The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Swift to Pope - 15
DUBLIN, FEB. 13, 1728-9.
I LIVED very easily in the country: sir Arthur is a man of sense, and a scholar, has a good voice, and my lady a better; she is perfectly well bred, and desirous to improve her understanding, which is very good, but cultivated too much like a fine lady. She was my pupil there, and severely chid when she read wrong; with that, and walking, and making twenty little amusing improvements, and writing family verses of mirth by way of libels on my lady, my time past very well and in very great order; infinitely better than here, where I see no creature but my servants and my old presbyterian housekeeper, denying myself to every body, till I shall recover my ears.
The account of another lord lieutenant was only in a common newspaper, when I was in the country; and if it should have happened to be true, I would have desired to have had access to him as the situation I am in requires. But this renews the grief for the death of our friend Mr. Congreve, whom I loved from my youth, and who surely, beside his other talents, was a very agreeable companion. He had the misfortune to squander away a very good constitution in his younger days; and I think a man of sense and merit like him, is bound in conscience to preserve his health for the sake of his friends, as well as of himself. Upon his own account I could not much desire the continuance of his life, under so much pain, and so many infirmities. Years have not yet hardened me; and I have an addition of weight on my spirits since we lost him; though I saw him so seldom, and possibly if he had lived on, should never have seen him more. I do not only wish as you ask me, that I was unacquainted with any deserving person, but almost, that I never had a friend. Here is an ingenious good humoured physician, a fine gentleman, an excellent scholar, easy in his fortunes, kind to every body, has abundance of friends, entertains them often and liberally; they pass the evening with him at cards, with plenty of good meat and wine, eight or a dozen together; he loves them all, and they him; he has twenty of these at command; if one of them dies, it is no more than poor Tom; he gets another, or takes up with the rest, and is no more moved than at the loss of his cat; he offends no body, is easy with every body — is not this the truly happy man? I was describing him to my lady A——, who knows him too, but she hates him mortally by my character, and will not drink his health: I would give half my fortune for the same temper, and yet I cannot say I love it, for I do not love my lord —— who is much of the doctor's nature. I hear Mr. Gay's second opera which you mention, is forbid; and then he will be once more fit to be advised, and reject your advice. Adieu.
- He was certainly one of the most polite, pleasing and well bred men of all his contemporaries. And it might have been said of him, as of Cowley, "You would not, from his conversation, have known him to have been a wit and a poet, it was so unassuming and courteous." Swift had always a great regard and affection for him; and introduced him, though a strenuous whig, to the favour of lord Oxford It is remarkable, that on the first publication, Congreve thought "the Tale of a Tub" gross and insipid.