The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to Miss Hoadly - 1


JUNE 4th, 1734.

WHEN I lived in England, once every year I issued out an edict, commanding that all ladies of wit, sense, merit and quality, who had an ambition to be acquainted with me, should make the first advances at their peril; which edict, you may believe, was universally obeyed. When (much against my will) I came to live in this kingdom, I published the same edict; only, the harvest here being not altogether so plentiful, I confined myself to a smaller compass. This made me often wonder how you came so long to neglect your duty; for, if you pretend ignorance, I may produce legal witnesses against you.

I have heard of a judge bribed with a pig, but it was discovered by the squeaking; and therefore, you have been so politick as to send me a dead one, which can tell no tales. Your present of butter was made with the same design, as a known court practice, to grease my fist that I might keep silence. These are great offences, contrived on purpose to corrupt my integrity. And besides I apprehend, that if I should wait on you to return my thanks, you will deny that the pig and butter were any advances at all on your side, and give out that I made them first; by which I may endanger the fundamental privilege that I have kept so many years in two kingdoms, at least make it a point of controversy. However, I have two ways to be revenged: first, I will let all the ladies of my acquaintance know, that you, the sole daughter and child of his grace of Dublin, are so mean as to descend to understand housewifery; which every girl of this town, who can afford six-pence a month for a chair, would scorn to be thought to have the least knowledge in; and this will give you as ill a reputation, as if you had been caught in the fact of reading a history, or handling a needle, or working in a field at Tallagh. My other revenge shall be this; when my lord's gentleman delivered his message, after I put him some questions, he drew out a paper containing your directions, and in your hand: I said it properly belonged to me; and, when I had read it, I put it in my pocket, and am ready to swear, when lawfully called, that it is written in a fair hand, rightly spelt, and good plain sense. You now may see I have you at mercy; for, upon the least offence given, I will show the paper to every female scrawler I meet, who will soon spread about the town, that your writing and spelling are ungenteel and unfashionable, more like a parson than a lady.

I suppose, by this time, you are willing to submit; and therefore, I desire you may stint me to two china bowls of butter a week; for my breakfast is that of a sickly man, rice gruel; and I am wholly a stranger to tea and coffee, the companions of bread and butter. I received my third bowl last night, and I think my second is almost entire. I hope and believe my lord archbishop will teach his neighbouring tenants and farmers a little English country management: and I lay it upon you, madam, to bring housewifery in fashion among our ladies; that, by your example, they may no longer pride themselves on their natural or affected ignorance. I am, with the truest respect and esteem,


Your most obedient

and obliged, &c.

I desire to present my most, &c. to his grace and the ladies.