The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From John Arbuthnot to Jonathan Swift - 6

AUG. 12, 1714.

I THANK you for your kind letter, which is very comfortable upon such a melancholy occasion. My dear mistress's days were numbered even in my imagination, and could not exceed such certain limits; but of that small number a great deal was cut off by the last troublesome scene of this contention among her servants. I believe sleep was never more welcome to a weary traveller, than death was to her; only it surprised her too suddenly before she had signed her will; which, no doubt, her being involved in so much business hindered her from finishing. It was unfortunate, that she had been persuaded, as is supposed by Lowndes, that it was necessary to have it under the great seal. I have figured to myself all this melancholy scene; and even, if it be possible, worse than it has happened twenty times; so that I was prepared for it. My case is not half so deplorable as poor lady Masham's, and several of the queen's servants; some of whom have no chance for their bread but the generosity of his present majesty, which several people, that know him, very much commend. So far is plain from what has happened in publick affairs, that what one party affirmed of the settlement has proved true, and that it was firm: that it was in some measure an advantage to the successor not to have been here, and so obliged to declare himself in several things, in which he is now at liberty. And indeed never any prince in this respect came to the crown with greater advantage. I can assure you the peaceable scene that now appears, is a disappointment to more than one set of people.

I have an opportunity calmly and philosophically to consider that treasure of vileness and baseness, that I always believed to be in the heart of man; and to behold them exert their insolence and baseness: every new instance, instead of surprising and grieving me, as it does some of my friends, really diverts me, and in a manner improves my theory. Though I think I have not met with it in my own case, except from one man. And he was very far mistaken, for to him I would not abate one grain of my proud spirit. Dear friend, the last sentence of your letter quite kills me. Never repeat that melancholy tender word, that you will endeavour to forget me. I am sure I never can forget you, till I meet with (what is impossible) another, whose conversation I can delight so much in as Dr. Swift's; and yet that is the smallest thing I ought to value you for. That hearty sincere friendship, that plain and open ingenuity in all your commerce, is what I am sure I never can find in another. Alas! I shall want often a faithful monitor, one that would vindicate me behind my back, and tell me my faults to my face. God knows I write this with tears in my eyes. Yet do not be obstinate, but come up for a little time to London; and if you must needs go, we may concert a manner of correspondence wherever we are. I have a letter from Gay just before the queen's death. Is he not a true poet, who had not one of his own books to give to the princess, that asked for one?