The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 15/Journal to Stella – Letter 55

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London, Nov. 15, 1712[1].

BEFORE this comes to your hands, you will have heard of the most terrible accident that hath almost ever happened. This morning, at eight, my man brought me word, that duke Hamilton had fought with lord Mohun, and killed him, and was brought home wounded. I immediately sent him to the duke's house, in St. James's square; but the porter could hardly answer for tears, and a great rabble was about the house. In short, they fought at seven this morning. The dog Mohun was killed on the spot; and, while the duke was over him, Mohun shortened his sword, stabbed him in at the shoulder to the heart. The duke was helped toward the cake house by the ring in Hyde park (where they fought) and died on the grass, before he could reach the house; and was brought home in his coach by eight, while the poor duchess was asleep. Macartney and one Hamilton were the seconds, who fought likewise, and are both fled. I am told, that a footman of lord Mohun's stabbed duke Hamilton; and some say Macartney did so too. Mohun gave the affront, and yet sent the challenge. I am infinitely concerned for the poor duke, who was a frank, honest, good natured man. I loved him very well, and I think he loved me better. He had the greatest mind in the world to have me go with him to France, but durst not tell it me; and those he did tell, said I could not be spared, which was true. They have removed the poor duchess to a lodging in the neighbourhood, where I have been with her two hours, and am just come away. I never saw so melancholy a scene; for indeed all reasons for real grief belong to her; nor is it possible for any body to be a greater loser in all regards. She has moved my very soul. The lodging was inconvenient, and they would have removed her to another; but I would not suffer it, because it had no room backward, and she must have been tortured with the noise of the Grub street screamers mentioning her husband's murder in her ears.

I believe you have heard the story of my escape, in opening the bandbox sent to the lord treasurer. The prints have told a thousand lies of it; but at last we gave them a true account of it at length, printed in "the evening;" only I would not suffer them to name me, having been so often named before, and teased to death with questions. I wonder how I came to have so much presence of mind, which is usually not my talent; but so it pleased God, and I saved myself and him; for there was a bullet piece. A gentleman told me, that if I had been killed, the whigs would have called it a judgment, because the barrels were of inkhorns, with which I had done them so much mischief. There was a pure Grub street of it, full of lies and inconsistencies. I do not like these things at all, and I wish myself more and more among my willows. There is a devilish spirit among people, and the ministry must exert themselves, or sink. Night, dearest sirrahs, I'll go to sleep.

16. I thought to have finished this yesterday; but was too much disturbed. I sent a letter early this morning to lady Masham, to beg her to write some comforting words to the poor duchess. I dined to day with lady Masham at Kensington where she is expecting these two months to lie in. She has promised me to get the queen to write to the duchess kindly on this occasion; and to morrow I will beg lord treasurer to visit and comfort her. I have been with her two hours again, and find her worse. Her violences not so frequent, but her melancholy more formal and settled. She has abundance of wit and spirit; about thirty three years old; handsome and airy, and seldom spared any body that gave her the least provocation; by which she had many enemies, and few friends. Lady Orkney, her sister-in-law, is come to town on this occasion; and has been to see her, and behaved herself with great humanity. They have been always very ill together, and the poor duchess could not have patience when people told her I went often to lady Orkney's. But I am resolved to make them friends; for the duchess is now no more the object of envy, and must learn humility from the severest master, Affliction. I design to make the ministry put out a proclamation (if it can be found proper) against that villain Macartney. What shall we do with these murderers? I cannot end this letter to night, and there is no occasion; for I cannot send it till Tuesday, and the coroner's inquest on the duke's body is to be to morrow. And I shall know more. But what care you for all this? Yes, MD is sorry for Pdfr's friends; and this is a very surprising event. 'Tis late, and I'll go to bed. This looks like journals. Night.

17. I was to day at noon with the duchess of Hamilton again, after I had been with lady Orkney, and charged her to be kind to her sister in affliction. The duchess told me lady Orkney had been with her, and that she did not treat her as gently as she ought. They hate one another, but I will try to patch it up. I have been drawing up a paragraph for the Post Boy, to be out to morrow, and as malicious as possible, and very proper for Abel Roper, the printer of it. I dined at lord treasurer's at six in the evening, which is his usual hour of returning from Windsor: he promised to visit the duchess to morrow, and says he has a message to her from the queen. 'Tis late: I have staid till past one with him. So night, dearest MD.

18. The committee of council is to sit this afternoon upon the affair of duke Hamilton's murder, and I hope a proclamation will be out against Macartney. I was just now ('tis now noon) with the duchess, to let her know lord treasurer will see her. She is mightily indisposed. The jury have not yet brought in their verdict upon the coroner's inquest. We suspect Macartney stabbed the duke while he was fighting. The queen and lord treasurer are in great concern at this event. I dine to day again with lord treasurer; but must send this to the postoffice before, because else I shall not have time; he usually keeps me so late. Ben Tooke bid me write to DD to send her certificate, for it is high time it should be sent, he says. Pray make Parvisol write to me, and send me a general account of my affairs; and let him know I shall be over in spring, and that by all means he sells the horses. Prior has kissed the queen's hand, and will return to France in a few days, and lord Strafford to Holland; and now the king of Spain has renounced his pretensions to France, the peace must follow very soon unavoidably. You must no more call Philip duke of Anjou, for we now acknowledge him king of Spain. Dr. Pratt tells me, you are all mad in Ireland with playhouse frolicks and prologues, and I know not what. The bishop of Clogher and his family are well: they have heard from you lately, or you from them, I have forgot which: I dined there the other day; but the bishop came not till after dinner; and our meat and drink was very so so. Mr. Vedeau was with me yesterday, and inquired after you. He was a lieutenant, and is now broke, and upon half pay. He asked me nothing for himself; but wanted an employment for a friend, who would give a handsome pair of gloves. One Hales sent me up a letter the other day, which said you lodged in his house, and therefore desired I would get him a civil employment. I would not be within, and have directed my man to give him an answer, that I never open letters brought me by the writers, &c. I was complaining to a lady, that I wanted to mend an employment from forty to sixty pounds a year in the salt office, and thought it hard I could not do it. She told me, one Mr. Griffin should do it. And afterward I met Griffin at her lodgings; and he was, as I found, one I had been acquainted with. I named Filby to him, and his abode somewhere near Nantwich. He said frankly, he had formerly examined the man, and found he understood very little of his business; but if he heard he mended, he would do what I desired. I will let it rest a while, and then resume it, and if Ppt writes to Filby, she may advise him to diligence, &c. I told Griffin positively I would have it done, if the man mended. This is an account of Ppt's commission to her most humble servant Pdfr. I have a world of writing to finish, and little time; these toads of ministers are so slow in their helps. This makes me sometimes steal a week from the exactness I used to write to MD. Farewell, dearest little MD, &c. Smoke the folding of my letters of late.

  1. Endorsed, "Received Nov. 26, just come from Portraine."