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


DUBLIN, NOV. 19, 1730.

I WRIT to you a long letter about a fortnight past concluding you were in London, from whence I understood one of your former was dated: nor did I imagine you were gone back to Amesbury so late in the year, at which season I take the country to be only a scene for those who have been ill used by a court on account of their virtues; which is a state of happiness the more valuable, because it is not accompanied by envy, although nothing deserves it more. I would gladly sell a dukedom to lose favour in the manner their graces have done[1]. I believe my lord Carteret[2], since he is no longer lieutenant, may not wish me ill, and I have told him often that I only hated him as lieutenant. I confess he had a genteeler manner of binding the chains of this kingdom than most of his predecessors, and I confess at the same time that he had, six times, a regard to my recommendation by preferring so many of my friends in the church; the two last acts of his favour were to add to the dignities of Dr. Delany and Mr. Stopford, the last of whom was by you and Mr. Pope put into Mr. Pulteney's hands. I told you in my last, that a continuance of giddiness (though not in a violent degree) prevented my thoughts of England at present. For in my case a domestick life is necessary, where I can with the centurion say to my servant, Go, and he goeth, and Do this, and he doth it. I now hate all people whom I cannot command, and consequently a duchess is at this time the hatefullest lady in the world to me, one only excepted, and I beg her grace's pardon for that exception, for, in the way I mean, her grace is ten thousand times more hateful. I confess I begin to apprehend you will squander my money, because I hope you never less wanted it; and if you go on with success for two years longer, I fear I shall not have a farthing of it left. The doctor hath ill informed me, who says that Mr. Pope is at present the chief poetical favourite, yet Mr. Pope himself talks like a philosopher and one wholly retired. But the vogue of our few honest folks here is, that Duck is absolutely to succeed Eusden in the laurel, the contention being between Concannen or Theobald, or some other hero of the Dunciad. I never charged you for not talking, but the dubious state of your affairs in those days was too much the subject, and I wish the duchess had been the voucher of your amendment. Nothing so much contributed to my ease as the turn of affairs after the queen's death; by which all my hopes being cut off, I could have no ambition left, unless I would have been a greater rascal than happened to suit with my temper. I therefore sat down quietly at my morsel, adding only thereto a principle of hatred to all succeeding measures and ministries by way of sauce to relish my meat: and I confess one point of conduct in my lady duchess's life has added much poignancy to it. There is a good Irish practical bull toward the end of your letter, where you spend a dozen lines in telling me you must leave off, that you may give my lady duchess room to write, and so you proceed to within two or three lines of the bottom; though I would have remitted you my 200l. to have left place for as many more.



MY beginning thus low is meant as a mark of respect, like receiving your grace at the bottom of the stairs. I am glad you know your duty; for it has been a known and established rule above twenty years in England, that the first advances have been constantly made me by all ladies who aspired to my acquaintance, and the greater their quality, the greater were their advances. Yet, I know not by what weakness, I have condescended graciously to dispense with you upon this important article. Though Mr. Gay will tell you that a nameless person sent me eleven messages[3] before I would yield to a visit: I mean a person to whom he is infinitely obliged, for being the occasion of the happiness he now enjoys under the protection and favour of my lord duke and your grace. At the same time, I cannot forbear telling you, madam, that you are a little imperious in your manner of making your advances. You say, perhaps you shall not like me; I affirm you are mistaken, which I can plainly demonstrate; for I have certain intelligence, that another person dislikes me of late, with whose likings yours have not for some time past gone together. However, if I shall once have the honour to attend your grace, I will out of fear and prudence appear as vain as I can, that I may not know your thoughts of me. This is your own direction, but it was needless: for Diogenes himself would be vain, to have received the honour of being one moment of his life in the thoughts of your grace.

  1. By patronizing Gay.
  2. The lines which this nobleman quoted from Homer, on his death bed, to Mr. Wood, on occasion of the peace, were as happily applied, as the apology he used to Swift for some harsh measures in Ireland;
    ———— Regni novitas me talia cogit
  3. He means queen Caroline; and her neglect of Gay, which recommended him to the duchess of Queensberry.