SWIFT began his correspondence with his friend with such briskness that his first thirteen letters were written within a period of little more than ten months. We are now coming to a great gap ; for in the next three years he wrote but twice, — once to Mrs. Chetwode after her husband had left for England, and once to Mr. Chetwode himself at an address in London. After this, we have not a single letter between December 17, 1715, and September 2, 1718, when we find Chetwode once more in London. In the interval he had been out of the country.
I am informed by the present owner of Woodbrooke that “ he was a great Jacobite, and found it well to spend a good deal of his time abroad. In the library here, there are many books bought by him in different foreign towns.” If on his travels he heard from Swift, it is likely enough that on his way home he destroyed the letters, for fear of bringing his friend into trouble. So strict was the search after Jacobite papers that the coffin of Bishop Atterbury, who died in France, was opened when it reached England, in the expectation that in it would be found treasonable correspondence.
[TO MRS. CHETWODE.]
Oct. 7. 1715.
MADAM, — I find you are resolved to feed me wherever I am. I am extremely obliged to your Care and Kindness, but know not how to return it other wise than by my Love and Esteem for you. I had one Letter from Mr Chetwode from Chester, but it came late, and he talked of staying there onely a Week. If I knew where to write to him I would. I said a good deal to him before he went. And I believe he will keep out of harms way in these troublesome Times. God knows what will become of us all. I intend when the Parlmt [Parliament] meets here, to retire some where into the Country : Pray God bless and protect you, and your little fire side: believe me to be Ever with true Esteem Madam
Your most obedt humble Servt J. SWIFT.
How troublesome these times were Swift shows in a letter written a little later. The Parliament sitting in Dublin had passed a bill authorizing the government " to imprison whom they please for three months, without any trial or examination. I expect,” continues Swift, “ to be among the first of those upon whom this law will be executed. I am gathering up a thousand pounds, and intend to finish my life upon the interest of it in Wales.” Of the Irish Parliament he always spoke with scorn. He described the members as “ those wretches here who call themselves a parliament. They imitate the English Parliament after the same manner as a monkey does a human creature.” When they met in 1735, he wrote, “ I determine to leave the town as soon as possible, for I am not able to live within the air of such rascals.”
[To Knightley Chetwode Esqr. at ye PellMell Coffee House in Pell-Mell — London.]
Decr. 17. 1715.
I have had 3 Lettrs [Letters] from you, one from Chester, another round a Printed Paper, and the 3rd of the 6th instant: The first I could not answer for it came late, and you sd you were to leave Chester in a week, neither did I know how to direct to you till yr 2nd came, and that was so soon followed by the 3rd that now I answer both together. I have been miserably ill of a cruell cold, beyond the common pains and so as to threaten me with ill consequences upon my healt : else you should have heard from me 3 weeks sooner. I have been 10 days and am still at Mr Grattan’s 4 miles from the Town, to recover myself ; and am now in a fair way — I like the 4 erses well. Some of them are very well tho’ agst my Friends: but I am positive The Town is out in their Guess of the Author. I wonder how you came to see the Dr—n [Dragon] for I am told none of his nearest Relations have that Liberty, nor any but his Solicitors. Had I been directed to go over some months ago, I might have done it, because I would gladly have been serviceable but now I can not: and agree with you and my other Friends that I am safer here. I am curious to know how he carryes himself, whether he is still easy and intrepid : whether he thinks he shall lose his Head, or whether it is generally thought so—I find you have ferreted me out in my little private Acquaintance, but that must be Entre nous. The best of it is you cannot trace them all. My Service to them, and say I give a great deal to be among you. I do not understand the Rebus, I would apply it to myself, but then what means narrow in flight ? I am sorry at heart for poor Ben : He had in his Life been so Splenetick that it was past a Jest: He should ride, and live in the Country and leave of his Trade, for he is rich enough. As much as I hate News, I hear it in spight of me, not being able to govern the Tongues of yr Favorite and some others; we are here in horrible Fears, and make the Rebells ten times more powerfull and the Discontents greater than I hope they really are, Nay 'tis said the Pretender is landed or landing with Ld [Lord] knows how many thousands. I always knew my Friend Mr Attorney would be as great as he could in all changes. When Cole of the Oaks comes to Town assure him of my humble Service and that when Storms are over I will pass some time with his Leave among his Plantations. Dame Plyant and I have had some Commerce, but I have not been able to go there, by foolish Impediments of Business here. She has been in pain about not hearing from you. I lately heard your Boys were well. The Baron called to see me here in the Country yesterday, and sd you had lately writt to him. There is one period in yr Letter very full of kind Expressions, all to introduce an ugly Suspicion of Somebody that told you I know not what. I had no Acquaintance with you at all till I came last to this Kingdom : and tis odd if I should then give my self the Liberty of speaking to yr Disadvantage. Since that time you have used me so well, that it would be more than odd if I gave myself that Liberty. But I tell you one thing, that when you are mentioned by my self or any body else, I presently add some Expressions, that he must be a rude Beast indeed who would lessen you before me, so far am I from doing it myself ; and I should avoid it more to you than another, because you are a man anxious to be informed, and have more of Punctilio and Suspicion than I could wish. I would say thus much to few men. Because generally I expect to be trusted, and scorn to defend my self; and the Dr—n thought it the best Compliment to him he ever heard, when I said I did not value what I sd to him, nor what I sd of him. So much upon this scurvy Subject. You may direct to S. H. at Mrs Holt’s over agst the Church in Brides Street. The Parimt here are as mad as you could desire them ; all of different Partyes are used like Jacobites and Dogs. All Conversation with different Principles is dangerous and Troublesome. Honest People get into Corners, and are as merry as they can. We are as loyall as our Enemyes, but they will not allow us to be so— If what they sd were true, they would be quickly undone: Pray keep yrself out of harms way: ’Tis the best part a private man can take unless his Fortune be desperate or unless he has at least a fair Hazzard for mending the Publick. My humble Service to a much prouder man than my self ; I mean yr Uncle. Dr Prshewed me a Letter from you about 3 weeks ago: He is well I suppose for I am a private country Gentleman, and design to be so some days longer. Believe me to be ever with great Truth and Esteem yrs etc.
I direct to the Pell Mell Coffee house, because you mention changing Lodgings.
“ The Dragon was Lord Treasurer Oxford, so called by the Dean by contraries; for he was the mildest, wisest and best minister that ever served a prince.” He was at this time a prisoner in the Tower.
“Poor Ben” was perhaps the bookseller, Benjamin Motte, who published Gulliver’s Travels. He corresponded with Swift.
When the dean writes, “ we are here in horrible Fears,” by “we” he means the Protestants. In Ireland, when he speaks of “ the nation,” he always means the English settlers. In all his writings it would not be easy to find a passage where he shows any strong feeling for the Roman Catholic Irish; in this he was like other Englishmen. “ The English,” he wrote, “ know little more of Ireland than they do of Mexico ; further than that it is a country subject to the King of England, full of bogs, inhabited by wild Irish papists, who are kept in awe by mercenary troops; and their general opinion is, that it were better for England if the whole island were sunk into the sea.” Even the Protestant Irish were slighted. To a friend who sent, him an account of a “ mayor squabble” in Dublin he wrote back from London, “ We regard it as much here as if you sent us an account of your little son playing at cherry stones.”
[To Knightley Chetwode Esqr at Mr Took’s shop, at the Middle-Temple Gate in Fleetstreet. London.]
DUBLIN. Sept 2d. 1718.
I received your first of Aug 13h when I was just leaving Galstown — from whence I went to a Visitation at Trim. I saw Dame. I stayd two days at Laracor, then 5 more at a Friends, and came thence to this Town, and was going to answer yr Lett. [your Letter] when I received the 2nd of Aug 23rd. I find it is the opinion of yr Friends that you should let it be known as publickly here as can be done, without overacting, that you are come to London, and intend soon for Ireland, and since you have sett [? let] Woodbrooke I am clearly of opinion that you should linger out some time at Trim, under the notion of staying some time in order to settle ; you can be conveniently enough lodged there for a time, and live agreably and cheap enough, and pick up rent as you are able; but I am utterly opposite to your getting into a Figure all on a Sudden, because every body must needs know that travelling would not but be very expensive to you, together with a scattered Family, and such conduct will be reckoned prudent and discreet, especially in you whose Mind is not altogether suited to yr Fortune. And therefore tho’ I have room enough in an empty Coach-house wh is at yr service yet I wish you would spare the Expences, and in return you shall fill the Coachhouse with anything else you please. — I fear you will return with great contempt for Ireld where yet we live tolerably quiet, and our enemyes seem to let us alone mearly out of weary ness. It was not my fault that I was not in Engld last June, — I doubt you will make a very uneasy Change from Dukes to Irish Squires and Parsons, wherein you are less happy than I, who never loved great company, when it was most in my Power, and now I hate every thing with a Title except my Books, and even in those the shorter the Title the better — And (you must begin on the other side for I began this Letter the wrong Way) whenever you talk to me of Regents or Grandees I will repay you with Passages of Jack Grattan and Dan Jackson : I am the onely man in this Kingdom who is not a Politician, and therefore I onely keep such Company as will suffer me to suspend their Politicks and this brings my Conversation into very narrow Bounds. Jo Beaumont is my Oracle for publick Affairs in the country, and an old Presbyterian Woman in Town. I am quite a Stranger to all Schemes and have almost forgot the difference between Whig and Tory, and thus you will find me when you come over — Adieu. My true love to Ben —
There are passages in this letter which greatly strengthen the suspicion that Chetwode had been plotting among the Jacobites abroad. He had, we read, to make a “ change from Dukes to Irish Squires,” and his talk was likely to run on “Regents or Grandees.” He would have visited the Duke of Ormond, who by the help of a lady of great beauty, but easy morals, vainly hoped to win over the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, to the Pretender’s cause. He would have passed on to Spain, where Cardinal Alberoni, the prime minister, was scheming to send an expedition to Scotland under Ormond’s command. He had scarcely set foot in England when the news arrived of the sea-fight off Sicily between an English and a Spanish squadron, described by an English captain in the briefest of dispatches : “ Sir, we have taken and destroyed all the Spanish ships which were upon the coast; the number as per margin.”
When Swift says that he is not a politician, it is true of this period of his life. During almost six years after his return to Ireland he kept his resolution of not meddling at all with public affairs. In the following lines he expresses the contempt he felt not only for Irish squires, but also for Irish lords : —
He spent his life’s declining part;
Where folly, pride and faction sway,
Remote from St. John, Pope and Gay. His friendships there to few confined
Were always of the middling kind ;
No fools of rank, a mongrel breed,
Who fain would pass for lords indeed ;
Where titles give no right or power,
And peerage is a withered flower ;
He would have held it a disgrace
If such a wretch had known his face. On rural squires, that kingdom’s bane,
He vented oft his wrath in vain.”
That he “never loved great company” even in London he thus boasts : —
Because a duke was proud to own him;
Would rather slip aside and choose
To talk with wits in dirty shoes.”
[To Knightley Chetwode Esqr to be left at Mr Took’s shop at the middle Temple Gate in Fleetstreet London.]
DUBLIN. Novr 25. 1718.
I have had your Letters, but have been hindred from writing by the illness of my head, and eyes, which still afflict me. I have not been these five months in the Country, but the People from Trim tell me that yours are all well.
I do not apprehend much consequence from what you mention about Informations etc. I suppose it will fall to nothing by Time — You have been so long in the grand rnonde that you find it difficult to get out. I fear you mistook it for a Compliment, when you interpret something that I said as if you had a Spirit above your Fortune. I hardly know anybody but what has the same, and it is a more difficult Virtue to have a Spirit below our Fortune, which I am endeavouring as much as I can, and differ so far from you, that instead of conversing with Lords (if any Lord here would descend to converse with me) that I wholly shun them for People of my own Level, or below it, and I find Life much easyer by doing so ; but you are younger and see with other eyes. The Epigram you mention is but of two Lines. I have done with those Things. I desired a young Gentleman to paraphrase it, and J do not much like his Performance, but if he mends it I will send it to Ben, not to you — I think to go soon into the Country for some weeks for my Health, but not towards Trim I believe — Mr Percivall is dead and so is poor Parvisol. This is a bad Country to write news from Ld Archibald Hamilton is going to be marryed to one Lady Hamilton the best match in this Kingdom — Remember me to Ben and John when you see them — Neither my Head nor Eyes will Suffer me to write more, nor if they did have I anything materiall to add but that I am yr &c.
“ Poor Parvisol ” had been Swift’s tithe-agent at Laracor. Of him he had written, four years earlier : “ Such a rascal deserves nothing more than rigorous justice. He has imposed upon my easiness, and that is what I never will forgive. I beg you will not do the least thing in regard to him but merely for my interest, as if I were a Jew, and let who will censure me.”
[To Knightley Chetwode Esqr at his House at Woodbrooke near Portarlington.]
DUBLIN. Apr 29th 1721.
SR, — Your Servant brought your Lettr when 1 was abroad, and promised to come next morning at 8 but never called: so I answer it by Post ; you have been horribly treated, but it is a common Calamity. Do you remember a Passage in a Play of Molière’s Mais qu Diable avoit il à faire dans cette Galère ? What had you to do among such company ? I shew’d your Lettr yesterday to the A. Bp. [Archbishop] as you desire: I mean I read the greatest Part to him — He is of opinion you should take the Oaths; and then complain to the Governt [Government] if you thought fit. But I believe neither — nor any body can expect you would have much Satisfaction — considering how such complaints are usually received. For my own Part I do not see any Law of God or Man forbidding us to give security to the Powers that be : and private men are not [to] trouble themselves about Titles to Crowns, whatever may be their particular Opinions. The Abjuration is understood as the Law stands ; and as the Law stands, none has Title to the Crown but the present Possessor ; By this Argument more at length, I convinced a young Gentleman of great Parts and Virtue ; and I think I could defend my self by all the Duty of a Christian to take Oaths to any Prince in Possession. For the word Lawfull, means according to present Law in force ; and let the Law change ever so often, I am to act according to Law; provided it neither offends Faith nor Morality. You will find a sickly man when you come to Town ; and you will find all Partyes and Persons out of humour ; I envy your Employmts of improving Bogs; and yet I envy few other Employments : present my humble service to Mrs Chetwode and believe me to be, ever, sincerely yours &c.
Swift was thinking of the passage in Les Fourberies de Scapin where the father exclaims, “ Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère ? ” “ I forsook the world and French at the same time,” the dean writes on December 5 of this year. His French seems to have forsaken him when he wrote “ qu ” for “ que.” “ He was,” says John Forster, “ accomplished in French.” Sir William Temple more justly said of him that " he has Latin and Greek, some French.”
High Churchman though he was, he cared nothing for the divine right of kings. “ I always declared myself,” he wrote, “ against a popish successor to the crown, whatever title he might have by the proximity of blood : neither did I ever regard the right line except upon two accounts ; first, as it was established by law, and secondly as it has much weight in the opinions of the people.”
When he wrote to Chetwode, “ I envy your Employmts of improving Bogs,” this was no passing caprice. Into the mouth of the king of Brobdingnag he put sentiments which he really felt, when he made him say that “ whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.”
[Indorsed by Chetwode, “ upon ye Subject of my quarrell with Coll.-at Maryborough Assizes.”]
DUBLIN. May 9. 1721.
SR, — I did not answer your last because I would take time to consider it I told the AR. Bp what you had done, that you had taken the Oaths &c. and then I mentioned the Fact about Wall who brought a Challenge &c. tho you do not tell from whom : and whether you should apply to have him put out of the Commission ; the A. Bp said he thought you ought to let the matter rest a while, and when you have done so, and get your Materialls ready and that it appears not to be a sudden Heat, he did hope the Chancellr would do you Justice.
As to the Business of Sandis going about for hands I know not what to say. That was rather a Scoundrell than an illegal Thing, and probably will be thought merit and zeal rather than a Fault; I take your Part to be onely despising it ; as you ought to do the Bravery of his Brother, and his manner of celebrating it; For my own Part (and I do not say it as a Divine) there is nothing I have greater contempt for than what is usually stiled Bravery, which really consists in never giving just offence, and yet by a generall Demeanour make it appear that we do not want Courage, though our Hand is not every Hour at our Hilt — I believe your Courage has never been suspected, and before I knew you I had heard you were rather much too warm, and you may take what Sandis said, as a Complmt that his Brother’s Bravery appeared by venturing to quarrell with you.
You are to know that few persons have less Credit with the present Powers than the A. BP and therefore the Redress you are to expect must be from the justice of those who have it in their way to do you right; I mean those at the Helm or rather who have their little finger at tho helm, which however is enough for your use, if they will but apply it; But in great Matters of Governmt the Ld. Lt [Lord Lieutenant] does all, and these Folks can not make a Vicar or an ensign.
I am yr &c. J. S.
My humble Service to yr Lady.
The name of the colonel with whom Knightley Chetwode quarreled I have omitted at the request of the present owner of Woodbrooke.
Thomas Sheridan, writing of Dublin a few years earlier than the date of Swift’s letter, says, “ At that time party ran very high, but raged no where with such violence as in that city, insomuch that duels were every day fought there on that score.”
[Indorsed, “Swift dated at Dublin, June 10. 1721 the A. Bishop’s and his own opinion of the Prosecution agst me.” ]
DUBLIN. June 10th 1721.
SR, — I received both your Letters, and the Reason why I did not answer the first was because I thought I had said all I had to say upon the occasion, both as to the A. Bp’s opinion and my own, but if that reason had not been sufficient there was another and a Better, or rather a Worse ffor I have been this last Fortnight as miserable as a Man can possibly be with an Ague, and after vomiting sweeting and Jesuits Bark, I got out to Day, but have been since my beginning to recover, so seized with a Daily Headake, that I am but a very scurvy recovered Man : I suppose you may write to the Chancellr and tell him the full story, and leave the rest to him.
As to your Building I can onely advise you to ask advice, to go on slowly, and to have your House on Paper before you put it into Lime and Stone. I design in a very few Days to go somewhere into the Country, perhaps to Gallstown, I have been 7 years getting a Horse and have lost 100lb by buying without Success ; Sheridan has got his Horses again — and I recovered one that my Servt had lost — Everybody can get Horses but I ; There is a Paper called Mist come out, just before May 29th terribly Severe : It is not here to be had; the Printer was called before the Commons — it apply [? applied] Cromwell and his son to the present Court — White Roses we have heard nothing of to-day.
I am your most obdt J. S.
My head is too ill to write of think,
The prosecution mentioned in Chetwode’s indorsement was most likely connected with some Jacobite plot in which he had been engaged. As will be seen in the letters that were written two years later he was again in dread of the government.
“ Mist” was the name of the printer of a Jacobite journal. In the number for May 27 there is a lamentation over the ugliness of the king’s German mistresses. " We are ruined by trulls, nay, what is more vexatious, by old ugly trulls, such as could not find entertainment in the most hospitable hundreds of Old Drury.” This paper was published “ just before May 29th,” because on that day the Restoration of Charles II. was commemorated. Mist was fined and imprisoned. Imprisonment in those days was a dreadful punishment, unless for people who had money enough to pay for food and lodging. In one London jail “ a day seldom passed without a death; and upon the advancing of the spring, not less than eight or ten usually died every twentyfour hours.” Nevertheless Mist still ventured to publish his paper, under the title of Fog’s Journal. The white roses, of which Swift had heard nothing, were worn by the Jacobites on June 10 (the day on which he was writing), the birthday of the Pretender.
[Indorsed, “a humorous pleast letter.”] GALSTOWN. Septr 14th 1721.
SR, — I have been here these three months, and I either answered yr former Letter, or else it required no answer. I left the Town on a sudden, and came here in a Stage Coach meerly for want of Horses. I intend a short Journey to Athlone, and some Parts about it, and then to return to Dublin by the end of this Month, when the weather will please to grow tolerable ; but it hath been so bad for these ten weeks past that I have been hindred from severall Rambles I intended.
Yours of the 5 instant was sent here last Post; It was easy for you to conceive I was gone out of Town considering my State of Health, and it is not my Talent to be unkind or forgetfull, although it be my Misfortune as the World runs, to be very little Serviceable ; I was in hopes that yr Affair by this time had come to some Issue, or at least, that you who are a warm Gentleman, like others of your Temper, might have cooled by Degrees. For my own Part, I have learned to bear Everything, and not to Sayl with the Wind in my Teeth. I think the Folke in Power, if they had any Justice, might at least give you some honorary Satisfaction: But I am a Stranger to their Justice and all their good Qualityes, having onely received Marks of their ill ones —
I had promised and intended a Visit to Will Pool, and from thence would have called at Woodbrook. But there was not a Single Intervall of Weather for such an Expedition. I hope you have good Success with your Drains and other Improvements, and I think you will do well to imitate our Landlord here, who talks much of Building, but is as slow as possible in the Execution.
Mr Jervas is gone to Engld, but when I go to Town I shall Enquire how to write to him, and do what you desire ; I know not a more vexatious Dispute than that about Meres and Bounds, nor more vexatious Disputants than those Righteous: I suppose upon the Strength of the Text, that the Righteous shall inherit the Land.
My humble Service to Your Lady.
I am your most humble &c.
The “ honorary Satisfaction ” that might have been given to Chetwode was perhaps that English peerage in claiming which his grandfather had ruined himself.
“ Our Landlord here ” was George Rochefort, of whose house Dr. Sheridan wrote : —
And poor Lady Betty has scarce room to dress in 't;
'T is so cold in the winter, you can’t bear to lie in 't,
And so hot in the summer, you are ready to fry in 't.
’T is so crazy, the weather with ease beats quite through it,
And you 're forced every year in some part to renew it.”
A fortnight later than the date of the letter, Swift wrote : " I row after health like a waterman, and ride after it like a postboy, and find some relief; but ‘ subeunt morbi tristisque senectus.’ . . . I am deep among the workmen at Rochefort’s canals and lakes.”
DUBLIN. Novr 11th 1721.
SR, — I received yours yesterday. I writ to Mr Jervas from the Country, but have yet received no answer, nor do find that any one of his Friends hath yet heard from him, so that some of them are in a good deal of pain to know where he is, and whether he be alive. I intend however to write a second time, but I thought it was needless to trouble you till I could say something to the Purpose. But indeed I have had a much better or rather a much worse Excuse, having been almost three weeks pursued with a Noise in my Ears and Deafness that makes me an unsociable Creature, hating to see others, or be seen by my best Friends, and wholly confined to my Chamber — I have been often troubled with it but never so long as now, which wholly disconcerts and confounds me to a degree that I can neither think nor speak nor Act as I used to do, nor mind the least Business even of my own, which is an Apology I should be glad to be without. I am ever
Yr &c. J. S.
The deafness of which he complains in this letter grew worse and worse, till at last it cut him off from all society. Five years before his death he wrote to his cousin : I have been very miserable all night, and to-day extremely deaf and full of pain. I am so stupid and confounded that I cannot express the mortification I am under both in mind and body. I hardly understand one word I write. I am sure my days will be very few ; few and miserable they must be.” A little later his mind failed rapidly, and Swift became
“A driveller and a show.”
DUBLIN. Decembr 5th 1721.
SR, — When I received your French Letter I was going to write you an English one. I forsook the World and French at the same time, and have nothing to do with the Latter further than sometimes reading or gabbling with the French clergy who come to me about business of their Church car je parle à peindre, mais pour l’ecrire je n’en songe guere depuis que j’ay quitté le politique. I am but just recovered of my Deafness which put me out of all Temper with my self and the rest of Mankind. My Health is not worth a Rush nor consequently the Remaining Part of my Life.
I just now hear that Dr Prat Dean of Down, my old Acquaintance is dead, and I must here break off to go to his Relations.
— 9. The poor Dean dyed on Tuesday, and was buried yesterday, he was one of the oldest Acquaintance I had, and the last that I expected to dy. He has left a young Widow, in very good Circumstances. He had Scheems of long life, hiring a Town-house, and building a Countrey, preparing great Equipages and Furniture. What a ridiculous Thing is Man — I am this moment inevitably stoppt this moment [sic] by company, and cannot send my Letter till next Post.
—12. I have writ twice to Mr Jervas, and got no Answer, nor do I hear that any one has ; I will write again when I can be informed where to reach him; you hear the Bank was kicked out with Ignominy last Saturday—This Subject filled the Town with Pamphlets and none writt so well as by Mr Rowley though he was not thought to have many Talents for an Author. As to my own Part, I mind little what is doing out of my proper Dominions, the Libertyes of the Deanery; yet I thought a Bank ought to be established, and would be so because it was the onely ruinous Thing, wanting to the Kingdom, and therefore I had not the least Doubt but the Parlmt would pass it.
I hope you are grown regular in your Plantations, and have got some skill to know where and what Trees to place, and how to make them grow. For want of better I have been planting Elms in the Deanery Garden, and what is worse, in the Cathedrall Churchyard where I disturbed the Dead, and angered the Living, by removing Tomb stones, that People will be at a Loss how to rest with the Bones of their Ancestors.
I envy all you that lived retired out of a world where we expect nothing but Plague, Poverty, and Famine which are bad words to end a Letter with, therefore with wishing Prosperity to you and your Family, I bid you Adieu.
“ The French clergy ” belonged to the Huguenot congregation, which used to meet for worship in the Lady chapel of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The “ Bank ” which “ was kicked out with Ignominy ” was the bill to establish a National Bank in Ireland, — “ a thing they call a bank,” Swift described it. “ Bankrupts,” he said, “ are always for setting up banks ; how then can you think a bank will fail of a majority in both houses ? ” “I have often wished,” he wrote, “ that a law were enacted to hang up half a dozen bankers every year, and thereby interpose at least some short delay to the farther ruin of Ireland.” A year earlier than the date of this letter, he wrote some lines entitled The Run upon the Bankers, in which he thus depicted the condition of a banker at the Day of Judgment: —
When first he finds himself awake
At the last trumpet, unprepared,
And all his grand account to make !
And he, in men’s and angels’ sight
Produced with all his bills and gold,
Weighed in the balance and found light.”
These lines would have quite a modern ring about them were they carved on the walls of the church lately built “ To the glory of God and in memory of Jay Gould.”
[Indorsed, “ a very droll and pleast letter.”]
DUBLIN. Jany 30th 1721-2.
SR, — I have been these five weeks and still continue so disordered with a Noise in my Ears and Deafness that I am utterly unqualifyed for all Conversation or thinking. I used to be free of these Fits in a fortnight but now I fear the Disease is deeper rooted, and I never Stir out, or Suffer any to See me but Trebbles and countertennors, and those as Seldom as possible.
I have often thought that a Gentleman in the Country is not a bit less happy for not having Power in it, and that an Influence at Sizes and Sessions, and the like, is altogether below a wise man’s Regard, especially in such a dirty obscure nook of the World as this Kingdom. If they break open your Roads, they cannot hinder you from going through them. You are a King over your own District though the neighbouring Princes be your Enemyes. You can pound the Cattle that trespass on your Grounds, tho’ the next Justice replevins them : you are thought to be quarrelsom enough and therefore peacefull people will be less fond of provoking you. I do not value Bussy’s maxim of Life, without the Circumstances of Health and Money: — Your Horse is neither Whig nor Tory, but will carry you safe unless he Stumbles or be foundered — By the way, I am as much at a loss for one as ever, and so I fear shall continue till my riding days are over.
I should not much mislike a Presentment against your going on with your House, because I am a mortal Enemy to Lime — and Stone, but I hope yours moves slowly upwards.
We are now preparing for the Plague, which every body expects before May; I have bespoke two pair of Shoes extraordry. Every body else hoards up their Money, and those who have none now, will have none. Our great Tradesmen break, and go off by Dozens, among the rest Archdeacon Bargons Son.
Mr Jervas writes me Word, that Morris Dun is a Person he has turned off his Lands, as one that has been his constant Enemy &c, and in short gives him such a Character as none can be fond of. So that I believe you were not apprized on what foot that Man stands with Mr Jervas. — I am quite weary of my own Ears, so with Prayers for you and your Fire Side, I remain yr &c.
The “Trebbles and countertennors” were, I suppose, the vicars-choral of his cathedral, from whose prosecutions he had suffered at an earlier date.
Sir Roger de Coverley did not share contempt of “ an influence at sizes and sessions.” The Spectator tells us how, at an assize, “the court was sat before Sir Roger came ; but notwithstanding all the justices had taken their places upon the bench, they made room for the old knight at the head of them ; who for his reputation in the country took occasion to whisper in the judge’s ear that he was glad his lordship had met with such good weather in his circuit.”
How much Ireland was regarded as an " obscure nook of the World ” is shown by Pope when he writes to Swift, “ I look upon a friend in Ireland as upon a friend in the other world, whom (popishly speaking) I believe constantly welldisposed towards me, and ready to do me all the good he can in that state of separation.”
“ Bussy Rabutin,” writes Swift, “the politest person of his age, when he was recalled to Court after a long banishment, appeared ridiculous there.”
The plague had devastated Marseilles. Pope celebrated the devotion of the bishop who, undismayed, had ministered to the dying : —
When nature sickened, and each gale was death ?”
By the English Parliament an act was passed for the building of pest-houses, to which not only the infected, but even the healthy members of an infected family were to be removed. Round any town or city visited by the plague lines were to be drawn which no one was to pass. Happily, the British Isles escaped the visitation. Twelve years later Swift wrote to a London merchant: " Oppressed beggars are always knaves; and I believe there hardly are any other among us. They had rather gain a shilling by knavery than five pounds by honest dealing. They lost £30,000 a year for ever in the time of the plague at Marseilles, when the Spaniards would have bought all their linen from Ireland ; but the merchants and the weavers sent over such abominable linen, that it was all returned back, or sold for a fourth part of the value.”
[Indorsed, “ a very merry pleast letter.”] DUBLIN. Mar 13th 1721-2.
SIR, — I had a letter from you some time ago, when I was in no Condition for any Correspondence or Conversation ; But I thank God for some time past I am pretty well recovered, and am able to hear my Friends without danger of putting them into Consumptions. My Remedy was given me by my Tayler, who had been four years deaf, and cured himself as I have done, by a Clove of Garlick Steeped in Honey, and put into his Ear, for wch I gave him half a Crown after it had cost me 5 or 6 Pounds in Drugs and Doctors to no Purpose — Surely you in the Country have got the London Fancy, that I am Author of all the Scurvy Things that come out here, the Slovenly Pages called the Benefit of — was writt by one Dobbs a Surgeon. Mr Sheridan sometimes entertains the World and I pay for all. So that they have a Miscellany of my works in England, whereof you and I are equally Authors. But I lay all those Things at the Back of my Book, which swells so much, that I am hardly able to write any thing on the Forepart.
I think we are got off the Plague, tho I hear an Act of Parlmt was read in Churches (not in mine) concerning it, and the Wise say, we are in more danger than ever, because infected Goods are more likely to be brought us. For my Part, I have the Courage of a Coward, never to think of Dangers till they arrive, and then I shall begin to squeak. The Whigs are grown such disaffected People that I dare not converse with them ; and who your Britton Esqr is, I cannot tell. I hear there is an Irish Paper called the Reformer. I saw part of one Paper, but it did not encourage me to enquire after more : I keep the fewest Company of any man in this Town, and read nothing that hath been written on this Side 1500 Years ; So you may judge what an Intelligencer I am like to be to a Gentleman in the Country, who wants to know how the World goes.
Thus much for your first Letter, your last which came just now is a Condolence on my Deafness. Mr Le brunt was right in my Intentions, if it had continued, but the Effect is removed with the Cause. My Friends shall see me while I am neither troublesome to them nor my self. I was less melancholy than I thought I should have been, and less curious to know what people said, when they talked before me ; but I saw very few, and suffered hardly any to stay : — People whisper here too, just as they have whispered these 30 years, and to as little Purpose.
I have the best Servant in the World dying in the House, which quite disconcerts me. He was the first good one I ever had, and I am sure will be the last. I know few greater Losses in Lite.
I know not how little you may make of Stone walls. I am onely going to dash one in the Garden, and think I shall be undone.
I hope yr Lady and Fire side are well I am ever &c.
Swift, it is said, only once directly owned any piece of writing as his. “ Since I left England,” he wrote, “ such a parcel of trash has been there fathered upon me, that nothing but the good judgment of my friends could hinder them from thinking me the greatest dunce alive.”
The book “ which swells so much ” was probably Gulliver’s Travels, of which much was already written, though it was not published till four years later. His servant died within a few days. He buried him in the cathedral, and read the service over him with tears in his eyes. In the epitaph which he wrote for him he had spoken of himself as “ his grateful friend and master.” “ A gentleman of his acquaintance, much more distinguished for vanity than wisdom, prevailed upon him to leave out the word ‘ friend.’ ”
George Birkbeck Hill.