The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 15/Journal to Stella – Letter 36

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London, December 1, 1711.

MY last was put in this evening. I intended to dine with Mr. Masham to day, and called at White's chocolatehouse to see if he was there. Lord Wharton saw me at the door, and I saw him, but took no notice, and was going away; but he came through the crowd, called after me, and asked me how I did, &c. This was pretty; and I believe he wished every word he spoke was a halter to hang me. Masham did not dine at home, so I ate with a friend in the neighbourhood. The printer has not sent me the second edition; I know not the reason, for it certainly came out to day; perhaps they are glutted with it already. I found a letter from lord Harley on my table, to tell me that his father desires I would make two small alterations. I am going to be busy, &c.

2. Morning. See the blunder; I was making it the 37th day of the month from the number above. Well, but I am staying here for old Frowde[1], who appointed to call this morning: I am ready dressed to go to church: I suppose he dare not stir out but on Sundays. The printer called early this morning, told me the second edition went off yesterday in five hours, and he must have a third ready to morrow, for they might have sold half another: his men are all at work with it though it be Sunday. This old fool will not come, and I shall miss church. Morrow sirrahs. At night. I was at court to day; the queen is well, and walked through part of the rooms. I dined with the sesretary, and dispatched some business. He tells me, the Dutch envoy designs to complain of that pamphlet. The noise it makes is extraordinary. It is fit it should answer the pains I have been at about it. I suppose it will be printed in Ireland. Some lay it to Prior, others to Mr. secretary St. John, but I am always the first they lay every thing to. I'll go sleep, &c.

3. I have ordered Patrick not to let any odd fellow come up to me; and a fellow would needs speak with me from sir George Prettyman. I had never heard of him, and would not see the messenger; but at last it proved that this sir George has sold his estate, and is a beggar. Smithers, the Farnham carrier, brought me this morning a letter from your mother, with three papers enclosed of lady Gifford's writing; one owning some exchequer business of 100l. to be Stella's; another for 100l. that she has of yours, which I made over to you for Mariston; and a third for 300l.; the last is on stamped paper. I think they had better lie in England in some good hand till lady Gifford dies; and I will think of some such hand before I come over. I was asking Smithers about all the people of Farnham. Mrs. White has left off dressing, is troubled with lameness and swelled legs, and seldom stirs out; but her old hang dog husband as hearty as ever. I was this morning with lord treasurer about something he would have altered in the pamphlet; but it can't be till the fourth edition, which I believe will be soon; for I dined with the printer, and he tells me they have sold off half the third. Mrs. Percival and her daughter have been in town these three weeks, which I never heard till to day; and Mrs. Wesley is come to town too, to consult Dr. Radcliffe. The whigs are resolved to bring that pamphlet into the house of lords to have it condemned, so I hear. But the printer will stand to it, and not own the author; he must say, he had it from the penny post. Some people talk as if the house of lords would do some peevish thing; for the whigs are now a great majority in it; our ministers are too negligent of such things: I have never slipped giving them warning; some of them are sensible of it; but lord treasurer stands too much upon his own legs. I fancy his good fortune will bear him out in every thing; but in reason I should think this ministry to stand very unsteady: if they can carry a peace, they may hold; I believe not else.

4. Mr. secretary sent to me to day to dine with him alone; but we had two more with us, which hindered me doing some business. I was this morning with young Harcourt, secretary to our society, to take a room for our weekly meetings; and the fellow asked us five guineas a week only to have leave to dine once a week: was not that pretty? so we broke off with him, and are to dine next Thursday at Harcourt's (he is lord keeper's son.) They have sold off above half the third edition, and answers are coming out: the Dutch envoy refused dining with Dr. Davenant, because he was suspected to write it: I have made some alterations in every edition, and it has cost me more trouble, for the time, since the printing than before. 'Tis sent over to Ireland, and I suppose you will have it reprinted.

5. They are now printing the fourth edition, which is reckoned very extraordinary, considering 'tis a dear twelvepenny book, and not bought up in numbers by the party to give away, as the whigs do, but purely upon its own strength. I have got an under spur-leather to write an Examiner again, and the secretary and I will now and then send hints; but we would have it a little upon the Grub street, to be a match for their writers. I dined with lord treasurer to day at five: he dined by himself after his family, and drinks no claret yet, for fear of his rheumatism, of which he is almost well. He was very pleasant, as he is always; yet I fancied he was a little touched with the present posture of affairs. The elector of Hanover's minister here has given in a violent memorial against the peace, and caused it to be printed. The whig lords are doing their utmost for a majority against Friday, and design, if they can, to address the queen against the peace. Lord Nottingham, a famous tory and speechmaker, is gone over to the whig side: they toast him daily, and lord Wharton says; It is Dismal (so they call him from his looks) will save England at last. Lord treasurer was hinting as if he wished a ballad was made on him, and I will get up one against to morrow. He gave me a scurrilous printed paper of bad verses on himself, under the name of the English Catiline, and made me read them to the company. It was his birthday, which he would not tell us, but lord Harley whispered it to me.

6. I was this morning making the ballad, two degrees above Grub street; at noon I paid a visit to Mrs. Masham, and then went to dine with our society. Poor lord keeper dined below stairs, I suppose on a bit of mutton. We chose two members; we were eleven met, the greatest meeting we ever had: I am next week to introduce lord Orrery. The printer came before we parted, and brought the ballad, which made them laugh very heartily a dozen times. He is going to print the pamphlet in small, a fifth edition, to be taken off by friends and sent into the country. A sixpenny answer is come out, good for nothing, but guessing me among others for the author. To morrow is the fatal day for the parliament meeting, and we are full of hopes and fears. We reckon we have a majority of ten on our side in the house of lords; yet I observed Mrs. Masham a little uneasy; she assures me the queen is stout. The duke of Marlborough has not seen the queen for some days past; Mrs. Masham is glad of it, because she says, he tells a hundred lies to his friends of what she says to him: he is one day humble, and the next day on the high ropes. The duke of Ormond, they say, will be in town to night by twelve.

7. This being the day the parliament was to meet, and the great question to be determined, I went with Dr. Freind to dine in the city, on purpose to be out of the way, and we sent our printer to see what was our fate; but he gave us a most melancholy account of things. The earl of Nottingham began, and spoke against a peace, and desired that in their address they might put in a clause to advise the queen not to make a peace without Spain; which was debated, and carried by the whigs by about six voices: and this has happened entirely by my lord treasurer's neglect, who did not take timely care to make up all his strength, although every one of us gave him caution enough. Nottingham has certainly been bribed. The question is yet only carried in the committee of the whole house, and we hope when it is reported to the house to morrow, we shall have a majority by some Scotch lords coming to town. However, it is a mighty blow and loss of reputation to lord treasurer, and may end in his ruin. I hear the thing only as the printer brought it, who was at the debate; but how the ministry take it, or what their hopes and fears are, I cannot tell until I see them. I shall be early with the secretary to morrow, and then I will tell you more, and shall write a full account to the bishop of Clogher to morrow, and to the archbishop of Dublin, if I have time. I am horribly down at present. I long to know how lord treasurer bears this, and what remedy he has. The duke of Ormond came this day to town, and was there.

8. I was early this morning with the secretary, and talked over this matter. He hoped, that when it was reported this day in the house of lords, they would disagree with their committee, and so the matter would go off, only with a little loss of reputation to lord treasurer. I dined with Dr. Cockburn, and after a Scotch member came in, and told us that the clause was carried against the court in the house of lords almost two to one. I went immediately to Mrs. Masham, and meeting Dr. Arbuthnot (the queen's favourite physician) we went together. She was just come from waiting at the queen's dinner, and going to her own. She had heard nothing of the thing being gone against us. It seems lord treasurer had been so negligent, that he was with the queen while the question was put in the house: I immediately told Mrs. Masham, that either she and lord treasurer had joined with the queen to betray us, or that they two were betrayed by the queen: she protested solemnly it was not the former, and I believed her; but she gave me some lights to suspect the queen is changed. For, yesterday when the queen was going from the house, where she sat to hear the debate, the duke of Shrewsbury lord chamberlain asked her, whether he or the great chamberlain Lindsay ought to lead her out; she answered short. Neither of you, and gave her hand to the duke of Somerset, who was louder than any in the house for the clause against peace. She gave me one or two more instances of this sort, which convince me that the queen is false, or at least very much wavering. Mr. Masham begged us to stay, because lord treasurer would call, and we were resolved to fall on him about his negligence in securing a majority. He came, and appeared in good humour as usual, but I thought his countenance was much cast down. I rallied him, and desired him to give me his staff, which he did; I told him, If he would secure it me a week, I would set all right: he asked. How? I said, I would immediately turn lord Marlborough, his two daughters, the duke and duchess of Somerset, and lord Cholmondeley out of all their employments; and I believe he had not a friend but was of my opinion. Arbutnot asked, How he came not to secure a majority? He could answer nothing, but that he could not help it, if people would lie and forswear. A poor answer for a great minister. There fell from him a scripture expression, that the hearts of kings are unsearchable. I told him. It was what I feared, and was from him the worst news he could tell me. I begged him to know what he had to trust to: he stuck a little; but at last bid me not fear, for all would be well yet. We would fain have had him eat a bit where he was, but he would go home, it was past six: he made me go home with him. There we found his brother and Mr. secretary. He made his son take a list of all the house of commons who had places, and yet voted against the court, in such a manner as if they should lose their places: I doubt he is not able to compass it. Lord keeper came in an hour, and they were going upon business. So I left him, and returned to Mrs. Masham; but she had company with her, and I would not stay. This is a long journal, and of a day that may produce great alterations, and hazard the ruin of England. The whigs are all in triumph; they foretold how all this would be, but we thought it boasting. Nay, they said the parliament should be dissolved before Christmas, and perhaps it may: this is all your d——d duchess of Somerset's doings, I warned them of it nine months ago, and a hundred times since: the secretary always dreaded it. I told lord treasurer, I should have the advantage of him; for he would lose his head, and I should only be hanged, and so carry my body entire to the grave.

9. I was this morning with Mr. secretary, we are both of opinion that the queen is false. I told him what I heard, and he confirmed it by other circumstances. I then went to my friend Lewis, who had sent to see me. He talks of nothing but retiring to his estate in Wales. He gave me reasons to believe the whole matter is settled between the queen and the whigs; he hears that lord Somers is to be treasurer, and believes, that sooner than turn out the duchess of Somerset, she will dissolve the parliament, and get a whiggish one, which may be done by managing elections. Things are now in the crisis, and a day or two will determine. I have desired him to engage lord treasurer, that as soon as he finds the change is resolved on, he will send me abroad as queen's secretary somewhere or other, where I may remain till the new ministers recall me; and then I will be sick for five or six months till the storm has spent itself. I hope he will grant me this for I should hardly trust myself to the mercy of my enemies while their anger is fresh. I dined to day with the secretary, who affects mirth, and seems to hope all will yet be well. I took him aside after dinner, told him how I had served them, and had asked no reward, but thought I might ask security; and then desired the same thing of him, to send me abroad before a change. He embraced me, and swore he would take the same care of me as himself, &c. but bid me have courage, for that in two days my lord treasurer's wisdom would appear greater than ever; that he suffered all that had happened on purpose, and had taken measures to turn it to advantage. I said, God send it; but I do not believe a syllable; and as far as I can judge, the game is lost. I shall know more soon, and my letters will at least be a good history to show you the steps of this change.

10. I was this morning with Lewis, who thinks they will let the parliament sit till they have given the money, and then dissolve them in spring, and break the ministry. He spoke to lord treasurer about what I desired him. My lord desired him with great earnestness to assure me, that all would be well, and that I should fear nothing. I dined in the city with a friend. This day the commons went to the queen with their address, and all the lords who were for the peace went with them, to show their zeal. I have now some farther conviction that the queen is false, and it begins to be known.

11. I went between two and three to see Mrs. Masham; while I was there she went to her bedchamber to try a petticoat. Lord treasurer came in to see her, and seeing me in the outer room fell a rallying me: says he, You had better keep company with me, than with such a fellow as Lewis, who has not the soul of a chicken, nor the heart of a mite. Then he went in to Mrs. Masham, and as he came back desired her leave to let me go home with him to dinner. He asked, whether I was not afraid to be seen with him? I said, I never valued my lord treasurer in my life, and therefore should have always the same esteem for Mr. Harley and lord Oxford. He seemed to talk confidently, as if he reckoned that all this would turn to advantage, I could not forbear hinting, that he was not sure of the queen; and that those scoundrel, starving lords would never have dared to vote against the court, if Somerset had not assured them, that it would please the queen. He said, That was true, and Somerset did so. I staid till six; then de Buys, the Dutch envoy, came to him, and I left him. Prior was with us a while after dinner. I see him and all of them cast down; though they make the best of it.

12. Ford is come to town; I saw him last night; he is in no fear, but sanguine, although I have told him the state of things. This change so resembles the last, that I wonder they do not observe it. The secretary sent for me yesterday to dine with him, but I was abroad; I hope he had something to say to me. This is morning, and I write in bed. I am going to the duke of Ormond, whom I have not yet seen. Morrow, sirrahs. —— At night. I was to see the duke of Ormond this morning: he asked me two or three questions after his civil way, and they related to Ireland: at last I told him, that from the time I had seen him, I never once thought of Irish affairs. He whispered me, that he hoped I had done some good things here: I said, If every body else had done half as much, we should not be as we are: then we went aside, and talked over affairs. I told him how all things stood, and advised him what was to be done. I then went and sat an hour with the duchess; then as long with lady Oglethorp, who is so cunning a devil, that I believe she could yet find a remedy, if they would take her advice. I dined with a friend at court.

13. I was this morning with the secretary; he will needs pretend to talk as if things would be well; Will you believe it, said he, if you see these people turned out? I said, Yes, if I saw the duke and duchess of Somerset out: he swore, if they were not, he would give up his place. Our society dined to day at sir William Wyndham's; we were thirteen present. Lord Orrery, and two other members were introduced; I left them at seven. I forgot to tell you, that the printer told me yesterday, that Morphew, the publisher, was sent for by that lord chief justice, who was a manager against Sacheverell; he showed him two or three papers and pamphlets; among the rest mine of the Conduct of the Allies, threatened him, asked who was the author, and has bound him over to appear next term. He would not have the impudence to do this, if he did not foresee what was coming at court.

14. Lord Shelburne was with me this morning, to be informed of the state of affairs, and desired I would answer all his objections against a peace, which was soon done, for he would not give me room to put in a word. He is a man of good sense enough; but argues so violently, that he will some day or other put himself into a consumption. He desires that he may not be denied when he comes to see me, which I promised, but will not perform. Leigh and Sterne set out for Ireland on Monday se'nnight: I suppose they will be with you long before this. —— I was to night drinking very good wine in scurvy company, at least some of them; I was drawn in, but will be more cautious for the future; 'tis late, &c.

15. Morning. They say the Occasional Bill is brought to day into the house of lords; but I know not. I will now put an end to my letter, and give it into the posthouse myself. This will be a memorable letter, and I shall sigh to see it some years hence. Here are the first steps toward the ruin of an excellent ministry; for I look upon them as certainly ruined; and God knows what may be the consequences. —— I now bid my dearest MD farewell for company is coming, and I must be at lord Dartmouth's office by noon. Farewell, dearest MD; I wish you a merry Christmas; I believe you will have this about that time. Love Presto, who loves MD above all things a thousand times. Farewell again, dearest MD, &c.

  1. Philip Frowde, esq., author of some poems and plays. He died Dec. 25, 1738.