The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to Robert Harley - 2


NOV. 21, 1713.

YOUR lordship is the person in the world to whom every body ought to be silent upon such an occasion as this, which is only to be supported by the greatest wisdom and strength of mind; wherein, God knows, the wisest and best of us, who would presume to offer their thoughts, are far your inferiours. It is true, indeed, that a great misfortune is apt to weaken the mind, and disturb the understanding. This, indeed, might be some pretence to us to administer our consolations, if we had been wholly strangers to the person gone. But, my lord, whoever had the honour to know her, wants a comforter as much as your lordship; because, though their loss is not so great, yet they have not the same firmness and prudence, to support the want of a friend, a patroness, a benefactor, as you have to support that of a daughter. My lord, both religion and reason forbid me to have the least concern for that lady's death, upon her own account; and he must be an ill christian, or a perfect stranger to her virtues, who would not wish himself, with all submission to God Almighty's will, in her condition. But your lordship, who has lost such a daughter, and we, who have lost such a friend, and the world, which has lost such an example, have, in our several degrees, greater cause to lament, than, perhaps, was ever given by any private person before: for, my lord, I have sat down to think of every amiable quality that could enter into the composition of a lady, and could not single out one, which she did not possess in as high a perfection as human nature is capable of. But as to your lordship's own particular, as it is an unconceivable misfortune to have lost such a daughter, so it is a possession which few can boast of, to have had such a daughter. I have often said to your lordship, "That I never knew any one by many degrees so happy in their domesticks as you;" and I affirm you are so still, though not by so many degrees; from whence it is very obvious, that your lordship should reflect upon what you have left, and not upon what you have lost.

To say the truth, my lord, you began to be too happy for a mortal; much more happy than is usual with the dispensations of Providence long to continue. You had been the great instrument of preserving your country from foreign and domestick ruin: you have had the felicity of establishing your family in the greatest lustre, without any obligation to the bounty of your prince, or any industry of your own: you have triumphed over the violence and treachery of your enemies, by your courage and abilities: and by the steadiness of your temper, over the inconstancy and caprice of your friends. Perhaps your lordship has felt too much complacency within yourself, upon this universal success: and God Almighty, who would not disappoint your endeavours for the publick, thought fit to punish you with a domestick loss, where he knew your heart was most exposed; and at the same time, has fulfilled his own wise purposes, by rewarding in a better life, that excellent creature he has taken from you.

I know not, my lord, why I write this to you, nor hardly what I am writing. I am sure, it is not from any compliance with form; it is not from thinking that I can give your lordship any ease. I think it was an impulse upon me that I should say something: and whether I shall send you what I have written, I am yet in doubt, &c[2].

  1. The marchioness was married Nov. 15, 1712; brought to bed of a son (afterward duke of Leeds), Nov. 6, 1713; and died Nov. 20, aged 28.
  2. This consolatory epistle has been said to be "the finest, perhaps, that ever was written." See Annual Register for 1765.