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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to John Carteret - 4

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

SEPT. 3, 1724.

BEING ten years older than when I had the honour to see your excellency last, by consequence, if I am subject to any ailments, they are now ten times worse; and so it has happened. For I have been, this month past, so pestered with the return of a noise and deafness in my ears, that I had not spirit to perform the common offices of life, much less to write to your excellency, and least of all to answer so obliging and condescending a letter as that I received from you. But these ugly ten years have a worse consequence; that they utterly destroy any title to the good opinion you are pleased to express of me, as an amuser of the world and myself. To have preserved that talent, I ought, as I grew older, to have removed into a better climate, instead of being sunk for life in a worse. I imagine France would be proper for me now, and Italy ten years hence. However, I am not so bad as they would make me: for, since I left England, such a parcel of trash has been there fathered upon me, that nothing but the good judgment of my friends could hinder them from thinking me the greatest dunce alive.

There is a gentleman of this kingdom just gone for England; it is Dr. George Berkeley, dean of Derry, the best preferment among us, being worth eleven hundred pounds a year. He takes the Bath in his way to London; and will, of course, attend your excellency, and be presented, I suppose, by his friend my lord Burlington. And because I believe you will choose out some very idle minutes to read this letter, perhaps you may not be ill entertained with some account of the man, and his errand. He was a fellow of the university here; and going to England very young, about thirteen years ago, he became the founder of a sect there called the immaterialists, by the force of a very curious book upon that subject. Dr. Smalridge, and many other eminent persons, were his proselytes. I sent him secretary and chaplain to Sicily, with my lord Peterborow; and upon his lordship's return, Dr. Berkeley spent above seven years in travelling over most parts of Europe, but chiefly through every corner of Italy, Sicily, and other islands. When he came back to England, he found so many friends, that he was effectually recommended to the duke of Grafton, by whom he was lately made dean of Derry. Your excellency will be frighted, when I tell you all this is but an introduction; for I am now to mention his errand. He is an absolute philosopher, with regard to money, titles, and power; and for three years past, has been struck with a notion of founding a university at Bermudas, by a charter from the crown. He has seduced several of the hopefullest young clergymen, and others here, many of them well provided for, and all of them in the fairest way of preferment: but in England, his conquests are greater; and I doubt, will spread very far this winter. He showed me a little tract, which he designs to publish; and and there your excellency will see his whole scheme of a life academico-philosophical (I shall make you remember what you were) of a college founded for Indian scholars and missionaries; where he most exorbitantly proposes a whole hundred pounds a year for himself, forty pounds for a fellow, and ten for a student. His heart will break if his deanery be not taken from him, and left to your excellency's disposal. I discouraged him, by the coldness of courts and ministers, who will interpret all this as impossible, and a vision; but nothing will do. And therefore, I do humbly entreat your excellency, either to use such persuasions as will keep one of the first men in this kingdom for learning and virtue, quiet at home; or assist him, by your credit, to compass his romantick design; which however, is very noble and generous, and directly proper for a great person of your excellent education to encourage.

I must now, in all humility, entreat one favour of you, as you are lord lieutenant. Mr. Proby, surgeon of the army here, laid out the greatest part of his fortune to buy a captainship for his eldest son. The young man was lately accused of discovering an inclination to popery, while he was quartered in Galway. The report of the court martial is transmitted to your excellency. The universal opinion here is, that the accusation was false and malicious: and the archbishop of Tuam, in whose diocese Galway is, upon a strict inquiry, has declared it to be so. But all this is not to sway with your excellency, any more than that the father is the most universally beloved of any I ever knew in his station. But I entreat that you will please to hear the opinion of others, who may speak in his favour, and perhaps will tell you, "That as party is not in the case, so you cannot do any personal thing more acceptable to the people of Ireland, than in inclining toward lenity to Mr. Proby and his family;" although I have reason to be confident, that they neither need nor desire more than justice. I beg your excellence will remember my request to be only that you would hear others; and not think me so very weak as to imagine I could have hopes of giving the least turn to your mind. Therefore, I hope, what I have said is pardonable in every respect, but that of taking up your time.

My lord, we are here preparing for your reception, and for a quiet session under your government; but whether you approve the manner, I can only guess. It is by universal declarations against Wood's coin. One thing I am confident of, that your excellency will find and leave us under dispositions very different, toward your person and high station, from what have appeared toward others.

I have no other excuse for the length of this letter, but a faithful promise that I will never be guilty of the same fault a second time. I am, &c.