The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Henry St. John to Jonathan Swift - 8

OCTOBER 23, 1716.

IT is a very great truth, that, among all the losses which I have sustained, none affected me more sensibly than that of your company and correspondence; and yet, even now, I should not venture to write to you, did not you provoke me to it. A commerce of letters between two men, who are out of the world, and who do not care one farthing to return into it again, must be of little moment to the state; and yet I remember enough of that world, to know, that the most innocent things become criminal in some men, as the most criminal pass applauded in others.

Your letter breathes the same spirit as your conversation at all times inspired, even when the occasions of practising the severest rules of virtuous fortitude seemed most remote; if such occasions could ever seem remote to men, who are under the direction of your able and honest friend sir Roger[2].

To write about myself is no agreeable task, but your commands are sufficient at once to determine and excuse me. Know therefore, that my health is far better than it has been a great while; that the money which I brought over with me will hold out some time longer; and that I have secured a small fund, which will yield in any part of the world a revenue sufficient for one, qui peut se retrancher même avec plaisir dans la médiocrité. I use a French expression, because I have not one, that pleases me, ready in English. During several months after my leaving that obscure retreat, into which I had thrown myself last year, I went through all the mortifying circumstances imaginable. At present I enjoy, as far as I consider myself, great complacency of mind; but this inward satisfaction is embittered, when I consider the condition of my friends. They are got into a dark hole, where they grope about after blind guides; stumble from mistake to mistake; jostle against one another, and dash their heads against the wall; and all this to no purpose. For assure yourself that there is no returning to light; no going out, but by going back. My style is mystick, but it is your trade to deal in mysteries, and therefore I add neither comment nor excuse. You will understand me; and I conjure you to be persuaded that if I could have half an hour's conversation with you, for which I would barter whole hours of life, you would stare, haul your whig, and bite paper, more than ever you did in your life[3]. Adieu, dear friend; may the kindest influence of Heaven be shed upon you. Whether we may ever meet again, that Heaven only knows; if we do, what millions of things shall we have to talk over! In the mean while, believe that nothing sits so near my heart as my country and my friends; and that among these you ever had, and ever shall have, a principal place.

If you write to me, direct à Monsieur Charlot, chez Monsieur Cantillon, banquier, rue de l' Arbre sec[4]. Once more adieu.

  1. Endorsed, "Received Nov. 7, 1716."
  2. Sir Roger is the name given to lord treasurer Oxford, in the history of John Bull. As Bolingbroke is known to have hated and despised the treasurer, the words able and honest must be taken ironically.
  3. This is a strong picture of Swift's manner.
  4. In Paris.