Open main menu

The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From John Gay to Jonathan Swift - 2

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 11


HANOVER, AUG. 16, 1714.


YOU remember, I suppose, that I was to write you abundance of letters from Hanover; but as one of the most distinguishing qualities of a politician is secrecy, you must not expect from me any arcanas of state. There is another thing, that is necessary to establish the character of a politician; which is, to seem always to be full of affairs of state; to know the consultations of the cabinet council, when at the same time all his politicks are collected from newspapers. Which of these two causes my secrecy is owing to, I leave you to determine. There is yet one thing more, that is extremely necessary for a foreign minister, which he can no more be without, than an artisan without his tools; I mean the terms of his art. I call it an art or a science, because I think the king of France has established an academy to instruct the young Machiavelians of his country in the deep and profound science of politicks. To the end that I might be qualified for an employment of this nature, and not only be qualified myself, but (to speak in the style of sir John Falstaff) be the cause of qualifications in others, I have made it my business to read memoirs, treaties, &c. And as a dictionary of law terms is thought necessary for young beginners; so I thought a dictionary of terms of state would be no less useful for young politicians. The terms of politicks being not so numerous as to swell into a volume, especially in time of peace, (for in time of war all the terms of fortification are included) I thought fit to extract them in the same manner, for the benefit of young practitioners, as a famous author has compiled his learned treatise of the law, called the Doctor and Student. I have not made any great progress in this piece; but, however, I will just give you a specimen of it, which will make you in the same manner a judge of the design and nature of this treatise.

Politician. What are the necessary tools for a prince to work with?

Student. Ministers of state.

Politician. What are the two great qualities of a minister of state?

Student. Secrecy and dispatch.

Politician. Into how many parts are the ministers of state divided?

Student. Into two. First, ministers of state at home; secondly, ministers of state abroad, who are called foreign ministers.

Politician. Very right. Now as I design you for the latter of these employments, I shall wave saying any thing of the first of these. What are the different degrees of foreign ministers?

Student. The different degrees of foreign ministers are as follow: first, plenipotentiaries; second, embassadors extraordinary; third, embassadors in ordinary; fourth, envoys extraordinary; fifth, envoys in ordinary; sixth, residents; seventh, consuls; and eighth, secretaries.

Politician. How is a foreign minister to be known?

Student. By his credentials.

Politician. When are a foreign minister's credentials to be delivered?

Student. Upon his first admission into the presence of the prince, to whom he is sent, otherwise called his first audience.

Politician. How many kind of audiences are there?

Student. Two, which are called a publick audience, and a private audience.

Politician. What should a foreign minister's behaviour be when he has his first audience?

Student. He should bow profoundly, speak deliberately, and wear both sides of his long periwig before, &c.

By these few questions and answers you may be able to make some judgment of the usefulness of this politick treatise. Wicquefort, it is true, can never be sufficiently admired for his elaborate treatise of the conduct of an embassador in all his negotiations: but I design this only as a compendium, or the embassador's manual, or vade mecum.

I have writ so far of this letter, and do not know who to send it to; but I have now determined to send it, either to Dr. Arbuthnot, or the dean of St. Patrick's, or to both. My lord Clarendon is very much approved of at court, and I believe is not dissatisfied with his reception. We have not much variety of diversions: what we did yesterday and to day we shall do to morrow; which is, to go to court, and walk in the gardens at Herenhausen. If I write any more, my letter will be just like my diversions, the same thing over and over again. So, sirs, your most obliged, humble servant,


I would have writ this letter over again, but I had not time. Correct all my errata.