The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 3/The Examiner, Number 28



Inultus ut tu riseris Cotyttia?

Shall you Cotytto's feasts deride,
Yet safely triumph in your pride?

[In answer to the Letter to the Examiner.]


London, Feb. 15, 1710-11.

ALTHOUGH I have wanted leisure to acknowledge the honour of a letter you were pleased to write to me about six months ago; yet I have been very careful in obeying some of your commands, and am going on as fast as I can with the rest. I wish you had thought fit to have conveyed them to me by a more private hand than that of the printing house: for, although I was pleased with a pattern of style and spirit which I proposed to imitate, yet I was sorry the world should be a witness how far I fell short in both.

I am afraid you did not consider what an abundance of work you have cut out for me; neither am I at all comforted by the promise you are so kind to make, that when I have performed my task, D———n shall blush in his grave among the dead, Walpole among the living, and even Volpone shall feel some remorse. How the gentleman in his grave may have kept his countenance, I cannot inform you, having no acquaintance at all with the sexton; but for the other two, I take leave to assure you, there have not yet appeared the least signs of blushing or remorse in either, although some very good opportunities have offered, if they had thought fit to accept them; so that, with your permission, I would rather engage to continue this work until they be in their graves too: which I am sure will happen much sooner than the other.

You desire I would collect some of those indignities offered last year to her majesty. I am ready to oblige you; and have got a pretty tolerable collection by me, which I am in doubt whether to publish by itself in a large volume in folio, or scatter them here and there occasionally in my papers: although indeed I am sometimes thinking to stifle them altogether; because such a history will be apt to give foreigners a monstrous opinion of our country. But since it is your absolute opinion, that the world should be informed; I will, with the first occasion, pick out a few choice instances, and let them take their chance in the ensuing papers. I have likewise in my cabinet certain quires of paper, filled with facts of corruption, mismanagement, cowardice, treachery, avarice, ambition, and the like; with an alphabetical table, to save trouble. And perhaps you will not wonder at the care I take to be so well provided, when you consider the vast expense I am at. I feed weekly two or three wit-starved writers, who have no visible support; beside several other others, who live upon my offals. In short, I am like a nurse who suckles twins at one time; and has besides one or two whelps constantly to draw her breasts.

I must needs confess (and it is with grief I speak it) that I have been the innocent cause of a great circulation of dulness: at the same time, I have often wondered how it has come to pass, that these industrious people, after poring so constantly upon the Examiner, a paper writ with plain sense and in a tolerable style, have made so little improvement. I am sure it would have fallen out quite otherwise with me: for, by what I have seen of their performances (and I am credibly informed they are all of a piece) if I had perused them until now, I should have been fit for little, but to make an advocate in the same cause.

You, sir, perhaps will wonder, as most others do, what end these angry folks propose in writing perpetually against the Examiner: it is not to beget a better opinion of the late ministry, or with any hope to convince the world, that I am in the wrong in any one fact I relate; they know all that to be lost labour, and yet their design is important enough: they would fain provoke me, by all sorts of methods within the length of their capacity, to answer their papers; which would render mine wholly useless to the publick: for, if it once came to rejoinder and reply, we should be all upon a level; and then their work would be done.

There is one gentleman[1] indeed, who has written three small pamphlets upon the management of the war, and the treaty of peace. These I had intended to have bestowed a paper in examining; and could easily have made it appear, that whatever he says of truth, relates not at all to the evils we complain of, or controls one syllable of what I have ever advanced. Nobody, that I know of, did ever dispute the duke of Marlborough's courage, conduct, or success; they have been always unquestionable, and will continue to be so, in spite of the malice of his enemies, or, which is yet more, the weakness of his advocates. The nation only wishes to see him taken out of ill hands, and put into better. But what is all this to the conduct of the late ministry, the shameful mismanagements in Spain, or the wrong steps in the treaty of peace; the secret of which will not bear the light, and is consequently by this author very poorly defended? These, and many other things, I would have shown; but, upon second thoughts, determined to have it done in a discourse by itself, rather than take up room here, and break into the design of this paper, whence I have resolved to banish controversy as much as possible. But the postscript to his third pamphlet was enough to disgust me from having any dealings at all with such a writer; unless that part was left to some footman he has picked up among the boys who follow the camp, whose character it would suit much better than that of the supposed author: at least, the foul language, the idle, impotent menaces, and the gross perverting of an innocent expression in the fourth Examiner, joined to that respect I shall ever have for the function of a divine, would incline me to believe so. But, when he turns off his footman, and disclaims that postscript, I will tear it out, and see how far the rest deserves to be considered.

But, sir, I labour under a much greater difficulty, upon which I should be glad to hear your advice. I am worried on one side by the whigs, for being too severe; and by the tories on the other, for being too gentle. I have formerly hinted a complaint of this; but, having lately received two peculiar letters, among many others, I thought nothing could better represent my condition, or the opinion which the warm men of both sides have of my conduct, than to send you a transcript of each. The former is exactly in these words:

"To the Examiner.

"Mr. Examiner,

"By your continual reflecting upon the conduct of the late ministry, and by your encomiums on the present, it is as clear as the sun at noon day, that you are a jesuit, or nonjuror, employed by the friends of the pretender, to endeavour to introduce popery and slavery and arbitrary power, and to infringe the sacred act for toleration of dissenters. Now, sir, since the most ingenious authors, who write weekly against you, are not able to teach you better manners, I would have you to know, that those great and excellent men, as low as you think them at present, do not want friends that will take the first proper occasion to cut your throat, as all such enemies to moderation ought to be served. It is well you have cleared another person from being author of your cursed libels; although, dn me, perhaps after all, that may be a bamboozle too. However, I hope we shall soon ferret you out. Therefore I advise you as a friend to let fall your pen, and retire betimes; for our patience is now at an end. It is enough to lose our power and employments, without setting the whole nation against us. Consider, three years is the life of a party; dn me, every dog has his day, and it will be our turn next: therefore take warning, and learn to sleep in a whole skin; or, whenever we are uppermost, by Gd you shall find no mercy."

The other letter was in the following terms:

"To the Examiner.


"I am a country member, and constantly send a dozen of your papers down to my electors. I have read them all, but, I confess, not with the satisfaction I expected. It is plain you know a great deal more than you write; why will you not let us have it all out? We are told that the queen has been a long time treated with insolence, by those she has most obliged. Pray, sir, let us have a few good stories upon that head. We have been cheated of several millions; why will you not set a mark on the knaves who are guilty, and show us what ways they took to rob the publick at such a rate? Inform us how we came to be disappointed of peace about two years ago. In short, turn the whole mystery of iniquity inside out, that every body may have a view of it. But above all explain to us, what was the bottom of that same impeachment; I am sure I never liked it; for at that very time a dissenting preacher in our neighbourhood came often to see our parson; it could be for no good, for he would walk about the barns and the stables, and desired to look into the church, as who should say, These will shortly be mine: and we all believed, he was then contriving some alterations, against he got into possession. And I shall never forget that a whig justice offered me then very high for my bishop's lease. I must be so bold to tell you, sir, that you are too favourable: I am sure there was no living in quiet for us, while they were in the saddle. I was turned out of the commission, and called a jacobite, although it cost me a thousand pounds in joining with the prince of Orange at the Revolution. The discoveries I would have you make, are of some facts, for which they ought to be hanged; not that I value their heads, but I would see them exposed, which may be done upon the owner's shoulders as well as upon a pole." &c.

These, sir, are the sentiments of a whole party on one side, and of considerable numbers on the other: however, taking the medium between these extremes, I think to go on as I have hitherto done, although I am sensible my paper would be more popular, if I did not lean too much on the favourable side. For nothing delights the people more, than to see their oppressors humbled, and all their actions painted with proper colours, set out in open view; exactos tyrannos densum humeris bibit aure vulgus.

But as for the whigs, I am in some doubt, whether this mighty concern they show for the honour of the late ministry, may not be affected; at least whether their masters will thank them for their zeal in such a cause. It is, I think, a known story of a gentleman, who fought another for calling him a son of a whore; that the lady desired her son to make no more quarrels upon that subject, because it was true. For pray, sir, does it not look like a jest, that such a pernicious crew, after draining our wealth, and discovering the most destructive designs against our church and state, instead of thanking fortune that they are got off safe in their persons and plunder, should hire these bullies of the pen, to defend their reputations? I remember, I thought it the hardest case in the world, when a poor acquaintance of mine, having fallen in among sharpers, where he lost all his money, and then complaining he was cheated, got a good beating into the bargain, for offering to affront gentlemen, I believe the only reason, why these purloiners of the publick, cause such a clutter to be made about their reputations, is, to prevent inquisitions that might tend toward making them refund: like those women they call shoplifters, who, when they are challenged for their thefts, appear to be mighty angry and affronted, for fear of being searched.

I will dismiss you, sir, when I have taken notice of one particular. Perhaps you may have observed in the tolerated factious papers of the week, that the earl of Rochester is frequently reflected on, for having been ecclesiastical commissioner, and lord treasurer, in the reign of the late king James. The fact is true; and it will not be denied, to his immortal honour, that, because he could not comply with the measures then taking, he resigned both those employments; of which the latter was immediately supplied by a commission, composed of two popish lords, and the present earl of Godolphin.