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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Swift to Pope - 9

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


DEC 5, 1726.


I BELIEVE the hurt in your hand affects me more than it does yourself, and with reason, because I may probably be a greater loser by it. What have accidents to do with those who are neither jockeys, nor foxhunters, nor bullies, nor drunkards? And yet a rascally groom shall gallop a foundered horse ten miles upon a causeway, and get home safe.

I am very much pleased that you approve what was sent, because I remember to have heard a great man say, that nothing required more judgment than making a present; which when it is done to those of high rank, ought to be of something that is not readily got for money. You oblige me, and at the same time do me justice in what you observe as to Mr. Pulteney. Besides it is too late in life for me to act otherwise, and therefore I follow a very easy road to virtue, and purchase it cheap. If you will give me leave to join us, is not your life and mine a state of power, and dependance a state of slavery? We care not three pence whether a prince or minister will see us or not: we are not afraid of having ill offices done us, nor are at the trouble of guarding our words for fear of giving offence. I do agree that riches are liberty, but then we are to put into the balance how long our apprenticeship is to last in acquiring them.

Since you have received the verses[1], I most earnestly entreat you to burn those which you do not approve; and in those few where you may not dislike some parts, blot out the rest, and sometimes (though it be against the laziness of your nature) be so kind as to make a few corrections, if the matter will bear them. I have some few of those things I call thoughts moral and diverting; if you please I will send the best I can pick from them, to add to the new volume. I have reason to choose the method you mention of mixing the several verses, and I hope thereby among the bad criticks to be entitled to more merit than is my due.

This moment I am so happy as to have a letter from my lord Peterborow, for which I entreat you will present him with my humble respects and thanks, though he all-to-be-Gullivers me by very strong insinuations. Though you despise riddles, I am strongly tempted to send a parcel to be printed by themselves, and make a ninepenny job for the bookseller. There are some of my own, wherein I exceed mankind, mira poemata[2]! the most solemn that were ever seen; and some writ by others, admirable indeed, but far inferiour to mine, but I will not praise myself. You approve that writer who laughs and makes others laugh; but why should I who hate the world, or you who do not love it, make it so happy? therefore I resolve from henceforth to handle only serious subjects, nisi quid tu docte Trebati, dissentis[3].

Yours, &c.


  1. A just character of Swift's poetry, as well as his prose, is, that it "consists of proper words in proper places." Johnson said once to me, speaking of the simplicity of Swift's style, the rogue never hazards a figure." Dr. Warton.
  2. Wonderful Poems!
  3. Unless you, my learned friend, dissent.