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


SWORDS, SEPT. 1, 1711.

I GOT a little retirement here, and made use of it, to write you by the present packet[1]. I promised to say something as to your own affairs; and the first thing is not to neglect yourself on this occasion, but to make use of the favour and interest you have at present, to procure you some preferment that may be called a settlement. Years come on, and after a certain age, if a man be not in a station that may be a step to a better, he seldom goes higher. It is with men as with beauties, if they pass the flower, they grow stale, and lie for ever neglected. I know you are not ambitious; but it is prudence, not ambition, to get into a station, that may make a man easy, and prevent contempt when he grows in years. You certainly may now have an opportunity to provide for yourself, and I entreat you not to neglect it.

The second thing that I would desire you to consider is, that God has given you parts and learning, and a happy turn of mind; and that you are answerable for those talents to God: and therefore I advise you, and believe it to be your duty, to set yourself to some serious and useful subject in your profession, and to manage it so, that it may be of use to the world. I am persuaded, that if you will apply yourself this way, you are well able to do it; and that your knowledge of the world, and reading, will enable you to furnish such a piece, with such uncommon remarks, as will render it both profitable and agreeable, above most things that pass the press. Say not, that most subjects in divinity are exhausted; for if you will look into Dr. Wilkins's Heads of Matters, which you will find in his Gift of Preaching, you will be surprised to find so many necessary and useful heads, that no authors have meddled with. There are some common themes, that have employed multitudes of authors; but the most curious and difficult are in a manner untouched, and a good genius will not fail to produce something new and surprising on the most trite, much more on those that others have avoided, merely because they were above their parts.

Assure yourself, that your interest, as well as duty, requires this from you; and you will find, that it will answer some objections against you, if you thus show the world, that you have patience and comprehension of thought, to go through with such a subject of weight and learning.

You will pardon me this freedom, which I assure you proceeds from a sincere kindness, and true value that I have for you, I will add no more, but my hearty prayers for you. I am, Dr. Swift, your's,

  1. This is the same date as that of the preceding.