The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Journal to Stella – Letter 15


London, Jan. 31, 1710-11.

I AM to send you my fourteenth to morrow, but my head having some little disorder, confounds all my journals. I was early this morning with Mr. secretary St. John about some business, so I could not scribble my morning lines to MD. They are here intending to tax all little printed penny papers a halfpenny every halfsheet, which will utterly ruin Grub street, and I am endeavouring to prevent it. Besides, I was forwarding an impeachment against a certain great person; that was two of my businesses with the secretary, were they not worthy ones? It was Ford's birthday, and I refused the secretary and dined with Ford. We are here in as smart a frost for the time as I have seen; delicate walking weather, and the Canal and Rosamond's Pond full of the rabble sliding and with skates, if you know what those are. Patrick's bird's water freezes in the gallipot; and my hands in bed.

Feb. 1. I was this morning with poor lady Kerry, who is much worse in her head than I. She sends me bottles of her bitter, and we are so fond of one another, because our ailments are the same; do not you know that, madam Stell? have not I seen you conning ailments with Joe's wife[1] and some others, sirrah? I walked into the city to dine, because of the walk, for we must take care of Presto's health you know, because of poor little MD. But I walked plaguy carefully, for fear of sliding against my will; but I am very busy.

2. This morning Mr. Ford came to me to walk into the city, where he had business, and then to buy books at Bateman's; and I laid out one pound five shillings for a Strabo and Aristophanes, and I have now got books enough to make me another shelf, and I will have more, or it shall cost me a fall; and so as we came back, we drank a flask of right French wine at Ben Tooke's chamber; and when I had got home, Mrs. Vanhomrigh sent me word her eldest daughter was taken suddenly very ill, and desired I would come and see her; I went, and found it was a silly trick of Mrs. Armstrong, lady Lucy's sister, who, with Moll Stanhope, was visiting there: however I rattled off the daughter.

3. To day I went and dined at lady Lucy's, where you know I have not been this long time; they are plaguy whigs, especially the sister Armstrong, the most insupportable of all women pretending to wit, without any taste. She was running down the last Examiner, the prettiest I had read, with a character of the present ministry. I left them at five, and came home. But I forgot to tell you, that this morning my cousin Dryden Leach the printer, came to me with a heavy complaint, that Harrison the new Tatler had turned him off, and taken the last Tatler's printers again. He vowed revenge; I answered gravely, and so he left me, and I have ordered Patrick to deny me to him from henceforth: and at night comes a letter from Harrison, telling me the same thing, and excused his doing it without my notice, because he would bear all the blame; and in his Tatler of this day he tells you the story, how he has taken his old officers, and there is a most humble letter from Morphew and Lilly to beg his pardon, &c. And lastly, this morning Ford sent me two letters from the coffeehouse, (where I hardly ever go) one from the archbishop of Dublin, and the other from ——. Who do you think the other was from! —— I will tell you, because you are friends; why then it was, faith it was from my own dear little MD, N. 10. O, but will not answer it now, no, noooooh, I will keep it between the two sheets; here it is, just under: O, I lifted up the sheet and saw it there: lie still, you shall not be answered yet, little letter; for I must go to bed, and take care of my head.

4. I avoid going to church yet, for fear of my head, though it has been much better these last five or six days, since I have taken lady Kerry's bitter. Our frost holds like a dragon. I went to Mr. Addison's, and dined with him at his lodgings; I had not seen him these three weeks, we are grown common acquaintance: yet what have not I done for his friend Steele? Mr. Harley reproached me the last time I saw him, that to please me he would be reconciled to Steele, and had promised and appointed to see him, and that Steele never came. Harrison, whom Mr. Addison recommended to me, I have introduced to the secretary of state, who has promised me to take care of him; and I have represented Addison himself so to the ministry, that they think and talk in his favour, though they hated him before. —— Well; he is now in my debt, and there is an end; and I never had the least obligation to him, and there is another end. This evening I had a message from Mr. Harley, desiring to know whether I was alive, and that I would dine with him to morrow. They dine so late, that since my head has been wrong I have avoided being with them. Patrick has been out of favour these ten days; I talk dry and cross to him, and have called him friend three or four times. But, sirrahs, get you gone.

5. Morning. I am going this morning to see Prior, who dines with me at Mr. Harley's; so I cannot stay fiddling and talking with dear little brats in a morning, and it is still terribly cold. I wish my cold hand was in the warmest place about you, young women, I would give ten guineas upon that account with all my heart, faith; oh, it starves my thigh; so I will rise, and bid you good morrow. Come stand away, let me rise: Patrick, take away the candle. Is there a good fire? So up adazy. At night. Mr. Harley did not sit down till six, and I staid till eleven; henceforth I will choose to visit him in the evening, and dine with him no more if I can help it. It breaks all my measures, and hurts my health; my head is disorderly, but not ill, and I hope it will mend.

6. Here has been such a hurry with the queen's birthday, so much fine clothes, and the court so crowded that I did not go there. All the frost is gone. It thawed on Sunday, and so continues, yet ice is still on the canal (I did not mean that of Laracor, but St. James's Park) and boys sliding on it. Mr. Ford pressed me to dine with him in his chamber. Did not I tell you Patrick has got a bird, a linnet, to carry over to Dingley? It was very tame at first, and it is now the wildest I ever saw. He keeps it in a closet, where it makes a terrible litter; but I say nothing: I am as tame as a clout. When must we answer our MD's letter? one of these oddcome-shortlies. This is a week old, you see, and no farther yet. Mr. Harley desired I would dine with him again to day; but I refused him, for I fell out with him yesterday, and will not see him again till he makes me amends: and so I go to bed.

7. I was this morning early with Mr. Lewis of the secretary's office, and saw a letter Mr. Harley had sent to him, desiring to be reconciled; but I was deaf to all entreaties, and have desired Lewis to go to him, and let him know I expect farther satisfaction. If we let these great ministers pretend too much, there will be no governing them. He promises to make me easy, if I will but come and see him; but I will not, and he shall do it by message, or I will cast him off. I will tell you the cause of our quarrel when I see you, and refer it to yourselves. In that he did something[2], which he intended for a favour; and I have taken it quite otherwise, disliking both the thing and the manner, and it has heartily vexed me, and all I have said is truth, though it looks like jest: and I absolutely refused to submit to his intended favour, and expect farther satisfaction. Mr. Ford and I dined with Mr. Lewis. We have a monstrous deal of snow, and it has cost me two shillings to day in chair and coach, and walked till I was dirty besides. I know not what it is now to read or write after I am in bed. The last thing I do up is to write something to our MD, and then get into bed, and put out my candle, and so go sleep as fast as ever I can. But in the mornings I do write sometimes in bed, as you know.

8. Morning. I have desired Apronia to be always careful, especially about the legs. Pray, do you see any such great wit in that sentence? I must freely own that I do not. But party carries every thing nowadays, and what a splutter have I heard about the wit of that saying, repeated with admiration about a hundred times in half an hour. Pray read it over again this moment, and consider it. I think the word is advised, and not desired. I should not have remembered it if I had not heard it so often. Why ay You must know I dreamed it just now, and waked with it in my mouth. Are you bit, or are you not, sirrahs? I met Mr. Harley in the court of Requests, and heasked me how long I had learn the trick of writing to myself? He had seen your letter through the glass case, at the coffeehouse, and would swear it was my hand; and Mr. Ford, who took and sent it me, was of the same mind. I remember others have formerly said so too. I think I was little MD's writingmaster[3]. But come, what is here to do, writing to young women in a morning? I have other fish to fry; so good morrow, my ladies all, good morrow. Perhaps I will answer your letter to night, perhaps I will not; that is as saucy little Presto takes the humour. At night. I walked in the park to day in spite of the weather, as I do always when it does not actually rain. Do you know what it has gone and done? we had a thaw for three days, then a monstrous dirt and snow, and now it freezes, like a potlid, upon our snow. I dined with lady Betty Germain, the first time since I came for England; and there did I sit, like a booby, till eight, looking over her and another lady at picquet, when I had other business enough to do. It was the coldest day I felt this year.

9. Morning. After I had been abed an hour last night, I was forced to rise and call to the landlady and maid to have the fire removed in a chimney below stairs, which made my bedchamber smoke, though I had no fire in it. I have been twice served so. I never lay so miserable an hour in my life. Is it not plaguy vexatious? It has snowed all night, and rains this morning. Come, where is MD's letter? Come, Mrs. letter, make your appearance. Here am I, says she, answer me to my face. O, faith, I am sorry you had my twelfth so soon; I doubt you will stay longer for the rest. I am so afraid you have got my fourteenth while I am writing this; and I would always have one letter from Presto reading, one travelling, and one writing. As for the box, I now believe it lost. It is directed for Mr. Curry at his house in Capel street, &c. I had a letter yesterday from Dr. Raymond in Chester, who says, he sent his man every where, and cannot find it; and God knows whether Mr. Smyth will have better success. Sterne spoke to him, and I writ to him with the bottle of palsy water; that bottle, I hope, will not miscarry: I long to hear you have it. O, faith, you have too good an opinion of Presto's care. I am negligent enough of every thing but MD, and I should not have trusted Sterne. But it shall not go so: I will have one more tug for it. As to what you say of goodman Peasly and Isaac, I answer as I did before. Fy, child, you must not give yourself the way to believe any such thing: and afterward, only for curiosity, you may tell me how those things are approved, and how you like them; and whether they instruct you in the present course of affairs, and whether they are printed in your town, or only sent from hence. Sir Andrew Fountaine is recovered; so take your sorrow again, but do not keep it, fling it to the dogs. And does little MD walk, indeed? I am glad of it at heart. Yes, we have done with the plague here: it was very saucy in you to pretend to have it before your betters. Your intelligence that the story is false about the officers forced to sell, is admirable. You may see them all three every day, no more in the army than you. Twelve shillings for mending the strong box; that is, for putting a farthing's worth of iron on a hinge, and gilding it; give him six shillings, and I will pay it, and never employ him or his again. No indeed, I put off preaching as much as I can. I am upon another foot: nobody doubts here whether I can preach, and you are fools. The account you give of that weekly paper[4] agrees with us here. Mr. Prior was like to be insulted in the street for being supposed the author of it; but one of the last papers cleared him. Nobody knows who it is, but the few in the secret. I suppose the ministry and the printer. Poor Stella's eyes, God bless them, and send them better. Pray spare them, and write not above two lines a day in broad daylight. How does Stella look, madam Dingley? Pretty well; a handsome young woman still. Will she pass in a crowd? Will she make a figure in a country church? Stay a little, fair ladies. I this minute sent Patrick to Sterne: he brings back word that your box is very safe with one Mr. Earl's sister in Chester, and that colonel Edgworth's widow goes for Ireland on Monday next, and will receive the box at Chester, and deliver it you safe: so there is some hopes now. Well, let us go on to your letter. The warrant is passed for the first-fruits. The queen does not send a letter; but a patent will be drawn here, and that will take up time. Mr. Harley of late has said nothing of presenting me to the queen: I was overseen when I mentioned it to you. He has such a weight of affairs on him, that he cannot mind all; but he talked of it three or four times to me, long before I dropped it to you. What, is not Mrs. Wall's business over yet? I had hopes she was up and well, and the child dead before this time. You did right, at last, to send me your accounts; but I did not stay for them, I thank you. I hope you have your bill sent in my last, and there will be eight pounds interest soon due from Hawkshaw; pray look at his bond. I hope you are good managers, and that when I say so, Stella will not think I intend she should grudge herself wine. But going to those expensive lodgings requires some fund. I wish you had staid till I came over, for some reasons. That Frenchwoman will be grumbling again in a little time, and if you are invited any where to the country, it will vex you to pay in absence; and the country may be necessary for poor Stella's health: but do as you like, and do not blame Presto. O, but you are telling your reasons. Well, I have read them; do as you please. Yes, Raymond says he must stay longer than he thought, because he cannot settle his affairs. M—— is in the country at some friend's, comes to town in spring, and then goes to settle in Herefordshire. Her husband is a surly ill natured brute, and cares not she should see any body. O Lord, see how I blundered, and left two lines short; it was that ugly score in the paper[5] that made me mistake. I believe you lie about the story of the fire, only to make it more odd. Bernage must go to Spain, and I will see to recommend him to the duke of Argyle, his general, when I see the duke next: but the officers tell me it would be dishonourable in the last degree for him to sell now, and he would never be preferred in the army; so that unless he designs to leave it for good and all, he must go. Tell him so, and that I would write if I knew where to direct to him; which I have said fourscore times already. I had rather any thing almost than that you should strain yourselves to send a letter when it is inconvenient; we have settled that matter already. I will write when I can, and so shall MD; and upon occasions extraordinary I will write, though it be a line; and when we have not letters soon, we agree that all things are well; and so that is settled for ever, and so hold your tongue. Well, you shall have your pins; but for the candle ends, I cannot promise, because I burn them to the stumps; besides, I remember what Stella told Dingley about them many years ago, and she may think the same thing of me. And Dingley shall have her hinged spectacles. Poor dear Stella, how durst you write those two lines by candlelight, bang your bones. Faith, this letter shall go to morrow, I think, and that will be in ten days from the last, young women; that is too soon of all conscience: but answering yours has filled it up so quick, and I do not design to use you to three pages in folio, no nooooh. All this is one morning's work in bed; and so good morrow, little sirrahs that is for the rhyme[6]. You want politicks: faith, I cannot think of any; but may be at night I may tell you a passage. Come, sit off the bed, and let me rise, will you? At night. I dined to day with my neighbour Vanhomrigh; it was such dismal weather I could not stir farther. I have had some threatenings with my head, but no fits. I still drink Dr. Radcliffe's bitter, and will continue it.

10. I was this morning to see the secretary of state, and have engaged him to give a memorial from me to the duke of Argyle in behalf of Bernage. The duke is a man that distinguishes people of merit, and I will speak to him myself; but the secretary backing it will be very effectual, and I will take care to have it done to purpose. Pray tell Bernage so, and that I think nothing can be luckier for him, and that I would have him go by all means. I will order it that the duke shall send for him when they are in Spain; or, if he fails, that he shall receive him kindly when he goes to wait on him. Can I do more? Is not this a great deal? I now send away this letter that you may not stay. I dined with Ford upon his opera day, and am now come home, and am going to study; do not you presume to guess, sirrahs, impudent saucy dear boxes. Toward the end of a letter I could not say saucy boxes without putting dear between. En't that right now? Farewell. This should be longer, but that I send it to night[7].

O silly, silly loggerhead!

I sent a letter this post to one Mr. Staunton, and I direct it to Mr. Acton's in St. Michael's lane. He formerly lodged there, but he has not told me where to direct. Pray send to that Acton, whether the letter is come there, and whether he has sent it to Staunton.

If Bernage designs to sell his commission and stay at home, pray let him tell me so, that my recommendation to the duke of Argyle may not be in vain.

  1. Mrs. Beaumont.
  2. This addudes to the 50l. bank note; see Journal of March 7, 1710-11.
  3. Stella's hand had a great deal of the air of the doctor's; but she writ more legibly, and rather better.
  4. The Examiner.
  5. A crease in the sheet.
  6. In the original it was, good mollows, little sollahs. But in these words, and many others, he writes constantly llfor rr.
  7. Those letters which are in italicks, in the original are of a monstrous size, which occasioned his calling himself a loggerhead.