The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 38

SEPT. 28, 1721.

I HAD the honour of your grace's letter of the first instant; and although I thought it my duty to be the last writer in corresponding with your grace, yet I know you are so punctual, that if I should write sooner it would only be the occasion of giving you a new trouble, before it ought in conscience to be put upon you. Besides, I was in some pain that your letter of September 1, was not the first you had writ, because, about ten days after, a friend sent me word, that your grace said you had writ to me six weeks before, and had no answer; whereas I can assure your grace that I received but one from you; nor had I reason to expect it, having not done myself the honour to write to you before. I will tell you the secret of dating my letter; I was in fear lest the post should be gone, and so left a blank, and wisely huddled it up without thinking of the date; but we country gentlemen are frequently guilty of greater blunders; and in that article I grow more perfect every day.

I believe you seriously that you will take care of your health, to prevent a successor: that is to say, I believe you tell truth in jest; for I know it is not the value of life that makes you desire to live, and am afraid the world is much of your mind; for it is out of regard to the publick, or some of themselves, more than upon your own account, that they wish your continuance among us.

It seems you are a greater favourite of the lieutenant's[1] than you care to own; for we hear that he killed but two bucks, and sent you a present of one.

I hear you are likely to be the sole opposer of the bank: and you will certainly miscarry, because it would prove a most perfidious thing. Bankrupts are always for setting up banks: how then can you think a bank will fail of a majority in both houses?

You are very perverse, my lord, in misinterpreting the ladies favour, as if you must die to obtain it; I assure you it is directly contrary; and if you die, you will lose their favour for ever: I am commanded to tell you so; and therefore at the peril of your life, and of their good graces, look to your health.

I hear the bishop of Bangor[2], despairing of doing any good with you, has taken up with Hereford. I am a plain man, and would be glad at any time to see fifty such bishops hanged, if I could thereby have saved the life of his predecessor, for whom I had a great esteem and friendship. I do not much approve the compliments made you by comparisons drawn from good and bad emperors, because the inference falls short on both sides. If Julian had immediately succeeded Constantine, it would have been more to the purpose. Sir James of the Peak[3] said to Bouchier the gamester, "Sirrah, I shall look better than you, when I have been a month in my grave." A great man in England was blaming me for despising somebody or other; I assured him I did not at all despise the man he mentioned; that I was not so liberal of my contempt; nor would bestow it where there was not some degree of merit. Upon this principle, I can see no proper ground of opposition between your grace, and that wretch of Bangor. I have read indeed, that a dog was once made king of Norway, but I forget who was his predecessor; and therefore am at a loss for the other part of the comparison.

I am afraid the clatter of ladies tongues is no very good cure for a giddiness in the head. When your grace, (as you say) was young, as I am not, the ladies were better company, or you more easily pleased. I am perpetually reproaching them for their ignorance, affectation, impertinence, (but my paper will not hold all) except lady Betty Rochfort, your old acquaintance.

I own, my head, and your grace's feet, would be ill joined; but give me your head and take my feet, and match us in the kingdom if you can.

My lord, I row after health like a waterman, and ride after it like a postboy, and find some little success; but subeunt morbi tristisque senectus. I have a receipt to which you are a stranger; my lord Oxford and Mr. Prior used to join with me in taking it; to whom I often said, when we were two hours diverting ourselves with trifles, vive la bagatelle. I am so deep among the workmen at Rochfort's canals and lakes, so dextrous at the oar, such an alderman after the hare ———

I am just now told from some newspapers, that one of the king's enemies, and my excellent friend, Mr. Prior, is dead; I pray God deliver me from many such trials. I am neither old nor philosopher enough to be indifferent at so great a loss; and therefore I abruptly conclude, but with the greatest respect, my lord,

Your grace's most dutiful,

and obedient servant,

  1. Charles, duke of Grafton.
  2. Dr. Benjamin Hoadly.
  3. Sir James of the Peak is described by Mrs. Harley in the "New Atalantis," as a notorious gamester; he bears the same character in Dr. King's works, Vol. II, p. 245, and his gaming on Sundays is censured by the Examiner, see No. 46. From his skill in play, he was called "monsieur le chevalier," by the fools he had cheated of their estates.