The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 14

LONDON, APRIL 10, 1711.

I HAD lately the honour of a letter from your grace, and waited to acknowledge it until something material should happen, that might recompense the trouble. My occasion of writing to you at present is purely personal to your grace. A report was beginning to run here, by some letters from Ireland, that your grace had applied the passage you mention of Rufus, in a speech you made to your clergy, which I ventured to contradict, as an impossibility, and inconsistent with your general opinion, and what was in your letter. Mr. Southwell and Mr. Dopping were of the same mind; and the former says, he has writ to your grace about it. I should have thought no more of the matter, but let it spend like an idle story below notice: only dining last Sunday with one of the principal secretaries of state, he gave me a letter to read, which he had just received from the printer of the newspaper called the Postboy, in which was a transcript of a letter from Dublin; and the secretary being mentioned in that transcript, the man would not publish it without his advice. It contained an account how the news of Mr. Harley's being stabbed had been received by the whigs in Dublin; of which he produced some instances. Then he mentions the passage out of Tacitus, and concludes thus: "The first that mentioned it was the archbishop of Dublin, who took notice of it first at a meeting of his clergy; and afterward, in the hearing of several persons, was reprimanded for it, in a civil though sharp manner, by one of the chief ministers there, well known for his steady loyalty to her majesty, and his zealous service to the church of England, under her late perilous trial." I immediately told the secretary, that I new this must be false and misrepresented, and that he must give me leave to scratch out that passage, which I accordingly did; and for fear of any mistake, I made him give me afterward the whole letter, that I might have it in my power. The next day I sent for the printer, and told him what I had done; and upon farther thoughts, I stifled the whole letter, and the secretary approved of it. I likewise told the printer, that when he had any thing relating to Ireland, I had the secretary's order (which was true) to send it me, that he might not do injury to men's reputations, by what was represented to him from ignorant or malicious hands in that kingdom. The letter was to have been printed this day in the Postboy, with that conclusion reflecting on your grace, which is happily prevented; for, although your character and station place you above the malice of little people, yet your friends would be extremely concerned to see your name made so bold with in a common newspaper.

I humbly hope your grace will not disapprove of what I have done; at least, I have gratified my own inclination, in the desire of serving you; and besides, had the opportunity of giving Mr. secretary some part of your character.

I dare lay a wager, that all this happened by the gross understandings of some people, who misunderstood and misapplied something very innocent that came from your grace. I must be so bold to say, that people in that kingdom do very ill understand raillery. I can rally much safer here with a great minister of state or a duchess, than I durst do there with an attorney or his wife. And I can venture to rally with your grace, although I could not do it with many of your clergy. I myself have been a witness, when want of common sense has made people offended with your grace, where they ought to have been the most pleased. I say things every day at the best tables, which I should be turned out of company for, if I were in Ireland.

Here is one Mr. Richardson, a clergyman, who is soliciting an affair that I find your grace approves[1]; and therefore I do him all the service I can in it.

We are now full of the business of the Irish yarn; and I attend among the rest, to engage the members I am acquainted with in our interest. To morrow we expect it will come on.

I will shortly write to your grace some account how publick affairs stand; we hope Mr. Harley will be well in a week.

We have news from Brussels, that the dauphin is dead of an apoplexy. I am, with the greatest respect, my lord,

Your grace's most dutiful

and most humble servant,

I wish your grace would enclose your commands to me, directed to Erasmus Lewis, esq., at my lord Dartmouth's office at Whitehall; for I have left off going to coffeehouses.

  1. The printing of Irish Bibles.