The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 21

LONDON, MARCH 29, 1712.

I CANNOT ask pardon for not sooner acknowledging your grace's letter, because that would look as if I thought mine were of consequence. Either I grow weary of politicks, or am out of the way of them, or there is less stirring than usual; and indeed we are all in suspense at present; but I am told that in ten or twelve days time, we shall know what the issue will be at Utrecht. I can only tell your grace, that there are some unlucky circumstances, not proper to be trusted to a letter, which have hitherto retarded this great work; Mihi ludibria rerum mortalium cuntis in negotiis obversantur. Mean-time, we are with great difficulty raising funds upon which to borrow five millions. One of those funds is a tax upon paper, and I think 30 per cent upon imported books; and of such a nature as I could not yesterday forbear saying to my lord treasurer and the chancellor of the exchequer, that instead of preventing small papers and libels, it will leave nothing else for the press. I have not talked to the duke of Argyle upon the affairs of Spain, since his return; but am told he affirms it impossible for us to carry on the war there by our former methods. The duke of Ormond is expected to go in two or three days for Flanders. And what I writ to your grace some months ago of the duke of Shrewsbury succeeding to govern Ireland, will, I suppose, be soon declared, I was the other day to see the duchess, and reported your grace's compliments, which she took very well; and I told her I was resolved your grace and she should be very good acquaintance. I believe the spirit of your houghers is got into our mohawks, who are still very troublesome, and every night cut somebody or other over the face; and commit a hundred insolent barbarities.

There was never the least design of any impeachment against the duke of Marlborough; and it was his own great weakness, or the folly of his friends, that the thing went so far as it did.

I know not whether it is that people have talked themselves hoarse, but for some weeks past we have heard less of the pretender than formerly. I suppose it is, like a fashion, got into Ireland, when it is out here: but, in my conscience, I do not think any one person in the court or ministry here designs any more to bring in the pretender, than the Great Turk. I hope Mr. Harley, who is now on his journey to Hanover, will give that court a truer opinion of persons and things than they have hitherto conceived. And, if your grace knew the instrument, through which these false opinions have been infused, you woujd allow it another instance of the Ludibrium rerum mortalium. And your grace cannot but agree, that it is something singular for the prince in possession to make perpetual advances, and the presumptive heir to be standing off and suspicious.

I know not whether your grace has considered the position that my lord treasurer is visibly in. The late ministry, and their adherents, confess themselves fully resolved to have his head, whenever it is in their power; and were prepared, upon the beginning of the sessions, when the vote was carried against any peace without Spain, to move that he should be sent to the tower[1]: at the same time, his friends, and the tories in general, are discontented at his slowness in the changing of commissions and employments, to which the weakness of the court interest in the house of lords is wholly imputed: neither do I find that those in the greatest stations, or most in the confidence of my lord treasurer, are able to account for this proceeding, or seem satisfied with it. I have endeavoured to solve this difficulty another way; and I fancy I am in the right, from words I have heard let fall: but, whatever be the cause, the consequences may be dangerous.

The queen is in very good health, but does not use so much exercise as she ought. Pray God preserve her many years!

A projector has lately applied, to me to recommend him to the ministry about an invention for finding out the longitude. He has given in a petition to the queen by Mr. secretary St. John. I understand nothing of the mathematicks; but am told it is a thing as improbable as the philosopher's stone, or perpetual motion.

I lately writ a letter of about thirty pages to lord treasurer, by way of proposal for an academy, to correct, enlarge, and ascertain the English language. And he and I have named above twenty persons of both parties to be members. I will shortly print the letter, and I hope something will come of it. Your grace sees I am a projector too.

I am, with great respect,

my lord,

your grace's most dutiful

and most humble servant,

  1. It is not easy to conceive upon what grounds; as nothing could then have been proved.