The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to John Gay and Catherine Hyde - 5
DUBLIN, OCT. 3, 1731.
I USUALLY write to friends after a pause of a few weeks, that I may not interrupt them in better company, better thoughts, and better diversions. I believe, I have told you of a great man, who said to me, that he never once in his life received a good letter from Ireland: for which there are reasons enough without affronting our understandings. For there is not one person out of this country, who regards any events that pass here, unless he has an estate or employment. I cannot tell that you or I ever gave the least provocation to the present ministry, and much less to the court; and yet I am ten times more out of favour than you. For my own part, I do not see the politick of opening common letters, directed to persons generally known: for a man's understanding would be very weak to convey secrets by the post, if he knew any, which, I declare, I do not: and besides, I think the world is already so well informed by plain events, that I question whether the ministers have any secrets at all. Neither would I be under any apprehension if a letter should be sent me full of treason; because I cannot hinder people from writing what they please, nor sending it to me; and although it should be discovered to have been opened before it came to my hand, I would only burn it and think no farther. I approve of the scheme you have to grow somewhat richer, though, I agree, you will meet with discouragements; and it is reasonable you should, considering what kind of pens are at this time only employed and encouraged. For you must allow that the bad painter was in the right, who, having painted a cock, drove away all the cocks and hens, and even the chickens, for fear those who passed by his shop might make a comparison with his work. And I will say one thing in spite of the postofficers, that since wit and learning began to be made use of in our kingdoms, they were never professedly thrown aside, contemned, and punished, till within your own memory; nor dulness and ignorance ever so openly encouraged and promoted. In answer to what you say of my living among you, if I could do it to my ease; perhaps you have heard of a scheme for an exchange in Berkshire proposed by two of our friends; but, beside the difficulty of adjusting certain circumstances, it would not answer. I am at a time of life that seeks ease and independence; you will hear my reasons when you see those friends, and I concluded them with saying; That I would rather be a freeman among slaves, than a slave among freemen. The dignity of my present station damps the pertness of inferiour puppies and squires, which, without plenty and ease on your side the channel, would break my heart in a month.
See what it is to live where I do. I am utterly ignorant of that same Strado del Poe; and yet, if that author be against lending or giving money, I cannot but think him a good courtier; which, I am sure, your grace is not, no not so much as to be a maid of honour. For I am certainly informed, that you are neither a freethinker, nor can sell bargains; that you can neither spell, nor talk, nor write, nor think like a courtier. Then you pretend to be respected for qualities which have been out of fashion ever since you were almost in your cradle; that your contempt for a fine petticoat is an infallible mark of disaffection; which is farther confirmed by your ill taste for wit, in preferring two oldfashioned poets before Duck or Cibber. Besides, you spell in such a manner as no court lady can read, and write in such an oldfashioned style, as none of them can understand. You need not be in pain about Mr. Gay's stock of health. I promise you he will spend it all upon laziness, and run deep in debt by a winter's repose in town; therefore I entreat your grace will order him to move his chops less, and his legs more, for the six cold months, else he will spend all his money in physick and coach-hire. I am in much perplexity about your grace's declaration, of the manner in which you dispose what you call your love and respect, which, you say, are not paid to merit but to your own humour. Now, madam, my misfortune is, that I have nothing to plead but abundance of merit; and there goes an ugly observation, that the humour of ladies is apt to change. Now, madam, if I should go to Amesbury with a great load of merit, and your grace happen to be out of humour, and will not purchase my merchandise at the price of your respect, the goods may be damaged, and nobody else will take them off my hands. Besides, you have declared Mr. Gay to hold the first part, and I but the second; which is hard treatment, since I shall be the newest acquaintance by some years; and I will appeal to all the rest of your sex, whether such an innovation ought to be allowed? I should be ready to say in the common forms, that I was much obliged to the lady who wished she could give the best living, &c. if I did not vehemently suspect it was the very same lady who spoke many things to me in the same style, and also with regard to the gentleman at your elbow when you writ, whose dupe he was, as well as of her waiting woman; but they were both arrant knaves, as I told him and a third friend, though they will not believe it to this day. I desire to present my most humble respects to my lord duke, and with my heartiest prayer for the prosperity of the whole family, remain your grace's, &c.