The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 16

LONDON, JULY 12, 1711.

I NOW conceive your grace begins to be a busy person in council, and parliament, and convocation; and perhaps may be content to be diverted now and then by an idle letter from hence. We have an empty town, the queen being settled at Windsor, and the ministers often there. We are so weary with expecting farther removals, that we begin to drop the discourse; neither am I sure, whether those in power may not differ a little in opinion as to the matter. However, it seems generally agreed, that there will be many changes before next session, and that it is necessary there should be so. My lord Peterborow has been some time returned, and I have had a good deal of talk with him; or rather he has talked a good deal to me. He is mightily discontented with what I writ to him, and which he finds to be true, that there seems a general disposition among us toward a peace. He thmks his successful negotiations with the emperor and the duke of Savoy, have put us in a better condition than ever to continue the war, and will engage to convince me, that Spain is yet to be had, if we take proper measures. Your grace knows he is a person of great talents, but dashed with something restless and capricious in his nature. He told me he came over without being recalled, and without one servant, having scattered them in several parts of Germany. I doubt he will not have credit enough with the ministry to make them follow his plans; and he is such a sort of person as may give good advice, which wise men may reasonably refuse to follow. It seems to me that the ministry lie under a grievous dilemma, from the difficulty of continuing the war, and the danger of an ill peace; which I doubt whether all their credit with the queen and country would support them under: but my lord treasurer is a stranger to fear, and has all that courage which innocence and good sense can give a man, and the most free from avarice of any one living; both which are absolutely necessary for his station in this juncture. He was saying a thing to me some days ago, which I believe is the great maxim he proceeds by, that wisdom in publick affairs was not, what is commonly believed, the forming of schemes with remote views; but the making use of such incidents as happen. It was thought my lord Marr would have succeeded as secretary upon the duke of Queensberry's death; but the court seems now disposed to have no third secretary, which was a useless charge. The queen has been extremely ill, so as for four and twenty hours people were in great pain; but she has been since much better, and voided abundance of gravel, &c. Our expedition under Mr. Hill is said to be toward the South seas; but nothing is known: I told a great man, who is deepest in the project of it, that I had no good opinion of these expeditions, which hitherto never succeeded with us. He said, he would venture ten to one upon the success of it, provided no ill accident happened by storms; and that it was concerted with three or four great princes abroad.

As to the first-fruits, I must inform your grace, that the whole affair lies exactly as it did for some months past. The duke and his people never thought, or at least never meddled in it, until some days before they went, and then they were told it was already done; and my lord treasurer directed that it should be an instruction to the lord lieutenant to mention in his speech to parliament, that the queen had done it, &c. But they took no sort of care to finish the matter, and carry the instrument over with them, which they might have done, had they begun timely, and applied themselves; and as the bishops superseded me, I did not presume to meddle farther in it: but I think this may be a lesson, that in all such cases as these, it is necessary to have some good solicitor, and not leave things wholly to great men: nay, so little did the duke engage in this matter, that my lord treasurer told me yesterday (although that is a secret) that the very draught they had made upon my application was some way or other mislaid between the queen and himself, and could not be found; but however, that another should soon be drawn: and his lordship commanded me to inform your grace, and my lords the bishops, that with the first convenience the instrument should be prepared and sent over, which your grace will please to let them know. I was of opinion with my lord treasurer, that it should be done by a deed from the queen, without an act of parliament, and that the bishops should be made a corporation, for the management of it. Your grace sees I write with much freedom, because I am sure I can do it safely.

I have been engaging my lord treasurer and the other great men in a project of my own, which they tell me they will embrace, especially his lordship. He is to erect some kind of society, or academy, under the patronage of the ministers and protection of the queen, for correcting, enlarging, polishing, and fixing our language. The methods must be left to the society; only I am writing a letter to my lord treasurer, by way of proposals, and some general hints, which I design to publish, and he expects from me. All this may come to nothing, although I find the ingenious and learned men of all my acquaintance fall readily in with it; and so I hope will your grace, if the design can be well executed. I would desire at leisure some of your grace's thoughts on this matter.

I hope your grace will take advantage of the times, and see whether your violent house of commons will fall in with some good law for the benefit of the church, as their much betters have done it here: and I think the convocation could not be better employed, than in considering what good law is wanting for the church, and endeavour to have it passed, rather than in brangling upon trifles. The church has so few happy occasions, that we ought to let none of them slip. I take up too much of your grace's time; and therefore, begging your prayers and blessings, I remain, with the greatest respect,

Your grace's most dutiful humble servant,