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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to Elizabeth Germain - 3

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 13

JUNE 8, 1735.

I TROUBLE you sooner than usual, in acknowledging your letter of May 27th, because there are some passages in it that seem to require a quick answer. If I forget the date of mine, you must impute it to my ill head; and if I live two years longer, I shall first forget my own name, and last your ladyship's. I gave my lady Kerry an account of what you said in relation to her son, with which she is fully satisfied. I detest the house of lords, for their indulgence to such a profligate prostitute villain as Curll; but am at a loss how he could procure any letters written to Mr. Pope; although, by the vanity or indiscretion of correspondents, the rogue might have picked up some that went from him. Those letters have not yet been sent hither; therefore I can form no judgment on them. When I was leaving England, upon the queen's death, I burnt all the letters I could find, that I had received from ministers for several years before. But, as to the letters I receive from your ladyship, I neither ever did or ever will burn any of them, take it as you please: for I never burn a letter that is entertaining, and consequently will give me new pleasure when it is forgotten. It is true, I have kept some letters merely out of friendship, although they sometimes wanted true spelling and good sense, and some others whose writers are dead: for I live like a monk, and hate to forget my departed friends. Yet I am sometimes too nice; for I burnt all my lord * * * *'s letters, upon receiving one where he had used these words to me, "All I pretend to is a great deal of sincerity:" which, indeed, was the chief virtue he wanted. Of those from my Lord Halifax, I burnt all but one; which I keep as a most admirable original of court promises and professions. I confess also that I have read some passages in many of your letters, to a friend, but without naming you, only "that the writer was a lady," which had such marks of good sense that often the hearers would not believe me. And yet I never had a letter of mine printed, nor of any others to me.

Your ladyship very much surprises me with one passage in your letter, which however I do not in the least understand; where you say, You "have been honoured in print by amorous, satirical, and gallant letters," where there was no word but your bare name mentioned. I can assure you, this is to me altogether a riddle, and what I never heard the least syllable of; and wish you would explain it. No, madam, I will never forgive your insolent niece, without a most humble submission under her own hands; which if she will not comply with, I shall draw up letters between us, and send them to Curll.

I will tell your ladyship a cause I have of complaint against the duke of Dorset. I have written to him about four times since he was lieutenant: and three of my letters were upon subjects that concerned him much more than it did any friend of mine, and not at all myself; but he was never pleased to return me an answer: which omission (for I disdain to call it contempt) I can account for only by some of the following reasons. He is either extremely busy in affairs of the highest importance; or he is a duke with a garter; or he is a lieutenant of Ireland: or he is of a very ancient noble extraction; or so obscure a man as I am is not worth his remembrance; or, like the duke of Chandos, he is an utter stranger to me: and it would grieve me to the soul to put them together upon any one article. The last letter I writ to his grace was upon an affair relating to one of the favourite party, and yet a very honest gentleman; which last circumstance, with submission to your ladyship, is what I seldom grant; and the matter desired was a trifle. The letter before that related to a request made him by a senior fellow of this university, upon which I was earnestly pressed to write by some considerable members of the same body, which it highly concerned, as well as his grace's honour; the demand being directly contrary to their statutes, and of the most pernicious consequence, not only to the university, but the kingdom: and for that reason, it is thought, his grace has chosen to let it fall, I suppose by much better causes of conviction than mine. I do assure you, madam, that I have not been troublesome to my lord duke in any particular: since he has been governor, my letters have been at most but once a year, and my personal requests not so many; nor any of them for the least interest that regarded myself. And although it be true that I do not much approve the conduct of affairs in either kingdom, wherein I agree with vast numbers of both parties; yet I have utterly waved intermeddling even in this enslaved kingdom, where perhaps I might have some influence to be troublesome; yet I have long quitted all such thoughts, out of perfect despair: although I have sometimes wished, that the true loyal whigs here might be a little more considered in the disposition of employments, notwithstanding their misfortune of being born on this side the channel, which would gain abundance of hearts both to the crown and his grace. My paper is so full, that I have not room to excuse its length. I remain

Your ladyship's, &c.