The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to Charles Mordaunt - 3
TO THE EARL OF PETERBOROW.
I HAD done myself the honour of writing to your excellency, above a month before yours of March the 5th came to my hands. The Saturdays dinners have not been resumed since the queen's return from Windsor; and I am not sorry, since it became so mingled an assembly, and of so little use either to business or conversation: so that I was content to read your queries to our two great friends. The treasurer stuck at them all; but the secretary acquitted himself of the first, by assuring me he had often written to your excellency.
I was told, the other day, of an answer you made to somebody abroad, who inquired of you the state and dispositions of our court: "That you could not tell, for you had been out of England a fortnight." In your letter, you mention the world of the moon, and apply it to England; but the moon changes but once in four weeks. By both these instances, it appears you have a better opinion of our steadiness than we deserve; for I do not remember, since you left us, that we have continued above four days in the same view, or four minutes with any manner of concert. I assure you, my lord, for the concern I have for the common cause, with relation to affairs both at home and abroad, and from the personal love I bear to our friends in power, I never led a life so thoroughly uneasy as I do at present. Our situation is so bad, that our enemies could not, without abundance of invention and ability, have placed us so ill, if we had left it entirely to their management. For my own part, my head turns round; and after every conversation, I come away just one degree worse informed than I went. I am glad, for the honour of our nation, to find by your excellency's letter, that some other courts have a share of frenzy, though not equal, nor of the same nature with ours. The height of honest men's wishes at present is, to rub off this session; after which, nobody has the impudence to expect that we shall not immediately fall to pieces: nor is any thing I write the least secret, even to a whig footman.
The queen is pretty well at present; but the least disorder she has puts all in alarm; and when it is over we act as if she were immortal. Neither is it possible to persuade people to make any preparations against an evil day. There is a negotiation now in hand, which, I hope, will not be abortive: the States General are willing to declare themselves fully satisfied with the peace and the queen's measures, &c. and that is too popular a matter to slight. It is impossible to tell you whether the prince of Hanover intends to come over or not. I should think the latter, by the accounts I have seen; yet our adversaries continue strenuously to assert otherwise; and very industriously give out, that the lord treasurer is at the bottom: which has given some jealousies not only to his best friends, but to some I shall not name; yet I am confident they do him wrong. This formidable journey is the perpetual subject both of court and coffeehouse chat.
Our mysterious and unconverted ways of proceeding have, as it is natural, taught every body to be refiners, and to reason themselves into a thousand various conjectures. Even I, who converse most with people in power, am not free from this evil: and particularly, I thought myself twenty times in the right, by drawing conclusions very regularly from premises which have proved wholly wrong. I think this, however, to be a plain proof that we act altogether by chance: and that the game, such as it is, plays itself.
By the present enclosed in your excellency's letter, I find the Sicilians to be bad delineators, and worse poets. As sneakingly as the prince looks at the bishop's foot, I could have made him look ten times worse, and have done more right to the piece, by placing your excellency there, representing your mistress the queen, and delivering the crown to the bishop, with orders where to place it. I should like your new king very well, if he would make Sicily his constant residence, and use Savoy only as a commendam. Old books have given me great ideas of that island. I imagine every acre there worth three in England; and that a wise prince, in such a situation, would, after some years, be able to make what figure he pleased in the Mediterranean.
The duke of Shrewsbury, not liking the weather on our side the water, continues in Ireland, although he formally took his leave there six weeks ago. Tom Harley is every hour expected here, and writes me word, "he has succeeded at Hanover to his wishes." Lord Stafford writes the same, and gives himself no little merit upon it.
Barber the printer was, some time ago, in great distress, upon printing a pamphlet, of which evil tongues would needs call me the author: he was brought before your house, which addressed the queen in a body, who kindly published a proclamation with three hundred pounds to discover. The fault was, calling the Scots "a fierce poor northern people." So well protected are those who scribble for the government! Upon which, I now put one query to your excellency, What has a man without employment to do among ministers, when he can neither serve himself, his friends, nor the publick?
In my former letter, which I suppose was sent to Paris to meet you there, I gave you joy of the government of Minorca. One advantage you have of being abroad, that you keep your friends; and I can name almost a dozen great men, who thoroughly hate one another, yet all love your lordship. If you have a mind to preserve their friendship, keep at a distance; or come over, and show your power, by reconciling at least two of them; and remember, at the same time, that this last is an impossibility. If your excellency were here, I would speak to you without any constraint; but the fear of accidents in the conveyance of the letter, makes me keep to generals. I am sure you would have prevented a great deal of ill, if you had continued among us; but people of my level must be content to have their opinion asked, and to see it not followed; although I have always given it with the utmost freedom and impartiality. I have troubled you too much; and as a long letter from you, is the most agreeable thing one can receive, so the most agreeable return would be a short one. I am ever, with the greatest respect and truth, my lord,
Your excellency's most obedient
most humble servant.