The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to Catherine Hyde - 1

MARCH 20, 1732-3.

I HAD lately the honour of a letter from your grace, which was dated just a month before it came to my hand; and the ten days since, I have been much disordered with a giddiness, that I have been long subject to at uncertain times. This hindered me from an acknowledgment of the great favour you have done me. The greatest unhappiness of my life is grown a comfort under the death of my friend[1], I mean, my banishment in this miserable country; for the distance I am at, and the despair I have of ever seeing my friends, farther than by a summer's visit; and this, so late in my life, so uncertain in my health, and so embroiled in my little affairs, may probably never happen; so that my loss is not so great as that of his other friends, who had it always in their power to converse with him. But I chiefly lament your grace's misfortune, because I greatly fear, with all the virtues and perfections which can possibly acquire the highest veneration to a mortal creature from the worthiest of human kind, you will never be able to procure another so useful, so sincere, so virtuous, so disinterested, so entertaining, so easy, and so humble a friend, as that person whose death all good men lament. I turn to your letter, and find your grace has the same thoughts. Loss of friends has been called a tax upon long life, and what is worse, it is then too late to get others, if they were to be had, for the younger ones are all engaged. I shall never differ from you in any thing longer, than till you declare your opinion; because I never knew you wrong in any thing, except your condescending to have any regard for me; and therefore, all you say upon the subject of friendship, I heartily allow. But I doubt you are a perverter; for sure I was never capable of comparing the loss of friends, with the loss of money. I think we never lament the death of a friend upon his own account, but merely on account of his friends, or the publick, or both; and his, for a person in private life, was as great as possible. How finely you preach to us who are going out of the world, to keep our spirits, without informing us where we shall find materials! Yet I have my flatterers too, who tell me, I am allowed to have retained more spirits than hundreds of others who are richer, younger, and healthier than myself; which, considering a thousand mortifications, added to the perfect ill will of every creature in power, I take to be a high point of merit, as well as an implicit obedience to your grace's commands. Neither are those spirits (such as they be) in the least broken by the honour of lying under the same circumstances, with a certain great person, whom I shall not name, of being in disgrace at court. I will excuse your blots upon paper, because they are the only blots that you ever did, or ever will make in the whole course of your life. I am content, upon your petition, to receive the duke and your grace for my stewards for that immense sum; and in proper time, I may come to thank you, as king does the commons, for your loyal benevolence. In the mean while, I humbly intreat your grace, that the money may lie where you please, till I presume to trouble you with a bill, as my lord duke allows me.

One thing I find, that you are grown very techy since I lost the dear friend who was my supporter; so that perhaps you may expect I shall be very careful how I offend you in words, wherein you will be much mistaken; for I shall become ten times worse after correction. It seems Mr. Pope, like a treacherous gentleman, showed you my letter wherein I mention good qualities that you seem to have. You have understroked that offensive word, to show it should be printed in italic. What could I say more? I never saw your person since you were a girl, except once in the dark (to give you a bull of this country) in a walk next the Mall. Your letters may possibly be false copies of your mind; and the universal, almost idolatrous esteem you have forced from every person in two kingdoms, who have the least regard for virtue, may have been only procured by a peculiar art of your own, I mean, that of bribing all wise and good men to be your flatterers. My literal mistakes are worse than your blots. I am subject to them, by a sort of infirmity wherein I have few fellow-sufferers; I mean, that my heart runs before my pen, which it will ever do in a greater degree, as long as I am a servant to your grace, I mean, to the last hour of my life and senses. I am with the greatest respect and utmost gratitude, madam, your grace's most obedient, most obliged, and most humble servant.

I desire to present my most humble respects and thanks to my lord duke of Queensberry. For a man of my level, I have as bad a name almost as I desire; and I pray God, that those who give it me, may never have reason to give me a better.