Some Unpublished Letters of Dean Swift
WE have now reached the last batch of Swift’s letters. The correspondence which opened so briskly has grown sluggish with the lapse of time. In the beginning of their acquaintance Swift wrote more frequently to Chetwode in ten months than we now find him writing in five or six years. For a while his attention was drawn away from his friends in Ireland by two visits which he paid to England, and by the hopes raised in him by the accession of a new king. His health, moreover, was failing, and the attacks of giddiness and deafness, from which he had suffered much in late years, returned oftener and lasted longer. His thoughts were narrowed, finding their centre in his own misery. Nevertheless, he is still ready to help his friend with his counsel for some time, till at last neglect on his part, or perhaps only the suspicion of neglect, leads to a quarrel. They close their correspondence with bandying insults.
[Indorsed, “ Dr Swift from London in answer to a Letter I wrote him concerning Cadenus and Vanessa.” Sent by hand.]
LONDON. Apr 19th 172G. SR, — I have the Favor of yr Lettr of the 7th instant. As to the Poem you mention, I know several! Copyes of it have been given about, and Ld. Lͭ [Lord Lieutenant] told me he had one. It was written written [sic] at Windsor near 14 years ago, and dated : It was a Task performed on a Frolick among some Ladyes, and she it was addresst to dyed some time ago in Dublin, and on her Death the Copy shewn by her Executor. I am very indifferent what is done with it, for printing cannot make it more common than it is ; and for my own Part, I forget what is in it, but believe it to be onely a cavalier Business, and they who will not give allowances may chuse, and if they intend it maliciously, they will be disappointed, for it was what I expected, long before I left Irelͩ — Therefore what you advise me, about printing it my self is impossible, for I never saw it since I writ it, neither if I had, would I use shifts or Arts, let People think of me as they please. Neither do I believe the gravest Character is answerable for a Private humersome thing which by an accident inevitable, and the Baseness of particular Malice is made publick. I have borne a great deal more, and those who will like me less, upon seeing me capable of having writ such a Trifle so many years ago, may think as they please, neither is it agreeable to me to be troubled with such Accounts, when there is no Remedy and onely gives me the ungratefull Task of reflecting on the Baseness of Mankind, which I knew sufficiently before.
I know not yr Reasons for coming hither. Mine were onely to see some old Friends before my Death, and some other little Affairs, that related to my former Course of Life here. But I design to return by the End of Summer. I should be glad to be settled here, but the inconvenience and Charge of onely being a Passenger, is not so easy, as an indifferent home ; and the Stir people make with me, gives me neither Pride nor Pleasure. I have sd enough and remain Sr yrs &c.
“ The Poem ” was Cadenus and Vanessa. Esther Vanhomrigh (Vanessa), to whom it was addressed, on her death in 1720 left directions for its publication. I infer from this letter that it was not printed till 1726. The “Copyes given about ” were in manuscript. The earliest edition in the British Museum is of that year, — “ published and sold by Allan Ramsay, at his shop at the East end of the Lucken-booths [Edinburgh], price sixpence.”It is interesting to find the Scotch poet thus connected with Cadenus and Vanessa. Mr. Craik, in his Life of Swift, says that the author revised the poem some years after it was written. The evidence for this statement is not strong enough to give the lie to the dean’s assertion that he had never seen it since he wrote it. The “ accident inevitable” by which it was made public was, no doubt, Vanessa’s death; whose was “the Baseness” is doubtful. It was printed, it is said, by her two executors, one of whom was Berkeley. If Swift aimed at him, he would not have assented to the praise bestowed on the bishop by Pope : —
To Berkeley, every virtue under heaven.”
The stir people made with Swift in London was foretold by Dr. Arbuthnot, who wrote to him, “ I know of near half a year’s dinners where you are already bespoke.”
DUBLIN. Octr 24th 1726.
SR, — Since I came to Ireland to the time that I guess you went out of Town,
I was as you observe much in the Country, partly to enure myself gradually to the Air of this place and partly to see a Lady of my old Acquaintance who was extremely ill. I am now going on the old way having much to do of little consequence, and taking all advantages of fair weather to keep my Health by walking. I look upon you as no very warm Planter who could be eighteen months absent from it, and amusing yr self in so wretched a Town as this, neither can I think any man prudent who hath planting or building going on in his absence.
I believe our discoursing of Friends in Engld would be very short, for I hardly imagine you and I can have three of the same Acquaintance there, Death and Exil having so diminished the number ; and as for Occurences, I had as little to do with them as possible, my Opinions pleasing very few ; and therefore the life I led there was most in the Country, and seeing onely those who were content to visit me, and receive my Visits, without regard to Party or Politicks. One thing I have onely confirmed my self in, which I knew long ago, that it is a very idle thing for any man to go for England without great Business, unless he were in a way to pass his Life there, which was not my Case, and if it be yours, I shall think you happy.
I am as always an utter Stranger to Persons and occurences here — and therefore can entertain you with neithr, but wish you Success in this season of planting, and remain
Yr most faithfull &c.
“Lady Carteret, wife of the lordlieutenant, said to Swift, ‘ The air of this country is good.’ He fell down on his knees. ‘For God’s sake, madam, don’t say so in England ; they will certainly tax it.’ ”
Swift wished much to be settled in England. During the visit there, described in the above letter, he wrote to a friend : “ This is the first time I was ever weary of England, and longed to be in Ireland ; but it is because go I must; for I do not love Ireland better, nor England, as England, worse ; in short you all live in a wretched, dirty doghole and prison, but it is a place good enough to die in.” Three years later he wrote from Dublin: “ You think, as I ought to think, that it is time for me to have done with the world; and so I would, if I could get into a better, before I was called into the best, and not die here in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole.”
DUBLIN. Feb 14th 1726-7. SR, — I should have sooner answered yr Lettr [your Letter] if my time had not been taken up with many impertinences, in Spight of my Monkish way of living ; and particularly of late — with my preparing a hundred little affairs which must be dispatched before I go for England, as I intend to do in a very short time, and I believe it will be the last Journey I shall ever take thither. But the omission of some Matters last summer, by the absence of certain people hath made it necessary. As to Captn Gulliver, I find his book is very much censured in this Kingdom which abounds in excellent Judges ; but in Engld I hear it hath made a bookseller almost rich enough to be an Alderman. In my Judgment I should think it hath been mangled in the press, for in some parts it doth not seem of a piece, but I shall hear more when I am in England. I am glad you are got into a new Tast of your Improvements, and I know no thing I should more desire than some Spot upon which I could spend the rest of my life in improving. But I shall live and dye friendless, and a sorry Dublin inhabitant ; and yet I have Spirit still left to keep a clutter about my little garden, where I pretend to have the finest paradise Stockes of their age in Ireland. But I grow so old, that I despond, and think nothing worth my Care except ease and indolence, and walking to keep my Health.
I can send you no news, because I never read any, nor suffer any person to inform me. I am sure whatever it is it cannot please me. The Archbp of Dublin is just recovered after having been despaired of, and by that means hath disappointed some hopers.
I am Sr yr &c.
Swift’s “ Monkish way of living ” was thus described by him a few years later :
“ I am as mere a monk as any in Spain. morsel alone like and
I eat my morsel alone like a king, and am constantly at home when I am not riding or walking, which I do often and always alone.”
Arbuthnot had written on November 8, 1726 : “ Gulliver is in everybody’s hand. I lent the book to an old gentleman who went immediately to his map to search for Lilliput.” Gay wrote a few days later : “The whole impression sold in a week. From the highest to the lowest it is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.” Swift used to leave the profits of his writings to the booksellers. In 1735 he wrote :
“ I never got a farthing by anything I writ, except one about eight years ago, and that was by Mr Pope’s prudent management for me.” The time of publication renders it almost certain that this one book was Gulliver’s Travels. He is said to have received £300. By the Irish edition, published in 1727, he made nothing. “ Dublin booksellers,” he wrote, “ have not the least notion of paying for copy.” If the book was “ mangled in the press,” it was owing to the timidity of its London publisher, Benjamin Motte, who may have feared a prosecution for libel. Swift, keeping up the mystery of authorship, wrote to Pope, “ I read the book over, and in the second volume observed several passages which appear to be patched and altered.” He added, “ A bishop here said that book was full of improbable lies, and for his part he hardly believed a word of it.” Mr. Craik argues with great probability that the suggestion of garbling was “ a loophole for disclaiming what Swift or his friends might afterwards condemn.”
DUBLIN. Novr 23rd 1727.
SR, — I have yours of the 15th instant, wherein you tell me that upon my last leaving Ireland, you supposed I would return no more, which was probable enough, for I was nine weeks very ill in England, both of Giddyness and Deafness, which latter being an unconversable disorder I thought it better to come to a place of my own, than be troublesome to my Friends, or live in a lodging ; and this hastened me over, and by a hard Journy I recovered both my Aylments. But if you imagined me to have any favor at Court you were much mistaken or misinformed. It is quite otherwise at least among the Ministry. Neither did I ever go to Court, except when I was sent for and not always then. Besides my illness gave me too good an excuse the last two months.
As to Politicks ; in Engld it is hard to keep out of them, and here it is a shame to be in them, unless by way of Laughtr [Laughter] and ridicule, for both which my tast is gone. I suppose there will be as much mischief as Interest, folly, ambition and Faction can bring about, but let those who are younger than I look to the consequences. The publick is an old tattred House but may last as long as my lease in it, and therefore like a true Irish tenant I shall consider no further.
I wish I had some Retirement two or three miles from this Town, to amuse my self, as you do, with planting much, but not as you do, for I would build very little. But I cannot think of a remote Journey in such a miserable country, such a Clymat, and such roads, and such uncertainty of Health. I would never if possible be above an hour distant from home — nor be caught by a Deafness and Giddyness out of my own precincts, where I can do or not do, what I please ; and see or not see, whom I please. But if I had a home a hundred miles off I never would see this Town again, which I believe is the most disagreeable Place in Europe, at least to any but those who have been accostomed to it from their youth, and in such a Case I suppose a Jayl might be tolerable. But my best comfort is, that I lead here, the life of a monk, as I have always done ; I am vexed whenever I hear a knocking at the door, especially the Raps of quality, and I see none but those who come on foot. This is too much at once.
I am yr &c.
Of his illness in England Swift wrote from Pope’s house, where he was staying, “ Cyder and champaign and fruit have been the cause.” “I have,” he said, “ a hundred oceans rolling in my ears, into which no sense has been poured this fortnight.” On his return home he wrote to Pope : “ Two sick friends never did well together; such an office [the care of a sick friend] is fitter for servants and humble companions, to whom it is wholly indifferent whether we give them trouble or not. I have a race of orderly, elderly people of both sexes at command, who are of no consequence, and have gifts proper for attending us ; who can bawl when I am deaf, and tread softly when I am only giddy and would sleep.”
His “hard Journy” was the long ride from London to Holyhead, in Wales, where he was kept some days by contrary winds, “ in a scurvy unprovided comfortless place without one companion,” as he wrote in his journal. “ I cannot read at night, and I have no books to read in the day. I am afraid of joining with passengers for fear of getting acquaintance with Irish. I should be glad to converse with farmers or shopkeepers, but none of them speak English. A dog is better company than the vicar, for I remember him of old.”
His taste for ridicule of Irish politicians was not wholly gone. A few years later he attacked them in the lines beginning, —
Ye senators, who love to prate ;
Ye rascals of inferior note,
Who for a dinner sell a vote ;
Ye pack of pensionary peers,
Whose fingers itch for poets’ ears ; Ye bishops far removed from saints, Why all this rage ? why these complaints ? ”
The life he led in Dublin he thus described to Pope: “ I keep humble company, who are happy to come when they can get a bottle of wine without paying for it. I gave my vicar a supper and his wife a shilling to play with me an hour at backgammon once a fortnight. To all people of quality and especially of titles I am not within ; or at least am deaf a week or two after I am well.
DUBLIN. Decbr 12th 1727.
SR, — I thought to have seen your Son, or to have spoken to his Tutor. But I am in a condition to see nobody ; my old disorder of Deafness being returned upon me, so that I am forced to keep at home and see no company ; and this disorder seldom leaves me under two months.
I do not understand your son’s fancy of leaving the University to study Law under a Teacher. I doubt he is weary of his Studyes, and wants to be in a new Scene ; I heard of a fellow some years ago who followed that practice of reading Law, but I believe it was to Lads, who had never been at a University; I am ignorant of these Scheams, and you must advise with some who are acquainted with them. I only know the old road of getting some good learning in a university and when young men are well grounded then going to the Inns of Court. This is all I can say in the matter, my Head being too much confused by my present Disorder.
I am yr obdt &c.
Swift in his letter to a Young Clergyman says : “ What a violent run there is among too many weak people against university education : be firmly assured that the whole cry is made up by those who were either never sent to a college, or, through their irregularities and stupidity, never made the least improvement while they were there.”
The students of Dublin University he thus mentions in a letter to Pope : " You are as much known here as in England, and the university lads will crowd to kiss the hem of your garments.
Wherever young Chetwode studied law, he would have had to learn law Latin. For four years longer it was to remain the language of the records in the law courts. Blackstone in his Commentaries sighs over the change that was made, when, by act of Parliament, English alone was to be thenceforth used. The common people, he said, were as ignorant in matters of law as before, while clerks and attorneys were now found who could not understand the old records. Owing, moreover, to the verbosity of English, more words were used in legal documents, to the great increase of the cost.
DUBLIN. Mar. 15th 1728-9.
SR, — I had the favor of yours of the 5th instant, when I had not been above a fortnight recovered from a disorder of giddyness and Deafness, which hardly leaves me a month together. Since my last return from Engld I never had but one Letter from you while I was in the Country, and that was during a time of the same vexatious ailment, when I could neither give my self the trouble to write or to read. I shall think very unwise in such a world as this, to leave planting of trees, and making walks, to come into it — I wish my fortune had thrown me any where rather than into this Town and no Town, where I have not three acquaintances, nor know any Person whom I care to visit. But I must now take up with a solitary life from necessity as well as Inclination, for yesterday I relapsed again, and am now so deaf that I shall not be able to dine with my Chapter on our onely festival in the year, I mean St. Patrick’s Day. As to any Scurrilityes published against me, I have no other Remedy, than to desire never to hear of them and then the authors will be disappointed, at least it will be the same thing to me as if they had never been writ. For I will not imagine that any friend I esteem, can value me the less, upon the Malice of Fools, and knaves, against whose Republick I have always been at open War. Every man is safe from Evil tongues, who can be content to be obscure, and men must take Distinction as they do Land, cum onere.
I wish you happy in your Retreat, and hope you will enjoy it long and am your &c.
A little later Swift wrote : “ I have in twenty years drawn above one thousand scurrilous libels on myself, without any other recompense than the love of the Irish vulgar, and two or three dozen signposts of the Drapier in this city, besides those that are scattered in country towns; and even these are half worn out.”
His war against the republic of fools and knaves he thus speaks of in his Lines on the Death of Dr. Swift: —
To cure the vices of mankind,
His vein ironically grave
Exposed the fool and lashed the knave.”
The safety from evil tongues that is found in obscurity he has thus expressed: “ Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.”
DUBLIN. May 17th 1729.
SR, — That I did not answer your former Letter, was because I did not know it required any, and being seldom in a tolerable humor by the frequent returns or dreads of Deafness, I am grown a very bad correspondent. As to the passage you mentioned in that former Letter, and desired my opinion, I did not understand the meaning, and that Lettr being mislayd, I cannot recollect it, tho’ you refer to it in your last. I shall not make the usuall excusses on the subject of lending money, but as I have not been master of 3011 for thirty days this thirty years, so I have actually borrowed several small Sums for thesse two or three years past for board-wages to my Servts [Servants] and common expences. I have within these ten days borrowd the very poor money lodged in my hands, to buy Cloaths for my Servants, and left my note in the bag in case of my Death. These pinches are not peculiar to me, but to all men in this Kingdom, who live upon Tythes or rack [?] rents, for, as we have been on the high road to ruin these dozen years, so we have now got almost to our Journey’s End: And truly I do expect and am determined in a short time to pawn my little plate, or sell it, for subsistance. I have had the same request you make me, from severall others, and have desired the same favor from others, without Success; and I believe there are hardly three men of any figure in Ireld, whose affairs are so bad as mine, who now pay Interest for a thousd pounds of other peoples money (which I undertook to manage) without receiving one farthing my self, but engaged seven years in a law suit to recover it. This is the fairest side of my Circumstances for they are worse than I care to think of, much less to tell, and if the universall complaints and despair of all people have not reacht you, you have yet a vexation to come. I am in ten times a worse state than you, having a law suit on which my whole fortune depends, and put to shifts for money which I thought would never fall to my lot. I have been lately amazed as well grieved [sic] at some intimate friends, who have desired to borrow money of me, and whom I could not oblige but rather expected the same kindness from them.
Such is the condition of the Kingdom, and such is mine.
I am yr &c.
Swift in his letters often complains of the want of ready money. “ Money,” he once wrote, " is not to be had, except they will make me a bishop, or a judge, or a colonel, or a commissioner of the revenues.” Nevertheless, on his death, ten years after this was written, he left more than £11,000. It is not true that he had “ not been master of 3011 for thirty days this thirty years.” In 1712 he had £400 in the hands of a friend; in 1725 he lost £1250 by another friend’s ruin. His servants he always kept on board-wages. Their staying long in his service showed that he was not a bad master. “ He was served in plate, and used to say that he was the poorest gentleman in Ireland that ate upon plate, and the richest that lived without a coach.”
His lawsuit, whatever it was, went on troubling him. Two years later he wrote to Gay : “ I thought I had done with my lawsuit, and so did all my lawyers; but my adversary, after being in appearance a Protestant these twenty years, has declared he was always a Papist, and consequently by the law here cannot buy, nor, I think, sell; so that I am at sea again for almost all I am worth.”
Aug. 9th 1729.
SR, — Your Lettr of July 30th I did not receive till this day. I am near 60 miles from Dublin, and have been so these 10 weeks. I am heartily sorry for the two ocassions of the Difficultyes you are under. I knew Mrs Chetwode from her Child-hood, and knew her mother and Sisters, and although I saw her but few times in my life, being in a different Kingdom, I had an old friendship for her, without entring into differences between you, and cannot but regret her death. As to Mr Jackman I have known him many years, he was a good natured generous and gentlemanly person ; and a long time ago, having a little money of my own, and being likewise concerned for a friend, I was inclined to trust him with the management of both but received some hints that his affairs were even then not in a condition so as to make it safe to have any dealings of that kind with him. For these 14 years past, he was always looked on as a gone man, for which I was sorry, because I had a personal inclination towards himself, but seldom saw him of late years ; because I was onely a generall acquaintance, and not of intimacy enough to advise him, or meddle with his affairs, nor able to assist him. I therefore withdrew, rather than put my Shoulders to a falling wall, which I had no call to do. This day upon reading yrLettr I asked a Gentleman just come from Dublin, who told me the Report was true, of Jackman’s being gone off. Now Sr I desire to know, how it is possible I can give you Advice being no Lawyer, not knowing how much you stand engaged for, nor the Situation of your own Affairs. I presume the other Security is a responsible person, and I hope Mr Jackman’s arrears cannot be so much as to endanger your sinking under them. It is to be supposed that Mr Shirley will give time, considering the case. I think there is a fatality in some people to embroyl themselves by their good nature. I know what I would do in the like condition ; It would be, upon being pressed, to be as open as possible, and to offer all in my power to give Satisfaction, provided I could have the allowance of time.
I know all fair Creditors love free and open dealings, and that staving off by the arts of Lawyers makes all things worse at the end. I will write to Mr Stopford by the next post, in as pressing a manner as I can; he is as honest and benevolent a person as ever I knew. If it be necessary for you to retrench in your way of living, I should advise, upon supposing that you can put your affairs in some Settlement here under the conduct of your Son assisted by some other friends, that you should retire to some town in England in a good country and far from London, where you may live as cheap as you please, and not uncomfortably, till this present Storm shall blow over. This is all I can think of after three times reading your Letter. I pray God direct you;
I am ever &c.
Aug. 30th 1729.
SR, — I received your Lettr by a man that came from Dublin with some things for me. This is the first post since ; I come now to answer yr questions. First whether you shall marry. I answer that if it may be done with advantage to your fortune, to a person where the friendship and good usage will be reciprocal!, and without loss to yr present children, I suppose all yr friends, as I, would approve it. As to the affair of Lettr of Licence &c. I profess I am not master of it. I understand it is to be given by all the Creditors before the Debtor can be secure ; why it is desired of you, I know not, unless as a Creditor, and how you are a Creditor, unless as being bound for him, I am as ignorant, and how Jackman in his condition can be able to indemnify you is as hard to conceive ; I doubt his rich friends will hardly do it. This is all I can see after half blinding my self with reading yr Clerks Copyes. As to yr leaving Ireld, doubtless yr first step should be to London for a final answer from the Lady ; if that fayls, I think you can live more conveniently in some distant southern county of Engld, tho’ perhaps cheapr in France. To make a conveyance of yr estate etc. there must I suppose be advice of good Lawyers. Mr Stopford will be a very proper person, but you judge ill in thinking on me who am so old and crazy, that for severall years I have refused so much as to be Executor to three or four of my best and nearest friends both here and in Engld. I know not whether Mr Stopford received my Letter : but I will write to him again. You cannot well blame him for some tenderness to so near a Relation, but I think you are a little too nice and punctilious for a man of this world, and expect more from human race, than their Corruptions can afford. I apprehend that whatever the debt you are engaged for shall amount to, any unsettled part of your estate will be lyable to it, and it will be wise to reckon upon no assistance from Jackman, and if you shall be forced to raise money and pay Interest, you must look onely towards how much is left, and either retrieve by marriage or live retired in a thrifty way. No man can advise otherwise than as he follows himself. Every farthing of any temporall fortune I have is upon the balance to be lost. The turn I take is to look on what is left, and my Wisdom can reach no higher. But as you ill bear publick Mortifications it will be best to retire to some othr Country where none will insult you on account of your living in an humbler manner. In the Country of England one may live with repute, and keep the best company for 10011 a year. I can think of no more at present. I shall soon leave this place, the weather being cold, and an Irish winter country is what I cannot support.
I am Sr yr most &c.
Swift’s assertion that “ no man can advise otherwise than as he follows himself ” would have brought on him the reproach from Johnson that he was “ grossly ignorant of human nature.” When it was objected that a certain medical author did not practice what he taught, Johnson replied: “ That does not make his book the worse. People are influenced more by what a man says, if his practice is suitable to it, because they are blockheads.”
That a man living by himself could, in those days, on £100 a year (nearly $500), keep the best company in the country parts of England is confirmed by a curious statement published by Boswell of Peregrine Langton, who on £200 a year had done much more than this, for he had kept up a house with four servants, a post-chaise and three horses.
DUBLIN. Feby 12th 1729/30.
SR, — I did not come to town till October, and I solemnly protest that I writ to you since I came, with the opinion I was able to give on the affairs you consulted me about; indeed I grow every day an ill retainer of memory even in my own affairs, and consequently much more of other peoples, especially where I can be of little or no Service. I find you are a great Intelligencer, and charge me at a venture with twenty things which never came into my head. It is true I have amused my self sometimes both formerly and of late, and have suffered from it by indiscretion of people. But I believe that matter is at an end ; For I would see all the little rascals of Ireland hanged rather than give them any pleasure at the expence of disgusting one judicious friend. — I have seen Mr Jackman twice in the Green and therefore suppose there hath been some expedient found for an interval of liberty : but I cannot learn the state of his affairs. As to changing your Single life, it is impossible to advise without knowing all circumstances both of you and the Person. A. Bp Sheldon advised a young Lord to be sure to get money with a wife because he would then be at least possessed of one good thing. For the rest, you are the onely judge of Person, temper and understanding. And, those who have been marryed may form juster ideas of that estate than I can pretend to do.
I am Sr your most obd4 &c.
Of a lord who, acting on Archbishop Sheldon’s advice, had married for money, Johnson said, “ Now has that fellow at length obtained a certainty of three meals a day, and for that certainty, like his brother dog in the fable, he will get his neck galled for life with a collar.”
Swift, in the last lines of his letter, implies that he had never been married. That he had been married to Stella the evidence is very strong, though not conclusive.
DUBLIN. June 24th 1730.
SR, — I had yours but it came a little later than usuall; you are misinformed ; I have neither amused my self with opposing or defending any body. I live wholly within my self ; most people have dropt me, and I have nothing to do, but fence against the evils of age and sickness as much as I can, by riding and walking; neither have I been above 6 miles out of this town this 9 months ; except once at the Bishps [Bishop’s] visitation in Trim. Neither have I any thought of a Villa eithr near or far off ; having neither money, youth, nor inclination for such an atchievement. I do not think the Country of Ireland a habitable scene without long preparation, and great expence. I am glad your trees thrive so well. It is usuall when good care is taken, that they will at last settle to the ground.
I cannot imagine how you procure enemyes, since one great use of retirement is to lose them, or else a man is no thorow retirer. If I mistake you not, by your 60 friends, you mean enemies ; I knew not Webb. — As to your information of passages in private life, it is a thing I never did nor shall pursue ; nor can envy you or any man for knoledge in it; because it must be lyable to great mistakes, and consequently wrong Judgments. This I say, though I love the world as little, and think as ill of it as most people. . . . Mr Cusack dyed a week after I left Trim ; and is much lamented by all Partyes. What embroylments you had with him I know not; but I always saw him act the part of a generous, honest, good natured, reasonable, obliging man. I find you intended to treat of a marriage by Proxy in Engld and the lady is dead. I think you have as ill luck with burying your friends, as good with burying your enemyes; I did expect that would be the event when I heard of it first from you. I know not what advertisements you read of any Libels or Storyes against me, for I read no news ; nor any man tells me of such things, which is the onely way of disappointing such obscure Slaunderers. About 3 years ago I was shewn an advertiset to some such purpose, but I thought the Person who told me had better let it alone. I do not know but they will write Memoirs of my actions in War ; These are naturall consequences that fall upon people who have writings layd to their charge, whether true or not —
I am just going out of town, to stay no where long, but go from house to house, whether Inns or friends, for five or six weeks mearly for exercise.
I am Sr your most obedient &c.
I direct to Maryborow by guess, never remembering whether that or Mountmelick be right.
[Knightley Chetwode to Dean Swift.]
Sr, — I came to Towne ye 12th of Decr and leave it the 12th of March, and could never see you but in ye streete, the last time I met you I merryly thought of Horace’s 9th Satire, and upon it pursued you to yr next house tho’ not “ prope Cæsaris hortos.” — I had a desire to catch you by yr best ear for halfe an hour and something to tell you, wh I imagined wd surprize and please you, but with the cunning of experienced Courtiers, grown old in politicks, you put me off with a I '11 send to you ; wh probably you never intended. I am now returning to Wodebrook from an amour wh has proved little profitable to myselfe — Business here I ’ve none but with women ; those pleasures have not (with me) as yet [? lost] their charms and tho’ when I am at home I do not like my neighbourhood and shall therefore probably seldom stir beyond the limits of my gardens and Plantations, wh. are full big enough for my purse, or what is even more insatiable my ambition, yet if my amusements there are scanty my thoughts are unmolested. I see not ye prosperity of Rascalls, I hear not ye Complaints of the worthy—I enjoy the sun and fresh air without paying a fruitless attendance upon his Eminence of St. Patricks, my fruit will bloom, my Herbs be fragrant, my flowers smile tho’ the Deane frowns, and looks gloomy, take this as some sort of returne for ye greatest neglect of me, I ’ve mett since my last coming to this Towne, many ill offices, and what is far more extraordinary wth halfe a dozen Females who have cleared up the truth of it to a mathematicall! demonstration; this causes me to reflect upon the Jewishe method formerly to make Proselytes wh I think St. Ambrose well expresses in ye following words “ Hi arte immiscent se hominibus, Domos penetrant, ingrediuntur Prætoria, aures judicum et publica inquietant, et ideo magis prevalent quo magis impudenter.” I saw you pass last friday by my windowe like a Lady to take horse, with yr handcirchiefe and whipp in yr hand together ; yr petticoats were of ye shortest, and you wanted a black capp or I might have thought of Lady Harriett Harley now Lady Oxford.
[Knightley Chetwode to Dean Swift.]
SR, — I am truly concerned at yr having been so long lame which you say I can’t see you, tho’ I imputed it to your having taken something amiss in my last letter, wherein when I thought I was only plaine perhaps I’ve been blunt, and yt is a fault for I am of opinion with my old friend Wycherly, that some degree of ceremony shd [should] be preserved in the strictest friendship. However I write again to you, upon my old maxim yt he who forbears to write because his last letter is unanswered shews more regard to forms and punctillios than to friendship. I’ve mett you handed about in print and as the Coffey Houses will have it of your owne doing — I am afraid yr using yr legg too soon will not let it be too soon well, the very shaking of a chair tho’ yo had a stole under it,
I believe harm’d you for you see by yr accident at ye A’p’s visitation how small a thing throws you back. Beware I pray you of this hurt in time, for if a swelling shd fix in yr leggs an access of a Dropsy may be apprehended — 1 shd be glad to see you if it were convent and agreeable to you and not else, tho’ I am yr well wisher and humble Servt
[Dean Swift to Knightley Chetwode.]
[Indorsed, “ A very extraordinary lettr designed I suppose to mortifie me— within this letter are eoppics of some lettrs of mine to him.”]
DUBLIN. May 8th 173! [? 1732].
SR, — Your letter hath layen by me without acknowledging it, much longer than I intended, or rather this is my third time of writing to you, but the two former I burned in an hour after I had finished them, because they contained some passages which I apprehended one of your pique might possibly dislike, for I have heard you approve of one principle in your nature, that no man had ever offended you, against whom you did not find some opportunity to make him regret it, although perhaps no offence were ever designed. This perhaps, and the other art you are pleased with, of knowing the secrets of familyes, which as you have told me was so wonderfull that some people thought you dealt with old Nick, hath made many families so cautious of you. And to say the truth, your whole scheme of thinking, conversing, and living, differ in every point from mine. I have utterly done with all great names and titles of Princes and Lords and Ladyes and Ministers of State, because I conceive they do me not the least honor ; wherein I look upon myself to be a prouder man than you, who expect that the people here should think more honorably of you by putting them in mind of your high acquaintance, whereas the Spirits of our Irish folks are so low and little, and malicious, that they seldom believe a syllable of what we say on these occasions, but score it all up to vanity; as I have known by Experience, whenever by great chance I blabbed out some great name beyond one or two intimate friends. For which reason I thank God that I am not acquainted with one person of title in this whole Kingdom, nor could I tell how to behave myself before persons of such sublime quality— Half a dozen midling Clergymen, and one or two midling laymen make up the whole circle of my acquaintance — That you returned from an amour without profit, I do not wonder, nor that it was more pleasurable, if the Lady as I am told be sixty, unless her literal and metaphorical talents were very great; yet I think it impossible for any woman of her age, who is both wise and rich, to think of matrimony in earnest. However I easily believe what you say that women have not yet lost all their charms with you — who could find them in a Sybel. I am sorry for what you say that your ambition is unsatiated, because I think there are few men alive so little circumstanced to gratify it. You made one little essay in a desperate Cause much to the disadvantage of your fortune, and which would have done you little good if it had succeeded ; and I think you have no merit with the present folks, though some affect to believe it to your disadvantage.
I cannot allow you my disciple; for you never followed any one rule I gave you —I confess the Qu’s [Queen’s] death cured all ambition in me, for which I am heartily glad, because I think it little consists either with ease or with conscience.
I cannot imagine what any people can propose by attempts against you, who are a private country Gentleman, who can never expect any Employment or power. I am wondering how you came acquainted with Horace or St. Ambrose, since neither Latin nor Divinity have been your Studyes ; it seems a miracle to me. I agree with that Gentleman (whoever he is) that said to answer letters was a part of good breeding, but he would agree with me, that nothing requires more caution, from the ill uses that have been often made of them, especially of letters without common business. They are a standing witness against a man, which is confirmed by a Latin saying — For words pass but Letters remain. You hint I think that you intend for England. I shall not enquire into your motives, my correspondence there is but with a few old friends, and of these but one who is in Employmt, and he hath lately dropt me too, and he is in right; for it is said I am out of favor; at least, what I like as well, I am forgotten, for I know not any one who thinks it worth the pains to be my enemy; and it is meer charity in those who still continue my friends, of which however not one is in Power, nor will ever be — during my life — I am ashamed of this long letter, and desire your Pardon.
I am, Sr yr &c.
There is a difficulty about the date of this letter which I cannot clear up. The lameness from which Swift suffered, spoken of by Chetwode in his second letter, to which this is an answer, is mentioned at least six times in the dean’s published correspondence for 1732. On February 19 of that year, he wrote, “ I have been above a fortnight confined by an accidental strain, and can neither ride nor walk, nor easily write.” In a letter written in the autumn of that year he says, “ I have been tied by the leg (without being married) for ten months past, by an unlucky strain.” Had it not been for his lameness, he would have gone, he said, to London in November, to see the Lord Mayor’s show of his friend and printer, Alderman Barber. I at first assumed that he had misdated his letter to Chetwode by a year, but in his works there is a letter addressed, “ To Ventoso,” dated April 28, 1731, which was clearly meant for Chetwode, and most likely is one of the two which Swift said he had burned. It is strange that on April 28, and again on May 8, he should have made a mistake in the year. There is a further difficulty: Chetwode seems to imply in his second letter that he was writing on the day he was leaving town, March 12. If that was the case, it was on a Friday in March that he saw the dean going to take horse. According to Swift’s own account it was in the first days of February that he was lamed. The following passages in the letter to Ventoso are worth comparing with those which were substituted for them : —
“ You would be glad to be thought a proud man, and yet there is not a grain of pride in you ; for you are pleased that people should know yon have been acquainted with persons of great names and titles, whereby you confess that you take it for an honour ; which a proud man never does : and besides you run the hazard of not being believed.”
“ The reputation (if there be any) of having been acquainted with princes and other great persons arises from its being generally known to others ; but never once mentioned by ourselves, if it can possibly be avoided.”
“ I am glad your country life has taught you Latin, of which you were altogether ignorant when I knew you first; and I am astonished how you came to recover it. Your new friend Horace will teach you many lessons agreeable to what I have said.”
Swift perhaps had a hit at Chetwode in the lines, —
A verse from Horace learned by rote.”
Chetwode’s “ one little essay in a desperate Cause ” was taking part in a Jacobite conspiracy, mentioned in an earlier letter. He replied to Swift at great length, quoting Horace again and Virgil, and distinguishing between “ honour in the concrete and honour in the abstract;”
“ to show you,” he continues, “ that I understand a little Logick as well as Lattin [sic] and Divinity,” as indeed became the son of a dean and bishop elect. The books he bought on his foreign travels, which are still to be seen in the library at Woodbrooke, show that he was not indifferent to literature. Swift’s taunt was perhaps without justification. Be that as it may, the correspondence which had spread over seventeen or eighteen years was brought to a close with mocks and gibes.
George Birkbeck Hill.