The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 15/Journal to Stella – Letter 53

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London, Oct. 9, 1712[1].

I HAVE left Windsor these ten days, and am deep in pills with asafœtida, and a steel bitter drink; and I find my head much better than it was. I was very much discouraged; for I used to be ill for three or four days together, ready to totter as I walked. I take eight pills a day, and have taken, I believe, a hundred and fifty already. The queen, lord treasurer, lady Masham, and I, were all ill together, but are now all better; only lady Masham expects every day to lie in at Kensington. There never was such a lump of lies spread about the town together as now. I doubt not but you will have them in Dublin before this comes to you, and all without the least ground of truth. I have been mightily put back in something I am writing by my illness, but hope to fetch it up, so as to be ready when the parliament meets. Lord treasurer has had an ugly fit of the rheumatism, but is now near quite well. I was playing at one and thirty with him and his family the other night. He gave us all twelvepence apiece to begin with: it put me in mind of sir William Temple[2]. I asked both him and lady Masham seriously, whether the queen were at all inclined to a dropsy? And they positively assured me she was not: so did her physician Arbuthnot, who always attends her. Yet these devils have spread that she has holes in her legs, and runs at her navel, and I know not what. Arbuthnot has sent me from Windsor a pretty Discourse upon Lying, and I have ordered the printer to come for it. It is a proposal for publishing a curious piece, called, The Art of Political Lying, in two volumes, &c. And then there is an abstract of the first volume, just like those pamphlets which they call "The Works of the Learned." Pray get it when it comes out[3]. The queen has a little of the gout in one of her hands. I believe she will stay a month still at Windsor. Lord treasurer showed me the kindest letter from her in the world, by which I picked out one secret, that there will be soon made some knights of the garter. You know another is fallen by lord Godolphin's death: he will be buried in a day or two at Westminster abbey. I saw Tom Leigh in town once. The bishop of Clogher has taken his lodging for the winter; they are all well. I hear there are in town abundance of people from Ireland; half a dozen bishops at least. The poor old bishop of London[4], at past fourscore, fell down backward going up stairs, and I think broke or cracked his skull; yet is now recovering. The town is as empty as at midsummer; and if I had not occasion for physick, I would be at Windsor still. Did I tell you of lord Rivers's will; he has left legacies to about twenty paltry old whores by name, and not a farthing to any friend, dependent or relation: he has left from his only child, lady Barrymore[5], her mother's estate, and given the whole to his heir male, a popish priest, a second cousin, who is now earl Rivers[6], and whom he used in his life like a footman. After him it goes to his chief wench and bastard. Lord treasurer and lord chamberlain are executors of this hopeful will. I loved the man, but detest his memory. We hear nothing of peace yet: I believe verily the Dutch are so wilful, because they are told the queen cannot live. I had poor MD's letter, N. 32, at Windsor; but I could not answer it then; Pdfr was very sick then: and, besides, it was a very inconvenient place to write letters from. You "thought to come home the same day, and staid a month:" that was a sign the place was agreeable. I should love such a sort of jaunt. Is that lad Swanton a little more fixed than he used to be? I think you like the girl very well. She has left off her grave airs, I suppose. I am now told, lord Godolphin was buried last night. O poor Ppt! ****. I believe I escaped the new fever, for the same reason that Ppt did, because I am not well; but why should DD escape it, pray? she is melthigal, you know, and ought to have the fever; but I hope it is now too late, and she won't have it at all. Some physicians here talk very melancholy, and think it foreruns the plague, which is actually at Hamburgh. I hoped Ppt would have done with her illness; but I think we both have the faculty never to part with a disorder for ever; we are very constant. I have had my giddiness twenty three years by fits. Will Mrs. Raymond never have done lying in? He intends to leave beggars enough; for I dare say, he has squandered away the best part of his fortune already, and is not out of debt. I had a letter from him lately.

October 11. Lord treasurer sent for me yesterday and the day before to sit with him, because he is not yet quite well enough to go abroad; and I could not finish my letter. How the deuce come I to be so exact in your money? Just seventeen shillings and eightpence more than due; I believe you cheat me. Ppt[7] makes a petition with many apologies. John Danvers, you know, is lady Giffard's friend. The rest I never heard of I tell you what, as things are at present, I cannot possibly speak to lord treasurer for any body. I need tell you no more. Something or nothing will be done in my own affairs; if the former, I will be a solicitor for your sister; if the latter, I have done with courts for ever. Opportunities will often fall in my way, if I am used well, and I will then make it my business. It is my delight to do good offices for people who want and deserve it, and a tenfold delight to do it to a relation of Ppt, whose affairs Pdfr has so at heart. I have taken down his name and his case (not her case); and whenever a proper time comes, I will do all I can: that is enough to say when I can do no more; and I beg your pardon a thousand times, that I cannot do better. I hope the dean of St. Patrick's is well of his fever: he has never wrote to me: I am glad of it; pray don't desire him to write. I have dated your bill late, because it must not commence, young women, till the first of November next. O, faith, I must be ise; yes, faith, must I, else we shall cheat Pdfr. Are you good housewives and readers? Are you walkers? I know you are gamesters. Are you drinkers? Are you —— hold, I must go no farther, for fear of abusing fine ladies. Parvisol has not sent me one word how he set this year's tithes. Pray, ask whether tithes set well or ill this year. Bishop of Killaloe tells me wool bears a good rate in Ireland; but how is corn? I dined yesterday with lady Orkney, and we sat alone from two till eleven at night. You have heard of her, I suppose. I have twenty letters upon my hands, and am so lazy and so busy, I cannot answer them, and they grow upon me for several months. Have I any apples at Laracor? It is strange every year should blast them, when I took so much care for shelter. Lord Bolingbroke has been idle at his country house this fortnight, which puts me backward in business I have. I am got into an ordinary room two pair of stairs, and see nobody, if I can help it; yet some puppies have found me out, and my man is not such an artist as Patrick at denying me. Patrick has been soliciting to come to me again, but in vain. The printer has been here with some of the new whims printed, and has taken up my time. I am just going out, and can only bid you farewell. Farewell, dearest little MD, &c.

  1. Endorsed, "Received Oct. 18, at Portraine."
  2. Sir William treated Swift with so little liberality, after encouraging him to hope he would provide for him, that it was like giving him a shilling to begin the world with.
  3. This is published among the dean's works, and is part of the Miscellany, which he printed in conjunction with Mr. Pope.
  4. Dr. Henry Compton, translated to that see from the bishoprick of Oxford, in 1675.
  5. Lady Elizabeth, married to James the fourth earl of Barrymore. She had one daughter, lady Penelope, who was married to general Cholmondeley.
  6. William Savage, son of Richard, third son of the first earl of that name. He was a papist in holy orders; dying unmarried, the title became extinct.
  7. Ppt, is Mrs. Johnson.