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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 7

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


LONDON, OCT. 10, 1710.

I HAD the honour of your grace's letter of September 16, but I was in no pain to acknowledge it, nor shall be at any other time, until I have something that I think worth troubling you, because I am very sensible how much an insignificant letter is worse than none at all. I had likewise the memorial, &c. in another packet: and I beg your grace to enclose whatever packets you send me (I mean of bulk) under a paper directed to Mr. Steele, at his office in the cockpit, and not for me at Mr. Steele's. I should have been glad the bishops had been here, although I take bishops to be the worst solicitors in the world, except in their own concerns. They cannot give themselves the little troubles of attendance that other men are content to swallow; else, I am sure, their two lordships might have succeeded easier than men of my level can reasonably hope to do.

As soon as I received the packets, I went to wait upon Mr. Harley. I had prepared him before by another hand, where he was very intimate and got myself represented (which I might justly do) as one extremely ill used by the last ministry, after some obligations, because I refused to go certain lengths they would have me. This happened to be in some sort Mr. Harley's own case. He had heard very often of me, and received me with the greatest marks of kindness and esteem, as I was whispered that he would; and the more, upon the ill usage I had met with. I sat with him two hours among company, and two hours we were alone; where I gave him a history of the whole business, and the steps that had been made in it; which he heard as I could wish, and promised with great readiness his best credit to effect it. I mentioned the difficulties we had met with, from lord lieutenants and their secretaries, who would not suffer others to solicit, and neglected it themselves. He fell in with me entirely; and said, neither they nor himself should have the merit of it, but the queen, to whom he would show my memorial with the first opportunity; in order, if possible, to have it done in this interregnum. I said, it was a great encouragement to the bishops that he was in the treasury, whom they knew to have been the chief adviser of the queen to grant the same favour in England: that the honour and merit of this would certainly be his, next the queen's; but that it was nothing to him, who had done so much greater things; and that for my part, I thought he was obliged to the clergy of Ireland, for giving him an occasion of gratifying the pleasure he took in doing good to the church[1]. He received my compliment extremely well, and renewed his promises.

Your grace will please to know that, beside the first-fruits, I told him of the crown-rents, and showed the nature and value of them; but said, my opinion was, that the convocation had not mentioned them in their petition to the queen, delivered to lord Wharton with the address, because they thought the times would not then bear it; but that I looked upon myself to have a discretionary power to solicit it in so favourable a juncture. I had two memorials ready of my own drawing up, as short as possible, showing the nature of the thing, and how long it had been depending, &c. One of these memorials had a paragraph at the end relating to the crown-rents; the other had none. In case he had not received the motion of the crown-rents, I would have given him the last, but I gave him the other, which he immediately read, and promised to second both with his best offices to the queen. As I have placed that paragraph in my memorial, it can do no harm, and may possibly do good. However, I beg your grace to say nothing of it, but if it dies, let it die in silence; we must take up with what can be got.

I forgot to tell your grace, that when I said I was empowered, &c. he desired to see my powers: and then I heartily wished they had been a little more ample; and I have since wondered what scruple a number of bishops could have of empowering a clergyman to do the church and them a service, without any prospect or imagination of interest for himself, farther than about ten shillings a year.

Mr. Harley has invited me to dine with him to day; but I shall not put him upon this discourse so soon. If he begins it himself, I will add at bottom whatever there is of moment.

He said, Mr. secretary St. John desires to be acquainted with me, and that he will bring us together, which may be of farther help; although I told him I had no thoughts of applying to any but himself; wherein he differed from me, desiring I would speak to others, if it were but for form; and seemed to mean, as if he would avoid the envy of doing things alone. But an old courtier (an intimate friend of mine) with whom I consulted, advised me still to let him know, I relied wholly upon his good inclinations and credit with the queen.

I find I am forced to say all this very confusedly, just as it lies in my memory; but, perhaps, it may give your grace a truer notion of what passed, than if I had writ in more order. Besides, I am forced to omit the greatest part of what I said, being not proper for a letter at such a distance; for I told very freely the late causes which had stopped this matter, and removed many odious misrepresentations, &c.

I beg, whatever letters are sent to bishops or others in this matter, by your grace or the primate, may be enclosed to me, that I may stifle or deliver them, as the course of the affair shall require. As for a letter from your grace to the queen, you say it needs advice; and I am sure it is not from me, who shall not presume to offer; but perhaps from what I have writ you may form some judgment or other.

As for publick affairs, I confess I began this letter on a half sheet, merely to limit myself on a subject with which I did not know whether your grace would be entertained. I am not yet convinced that any access to men in power gives a man more truth or light than the politicks of a coffeehouse. I have known some great ministers, who would seem to discover the very inside of their hearts, when I was sure they did not value whether I had proclaimed all they had said at Charing-cross. But I never knew one great minister, who made any scruple to mould the alphabet into whatever words he pleased; or to be more difficult about any facts, than his porter is about that of his lord's being at home; so that whoever has so little to do, as to desire some knowledge in secrets of state, must compare what he hears from several great men, as from one great man at several times, which is equally different. People were surprised, when the court stopped its hands as to farther removals: the comptroller, a lord of the admiralty, and some others, told me, they expected every day to be dismissed; but they were all deceived, and the higher tories are very angry: but some time ago, at Hampton-court, I picked out the reason from a dozen persons; and told sir J. Holland, I would lay a wager he would not lose his staff so soon as he imagined. The ministry are afraid of too great a majority of their own side in the house of commons, and therefore stopped short in their changes; yet some refiners think they have here gone too far already, for of thirty new members in the present elections, about twenty-six are tories. The duke of Ormond seems still to stand the fairest for Ireland; although I hear some faint hopes they will not nominate very soon. The ruin of the late party was owing to a great number, and a complication of causes, which I have had from persons able enough to inform me; and that is all we can mean by a good hand, for the veracity is not to be relied on. The duchess of Marlborough's removal has been seven years working; that of the treasurer above three, and he was to be dismissed before lord Sunderland. Beside the many personal causes, that of breaking measures settled for a peace four years ago, had a great weight, when the French had complied with all terms, &c. In short, they apprehended the old party to be entirely against a peace, for some time, until they were rivetted fast, too fast to be broke, as they otherwise expected, if the war should conclude too soon. I cannot tell (for it is just come into my head) whether some unanimous addresses, from those who love the church in Ireland, or from Dublin, or your grace and the clergy, might not be seasonable; or, whether my lord Wharton's being not yet suspended may yet hinder it.

I forgot to tell your grace, that the memorial I gave Mr. Harley was drawn up by myself, and was an abstract of what I had said to him: it was as short as I could make it; that which you sent being too long, and of another nature.

I dined to day with Mr. Harley; but I must humbly beg your grace's pardon if I say no more at present, for reasons I may shortly let you know. In the mean time, I desire your grace to believe me, with the greatest respect,

My Lord,

your grace's

most dutiful

and most humble servant,

  1. Dr. Cambell, in his Philosophy of Rhetorick, produces this passage as a fine example of an indirect, but successful manner of praising, by seeming to invert the course of the obligation, and to represent the person obliging as the person obliged.