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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to John Gay and Catherine Hyde - 6

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DUBLIN, JULY 10, 1732.


I HAD your letter by Mr. Ryves a long time after the date, for I suppose he staid long in the way. I am glad you determine upon something; there is no writing I esteem more than fables, nor any thing so difficult to succeed in; which however you have done excellently well, and I have often admired your happiness in such a kind of performances which I have frequently endeavoured at in vain. I remember I acted as you seem to hint; I found a moral first, and studied for a fable, but could do nothing that pleased me, and so left off that scheme for ever. I remember one, which was to represent what scoundrels rise in armies by a long war, wherein I supposed the lion was engaged; and having lost all his animals of worth, at last Serjeant Hog came to be brigadier, and corporal Ass a colonel, &c. I agree with you likewise about getting something by the stage, which, when it succeeds, is the best crop for poetry in England; but, pray, take some new scheme, quite different from any thing you have already touched. The present humour of the players, who hardly (as I was told in London) regard any new play, and your present situation at the court, are the difficulties to be overcome; but those circumstances may have altered (at least the former) since I left you. My scheme was to pass a month at Amesbury, and then go to Twickenham, and live a winter between that and Dawley, and sometimes at Riskins, without going to London, where I now can have no occasional lodgings: but I am not yet in any condition for such removals. I would fain have you get enough against you grow old, to have two or three servants about you and a convenient house. It is hard to want those subsidia senectuti, when a man grows hard to please, and few people care whether he be pleased or not. I have a large house, yet I should hardly prevail to find one visitor, if I were not able to hire him with a bottle of wine: so that, when I am not abroad on horseback, I generally dine alone, and am thankful, if a friend will pass the evening with me. I am now with the remainder of my pint before me, and so here's your health — and the second and chief is to my Tunbridge acquaintance, my lady duchess — and I tell you that I fear my lord Bolingbroke and Mr. Pope (a couple of philosophers) would starve me, for even of port wine I should require half a pint a day, and as much at night: and you were growing as bad, unless your duke and duchess have mended you. Your colick is owing to intemperance of the philosophical kind; you eat without care, and if you drink less than I, you drink too little. But your inattention I cannot pardon, because I imagined the cause was removed, for I thought it lay in your forty millions of schemes by court hopes and court fears. Yet Mr. Pope has the same defect, and it is of all others the most mortal to conversation: neither is my lord Bolingbroke untinged with it: all for want of my rule Vive la bagatelle! but the doctor is the king of inattention. What a vexatious life should I lead among you? If the duchess be a rêveuse, I will never go to Amesbury; or, if I do, I will run away from you both, to one of her women, and the steward and chaplain.


MADAM,

I mentioned something to Mr. Gay of a Tunbridge acquaintance, whom we forget of course when we return to town, and yet I am assured that if they meet again next summer, they have a better title to resume their commerce. Thus I look on my right of corresponding with your grace to be better established upon your return to Amesbury; and I shall at this time descend to forget, or at least suspend my resentments of your neglect all the time you were in London. I still keep in my heart, that Mr. Gay had no sooner turned his back, than you left the place in his letter void which he had commanded you to fill: though your guilt confounded you so far, that you wanted presence of mind to blot out the last line, where that command stared you in the face. But it is my misfortune to quarrel with all my acquaintance, and always come by the worst; and fortune is ever against me, but never so much as by pursuing me out of mere partiality to your grace, for which you are to answer. By your connivance, she has pleased, by one stumble on the stairs, to give me a lameness that six months have not been able perfectly to cure: and thus I am prevented from revenging myself by continuing a month at Amesbury, and breeding confusion in your grace's family. No disappointment through my whole life has been so vexatious by many degrees: and God knows whether I shall ever live to see the invisible lady, to whom I was obliged for so many favours, and whom I never beheld since she was a brat in hanging sleeves. I am, and shall be ever, with the greatest respect and gratitude, madam, your grace's most obedient, and most humble, &c.