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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Swift to Pope - 6


NOV. 26, 1725.


I SHOULD sooner have acknowledged yours, if a feverish disorder and the relicks of it had not disabled me for a fortnight. I now begin to make excuses, because I hope I am pretty near seeing you, and therefore I would cultivate an acquaintance; because if you do not know me when we meet, you need only keep one of my letters, and compare it with my face, for my face and letters are counterparts of my heart. I fear I have not expressed that right, but I mean well, and I hate blots: I look in your letter, and in my conscience you say the same thing, but in a better manner. Pray tell my lord Bolingbroke that I wish he was banished again, for then I should hear from him, when he was full of philosophy, and talked de contemptu mundi. My lord Oxford was so extremely kind as to write to me immediately an account of his son's birth; which I immediately acknowledged, but before my letter could reach him, I wished it in the sea; I hope I was more afflicted than his lordship. It is hard that parsons and beggars should be overrun with brats, while so great and good a family wants an heir to continue it, I have received his father's picture, but I lament (sub sigillo confessionis) that it is not so true a resemblance as I could wish. Drown the world! I am not content with despising it, but I would anger it, if I could with safety. I wish there were an hospital built for its despisers, where one might act with safety, and it need not be a large building, only I would have it well endowed. P * * is fort chancelant whether he shall turn parson or not. But all employments here are engaged, or in reversion. Cast wits and cast beaux have a proper sanctuary in the church: yet we think it a severe judgment, that a fine gentleman, and so much a finer for hating ecclesiasticks, should be a domestick humble retainer to an Irish prelate. He is neither secretary nor gentleman usher, yet serves in both capacities. He has published several reasons why he never came to see me, but the best is, that I have not waited on his lordship. We have had a poem sent from London in imitation of that on miss Carteret. It is on miss Harvey of a day old; and we say and think it is yours. I wish it were not, because I am against monopolies. You might have spared me a few more lines of your satire, but I hope in a few months to see it all. To hear boys like you talk of millenniums and tranquillity! I am older by thirty years, lord Bolingbroke by twenty, and you but by ten, than when we last were together; and we should differ more than ever, you coquetting a maid of honour, my lord looking on to see how the gamesters play, and I railing at you both. I desire you and all my friends will take a special care that my disaffection to the world may not be imputed to my age, for I have credible witnesses ready to depose, that it hath never varied from the twenty-first to the f--ty-eighth year of my life (pray fill that blank charitably). I tell you after all, that I do not hate mankind, it is vous autres who hate them, because you would have them reasonable animals, and are angry at being disappointed: I have always rejected that definition, and made another of nw own. I am no more angry with —— than I was with the kite that last week flew away with one of my chickens; and yet I was pleased when one of my servants shot him two days after. This I say, because you are so hardy as to tell me of your intentions to write maxims in opposition to Rochefoucault, who is my favourite, because I found my whole character in him[1]; however I will read him again, because it is possible I may have since undergone some alterations Take care the bad poets do not outwit you, as they have served the good ones in every age, whom they have provoked to transmit their names to posterity. Mævius is as well known as Virgil, and Gildon will be as well known as you, if his name gets into your verses: and as to the difference between good and bad fame, it is a perfect trifle. I ask a thousand pardons, and so leave you for this time, and I will write again without concerning myself whether you write or not.

I am, &c.


  1. This is no great compliment to his own heart.