The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From John Gay and Alexander Pope to Jonathan Swift - 1


OCT. 22, 1727.

THOUGH you went away from us so unexpectedly, and in so clandestine a manner; yet, by several inquiries, we have informed ourselves of every thing that hath happened to you.

To our great joy, you have told us, your deafness left you at the inn in Aldersgate street: no doubt, your ears knew there was nothing worth hearing in England.

Our advices from Chester tell us, that you met captain Lawson[1]; the captain was a man of veracity, and set sail at the time he told you; I really wished you had laid hold of that opportunity, for you had then been in Ireland the next day; besides, as it is credibly reported, the captain had a bottle or two of excellent claret in his cabin. You would not then have had the plague of that little smoky room at Holyhead[2]; but, considering it was there you lost your giddiness, we have great reason to praise smoky rooms for the future, and prescribe them in like cases to our friends. The maid of the house writes us word, that, while you were there, you were busy for ten days together writing continually; and that, as Wat drew nearer and nearer to Ireland, he blundered more and more. By a scrap of paper left in this smoky room, it seemed as if the book you were writing was a most lamentable account of your travels; and really, had there been any wine in the house, the place would not have been so irksome. We were farther told, that you set out, were driven back again by a storm, and lay in the ship all night. After the next setting sail, we were in great concern about you, because the weather grew very tempestuous: when, to my great joy and surprise, I received a letter from Carlingford in Ireland, which informed us, that, after many perils, you were safely landed there. Had the oysters been good, it would have been a comfortable refreshment after your fatigue. We compassionated you in your travels through that country of desolation and poverty in your way to Dublin; for it is a most dreadful circumstance, to have lazy dull horses on a road where there are very bad or no inns. When you carry a sample of English apples next to Ireland, I beg you would get them either from Goodrich or Devonshire. Pray who was the clergyman that met you at some distance from Dublin? because we could not learn his name. These are all the hints we could get of your long and dangerous journey, every step of which we shared your anxieties and all that we have now left to comfort us, is to hear that you are in good health.

But why should we tell you what you know already? The queen's[3] family is at last settled, and in the list I was appointed gentleman usher to the princess Louisa, the youngest princess; which, upon account that I am so far advanced in life, I have declined accepting[4]; and I have endeavoured, in the best manner I could, to make my excuses by a letter to her majesty. So now all my expectations are vanished; and I have no prospect, but in depending wholly upon myself, and my own conduct. As I am used to disappointments, I can bear them; but as I can have no more hopes, I can no more be disappointed, so that I am in a blessed condition. You remember you were advising me to go into Newgate to finish my scenes the more correctly. I now think I shall, for I have no attendance to hinder me; but my opera[5] is already finished. I leave the rest of this paper to Mr. Pope.

Gay is a free man, and I wrote him a long congratulatory letter upon it. Do you the same: it will mend him, and make him a better man than a court could do. Horace might keep his coach in Augustus's time, if he pleased; but I will not in the time of our Augustus. My poem[6] (which it grieves me that I dare not send you a copy of, for fear of the Curlls and Dennises of Ireland, and still more for fear of the worst of traitors, our friends and admirers) my poem, I say, will show you what a distinguished age we lived in? Your name is in it, with some others, under a mark of such ignominy as you will not much grieve to wear in that company. Adieu, and God bless you, and give you health and spirits.

Whether thou choose Cervantes' serious air;
Or laugh and shake in Rab'lais' easy chair,
Or in the graver gown instruct mankind,
Or, silent, let thy morals tell thy mind.

These two verses are over and above what I have said of you in the poem[7]. Adieu.

  1. Commander of the king's Dublin yacht.
  2. When the dean was there, waiting for a wind, one Weldon, an old seafaring man, sent him a letter, that he had found out the longitude, and would convince him of it; to which the dean answered in writing, that, if he had found it out, he must apply to the lords of the admiralty, of whom perhaps one might be found who knew something of navigation, of which he was totally ignorant; and that he never knew but two projectors, one of whom (meaning his own uncle Godwin) ruined himself and family, and the other hanged himself; and desired him to desist, lest one or other might happen to him. In vol. VII, p. 361, are some verses by the dean, written on the window of the inn whilst he was detained at Holyhead.
  3. Queen Caroline, consort of king George II.
  4. This appointment was treated by all the friends of Gay, as a great indignity; and he is said to have felt the disappointment very severely and was too much dejected on the occasion.
  5. The Beggar's Opera.
  6. The Dunciad.
  7. We see by this, with what judgment Pope corrected and erased.