out before his time, and was caught. But what is that to MD? I wish we had the money, provided the East India company was never the worse; you know we must not covet, &c. Our weather, for this fortnight past, is chequered, a fair and a rainy day; this was very fine, and I have walked four miles, wish MD would do so, lazy sluttikins.
2. It has rained all day with a continuendo, and I went in a chair to dine with Mrs. Van; always there in a very rainy day. But I made a shift to come back afoot. I live a very retired life, pay very few visits, and keep but very little company; I read no newspapers. I am sorry I sent you the Examiner; for the printer is going to print them in a small volume: it seems the author is too proud to have them printed by subscription, though his friends offered, they say, to make it worth five hundred pounds to him. The Spectators are likewise printing in a larger and smaller volume: so I believe they are going to leave them off, and indeed people grow weary of them, though they are often prettily written. We have had no news for me to send you now toward the end of my letter. The queen has the gout a little; I hoped the lord treasurer would have had it too; but Radcliffe told me yesterday it was the rheumatism in his knee and foot; however he mends, and I hope will be abroad in a short time. I am told they design giving away several employments before the parliament sits, which will be the thirteenth instant. I either do not like, or not understand this policy; and if lord treasurer does not mend soon, they must give them just before the sessions. But he is the greatest procrastinator in the world.
3. A fine day this, and I walked a pretty deal; I stuffed the secretary's pockets with papers, which he must read and settle at Hampton court, where he went to day, and stays some time. They have no lodgings for me there, so I can't go; for the town is small, chargeable and inconvenient. Lord treasurer had a very ill night last night, with much pain in his knee and foot, but is easier to day. — And so I went to visit Prior about some business, and so he was not within, and so sir Andrew Fountaine made me dine to day again with Mrs. Van, and I came home soon, remembering this must go to night, and that I had a letter of MD's to answer. O Lord, where is it? let me see; so, so, here it is. You grudge writing so soon. Pox on that bill; the woman would have me manage that money for her. I do not know what to do with it now I have it; I am like the unprofitable steward in the Gospel: I laid it up in a napkin; there thou hast what is thine own, &c. Well, well, I know of your new mayor. (I'll tell you a pun; a fishmonger owed a man two crowns; so he sent him a piece of bad ling and a tench, and then said he was paid: how is that now? find it out; for I won't tell it you: which of you finds it out?) well, but as I was saying, what care I for your mayor? I fancy Ford may tell Forbes right about my returning to Ireland before Christmas, or soon after. I'm sorry you did not go on with your story about pray God you be John; I never heard it in my life, and wonder what it can be. — Ah, Stella, faith you leaned upon your Bible to think what to say when you writ that. Yes, that story of the secretary's making me an example is true; "never heard it before;" why how could you hear it? is it possible to tell you the hundredth part of what passes in our companies here? the secretary is as easy with me as Mr. Addison was. I have often thought what a splutter sir William Temple makes about being secretary of state; I think Mr. St. John the greatest young man I ever knew; wit, capacity, beauty, quickness of apprehension, good learning, and an excellent taste; the best orator in the house of commons, admirable conversation, good nature, and good manners; generous, and a despiser of money. His only fault is talking to his friends in way of complaint of too great a load of business, which looks a little like affectation: and he endeavours too much to mix the fine gentleman, and man of pleasure, with the man of business. What truth and sincerity he may have I know not: he is now but thirty-two, and has been secretary above a year. Is not all this extraordinary? how he stands with the queen and lord treasurer I have told you before. This is his character; and I believe you will be diverted by knowing it. I writ to the archbishop of Dublin, bishop of Cloyne, and of Clogher together, five weeks ago from Windsor: I hope they had my letters; pray know if Clogher had his. — Fig for your physician and his advice, madam Dingley; if I grow worse, I will; otherwise I will trust to temperance and exercise: your fall of the leaf; what care I when the leaves fall? I am sorry to see them fall with all my heart; but why should I take physick because leaves fall off from trees? that won't hinder them from falling. If a man falls from a horse, must I take physick for that? — This arguing makes you mad; but it is true right reason, not to be disproved. — I am glad at heart to hear poor Stella is better; use exercise and walk, spend pattens and spare potions, wear out clogs and waste claret. Have you found out my pun of the fishmonger? don't read a word more till you have got it. And Stella is handsome again, you say? and is she fat? I have sent to Leigh the set of Examiners; the first thirteen were written by several hands, some good, some bad; the next three and thirty were all by one hand, that makes forty six: then that author, whoever he was, laid it down on purpose to confound guessers; and the last six were written by a woman. Then there is an account of Guiscard by the same woman, but the facts sent by Presto. Then an answer to the letter to the lords about Greg by Presto; Prior's Journey by Presto; Vindication of the duke of Marlborough entirely by the same woman; Comment on Hare's Sermon by the same woman, only hints sent to the printer from Presto to give her. Then there's the Miscellany, an apron for Stella, a pound of chocolate without sugar for Stella, a fine snuff-rasp of ivory, given me by Mrs. St. John for Dingley, and a large roll of tobacco, which she must hide or cut shorter out of modesty, and four pair of spectacles for the Lord knows who. There's the cargo, I hope it will come safe. O, Mrs. Masham and I are very well; we write to one another, but it is upon business; I believe I told you so before: pray pardon my forgetfulness in these cases; poor Presto can't help it. MD shall have the money as soon as Tooke gets it. And so I think I have answered all, and the paper is out, and now I have fetched up my week, and will send you another this day fortnight. — Why, you rogues, two crowns make tench-ill-ling: you are so dull you could never have found it out. Farewell, &c. &c.
- That is Presto and MD.
- Here the doctor's memory failed him a little: he should have said, the first twelve were written by several hands (for Swift's Examiners commenced with No. 13) and the next thirty-two were by one hand, in all forty four. Vid. his letter to Stella, dated June 7, 1711. If the reader has any doubt of this matter still remaining, let him consult the two last paragraphs of the forty-fourth Examiner; and for curiosity, if he pleases, read the first paragraph of the forty-fifth number, where he will find the Examiner intends to proceed on a plan quite different from Swift's course of politicks. However, in six or eight weeks after Swift became silent, the Examiner was laid down, although revived again the December following, and continued to be a lively and spirited paper for two or three months, the writers of it being supplied with hints from Mr. secretary St. John and Dr. Swift. But the ministry having then obtained their ends in parliament, and the peace being in great forwardness, they suffered the Examiner to sink again into obscurity and dulness.