The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 13

LONDON, MARCH 8, 1710-11.

I WRITE to your grace under the greatest disturbance of mind for the publick and myself. A gentleman came in where I dined this afternoon, and told us Mr. Harley was stabbed, and some confused particulars. I immediately ran to secretary St. John's hard by, but nobody was at home; I met Mrs. St. John in her chair, who could not satisfy me, but was in pain about the secretary, who, as she heard, had killed the murderer. I went strait to Mr. Harley's, where abundance of people were to inquire. I got young Mr. Harley to me; he said his father was asleep, and they hoped in no danger, and then told me the fact, as I shall relate it to your grace. This day the marquis de Guiscard was taken up for high treason, by a warrant of Mr. St. John, and examined before a committee of council in Mr. St. John's office; where were present, the dukes of Ormond, Buckingham, Shrewsbury, earl Powlet, Mr. Harley, Mr. St. John, and others. During examination, Mr. Harley observed Guiscard, who stood behind him, but on one side, swearing and looking disrespectfully. He told him he ought to behave himself better, while he was examined for such a crime. Guiscard immediately drew a penknife out of his pocket, which he had picked out of some of the offices, and reaching round, stabbed him just under the breast, a little to the right side; but it pleased God that the point stopped at one of the ribs, and broke short half an inch. Immediately Mr. St. John rose, drew his sword, and ran it into Guiscard's breast. Five or six more of the council drew, and stabbed Guiscard in several places: but the earl Powlet called out, for God's sake, to spare Guiscard's life, that he might be made an example; and Mr. St. John's sword was taken from him and broke: and the footmen without ran in, and bound Guiscard, who begged he might be killed immediately; and they say, called out three or four times, My lord Ormond, my lord Ormond. They say, Guiscard resisted them a while, until the footmen came in. Immediately Bucier the surgeon was sent for, who dressed Mr. Harley; and he was sent home. The wound bled fresh, and they do not apprehend him in danger: he said, when he came home, he thought himself in none; and when I was there he was asleep, and they did not find him at all feverish. He has been ill this week, and told me last Saturday, he found himself much out of order, and has been abroad but twice since; so that the only danger is, lest his being out of order should, with the wound, put him in a fever; and I shall be in mighty pain till to morrow morning. I went back to poor Mrs. St. John, who told me, her husband was with my lord keeper, at Mr. attorney's, and she said something to me very remarkable: that going to day to pay her duty to the queen, when all the men and ladies were dressed to make their appearance, this being the day of the queen's accession, the lady of the bedchamber in waiting told her the queen had not been at church, and saw no company; yet, when she inquired her health, they said she was very well, only had a little cold. We conceive, the queen's reason for not going out, might be something about this seizing of Guiscard for high treason, and, that perhaps there was some plot, or something extraordinary. Your grace must have heard of this Guiscard: he fled from France for villanies there, and was thought on to head an invasion of that kingdom, but was not liked. I know him well, and think him a fellow of little consequence, although of some cunning, and much villany. We passed by one another this day in the Mall, at two o'clock, an hour before he was taken up; and I wondered he did not speak to me.

I write all this to your grace, because I believe you would desire to know a true account of so important an accident; and besides, I know you will have a thousand false ones; and I believe every material circumstance here is true, having it from young Mr. Harley. I met sir Thomas Mansel (it was then after six this evening) and he and Mr. Prior told me, they had just seen Guiscard carried by in a chair, with a strong guard, to Newgate, or the Press-yard. Time, perhaps, will show who was at the bottom of all this; but nothing could happen so unluckily to England, at this juncture, as Mr. Harley's death, when he has all the schemes for the greatest part of the supplies in his head, and the parliament cannot stir a step without him. Neither can I altogether forget myself, who, in him, should lose a person I have more obligations to than any other in this kingdom; who has always treated me with the tenderness of a parent, and never refused me any favour I asked for a friend: therefore I hope your grace will excuse the disorder of this letter. I was intending, this night, to write one of another sort. —— I must needs say, one great reason for writing these particulars to your grace was, that you might be able to give a true account of the fact, which will be some sort of service to Mr. Harley. I am, with the greatest respect, my lord,

Your Grace's most dutiful

and most humble servant,

I have read over what I writ, and find it confused and incorrect, which your grace must impute to the violent pain of mind I am in, greater than ever I felt in my life. —— It must have been the utmost height of desperate guilt which could have spirited that wretch to such an action. I have not heard whether his wounds are dangerous; but I pray God he may recover, to receive his reward, and that we may learn the bottom of his villany. It is not above ten days ago, that I was interceding with the secretary in his behalf, because I heard he was just starving; but the secretary assured me he had 400l. a year pension.