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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From John Gay to Jonathan Swift - 14

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From the Duke of Queensberry's, in Burlington Gardens, March 18, 1728-9.


I HAVE writ to you several times; and having heard nothing from you, makes me fear my letters are miscarried. Mr. Pope's letter has taken off my concern in some degree; but I hope good weather will entirely reestablissh you in your health. I am but just recovered from the severest fit of sickness that ever any body had who escaped death. I was several times given up by the physicans, and every body that attended me; and upon my recovery, was judged to be in so ill a condition, that I should be miserable for the remainder of my life; but contrary to all expectation, I am perfectly recovered, and have no remainder of the distempers that attacked, me, which were, at the same time, fever, asthma, and pleurisy. I am now in the duke of Queensberry's house, and have been so ever since I left Hampstead; where I was carried at a time that it was thought I could not live a day. Since my coming to town, I have been very little abroad, the weather has been so severe.

I must acquaint you, (because I know it will please you) that during my sickness I had many of the kindest proofs of friendship, particularly from the duke and duchess of Queensberry; who, if I had been their nearest relation and nearest friend, could not have treated me with more constant attendance then; and they continue the same to me now.

You must undoubtedly have heard, that the duchess took up my defence with the king and queen, in the cause of my play, and that she has been forbid the court for interesting herself to increase my fortune, by the publication of it without being acted. The duke too has given up his employment (which he would have done, if the duchess had not met with this treatment) upon account of ill usage from the ministers; but this hastened him in what he had determined. The play is now almost printed, with the musick, words, and basses, engraved on thirty-one copper plates, which, by my friends assistance, has a probability to turn greatly to my advantage. The duchess of Marlborough has given me a hundred pounds for one copy; and others have contributed very handsomely; but, as my account is not yet settled, I cannot tell you particulars.

For writing in the cause of virtue, and against the fashionable vices, I am looked upon at present as the most obnoxious person almost in England. Mr. Pulteney tells me, I have got the start of him. Mr. Pope tells me, that I am dead, and that this obnoxiousness is the reward for my inoffensiveness in my former life. I wish I had a book ready to send you: but, I believe I shall not be able to complete the work till the latter end of the next week. Your money is still in lord Bathurst's hands; but, I believe, I shall receive it soon: I wish to receive your orders how to dispose of it. I am impatient to finish my work, for I want the country air; not that I am ill, but to recover my strength; and I cannot leave my work till it is finished. While I am writing this, I am in the room next to our dining room, with sheets all round it, and two people from the binder folding sheets. I print the book at my own expense, in quarto, which is to be sold for six shillings, with the musick. You see I do not want industry; and I hope you will allow, that I have not the worst economy. Mrs. Howard has declared herself strongly, both to the king and queen, as my advocate. The duchess of Oueensberry is allowed to have shown more spirit, more honour, and more goodness, than was thought possible in our times; I should have added too, more understanding and good sense. You see my fortune (as I hope my virtue will) increases by oppression. I go to no courts; I drink no wine; and am calumniated even by ministers of state, and yet am in good spirits. Most of the courtiers, though otherwise my friends, refused to contribute to my undertaking. But the city and the people of England take my part very warmly; and, I am told, the best of the citizens will give me proofs of it by their contributions.

I could talk to you a great deal more, but I am afraid I should write too much for you, and for myself. I have not writ so much together since my sickness. I cannot omit telling you, that Dr. Arbuthnot's attendance and care of me showed him the best of friends. Dr. Hollings, though entirely a stranger to me, was joined with him, and used me in the kindest and most handsome manner. Mr. and Mrs. Pulteney were greatly concerned for me, visited me, and showed me the strongest proofs of friendship. When I see you I will tell you of others, as of Mr. Pope, Mrs. Blount, Mr. and Mrs. Rollinson, lord and lady Bolingbroke, &c. I think they are all your friends and well wishers. I hope you will love them the better upon my account; but do not forget Mr. Lewis, nor lord Bathurst, sir William Wyndham, and lord Gower, and lord Oxford among the number.

  1. Endorsed, see the Duchess's Answer to the Royal Message.