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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From Jonathan Swift to Henrietta Howard - 11

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 19


OCTOBER 26, 1731.

YOUR ladyship's last letter made me a little grave, and in going to answer it, I was in danger of leaning on my elbow (I mean my left elbow), to consider what I should write; which posture I never used except when I was under a necessity of writing to fools, or lawyers, or ministers of state; where I am to consider what is to be said. But as I write to a person whom I esteem, I am in no pain at all. — It would be an injury to you or Mr. Pope, to give thanks to either of you for justifying me about those letters sent to the queen, because to think me guilty would disgrace your understandings; and as he is my best friend, so your ladyship owes me no malice, except that of raillery; and good raillery is always sincere. And if her majesty were deceived, it would lessen my opinion of her judgment; which would no otherwise affect me, than by making me sorry upon her own account. But what your ladyship would have me discover, through all your refined civilities, is my great imprudence in ordering that monument to be fixed in my cathedral. I shall not trouble you with a long story but if ever a numerous venerable body of dignified clergymen had reason to complain of the highest repeated indignity, in return of the greatest honour offered by them, to persons they were wholly strangers to, then my chapter is not to be blamed, nor I, who proposed the matter to them: which however I could have done by my own authority, but rather chose it should be the work of us all. And I will confess it was upon their advice that I omitted the only two passages which had much bitterness in them; and which a bishop here, one after your own heart, blamed me very much for leaving out; declaring that the treatment given us by the Schomberg family, deserved a great deal worse. Indeed, madam, I shall not attempt to convince England of any thing that relates to this kingdom. The drapier, whom you mention, could not do it in relation to the halfpence. Neither can the parliament here convince you that we ought not to be just now in so miserable condition in every article of distress. Why should the Schomberg family be so uneasy at a thing they were so long warned of, and were told they might prevent for fifty pounds? But here I wish your ladyship would put the queen in mind of what passed between her majesty and me, upon the subject of Ireland, when she was princess of Wales, and appeared so much to pity this distressed kingdom, and gave me leave to write to her if ever I should live to see her queen; that she would answer my letter, and promised, that in such a case she would use all her credit to relieve it. Whereupon I desired Dr. Arbuthnot, who was present, to be witness of what she said; and her majesty confirmed it. I will not ask what the event has been. —— If any state scribble writ here should happen to reach London, I entreat your ladyship would continue to do me the justice of believing my innocence, because I lately assured the duke of Dorset that I would never have a hand in any such thing. But I gave him my reason before his secretary; that looking upon this kingdom's condition as absolutely desperate, I would not prescribe a dose to the dead. Some parts of your letter I do not understand. Mrs. Barber was recommended to me by Dr. Delany, who is now in London, and whom I once presented to you at Marble hill. She seems to be a woman of piety and genius; and though I never visited her in my life, yet was I disposed to do her good offices. on the doctor's account, and her own good character. By lady M—— I cannot guess whom you mean. Mrs. Haywood I have heard of as a stupid, infamous, scribbling woman, but have not seen any of her productions. And now, madam, I utterly acquit your ladyship of all things that may concern me, except your good opinion, and that very little share I can pretend to in your memory. I never knew a lady who had so many qualities to beget esteem; but how you act as a friend, is out of my way to judge. As to the queen, whom I never offended, since it would be presumption in me to imagine I ever came voluntarily into her thoughts, so it must be a mortification to think, when I happen to be named in her presence it is usually to my disadvantage. I remember to have once told her majesty, how hard a thing it was, that when a prince, or great minister, had once received an ill impression of any person, although from the most false information, although the prince were demonstrably convinced of the person's innocence, yet the impression still continued; and her majesty condemned the severity of such a proceeding. I had said the same thing before to sir R. Walpole; who, upon reporting it to others, was pleased to give it a turn that I did not deserve. I remember the plaid, but I forgot the crown, and the meaning of it. If you had thought fit to have sent me as much of the plaid, as would have made me a morning cap, before it fell to the share of the lowest of your women, I should have been proud that my head should have worn your livery. But if you are weary of your character, it must lie upon my hands, for I know no other whom it will fit. And if your ladyship will not allow it to be a character, I am sure it may pass for a prediction. If you should put the same fancy into the queen's head, I miust send her a much larger character, and in royal paper, otherwise she will not be able to wrap the bundle in it. I fear so long a letter is beyond your mercy to forgive; but your ladyship is sure to be easy till Mr. Pope shall tell me that you are content to receive another. I should be heartily sorry if your increase in honour and employment has not been accompanied with increase of health. Let Mr. Pope, in all his letters, give me a particular account on this head, and pray God I may never have the least motive to pity you. For as a courtier, I forgive your ame endurcie; which I once charged on my lord Chesterfield, and he did not dislike it. And you have not a favourite or flatterer, who makes more outward offers of wishes for your ease and happiness than I do prayers from the bottom of my heart, which proceed entirely from that respect, and esteem, wherewith I am, madam, your ladyship's most obedient humble servant,