The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 5/A New Journey to Paris











"I had rather be thought a good Englishman, than the best Poet, or the greatest Scholar, that ever wrote."

Prior, Preface to "Solomon."

"I have just thought of a project to bite the town. I have told you, that it is now known that Mr. Prior has been lately in France. I will make a printer of my own sit by me one day; and I will dictate to him a formal relation of Prior's journey, with several particulars, all pure invention; and I doubt not but it will take." Journal to Stella, Aug. 31, 1711.

"This morning the printer sent me an account of Prior's journey; it makes a twopenny pamphlet: I suppose you will see it, for I dare say it will run. It is a formal grave lie, from the beginning to the end. I wrote all but the last page; that I dictated, and the printer wrote. Mr. Secretary sent to me, to dine where he did: it was at Prior's. When I came in, Prior showed me the pamphlet, seemed to be angry, and said, "Here is our English Liberty!' I read some of it; said, 'I liked it mightily, and envied the rogue the thought; for, had it come into my head, I should have certainly done it myself." Ibid. Sept. 11.

"The printer told me he sold yesterday a thousand of Prior's Journey, and had printed five hundred more. It will do rarely, I believe, and is a pure bite." Ibid. Sept. 12.

"Prior's Journey sells still; they have sold two thousand, although the town is empty." Ibid. Sept. 24.

"There came out some time ago an account of Mr. Prior's journey to France, pretended to be a translation; it is a pure invention from the beginning to the end. I will let your Grace into the secret of it. The clamours of a party against any peace without Spain, and railing at the Ministry as if they designed to ruin us, occasioned that production, out of indignity and contempt, by way of furnishing fools with something to talk of; and it has had a very great effect." Letter to Abp. King, Oct. 1, 1711.





THE original of the following discourse was transmitted to me three days ago from the Hague, to which town it was sent from France; but in the titlepage there was no mention of the place where it was printed, only the author's name at length, and the year of our Lord. That the tract is genuine, I believe no person will doubt. You see all along the vanity of that nation, in a mean man giving himself the airs of a secretary, when it appears, by several circumstances, that he was received only as a menial servant. It were to be wished, the author had been one of more importance, and farther trusted in the secrets of his master's negotiation; but, to make amends, he informs us of several particulars, which one of more consequence would not have given himself the trouble about: and the particulars are such, as we at home will perhaps be curious to know; not to mention that he gives us much light into some things that are of great moment; and by his not pretending to know more, we cannot doubt the truth of what he relates.

It is plain, he waited at table, carried his master's valise, and attended in his bedchamber; though he takes care to tell us, that monsieur Prior made many excuses and apologies, because these mean offices appear very inconsistent with the character of secretary, which he would seem to set up for.

I shall make no reflections on this important affair, nor upon the consequences we may expect from it. To reason upon secrets of state, without knowing all the springs and motions of them, is too common a talent among us, and the foundation of a thousand errours. Here is room enough for speculations; but I advise the reader to let them serve for his own entertainment, without troubling the world with his remarks.






I DOUBT not but you are curious, as many others are, to know the secret of monsieur Prior an English gentleman's late journey from London to Paris. Perhaps living retired as you do, you may not have heard of this person, though some years ago he was very much distinguished at Paris, and in good esteem even with our august monarch. I must let you so far into his character, as to tell you, that monsieur Prior has signalized himself, both as an eminent poet, and man of business; was very much valued by the late king William, who employed him in important affairs, both in England and Holland. He was secretary to the English embassy, at the treaty of Ryswick; and afterward,, to my lords the counts of Portland and Jersey; and in the absence of the latter, managed for some time the affairs of England at our court by himself. Since the reign of queen Anne, he was employed as commissioner of trade; but the ministry changing soon after queen Anne's coming to the crown, monsieur Prior, who was thought too much attached to the rigides[2], was laid aside; and lived privately at Cambridge[3], where he is a professor, till he was recalled by the present ministry.

About two months ago, our king[4], resolving once more to give peace to Europe, notwithstanding the flourishing condition of his fleets and armies, the good posture of his finances, that his grandson was almost entirely settled in the quiet possession of Spain, and that the affairs of the north were changing every day to his advantage; offered the court of England to send a minister as far as Boulogne, who should be there met by some person from England, to treat the overtures of a peace. Upon the first notice that this was agreed to, the king immediately dispatched monsieur de Torcy, in whom he very much confides, to Boulogne, where he took lodging at a private house in the Fauxbourg, at one Mr. de Marais, a marchand de soy, who is married to an English woman, that formerly had been a suivante to one[5] of the forementioned English ambassadors ladies, over against the hostellerie de St. Jean. Monsieur stayed six days with much impatience; when, late at evening, on Wednesday the 14th of July (new style), a person, whom we afterward knew to be monsieur Prior, came directly to the door, and inquired for monsieur de la Bastide, the name and place, I suppose, having been before concerted. He was immediately shown unto monsieur Torcy; where, as I am informed, they were shut up for three hours together, without any refreshment, though monsieur Prior had rid post from Calais that day in a great deal of rain. The next morning I was sent for, in all haste, by monsieur de Marais, who told me, "that a person of quality, as he suspected, lately come from England, had some occasion for a secretary; and, because he knew I understood the languages, wrote a tolerable hand, had been conversant with persons of quality, and formerly trusted with secrets of importance, had been so kind to recommend me to the said gentleman, to serve him in that quality." I was immediately called up, and presented to Mr. Prior; who accosted me with great civility, and, after some conversation, was pleased to tell me, "I had fully answered the character monsieur de Marais had given me." From this time, to the day monsieur Prior left Calais in order to return to England, I may pretend to give you a faithful account of all his motions, and some probable conjectures of his whole negotiation between Boulogne and Versailles.

But perhaps, sir, you may be farther curious to know the particulars of monsieur Prior's journey to Boulogne. It is reported, that some time before the peace of Ryswick, king William did dispatch this very gentleman to Paris, upon the same account for which he now came. This possibly might be the motive (beside the known abilities of monsieur Prior) to send him a second time. The following particulars I heard in discourse between mademoiselle de Marais and her husband; which, being no great secrets on our side the water, I suppose were told without consequence.

Monsieur Prior, having his instructions from the English court, under pretence of taking a short journey of pleasure, and visiting the chevalier de H———[6] in the province of Suffolk, left his house on Sunday night, the 11th of July, N. S. taking none of his servants with him. Monsieur M——— who had already prepared a bark, with all necessaries, on the coast of Dover, took monsieur Prior disguised in his chariot. They lay on Monday night, the 12th of July, at the count de Jersey's house in Kent; arrived in good time the next day at Dover, drove directly to the shore, made the sign by waving their hats, which was answered by the vessel; and the boat was immediately sent to take him in: which he entered, wrapt in his cloak, and soon got aboard. He was six hours at sea, and arrived at Calais about eleven at night; went immediately to the governor, who received him with great respect, where he lay all night; and set out pretty late the next morning, being somewhat incommoded with his voyage; and then took post for Boulogne, as I have before related.

In the first conversation I had the honour to have with monsieur Prior, he was pleased to talk as if he would have occasion for my service but a very few days; and seemed resolved, by his discourse, that, after he had dispatched his commission with monsieur de la Bastide (for so we shall from henceforward call that minister) he would return to England. By this I found I should have but little employment in quality of secretary; however, having heard so great a character of him, I was willing to attend him in any capacity he pleased. Four days we continued at Boulogne, where monsieur de la Bastide and monsieur Prior had two long conferences every day from ten to one at noon, and from six till nine in the evening. Monsieur Prior did me the honour to send me some meat and wine constantly from his own table. Upon the third morning, I was ordered to attend early; and observed monsieur Prior to have a pleasant countenance. He asked me, "What I thought of a journey to England?" and commanded me to be ready at an hour's warning. But, upon the fourth evening, all this was changed; and I was directed to hire the best horse I could find for myself.

We set out early the next day, Sunday the 18th, for Paris, in monsieur de ia Bastide's chaise, whose two attendants and myself made up the equipage; but a small valise, which I suppose contained monsieur Prior's instructions, he was pleased to trust to my care, to carry on horseback; which trust I discharged with the utmost faithfulness.

Somewhat above two leagues from Boulogne, at a small village called Neile, the axletree broke, which took us two hours to mend; we baited at Montreuil, and lay that night at Abbeville. But I shall not give you any detail of our journey, which passed without any considerable accident till we arrived within four leagues of Paris; when, about three in the afternoon, two cavaliers, well mounted, and armed with pistols, crossed the road, then turned short, and rode up briskly to the chaise, commanding the coachman to stop. Monsieur de la Bastide's two attendants were immediately up with them; but I, who guessed at the importance of the charge that monsieur Prior had entrusted me with, though I was in no fear for my own person, thought it most prudent to advance with what speed I could to a small village, about a quarter of a league forward, to wait the event. I soon observed the chaise to come on without any disturbance, and I ventured to meet it; when I found that it was only a frolick of two young cadets of quality, who had been making a debauch at a friend's house hard by, and were returning to Paris: one of them was not unknown to monsieur de la Bastide. The two cavaliers began to railly me; said, "I knew how to make a retreat;" with some other pleasantries: but monsieur Prior (who knew the cause) highly commended my discretion. We continued our journey very merrily; and arrived at Paris on Tuesday the 20th, in the cool of the evening.

At the entrance of the town, our two cavaliers left us; and monsieur de la Bastide conducted monsieur Prior to a private lodging in the Ruë St. Louis, which, by all circumstances, I concluded to be prepared for his reception. Here I first had orders to say that the gentleman to whom I had the honour to belong was called monsieur Matthews; I then knew no otherwise. Afterward, at Versailles, I overheard, in conversation with monsieur de la Bastide, that his real name was Prior.

Monsieur de la Bastide would have had monsieur Matthews to have gone with him next morning to Versailles, but could not prevail with him to comply; of which I could never be able to learn the reason. Our minister was very importunate; and monsieur Prior seemed to have no fatigue remaining from his journey: perhaps he might conceive it more suitable to his dignity, that monsieur de la Bastide should go before, to prepare the king, by giving notice of his arrival. However it were, monsieur de la Bastide made all haste to Versailles, and returned the same night. During his absence, monsieur Prior never stirred out of his chamber; and after dinner, did me the honour to send for me up, "that I might bear him company," as he was pleased to express it. I was surprised to hear him wondering at the misery he had observed in our country, in his journey from Calais; at the scarcity and poverty of the inhabitants, "which," he said, "did much exceed even what he had seen in his former journey;" for he owned that he had been in France before. He seemed to value himself very much upon the happiness of his own island, which, as he pretended, had felt no effects like these upon trade or agriculture.

I made bold to return for answer, "That in our nation, we only consulted the magnificence and power of our prince; but that in England, as I was informed, the wealth of the kingdom was so divided among the people, that little or nothing was left to their sovereign; and that it was confidently told (though hardly believed in France) that some subjects had palaces more magnificent than queen Anne herself: that I hoped, when he went to Versailles, he would allow the grandeur of our potent monarch to exceed, not only that of England, but any other in Europe; by which he would find, that what he called the poverty of our nation, was rather the effect of policy in our courts than any real want or necessity."

Monsieur Prior had no better answer to make me, than, "That he was no stranger to our court, the splendour of our prince, and the maxims by which he governed; but, for his part, he thought those countries were happier, where the productions of it were more equally divided." Such unaccountable notions is the prejudice of education apt to give! In these and the like discourses, we wore away the time till monsieur de la Bastide's return; who, after an hour's private conference with monsieur Prior, which I found by their countenances had been warmly pursued on both sides, a chariot and six horses (to my great surprise) were instantly ordered, wherein the two ministers entered, and drove away with all expedition; myself only attending on horseback with my important valise.

We got to Versailles on Wednesday the 21st, about eleven at night; but, instead of entering the town, the coachman drove us a back way into the fields, till we stopped at a certain vineyard, that I afterward understood joined to the gardens of madame Maintenon's lodgings. Here the two gentlemen alighted: monsieur Prior, calling to me, bad me search in the valise for a small box of writings; after which, the coachman was ordered to attend in that place; and we proceeded on some paces, till we stopped at a little postern, which opened into the vineyard, whereof monsieur de la Bastide had the key. He opened it very readily, and shut it after them; desiring me to stay till their return.

I waited with some impatience for three hours: the great clock struck two before they came out. The coachman, who, I suppose, had his instructions before, as soon as they were got into the chariot, drove away to a small house at the end of the town, where monsieur de la Bastide left us to ourselves. I observed monsieur Prior was very thoughtful; and without entering into any conversation, desired my assistance to put him to bed. Next morning, Thursday the 22d, I had positive orders not to stir abroad. About ten o'clock, monsieur de la Bastide came. The house being small, my apartment was divided from monsieur Prior's by a thin wainscot; so that I could easily hear what they said, when they raised their voice, as they often did. After some time, I could hear monsieur de la Bastide say, with great warmth, Bon Dieu! &c. "Good God! were ever such demands made to a great monarch, unless you were at the gates of his metropolis? For the love of God, monsieur Prior relax something, if your instructions will permit you; else I shall despair of any good success in our negotiation. Is it not enough that our king will abandon his grandson, but he must lend his own arm to pull him out of the throne? Why did you not open yourself to me at Boulogne? why are you more inexorable here at Versailles? You have risen in your demands, by seeing madame Maintenon's desire for a peace! As able as you are to continue the war, consider which is to be most preferred, the good of your country, or the particular advantage of your general; for he will be the only gainer among your subjects." Monsieur Prior, who has a low voice, and had not that occasion for passion, answered so softly, that I could not well understand him; but, upon parting, I heard him say, "If you insist still on these difficulties, my next audience will be that of leave."

Three hours after, monsieur de la Bastide returned again, with a countenance more composed. He asked Mr. Prior, if he would give him leave to dine with him? Having no attendants, I readily offered my service at table[7]; which monsieur Prior was pleased to accept, with abundance of apologies. I found they were come to a better understanding. Mr. Prior has a great deal of wit and vivacity; he entertained monsieur de la Bastide with much pleasantry, notwithstanding their being upon the reserve before me. "That monsieur," says Mr. Matthews, "if he were un particulier[8], would be the "most agreeable person in the world." I imagined they spoke of the king; but, going often in and out, I could not preserve the connection of their discourse. "Did you mind how obligingly he inquired, whether our famous chevalier Newton was still living? he told me, my good friend poor Despreaux was dead since I was in France; and asked me after queen Anne's health." These are some of the particulars I overheard while at dinner; which confirmed my opinion, that monsieur Prior last night had an audience of his majesty. About ten that evening, monsieur de la Bastide came to take monsieur Matthews, to go to the same place where they were at before. I was permitted to enter the vineyard, but not the gardens, being left at the gate to wait their return; which was in about two hours time. The moon shone bright; and by monsieur Matthews's manner, I thought he appeared somewhat dissatisfied. When he came into his chamber, he threw off his hat in some passion, folded his arms, and walked up and down the room for above an hour, extremely pensive: at length he called to be put to bed; and ordered me to set a candle by his bed side, and to fetch him some papers out of his valise to read.

On Friday the 23d, in the morning, monsieur Matthews was so obliging to call me to him; with the assurance, that he was extremely pleased with my discretion and manner of address; as a proof of which satisfaction, he would give me leave to satify my curiosity with seeing so fine a place as Versailles; telling me, "he should return next day toward Boulogne; and therefore advised me to go immediately to view the palace; with this caution (though he did not suppose I needed it) not to say any thing of the occasion that brought me to Versailles."

Monsieur de la Bastide having staid the afternoon with monsieur Matthews, about eight o'clock they went to the rendezvous. My curiosity had led me in the morning to take a stricter view of the vineyard and gardens. I remained at the gate as before. In an hour and a half's time, monsieur Matthews, with monsieur de la Bastide, another gentleman, and a lady, came into the walk. De la Bastide opened the gate, and held it some time in his hand. While monsieur Matthews was taking his leave of those persons, I heard the lady say, at parting, monsieur, songez vous, &c. "Consider this night on what we have said to you." The gentleman seconded her; saying, Ouy, ouy, monsieur, songez vous en pour la derniere fois. "Ay, ay, sir, consider of it for the last time." To which monsieur Matthews answered briskly, in going out, Sire, tout ou rien, &c. "Sir, all or none, as I have had the honour to tell your majesty before." Which puts it beyond dispute what the quality of those persons were, by whom monsieur Matthews had the honour to be entertained.

On Saturday the 24th, monsieur Matthews kept close as before; telling me "a post chaise was ordered, to carry him to Calais; and he would do me the grace[9] to take me with him, to keep him company in the journey, for he should leave monsieur de la Bastide at Versailles." While we were discoursing, that gentleman came in, with an open air, and a smiling countenance. He embraced monsieur Matthews; and seemed to feel so much joy, that he could not easily conceal it. I left the chamber, and retired to my own; whence I could hear him say, "Courage, monsieur: no travelling to day. Madame Maintenon will have me once more conduct you to her." After which I was called, and received orders about dinner, &c. Monsieur de la Bastide told me, "We should set out about midnight." He staid the rest of the day with monsieur Matthews. About ten o'clock they went forth, but dispensed with my attendance; it was one in the morning before they returned, though the chaise was at the gate soon after eleven. Monsieur Matthews took a morsel of bread, and a large glass of Hermitage wine; after which they embraced with much kindness, and so parted.

Our journey to Calais passed without any accident worth informing you. Mr. Prior, who is of a constitution somewhat tender, was troubled with a rheum, which made speaking uneasy to him: but it was not so at all to me; and therefore I entertained him, as well as I could, chiefly with the praises of our great monarch, the magnificence of his court, the number of his attendants, the awe and veneration paid him by his generals and ministers, and the immense riches of the kingdom. One afternoon, in a small village between Chaumont and Beauvais, as I was discoursing on this subject, several poor people followed the chaise, to beg our charity: one louder than the rest, a comely person, about fifty, all in rags, but with a mien that showed him to be of a good house, cried out, monsieur, pour l'amour de Dieu, &c. "Sir, for the love of God, give something to the marquis de Sourdis!" Mr. Prior, half asleep, rouzed himself up at the name of marquis, called the poor gentleman to him, and, observing something in his behaviour like a man of quality, very generously threw him a pistole. As the coach went on, monsieur Prior asked me, with much surprise, "Whether I thought it possible that unhappy creature could be un veritable marquis[10]; for, if it were so, surely the miseries of our country must be much greater than even our very enemies could hope or believe?" I made bold to tell him, "That I thought we could not well judge from particulars to generals; and that I was sure there were great numbers of marquises in France, who had ten thousand livres a year." I tell you this passage, to let you see, that the wisest men have some prejudices of their country about them! We got to Calais on Wednesday the 28th in the evening; and the next morning (the 29th) I took my leave of monsieur Prior; who, thanking me in the civillest manner in the world for the service I had done him, very nobly made me a present of fifty pistoles; and so we parted. He put to sea with a fair wind, and I suppose, in a few hours landed in England.

This, sir, is the utmost I am able to inform you about monsieur Prior's journey and negotiation. Time alone will let us know the events of it, which are yet in the dark.

I am,


You most obedient and

most humble servant,




The author of this tract, having left his master on shipboard at Calais, had, it seems, no farther intelligence when he published it: neither am I able to supply it, but by what passes in common report; which, being in every body's mouth, but with no certainty, I think it needless to repeat.

  1. A sea port town in the Boulonnois.
  2. Tories.
  3. A mistake of the author; for monsieur Prior did not retire to Cambridge, nor is a professor, but a fellow. Swift.
  4. Lewis XIV. The author, it should be remembered, is writing in the character of a Frenchman.
  5. Probably the countess of Jersey, who was a roman catholick.
  6. Sir Thomas Hanmer.
  7. By this and some other preceding particulars, we may discover what sort of secretary the author was.
  8. A private man.
  9. An affected Gallicism, to favour the idea of the whole being a translation. The like artifice may be observed in some other passages.
  10. A real marquis.