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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to Henrietta Howard - 5

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MADAM,
JULY 24, 1731.
 


I GIVE you joy of your new title, and of the consequences it may have, or hath had, on your rising at court, whereof I know nothing but by common fame: for, you remember how I prophesied of your behaviour, when you should come to be a great lady, at the time I drew your character; and hope you have kept it. I writ to you some time ago, by the advice of Mr. Pope: I writ to you civilly; but you did not answer my letter, although you were not then a countess; and if you were, your neglect was so much the worse; for, your title has not increased your value with me; and your conduct must be very good, if it will not lessen you. Neither should you have heard from me now, if it were not on a particular occasion. I find, from several instances, that I am under the queen's displeasure; and as it is usual among princes, without any manner of reason. I am told, there were three letters sent to her majesty in relation to one Mrs. Barber, who is now in London, and soliciting for a subscription to her poems. It seems, the queen thinks that these letters were written by me; and I scorn to defend myself even to her majesty, grounding my scorn upon the opinion I had of her justice, her taste, and good sense; especially when the last of those letters, whereof I have just received the original from Mr. Pope, was signed with my name: and why I should disguise my hand, which you know very well, and yet write my name, is both ridiculous and unaccountable. Last post, I wrote my whole sentiments on the matter to Mr. Pope; who tells me, "that you and he vindicated me on all the three letters;" which, indeed, was but bare justice in you both, for he is my old friend, and you are in my debt on account of the esteem I had for you. I desire you would ask the queen, "Whether, since the time I had the honour to be known to her, I ever did one single action, or said one single word, to disoblige her?" I never asked her for any thing: and you well know, that when I had an intention to go to France, about the time that the late king died, I desired your opinion (not as you were a courtier) whether I should go or not; and that you absolutely forbid me, as a thing that would look disaffected, and for other reasons, wherein I confess I was your dupe as well as somebody's else: and, for want of that journey, I fell sick, and was forced to return hither to my unenvied home. I hear the queen has blamed me for putting a stone, with a latin inscription, over the duke of Schomberg's burying place in my cathedral; and that the king said publickly, "I had done it in malice, to create a quarrel between him and the king of Prussia." But the publick prints, as well as the thing itself, will vindicate me: and the hand the duke had in the revolution made him deserve the best monument. Neither could the king of Prussia justly take it ill, who must needs have heard that the duke was in the service of Prussia, and stadtholder of it, as I have seen in his titles. The first time I saw the queen, I talked to her largely upon the conduct of princes and great ministers, it was on a particular occasion: "That when they receive an ill account of any person, although they afterward have the greatest demonstration of the falsehood, yet, will they never be reconciled:" And although the queen fell in with me upon the hardship of such a proceeding, yet now she treats me exactly in the same manner. I have faults enough, but never was guilty of any either to her majesty or to you; and as little to the king, whom I never saw, but when I had the honour to kiss his hand. I am sensible that I owe a great deal of this usage to sir Robert Walpole; whom yet I never offended, although he was pleased to quarrel with me very unjustly: for which, I showed not the least resentment (whatever I might have in my heart) nor was ever a partaker with those who have been battling with him for some years past. I am contented that the queen should see this letter; and would please to consider how severe a censure it is to believe I should write three to her, only to find fault with her ministry, and recommend Mrs. Barber: whom I never knew until she was recommended to me by a worthy friend, to help her to subscribers, which by her writings I thought she deserved. Her majesty gave me leave, and even commanded me, above five years ago, if I lived until she was queen, to write to her on behalf of Ireland: for the miseries of this kingdom she appeared then to be much concerned. I desired the friend who introduced me to be a witness of her majesty's promise. Yet that liberty I never took, although I had too many occasions; and is it not wonderful, that I should be suspected of writing to her in such a style, in such a counterfeit hand, and my name subscribed, upon a perfect trifle, at the same time that I well knew myself to be very much out of her majesty's good graces? I am, perhaps, not so very much awed with majesty as others; having known courts more or less from my early youth. And I have more than once told the queen, "That I did not regard her station half so much, as the good understanding I heard and found to be in her:" neither did I ever once see the late king, although her majesty was pleased to chide me on that account, for my singularity. In this I am a good whig, by thinking it sufficient to be a dutiful subject, without any personal regard for princes, farther than as their virtues deserve; and upon that score, had a most particular respect for the queen, your mistress. One who asks nothing may talk with freedom; and that is my case. I have not said half that was in my heart, but I will have done: and remembering that you are a countess, will borrow so much ceremony as to remain, with great respect,

Madam,

your ladyship's most obedient

and most humble servant.