The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 18/Remarks on the Characters of the Court of Queen Anne







A TALL, handsome man for his age, with a very obliging address, of a wonderful presence of mind, so as hardly ever to be discomposed; of a very clear head, and sound judgment; very bold, never daunted for want of success; every way capable of being a great man, if the great success of his arms, and the heaps of favours thrown upon him by his sovereign, do not raise his thoughts above the rest of the nobility, and consequently draw upon him the envy of the people of England. He is turned of 50 years of age. Detestably covetous.

With all the qualities of a great man, except that of a statesman, hating business. He is about 40 years of age. Fairly enough writ.

never was a greater mixture of honour, virtue [none], and good sense, in any one person, than in him: a great man, attended with a sweetness of behaviour, and easiness of conversation, which charms all who come near him: Nothing of the stitfness of a statesman, yet the capacity and knowledge of a piercing wit. He speaks French and Italian as well as his native language: And although but one eye, yet he has a most charming countenance, and is the most generally beloved by the ladies of any gentleman in his time. He is turned of 40 years old.

Is of a middle stature, well shaped, a very black complexion, a lover of musick and poetry; of good judgment [not a grain; hardly common sense]; but, by reason of a great hesitation in his speech, wants expression. He is about 42 years old.

Has been the finest and handsomest gentleman of his time; loves the ladies, and plays; keeps a noble house, and equipage; is tall, well made, and of a princely behaviour. Of nice honour in every thing, but the paying his tradesmen. Past 60 years old. A very poor understanding.

He is a nobleman of learning, and good natural parts, but of no principles. Violent for the high church, yet seldom goes to it. Very proud, insolent, and covetous; and takes all advantages. This character is the truest of any.

He has the exteriour air of business; and application enough to make him very capable. In his habit and manners very formal; a tall, thin, very black man, like a Spaniard, or Jew; about 50 years old. He fell in with the whigs, was an endless talker.

He was the great wheel on which the revolution rolled. He had not a wheel to turn a mouse. Of great honour and honesty, with a moderate capacity. None at all.

He has one only daughter, who will be the richest heiress in Europe. Now countess of Oxford; cheated by her father.

He is a gentleman good natured to a fault; very well bred, and has many valuable things in him; is an enemy to business, very credulous, well shaped, black complexion, much like king Charles; not 30 years old. A shallow coxcomb.

Does not make any figure at court. Nor any where else. A great booby.

He is a man of honour, nice in paying his debts; and living well with his neighbours in the country, does not much care for the conversation of men of quality, or business. Is a tall, black man, like his father the king; about 40 years old. He was a most worthy person, very good natured, and had very good sense.

Grandson to king Charles II; a very pretty gentleman; has been abroad in the world; zealous for the constitution of his country. A tall black man, about 25 years old. Almost a slobberer, without one good quality.

Is son of a clergyman[3]; a good common lawyer, a slow chancellor, and no civilian. Chance more than choice brought him the seals. Very covetous.

Since the queen's accession to the throne, he has been created a duke, and is near 6o years old. As arrant a knave as any in his time.

One of the best beloved gentlemen, by the country party, in England. A very poor understanding.

Of a creditable family in the city of Worcester. Very mean; his father was a noted rogue. He is believed to have been the best chancellor that ever sat in the chair. I allow him to have possessed all excellent qualifications except virtue; he had violent passions, and hardly subdued them hy his great prudence.

He is a great encourager of learning and learned men, is the patron of the muses, of very agreeable conversation, a short fair man, not 40 years old. His encouragements were only good words and good dinners. I never heard him say one good things or seem to taste what was said hy another.

One of the finest gentlemen in England in the reign of king Charles II, of great learning [small, or none], extremely witty, and has been the author of some of the finest poems in the English language; especially satire. The Mæcenas and prince of our English poets. One of the pleasantest companions in the world, when he likes his company [not of late years, but a very dull one]. He is very fat, troubled with the spleen, and turned of 50 years old.

He was one of the greatest rakes in England in his younger days; but always a lover of the constitution of his country; is a gentleman of very good sense, and very cunning; brave in his person, a lover of play, and understands it perfectly well; has a very good estate, and improves it every day; something covetous; is a tall handsome man, and of a very fair complexion. He is turned of 40 years old. An arrant knave in common dealings, and very prostitute.

He is supposed to be the richest subject in Europe, very profuse in gardening, birds, and household furniture, but mighty frugal in every thing else, of a very lofty mien, and yet not proud; of no deep understanding, considering his experience, neither much beloved nor hated by any sort of people, English or Dutch. He is turned of 50 years old. As great a dunce as ever I knew.

On his brother's death he came to the house of peers, where he never will make any great figure, the sword being more his profession; he is a fair complexioned man, well shaped, taller than the ordinary size, and a man of honour. He is turned of 40 years old. As arrant a ********* as his brother.

He affects popularity; and loves to preach in coffeehouses, and publick places; is an open enemy to revealed religion; brave in his person; has a good estate; does not seem expensive, yet always in debt, and very poor. A well shaped thin man, with a very brisk look, near 50 years old. This character is for the most part true.

This gentleman is endued with a great deal of learning, virtue [no], and good sense [no]; very honest, and zealous for the liberty of the people.

Is one of the branches of the Greys, a noble family in England. He does not want sense: but by reason of a defect in his speech, wants elocution, is a very honest man himself, but very suspicious of every body that is not of his party, for which he is very zealous; jealous of the power of the clergy, who, he is afraid, may some time or other, influence our civil government. From a good estate he is become very poor, and much in debt; he is something above the middle stature, and turned of 50 years old. He looked and talked like a very weak man; but it was said he spoke well in council.

He is a good country gentleman, a great assertor of the prerogatives of the monarchy and the church; a thin, tall, black, redfaced man, turned of 60 years old. Of great piety and charity.

Of very ordinary parts; married the witty lord Rochester's daughter, who makes him very expensive; a tall, thin, black man, about 35 years old. As much a puppy as ever I saw, very ugly, and a fop.

He is a bold man, and very happy in jests and repartees; and has often turned the humour of the house of commons, when they have designed to have been very severe. He is very fat, black, and turned of 60 years old. The vainest old fool I ever saw.

He is every way a plain man, yet took a great deal of pains to seem knowing and wise; every body pitied him, when the queen turned him out, for his seeming good nature, and real poverty; he is very fat, very expensive, and very poor; turned of 50 years old. A good plain humdrum.

He loves jests and puns [I never observed it], and that sort of low wit; is of short stature, well shaped, with a very handsome countenance. Being very poor, he complied too much with the party he hated.

He is certainly one of the hopefullest gentlemen in England; is very learned, virtuous, and a man of honour, much esteemed in the country, for his generous way of living with the gentry, and his charity to the poorest sort. He makes but a mean figure in his person, is of a middle stature, fair complexion, not handsome, nor 30 years old. This character is fair enough.

Is a gentleman of great learning, attended with a sweet disposition; a lover of the constitution of his country; is beloved by every body that knows him [I except one]; and when once employed in the administration of publick affairs, may show himself a great man. He is tall and handsome; about 30 years old.

He sets up for a critick in conversation, makes jests, and loves to laugh at them; takes a great deal of pains in his office, and is in a fair way of rising at court; is a short thick man, of a fair complexion, turned of 34 years old. This is fair enough writ; but he has little sincerity.

One of the completest gentlemen in England; has a very clear understanding, and manly expression, with abundance of wit. He is brave in his person, much of a libertine, of a middle stature, fair complexion, and 50 years old. The most universal villain I ever knew.

He is brave in his person, bold in his expressions, and rectifies as fast as he can the slips of his youth by acts of honesty; which he now glories in more, than he was formerly extravagant. He was little better than a conceited talker in company.

Is the first branch of the ancient family of Grey. The present gentleman was much esteemed, when lord Ruthen; was always very moderate, has good sense, and a good estate; which, with his quality, must make him always bear a considerable figure in the nation; he is a handsome man, not above 40 years old. He seems a good natured man, but of very little consequence.

A fine gentleman, has both wit and learning. I never observed a grain of either.

A gentleman of fine parts, makes a good figure in the counties of Oxford and Buckingham, is very high for the monarchy and church, of a black complexion, past 40 years old. Very covetous.

He is very subtle and cunning, never entered into the measures of king William; nor ever will, in any probability, make any great appearance, in any other reign. He is above 60 years old. If it be old Chesterfield, I have heard he was the greatest knave in England.

A gentleman of learning, parts, and a lover of the constitution of his country; a short fat man, 50 years old. Intolerably lazy and indolent, and somewhat covetous.

A third son of the family of Duras in France; he came over with one of the duke of York's family; is a middle-statured brown man, turned of 50 years old. He was a very dull old fellow.

He is a very pretty gentleman, fair complexioned, and past 30 years old. And good for nothing.

A free jolly gentleman, turned of 40 years old. Of very little sense; but formal, and well stocked with the low kind of lowest politicks.

He is of good understanding, and very capable to be in the ministry; a wellbred gentleman, and an agreeable companion; handsome, of a brown complexion; 40 years old. A very moderate degree of understanding.

A sweet disposed gentleman; he joined king William at the revolution, and is a zealous assertor of the liberties of the people; a thin, brown, handsome man, middle stature, turned of 40 years old. Had very little in him.

Was warm against king William's reign, and does not make any great figure in this; but his son Mr. Bridge's[4] does; being a member of the house of commons, one of the counsellors to the prince, and a very worthy gentleman. But a great complier with every court.

Is son to the lord keeper North, has been abroad, does not want sense, nor application to business, and his genius leads him that way. He is fat, fair, of middle stature, and past 30 years old. A mighty silly fellow.


Having followed king James's fortunes, is now in France. He was always a great sportsman, and brave; a good companion, turned of 60 years old. His son was a plain drunken fellow.

This lord is a great lover of country sports; is handsome in his person, and turned of forty years old. Good for nothing, as far as ever I knew.

Earl of Arran in Ireland, and brother to the duke of Ormond; of very good sense, though seldom shows it. Of a fair complexion, middle stature, toward 40 years old. This is right; but he is the most negligent of his own affairs.

He is a gentleman of a good deal of wit and good nature; a lover of the ladies, and a pleasant companion; is very thin, of a fair complexion, middle stature, and turned of 30 years old. Of very good nature, but a very moderate capacity.

He is skilled in most things, and very eloquent [a great lie]; was bred a presbyterian, yet joins with the church party in every thing; and they do nothing without him.

Is a good companion in conversation; agreeable among the ladies; serves the queen very assiduously in council; makes a considerable figure in the house of commons; by his prudent administration, obliges every body in the exchequer; and in time may prove a great man. Is turned of 30 years old. Had some very scurvy qualities, particularly avarice.

He is a gentleman of a very sweet, easy, affable disposition; of good sense, extremely zealous for the constitution of his country, yet does not seem over forward; keeps an exact unity among the officers under him, and encourages them in their duty, through a peculiar familiarity; by which he obliges them, and keeps up the dignity of being master. He is a handsome man, middle stature, toward 40 years old. A fair character.

A gentleman of much honour, a lover of the constitution of his country; a very agreeable companion in conversation, a bold orator in the house of commons[5], when the interest of his country is at stake; of a good address, middle stature, fair complexion, turned of 40 years old. I thought him a very heavy man.

He was very poor at the revolution; had no business to support him, all the reign of king William; yet made a good figure. He is a very cloudy-looked man, fat, of middle stature, about 50 years old. He was used ill by most ministers; he ruined his estate, which put him under a necessity to comply with the times.



On the queen's accession to the throne, he was continued in his office, is very well at court with the ministry, and is an entire creature of my lord Jersey's, whom he supports by his advice. Is one of the best poets in England, but very factious in conversation; a thin, hollow looked man, turned of 40 years old. This is near the truth.

A plain, good, heavy man, now much in years, and wearing out; very tall, of a fair complexion, and 70 years old. The most good for nothing prelate I ever knew.

Of a very good family in Scotland, of the name of Burnet, his father was lord [laird] of Cremont. He is one of the greatest [Scotch] orators of the age he lives in. His History of the Reformation and his Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, show him to be a man of great learning; but several of his other works show him to be a man neither of prudence nor temper; his sometimes opposing, and sometimes favouring, the dissenters, has much exposed him to the generality of the people of England; yet he is very useful in the house of peers, and proves a great pillar, both of the civil and ecclesiastical constitution, against the encroachments of a party that would destroy both. He is a large, bold looked man, strong made, and turned of 50 years old. His characters are miserably wrought, in many things mistaken, and all of them detracting, excepting of those who were friends to the presbyterians. His own true character would take up too much time for me (who knew him well) to describe it[6].



A gentleman of admirable natural parts, very learned, one of the best poets [scarce of a third rate] now in England, and perhaps equal to any that ever was.



A man of intrigue, but very muddy in his conceptions, and not quickly understood in any thing. In his complexion and manners, much of a Spaniard; a tall, black man, 50 years old. A profligate rogue, without religion or morals; but cunning enough, yet without abilities of any kind.



He is a young gentleman de bon naturel, handsome, of fine understanding [very bad, and cannot spell], and with application, may prove a man of business. He is of low stature [he is tall], well shaped, with a good face, fair complexioned, not 30 years old.



Is a gentleman of good family in Shropshire. He was designed for the church, and took deacon's [priest's] orders; but having a genius for business, and falling into the acquaintance of my lord Ranelagh, when tutor to my lord Hyde, he was sent into Flanders as paymaster general to the English troops there. He is a gentleman of very clear parts, and affects plainness and simplicity [au contraire] in his dress, and conversation particularly. He is a favourite to both parties [to neither]; and is beloved for his easy access, and affable way by those he has business to do with. He is a thin, tall man [short, if I remember right], taller than the ordinary stature, near 50 years old.

He affects much the gentleman in his dress, and the minister in his conversation; is very lofty, yet courteous, when he knows his people; much envied by his fellow merchants; of asanguine complexion, taller than the ordinary size, about 40 years old. 'He seemed to he a very good natured man.

He has abundance of wit, and understands most of the modern languages well; knows how to tell a story to the best advantage; but has an affected manner of conversation; is thin, splenetick, and tawny complexioned, turned of 60 years old. He had been a papist.



A very giddy headed young fellow, with some wit, about 25 years old. He is not worth mentioning.

He has abundance of wit, but too much seized with vanity and self-conceit; he is affable, familiar, and very brave; towards 50 years old. The vainest old fool alive.

One of the finest gentlemen in the army, with a head fitted for the cabinet, as well as the camp; is very modest, vigilant, and sincere; a man of honour and honesty [in all directly otherwise], without pride or affectation; wears his own hair, is plain in his dress and manners; toward 60 years old. A deceitful, hypocritical, factious knave; a damnable hypocrite, of no religion.

He is a very wellshaped black man; is brave; but, by reason of a hesitation in his speech, wants expression. Married Mrs. Villiers, and got a good estate by her: is turned of 40 years old. An honest good natured gentleman, and has much distinguished himself as a soldier.



At the revolution he had a company in the foot guards, was afterward lieutenant colonel to that regiment: was made colonel to the fusiliers, and gradually advanced to the post he now has, which he well deserves, being of good understanding, and abundance of learning; fit to command, if not too covetous; he is a short, black man, 50 years old. His father was a groom; he was a man of sense, without one grain of honesty.



He has a very good head, indefatigable and designing; is very zealous for the liberties of the people, makes a good figure in the parliament, as well as the fleet; is handsome in his person, turned of 50 years old. A virulent party man, born in Ireland.

Is one of the best sailors in England, and a fine gentleman in every thing else; of a good family and estate in Bedfordshire, understands all the several branches of the navy thoroughly; is a fair complexioned man, and toward 50 years old. Of a good old Kentish family.

On the queen's accession to the throne, he made strong efforts to get into the administration; but has not yet succeeded, though he is well received at court; he is brave in his person, with a rough air of boldness; of good sense, very forward and hot for what he undertakes; ambitious and haughty, a violent enemy; has been very extravagant in his manner of living, but now grows covetous; he is supposed to have some thoughts toward the crown of England, when the queen dies; being descended from the house of Stuart, and having a great interest in that kingdom, by his relations and dependants. He has a great estate, and three brothers earls, Selkirk, Orkney, and Ruglen; a fourth a commander at sea; he is of a middle stature, well made, of a black coarse complexion, a brisk look, toward 50 years old. He was made master of the ordnance, a worthy, good natured person, very generous, but of a middle understanding; he was murdered by that villain Macartney, an Irish Scot.

Few of his years have a better understanding, nor a more manly behaviour. He has seen most of the courts of Europe, is very handsome in his person, fair complexioned; about 25 years old. Ambitious, covetous, cunning Scot; has no principle, but his own interest and greatness. A true Scot in his whole conduct.

Representative of the ancient and noble family of Graham; great grandson to the famous Montrose, who was hanged and quartered for Charles I; and grandson, by the mother, to the duke of Rothes. He inherits all the great qualities of these two families; with a sweetness of behaviour, which charms all those who know him; has improved himself in most foreign courts; is very beautiful in his person, and about 25 years old. Now very homely, and makes a sorry appearance.

A very honest man, a great assertor of the liberties of the people; has a good, rough sense; is open and free; a great lover of his bottle, and his friend; brave in his person, which he has shown in several duels; too familiar for his quality, and often keeps company below it. Is a fat, fair complexioned man; 45 years old. A blundering, rattlepated, drunken sot.

He is very honest [a treacherous knave], yet something too credulous and suspicious; endued with a great deal of learning and virtue; is above little tricks, free from ceremony; and would not tell a lie for the world. [One of the greatest knaves even in Scotland]. Very knowing in the affairs of foreign courts, and the constitution of both kingdoms; a tall, fair man, and toward 50 years old.


A presbyterian minister, who fled from Scotland, after the insurrection for religion, in the reign of Charles II. He is the cunningest, subtle dissembler in the world, with an air of sincerity; a dangerous enemy, because always hid: an instance of which was secretary Johnstoun, to whom he pretended friendship, till the very morning he gave him a blow; though he had been worming him out of the king's favour for many months before; he is a fat, sanguine complexioned fair man, always smiling where he designs most mischief; a good friend, when he is sincere; turned of 50 years old. A true character; but not strong enough by a fiftieth part.

He is a very good manager in his private affairs, which were in disorder when his father died; and is a staunch countryman, fair complexioned, low stature, and 30 years old. He is crooked; he seemed to be a gentleman of good sense and good nature.

A gentleman of a fair estate in Scotland, attended with the improvement of a good education. He has written some excellent tracts, but not published in his name; and has a very fine genius; is a low thin man, brown complexion, full of fire, with a stern, sour look, and 50 years old. A most arrogant, conceited pedant in politicks, cannot endure the least contradiction in any of his visions or paradoxes.

He was against the violent measures of king James's reign; and, for that reason, made no great figure at court while that prince was upon the throne; yet he continued firm to his majesty's interest to the last; was proof against all the offers made him by king William; and after being frequently imprisoned in England, followed king James to France; when he had the chief administration given him. He is one of the politest gentlemen in Europe; has a great deal of wit, mixed with a sound judgment, and a very clear understanding; of an easy, indifferent address, but a careless way of living. He is a black man, of a middle stature, with a sanguine complexion; and one of the pleasantest companions in the world. Toward 60 years old. Sir William Temple told me, he was a very valuable man; and a good scholar. I once saw him.

He has not yet been in the administration; is a fine personage, and very beautiful; has good sense, and is a man of honour. About 30 years old. He was a black man, and handsome for a Scot.

    and whose valuable collections are rendered infinitely more so by that obliging readiness with which he communicates them at all times, when they are likely to promote the success of any literary undertaking.

  1. These characters, drawn up in the name of John Macky, (but written by Mr. Davis, an officer in the customs) were annexed to Memoirs of the Secret Services of John Macky, esq., during the reigns of king William, queen Anne, and king George I; printed in 1739, from a MS., said to be attested by his son, Spring Macky, esq.
  2. Dr. Swift's notes are transcribed from a copy formerly belonging to John Putland, esq., a near relation to the dean, who took them from Swift's own handwriting. This volume afterward came into the possession of Philip Carteret Webb, esq.; and is now the property of Thomas Astle, esq., a gentleman to whom the publick are indebted for some very accurate and curious publications
  3. His father was rector of Thurcaston, in Leicestershire.
  4. Afterward duke of Chandos.
  5. He was some time speaker of the house of commons.
  6. In the valuable library of the marquis of Lansdown, is a copy of Burnet's History, with marginal remarks by Swift.
  7. Afterward lord Aylmer.