The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: St John to Swift - 3

NOV. 19, 1729.

I FIND that you have laid aside your project of building in Ireland, and that we shall see you in this island cum zephyris, & hirundine prima[1]. I know not whether the love of fame increases as we advance in age; sure I am that the force of friendship does. I loved you almost twenty years ago: I thought of you as well as I do now, better was beyond the power of conception, or to avoid an equivoque, beyond the extent of my ideas. Whether you are more obliged to me for loving you as well when I knew you less, or for loving you as well after loving you so many years, I shall not determine. What I would say is this: while my mind grows daily more independent of the world, and feels less need of leaning on external objects, the ideas of friendship return oftener, they busy me, they warm me more: Is it that we grow more tender as the moment of our great separation approaches? or is it that they who are to live together in another state, (for vera amicitia non nisi inter bonos[2]) begin to feel more strongly that divine sympathy which is to be the great band of their future society? There is no one thought which sooths my mind like this: I encourage my imagination to pursue it, and am heartily afflicted when another faculty of the intellect comes boisterously in, and wakes me from so pleasing a dream, if it be a dream. I will dwell no more on economicks than I have done in my former letter. Thus much only I will say, that otium cum dignitate[3] is to be had with 500l. a year as well as with 5000l: the difference will be found in the value of the man, and not in that of the estate. I do assure you, that I have never quitted the design of collecting, revising, improving, and extending several materials which are still in my power; and I hope that the time of setting myself about this last work of my life is not far off. Many papers of much curiosity and importance are lost, and some of them in a manner which would surprise and anger you. However, I shall be able to convey several great truths to posterity, so clearly and so authentically, that the Burnets and the Oldmixons of another age may rail, but not be able to deceive. Adieu my friend. I have taken up more of this paper than belongs to me, since Pope is to write to you; no matter, for upon recollection the rules of proportion are not broken; he will say as much to you in one page, as I have said in three. Bid him talk to you of the work he is about[4], I hope in good earnest; it is a fine one; and will be in his hands an original. His sole complant is, that he finds it too easy in the execution. This flatters his laziness, it flatters my judgment, who always thought that (universal as his talents are) this is eminently and peculiarly his, above all the writers I know living or dead: I do not except Horace. Adieu.

  1. With the zephyrs and the first swallow.
  2. True friendship is found only between good men.
  3. Retirement with dignity.
  4. Essay on Man; on which therefore, it appears, he was employed in 1729.