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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 18/Letter from Jonathan Swift to Alexander Pope - 4

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 18


MARCH 6, 1728-9.

IF I am not a good correspondent, I have bad health; and that is as good. I passed eight months in the country, with sir Arthur and my lady Acheson, and had at least half a dozen returns of my giddiness and deafness, which lasted me about three weeks apiece; and, among other inconveniences, hindered me from visiting my chapter, and punishing enormities; but did not save me the charges of a visitation dinner. This disorder neither hinders my sleeping, nor much my walking; yet is the most mortifying malady I can suffer. I have been just a month in town, and have just got rid of it in a fortnight: and, when it is on me, I have neither spirits to write, or read, or think, or eat. But I drink as much as I like; which is a resource you cannot fly to when you are ill. And I like it as little as you: but I can bear a pint better than you can a spoonful. You were very kind in your care for Mr. Whaley[1]; but, I hope, you remembered, that Daniel[2] is a damnable poet, and consequently a publick enemy to mankind. But I despise the lords decree, which is a jest upon common sense: for what did it signify to the merits of the cause, whether George the old, or the young, were on the throne?

No: I intended to pass last winter in England, but my health said no: and I did design to live a gentleman, and, as Sancho's wife said, to go in my coach to court. I know not whether you are in earnest to come hither in spring: if not, pray God you may never be in jest! Dr. Delany shall attend you at Chester, and your apartment is ready; and I have a most excellent chaise, and about sixteen dozen of the best cider in the world; and you shall command the town and kingdom, and digito monstrari, &c. And, when I cannot hear, you shall have choice of the best people we can afford, to hear you, and nurses enough; and your apartment is on the sunny side.

The next paragraph strikes me dumb. You say, "I am to blame, if I refuse the opportunity of going with my lady Bolingbroke to Aix la Chapelle." I must tell you, that a foreign language is mortal to a deaf man. I must have good ears to catch up the words of so nimble a tongued race as the French, having been a dozen years without conversing among them. Mr. Gay is a scandal to all lusty young fellows with healthy countenances; and, I think, he is not intemperate in a physical sense. I am told he has an asthma, which is a disease I commiserate more than deafness, because it will not leave a man quiet either sleeping or waking. I hope he does not intend to print his opera[3] before it is acted; for I defy all your subscriptions to amount to eight hundred pounds. And yet, I believe, he lost as much more, for want of human prudence.

I told you some time ago, that I was dwindled to a writer of libels on the lady of the family where I lived, and upon myself; but they never went farther: and my lady Acheson made me give her up all the foul copies, and never gave the fair ones out of her hands, or suffered them to be copied. They were sometimes shown to intimate friends, to occasion mirth, and that was all. So that I am vexed at your thinking I had any hand in what could come to your eyes. I have some confused notion of seeing a paper called Sir Ralph the Patriot, but am sure it was bad or indifferent; and as to the Lady at Quadrille, I never heard of it. Perhaps it may be the same with a paper of verses, called, The Journal of a Dublin Lady, which I writ at sir Arthur Acheson's; and, leaving out what concerned the family, I sent it to be printed in a paper which doctor Sheridan had engaged in, called The Intelligencer, of which he made but sorry work, and then dropped it[4]. But the verses were printed by themselves, and most horridly mangled in the press, and were very mediocre in themselves; but did well enough in the manner I mentioned, of a family jest. I do sincerely assure you, that my frequent old disorder, and the scene where I am, and the humour I am in, and some other reasons which time has shown, and will show more if I live, have lowered my small talents with a vengeance, and cooled my disposition to put them in use. I want only to be rich, for I am hard to be pleased; and, for want of riches, people grow every day less solicitous to please me. Therefore I keep humble company, who are happy to come where they can get a bottle of wine without paying for it. I give my vicar a supper, and his wife a shilling, to play with me an hour at backgammon once a fortnight. To all people of quality, and especially of titles, I am not within; or, at least, am deaf a week or two after I am well. But, on Sunday evenings, it costs me six bottles of wine to people whom I cannot keep out. Pray, come over in April, if it be only to convince you that I tell no lies; and the journey will be certainly for your health. Mrs. Brent, my housekeeper, famous in print for digging out the great bottle[5], says, "she will be your nurse;" and the best physicians we have shall attend you without fees: although, I believe, you will have no occasion but to converse with one or two of them, to make them proud. Your letter came but last post, and you see my punctuality. I am unlucky at every thing I send to England. Two bottles of usquebaugh were broken. Well, my humble service to my lord Bolingbroke, lord Bathurst, lord Masham, and his lady my dear friend, and Mr. Pulteney, and the doctor, and Mr. Lewis, and our sickly friend Gay, and my lady Bolingbroke; and very much to Patty[6], who I hope will learn to love the world less, before the world leaves off to love her. I am much concerned to hear of my lord Peterborow being ill. I am exceedingly his servant; and pray God recover his health! As for your courtier Mrs. Howard, and her mistress, I have nothing to say, but that they have neither memory nor manners; else I should have some mark of the former from the latter, which I was promised above two years ago: but, since I made them a present[7], it would be mean to remind them. I am told, poor Mrs. Pope is ill. Pray God preserve her to you, or raise you up as useful a friend.

This letter is an answer to Mr. Ford, whose hand I mistook for yours, having not heard from him this twelvemonth. Therefore you are not to stare; and it must not be lost, for it talks to you only.

Again, forgive my blunders: for, reading the letter by candlelight, and not dreaming of a letter from Mr. Ford, I thought it must be yours, because it talks of our friends.

The letter talks of Gay, and Mr. Whaley, and lord Bolingbroke, which made me conclude it must be yours: so all the answering part must go for nothing.

  1. Mr. Nathanael Whaley; who had a writ of errour depending in the house of lords, on a judgment which had been given in the court of king's bench in England, reversing a judgment of the court of king's bench in Ireland, in a cause wherein the archbishop of Armagh and Mr. Whaley were plaintiffs, and the king defendant. A doubt arising whether the writ was not abated, having been taken out in the lifetime of king George I, but not returnable till after that king's death; their lordships determined that it was abated, and therefore reversed the judgment, Feb. 26, 1728,9. — The following year, however, another writ of errour was in like manner brought, wherein his majesty king George II was made defendant; which was heard April 30, 1730, and determined likewise in favour of the archbishop and Mr. Whaley: very highly to dean Swift's satisfaction; who had applied to his friends on this occasion, as appears by the earl of Oxford's letter, March 4, 1729,30, printed in vol. XII, p. 336; who tells the dean, "I obeyed your commands, and did Mr. Whaley all the little service I was capable of: it was little enough that was in my power, God knows. He comes again before us soon after Easter: he seems to be in great hopes, I wish they may be well founded." In July following, his lordship writes, "I suppose master Whaley is by this time got safe to his living, and enjoying the fruit of his victory, peace and quietness. I believe he has enough of law, of lawyers, and of lords, both spiritual and temporal." See p. 267, of this vol.
  2. Richard Daniel, dean of Armagh; who, Feb. 9, 1729-30, petitioned the house of lords for a speedy hearing of the archbishop's cause; alleging, "he had been detained in England seventeen months, to attend its issue."
  3. The second part of the Beggar's Opera.
  4. See vol. VII, p. 417.
  5. See a poem on Stella's birthday, 1722-3, vol. VII, p. 235;
  6. Mrs. Martha Blount.
  7. Of some Irish plaids; see Mrs. Howard's Letter, vol. XII, p. 211.