Some Unpublished Letters of Dean Swift
JOHN FORSTER, who lived to complete but one of the three volumes in which he had planned to write the Life of Jonathan Swift, speaks in the preface of his hero’s correspondence “ with his friend Knightley Chetwode, of Woodbrooke, during the seventeen years (1714-1731) which followed his appointment to the deanery of St. Patrick’s. Of these letters,” Forster goes on to say, “the richest addition to the correspondence of this most masterly of English letter-writers since it was first collected, more does not need to be said here ; but of the late representative of the Chetwode family I crave permission to add a word. His rare talents and taste suffered from his delicate health and fastidious temperament, but in my life I have seen few things more delightful than his pride in the connection of his race and name with the companionship of Swift. Such was the jealous care with which he preserved the letters, treasuring them as an heirloom of honour, that he would never allow them to be moved from his family seat; and when, with his own hand, he had made careful transcript of them for me, I had to visit him at Woodbrooke to collate his copy with the originals. There I walked with him through avenues of trees which Swift was said to have planted.”
As Forster did not bring down the Life later than 1711, — three years and more before the first of these letters was written, — he made scarcely any use of the correspondence. He refers to it twice, and twice only. On his death, the copy of the originals, with the corrections he had made, was returned to Woodbrooke. It has lately come into my possession, What wonder would have seized on Swift’s mind had it been foretold to him that these letters of his, after lying hidden nearly two hundred years, were first to see the light of day in an American magazine! America, to borrow the words of Edmund Burke, " served for little more than to amuse him with stories of savage men and uncouth manners.” For him “ the angel did not draw up the curtain, and unfold the rising glories of the country.” He rarely mentions the settlements in his writings; and when he does, it is for the most part with ignorance and contempt. He regrets that England’s long and ruinous war with France had kept “ Queen Anne’s care of religion from reaching her American plantations. These noble countries,” he continues, “stocked by numbers from hence, whereof too many are in no very great reputation for faith or morals, will be a perpetual reproach to us, until some better care be taken for cultivating Christianity among them.” In his Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents or Themselves, he says, " I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child, well nursed, is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted. baked or boiled.” His strange ignorance of the natural history of America is shown in one of his papers in The Spectator, where he makes some Indian kings who had visited London say that “ whigs and tories engage when they meet as naturally as the elephant and the rhinoceros.”
Of the intimacy of Knightley Chetwode with Swift nothing, apparently, was known to the dean’s earlier biographers. He is not mentioned in the more recent Life by Craik. His name is found only once in the twenty-four volumes of Nichols’s edition of Swift’s works. He was sprung from a family which for some centuries had its seat at Wark worth, near Banbury, where the tombs of many generations of Chetwodes can still be seen. In the reign of James I., the head of the house ruined himself in vainly asserting his claim to the Barony De Wahull. Warkworth was sold. His son went into the Church, became Dean of Gloucester, and died on the edge of the Promised Land, a bishop elect. It was the dean’s son who was Swift’s correspondent. He married the daughter and heiress of Richard Brooking of Totness, and settled in Ireland, near Portarlington, Queen’s County, about fifty miles southwest of Dublin. The house which he built still stands in its main fabric. He called it Woodbrooke, a name compounded of the second syllable of Chetwode and the first of Brooking.
Swift’s first letter to Chetwode was written less than two months after the queen’s death bad broken the whole scheme of his life, and sent him back to Ireland a soured and querulous man. He who had been hand in glove with great ministers of state was now to be bullied by Dublin’s archbishop and pelted by its mob. “ I 'll lay you a groat, Mr. Dean, I don’t know you,” said an Irishman to him after his fall, with whom, in the days of his prosperity, he had lived in the greatest intimacy. “ I ’ll lay you a groat, my Lord, I don’t know you,” Swift retorted to him, some years later, when “ the whirligig of time had brought about its revenges,” and he was the favorite, if not of the crown, at all events of the people. Before those happier days came he had long “ to shelter himself in unenvied obscurity.” During the seven years which followed the accession of George I., Swift continued, to use his own words, " in the greatest privacy. This manner of life,” he added, “ was not taken up out of any sort of affection, but merely to avoid giving offence, and for fear of provoking party zeal.”
Here ended all our golden dreams.”
It was in these lines that he mourned the ruin which had come on himself and his friends by the death of a foolish woman. The blow surely was one which a great man should have borne without a lamentation prolonged from year to year. Of Anne no one now thinks without a certain feeling of good-natured contempt. She is the last person whom we associate with her own age. The age of Queen Anne is the age of Marlborough, of Addison and Steele, of Swift and Pope, of Prior and Gay, and not of the weak, silly woman who sat on the throne. In nothing does Swift more show that vein of baseness which ran through him than in his dejection at her death and in his estimate of her character. In his will he described her as “ of ever glorious, immortal, and truly pious memory, — the real nursing mother of her kingdoms.” In his sixty-third year he wrote to Lord Bolingbroke, “ I was forty-seven years old when I began to think of death.” It was the queen’s death, he implies, which first turned his thoughts towards mortality. In his lamentations over her we seem to hear “ a broken worldling wail.” The blow which had fallen upon him was indeed severe. His great friends had lost their places ; some of them had fled across the sea, others were in the Tower, while he himself was a suspected man. Nevertheless, why should he have been greatly troubled in mind? Why should he have given way to " reiterated wailings ” ? He was the proud patriot who boasted that
For her he stood prepared to die.”
He was the Christian philosopher
To merit, well of humankind.”
His querulousness never came to an end, not even when he had shaken off the dread of prosecutions, and had gained a high place, not among ministers and courtiers, but in the love of the people among whom his lot was cast.
His correspondence withChetwode covers both these periods, — his downfall and his dejection, his second elevation and his haughty pride. It covers, too, the rapid growth of that terrible malady which far more even than disappointed ambition clouded his life. In the midst of all his moody discontent and his sufferings he shows that “fidelity in friendship” for which he was praised by one who knew him well. His advice and his aid were for many years at Chetwode’s service. It is true that their friendship was at last dissolved in anger, but it seems likely that the chief blame of the rupture did not lie at Swift’s door. In the second year of their correspondence he had to rebuke Chetwode for “an ugly suspicion ; ” as one “ who has,” he added, “ more of punctilio and suspicion than I could wish.” It was an ugly suspicion which parted them in the end. The squire of Woodbrooke, as is shown by the last letters which passed between them, was a suspicious man. Swift, moreover, was not an easy man to deal with. “ He predominated over his companions with very high ascendancy, and probably would bear none over whom he could not predominate. To give him advice was, in the style of his friend Del any, ' to venture to speak to him.’ ”
In preparing these letters for publication, I may justly claim some small share of credit for my moderation in sparing my readers most of the learned notes which I had accumulated. Had I only had them at my mercy between the covers of a book, I could have found it in my heart to bestow on them all my tediousness. I could still find it ; but let them be of good cheer: they are under the safeguard of an editor who will not tolerate dullness, even though it should come robed in erudition.
So much by way of introduction. It is time to raise the curtain, and to let Swift speak for himself.
[To Knightley Chetwood Esqre at his House near Port-Arlington in the Queen’s County.]
DUBLIN. Septr 27-1714.
SR [SIR]. — The Person who brought me your Letter delivered it in such a Manner, that I thought I was at Court again, and that the Bearer wanted a Place; and when I received it, I had my answer ready to give him after Pemsall, that I would do him what service I could. But I was easy when I saw your Hand at the Bottom, and then I recollected I was in Ireld [Ireland], that the Queen was dead, the Ministry changed, and I was onely the poor Dean of St. Patricks. My Chapter joy ns with me : we have consulted a Lawyer, who (as it is usuall) makes ours a very good Case ; my desires in that point are very moderate, onely to break the Lease, and turn out nine Singing men. I should have been with you before this time, if it had been possible for me to find a Horse; I have had twenty sent to me ; I have got one, but it is good for nothing ; and my English horse was so ill I was forced to send him to Grass. — There is another Evil, that I want a Stock of Hay. and I cannot get any : I remember Prince Butler used to say, By my Soul there is not a Drop of Water in the Thames for me. This is my Case; I have got a Pool to lend me 50 Pounds, and now I can neither get Hay nor Horse, and the Season of the former is going. — However if I cannot soon get a Horse. I will send for my own from Grass, and in two days endeavour to reach you ; for I hear Octobr is a very good month.
Jordan has been often telling my Agent of some idle Pretence he has to a bitt of one of my Parishes worth usually about 5lb p. ann. [five pounds per annum], and now the Queen is dead perhaps he may talk warmer of it. But we in possession always answer in those Cases, that we must not injure our Successors. Those idle claims are usual in Ireld, where there has been so much Confusion in Parishes, but they never come to anything.
I desire my humble Service may be presented to Mrs Chetwood.
I am your most obedient
JON : SWIFT.
Sept. 28. This was writt last night not knowing the Post day ; I now tell you that by noise and Bone-fires I suppose the Pacquets are come in with account of the King’s arrivall.
The “singing men ” of his cathedral gave Swift some trouble. “ My amusements,”he wrote to Pope, “ are defending my small dominions against the archbishop and endeavouring to reduce my rebellious choir.”
His difficulty about getting a good horse lasted at least seven years longer. For providing post-horses he knew of a simple expedient. More than a century later. Miss Edgeworth accompanied Sir Walter Scott and his son the captain on a tour in Ireland. “ When some difficulty occurred about horses Sir Walter said, ‘ Swift, in one of his letters, when no horses were to be had, says, “If we had but a captain of horse to swear for us we should have had the horses at once; ” now here we have the captain of horse, but the landlord is not moved even by him.’ ”
“ Prince Butler ” was Brinsley Butler. He and his brother Theophilus (afterwards first and second Barons of Newtown) were at Trinity College, Dublin, with Swift. “ Brinsley ” he cut down to “Prince,” “Theophilus” to “Ophy.”
The pretense to a bit of one of his parishes he thus humorously mentions in a letter to Lord Bolingbroke: “I would retire if I could ; but my country seat, where I have an acre of ground, is gone to ruin. The wall of my own apartment is fallen down, and I want mud to rebuild it, and straw to thatch it. Besides a spiteful neighbour has seized on six feet of ground, carried off my trees, and spoiled my grove.”
George I. arrived at Greenwich on September 18, ten days before the news reached Dublin.
DUBLIN. Ocber 6th 1714.
SR, — I acknowledge both your Letters, and with any common Fortune might have spared you the Trouble of reading this by coming my self : I used to value a good Revenue, because I thought it exempted a man from the little subaltern Cares of Life ; and so it would if the Master were wise, or Servants had honesty and common Sense : A man who is new in a House or an Office has so many important Nothings to take up his time, that he cannot do what he would —I have got in Hay ; but my Groom offended against the very letter of a Proverb, and stackt it in a rainy day, so that it is now smoaking like a Chimny ; my Stable is a very Hospitall for sick Horses. A Joyner who was to shelve a Room for my Library has employed a fortnight, and yet not finished what he promised in six days. One Occasion I have to triumph, that in six weeks time I have been able to get rid of a great Cat, that belonged to the late Dean, and almost poisoned the House. An old Woman under the same circumstances I can not yet get rid of, or find a Maid. Yet in Spight of all these Difficultyes, I hope to share some part of October at Wood-brook. But I scorn your Coach — for I find upon Tryall I can ride.
Indeed I am as much disquieted at the Turn of publick Affairs as you or any man can be. It concerns us Spirituall men in a tender temporall Point. Every thing is as bad as possible ; and I think if the Pretender ever comes over, the present men in Power have traced traced [sic] him the Way — Yr Servant is just come for this, and I am dressing fast for Prayers.
Yr most obedt &c. J. S.
Irish servants Swift attacked from the pulpit. " Are our goods embezzled, wasted and destroyed ? is our house burnt to the ground ? It is by the sloth, the drunkenness or the villany of servants. Are we robbed and murdered in our beds ? It is by confederacy with our servants. . . . Nay the very mistakes, follies, blunders and absurdities of those in our service are able to ruffle and discompose the mildest nature, and are often of such consequence as to put whole families into confusion.”
He described his library as “a little one. A great library always makes me melancholy, where the best author is as much squeezed and as obscure as a porter at a coronation.”
He was exact in his daily attendance at the cathedral service. Three weeks before the date of this letter, he wrote, “ I live a country life in town, see nobody, and go every day once to prayers ; and hope in a few months to grow as stupid as the present situation of affairs will require.” He used to read prayers every evening to his household, but so secretly that a friend had lived with him more than six months without discovering it.
DUBLIN. Octher 20th 1714.
SR, — The Bishop of Dromore is expected this night in Town on purpose to restore his Cat, who by her perpetual noise and Stink must be certainly a whig. In complyance to yr observation of old women’s tenderness to each other, I have got one as old and ugly as that the Bishop left, for the Ladys of my Acquaintance would not allow me one with a tolerable Face tho I most earnestly interceded for it. If I had considered the uncertainty of weather in our Climat, I should have made better use of that short sunshine than I did; but I was amusing myself to make the Publick Hay and neglected my own — Do you mean my Lady Jenny Forbes that was ? I had almost forgot her. But when Love is gone, Friendship continues. I thought she had not at this time of day been at a loss how to bring forth a child. I find you are readyer at kindling other peoples bonfires than yr own. I had one last night par maniere d’acquit, and to save my windows.
Your closet of 18 foot square is a perfect Gasconnade I suppose it is the largest Room in yr House or rather two Rooms struck out into one. I thank you for your Present of it, but I have too many rooms already, I wish you had all I could spare, tho’ I were to give you money along with them. Since you talk of your Cave de brique, I have bought 46 dozen Bottles and want nothing but the Circumstance of Wine to be able to entertain a Friend. You are mistaken,
I am no Coy Beauty but rather with submission like a Wench who has made an Assignation and when the day comes, has not a Petticoat to appear in. I am plagued to death with turning away and taking Servants, my Scotch groom ran away from me ten days ago and robbed me and several of the neighbourhood. I cannot stir from hence till a great Vessell of Alicant is bottled and till my Horse is in a condition to travel and my chimney piece made — I never wanted so much a little country air, being plagued with perpetual Colds and twenty Aylments yet I cannot stir at present as things stand.
The Bishop of Dromore, Dr. John Sterne, was “ the late Dean ” of a preceding letter. Swift, in some lines written on a window of the deanery house, describes the change which his promotion had caused : —
You had choice of good meat, but no choice of good wine.
In Jonathan’s reign, if you come here to eat,
You have choice of good wine, but no choice of good meat.”
Swift was fond of wine. In his old age he wrote to a London alderman, " My chief support is French wine, which, although not equal to yours, I drink a bottle to myself every day.” “ He was alwayscareful of his money,” writes Johnson, “ and was therefore no liberal entertainer, but was less frugal of his wine than of his meat. At last his avarice grew too powerful for his kindness ; he would refuse a bottle of wine, and in Ireland no man visits where he cannot drink.” “ You tell us,” Swift himself once wrote to a friend, “ your wine is bad and that the clergy do not frequent your house, which we look upon as tautology.”
In his abuse of the Whigs Swift almost surpassed Johnson, who maintained that the first Whig was the devil, and that “ the Whigs of America multiply with the fecundity of their own rattlesnakes.” Nevertheless, the dean said, and said with much truth, that “ he was always a Whig in politics.” It was in church matters that he was a Tory.
The bonfire was kindled on account of the coronation of George I. In some towns in England the window - breaking was all the other way. The cry of the Bristol rioters, for instance, was, “Damn all foreign governments,” In Dublin the mob was Protestant and Hanoverian.
[Indorsed, “ A pencil note fr Wodobrook where he came in K. C’s [ Knightley Chetwode’s) absence dining out."]
Not to disturb you in the good work of a Godfather nor spoil yr dinner, I onely design Mrs Chetwode and you would take care not to be benighted ; but come when you will you shall be heartily welcome to my House. The children’s Tutor is gone out and so there was no Pen and ink to be had.
WOODBROOK. Novr 6th
past one in the afternoon.
[Indorsed, “ This was ray advice to a young Lady.”]
I look [sic] over the inclosed some time ago, and again just now ; it contains many good Things, and wants many alterations. I have made one or two, and pointed at others, but an Author can only sett his own Things right.
DUBLIN. Decbr 3. 1714.
SR, — Mr Graves never came to me till this morning, like a vile Man as he is. I had no Letters from Engld. to vex me except on the publick Account, I am now teazed by an impertinent woman, come to renew her Lease, the Baron and she are talking together — I have just squired her down, and there is at present no body with me but — yes now Mr Wall is come in — and now another — You must stay ; — Now I am full of company again and the Baron is in hast, — I will write to you in a Post or two. Manly is not Commissnr nor expects it. I had a very ingenious Tory Ballad sent me printed, but receiving it in a Whig house I suddenly read it, and gave it to a Gentleman with a wink, and ordered him to burn it, but he threw another Paper into the Fire. I hope to send you a Copy of it. I have seen nobody since I came. Bolton’s Patent for St. Warbraw is passed, and I believe I shall find Difficultyes with the Chapter about a Successor for him. I thought to give the Baron some good Coffee, and they made it so bad, that I would hardly give it to Wharton. I here send some Snuff to Mrs Chetwood ; the Baron will tell you by what Snatches I write this Paper. I am yrs &c.
My humble Service to Dame Plyant.
Manley was Postmaster-General of Ireland in 1718. Swift, in that year, sending a letter by private hand, wrote by way of explanation, " Mr Manley has been guilty of opening letters that were not directed to him.”
The dean prided himself on his skill in making coffee. He once said to a lady who asked for a cup, " You shall have some in perfection; for when I was chaplain to the Earl of Berkeley, who was in the government here, I was so poor I was obliged to keep a coffeehouse, and all the nobility resorted to it to talk treason.” He thereupon made the coffee himself. Lord Wharton, to whom he would hardly have given the bad coffee, had been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. “He was,” said Swift, “the most universal villain that I knew.” His son was scarcely less profligate. “ One day he recounted to the dean several wild frolics he had run through. ‘ My Lord,’ said Swift, ' let me recommend one more to you — take a frolic to be good; rely upon it, you will find it the pleasantest frolic you ever were engaged in.’ ”
“ Dame Plyant” was no doubt Chetwode’s wife.
[pr private hand.]
Janry 3d 17 15/14
... I believe you may be out of the Peace, because, I hear almost all our Friends are so. I am sorry Toryes are put out of the King’s Peace : he may live to want them in it again. My Visitation is to be this day Sennight, after which I soon intend for the county of Meath : I design great Things at my Visitation, and I believe my Chapter will joyn with me: I hear they think me a smart Dean : and that I am for doing good: my notion is, that if a man cannot mend the Publick he should mend old shoes if he can do no better ; and therefore I endeavor in the little Sphere I am placed to do all the good it is capable of. As for judicious John, he is walked off: yr curssed good Ale ruined him. He turned such a Drunkard and Swaggerer, I could bear him no longer: I reckon every visit I make you will spoil a Servant. I shall come with 2 Servants and 3 Horses, but a Horse and a Servt I shall leave at Trim. I hear an universall good Character of Mr Davise ; but however I shall have my eye over him and the lads. As for news, the D—I a bitt do I ever hear, or suffer to be told me. I saw in a Print that the K— [King] has taken Care to limit the Clergy what they shall Preach ; and that has given me an Inclination to preach what is forbid : for I do not conceive there is any Law yet for it. My humble Service to Dame Ply ant. You talk of ye Hay but say nothing of ye Wine. I doubt it is not so good as at Woodbrook : and I doubt I shall not like Martrey half so well as Woodbrook. . . .
The government, threatened by invasion from without and insurrection from within, had no hesitation in removing Tories from the magistracy. Three even of the English judges lost their places on the king’s accession.
Trim, where Swift was to leave a horse and a servant, is a small town twenty miles from Dublin, pleasantly mentioned in Thackeray’s lines about the Duke of Wellington : —
Perhaps his thoughts did stray
To that old house where he was born
Upon the first of May.
The ancient towers of Trim ;
And County Meath and Dangan Hall
They did revisit him.”
At Laracor, close by, was Swift’s vicarage, where he spent some of his happiest days. In his absence it was commonly inhabited by Stella and her companion ; when he returned they moved into Trim. The garden which he laid out, the willows which he planted, the winding walk and the pool which he made, have long disappeared. Of the vicarage nothing is standing but the fragment of an old wall. His duties as parish priest were light. " I am this minute very busy,” he wrote, “ being to preach before an audience of at least fifteen people, most of them gentle and all simple.”
DUBLIN Mar. 31. 1715.
SR, — I have been these ten weeks resolving every week to go down to Trim, and from thence to Martry; and have not been able to compass it, tho’ my Country Affairs very much required my Presence. This week I was fully determined to have been at Trim, but my Vicars hinder me, their Prosecutions being now just, come to an Issue, and I cannot stir from hence till the end of April, when nothing but want of Health or Horses shall hinder me. I can tell you no news. I have read but one Newspaper since I left you. And I never suffer any to be told me. I send this by my Steward, who goes to Trim, to look after my Rents at Laracor — pray present my most humble service to Dame Plyant; I suppose you do not very soon intend to remove to the Queen’s County ; when I come to Trim I shall after a few days there, stay awhile with you, and go thence to Arthy [Athy] ; and thence if possible to Connaught and half round Ireld : I hope yr little fire Side is well. I am with great Truth and Esteem
Yr most obdt humble sert
Is it impossible to get a plain easy sound trotting Horse ?
The vicars under whose prosecutions Swift suffered were the vicars-choral of his cathedral, the “ singing men ” of his first letter. Of his ignorance of public news he protests somewhat too often and too much. Some years later he wrote to Pope : “ I neither know the names nor number of the Royal Family which now reigns farther than the prayer-book informs me. I cannot tell who is Chancellor, who are Secretaries, nor with what nations we are in peace or war.”
DUBLIN. April 6th 1715.
SR, — Your Messenger brought me yr Letter when I was under a very had Barbers hands, meaning my own ; I sent for him up, because I heard he was something Gentlemannish, and he told me he returned to-day; so that I have onely time to thank you for yr letter, and assure you, that bar accidents I will be in Trim in a fortnight — I detest the Price of that Horse you mention, and as for your Mare I will never trust her ; my Grandmother used to say that good Feeding never brings good Footing ; I am just going to Church, and can say no more, but my humble service to Dame Plyant. I believe the fellow rather thinks me mad than is mad himself ; 16lb ? why tis an Estate, I shall not be master of it in 16 years.
I thought that Passage out of Shakespear, had been of my own Starting, and that the Magistrate of Martry would not have imagined it — How can you talk of going a Progress of 200 miles.
I know nothing of any Shoes I left. I am sure they are not pd for and so at least I shall be no loser whatever you may be. Adieu.
Whether the saying that Swift attributes to his grandmother was really hers may well be doubted. “ He used to coin proverbs and pass them off for old. One day when walking in a garden he saw some fine fruit, none of which was offered him by its stingy owner. ‘ It was an old saying of my grandmother’s,’ he said ; ‘ always pull a peach when it lies in your reach.’ He accordingly plucked one, and his example was immediately followed by all the rest of the company under the sanction of that good old saying.” Another day, seeing a farmer thrown from his horse into’a slough, he asked him whether he was hurt. “ ' No,’ he replied ; ' but I am woundily bemired.’ ‘ You make good the old proverb,’ said Swift, ‘ the more dirt, the less hurt.’ The man seemed much comforted with the old saying, but said he had never heard of it before ; and no wonder, for the dean had made it on the occasion.”
DUBLIN, June 21. 1715.
I was to see Jordan, who tells me something but I have forgot it, it was, that he had a Letter ready and you were gone, or something of that kind. I had a terribly hot journey and dined with Forbes, and got here by 9. I have been much entertained with news of myself since I came here, tis sd there was another Packet directed to me, seised by the Government ; but after opening several Seals it proved onely plum-cake. I was this morning with the A. Bp : [Archbishop] who told me how kind he had been in preventing my being sent to &c ; I sd I had been a firm friend of the last Ministry, but thought it, brought me to trouble my self in little Partyes without doing good, that I therefore expected the Protection of the Government and that if I had been called before them I would not have answered one Syllable or named one Person — He sd that would have reflected on me, I answered I did not value that; that I would sooner suffer more than let any body else suffer by me — as some people did — The Letter wch was sent was one from the great Ldy [Lady] you know, and inclosed in one from her Chaplin — my Friends got it, and very wisely burned it after great Deliberation, for fear of being called to swear; for wch I wish them half hangd — I have been named in many Papers as a proclaimed for 500lb I want to be with you for a little good meat and cold Drink ; I find nothing cold here but the Reception of my Friends. I sd a good deal move to the A. Bp : not worth telling at this distance — I told him I had several Papers, but was so wise to hide them some months ago. A Gentleman was run through in the Play-house last night, upon a squabble of their Footmen’s taking Places for some Ladyes. — My most humble Service to Dame Plyant, pray God bless her fireside.
They say the Whigs do not intend to cut of Ld. [Lord ] Oxford’s head but that they will certainly attaint poor Ld. Bolingbroke.
Twelve years later Swift wrote to the archbishop : “ From the very moment of the Queen’s death your grace has thought fit to take every opportunity of giving me all sorts of uneasiness, without ever giving me in my whole life one single mark of your favour, beyond common civilities.”
The “ great Ldy ” was the Duchess of Ormond, whose husband had fled to France. Though Swift, to use his own words, “ looked upon the coming of the Pretender as a greater evil than any we are likely to suffer under the worst Whig ministry that can be found,” nevertheless by the Protestant mob of Dublin he was at this time treated as a Jacobite. He never went abroad without servants armed to protect him.
The misconduct of footmen was common enough in those days. In Swift’s Directions to Servants, “ the last advice to the footman relates to his behaviour when he is going to be hanged.” In London, many years later, when an effort was made to put an end to the custom of guests giving servants vails (presents of money), the footmen, night after night, raised a riot in Ranelagh Gardens, and mobbed some gentlemen who had been active in the attempt. “There was fighting with drawn swords for some hours ; they broke one chariot all to pieces.”
Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, was attainted of high treason, but after an imprisonment of nearly two years in the Tower he was acquitted. On his way to the coronation “ he had been hissed by the mob ; some of them threw halters into his coach.” On his acquittal “ the acclamations were as great as upon any other occasion.” Bolingbroke escaped to France.
DUBLIN. June 28. 1715.
I write to you so soon again, contrary to my nature and Custom which never suffered me to be a very exact Correspondent. I find you passed yr Time well among Ladyes and Lyons and St. Georges and Dragons — Yesterday’spost brought us an Acct that the D— of O— [Duke of Ormond] is voted to be impeached for high Treason. You see the Plot thickens ; I know not the present Disposition of People in Engld but I do not find myself disposed to be sorry at this news — However in generall my Spirits are disturbed, and I want to be out of this Town. A Whig of this Country now in Engld has writt to his Friends, that the Leaders there talk of sending for me to he examined upon these Impeachments, I believe there is nothing [in] it; but I had this notice from one who said he saw the Letter or saw somebody that saw it. I write this Post to Dr Raymd [Raymond] to provide next Sunday for Mr Sub, so I suppose he may be at ease, and I wish I were with him. I hope Dame has established her Credit with you for ever, in the point of Valor and Hardyness— You surprise me with the Acct [account] of a Disorder in yr head I know what it is too well and I think Dame does so too. You must drink less small beer, eat less sallad, think less, walk and drink more, I mean Wine and Ale, and for the rest, Emeticks and bitters are certainly the best Remedyes. What Length has the River walk to 30 foot bredth ? I hope 8 thousand at least. If Sub. had no better a tast for Bief and Claret than he has for Improvemts of Land, he should provide no Dinners for me — Does Madam gamble now and then to see it i How is the Dean’s field ? So it cost a bottle of wine exedy [?] to dry poor Sub. I hope he sometimes loses his eyes to please Dame. There is a Collegian found guilty of speaking some words ; and I hear they design in mercy to whip or Pillory him.
I went yesterday to the Courts on purpose to show I was not run away. I had warning given me to beware of a fellow that stood by while some of us were talking —It seems there is a Trade going of carrying stories to the Govr—t [Government], and many honest Folks turn the Penny by it — I can not yet leave this Place but will as soon as possible. Tom this minute brought me up word that the Baron’s man was here, and that his master is in Town I hope to see him, and give him half a breast of mutton before he goes back. He is now with a Lawyer. I believe old Lombard Street is putting out money —The Report of the Secret Committee is published. It is a large volume. I onely just saw it Manly [? at Manly’s]. It is but a Part, and probably there will be as much more.
I do not believe or see one word is offered to prove their old Slander of bringing in the Pretender. The Treason lyes wholly in making the Peace. Ch. Ford is with Ld Bol— [Lord Bolingbroke] in Dauphinè within a League of Lyons, where his Ldship [Lordship] is retired ; till he sees what the Secret Committee will do. That is now determined and his Ldship will certainly be attainted by Act of Parlm’t [Parliament]. The Impeachmts are not yet catryed up to the Lds [Lords]. I suppose they intend to make one work of it.
Dr. Raymond was the vicar of Trim, where Stella often was his guest. He visited Swift in London. “ Poor Raymond,” the dean wrote to her, “ just came in and took his leave of me ; he is summoned by high order from his wife, but pretends he has had enough of London.”
“ Mr Sub ” was the subdean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The disorder in the head, of which Swift knew what it was too well, marred his whole life. “ The two maladies of giddiness and deafness from which he suffered had their common origin in a disease in the region of the ear, to which the name of labyrinthine rertigo has been given.” “ I got my giddiness,” he wrote, “ by eating a hundred golden pippins at a time.” On this Johnson remarks : “ The original of diseases is commonly obscure. Almost every boy eats as much fruit as he can get without any great inconvenience.” Thinking little, exercise, and wine were Swift’s chief remedies. “ Vive la bagatelle ” was his favorite maxim.
On July 7 of this year the Archbishop of Dublin wrote to Addison: “ ’T is plain there’s a nest of Jacobites in the college; one was convicted last term ; two are run away, and, I believe, bills are found against one or two more.” A master of arts was expelled for making a copy of the pamphlet Nero Secundus, and two bachelors of arts and two students paid the same penalty for speaking disrespectfully of the king. Of the whipping or pillory with which Swift’s “ collegian ” was threatened I can find no mention.
The Secret Committee of the House of Commons had examined into the negotiations for the Treaty of Utrecht. As the result, Oxford, Bolingbroke, and Ormond were impeached. “ You know,” Swift wrote to Pope, “ how well I loved both Lord Oxford and Bolingbroke, and how dear the Duke of Ormond is to me. Do you imagine I can be easy while their enemies are endeavouring to take off their heads ? ‘ I nunc, et versus tecum meditare canoros.’ ” Anne’s Tory ministers, he said, had not “ designed any more to bring in the Pretender than the Great Turk.”
DUBLIN July 7. 1715.
I had yr Letter tother day by Mr Foxcroft who was so kind to call on me this morning, but would not stay and dine with me tho’ I offered him Mutton and a Bottle of Wine. — I might have been cheated of my Gingerbread for any thing you sd [said] in your letter, for I find you scorn to take notice of Dame’s kind Present; but I am humbler and signify to her that if she does not receive by Mr Foxcroft a large tin pot well crammed with the D. of Omds. [Duke of Ormond’s] snuff, holding almost an ounce, she is wronged. I wish Loughlin had not been mistaken when he saw me coming into your Court. I had much rather come into it than into the Court of Engld — I used formerly to write Letters by bits and starts as you did when Loghlin thought I was coming ; and so now I have been interrupted these 3 hours by company, and have now just eaten a piece of Bief Stake spoiled in the dressing, and drunk a Cup of Sour Ale, and return to finish my Letter; Walls sate by me while I was at my dinner, and saw me finish it in five minutes, and has left me to go home to a much better. . . . Sure you stretch ye Walk when you talk of 5000 foot, but yr Ambition is to have it longer than Mr Rochfort’s Canal, and with a little Expense it will be made a more beautifull thing. Are you certain that it was Madam’s green Legs you saw by the River Side, because I have seen in England a large kind of green Grass hopers, not quite so tall but altogether as slender, that frequent low marishy grounds. The Baron told me he was employd here, by you in an Affair of Usury (of wch I give you Joy) but did not tell me the particulars. I believe the Affair of yr English Uncle is true, I have had it from many Hands. How is that worse than the Bp of London’s Letr [Letter] to his Clergy and their Answer, both owning that the Tumults were in order to bring in Popery and Arbitrary Power — a Reproach which the Rabble did not deserve ; and has done us infinite hurt. I have not seen the Articles, I read no news and hear little. ’There is no mercy for the poor Collegian: and indeed as he is sd to have behaved himself, there could none be expected. The Report is printed here but I have not read it. I think of going for Engd (if I can get leave) when Ld Sund-[Lord Sunderland] comes over, but not before unless I am sent for with a Vengeance. I am not much grieved at yr being out of the Peace; I heard something of it the day I left you, but nothing certain. Major Champigne has hard usage, and I am truly concerned for him and his Lady. I am told here that some of our Army is to be transported for Engld. I had a Letter this Day from thence, from the Person who sent me one from a Lady, with great Satisfaction that hers to me was not seized. That Letter talks doubtfully of the D. Ormd. [Duke of Ormond] that the Parlmt. resolves to carry matters to the highest Extreems, and are preparing to impeach the D. Shrowsb. [Duke of Shrewsbury] which the K. [King] would not suffer at first, but at length has complyed with. That Prior is kept closer than Greg, to force him to accuse Ld. Oxfrd [Lord Oxford] tho’ he declares he knows nothing ; and that it is thought he will be hanged if he will not be an Evidence, and that Ld. Oxfd confounds them with his Intrepidity &c.
I think neither of yr Places is remote enough for me to be att, and I have some Project of going further, and am looking out for a Horse ; I believe you will be going for Engld by the Time I shall be ready to leave this ; hasty foolish Affairs of the Deanery keep me thus long here. My humble Service to Dame, pray God bless her and her Fireside. The Baron gave me hopes of doing something about Kilberry — Did he tell you how I pulled Toms Locks the wrong way for holding a Plate under his Armpitt and what cursed Bacon we had with our Beans ?
Swift wrote of snuff : “ I believe it does neither hurt nor good; but I have left it off, and when anybody offers me their box I take about a tenth part of what I used to do, and then just smell to it, and privately fling the rest away : I keep to my tobacco still.” He never smoked, but “ he used to snuff up cut and dry tobacco, which sometimes was just coloured with Spanish snuff. He would not own that he took snuff.’’
On Archdeacon Walls’s vicarage Swift wrote some charming verses. It was so small that no one guessed it was for human habitation.
And little miss began to cry,
Give me that house in my own hand !
Then madam bade the chariot stand,
Called to the clerk, in manners mild,
Pray reach that thing here to the child:
That thing, I mean, among the kale ;
And here ’s to buy a pot of ale.
The clerk said to her in a heat,
What! sell my master’s country seat! ”
Swift bad described the Bishop of London as having “ a saint at his chin and a seal at his fob.” He was at that time Dean of Windsor and Lord Privy Seal, — one of the last Churchmen in England who held high political office. The “ saint,” I suppose, was the bands he wore as a priest. He had not in his Letter to his Clergy gone quite so far as Swift says he had. “ The disturbances,” he had written, " will prove in the end introductive of Popery and Arbitrary Power.”
The “ D. Shrowsb ” was the Duke of Shrewsbury. Swift’s spelling indicates the proper pronunciation of the name of the town. “ I hope you say Shrowsbury,” an old gentleman who had spent some of his early days there once said to me. At the present time almost everybody makes the first syllable rhyme with “ shoes,” and not with “shows.” The duke was not impeached. He had held high office; nevertheless he said, “ Had I a son, I would sooner breed him a cobbler than a courtier, and a hangman than a statesman.”
The poet Prior was one of the commissioners by whom the Peace of Utrecht was made.
Gregg (not Greg), who in 1708 was a clerk in the office of the Secretary of State, was detected in treasonable correspondence with France, and condemned to death. While lying under sentence he was examined in Newgate by “seven lords of the Whig party.” It was always said that had he implicated the secretary (Harley, afterwards Earl of Oxford) his life would have been spared. He persisted, however, in taking the whole guilt upon himself, and at the end of a month he was executed.
Dr. Johnson was more patient with his black servant Frank than Swift was with his Irish Tom. Miss Reynolds tells us how “ one day, as his man was waiting at Sir Joshua’s table, he observed with some emotion that he had the salver under his arm.” The emotion did not express itself in hostile acts.
Aug. 2d 1715.
Considering how exact a Correspondent you are, and how bad a one I am my self, I had clearly forgot whether you had answered my last Letter, and therefore intended to have writt to you today whether I had heard from you or no: because Mr Warburton told me you were upon yr return to Martry. Tho it be unworthy of a Philosopher to admire at any thing, and directly forbidden by Horace, yet I am every day admiring at a thousand things. I am struck at the D. of O-[Duke of Ormond’s] flight, a great Person here in Power read us some Letters last night importing that he was gone to the Pretender, and that upon his first Arrivall at Calais he talked of the K. [ King ] only as Elector &c. But this is laughed at, and is indeed wholly unlike him, and I find his Friends here are utterly ignorant where he is, and some think him still in Engld —Aug. 4. I was interrupted last post; but I just made a Shift to write a few words to the Baron. The Story of an Invasion is all blown off; and the Whigs seem to think there will be no such Thing. They assure us of the greatest Unanimity in Engld to serve the K. and yet they continue to call the Toryes all Jacobites. They say they cannot imagine why any Tory should be angry, since there never was the least Occasion given ; and particularly they cry up their Mercy shown to Bingley. There is no news of any more People gone off : tho’ Ld. Shrewsb was named. The Suspending the Habeas Corpus Act has frightened our Friends in Engld. I am heartily concerned for poor Jo, and should be more so if he were not swallowed up by his Betters.
Give my Service to Dame Plyant, and desire her to let you know what quantity of Cherryes she has for Brandy; you may steep them in just enough to keep them alive, and I will send you some very good if I can and you will tell me how much. But here I want Jo. I hope Dame found the boys well and that she gave them good Counsell upon the Subject of Gooseberryes and Codlings for I hear the eldest had been a little out of order.
I am glad to hear you and the Doctr [Doctor] are grown so well together. and was not Mrs R. the civilest thing in the world ? I find you intend to take some very sudden Resolution, and truly I was like to be as sudden for I was upon the Ball an ce two hours whether I should not take out a License of Absence immediately upon a Letter I received ; but at last I thought I was too late by a week for the Design ; and so I am dropt again into my old Insipidness : And the weather has been so bad, that together with my want of a Horse, and my Steward using one Every day about my Tythes, I have not been a Mile out of Town these 5 weeks, except once on foot.
I hear Major Champigny was left half pay; and consequently that he will now have whole; so t hat he may yet eat bread.
God preserve you and Dame and the fire-side, believe me ever
entirely yrs &c.
Swift could not long have doubted that the Duke of Ormond spoke of King George as Elector of Hanover, for on landing in France he joined the Pretender’s party. He had in vain urged Lord Oxford to fly with him. “ Farewell, Oxford, without a head,” he said. Oxford answered, “ Farewell, duke, without a duchy.” The duke lost his duchy, but Oxford kept his head, and his earldom as well.
Two days before Swift wrote “the Story of an Invasion is all blown off,” the Earl of Mar had stolen away from London to raise the Highlands for King James.
“ Poor Jo ” was Joseph Beaumont, “an eminent tallow-chandler in Trim.” He is
in Swift’s verses on Archdeacon Walls’s house. He was a " projector,” who hoped to win the government reward for the discovery of a method of ascertaining the longitude. His disappointment, it was believed, turned his brain, and he made away with himself. Swift said that he had known only two projectors, one of whom ruined himself, and the other hanged himself.
George Birkbeck Hill.