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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to Robert Harley - 7


OCTOBER 11th, 1722.

I OFTEN receive letters franked from Oxford, but always find them written and subscribed by your lordship's servant Mynett. His meaning is some business of his own, wherein I am his solicitor; but he makes his court by giving me an account of the state of your family; and perpetually adds a clause, "That your lordship soon intends to write to me." I knew you indeed when you were not so great a man as you are now, I mean when you were treasurer; but you are grown so proud since your retirement, that there is no enduring you; and you have reason, for you never acted so difficult a part of life before. In the two great scenes of power and persecution, you have excelled mankind; and in this of retirement, you have most injuriously forgotten your friends. Poor Prior often sent me his complaints on this occasion; and I have returned him mine. I never courted your acquaintance when you governed Europe, but you courted mine; and now you neglect me, when I use all my insinuations to keep myself in your memory. I am very sensible, that next to receiving thanks and compliments, there is nothing you more hate than writing letters: but, since I never gave you thanks, nor made you compliments, I have so much more merit than any of those thousands whom you have less obliged, by only making their fortunes, without taking them into your friendship, as you did me; whom you always countenanced in too publick and particular a manner to be forgotten, either by the world or myself; for which, never man was more proud, or less vain.

I have now been ten years soliciting for your picture; and if I had solicited you for a thousand pounds (I mean of your own money, not the publick) I could have prevailed in ten days. You have given me many hundred hours; can you not now give me a couple? have my mortifications been so few, or are you so malicious to add a greater than I ever yet suffered? did you ever refuse me any thing I asked you? and will you now begin? In my conscience, I believe, and by the whole conduct of your life I have reason to believe, that you are too poor to bear the expense. I ever told you, I was the richer man of the two; and I am now richer by five hundred pounds, than I was at the time when I was boasting at your table of my wealth, before Diamond Pitt.

I have hitherto taken up with a scurvy print of you, under which I have placed this lemma:

— Veteres actus primamque juventam
Prosequar? ad sese mentem præsentia ducunt.

And this I will place under your picture, whenever you are rich enough to send it me. I will only promise, in return, that it shall never lose you the reputation of poverty; which, to one of your birth, patrimony, and employments, is one of the greatest glories of your life, and so shall be celebrated by me.

I entreat your lordship, if your leisure and your health will permit, to let me know when I can be a month with you at Brampton castle; because I have a great deal of business with you that relates to posterity. Mr. Mynett has, for some time, led me an uncomfortable life, with his ill accounts of your health; but, God be thanked, his style of late is much altered for the better.

My hearty and constant prayers are perpetually offered up for the preservation of you and your excellent family. Pray, my lord, write to me; or you never loved me, or I have done something to deserve your displeasure. My lord and lady Harriot, my brother and sister[1], pretend to atone by making me fine presents; but I would have his lordship know, that I would value two of his lines, more than two of his manors, &c.

  1. The members of the club of sixteen all called one another brothers, and consequently their wives were sisters to the several members.