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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From Jonathan Swift to Francis Atterbury - 3

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MY LORD,
DUBLIN, MARCH 24, 1715-16.
 


AS much as your lordship's thoughts and time are employed at present, you must give me leave to interrupt them, and, which is worse, for a trifle; though, by the accidents of time and party, of some consequence and great vexation to me. I am here at the head of three and twenty dignitaries and prebendaries, whereof the major part, differing from me in principles, have taken a fancy to oppose me upon all occasions in the chapterhouse; and a ringleader among them has presumed to debate my power of proposing, or my negative, though it is what the deans of this cathedral have possessed for time immemorial, and what has never been once disputed. Our constitution was taken from that of Sarum; and the knowledge of what is practised there in the like case would be of great use to me. I have written this post to Dr. Younger[1], to desire he would inform me in this matter; but, having only a slender acquaintance with him, I would beg your lordship to second my request, that the dean would please to let me know the practice of his cathedral, and his power in this point. I would likewise desire your lordship to let me know how it is at Westminster, and the two other cathedrals with whose customs you may be acquainted.

Pray, my lord, pardon this idle request from one that loves and esteems you, as you know I do. I once thought it would never be my misfortune to entertain you at so scurvy a rate, at least not at so great a distance, or with so much constraint:


"Sis felix, nostrumque leves [I do not like quicunque[2]] laborem:
Et quo sub cœlo tandem, quibus orbis in oris
Jactemur, doceas[3]."


The greatest felicity I now have is, that I am utterly ignorant of the most publick events that happen in the world:


"Multa gemens[4] ignominiam plagasque," &c.


I am with the greatest respect and truth, my lord, your lordship's most dutiful and most humble servant,


  1. D. D. of Magdalen College, Oxford. He obtained the deanery of Salisbury in 1705; died Feb. 27, 1727-8, and was buried under the south isle of St. Paul's cathedral, without any monument.
  2. The quæecunque of Virgil was more favourable to the zealous admirers of the memory of queen Anne.
  3. "But tell a stranger, long in tempests toss'd,
    What earth we tread, or who commands the coast."

    Dryden, Æn. i, 457.

  4. This phrase seems to have been deeply impressed on the dean's mind. He uses it again, in a letter to Mr. Pope, Oct. 30, 1727; "I forgave sir Robert a thousand pounds, multa gemens." The line above is from Virg. Georg. iii, 226.
  5. Bishop Atterbury's answer to this letter, dated April 6, 1716, is printed in vol. XI, p. 438.