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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to John Gay, Charles Douglas, and Catherine Hyde - 1

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

SEPTEMBER 10, 1731.

IF your ramble was on horseback, I am glad of it on account of your health; but I know your arts of patching up a journey between stage coaches and friends coaches: for you are as arrant a cockney as any hosier in Cheapside. One clean shirt with two cravats, and as many handkerchiefs, make up your equipage; and as for nightgown, it is clear from Homer, that Agamemnon rose without one. I have often had it in my head to put it into yours, that you ought to have some great work in scheme, which may take up seven years to finish, beside two or three under ones, that may add another thousand pound to your stock; and then I shall be in less pain about you. I know you can find dinners, but you love twelvepenny coaches too well, without considering that the interest of a whole thousand pounds brings you but half a crown a day. I find a greater longing than ever to come among you; and reason good, when I am teased with dukes and duchesses for a visit, all my demands complied with, and all excuses cut off. You remember, "O happy Don Quixote! queens held his horse, and duchesses pulled off his armour," or something to that purpose. He was a mean spirited fellow; I can say ten times more; happy, &c. such a duchess was designed to attend him, and such a duke invited him to command his palace. Nam istos reges ceteros memorare nolo, hominum mendicabula: go read your Plautus, and observe Strobilus vapouring after he had found the pot of gold. I will have nothing to do with that lady: I have long hated her on your account, and the more, because you are so forgiving as not to hate her: however, she has good qualities enough to make her esteemed; but not one grain of feeling. I only wish she were a fool. I have been several months writing near five hundred lines on a pleasant subject, only to tell what my friends and enemies will say on me after I am dead[1]. I shall finish it soon, for I add two lines every week, and blot out four, and alter eight. I have brought in you and my other friends, as well as enemies and detractors. It is a great comfort to see how corruption and ill conduct are instrumental in uniting virtuous persons and lovers of their country of all denominations: whig and tory, high and low church, as soon as they are left to think freely, all joining in opinion. If this be disaffection, pray God send me always among the disaffected! and I heartily wish you joy of your scurvy treatment at court, which has given you leisure to cultivate both publick and private virtue; neither of them likely to be soon met within the walls of St. James's or Westminster. But I must here dismiss you, that I may pay my acknowledgments to the duke for the great honour he has done me.


I could have sworn that my pride would be always able to preserve me from vanity; of which I have been in great danger to be guilty for some months past, first by the conduct of my lady duchess, and now by that of your grace, which had like to finish the work: and I should have certainly gone about showing my letters under the charge of secrecy to every blab of my acquaintance, if I could have the least hope of prevailing on any of them to believe that a man in so obscure a corner, quite thrown out of the present world, and within a few steps of the next, should receive such condescending invitations, from two such persons, to whom he is an utter stranger, and who know no more of him than what they have heard by the partial representations of a friend. But in the mean time, I must desire your grace not to flatter yourself, that I waited for your consent to accept the invitation. I must be ignorant indeed not to know, that the duchess, ever since you met, has been most politickly employed in increasing those forces, and sharpening those arms with which she subdued you at first, and to which, the braver and the wiser you grow, you will more and more submit. Thus I knew myself on the secure side, and it was a mere piece of good manners to insert that clause, of which you have taken the advantage. But as I cannot forbear informing your grace that the duchess's great secret in her art of government, has been to reduce both your wills into one; so I am content, in due observance to the forms of the world, to return my most humble thanks to your grace for so great a favour as you are pleased to offer me, and which nothing but impossibilities shall prevent me from receiving, since I am, with the greatest reason, truth, and respect, my lord, your grace's most obedient, &c.


I have consulted all the learned in occult sciences of my acquaintance, and have sat up eleven nights to discover the meaning of those two hieroglyphical lines in your grace's hand at the bottom of the last Amesbury letter, but all in vain. Only it is agreed, that the language is Coptick, and a very profound Behmist assures me, the style is poetick, containing an invitation from a very great person of the female sex, to a strange kind of man whom she never saw, and this is all I can find, which after so many former invitations, will ever confirm me in that respect, wherewith I am, madam, your grace's most obedient, &c.

  1. This is found in vol. VIII, and is among the last of his poems.