The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to John Sterne - 4



LARACOR, APRIL 17, 1710.

YOU have put me under the necessity of writing you a very scurvy letter, and in a very scurvy manner. It is the want of horses, and not of inclination, that hinders me from attending on you at the chapter. But I would do it on foot to see you[1] visit in your own right; but if I must be visited by proxy, by proxy I will appear. The ladies of St. Mary's delivered me your commands; but Mrs. Johnson had dropped half of them by the shaking of her horse. I have made a shift, by the assistance of two civilians, and a book of precedents, to send you the jargon annexed, with a blank for the name and title of any prebendary, who will have the charity to answer for me. Those words, gravi incommodo, are to be translated, the want of a horse. In a few days I expect to hear the two ladies lamenting the fleshpots of Cavan street. I advise them, since they have given up their title and lodgings of St. Mary's, to buy each of them a palfry, and take a squire, and seek adventures, I am here quarrelling with the frosty weather, for spoiling my poor half dozen of blossoms. Spes anni colapfa ruit: Whether these words be mine or Virgil's, I cannot determine. I am this minute very busy, being to preach to day before an audience of at least fifteen people, most of them gentle, and all simple.

I can send you no news; only the employment of my parishioners may, for memory-sake, be reduced under these heads, Mr. Percivall is ditching; Mrs. Percivall in her kitchen; Mr. Wesley switching; Mrs. Wesley stitching; sir Arthur Langford riching, which is a new word for heaping up riches. I know no other rhyme but bitching, and that I hope we are all past. Well, sir, long may you live the hospitable owner of good Bits, good Books, and good Buildings. The bishop of Clogher would envy me for those three Bes[2]. I am your most obedient, humble servant,

  1. Dr. Sterne was then vicar general of the diocese of Dublin, and was to visit the clergy in the absence of the archbishop.
  2. 'Viz. Bits, books, and buildings.'