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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Swift to Pope - 16

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 14


AUGUST 11, 1729.


I AM very sensible that in a former letter I talked very weakly of my own affairs, and of my imperfect wishes and desires, which however I find with some comfort do now daily decline, very suitably to my state of health for some months past. For my head is never perfectly free from giddiness, and especially toward night. Yet my disorder is very moderate, and I have been without a fit of deafness this half year; so I am like a horse, which, though off his mettle, can trot on tolerably; and this comparison puts me in mind to add that I am returned to be a rider, wherein I wish you would imitate me. As to this country, there have been three terrible years dearth of corn, and every place strowed with beggars; but dearths are common in better climates, and our evils here lie much deeper. Imagine a nation the two thirds of whose revenues are spent out of it, and who are not permitted to trade with the other third, and where the pride of women will not suffer them to wear their own manufactures, even where they excel what come from abroad: this is the true state of Ireland in a very few words. These evils operate more every day, and the kingdom is absolutely undone, as I have been telling often in print these ten years past.

What I have said requires forgiveness, but I had a mind for once to let you know the state of our affairs, and my reason for being more moved than perhaps becomes a clergyman, and a piece of a philosopher: and perhaps the increase of years and disorders may hope for some allowance to complaints, especially when I may call myself a stranger in a strange land. As to poor Mrs. Pope (if she be still alive) I heartily pity you and pity her: her great piety and virtue will infallibly make her happy in a better life, and her great age has made her fully ripe for Heaven and the grave, and her best friends will most wish her eased of her labours, when she has so many good works to follow them. The loss you will feel by the want of her care and kindness, I know very well; but she has amply done her part, as you have yours. One reason why I would have you in Ireland when you shall be at your own disposal, is, that you may be master of two or three years revenues, proviso frugis in annos copia[1] so as not to be pinched in the least when years increase, and perhaps your health impairs: and when this kingdom is utterly at an end, you may support me for the few years I shall happen to live; and who knows but you may pay me exorbitant interest for the spoonful of wine, and scraps of a chicken it may cost me to feed you? I am confident you have too much reason to complain of ingratitude; for I never yet knew any person, one tenth part so heartily disposed as you are, to do good offices to others, without the least private view.

Was it a gasconade to please me, that you said your fortune was increased 100l. a year since I left you? you should have told me how. Those subsidia senectuti[2] are extremely desirable, if they could be got with justice, and without avarice; of which vice, though I cannot charge myself yet, nor feel any approaches toward it, yet no usurer more wishes to be richer, or rather to be surer of his rents. But I am not half so moderate as you, for I declare I cannot live easily under double to what you are satisfied with.

I hope Mr. Gay will keep his 3000l.[3] and live on the interest without decreasing the principal one penny; but I do not like your seldom seeing him. I hope he is grown more disengaged from his intentness on his own affairs, which I ever disliked, and is quite the reverse to you, unless you are a very dextrous disguiser. I desire my humble service to lord Oxford, lord Bathurst, and particularly to Mrs. Blount, but to no lady at court. God bless you for being a greater dupe than I: I love that character too myself, but I want your charity. Adieu.


  1. Provision made for years to come.
  2. Supports to old age.
  3. He gained, we see, a considerable sum by his writings. Enough has been said of Milton's selling his Paradise Lost for ten pounds. Tonson gave Dryden only two hundred and fifty guineas for ten thousand verses to make up the volume of his "Fables." It may be of use to inform young adventurers, that Thompson sold his "Winter" to Millan for only three guineas. He gained but little more for his Spring. The year after, when he rose in reputation, 1728, Andrew Miller gave him fifty guineas for his "Summer." This was his first connexion with Thompson, whom he ever afterward honoured and assisted if called upon. Dr. Young received of Dodsley two hundred guineas for the first three "Night Thoughts." Dr. Akenside one hundred and twenty guineas for his "Pleasures of Imagination"; and Mallet the same sum for his "Amyntor and Theodora." Some modern booksellers behave to authors with much liberality and generosity." Dr. Warton.