The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 20

LONDON, JAN. 8, 1711-12.

I CANNOT in conscience take up your grace's time with an empty letter; and it is not every day one can furnish what will be worth your reading. I had all your grace's packets; and I humbly thank your grace for your good instructions to me, which I shall observe as soon as ever it shall please God to put me into a way of life where I can have leisure for such speculations.

In above twenty years that I have known something of courts and ministers, I never saw so strange and odd a complicated disposition of affairs as what we have had for six weeks past. The facts your grace may have met with in every common newspaper; but the springs of them are hardly discoverable even by those who had most opportunity of observing. Neither do I find those who should know best, agree upon the matter. There is a perpetual trial of skill between those who are out and those who are in; and the former are generally more industrious at watching opportunities. Last September, at Windsor, the duke of Someset[1], who had not been at cabinet council for many months, was advised by his friends of the late ministry to appear there, but the rest refused to sit with him; and the council was put off until next day, when the duke went to a horserace. This was declaring open war; and ever since both he and his duchess (who is in great favour) have been using all sorts of means to break the present ministry. Mrs. Masham was absent two months from Windsor, with lying in at Kensington, and my lord treasurer six weeks by indisposition. Some time before the session, the duke abovementioned went to all those lords, who, by the narrowness of their fortunes, have depended on the court, and engaged them to vote against the ministry, by assuring them it was the queen's pleasure. He is said to have added other powerful motives. Bothmar's[2] memorial was published just at that juncture, as Hoffman the emperor's resident had some time before printed the French king's propositions. It is confidently affirmed, by those who should know, that money was plentifully scattered. By these and some other accidents, the vote was carried against the ministry; and every body of either party understood the thing as intended directly against my lord treasurer's head. The house of lords made a very short adjournment, and were preparing some resolutions and addresses of the most dangerous importance. We had a very melancholy Christmas, and the most fearless persons were shaken: for our great danger lay where I cannot tell your grace at this distance. The thing wished for was, the removal of the Somerset family; but that could not be done, nor yet is. After some time, the queen declared herself as you have heard, and twelve new lords were created.

My lord Nottingham's game in this affair has been most talked of, and several hard things said of him are affirmed to be true. The dissenting ministers in this town were consulted about the occasional bill, and agreed to it, for what reasons I cannot learn; that which is offered not satisfying me, that they were afraid of worse. I believe they expected an entire change of ministry and measures, and a new parliament, by which it might be repealed, and have instead some law to their advantage. The duke of Marlborough's removal[3] has passed very silently; the particular reasons for it I must tell your grace some other time: but how it will pass abroad I cannot answer. People on both sides conclude from it, that the peace is certain; but the conclusion is ill drawn: the thing would have been done, although we had been sure of continuing the war. We are terribly afraid of prince Eugene's coming, and therefore it was put off until the resolutions were taken. Before he came out of his yacht, he asked how many lords were made? He was a quarter of an hour with the queen, on Sunday about seven at night. The great men resolve to entertain him in their turns; and we suppose it will all end in a journey of pleasure. We are so confidently told of the duke of Somerset's being out, that I writ so to the dean of St. Patrick's. A man of quality told me, he had it from my lord keeper, whom I asked next day, and found it a mistake; but it is impossible to fence against all lies; however, it is still expected that the duke will be out, and that many other removes will be made. Lord Ranelagh[4] died on Sunday morning: he was very poor and needy, and could hardly support himself for want of a pension, which used to be paid him, and which his friends solicited as a thing of perfect charity. He died hard, as the term of art is here, to express the woful state of men who discover no religion at their death.

The town talk is that the duke of Ormond will go no more to Ireland, but be succeeded by the duke of Shrewsbury, who is a very great and excellent person; and I will hold a wager that your grace will be an admirer of his duchess: if they go, I will certainly order her to make all advances to you: but this is only a general report, of which they know nothing at court, although I think it not altogether improbable.

We have yet heard nothing of my lord privy seal. Buys, the Dutch envoy, went to Holland, I think, at the same time. Buys is a great pretender to politicks, and always leaves the company with great expressions of satisfaction that he has convinced them all; he took much pains to persuade me out of some opinions; and, although all he said did but fix me deeper, he told the ministry how successful he had been. I have got poor Dr. King[5], who was some time in Ireland, to be Gazetteer, which will be worth 250l. per annum to him, if he be diligent and sober, for which I am engaged. I mention this, because I think he was under your grace's protection when he was in Ireland.

By what I gather from Mr. Southwell, I believe your grace stands very well with the duke of Ormond; and it is one great addition to my esteem for Mr. Southwell, that he is entirely your grace's friend and humble servant, delighting to do you justice upon all occasions.

I am, with the greatest respect,

your grace's most dutiful

and most humble servant,


  1. This happened August 12, 1711. See Journal to Stella, August 13.
  2. Baron Bothmar, envoy extraordinary from the elector of Hanover, afterward king George I.
  3. Dec. 30, 1711. See Journal to Stella, Jan. 1, 1711.
  4. Richard Jones, baron Jones of Navan, and viscount Ranelagh, created earl of Ranelagh, Dec. 11, 1677. He was vice treasurer of Ireland, constable of Athlone, several years paymaster of the army, and a lord of the privy council. Dying, Jan. 3, 1711, without surviving male issue, the title of earl became extinct; but those of viscount and baron reverted to the issue of a second son of sir Roger Jones, the first viscount. See a letter of lady Catharine Jones, his daughter, June 11, 1729; and another, June 15, 1732.
  5. Dr. William King of the commons; whose Miscellaneous Writings in verse and prose, were collected in three volumes small 8vo. 1776, with Biographical Memoirs, by Mr. Nichols.