The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 18.

London, March 10, 1710-11.

Pretty little MD must expect little from me till Mr. Harley is out of danger. We hope he is so now; but I am subject to fear for my friends. He has a head full of the whole business of the nation, was out of order when the villain stabbed him, and had a cruel contusion by the second blow. But all goes on well yet. Mr. Ford and I dined with Mr. Lewis, and we hope the best.

11. This morning Mr. Secretary and I met at Court, where he went to the Queen, who is out of order, and aguish: I doubt the worse for this accident to Mr. Harley. We went together to his house, and his wound looks well, and he is not feverish at all, and I think it is foolish in me to be so much in pain as I am. I had the penknife in my hand, which is broken within a quarter of an inch of the handle. I have a mind to write and publish an account of all the particularities of this fact:1 it will be very curious, and I would do it when Mr. Harley is past danger.

12. We have been in terrible pain to-day about Mr. Harley, who never slept last night, and has been very feverish. But this evening I called there; and young Mr. Harley (his only son) tells me he is now much better, and was then asleep. They let nobody see him, and that is perfectly right. The Parliament cannot go on till he is well, and are forced to adjourn their money businesses, which none but he can help them in. Pray God preserve him.

13. Mr. Harley is better to-day, slept well all night, and we are a little out of our fears. I send and call three or four times every day. I went into the City for a walk, and dined there with a private man; and coming home this evening, broke my shin in the Strand over a tub of sand left just in the way. I got home dirty enough, and went straight to bed, where I have been cooking it with gold-beater’s skin, and have been peevish enough with Patrick, who was near an hour bringing a rag from next door. It is my right shin, where never any humour fell when t’other used to swell; so I apprehend it less: however, I shall not stir till ’tis well, which I reckon will be in a week. I am very careful in these sort of things; but I wish I had Mrs. J——‘s water:2 she is out of town, and I must make a shift with alum. I will dine with Mrs. Vanhomrigh till I am well, who lives but five doors off; and that I may venture.

14. My journals are like to be very diverting, now I cannot stir abroad, between accounts of Mr. Harley’s mending, and of my broken shin. I just walked to my neighbour Vanhomrigh at two, and came away at six, when little Harrison the Tatler came to me, and begged me to dictate a paper to him, which I was forced in charity to do. Mr. Harley still mends; and I hope in a day or two to trouble you no more with him, nor with my shin. Go to bed and sleep, sirrahs, that you may rise to-morrow and walk to Donnybrook, and lose your money with Stoyte and the Dean; do so, dear little rogues, and drink Presto’s health. O pray, don’t you drink Presto’s health sometimes with your deans, and your Stoytes, and your Walls, and your Manleys, and your everybodies, pray now? I drink MD’s to myself a hundred thousand times.

15. I was this morning at Mr. Secretary St. John’s for all my shin; and he has given me for young Harrison the Tatler the prettiest employment in Europe; secretary to my Lord Raby,3 who is to be Ambassador Extraordinary at the Hague, where all the great affairs will be concerted; so we shall lose the Tatlers in a fortnight. I will send Harrison to-morrow morning to thank the Secretary. Poor Biddy Floyd4 has got the smallpox. I called this morning to see Lady Betty Germaine, and when she told me so, I fairly took my leave. I have the luck of it;5 for about ten days ago I was to see Lord Carteret;6 and my lady was entertaining me with telling of a young lady, a cousin, who was then ill in the house of the smallpox, and is since dead: it was near Lady Betty’s, and I fancy Biddy took the fright by it. I dined with Mr. Secretary; and a physician came in just from Guiscard, who tells us he is dying of his wounds, and can hardly live till to-morrow. A poor wench that Guiscard kept, sent him a bottle of sack; but the keeper would not let him touch it, for fear it was poison. He had two quarts of old clotted blood come out of his side to-day, and is delirious. I am sorry he is dying; for they had found out a way to hang him. He certainly had an intention to murder the Queen.

16. I have made but little progress in this letter for so many days, thanks to Guiscard and Mr. Harley; and it would be endless to tell you all the particulars of that odious fact. I do not yet hear that Guiscard is dead, but they say ’tis impossible he should recover. I walked too much yesterday for a man with a broken shin; to-day I rested, and went no farther than Mrs. Vanhomrigh’s, where I dined; and Lady Betty Butler coming in about six, I was forced in good manners to sit with her till nine; then I came home, and Mr. Ford came in to visit my shin, and sat with me till eleven: so I have been very idle and naughty. It vexes me to the pluck7 that I should lose walking this delicious day. Have you seen the Spectator8 yet, a paper that comes out every day? ’Tis written by Mr. Steele, who seems to have gathered new life, and have a new fund of wit; it is in the same nature as his Tatlers, and they have all of them had something pretty. I believe Addison and he club. I never see them; and I plainly told Mr. Harley and Mr. St. John, ten days ago, before my Lord Keeper and Lord Rivers, that I had been foolish enough to spend my credit with them in favour of Addison and Steele; but that I would engage and promise never to say one word in their behalf, having been used so ill for what I had already done. — So, now I am got into the way of prating again, there will be no quiet for me.

When Presto begins to prate,
Give him a rap upon the pate.

O Lord, how I blot! it is time to leave off, etc.

17. Guiscard died this morning at two; and the coroner’s inquest have found that he was killed by bruises received from a messenger, so to clear the Cabinet Councillors from whom he received his wounds. I had a letter from Raymond, who cannot hear of your box; but I hope you have it before this comes to your hands. I dined to-day with Mr. Lewis of the Secretary’s office. Mr. Harley has abundance of extravasated blood comes from his breast out of his wound, and will not be well so soon as we expected. I had something to say, but cannot call it to mind. (What was it?)

18. I was to-day at Court to look for the Duke of Argyle, and gave him the memorial about Bernage. The Duke goes with the first fair wind. I could not find him, but I have given the memorial to another to give him; and, however, it shall be sent after him. Bernage has made a blunder in offering money to his colonel without my advice; however, he is made captain-lieutenant, only he must recruit the company, which will cost him forty pounds, and that is cheaper than an hundred. I dined to-day with Mr. Secretary St. John, and stayed till seven, but would not drink his champagne and burgundy, for fear of the gout. My shin mends, but is not well. I hope it will by the time I send this letter, next Saturday.

19. I went to-day into the City, but in a coach, and sossed9 up my leg on the seat; and as I came home, I went to see poor Charles Barnard’s10 books, which are to be sold by auction, and I itch to lay out nine or ten pounds for some fine editions of fine authors. But ’tis too far, and I shall let it slip, as I usually do all such opportunities. I dined in a coffee-house with Stratford upon chops and some of his wine. Where did MD dine? Why, poor MD dined at home to-day, because of the Archbishop, and they could not go abroad, and had a breast of mutton and a pint of wine. I hope Mrs. Walls mends; and pray give me an account what sort of godfather I made, and whether I behaved myself handsomely. The Duke of Argyle is gone; and whether he has my memorial, I know not, till I see Dr. Arbuthnot,11 to whom I gave it. That hard name belongs to a Scotch doctor, an acquaintance of the Duke’s and me; Stella can’t pronounce it. Oh that we were at Laracor this fine day! the willows begin to peep, and the quicks to bud. My dream is out: I was a-dreamed last night that I ate ripe cherries. — And now they begin to catch the pikes, and will shortly the trouts (pox on these Ministers!)— and I would fain know whether the floods were ever so high as to get over the holly bank or the river walk; if so, then all my pikes are gone; but I hope not. Why don’t you ask Parvisol these things, sirrahs? And then my canal, and trouts, and whether the bottom be fine and clear? But harkee, ought not Parvisol to pay in my last year’s rents and arrears out of his hands? I am thinking, if either of you have heads to take his accounts, it should be paid in to you; otherwise to Mr. Walls. I will write an order on t’other side; and do as you will. Here’s a world of business; but I must go sleep, I’m drowsy; and so goodnight, etc.

20. This sore shin ruins me in coach-hire; no less than two shillings to-day going and coming from the City, where I dined with one you never heard of, and passed an insipid day. I writ this post to Bernage, with the account I told you above. I hope he will like it; ’tis his own fault, or it would have been better. I reckon your next letter will be full of Mr. Harley’s stabbing. He still mends, but abundance of extravasated blood has come out of the wound: he keeps his bed, and sees nobody. The Speaker’s eldest son12 is just dead of the smallpox, and the House is adjourned a week, to give him time to wipe off his tears. I think it very handsomely done; but I believe one reason is, that they want Mr. Harley so much. Biddy Floyd is like to do well: and so go to your Dean’s, and roast his oranges, and lose your money, do so, you saucy sluts. Stella, you lost three shillings and fourpence t’other night at Stoyte’s, yes, you did, and Presto stood in a corner, and saw you all the while, and then stole away. I dream very often I am in Ireland, and that I have left my clothes and things behind me, and have not taken leave of anybody; and that the Ministry expect me tomorrow, and such nonsense.

21. I would not for a guinea have a letter from you till this goes; and go it shall on Saturday, faith. I dined with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, to save my shin, and then went on some business to the Secretary, and he was not at home.

22. Yesterday was a short day’s journal: but what care I? what cares saucy Presto? Darteneuf13 invited me to dinner to-day. Do not you know Darteneuf? That’s the man that knows everything, and that everybody knows; and that knows where a knot of rabble are going on a holiday, and when they were there last: and then I went to the Coffee-house. My shin mends, but is not quite healed: I ought to keep it up, but I don’t; I e’en let it go as it comes. Pox take Parvisol and his watch! If I do not receive the ten-pound bill I am to get towards it, I will neither receive watch nor chain; so let Parvisol know.

23. I this day appointed the Duke of Ormond to meet him at Ned Southwell’s, about an affair of printing Irish Prayer-Books, etc.,14 but the Duke never came. There Southwell had letters that two packets are taken; so if MD writ then, the letters are gone; for they are packets coming hither. Mr. Harley is not yet well, but his extravasated blood continues, and I doubt he will not be quite well in a good while: I find you have heard of the fact by Southwell’s letters from Ireland: what do you think of it? I dined with Sir John Perceval,15 and saw his lady sitting in the bed, in the forms of a lying-in woman; and coming home my sore shin itched, and I forgot what it was, and rubbed off the scab, and blood came; but I am now got into bed, and have put on alum curd, and it is almost well. Lord Rivers told me yesterday a piece of bad news, as a secret, that the Pretender is going to be married to the Duke of Savoy’s daughter.16 ’Tis very bad if it be true. We were walking in the Mall with some Scotch lords, and he could not tell it until they were gone, and he bade me tell it to none but the Secretary of State and MD. This goes tomorrow, and I have no room but to bid my dearest little MD good-night. 24. I will now seal up this letter, and send it; for I reckon to have none from you (’tis morning now) between this and night; and I will put it in the post with my own hands. I am going out in great haste; so farewell, etc.

1 See Swift’s paper in the Examiner, No. 32, and Mrs. Manley’s pamphlet, already mentioned.

2 Presumably Mrs. Johnson’s palsy-water (see Letter 5, note 17).

3 Thomas Wentworth, Baron Raby (1672-1739), was created Viscount Wentworth and Earl of Strafford in June 1711. Lord Raby was Envoy and Ambassador at Berlin for some years, and was appointed Ambassador at the Hague in March 1711. In November he was nominated as joint Plenipotentiary with the Bishop of Bristol to negotiate the terms of peace. He objected to Prior as a colleague; Swift says he was “as proud as hell.” In 1715 it was proposed to impeach Strafford, but the proceedings were dropped. In his later years he was, according to Lord Hervey, a loquacious and illiterate, but constant, speaker in the House of Lords.

4 A beauty, to whom Swift addressed verses in 1708. During the frost of January 1709 Swift wrote: “Mrs. Floyd looked out with both her eyes, and we had one day’s thaw; but she drew in her head, and it now freezes as hard as ever.” She was a great friend of Lady Betty Germaine’s.

5 Swift never had the smallpox.

6 See Letter 12, note 22.

7 Heart.

8 The first number of the Spectator appeared on March 1, 1711.

9 In one of his poems Swift speaks of Stella “sossing in an easy-chair.”

10 See Letter 4, note 20.

11 “It is reasonable to suppose that Swift’s acquaintance with Arbuthnot commenced just about this time; for in the original letter Swift misspells his name, and writes it Arthbuthnet, in a clear large hand, that MD might not mistake any of the letters” (Deane Swift). Dr. John Arbuthnot had been made Physician in Ordinary to the Queen; he was one of Swift’s dearest friends.

12 Clobery Bromley, M.P. for Coventry, son of William Bromley, M.P. (see Letter 10, note 1), died on March 20, 1711, and Boyer (Political State, i. 255) says that the House, “out of respect to the father, and to give him time, both to perform the funeral rites and to indulge his just affliction,” adjourned until the 26th.

13 See Letter 5, note 4.

14 See Letter 17, note 11.

15 Sir John Perceval, Bart. (died 1748), was created Baron Perceval 1715, Viscount Perceval 1722, and Earl of Egmont 1733, all in the Irish peerage. He married, in 1710, Catherine, eldest daughter of Sir Philip Parker A’Morley, Bart., of Erwarton, Suffolk; and his son (born Feb. 27, 1710-11) was made Baron Perceval and Holland, in the English peerage, in 1762.

16 This report was false. The Old Pretender did not marry until 1718, when he was united to the Princess Clementina Maria, daughter of Prince James Sobieski.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 23:20