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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 5

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 11

LONDON, JAN. 6, 1708-9.

BEFORE I received the honour of your grace's of November 20, I had sent one enclosed, &c. with what account I could of affairs. Since that time, the measures are altered of dissolving your parliament, which, doubtless, is their wisest course, for certain obvious reasons, that your grace will easily apprehend; and I suppose you have now received directions about proroguing it, for I saw the order some days ago. I should have acknowledged your grace's letter, if I had not been ever since persecuted with a cruel distemper, a giddiness in my head, that would not suffer me to write or think of any thing, and of which I am now slowly recovering. I sent you word of the affair of the first-fruits being performed, which my lord Pembroke had the goodness to send me immediate notice of. I seldom see his lordship now, but when he pleases to command me; for he sees nobody in publick, and is very full of business. I fancy your grace will think it necessary that in due time his lordship should receive some kind of thanks in form: I have a fair pretence to merit in this matter, although, in my own conscience, I think I have very little, except my good wishes, and frequent reminding my lord Pembroke. But two great men in office, giving me joy of it, very frankly told me, that if I had not smoothed the way, by giving them and the rest of the ministry a good opinion of the justice of the thing, it would have met with opposition; upon which I only remarked what I have always observed in courts, that when a favour is done, there is no want of persons to challenge obligations. Mean time, I am in a pretty condition, who have bills of merit given me, that I must thankfully acknowledge, and yet cannot honestly offer them in payment. I suppose the clergy will, in due time, send the queen an address of thanks for her favour.

I very much applaud your grace's sanguine temper, as you call it, and your comparison of religion to paternal affection; but the world is divided into two sects, those that hope the best, and those that fear the worst; your grace is of the former, which is the wiser, the nobler, and most pious principle; and although I endeavour to avoid being of the other, yet upon this article I have sometimes strange weaknesses. I compare true religion to learning and civility, which have ever been in the world, but very often shifted their scenes; sometimes entirely leaving whole countries where they have long flourished, and removing to others that were before barbarous; which has been the case of Christianity itself, particularly in many parts of Africa; and how far the wickedness of a nation mny provoke God Almighty to inflict so great a judgment, is terrible to think. But as great princes, when they have subdued all about them, presently have universal monarchy in their thoughts; so your grace, having conquered all the corruptions in a diocese, and then pursued your victories over a province, would fain go farther and save a whole kingdom, and would never be quiet, if you could have your will, until you had converted the world.

And this reminds me of a pamphlet lately come out, pretended to be a letter hither from Ireland, against repealing the test[1]; wherein your grace's character is justly set forth: for the rest, some parts are very well, and others puerile, and some facts, as I am informed, wrong represented. The author has gone out of his way to reflect on me, as a person likely to write for repealing the test, which I am sure is very unfair treatment. This is all I am likely to get by the company I keep. I am used like a sober man with a drunken face, have the scandal of the vice, without the satisfaction. I have told the ministry, with great frankness, my opinion, that they would never be able to repeal it, unless such changes should happen as I could not foresee; and they all believe I differ from them in that point.

Mr. Addison, who goes over first secretary, is a most excellent person; and being my most intimate friend, I shall use all my credit to set him right in his notions of persons and things. I spoke to him with great plainness upon the subject of the test; and he says, he is confident my lord Wharton will not attempt it, if he finds the bent of the nation against it. — I will say nothing farther of his character to your grace at present, because he has half persuaded me to have some thoughts of returning to Ireland, and then it will be time enough: but if that happens otherwise, I presume to recommend him to your grace as a person you will think worth your acquaintance.

My lord Berkeley begins to drop his thoughts of going to Vienna; and indeed I freely gave my opinion against such a journey for one of his age and infirmities. And I shall hardly think of going secretary without him, although the emperor's ministers here think I will, and have writ to Vienna. I agree with your grace, that such a design was a little too late at my years; but, considering myself wholly useless in Ireland, and in a parish with an audience of half a score, and it being thought necessary that the queen should have a secretary at that court, my friends telling me it would not be difficult to compass it, I was a little tempted to pass some time abroad, until my friends would make me a little easier in my fortunes at home. Besides, I had hopes of being sent in time to some other court, and in the mean while the pay would be forty shillings a day, and the advantage of living, if I pleased, in lord Berkeley's family. But, I believe, this is now all at an end. I am, my lord, with the greatest respect,

Your grace's

most obedient and

most humble servant,

My lord Wharton says, he intends for Ireland the beginning of March.

  1. His own, see vol. iv of this collection.