The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From Alexander Pope to Jonathan Swift - 33

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MAY 17, 1739.

EVERY time I see your hand, it is the greatest satisfaction that any writing can give me; and I am in proportion grieved to find, that several of my letters to testify it to you miscarry; and you ask me the same questions again which I prolixly have answered before. Your last, which was delivered me by Mr. Swift, inquires, where and how is lord Bolingbroke? who, in a paragraph in my last, under his own hand, gave you an account of himself; and I employed almost a whole letter on his affairs afterward. He has sold Dawley for twenty-six thousand pounds, much to his own satisfaction. His plan of life is now a very agreeable one in the finest country of France, divided between study and exercise; for he still reads or writes five or six hours a day, and generally hunts twice a week. He has the whole forest of Fontainbleau at his command, with the king's stables and dogs, &c., his lady's son-in-law being governor of that place. She resides most part of the year with my lord, at a large house they have hired; and the rest with her daughter, who is abbess of a royal convent in the neighbourhood.

I never saw him in stronger health or in better humour with his friends, or more indifferent and dispassionate to his enemies. He is seriously set upon writing some parts of the history of his times, which he has begun by a noble introduction, presenting a view of the whole state of Europe, from the Pyrenean treaty. He has hence deduced a summary sketch of the natural and incidental interests of each kingdom; and how they have varied from, or approached to, the true politicks of each, in the several administrations to this time. The history itself will be particular only on such facts and anecdotes as he personally knew, or produces vouchers for, both from home and abroad. This puts into my mind to tell you a fear he expressed lately to me, that some facts in your History of the Queen's Last Years (which he read here with me in 1727) are not exactly stated, and that he may be obliged to vary from them, in relation, I believe, to the conduct of the earl of Oxford, of which great care surely should be taken. And he told me, that, when he saw you in 1727, he made you observe them; and that you promised you would take care.

We very often commemorated you during the five months we lived together at Twickenham. At which place could I see you again, as I may hope to see him, I would envy no country in the world; and think, not Dublin only, but France and Italy, not worth the visiting once more in my life. The mention of travelling introduces your old acquaintance Mr. Jervas, who went to Rome and Naples purely in search of health. An asthma has reduced his body, but his spirit retains all its vigour; and he is returned, declaring life itself not worth a day's journey, at the expense of parting from one's friends.

Mr. Lewis every day remembers you. I lie at his house in town. Dr. Arbuthnot's daughter does not degenerate from the humour and goodness of her father. I love her much. She is like Gay, very idle, very ingenious, and inflexibly honest. Mrs. Patty Blount is one of the most considerate and mindful women in the world toward others, the least so in regard to herself: she speaks of you constantly. I scarcely know two more women worth naming to you: the rest are ladies, run after musick, and play at cards.

I always make your compliments to lord Oxford and lord Masham, when I see them. I see John Barber seldom; but always find him proud of some letter from you. I did my best with him, in behalf of one of your friends; and spoke to Mr. Lyttelton for the other, who was more prompt to catch than I to give fire, and flew to the prince that instant, who was pleased to please me.

You ask me, how I am at court. I keep my old walk, and deviate from it to no court. The prince[2] shows me a distinction beyond any merit or pretence on my part; and I have received a present from him of some marble heads of poets for my library, and some urns for my garden. The ministerial writers rail at me; yet I have no quarrel with their masters, nor think it of weight enough to complain of them: I am very well with the courtiers I ever was or would be acquainted with. At least, they are civil to me; which is all I ask from courtiers, and all a wise man will expect from them. The duchess of Marlborough makes great court to me; but I am too old for her mind and body: yet I cultivate some young people's friendship, because they may be honest men; whereas the old ones experience too often proves not to be so, I having dropped ten where I have taken up one, and I hope to play the better with fewer in my hand. There is a lord Cornbury, a lord Polwarth[3], a Mr. Murray[4], and one or two more, with whom I would never fear to hold out against all the corruption of the world.

You compliment me in vain upon retaining my poetical spirit: I am sinking fast into prose; and, if I ever write more, it ought (at these years and in these times,) to be something, the matter of which will give a value to the work, not merely the manner.

Since my protest (for so I call my dialogue of 1738) I have written but ten lines, which I will send you. They are an insertion for the next new edition of the Dunciad, which generally is reprinted once in two years. In the second canto, among the authors who dive in Fleet ditch, immediately after Arnal, verse 300, add these:

Next plung'd a feeble but a desp'rate pack,
With each a sickly brother at his back;
Sons of a day! just buoyant on the flood,
Then numbered with the puppies in the mud.
Ask ye their names? I could as soon disclose
The names of those blind puppies as of those.
Fast by, like Niobe, her children gone,
Sits mother Osborne, stupified to stone;
And needy Paxton[5] tells the world with tears,
These are, ah! no; these were my gazetteers.

Having nothing to tell you of my poetry, I come to what is now my chief care, my health and amusement: the first is better, as to headachs; worse, as to weakness and nerves. The changes of weather affect me much; otherwise I want not spirits, except when indigestions prevail. The mornings are my life; in the evenings I am not dead indeed, but sleep, and am stupid enough. I love reading still, better than conversation: but my eyes fail; and, at the hours when most people indulge in company, I am tired, and find the labour of the past day sufficient to weigh me down. So I hide myself in bed, as a bird in his nest, much about the same time, and rise and chirp the earlier in the morning. I often vary the scene (indeed at every friend's call) from London to Twickenham; or the contrary, to receive them, or be received by them.

Lord Bathurst is still my constant friend, and yours; but his country seat is now always in Gloucestershire, not in this neighbourhood. Mr. Pulteney has no country seat; and in town I see him seldom; but he always asks after you. In the summer I generally ramble for a month to lord Cobham's, the Bath, or elsewhere. In all those rambles my mind is full of you, and poor Gay, with whom I travelled so delightfully two summers. Why cannot I cross the sea? The unhappiest malady I have to complain of, the unhappiest accident of my whole life, is that weakness of the breast, which makes the physicians of opinion that a strong vomit would kill me. I have never taken one, nor had a natural motion that way in fifteen years. I went, some years ago, with lord Peterborow about ten leagues at sea, purely to try if I could sail without sea sickness, and with no other view than to make yourself and lord Bolingbroke a visit before I died.

But the experiment, though almost all the way near the coast, had almost ended all my views at once. Well then, I must submit to live at the distance which fortune has set us at: but my memory, my affections, my esteem, are inseparable from you, and will, my dear friend, be for ever yours.

P. S. This I end at lord Orrery's, in company with Dr. King. Wherever I can find two or three that are yours, I adhere to them naturally, and by that title they become mine. I thank you for sending Mr. Swift[6] to me: he can tell you more of me.

  1. The last letter he ever wrote to the dean.
  2. His late royal highness Frederick prince of Wales.
  3. Hugh Hume Campbell, third and last earl of Marchmont. He died January 10, 1794, aged 87. See Gent. Mag. vol. LXIV, page 92.
  4. Afterward, first earl of Mansfield, the celebrated lord chief justice of the king's bench.
  5. A solicitor, who procured and paid those writers. Mr. Pope's MS note. The line is now changed:

    And monumental brass this record bears,
    These are, &c.

  6. Deane Swift, esq.