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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Pope to Swift - 5


OCTOBER 15, 1725.


I AM wonderfully pleased with the suddenness of your kind answer. It makes me hope you are coming toward us, and you incline more and more to your old friends in proportion as you draw nearer to them; and are getting into our vortex. Here is one[1], who was once a powerful planet, but has now (after long experience of all that comes of shining) learned to be content with returning to his first point, without the thought or ambition of shining at all. Here is another, who thinks one of the greatest glories of his father was to have distinguished and loved you, and who loves you hereditarily. Here is Arbuthnot, recovered from the jaws of death, and more pleased with the hope of seeing you again, than that of reviewing a world, every part of which he has long despised, but what is made up of a few men like yourself. He goes abroad again, and is more cheerful than even health can make a man, for he has a good conscience into the bargain, which is the most catholick of all remedies, though not the most universal. I knew it would be a pleasure to you to hear this, and in truth that made me write so soon to you.

I am sorry poor P. is not promoted in this age; for certainly if his reward be of the next, he is of all poets the most miserable. I am also sorry for another reason; if they do not promote him, they will spoil the conclusion of one of my satires, where having endeavoured to correct the taste of the town in wit and criticism, I end thus,

But what avails to lay down rules for sense?
In George's reign these fruitless lines were writ,
When Ambrose Philips was preferred for wit!

Our friend Gay is used as the friends of tories are by whigs, and generally by tories too. Because he had humour, he was supposed to have dealt with Dr. Swift; in like manner as when any one had learning formerly, he was thought to have dealt with the devil. He puts his whole trust at court in that lady[2] whom I described to you, and whom you take to be an allegorical creature of fancy: I wish she really were riches for his sake; though as for yours, I question whether (if you knew her) you would change her for the other?

Lord Bolingbroke had not the least harm by his fall, I wish he had received no more by his other fall; lord Oxford had none by his. But lord Bolingbroke is the most improved mind since you saw him, that ever was improved without shifting into a new body, or being: paulo minus ab angelis[3]. I have often imagined to myself, that if ever all of us meet again, after so many varieties and changes; after so much of the old world and of the old man in each of us has been altered, that scarce a single thought of the one, any more than a single atom of the other, remains just the same; I have fancied, I say, that we should meet like the righteous in the millennium, quite in peace, divested of all our former passions, smiling at our past follies, and content to enjoy the kingdom of the just in tranquillity. But I find you would rather be employed as an avenging angel of wrath, to break your vial of indignation over the heads of the wretched creatures of this world; nay would make them eat your book, which you have made (I doubt not) as bitter a pill for them as possible.

I would not tell you what designs I have in my head (beside writing a set of maxims in opposition to all Rochefoucault's principles) till I see you here, face to face. Then you shall have no reason to complain of me, for want of a generous disdain of ths world, though I have not lost my ears in yours and their service. Lord Oxford too (whom I have now the third time mentioned in this letter, and he deserves to be always mentioned in every thing that is addressed to you, or comes from you) expects you: that ought to be enough to bring you hither; it is a better reason than if the nation expected you. For I really enter as fully as you can desire, into your principle of love of individuals: and I think the way to have a publick spirit, is first to have a private one; for who can believe (said a friend of mine) that any man can care for a hundred thousand people, who never cared for one? No ill humoured man can ever be a patriot, any more than a friend.

I designed to have left the following page for Dr. Arbuthnot to fill, but he is so touched with the period in yours to me concerning him, that he intends to answer it by a whole letter. He too is busy about a book, which I guess he will tell you of. So adieu. What remains worth telling you? Dean Berkeley is well, and happy in the prosecution of his scheme. Lord Oxford and lord Bolingbroke in health, Duke Disney so also; sir William Wyndham better, lord Bathurst well. These and some others, preserve their ancient honour, and ancient friendship. Those who do neither, if they were dd, what is it to a protestant priest, who has nothing to do with the dead? I answer for my own part as a papist, I would not pray them out of Purgatory.

My name is as bad a one as yours, and hated by all bad people, from Hopkins and Sternhold, to Gildon and Cibber. The first prayed against me with the Turk; and a modern imitator of theirs (whom I leave you to find out) has added the Christian to them, with proper definitions of each in this manner:

The pope's the whore of Babylon,
The Turk he is a Jew:
The christian is an infidel
That sitteth in a pew.


  1. Lord Bolingbroke.
  2. Mrs. Howard.
  3. A little lower than angels.