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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 15/Journal to Stella – Letter 21

LETTER XXI.


London, April 14, 1711.


REMEMBER, sirrahs, that there are but nine days between the dates of my two former letters. I sent away my twentieth this moment, and now am writing on like a fish, as if nothing was done. But there was a cause for my hasting away the last, for fear it should not come time enough before a new quarter began. I told you where I dined to day, but forgot to tell you what I believe, that Mr. Harley will be lord treasurer in a short time, and other great removes and promotions made. This is my thought, &c.

15. I was this morning with Mr. secretary, and he is grown pretty well. I dined with him to day, and drank some of that wine which the great duke of Tuscany used to send to sir William Temple: he always sends some to the chief ministers. I liked it mightily, but he does not; and he ordered his butler to send me a chest of it to morrow. Would to God MD had it. The queen is well again, and was at chapel to day, &c.

16. I went with Ford into the city to day, and dined with Stratford, and drank tockay, and then we went to the auction; but I did not lay out above twelve shillings. My head is a little out of order to night, though no formal fit. My lord keeper has sent to invite me to dinner to morrow, and you'll dine better with the dean, and God bless you. I forgot to tell you that yesterday was sent me a narrative printed, with all the circumstances of Mr. Harley's stabbing. I had not time to do it myself, so I sent my hints to the author of the Atalantis[1], and she has cook'd it into a sixpenny pamphlet, in her own style, only the first page is left as I was beginning it. But I was afraid of disobliging Mr. Harley or Mr. St. John in one critical point about it, and so would not do it myself. It is worth your reading, for the circumstances are all true. My chest of Florence was sent me this morning, and cost me seven and sixpence to two servants. I would give two guineas you had it, &c.

17. I was so out of order with my head this morning, that I was going to send my excuses to my lord keeper; but however I got up at eleven and walked there after two, and staid till eight. There was sir Thomas Mansel, Prior, George Granville, and Mr. Cæsar, and we were very merry. My head is still wrong, but I have had no formal fit, only I totter a little. I have left off snuff altogether. I have a noble roll of tobacco for grating, very good. Shall I send it to MD, if she likes that sort? My lord keeper and our this day's company are to dine on Saturday with George Granville, and to morrow I dine with lord Anglesea.

18. Did you ever see such a blundering goosecap as Presto? I saw the number 21 atop, and so I went on as if it were the day of the month, whereas this is but Wednesday the 18th. How shall I do to blot and alter them? I have made a shift to do it behind, but it is a great botch. I dined with lord Anglesea to day, but did not go to the house of commons about the yarn; my head was not well enough. I know not what's the matter: it has never been thus before: two days together giddy from morning till night, but not with any violence or pain; and I totter a little, but can make shift to walk. I doubt I must fall to my pills again: I think of going into the country a little way. I tell you what you must do henceforward: you must enclose your letter in a fair half sheet of paper, and direct the outside To Erasmus Lewis, esquire, at my lord Dartmouth's office at Whitehall; for I never go to the coffeehouse, and they will grudge to take in my letters. I forgot to tell you that your mother was to see me this morning, and brought me a flask of sweet water for a present, admirable for my heads but I shall not smell to it. She is going to Sheen with lady Giffard: she would fain send your papers over to you, or give them to me. Say what you would have done, and it shall be done; because I love Stella, and she is a good daughter, they say, and so is Dingiey.

19. This morning general Webb was to give me a visit: he goes with a crutch and a stick, yet was forced to make up two pair of stairs. I promised to dine with him, but afterward sent my excuses, and dined privately in my friend Lewis's lodgings at Whitehall, with whom I had much business to talk of, relating to the publick and myself. Little Harrison the Tatler goes to morrow to the secretaryship I got him at the Hague, and Mr. St. John has made him a present of fifty guineas to bear his charges. An't I a good friend? Why are not you a young fellow, that I might prefer you? I had a letter from Bernage from Kinsale: he tells me his commission for captainlieutenant was ready for him at his arrival: so there are two Jackanapeses I have done with. My head is something better this evening, though not well.

20. I was this morning with Mr. secretary, whose packets were just come in, and among them a letter from lord Peterborow to me: he writes so well, I have no mind to answer him, and so kind, that I must answer him. The emperor's death must, I think, cause great alterations in Europe, and, I believe, will hasten a peace. We reckon our king Charles will be chosen emperor, and the duke of Savoy set up for Spain; but I believe he will make nothing of it. Dr. Freind and I dined in the city at a printer's, but it cost me two shillings in coach-hire, and a great deal more this week and month, which has been almost all rain, with now and then sunshine, and is the truest April that I have known these many years. The lime trees in the park are all out in leaves, though not large leaves yet. Wise people are going into the country; but many think the parliament can hardly be up these six weeks. Mr. Harley was with the queen on Tuesday. I believe certainly he will be the lord treasurer: I have not seen him this week.

21. Morning. Lord keeper, and I, and Prior, and sir Thomas Mansel have appointed to dine this day with George Granville. My head, I thank God, is better; but to be giddyish three or four days together mortified me. I take no snuff, and I will be very regular in eating little and the gentlest meats. How does poor Stella just now, with her deans and her Stoytes? Do they give you health for the money you lose at ombre, sirrah? What say you to that? Poor Dingley frets to see Stella lose that four and elevenpence, t'other night. Let us rise. Morrow, sirrahs. I will rise, spite of your little teeth; good morrow. At night. O, faith, you are little dear sauceboxes. I was just going in the morning to tell you that I began to want a letter from MD, and in four minutes after Mr. Ford sends me one that he had picked up at St. James's coffeehouse; for I go to no coffeehouse at all. And faith, I was glad at heart to see it, and to see Stella so brisk. O Lord, what pretending? Well, but I won't answer it yet; I'll keep it for t'other side. Well, we dined to day according to appointment; lord keeper went away at near eight, I at eight, and I believe the rest will be fairly fuddled; for young Harcourt, lord keeper's son, began to prattle before I came away. It will not do with Prior's lean carcase. I drink little, miss my glass often, put water in my wine, and go away before the rest, which I take to be a good receipt for sobriety. Let us put it into rhyme, and so make a proverb:

Drink little at a time;
Put water with your wine;
Miss your glass when you can;
And go off the first man.

God be thanked; I am much better than I was, though something of a totterer. I ate but little to day, and of the gentlest meat. I refused ham and pigeons, peasesoup, stewed beef, cold salmon, because they were too strong. I take no snuff at all, but some herb snuff prescribed by Dr. Radcliffe.

Go to your deans,
You couple of queans.

I believe I said that already. What care I? what cares Presto?

22. Morning. I must rise and go to the secretary's. Mr. Harley has been out of town this week to refresh himself before he comes into parliament. O, but I must rise, so there is no more to be said; and so morrow, sirrahs both. Night. I dined to day with the secretary, who has engaged me for every Sunday; and I was an hour with him this morning deep in politicks, where I told him the objections of the October club, and he answered all except one. That no inquiries are made into past mismanagement. But indeed I believe they are not yet able to make any: the late ministry were too cunning in their rogueries, and fenced themselves with an act of general pardon. I believe Mr. Harley must be lord treasurer; yet he makes only one difficulty which is hard to answer: he must be made a lord, and his estate is not large enough, and he is too generous to make it larger: and if the ministry should change soon by any accident, he will be left in the suds. Another difficulty is, that if he be made a peer, they will want him prodigiously in the house of commons, of which he is the great mover, and after him the secretary, and hardly any else of weight[2]. Two shillings more to day for coach and chair. I shall be ruined.

23. So you expect an answer to your letter, do you so? Yes, yes, you shall have an answer, you shall, young women. I made a good pun on Saturday to my lord keeper. After dinner we had coarse Doiley napkins, fringed at each end, upon the table to drink with: my lord keeper spread one of them between him and Mr. Prior; I told him I was glad to see there was such a Fringeship [Friendship] between Mr. Prior and his lordship. Prior swore it was the worst he ever heard: I said I thought so too; but at the same time I thought it was most like one of Stella's that ever I heard. I dined to day with lord Mountjoy, and this evening saw the Venetian ambassador coming from his first publick audience. His coach was the most monstrous, huge, fine, rich, gilt thing that ever I saw. I loitered this evening, and came home late.

24. I was this morning to visit the duchess of Ormond, who has long desired it, or threatened she would not let me visit her daughters. I sat an hour with her, and we were good company, when in came the countess of Bellamont, with a pox. I went out, and we did not know one another; yet hearing me named, she ask'd, What, is that Dr. Swift? said, she and I were very well acquainted, and fell a railing at me without mercy, as a lady told me that was there; yet I never was but once in the company of that drab of a countess. Sir Andrew Fountain and I dined with my neighbour Van. I design in two days, if possible, to go lodge at Chelsea for the air, and put myself under a necessity of walking to and from London every day. I writ this post to the bishop of Clogher a long politick letter to entertain him. I am to buy statues and harnese[3] for them, with a vengeance. I have packed and sealed up MD's twelve letters against I go to Chelsea. I have put the last commissions of MD in my account book; but if there be any former ones, I have forgot them. I have Dingley's pocketbook down, and Stella's green silk apron, and the pound of tea; pray send me word if you have any other, and down they shall go. I will not answer your letter yet, saucy boxes. You are with the dean just now, madam Stella, losing your money. Why don't you name what number you have received? you say you have received my letters, but don't tell the number.

25. I was this day dining in the city with very insignificant, low, and scurvy company. I had a letter from the archbishop of Dublin, with a long denial of the report raised on him, which yet has been since assured to me from those who say they have it from the first hand; but I cannot believe them. I will show it to the secretary to morrow. I will not answer yours till I get to Chelsea.

26. Chelsea. I have sent two boxes of lumber to my friend Darteneuf's house, and my chest of Florence and other things to Mrs. Vanhomrigh, where I dined to day. I was this morning with the secretary, and showed him the archbishop's letter, and convinced him of his grace's innocence, and I will do the same to Mr. Harley. I got here in the stagecoach with Patrick and my portmantua for sixpence, and pay six shillings a week for one silly room with confounded coarse sheets. We have had such a horrible deal of rain, that there is no walking to London, and I must go as I came until it mends; and besides, the whelp has taken my lodging as far from London as this town could afford, at least half a mile farther than he need; but I must be content. The best is, I lodge just over against Dr. Atterbury's house, and yet perhaps I shall not like the place the better for that. Well, I'll stay till to morrow before I answer your letter; and you must suppose me always writing at Chelsea from henceforward, till I alter and say London. This letter goes on Saturday, which will be just a fortnight; so go and cheat goody Stoyte, &c.

27. Do you know that I fear my whole chest of Florence is turned sour, at least the two first flasks were so, and hardly drinkable. How plaguy unfortunate am I! and the secretary's own is the best I ever tasted; and I must not tell him, but be as thankful as if it were the best in Christendom. I went to town in the sixpenny stage to day, and hearing Mr. Harley was not at home, I went to see him, because I knew by the message of his lying porter that he was at home. He was very well, and just going out, but made me promise to dine with him; and between that, and indeed strolling about, I lost four pound seven shillings at play —— with a a a bookseller, and got but half a dozen books[4]. I will buy no more books now, that's certain. Well, I dined at Mr. Harley's, came away at six, shifted my gown, cassock, and periwig, and walked hither to Chelsea, as I always design to do when it is fair. I am heartily sorry to find my friend the secretary stand a little ticklish with the rest of the ministry; there have been one or two disobliging things that have happened, too long to tell: and t'other day in parliament, upon a debate of about thirty-five millions that have not been duly accounted for, Mr. secretary in his warmth of speech, and zeal for his friend Mr. Brydges, on whom part of the blame was falling, said, he did not know that either Mr. Brydges or the late ministry were at all to blame in this matter; which was very desperately spoken, and giving up the whole cause: for the chief quarrel against the late ministry was the ill management of the treasure, and was more than all the rest together. I had heard of this matter: but Mr. Foley beginning to discourse to day at table, without naming Mr. St. John, I turned to Mr. Harley, and said, if the late ministry were not to blame in that article he [Mr. Harley] ought to lose his head for putting the queen upon changing them. He made it a jest; but by some words dropped, I easily saw that they take things ill of Mr. St. John, and by some hints given me from another hand that I deal with, I am afraid the secretary will not stand long. This is the fate of courts. I will, if I meet Mr. St. John alone on Sunday, tell him my opinion, and beg him to set himself right, else the consequences may be very bad; for I see not how they can well want him neither, and he would make a troublesome enemy. But enough of politicks.

28. Morning. I forgot to tell you that Mr. Harley asked me yesterday, how he came to disoblige the archbishop of Dublin? upon which (having not his letter about me) I told him what the bishop had written to me on that subject, and desired I might read him the letter some other time. But after all, from what I have heard from other hands, I am afraid the archbishop is a little guilty. Here is one Brent Spencer, a brother of Mr. Proby's, who affirms it, and says he has leave to do so from Charles Deering, who heard the words; and Ingoldsby[5] abused the archbishop, &c. Well, but now for your saucy letter: I have no room to answer it: O yes, enough on t'other side. Are you no sicker? Stella jeers Presto for not coming over by Christmas; but indeed Stella does not jeer but reproach poor poor Presto. And how can I come away, and the first-fruits not finished? I am of opinion the duke of Ormond will do nothing in them before he goes, which will be in a fortnight they say: and then they must fall to me to be done in his absence. No, indeed, I have nothing to print: you know they have printed the miscellanies, already. Are they on your side yet? if you have my snuffbox, I'll have your strong box. Hi, does Stella take snuff again? or is it only because it is a fine box? not the Meddle, but the Medley, you fool. Yes, yes, a wretched thing, because it is against you tories: now I think it very fine, and the Examiner a wretched thing. Twist your mouth, sirrah. Guiscard, and what you will read in the narrative, I ordered to be written, and nothing else. The Spectator is written by Steele with Addison's help: 'tis often very pretty. Yesterday it was made of a noble hint I crave him long ago for his Tatlers, about an Indian supposed to write his travels into England. I repent he ever had it. I intended to have written a book on that subject. I believe he has spent it all in one paper, and all the under hints there are mine too; but I never see him or Addison. The queen is well, but I fear will be no long liver; for I am told she has sometimes the gout in her bowels (I hate the word bowels.) My ears have been, these three months past, much better than any time these two years: but now they begin to be a little out of order again. My head is better, though not right; but I trust to air and walking. You have got my letter, but what number? I suppose 18. Well, my shin has been well this month. No, Mrs. Westley came away without her husband's knowledge, while she was in the country: she has written to me for some tea. They lie; Mr. Harley's wound was very terrible: he had convulsions, and very narrowly escaped. The bruise was nine times worse than the wound: he is weak still. Well, Brooks married; I know all that. I am sorry for Mrs. Walls's eye: I hope 'tis better. O yes, you are great walkers: but I have heard them say. Much talkers, Little walkers; and I believe I may apply the old proverb to you: If you talked no more than you walked, Those that think you wits would be baulked. Yes, Stella shall have a large printed Bible: I have put it down among my commissions for MD. I am glad to hear you have taken the fancy of intending to read the Bible. Pox take the box: is not it come yet? this is trusting to your young fellows, young women; 'tis your fault: I thought you had such power with Sterne, that he would fly over mount Atlas to serve you. You say you are not splenetick; but if you be, faith you will break poor Presto's —— I won't say the rest; but I vow to God, if I could decently come over now, I would, and leave all schemes of politicks and ambition for ever. I have not the opportunities here of preserving my health by riding, &c. that I have in Ireland; and the want of health is a great cooler of making one's court. You guess right about my being bit with a direction from Walls, and the letter from MD: I believe I described it in one of my last. This goes to night; and I must now rise and walk to town, and walk back in the evening. God Almighty bless and preserve poor MD. Farewell.

O faith, don't think, saucy noses, that I'll fill this third side: I can't stay a letter above a fortnight: it must go then; and you would rather see a short one like this, than want it a week longer.

My humble service to the dean, and Mrs. Walls, and good kind hearty Mrs. Stoyte, and honest Catherine.


  1. Mrs. Manley. See the eighteenth volume of this Collection.
  2. That is, among the ministry.
  3. Farnese.
  4. This must have been at some raffling for books.
  5. One of the lords justices.