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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Swift to Pope - 18

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

FROM DR. SWIFT TO MR. POPE.


DUBLIN, JUNE 12, 1731.


I DOUBT, habit has little power to reconcile us with sickness attended by pain. With me, the lowness of spirits has a most unhappy effect; I am grown less patient with solitude, and harder to be pleased with company; which I could formerly better digest, when I could be easier without it than at present. As to sending you any thing that I have written since I left you (either verse or prose) I can only say, that I have ordered by my will, that all my papers of any kind shall be delivered you to dispose of as you please. I have several things that I have had schemes to finish, or to attempt, but I very foolishly put off the trouble, as sinners do their repentance: for I grow every day more averse from writing, which is very natural, and when I take a pen say to myself a thousand times non est tanti[1]. As to those papers of four or five years past, that you are pleased to require soon; they consist of little accidental things writ in the country; family amusements, never intended farther than to divert ourselves and some neighbours: or some effects of anger on publick grievances here, which would be insignificant out of this kingdom. Two or three of us had a fancy three years ago to write a weekly paper, and call it an Intelligencer. But it continued not long; for the whole volume (it was reprinted in London and I find you have seen it) was the work only of two, myself and Dr. Sheridan. If we could have got some ingenious young man to have been the manager, who should have published all that might be sent to him, it might have continued longer, for there were hints enough. But the printer here could not afford such a young man one farthing for his trouble, the sale being so small, and the price one halfpenny; and so it dropped. In the volume you saw, (to answer your questions) the 1, 3, 5, 7, were mine. Of the 8th I writ only the verses, (very uncorrect, but against a fellow we all hated) the 9th mine, the 10th only the verses, and of those not the four last slovenly lines; the 15th is a pamphlet of mine printed before with Dr. Sh's preface, merely for laziness not to disappoint the town; and so was the 19th, which contains only a parcel of facts relating purely to the miseries of Ireland, and wholly useless and unentertaining. As to other things of mine since I left you; there are, in prose, a View of the State of Ireland; a Project for eating Children; and a Defence of lord Carteret: in verse, a Libel on Dr. D— and lord Carteret; a Letter to Dr. D— on the Libels writ against him; the Bararck (a stolen copy); the Lady's Journal; the Lady's Dressingroom (a stolen copy); the Plea of the Damned (a stolen copy); all these have been printed in London. (I forgot to tell you that the Tale of sir Ralph was sent from England.) Beside these there are five or six (perhaps more) papers of verses writ in the north, but perfect family things, two or three of which may be tolerable, the rest but indifferent, and the humour only local, and some that would give offence to the times. Such as they are, I will bring them, tolerable or bad, if I recover this lameness, and live long enough to see you either here or there. I forget again to tell you that the Scheme of paying Debts by a Tax on Vices, is not one syllable mine, but of a young clergyman whom I countenance; he told me it was built upon a passage in Gulliver, where a projector hath something upon the same thought. This young man is the most hopeful we have: a book of his poems was printed in London; Dr. D is one of his patrons: he is married and has children, and makes up about 100l. a year, on which he lives decently. The utmost stretch of his ambition is, to gather up as much superfluous money as will give him a sight of you, and half an hour of your presence; after which he will return home in full satisfaction, and in proper time die in peace.

My poetical fountain is drained, and I profess I grow gradually so dry, that a rhime with me is almost as hard to find as a guinea, and even prose speculations tire me almost as much. Yet I have a thing in prose[2], begun above twenty-eight years ago, and almost finished. It will make a four shilling volume, and is such a perfection of folly, that you shall never hear of if till it is printed, and then you shall be left to guess. Nay I have another of the same age[3], which will require a long time to perfect, and is worse than the former, in which I will serve you the same way. I heard lately from Mr. —— who promises to be less lazy in order to mend his fortune. But women who live by their beauty, and men by their wit, are seldom provident enough to consider that both wit and beauty will go off with years, and there is no living upon the credit of what is past.

I am in great concern to hear of my lady Bolingbroke's ill health returned upon her, and I doubt my lord will find Dawley too solitary without her. In that, neither he nor you are companions young enough for me, and I believe the best part of the reason why men are said to grow children when they are old, is because they cannot entertain themselves with thinking; which is the very case of little boys and girls, who love to be noisy among their playfellows. I am told Mrs. Pope is without pain, and I have not heard of a more gentle decay, without uneasiness to herself or friends; yet I cannot but pity you, who are ten times the greater sufferer, by having the person you most love so long before you, and dying daily; and I pray God it may not affect your mind or your health.




  1. It is not worth the trouble.
  2. Polite Conversation. See the Eighth volume of this edition.
  3. Directions to Servants.