The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Swift to Pope - 28

DECEMBER 2, 1736.

I THINK you owe me a letter, but whether you do or not, I have not been in a condition to write. Years and infirmities have quite broke me; I mean that odious continual disorder in my head. I neither read, nor write, nor remember, nor converse. All I have left is to walk and ride; the first I can do tolerably; but the latter for want of good weather at this season is seldom in my power; and having not an ounce of flesh about me, my skin comes off in ten miles riding, because my skin and bone cannot agree together. But I am angry, because you will not suppose me as sick as I am, and write to me out of perfect charity, although I should not be able to answer. I have too many vexations by my station and the impertinence of people, to be able to bear the mortification of not hearing from a very few distant friends that are left; and, considering how time and fortune have ordered matters, I have hardly one friend left but yourself. What Horace says, Singula de nobis anni prædantur, I feel every month, at farthest; and by this computation, if I hold out two years, I shall think it a miracle. My comfort is, you began to distinguish so confounded early, that your acquaintance with distinguished men of all kinds was almost as ancient as mine. I mean Wycherly, Rowe, Prior, Congreve, Addison, Parnell, &c. and in spite of your heart, you have owned me a contemporary. Not to mention lords Oxford, Bolingbroke, Harcourt, Peterborow: In short, I was the other day recollecting twenty-seven great ministers, or men of wit and learning, who are all dead, and all of my acquaintance, within twenty years past; neither have I the grace to be sorry, that the present times are drawn to the dregs, as well as my own life. May my friends be happy in this and a better life, but I value not what becomes of posterity, when I consider from what monsters they are to spring. My lord Orrery writes to you to morrow, and you see I send this under his cover, or at least franked by him. He has 30000l. a year about Cork, and the neighbourhood, and has more than three years rent unpaid; this is our condition in these blessed times. I writ to your neighbour about a month ago, and subscribed my name: I fear he has not received my letter, and wish you would ask him; but perhaps he is still a rambling; for we hear of him at Newmarket, and that Boerhaave has restored his health. How my services are lessened of late with the number of my friends on your side! yet my lord Bathurst and lord Masham and Mr. Lewis remain; and being your acquaintance I desire when you see them to deliver my compliments; but chiefly to Mrs. Patty Blount, and let me know whether she be as young and agreeable as when I saw her last? Have you got a supply of new friends to make up for those who are gone? and are they equal to the first? I am afraid it is with friends as with times; and that the laudator temporis acti se puero[1], is equally applicable to both. I am less grieved for living here, because it is a perfect retirement, and consequently fittest for those who are grown good for nothing; for this town and kingdom are as much out of the world as North Wales. My head is so ill that I cannot write a paper full as I used to do; and yet I will not forgive a blank of half an inch from you. I had reason to expect from some of your letters, that we were to hope for more epistles of morality; and I assure you, my acquaintance resent that they have not seen my name at the head of one. The subjects of such epistles are more useful to the publick, by your manner of handling them, than any of all your writings; and although in so profligate a world as ours they may possibly not much mend our manners, yet posterity will enjoy the benefit, whenever a court happens to have the least relish for virtue and religion.

  1. Ill natur'd censor of the present age,
    And fond of all the follies of the past.