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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From Jonathan Swift to Francis Atterbury - 4

APRIL 18, 1716.

I AM extremely obliged to your lordship for the trouble you have given yourself in answering at length a very insignificant letter. I shall entirely follow your lordship's advice, to the best of my skill. Your conjectures from whence my difficulties take their rise are perfectly true. It is all party. But the right is certainly on my side, if there be any thing in constant immemorial custom. Besides, though the first scheme of this cathedral was brought from Sarum, yet, by several subsequent grants, from popes, kings, archbishops, and acts of parliament, the dean has great prerogatives. He visits the chapter as ordinary, and the archbishop only visits by the dean. The dean can suspend and sequester any member, and punishes all crimes except heresy, and one or two more reserved for the archbishop. No lease can be let without him. He holds a court leet in his district, and is exempt from the lord mayor, &c. No chapter can be called but by him, and he dissolves them at pleasure. He disposes absolutely of the petty canons and vicars choral places. All the dignitaries, &c. swear canonical obedience to him. These circumstances put together, I presume, may alter the case in your lordship's judgment. However, I shall, as your lordship directs me, do my utmost to divert this controversy as much as I can. I must add one thing, that no dignitary can preside without a power from the dean, who, in his absence, makes a subdean, and limits him as he pleases. And so much for deaneries, which I hope I shall never trouble your lordship with again.

I send this enclosed, and without superscription, to be sent or delivered to you by a famous friend of mine, and devoted servant of your lordship's.

I congratulate with England for joining with us here in the fellowship of slavery. It is not so terrible a thing as you imagine; we have long lived under it; and whenever you are disposed to know how you ought to behave yourselves in your new condition, you need go no farther than me for a director. But, because we are resolved to go beyond you, we have transmitted a bill to England, to be returned here, giving the government and six of the council power for three years to imprison whom they please for three months, without any trial or examination: and I expect to be among the first of those upon whom this law will be executed. We have also outdone you in the business of Ben Hoadly; and have recommended to a bishoprick one[1] whom you would not allow a curate in the smallest of your parishes. Does your lordship know that, as much as I have been used to lies in England, I am under a thousand uneasinesses about some reports relating to a person[2] that you and I love very well? I have writ to a lady[3] I upon that subject, and am impatient for an answer. I am gathering up a thousand pounds, and intend to finish my life upon the interest of it in Wales.

God Almighty preserve your lordship miseris succurrere rebus, whether you understand or relish Latin or no. But it is a great deal your fault if you suffer us all to be undone; for God never gave such talents without expecting they should be used to preserve a nation. There is a doctor[4] in your neighbourhood to whom I am a very humble servant. I am, with great respect, your lordship's most dutiful, &c.

Some persons go this summer for England; and if Dr. Younger be talked with, I hope you will so order it that it may not be to my disadvantage[5].

  1. Dr. Charles Carr, bishop of Killaloe.
  2. From the following note the person alluded to appears to be lord Bolingbroke.
  3. Lady Bolingbroke; who, in her answer, dated Aug, 4, 1716, says, "To my misfortune, I am still kept in town, soliciting my unfortunate business. I have found great favour from his majesty. But form is a tedious thing to wait upon. Since it is my fate, I must bear it with patience, and perfect it if I can; for there is nothing like following business one's self. I am unwilling to stir without the seals, which I hope to have soon. I hope, one time or other, his majesty will find my lord has been misrepresented; and, by that means, he may be restored to his country once more with honour; or else, however harsh it may sound out of my mouth, I had rather wear black."
  4. Dr. R. Freind; from whom there is a letter to Swift in this collection, vol. XI, p. 436, in which he says, "The bishop [Atterbury] and my brother are much yours, and very desirous of a happy meeting with you. Before this can be with you, you will be able to guess how soon that may happen."
  5. This seems to imply a wish in Swift to exchange his deanery of St. Patrick's for that of Sarum.