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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to Erasmus Lewis - 1

JULY 23, 1737.

WHILE any of those who used to write to me were alive, I always inquired after you. But since your secretaryship in the queen's time, I believed you were so glutted with the office, that you had not patience to venture on a letter to an absent useless acquaintance: and I find I owe yours to my lord Oxford. The history you mention was written above a year before the queen's death. I left it with the treasurer and lord Bolingbroke, when I first came over to take this deanery. I returned in less than a month; but the ministry could not agree about printing it. It was to conclude with the peace. I staid in London above nine months; but not being able to reconcile the quarrels between those two, I went to a friend in Berkshire, and on the queen's death, came hither for good and all. I am confident you read that history; as this lord Oxford did, as he owns in his two letters, the last of which reached me not above ten days ago. You know, on the queen's death, how the peace and all proceedings were universally condemned. This I knew would be done; and the chief cause of my writing was, not to let such a queen and ministry lie under such a load of infamy, or posterity be so ill informed, &c. Lord Oxford is in the wrong, to be in pain about his father's character, or his proceedings in his ministry; which is so drawn, that his greatest admirers will rather censure me for partiality: neither can he tell me any thing material out of his papers, which I was not then informed of: nor do I know any body but yourself who could give me more light than what I then received; for I remember I often consulted with you, and took memorials of many important particulars which you told me, as I did of others, for four years together. I can find no way to have the original delivered to lord Oxford, or to you; for the person who has it will not trust it out of his hands; but, I believe, would be contented to let it be read to either of you, if it could be done without letting it out of his hands[1], although perhaps that may be too late. If my health would have permitted me, for some years past, to have ventured as far as London, I would have satisfied both my lord and you. I believe you know that lord Bolingbroke is now busy in France, writing the History of his own Time; and how much he grew to hate the treasurer you know too well; and I know how much lord Bolingbroke hates his very memory. This is what the present lord Oxford should be in most pain at, not about me. I have had my share of affliction sufficient, in the loss of Dr. Arbuthnot, and poor Gay and others; and I heartily pity poor lord Masham. I would fain know whether his son be a valuable young man; because I much dislike his education. When I was last among you, sir William Wyndam was in a bad state of health: I always loved him, and rejoice to hear from you the figure he makes. But I know so little of what passes, that I never heard of lady Blandford his present wife.

Lord Bathurst used to write to me, but has dropped it some years. Pray, is Charles Ford yet alive? for he has dropped me too; or perhaps my illness has hindered me from provoking his remembrance: for I have been long in a very bad condition. My deafness, which used to be occasional and for a short time, has stuck by me now several months without remission; so that I am unfit for any conversation, except one or two Stentors of either sex; and my old giddiness is likewise become chronical, although not in equal violence with my former short fits.

I was never so much deceived in any Scot, as by that execrable lord K * * * *; whom I loved extremely, and now detest beyond expression.

You say so little of yoursself, that I know not whether you are in health or sickness, only that you lead a mere animal life; which, with nine parts in ten, is a sign of health. I find you have not, like me, lost your memory; nor, I hope, your sense of hearing, which is the greatest loss of any, and more comfortless than even being blind; I mean, in the article of company. Writing no longer amuses me, for I cannot think. I dine constantly at home, in my chamber, with a grave housekeeper, whom I call sir Robert; and some times receive one or two friends, and a female cousin, with strong high tenour voices.

I am, &c.

  1. As a little before this period, the great abilities of Dr. Swift had begun to fail; he had, in order to gratify some of his acquaintance, called for the History of the Four Last Years of the Oueen's Reign once or twice out of his friend's hands, and lent it abroad; by which means part of the contents were whispered about the town, and several had pretended to have read it, who perhaps had not seen one line of it.