The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Martha Whiteway to Alexander Pope - 1

MAY 16, 1740.

SHOULD I make an apology for writing to you, I might be asked why I did so? If I have erred, my design at least is good, both to you and the dean of St. Patrick; for I write in relation to my friend, and I write to his friend, which I hope will plead my excuse. As I saw a letter of yours to him, wherein I had the honour to be named, I take the liberty to tell you (with grief of heart) his memory is so much impaired, that in a few hours he forgot it; nor is his judgment sound enough, had he many tracts by him, to finish or correct them, as you have desired. His health is as good as can be expected, free from all the tortures of old age; and his deafness lately returned, is all the bodily uneasiness he has to complain of. A few years ago he burnt most of his writings unprinted[1], except a few loose papers, which are in my possession, and which I promise you (if I outlive him) shall never be made publick without your approbation. There is one treatise in his own keeping, called Advice to Servants, very unfinished and incorrect, yet what is done of it, has so much humour, that it may appear as a posthumous work. The History of the Four Last Years of Queen Anne's Reign I suppose you have seen with Dr. King, to whom he sent it some time ago, and, if I am rightly informed, is the only piece of his (except Gulliver) which he ever proposed making money by, and was given to Dr. King with that design, if it might be printed: I mention this to you, lest the doctor should die, and his heirs imagine they have a right to dispose of it. I entreat, sir, you will not take notice to any person of the hints I have given you in this letter; they are only designed for yourself: to the dean's friends in England they can only give trouble, and to his enemies and starving wits cause of triumph. I enclose this to alderman Barber, who I am sure will deliver it safe, yet knows nothing more than its being a paper that belongs to you.

The ceremony of answering women's letters, may perhaps make you think it necessary to answer mine; but I do not expect it, because your time either is or ought to be better employed, unless it be in my power to serve you in buying Irish linen, or any other command you are pleased to lay on me, which I shall execute, to the best of my capacity, with the greatest readiness, integrity, and secrecy; for whether it be my years, or a less degree of vanity in my composition than in some of my sex, I can receive such an honour from you without mentioning it. I should, some time past, have writ to you on this subject, had I not fancied that it glanced at the ambition of being thought a person of consequence, by interfering between you and the dean; a character of all others which I dislike.

I have several of your letters to the dean, which I will send by the first safe hand that I can get to deliver them to yourself; I believe it may be Mr. McAulay, the gentleman the dean recommended through your friendship to the prince of Wales.

I believe this may be the only letter which you ever received without asking a favour, a compliment, extolling your genius, running in raptures on your poetry, or admiring your distinguishable virtue. I am, sir, with very high respect, your most obedient and most humble servant,

Mr. Swift who waited on you last summer, is since that married to my daughter: he desires me to present you his most obedient respects and humble thanks for the particular honour conferred upon him in permitting him to spend a day with you at Twickenham; a favour he will always remember with gratitude.

  1. In resentment to the house of commons of Ireland, who sent Faulkner to Newgate for printing the satire on Quadrille.