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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to Dr. Tisdall - 3

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


LONDON, APRIL 20, 1704.


YESTERDAY coming from the country I found your letter, which had been four or five days arrived, and by neglect was not forwarded as it ought. You have got three epithets for my former letter, which I believe are all unjust: you say it was unfriendly, unkind, and unaccountable. The two first, I suppose, may pass but for one, saving (as capt. Fluellin says, the phrase is) a little variation. I shall therefore answer those two as I can; and for the last, I return it you again by these presents, assuring you, that there is more unaccountability in your letter's little finger, than in mine's whole body. And one strain I observe in it, which is frequent enough; you talk in a mystical sort of way, as if you would have me believe I had some great design, and that you had found it out: your phrases are, that my letter had the effect you judge I designed; that you are amazed to reflect on what you judge the cause of it: and wish it may be in your power to love and value me while you live, &c. In answer to all this, I might with good pretence enough talk starchly, and affect ignorance of what you would be at; but my conjecture is, that you think I obstructed your inclinations to please my own, and that my intentions were the same with yours. In answer to all which, I will upon my conscience and honour tell you the naked truth. First, I think I have said to you before, that if my fortunes and humour served me to think of that state, I should certainly, among all persons on earth, make your choice; because I never saw that person whose conversation I entirely valued but hers; this was the utmost I ever gave way to. And, secondly, I must assure you sincerely, that this regard of mine never once entered into my head to be an impediment to you; but I judged it would, perhaps, be a clog to your rising in the world; and I did not conceive you were then rich enough to make yourself and her happy and easy. But that objection is now quite removed by what you have at present; and by the assurances of Eaton's livings. I told you indeed, that your authority was not sufficient to make overtures to the mother, without the daughter's giving me leave under her own or her friend's hand, which, I think, was a right and a prudent step. However, I told the mother immediately, and spoke with all the advantages you deserve. But the objection of your fortune being removed, I declare I have no other; nor shall any consideration of my own misfortune of losing so good a friend and companion as her, prevail on me, against her interest and settlement in the world, since it is held so necessary and convenient a thing for ladies to marry; and that time takes off from the lustre of virgins in all other eyes but mine. I appeal to my letters to herself, whether I was your friend or not in the whole concern; though the part I designed to act in it was purely passive, which is the utmost I will ever do in things of this nature, to avoid all reproach of any ill consequence, that may ensue in the variety of worldly accidents. Nay, I went so far both to her mother, herself, and I think, to you, as to think it could not be decently broken; since I supposed the town had got it in their tongues, and therefore I thought it could not miscarry without some disadvantage to the lady's credit. I have always described her to you in a manner different from those, who would be discouraging; and must add, that though it has come in my way to converse with persons of the first rank, and of that sex, more than is usual to men of my level, and of our function; yet I have nowhere met with an humour, a wit, or conversation so agreeable, a better portion of good sense, or a truer judgment of men and things, I mean here in England; for as to the ladies of Ireland, I am a perfect stranger. As to her fortune, I think you know it already; and if you resume your designs, and would have farther intelligence, I shall send you a particular account.

I give you joy of your good fortunes, and envy very much your prudence and temper, and love of peace and settlement; the reverse of which has been the great uneasiness of my life, and is likely to continue so. And what is the result? En queis consevimus agros! I find nothing but the good words and wishes of a decayed ministry, whose lives and mine will probably wear out before they can serve either my little hopes, or their own ambition. Therefore I am resolved suddenly to retire, like a discontented courtier, and vent myself in study and speculation, till my own humour, or the scene here, shall change.