The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 18

AUGUST 26, 1711.

PERHAPS you will be content to know some circumstances of affairs here[1]. The duke of Somerset usually leaves Windsor on Saturday, when the ministers go down thither, and returns not until they are gone. On Sunday sevennight, contrary to custom, he was at Windsor, and a cabinet council was to be held at night; but, after waiting a long time, word was brought out, that there would be no cabinet. Next day it was held, and then the duke went to a horserace about three miles off. This began to be whispered; and at my return to town they had got it in the city; but not the reason; which was, that Mr. secretary St. John refused to sit if the duke was there. Last Sunday the duke was there again, but did not offer to come to the cabinet, which was held without him. I hear the duke was advised by his friends of the other party to take this step. The secretary said to some of his acquaintance, that he would not sit with a man who had so often betrayed them, &c. You know the duchess of Somerset is a great favourite, and has got the duchess of Marlborough's key. She is insinuating, and a woman of intrigue; and will, I believe, do what ill offices she can to the secretary. They would have hindered her coming in; but the queen said, if it were so that she could not have what servants she liked, she did not find how her condition was mended. I take the safety of the present ministry to consist in the agreement of three great men, lord keeper, lord treasurer, and Mr. secretary; and so I have often told them together between jest and earnest, and two of them separately with more seriousness. And I think they entirely love one another, as their differences are not of weight to break their union. They vary a little about their notions of a certain general (the duke of Marlborough), I will not say more at this distance. I do not see well how they can be without the secretary, who has very great abilities both for the cabinet and parliament. The tories in the city are a little discontented, that no farther changes are made in employments, of which I cannot learn the secret, although I have heard several, and from such who might tell the true one if they would: one is, that lord treasurer professes he is at a loss to find persons qualified for several places: another (which is less believed) that the queen interposes: a third, that it is a trimming disposition. I am apt to think that he finds the call for employments greater than he can answer, if there were five times as many to dispose of; and I know particularly that he dislikes very much the notion of people, that every one is to be turned out. The treasurer is much the greatest minister I ever knew; regular in life, with a true sense of religion, an excellent scholar, and a good divine, of a very mild and affable disposition, intrepid in his notions, and indefatigable in business, an utter despiser of money for himself, yet frugal (perhaps to an extremity) for the publick. In private company, he is wholly disengaged, and very facetious, like one who has no business at all. He never wants a reserve upon any emergency, which would appear desperate to others; and makes little use of those thousand projectors and schematists, who are daily plying him with their visions, but to be thoroughly convinced, by the comparison, that his own notions are the best. I am, my lord, with the greatest respect,

Your grace's most obedient, &c.