The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to William Pulteney - 3


MARCH 7, 1736-7.

I MUST begin by assuring you, that I did never intend to engage you in a settled correspondence with so useless a man as I here am; and still more so, by the daily increase of ill health and old age; and yet I confess that the high esteem I preserve for your publick and private virtues, urges me on to retain some little place in your memory, for the short time I may expect to live.

That I no sooner acknowledged the honour of your letter is owing to your civility, which might have compelled you to write, while you were engaged in defending the liberties of your country with more than an old Roman spirit; which has reached this obscure enslaved kingdom, so far, as to have been the constant subject of discourse and of praise among the whole few of what unprostituted people here remain among us.

I did not receive the letter you mentioned from Bath; and yet I have imagined, for some months past, that the meddlers of the postoffices here and in London have grown weary of their curiosity, by finding the little satisfaction it gave them. I agree heartily in your opinion of physicians; I have esteemed many of them as learned ingenious men; but I never received the least benefit from their advice or prescriptions. And poor Dr. Arbuthnot was the only man of the faculty who seemed to understand my case; but could not remedy it. But to conquer five physicians, all eminent in their way, was a victory that Alexander and Cæsar could never pretend to. I desire that my prescription of living may be published (which you design to follow) for the benefit of mankind; which, however, I do not value a rush, nor the animal itself, as it now acts; neither will I ever value myself as a Philanthropus, because it is now a creature (taking a vast majority) that I hate more than a toad, a viper, a wasp, a stork, a fox, or any other that you will please to add.

Since the date of your letter, we understand there is another duke to govern here. Mr. Stopford was with me last night; he is as well provided for, and to his own satisfaction, as any private clergyman. He engaged me to present his best respects and acknowledgments to you. Your modesty, in refusing to take a motto, goes too far. The sentence is not a boast, because it is every man's duty in morals and religion[1].

Indeed we differ here from what you have been told of the duke of Dorset's having given great satisfaction the last time he was with us; particularly in his disposal of two bishopricks, and other church as well as civil preferments. I wrote to a lady in London, his grace's near relation and intimate, that she would no more continue the office of a go-between (as she called herself) betwixt the duke and me, because I never designed to attend him again; and yet I allow him to be as agreeable a person in conversation as I have almost any where met. I sent my letter to that lady under a cover addressed to the duke; and in it I made many complaints against some proceedings, which I suppose he has seen. I never made him one request for myself; and if I spoke for another, he was always upon his guard; which was but twice, and for trifles; but failed in both.

The father of our friend in France[2] may outlive the son; for I would venture a wager, that if you pick out twenty of the oldest men in England, nineteen of them have been the most worthless fellows in the kingdom. You tell me, with great kindness as well as gravity, that I ought, this spring, to make a trip to England, and your motive is admirable, that shifting the scene was of great service to you, and therefore it may be so to me. I answer as an academic, Nego consequentiam. And besides comparisons are odious. You are what the French call plein de vie. As you are much younger, so I am a dozen years older than my age makes me, by infirmities of mind and body; to which I add the perpetual detestation of all publick persons and affairs in both kingdoms. I spread the story of Mrs. Mapp while it was new to us: there was something humourous in it throughout, that pleased every body here. Will you engage for your friend Carteret that he will oppose any step toward arbitrary power? He has promised me, under a penalty, that he will continue firm; and yet some reports go here of him, that have a little disconcerted me. Learning and good sense he has, to a great degree, if the love of riches and power do not overbalance.

Pray God long continue the gifts he has bestowed you, to be the chief support of liberty to your country, and let all the people say, Amen.

I am with the truest respect, and highest esteem,

sir, your, &c.

  1. Amicis prodesse, nemini nocere. See Mr. Pulteney's letter, dated Dec. 21, 1736.
  2. The friend in France appears to be lord viscount Bolingbroke, whose father, sir Henry St. John, bart., had been created baron St. John of Battersea, and viscount St. John, July 2, 1716.