The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: St John to Swift - 4

JAN. 17, 1730-31.

I BEGIN my letter by telling you that my wife has been returned from abroad about a month, and that her health, though feeble and precarious, is better than it has been these two years. She is much your servant, and as she has been her own physician with some success, imagines she could be yours with the same. Would to God you was within her reach. She would I believe prescribe a great deal of the medicina animi[1], without having recourse to the books of Trismegistus. Pope and I should be her principal apothecaries in the course of the cure; and though our best botanists complain, that few of the herbs and simples which go to the composition of these remedies, are to be found at present in our soil, yet there are more of them here than in Ireland; besides, by the help of a little chymistry, the most noxious juices may become salubrious, and rank poison a specifick. Pope is now in my library with me, and writes to the world, to the present and to future ages, while I begin this letter which he is to finish to you. What good he will do to mankind I know not; this comfort he may be sure of, he cannot do less than you have done before him. I have sometimes thought that if preachers, hangmen, and moral writers keep vice at a stand, or so much as retard the progress of it, they do as much as human nature admits: a real reformation[2] is not to be brought about by ordinary means; it requires these extraordinary means which become punishments as well as lessons: national corruption must be purged by national calamities[3]. Let us hear from you. We deserve this attention, because we desire it, and because we believe that you desire to hear from us.

  1. Medicine of the mind.
  2. Bolingbroke has enlarged on this topick in his Philosophical Works, intending to depreciate Christianity by showing that it has not had a general effect on the morals of mankind, nor produced a real reformation: an argument nothing to the purpose, nor any impeachment of the doctrines of the Gospel; even if it were founded, as it certainly is not.
  3. France affords a striking example of this truth.