The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Henry St. John to Jonathan Swift - 24

JULY 18, 1732.

I WRITE this letter, in hopes that Pope, a man scattered in the world (according to the French phrase) will soon procure me an opportunity of conveying it safely to you, my reverend dean. For my own part, half this wicked nation might go to you, or half your beggarly nation might come to us, and the whole migration be over before I knew any thing of the matter. My letter will concern neither affairs of state, nor of party; and yet I would not have it fall into the hands of our ministers: it might pass in their excellent noddles for a piece of a plot against themselves, if not against the state; or, at least, it might furnish them with an opportunity of doing an ill natured, and disappointing a good natured thing; which being a pleasure to the malicious and the base, I should be sorry to give it on any occasion, and especially on this, to the par nobile fratrum[1].

After this preamble, I proceed to tell you, that there is in my neighbourhood, in Berkshire, a clergyman, one Mr. Talbot, related to the solicitor general[2], and protected by him. This man has now the living of Burfield[3], which the late bishop of Durham held before, and, for aught I know, after he was bishop of Oxford. The living is worth four hundred pounds per annum over and above a curate paid, as Mr. Correy, a gentleman who does my business in that country, and who is a very grave authority, assures me. The parsonage house is extremely good, the place pleasant, and the air excellent, the distance from London a little day's journey, and from hence (give me leave to think this circumstance of some importance to you) not much above half a day's, even for you who are no great jockey. Mr. Talbot has many reasons, which make him desirous to settle in Ireland for the rest of his life, and has been looking out for a change of preferments some time. As soon as I heard this, I employed one to know whether he continued in the same mind, and to tell him, that an advantageous exchange might be offered him, if he could engage his kinsman to make it practicable at court. He answered for his own acceptance, and his kinsman's endeavours. I employed next some friends to secure my lord Dorset, who very frankly declared himself ready to serve you in any thing, and in this if you desired it. But he mentioned a thing, at the same time, wholly unknown to me, which is, that your deanery is not in the nomination of the crown, but in the election of the chapter. This may render our affair perhaps more easy; more hard, I think, it cannot be; but in all cases, it requires other measures to be taken. One of these I believe must be, to prepare Hoadly, bishop of Salisbury, if that be possible, to prepare his brother the archbishop of Dublin. The light, in which the proposition must be represented to him, and to our ministers, (if it be made to them) is this; that though they gratify you, they gratify you in a thing advantageous to themselves, and silly in you to ask. I suppose it will not be hard to persuade them, that it is better for them you should be a private parish priest in an English county, than a dean in the metropolis of Ireland, where they know, because they have felt, your authority and influence. At least, this topick is a plausible one for those who speak to them, to insist upon, and coming out of a whig mouth may have weight. Sure I am, they will be easily persuaded, that quitting power for ease, and a greater for a less revenue, is a foolish bargain, which they should by consequence help you to make.

You see now the state of this whole affair, and you will judge better than I am able to do, of the means to be employed on your side of the water: as to those on this, nothing shall be neglected. Find some secure way of conveying your thoughts and your commands to me; for my friend has a right to command me arbitrarily, which no man else upon earth has. Or rather, dispose of affairs so as to come hither immediately. You intended to come some time ago. You speak, in a letter Pope has just now received from you, as if you still had in view to make this journey before winter. Make it in the summer, and the sooner the better. To talk of being able to ride with stirrups, is trifling: get on Pegasus, bestride the hippogryph, or mount the white nag in the Revelation. To be serious; come any how, and put neither delay nor humour in a matter which requires dispatch and management. Though I have room, I will not say one word to you about Berkeley's[4] or Delany's[5] book. Some part of the former is hard to be understood; none of the latter is to be read. I propose, however, to reconcile you to metaphysicks; by showing how they may be employed against metaphysicians; and that whenever you do not understand them, nobody else does, no not those who write them.

I know you are inquisitive about the health of the poor woman who inhabits this place; it is tolerable, better than it has been in some years. Come and see her; you shall be nursed, fondled, and humoured. She desires you to accept this assurance, with her humble service. Your horses shall be grazed in summer, and fothered in winter; and you and your man shall have meat, drink, and lodging. Washing I cannot afford, Mr. dean; for I am grown saving, thanks to your sermon about frugality.

  1. Sir Robert Walpole, and his brother Horace.
  2. Afterward lord chancellor.
  3. A rectory in Berkshire.
  4. "Alciphron; or The Minute Philosopher."
  5. "Revelation examined with Candour."