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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to Henrietta Howard - 4

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

NOVEMBER 21, 1730.

I DO now pity the leisure you have to read a letter from me; and this letter shall be a history. First, therefore, I call you to witness, that I did not attend on the queen till I had received her own repeated messages; which, of course, occasioned my being introduced to you. I never asked any thing till, upon leaving England the first time, I desired from you a present worth a guinea, and from her majesty one worth ten pounds, by way of a memorial. Yours I received; and the queen, upon my taking leave of her, made an excuse that she had intended a medal for me; which not being ready, she would send it me the Christmas following; yet this was never done, nor at all remembered when I went back to England the next year, and by her commands, attended her as I had done before. I must now tell you, madam, that I will receive no medal from her majesty, nor any thing less than her picture at half length, drawn by Jervas; and if he takes it from another original, the queen shall sit at least twice for him to touch it up. I desire you will let her majesty know this in plain words, although I have heard that I am under her displeasure. But this is a usual thing with princes, as well as ministers, upon every false representation; and so I took occasion to tell the queen, upon the quarrel Mr. Walpole had with our friend Gay, the first time I ever had the honour to attend her.

Against you I have but one reproach: That when I was last in England, and just after the present king's accession, I resolved to pass that summer in France, for which I had then a most lucky opportunity; from which those who seemed to love me well dissuaded me, by your advice: and when I sent you a note, conjuring you to lay aside the character of a courtier and a favourite upon that occasion, your answer positively directed me not to go in that juncture; and you said the same thing to my friends, who seemed to have power of giving me hints, that I might reasonably hope for a settlement in England: which, God knows, was no very great ambition, considering the station I should leave here, of greater dignity, and which might have easily been managed to be disposed of as the queen pleased. If these hints came from you, I affirm, you then acted too much like a courtier. But I forgive you, and esteem you as much as ever. You had your reasons, which I shall not inquire into; because I always believed you had some virtues, beside all the accomplishments of mind and person that can adorn a lady.

I am angry with the queen for sacrificing my friend Gay to the mistaken piques of sir Robert Walpole, about a libel written against him; although he were convinced at the same time of Mr. Gay's innocence; and although, as I said before, I told her majesty the whole story. Mr. Gay deserved better treatment among you, upon all accounts, and particularly for his excellent unregarded Fables, dedicated to prince William; which I hope his royal highness will often read, for his instruction. I wish her majesty would a little remember what I largely said to her about Ireland, when, before a witness, she gave me leave, and commanded me, to tell here what she spoke to me upon that subject; and ordered me, if I lived to see her in her present station, to send her our grievances; promising to read my letter, and do all good offices in her power for this miserable and most loyal kingdom, now at the brink of ruin, and never so near as now. As to myself, I repeat again, that I never asked any thing more than a trifle, as a memorial of some distinction, which her majesty graciously seemed to make between me and every common clergyman: but that trifle was forgotten, according to the usual method of princes, although I was taught to think myself upon a foot of pretending to some little exception.

As to yourself, madam, I most heartily congratulate with you for being delivered from the toil, the envy, the slavery, and vexation, of a favourite; where you could not always answer the good intentions that I hope you had. You will now be less teased with solicitations, one of the greatest evils in life. You possess an easy employment, with quiet of mind, although it be by no means equal to your merit: and if it shall please God to establish your health, I believe and hope you are too wise to hope for more. Mr. Pope has always been an advocate for your sincerity; and even I, in the character I gave you of yourself, allowed you as much of that virtue, as could be expected in a lady, a courtier, and a favourite. Yet, I confess, I never heartily pledged your health as a toast, upon any other regards than beauty, wit, good sense, and an unblemished character. For, as to friendship, truth, sincerity, and other trifles of that kind, I never concerned myself about them; because I knew them to be only parts of the lower morals, which are altogether useless at courts. I am content that you should tell the queen all I have said of her; and in my own words, if you please.

I could have been a better prophet in the character I gave you of yourself, if it had been good manners, in the height of your credit, to put you in mind of its mortality: for, you are not the first, by at least three ladies, whom I have known to undergo the same turn of fortune. It is allowed, that ladies are often very good scaffoldings; and I need not tell you the use that scaffoldings are put to by all builders, as well political as mechanick. I should have begun this letter by telling you, that I was encouraged to write it by my best friend, and one of your great admirers; who told me, "that, from something that had passed between you, he thought you would not receive it ill." After all, I know no person of your sex, for whom I have so great an esteem, as I do and believe I shall always continue to bear for you, I mean a private person; for, I must except the queen, and it is not an exception of form: because I have really a very great veneration for her great qualities, although I have reason to complain of her conduct to me; which I could not excuse although she had fifty kingdoms to govern. I have but room to conclude with my sincere professions of being, with true respect,


Your most obedient humble servant.