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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to Edward Harley - 3


JUNE 14, 1737.

I HAD the honour of a letter from your lordship, dated April the 7th, which I was not prepared to answer until this time. Your lordship must needs have known, that the history you mention, of the four last years of the queen's reign, was written at Windsor, just upon finishing the peace; at which time, your father and my lord Bolingbroke had a misunderstanding with each other, that was attended with very bad consequences. When I came to Ireland to take this deanery (after the peace was made) I could not stay here above a fortnight, being recalled by a hundred letters to hasten back, and to use my endeavours in reconciling those ministers. I left them the history you mention, which I had finished at Windsor, to the time of the peace. When I returned to England, I found their quarrels and coldness increased. I laboured to reconcile them as much as I was able: I contrived to bring them to my lord Masham's, at St. James's. My lord and lady Masham left us together. I expostulated with them both, but could not find any good consequences. I was to go to Windsor next day with my lord treasurer: I pretended business that prevented me; expecting they would come to some * * * * *[1]. But I followed them to Windsor; where my lord Bolingbroke told me, that my scheme had come to nothing. Things went on at the same rate: they grew more estranged every day. My lord treasurer found his credit daily declining. In May before the queen died, I had my last meeting with them at my lord Masham's. He left us together; and therefore I spoke very freely to them both; and told them, "I would retire, for I found all was gone." Lord Bolingbroke whispered me, "I was in the right." Your father said, " All would do well." I told him, "That I would go to Oxford on Monday, since I found it was impossible to be of any use." I took coach to Oxford on Monday; went to a friend in Berkshire; there staid until the queen's death; and then to my station here; where I staid twelve years, and never saw my lord your father afterward. They could not agree about printing the History of the Four last Years: and therefore I have kept it to this time, when I determine to publish it in London, to the confusion of all those rascals who have accused the queen and that ministry of making a bad peace; to which that party entirely owes the protestant succession. I was then in the greatest trust and confidence with your father the lord treasurer, as well as with my lord Bolingbroke, and all others who had part in the administration. I had all the letters from the secretary's office, during the treaty of peace: out of those, and what I learned from the ministry, I formed that history, which I am now going to publish for the information of posterity, and to controll the most impudent falsehoods which have been published since. I wanted no kind of materials. I knew your father better than you could at that time: and I do impartially think him the most virtuous minister, and the most able, that ever I remember to have read of. If your lordship has any particular circumstances that may fortify what I have said in the History, such as letters or materials, I am content they should be printed at the end, by way of appendix. I loved my lord your father better than any other man in the world, although I had no obligation to him on the score of preferment; having been driven to this wretched kingdom, to which I was almost a stranger, by his want of power to keep me in what I ought to call my own country, although I happened to be dropped here, and was a year old before I left it; and to my sorrow, did not die before I came back to it again. I am extremely glad of the felicity you have in your alliances; and desire to present my most humble respects to my lady Oxford, and your daughter the duchess. As to the History, it is only of affairs which I know very well; and had all the advantages possible to know, when you were in some sort but a lad. One great design of it is, to do justice to the ministry at that time, and to refute all the objections against them, as if they had a design of bringing in popery and the pretender: and farther to demonstrate, that the present settlement of the crown was chiefly owing to my lord your father. I can never expect to see England: I am now too old and too sickly, added to almost a perpetual deafness and giddiness. I live a most domestick life: I want nothing that is necessary; but I am in a cursed, factious, oppressed, miserable country; not made so by nature, but by the slavish, hellish principles of an execrable prevailing faction in it.

Farewell, my lord. I have tired you and myself. I desire again to present my most humble respects to my lady Oxford, and the duchess your daughter. Pray God preserve you long and happy! I shall diligently inquire into your conduct, from those who will tell me. You have hitherto continued right; let me hear that you persevere so. Your task will not be long; for I am not in a condition of health or time to trouble this world, and I am heartily weary of it already; and so should be in England, which I hear is full as corrupt as this poor enslaved country. I am, with the truest love and respect, my lord, your lordship's most obedient and most obliged, &c.

  1. Here is a blank left for some word or other; such as agreement, reconciliation, or the like.