Open main menu

The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Allen Bathurst to Jonathan Swift - 4

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 12


APRIL 9, 1731.


I NEVER designed to have written to you any more, because you bantered and abused me so grossly in your last. To flatter a man from whom you can get nothing, nor expect any thing, is doing mischief for mischief sake, and consequently highly immoral. However I will not carry my resentments so far, as to stand by and see you undone, without giving you both notice and advice. Could any man but you think of trusting John Gay with his money? None of his friends would ever trust him with his own, whenever they could avoid it. He has called in the 200l. I had of yours: I paid him both principal and interest. I suppose by this time he has lost it. I give you notice, you must look upon it as annihilated.

Now, as I have considered, your deanery brings you in little or nothing, and that you keep servants and horses, and frequently give little neat dinners, which are more expensive than a few splendid entertainments; beside which, you may be said to water your flock with French wine, which altogether must consume your substance in a little while; I have thought of putting you in a method, that you may retrieve your affairs. In the first place, you must turn off all your servants, and sell your horses, I will find exercise for you. Your whole family must consist of only one sound wholesome wench. She will make your bed, and warm it; beside washing your linen, and mending it, darning your stockings, &c. But to save all expense in housekeeping, you must contrive some way or other, that she should have milk; and I can assure you, it is the opinion of some of the best physicians, that women's milk is the wholesomest food in the world.

Besides, this regimen, take it altogether, will certainly temper and cool your blood. You will not be such a boutefeu, as you have been, and be ready, upon every trifling occasion, to set a whole kingdom in a flame. Had the drapier been a milksop, poor Wood had not suffered so much in his reputation and fortune. It will allay that fervour of blood, and quiet that hurry of spirits, which breaks out every now and then into poetry, and seems to communicate itself to others of the chapter. You would not then encourage Delany and Stopford in their idleness, but let them be as grave as most of their order are with us. I am convinced they will sooner get preferment then, than in the way they now are. And I shall not be out of hopes of seeing you a bishop in time, when you live in that regular way, which I shall propose. In short, in a few years, you may lay up money enough to buy even the bishoprick of Durham. For, if you keep cows instead of horses, in that high walled orchard, and cultivate by your own industry a few potatoes in your garden, the maid will live well, and be able to sell more butter and cheese, than will answer her wages. You may preach then upon temperance with a better grace, than now, that you are known to consume seven or eight hogsheads of wine every year of your life. You will be mild and meek in your conversation, and not frighten parliamentmen, and keep even lord lieutenants in awe. You will then be qualified for that slavery, which the country you live in, and the order you profess, seem to be designed for. It will take off that giddiness in your head, which has disturbed yourself and others. The disputes between sir Arthur[1] and my lady, will for the future be confined to prose; and an old thorn may be cut down in peace, and warm the parlour chimney, without heating the heads of poor innocent people, and turning their brains.

You ought to remember what St. Austin says, Poesis est vinum dæmonum. Consider the life you now lead: you warm all that come near you with your wine and conversation; and the rest of the world, with your pen dipped deep in St. Austin's vinum dæmonum.

So far for your soul's health. Now, as to the health of your body: I must inform you, that part of what I prescribe to you, is the same which our great friar Bacon prescribed to the pope who lived in his days. Read his Cure of old age, and Preservation of youth, chapter the 12th. You used to say, that you found benefit from riding. The French, an ingenious people, used the word chevaucher, instead of monter à cheval, and they look upon it as the same thing in effect.

Now, if you will go on after this, in your old ways, and ruin your health, your fortune, and your reputation, it is no fault of mine. I have pointed out the road, which will lead you to riches and preferment; and that you may have no excuse from entering into this new course of life, upon pretence of doubting whether you can get a person properly qualified to feed you, and compose your new family, I will recommend you to John Gay, who is much better qualified to bring increase from a woman, than from a sum of money. But if he should be lazy, (and he is so fat, that there is some reason to doubt him) I will without fail supply you myself, that you may be under no disappointments. Bracton says, Conjunctio maris et fœminæ est jure naturæ. Vide Coke upon Littleton. Calvin's case, 1st vol. Reports.

This I send you from my closet at Richkings[2], where I am at leisure to attend serious affairs; but when one is in town, there are so many things to laugh at, that it is very difficult to compose one's thoughts, even long enough to write a letter of advice to a friend. If I see any man serious in that crowd, I look upon him for a very dull or designing fellow. By the by, I am of opinion, that folly and cunning are nearer allied than people are aware of. If a fool runs out his fortune, and is undone, we say, the poor man has been outwitted. Is it not as reasonable to say of a cunning rascal, who has lived miserably, and died hated and despised, to leave a great fortune behind him, that he has outwitted himself? In short, to be serious about those trifles which the majority of mankind think of consequence, seems to me to denote folly; and to trifle with those things which they generally treat ludicrously, may denote knavery. I have observed that in comedy, the best actor plays the part of the droll, while some scrub rogue is made the hero, or fine gentleman. So in this farce of life, wise men pass their time in mirth, while fools only are serious. Adieu. Continue to be merry and wise; but never turn serious, or cunning.


  1. Sir Arthur Acheson, at whose seat, in a village called Markethill in Ireland, the dean sometimes made a long visit. The dispute between sir Arthur and my lady, here alluded to, is whether Hamilton's bawn should be turned into a barrack, or a malthouse? The Old Thorn, is that cut down at Market hill, the subject of a little poem written by Swift.
  2. A seat of his lordship's, in Buckinghamshire.