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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to Dr. Tisdall - 2

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


LONDON FEB. 3, 1703-4.


I AM content you should judge the order of friendship you are in with me by my writing to you, and accordingly you will find yourself the first after the ladies; for I never write to any other, either friend or relation, till long after. I cannot imagine what paragraph you mean in my former, that was calculated for lord primate; or how you could show it him without being afraid he might expect to see the rest. But I will take better methods another time, and you shall never, while you live, receive a syllable from me fit to be shown to a lord primate, unless it be yourself. Montaigne was angry to see his essays lie in the parlour window, and therefore wrote a chapter that forced the ladies to keep it in their closets. After some such manner I shall henceforth use you in my letters, by making them fit to be seen by none but yourself.

I am extremely concerned to find myself unable to persuade you into a true opinion of your own littleness, nor make you treat me with more distance and respect; and the rather, because I find all your little pretensions are owing to the credit you pretend with two ladies who came from England. I allow indeed the chamber in William street to be little England by their influence; as an ambassador's house, wherever it is, hath all the privileges of his master's dominions: and therefore, if you wrote the letter in their room, or their company (for in this matter their room is as good as their company) I will indulge you a little. Then for the Irish legs you reproach me with, I defy you. I had one indeed when I left your island; but that which made it Irish is spent and evaporate, and I look upon myself now as upon a new foot. You seem to talk with great security of your establishment near the ladies; though perhaps, if you knew what they say of you in their letters to me, you would change your opinion both of them and yourself — A bite[1]! — And now you talk of a bite, I am ashamed of the ladies' being caught by you, when I had betrayed you, and given them warning. —— I had heard before of the choking, but never of the jest in the church: you may find from thence that women's prayers are things perfectly by rote, as they put on one stocking after another, and no more. — But, if she be good at blunders, she is as ready at come offs; and to pretend her senses were gone, was a very good argument she had them about her. — You seem to be mighty proud (as you have reason if it be true) of the part you have in the ladies' good graces, especially of her you call the party; I am very much concerned to know it; but, since it is an evil I cannot remedy, I will tell you a story: a cast mistress went to her rival, and expostulated with her for robbing her of her lover. After a long quarrel, finding no good to be done; "Well," says the abdicated lady, "keep him, and stop him in your ar—." — "No," says the other, "that will not be altogether so convenient; however, to oblige you, I will do something that is very near it". — Dixi[2].

I am mightily afraid the ladies are very idle, and do not mind their book. Pray put them upon reading; and be always teaching something to Mrs. Johnson, because she is good at comprehending, remembering, and retaining. I wonder she could be so wicked as to let the first word she could speak, after choking, be a pun. I differ from you; and believe the pun was just coming up, but met with the crumbs, and so, struggling for the wall, could neither of them get by, and at last came both out together.

It is a pleasant thing to hear you talk of Mrs. Dingley's blunders, when she has sent me a list with above a dozen of yours, that have kept me alive, and I hope will do so till I have them again from the fountain head. — I desire Mrs. Johnson only to forbear punning after the Finglas rate when Dilly[3] was at home.

I thank you for your bill, which was a cunning piece of civility to prevent me from wanting. However, I shall buy hats for you and Tom Leigh; for I have lately a bill of twenty pounds sent me for myself, and shall take up ten more here. I saw Tom Leigh's brother in the court of requests, and, knowing him to be your friend, I talked with him; and we will take some occasion to drink your health together, and Tom Leigh's — I will not buy you any pamphlets, unless you will be more particular in telling me their names or their natures, because they are usually the vilest things in nature. Leslie has written several of late, violent against presbyterians and low churchmen. If I had credit enough with you, you should never write but upon some worthy subject, and with long thought. But I look upon you as under a terrible mistake, if you imagine you cannot be enough distinguished without writing for the publick. Preach, preach, preach, preach, preach, preach; that is certainly your talent; and you will some years hence have time enough to be a writer. I tell you what I am content you should do: choose any subject you please, and write for your private diversion, or by way of trial; but be not hasty to write for the world. Besides, who that has a spirit would write in such a scene as Ireland? — You and I will talk an hour on these matters. Pox on the dissenters and independents! I would as soon trouble my head to write against a louse and a flea. I tell you what; I wrote against the bill that was against occasional conformity; but it came too late by a day, so I would not print it. But you may answer it if you please; for you know you and I are whig and tory. And, to cool your insolence a little, know that the queen and court, and house of lords, and half the commons almost, are whigs; and the number daily increases.

I desire my humble service to the primate, whom I have not written to, having not had opportunity to perform that business he employed me in; but shall soon, now the days are longer. We are all here in great impatience at the king of Spain's delay, who yet continues in the isle of Wight[4].

My humble service to dean Ryves, Dilly, Jones[5], and other friends. And I assure you nobody can possibly be more, or I believe is half so entirely, yours, as

  1. Alluding to his former letter.
  2. Dr. Swift, it must be acknowledged, has here adopted the plan of Montaigne, which he mentions above.
  3. The Rev. Dillon Ashe.
  4. The archduke Charles arrived at Spithead, in his way from Holland to Portugal, Dec. 26, 1703. By invitation from queen Anne, he visited her majesty at Windsor on the 29th. On the 31st he went to the seat of the duke of Somerset at Petworth in Sussex; and set sail for Portugal, Jan 5; but, being driven back by contrary winds, it was the 27th of February before he arrived at Lisbon.
  5. See an anecdote of dean Jones, in Dr. King's Works, vol. ii, p. 250.