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


JULY, 20, 1731.

I WRIT you a long letter not many days ago, which therefore did not arrive until after your last that I received yesterday, with the enclosed from me to the queen. You hinted something of this in a former letter: I will tell you sincerely how the affair stands. I never was at Mrs. Barber's house in my life, except once that I chanced to pass by her shop, was desired to walk in, and went no farther, nor staid three minutes. Dr. Delany has been long her protector; and he, being many years my acquaintance, desired my good offices for her, and brought her several times to the deanery. I knew she was poetically given, and, for a woman, had a sort of genius that way. She appeared very modest and pious, and I believe was sincere; and wholly turned to poetry. I did conceive her journey to England was on the score of her trade, being a woollendraper, until Dr. Delany said, she had a design of printing her poems by subscription, and desired I would befriend her: which I did, chiefly by your means; the doctor still urging me on: upon whose request I writ to her two or three times, because she thought that my countenancing her might be of use. Lord Carteret very much befriended her, and she seems to have made her way not ill. As for those three letters you mention, supposed all to be written by me to the queen, on Mrs. Barber's account, especially the letter which bears my name; I can only say, that the apprehensions one may be apt to have of a friend's doing a foolish thing, is an effect of kindness: and God knows who is free from playing the fool some time or other. But in such a degree as to write to the queen, who has used me ill without any cause, and to write in such a manner as the letter you sent me, and in such a style, and to have so much zeal for one almost a stranger, and to make such a description of a woman as to prefer her before all mankind; and to instance it as one of the greatest grievances of Ireland, that her majesty has not encouraged Mrs. Barber, a woollendraper's wife declined in the world, because she has a knack at versifying; was to suppose, or fear, a folly so transcendent, that no man could be guilty of, who was not fit for Bedlam. You know the letter you sent enclosed is not my hand; and why I should disguise, and yet sign my name, should seem unaccountable: especially when I am taught, and have reason to believe, that I am under the queen's displeasure on many accounts, and one very late, for having fixed up a stone over the burying place of the duke of Schomberg, in my cathedral: which, however, I was assured by a worthy person, who solicited that affair last summer with some relations of the duke, "That her majesty, on hearing the matter, said they ought to erect a monument." Yet I am told assuredly, that the king not long ago, on the representation and complaint of the Prussian envoy (with a hard name) who has married a granddaughter of the duke, said publickly in the drawingroom, "That I had put up that stone out of malice, to raise a quarrel between his majesty and the king of Prussia." This perhaps may be false, because it is absurd: for I thought it was a whiggish action to honour duke Schomberg, who was so instrumental in the revolution, and was stadtholder of Prussia, and otherwise in the service of that electorate, which is now a kingdom. You will observe the letter sent me concluded, "Your majesty's loyal subject;" which is absolutely absurd; for we are only subjects to the king, and so is her majesty herself. I have had the happiness to be known to you above twenty years; and I appeal, whether you have known me to exceed the common indiscretions of mankind; or that, when I conceived myself to have been so very ill used by her majesty, whom I never attended but on her own commands, I should turn solicitor to her for Mrs. Barber? If the queen had not an inclination to think ill of me, she knows me too well to believe in her own heart that I should be such a coxcomb. I am pushed on by that unjust suspicion to give up so much of my discretion, as to write next post to my lady Suffolk on this occasion, and to desire she will show what I write to the queen; although I have as much reason to complain of her, as of her majesty, upon the score of her pride and negligence, which make her fitter to be an Irish lady than an English one. You told me, "she complained that I did not write to her;" when I did, upon your advice, and a letter that required an answer, she wanted the civility to acquit herself. I shall not be less in the favour of God, or the esteem of my friends, for either of their majesties hard thoughts, which they only take up from misrepresentations. The first time I saw the queen, I took occasion, upon the subject of Mr. Gay, to complain of that very treatment which innocent persons often receive from princes and great ministers, that they too easily receive bad impressions; and although they are demonstrably convinced that those impressions had no grounds, yet they will never shake them off. This I said upon sir Robert Walpole's treatment of Mr. Gay about a libel; and the queen fell entirely in with me, yet now falls into the same errour. As to the letter[1] * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * of accidents, and out of perfect commiseration, &c.

  1. Here the paper is accidentally torn. There seem to be wanting eight small quarto lines, which conclude with those few words on the back of the page which follow the asterisks.