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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From Jonathan Swift to Rebecca Dingley - 1


IF you are disposed to be easy and cheerful, I will send something for dinner to your lodgings, and eat it with you and Mrs. Ridgeway[2]; with a bottle of wine and bread. Speak freely, and send me word. But Mrs. Ridgeway shall take all the care upon her. If you do not like this proposal, send word, I would dine a little after two.

  1. The dean used constantly to visit Mrs. Dingley; but in such a manner, as to prevent her being at any expense in providing entertainments.
  2. Mrs. Dingley's lodgings were at the house of a daughter of his old housekeeper, Mrs. Brent, wife to an idle spendthrift, one Ridgeway, a cabinetmaker; for the relief of whose necessities she was once about selling an annuity of 20l. a year, that had been bequeathed to her for life by her late mistress lady Newtown. The dean, upon hearing of such a design, commiserated her case, and paid down the sum agreed for as the purchase, retaining it in his power; then paid the annuity to her every year, as if it had been received from lady Newtown's executors; and afterward bequeathed it to her, which she enjoyed till her death, which happened Oct. 16, 1774. For her better encouragement to take more than ordinary care of him in that illness which he always dreaded and foresaw as plainly as he would a coming shower, he left her 100l. more. But to bind her more strongly to her duty still, after he had settled all his affairs by a last will, he signed a bond and warrant for a farther sum of 300l.; observing, at the same time, "It may be, the jade will hereafter demand interest upon this bond, though only intended as an additional legacy." Upon which she declared, she never would do so, and wondered that the dean could suspect her of it. However, his conjecture proved true in the end: for she afterward intermarried with an avaricious man, one Henry Land (whom the dean had formerly appointed sexton of his cathedral, in which office he had acquired some wealth;) who persuaded her in 1748 to join him in demanding 144l. for eight years interest due on the said bond, which was paid along with the principal by the executors: but she generously remitted a small part, by way of benefaction to the dean's hospital.