The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to Laetitia Pilkington - 1
TO MRS. PILKINGTON.
I SEND you your bit of a newspaper with the verses, than which I never saw better in their kind. I have the same opinion of those you were pleased to write upon me, as have also some particular friends of genius and taste, to whom I ventured to communicate them, who universally agree with me. But as I cannot with decency show them, except to a very few, I hope, for both our sakes, others will do it for me. I can only assure you I value your present, as much as either of the others, only you must permit it to be turned into a pen; which office I will perform with my own hand, and never permit any other to use it. I heartily wish you many happy new years; and am, with true esteem, madam, your most obliged friend and servant,
- Mrs. Pilkington, when she was about sixteen, having been teased by her brother to write some verses as a school exercise for him, asked him what she should write upon: Why, said he pertly, what should you write upon but paper? So taking it for her subject, she writ the following lines; which, four years after, were printed in one of the London newspapers. See Pilkington's Memoirs, vol. I, p. 88.
O spotless paper, fair and white!
On whom, by force, constrain'd I write,
How cruel am I to destroy
Thy purity, to please a boy?
Ungrateful I, thus to abuse
The fairest servant of the Muse.
Dear friend, to whom I oft impart
The choicest secrets of my heart;
Ah, what atonement can be made
For spotless innocence betray'd!
How fair, how lovely didst thou show,
Like lilied banks, or falling snow!
But now, alas! become my prey,
No floods can wash thy stains away;
Yet this small comfort I can give,
That which destroy'd, shall make thee live.
- Mrs. Pilkington having heard that Dr. Swift had received a paper book, richly bound and gilt, from the earl of Orrery, and a silver standish from Dr. Delany, sent him an eagle quill with the following verses upon his birthday, Nov. 30, 1732:
Shall then my kindred all my glory claim,
And boldly rob me of eternal fame?
To ev'ry art my gen'rous aid I lend,
To musick, painting, poetry, a friend.
'Tis I celestial harmony inspire,
When fix'd to strike the sweetly warbling wire[§].
I to the faithful canvas have consign'd
Each bright idea of the painter's mind;
Behold from Raphael's skydipt pencils rise
Such heav'nly scenes as charm the gazer's eyes.
O let me now aspire to higher praise!
Ambitious to transcribe your deathless lays:
Nor thou, immortal bard, my aid refuse,
Accept me as the servant of your Muse;
Then shall the world my wond'rous worth declare,
And all mankind your matchless pen revere.
§^ Quills of the harpsichord.