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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to John Sterne - 8

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

JULY, 1733.

I HAVE been often told, by some of our common acquaintance, that you have sometimes expressed your wonder, "that I never waited on you for some years past, as I used to do for many years before; and that you could not guess the reason, because, to your knowledge, you never once disobliged me." As nothing is more common than dropping acquaintance by the usual occurrences of life, without any fault on either side, I never intended to say or think any thing of the matter, until a late proceeding of yours, which no way relates to me, put me upon a desire of finding matter to justify you to your friends here, as well as to myself; because I always wished you well, and because I have been more than once instrumental to your service. When I first came acquainted with you, we were both private clergymen in a neighbourhood: you were afterward chancellor of St. Patrick's; then was chosen dean, in which election I was the most busy of all your solicitors. When the compromise was made between the government and you, to make you easy, and Dr. Synge chancellor, you absolutely and frequently promised to give me the curacy of St. Nicholas Without: but you thought fit, by concert with the archbishop, to hold it yourself, and apply the revenue to build another church; against which it became me to say nothing, being a party concerned and injured; although it was generally thought by others, as well as myself, that it was an ill and dangerous precedent, to build a church with the revenue of the minister. I desire no thanks for being instrumental in your next promotion; because, as things then stood, I consulted my own advantage. However, upon the queen's death, when I had done for ever with courts, I returned to reside at my post, yet with some kind of hopes of getting some credit with you; very unwisely: because, upon the affair of St. Nicholas, I had told you frankly, "That I would always respect you, but never hope for the least friendship from you." But, trying to forget all former treatment, I came like others to your house; and since you were a bishop, have once or twice recommended persons to you, who were no relations or friends of mine, but merely for their general good character: which availed so little, that those very persons had the greatest share of your neglect. I then gave over all thoughts of being instrumental to place merit and virtue under your protection by my recommendations; and, as I was ever averse from mingling with multitudes and strangers, I forbore by degrees to be a partaker of your hospitality, rather than purchase a share of it at so dear a rate. This is the history of my conduct with regard to your lordship: and it is now a great comfort to me, that I acted in this manner; for, otherwise, when those two abominable bills, for enslaving and beggaring the clergy (which took their birth from Hell) were upon the anvil, if I had found your lordship's name among the bishops who would have turned them into a law, I might have been apt to discover such marks of indignation, honour, and despair, both in words and deportment, as would have ill become me to a person of your station: for, I call God to witness, that I did then, and do now, and shall for ever, firmly believe, that every bishop, who gave his vote for either of these bills, did it with no other view (bating farther promotion) than a premeditated design, from the spirit of ambition, and love of arbitrary power, to make the whole body of the clergy their slaves and vassals, until the day of judgment, under the load of poverty and contempt. I have no room for more charitable thoughts, except for those who will answer now, as they must at that dreadful day, that what they did was out of perfect ignorance, want of consideration, hope of future promotion (an argument not to be conquered) or the persuasion of cunninger brethren than themselves; when I saw a bishop, whom I had known so many years, fall into the same snare, which word I use in partiality to your lordship. Upon this open avowed attempt, in almost the whole bench, to destroy the church, I resolved to have no more commerce with persons of such prodigious grandeur, who, I feared, in a little time, would expect me to kiss their slipper. It is happy for me that I know the persons of very few bishops; and it is my constant rule, never to look into a coach; by which I avoid the terrour that such a sight would strike me with. In the beginning of my letter, I told your lordship of a desire to know the particulars of a late proceeding, which is in the mouths of many among your acquaintance; from some of whom I received the following account: That you have the great tithes of two livings in your diocese, which were let to some fanatick knight, whose name I forget. It seems you felt the beginning of a good motion in yourself, which was to give up those tithes to the two incumbents (the fanatick's lease being near out) either for a very small reserved rent, or entirely, provided you could do so without lessening the revenue of the see. And the condition was, that your tenants among them should raise the rents one hundred and fifty pounds, which was what the fanatick paid you for both the said parishes. It is affirmed, that sir Ralph Gore, one of your tenants, much approving so generous a proposal, engaged to prevail on the tenants to agree, and offered a large advancement of his own part. The matter was thus fixed, when suddenly you changed your mind, and renewed the lease to the same fanatick for three hundred pounds fine. The reasons of this singular action are said to be two: the first is, that you declared you wanted power to resist the temptation of such a fine; the other, that you were dissuaded from it by some of your brethren, as an example very dangerous, and of ill consequence, if it should be followed by others. This last I do not in the least wonder at, because such advice is of the same leaven with the two enslaving and beggaring bills. I profess to your lordship, that I have no other motive in desiring to be satisfied upon this point, than a resolution to justify you to the world, as far as the truth will give me power. I am, &c.