The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 31.

London, Sept. 25, 1711.

I dined in the City to-day, and at my return I put my 30th into the post-office; and when I got home I found for me one of the noblest letters I ever read: it was from — — three sides and a half in folio, on a large sheet of paper; the two first pages made up of satire upon London, and crowds and hurry, stolen from some of his own schoolboy’s exercises: the side and a half remaining is spent in desiring me to recommend Mrs. South, your Commissioner’s widow,1 to my Lord Treasurer for a pension. He is the prettiest, discreetest fellow that ever my eyes beheld, or that ever dipped pen into ink. I know not what to say to him. A pox on him, I have too many such customers on this side already. I think I will send him word that I never saw my Lord Treasurer in my life: I am sure I industriously avoided the name of any great person when I saw him, for fear of his reporting it in Ireland. And this recommendation must be a secret too, for fear the Duke of Bolton2 should know it, and think it was too mean. I never read so d —— d a letter in my life: a little would make me send it over to you. — I must send you a pattern, the first place I cast my eyes on, I will not pick and choose. IN THIS PLACE (meaning the Exchange in London), WHICH IS THE COMPENDIUM OF OLD TROYNOVANT, AS THAT IS OF THE WHOLE BUSY WORLD, I GOT SUCH A SURFEIT, THAT I GREW SICK OF MANKIND, AND RESOLVED FOR EVER AFTER TO BURY MYSELF IN THE SHADY RETREAT OF——-. You must know that London has been called by some Troynovant, or New Troy. Will you have any more? Yes, one little bit for Stella, because she’ll be fond of it. This wondrous theatre (meaning London) was no more to me than a desert, and I should less complain of solitude in a Connaught shipwreck, or even the great bog of Allen. A little scrap for Mrs. Marget,3 and then I have done. THEIR ROYAL FANUM, WHEREIN THE IDOL PECUNIA IS DAILY WORSHIPPED, SEEMED TO ME TO BE JUST LIKE A HIVE OF BEES WORKING AND LABOURING UNDER HUGE WEIGHTS OF CARES. Fanum is a temple, but he means the Exchange; and Pecunia is money: so now Mrs. Marget will understand her part. One more paragraph, and I— Well, come, don’t be in such a rage, you shall have no more. Pray, Stella, be satisfied; ’tis very pretty: and that I must be acquainted with such a dog as this! — Our peace goes on fast. Prior was with the Secretary two hours this morning: I was there a little after he went away, and was told it. I believe he will soon be despatched again to France; and I will put somebody to write an account of his second journey: I hope you have seen the other. This latter has taken up my time with storming at it.

26. Bernage has been with me these two days; yesterday I sent for him to let him know that Dr. Arbuthnot is putting in strongly to have his brother made a captain over Bernage’s4 head. Arbuthnot’s brother is but an ensign, but the Doctor has great power with the Queen: yet he told me he would not do anything hard to a gentleman who is my friend; and I have engaged the Secretary and his Colonel5 for him. To-day he told me very melancholy, that the other had written from Windsor (where he went to solicit) that he has got the company; and Bernage is full of the spleen. I made the Secretary write yesterday a letter to the Colonel in Bernage’s behalf. I hope it will do yet; and I have written to Dr. Arbuthnot to Windsor, not to insist on doing such a hardship. I dined in the City at Pontack’s, with Stratford; it cost me seven shillings: he would have treated, but I did not let him. I have removed my money from the Bank to another fund. I desire Parvisol may speak to Hawkshaw to pay in my money when he can, for I will put it in the funds; and, in the meantime, borrow so much of Mr. Secretary, who offers to lend it me. Go to the Dean’s, sirrahs.

27. Bernage was with me again to-day, and is in great fear, and so was I; but this afternoon, at Lord Treasurer’s, where I dined, my brother, George Granville, Secretary at War, after keeping me a while in suspense, told me that Dr. Arbuthnot had waived the business, because he would not wrong a friend of mine; that his brother is to be a lieutenant, and Bernage is made a captain. I called at his lodging, and the soldier’s coffee-house, to put him out of pain, but cannot find him; so I have left word, and shall see him to-morrow morning, I suppose. Bernage is now easy; he has ten shillings a day, beside lawful cheating. However, he gives a private sum to his Colonel, but it is very cheap: his Colonel loves him well, but is surprised to see him have so many friends. So he is now quite off my hands. I left the company early to-night, at Lord Treasurer’s; but the Secretary followed me, to desire I would go with him to W—. Mr. Lewis’s man came in before I could finish that word beginning with a W, which ought to be Windsor, and brought me a very handsome rallying letter from Dr. Arbuthnot, to tell me he had, in compliance to me, given up his brother’s pretensions in favour of Bernage, this very morning; that the Queen had spoken to Mr. Granville to make the company easy in the other’s having the captainship. Whether they have done it to oblige me or no, I must own it so. He says he this very morning begged Her Majesty to give Mr. Bernage the company. I am mighty well pleased to have succeeded so well; but you will think me tedious, although you like the man, as I think.

Windsor, 28. I came here a day sooner than ordinary, at Mr. Secretary’s desire, and supped with him and Prior, and two private Ministers from France, and a French priest.6 I know not the two Ministers’ names; but they are come about the peace. The names the Secretary called them, I suppose, were feigned; they were good rational men. We have already settled all things with France, and very much to the honour and advantage of England; and the Queen is in mighty good humour. All this news is a mighty secret; the people in general know that a peace is forwarding. The Earl of Strafford7 is to go soon to Holland, and let them know what we have been doing: and then there will be the devil and all to pay; but we’ll make them swallow it with a pox. The French Ministers stayed with us till one, and the Secretary and I sat up talking till two; so you will own ’tis late, sirrahs, and time for your little saucy Presto to go to bed and sleep adazy; and God bless poor little MD: I hope they are now fast asleep, and dreaming of Presto.

29. Lord Treasurer came to-night, as usual, at half an hour after eight, as dark as pitch. I am weary of chiding him; so I commended him for observing his friend’s advice, and coming so early, etc. I was two hours with Lady Oglethorpe8 to-night, and then supped with Lord Treasurer, after dining at the Green Cloth: I stayed till two; this is the effect of Lord Treasurer’s being here; I must sup with him; and he keeps cursed hours. Lord Keeper and the Secretary were absent; they cannot sit up with him. This long sitting up makes the periods in my letters so short. I design to stay here all the next week, to be at leisure by myself, to finish something of weight I have upon my hands, and which must soon be done. I shall then think of returning to Ireland, if these people will let me; and I know nothing else they have for me to do. I gave Dr. Arbuthnot my thanks for his kindness to Bernage, whose commission is now signed. Methinks I long to know something of Stella’s health, how it continues after Wexford waters.

30. The Queen was not at chapel to-day, and all for the better, for we had a dunce to preach: she has a little of the gout. I dined with my brother Masham, and a moderate company, and would not go to Lord Treasurer’s till after supper at eleven o’clock, and pretended I had mistaken the hour; so I ate nothing: and a little after twelve the company broke up, the Keeper and Secretary refusing to stay; so I saved this night’s debauch. Prior went away yesterday with his Frenchmen, and a thousand reports are raised in this town. Some said they knew one to be the Abbe de Polignac: others swore it was the Abbe du Bois. The Whigs are in a rage about the peace; but we’ll wherret9 them, I warrant, boys. Go, go, go to the Dean’s and don’t mind politics, young women, they are not good after the waters; they are stark naught: they strike up into the head. Go, get two black aces, and fish for a manilio.

Oct. 1. Sir John Walter,10 an honest drunken fellow, is now in waiting, and invited me to the Green Cloth to-day, that he might not be behindhand with Colonel Godfrey, who is a Whig. I was engaged to the Mayor’s feast with Mr. Masham; but waiting to take leave of Lord Treasurer, I came too late, and so returned sneaking to the Green Cloth, and did not see my Lord Treasurer neither; but was resolved not to lose two dinners for him. I took leave to-day of my friend and solicitor Lord Rivers, who is commanded by the Queen to set out for Hanover on Thursday. The Secretary does not go to town till to-morrow; he and I, and two friends more, drank a sober bottle of wine here at home, and parted at twelve; he goes by seven to-morrow morning, so I shall not see him. I have power over his cellar in his absence, and make little use of it. Lord Dartmouth and my friend Lewis stay here this week; but I can never work out a dinner from Dartmouth. Masham has promised to provide for me: I squired his lady out of her chaise to-day, and must visit her in a day or two. So you have had a long fit of the finest weather in the world; but I am every day in pain that it will go off. I have done no business to-day; I am very idle.

2. My friend Lewis and I, to avoid over much eating and great tables, dined with honest Jemmy Eckershall,11 Clerk of the Kitchen, now in waiting, and I bespoke my dinner: but the cur had your acquaintance Lovet, the gentleman porter, to be our company. Lovet, towards the end of dinner, after twenty wrigglings, said he had the honour to see me formerly at Moor Park, and thought he remembered my face. I said I thought I remembered him, and was glad to see him, etc., and I escaped for that much, for he was very pert. It has rained all this day, and I doubt our good weather is gone. I have been very idle this afternoon, playing at twelvepenny picquet with Lewis: I won seven shillings, which is the only money I won this year: I have not played above four times, and I think always at Windsor. Cards are very dear: there is a duty on them of sixpence a pack, which spoils small gamesters.

3. Mr. Masham sent this morning to desire I would ride out with him, the weather growing again very fine. I was very busy, and sent my excuses; but desired he would provide me a dinner. I dined with him, his lady, and her sister, Mrs. Hill, who invites us to-morrow to dine with her, and we are to ride out in the morning. I sat with Lady Oglethorpe till eight this evening, then was going home to write; looked about for the woman that keeps the key of the house: she told me Patrick had it. I cooled my heels in the cloisters till nine, then went in to the music-meeting, where I had been often desired to go; but was weary in half an hour of their fine stuff, and stole out so privately that everybody saw me; and cooled my heels in the cloisters again till after ten: then came in Patrick. I went up, shut the chamber door, and gave him two or three swinging cuffs on the ear, and I have strained the thumb of my left hand with pulling him, which I did not feel until he was gone. He was plaguily afraid and humbled.

4. It was the finest day in the world, and we got out before eleven, a noble caravan of us. The Duchess of Shrewsbury in her own chaise with one horse, and Miss Touchet12 with her, Mrs. Masham and Mrs. Scarborow, one of the dressers, in one of the Queen’s chaises; Miss Forester and Miss Scarborow,13 two maids of honour, and Mrs. Hill on horseback. The Duke of Shrewsbury, Mr. Masham, George Fielding,14 Arbuthnot, and I, on horseback too. Mrs. Hill’s horse was hired for Miss Scarborow, but she took it in civility; her own horse was galled and could not be rid, but kicked and winced: the hired horse was not worth eighteenpence. I borrowed coat, boots, and horse, and in short we had all the difficulties, and more than we used to have in making a party from Trim to Longfield’s.15 My coat was light camlet, faced with red velvet, and silver buttons. We rode in the great park and the forest about a dozen miles, and the Duchess and I had much conversation: we got home by two, and Mr. Masham, his lady, Arbuthnot and I, dined with Mrs. Hill. Arbuthnot made us all melancholy, by some symptoms of bloody u —-e: he expects a cruel fit of the stone in twelve hours; he says he is never mistaken, and he appears like a man that was to be racked to-morrow. I cannot but hope it will not be so bad; he is a perfectly honest man, and one I have much obligation to. It rained a little this afternoon, and grew fair again. Lady Oglethorpe sent to speak to me, and it was to let me know that Lady Rochester16 desires she and I may be better acquainted. ’Tis a little too late; for I am not now in love with Lady Rochester: they shame me out of her, because she is old. Arbuthnot says he hopes my strained thumb is not the gout; for he has often found people so mistaken. I do not remember the particular thing that gave it me, only I had it just after beating Patrick, and now it is better; so I believe he is mistaken.

5. The Duchess of Shrewsbury sent to invite me to dinner; but I was abroad last night when her servant came, and this morning I sent my excuses, because I was engaged, which I was sorry for. Mrs. Forester taxed me yesterday about the History of the Maids of Honour;17 but I told her fairly it was no jest of mine; for I found they did not relish it altogether well; and I have enough already of a quarrel with that brute Sir John Walter, who has been railing at me in all companies ever since I dined with him; that I abused the Queen’s meat and drink, and said nothing at the table was good, and all a d —— d lie; for after dinner, commending the wine, I said I thought it was something small. You would wonder how all my friends laugh at this quarrel. It will be such a jest for the Keeper, Treasurer, and Secretary. — I dined with honest Colonel Godfrey, took a good walk of an hour on the terrace, and then came up to study; but it grows bloody cold, and I have no waistcoat here.

6. I never dined with the chaplains till to-day; but my friend Gastrell and the Dean of Rochester18 had often invited me, and I happened to be disengaged: it is the worst provided table at Court. We ate on pewter: every chaplain, when he is made a dean, gives a piece of plate, and so they have got a little, some of it very old. One who was made Dean of Peterborough (a small deanery) said he would give no plate; he was only Dean of Pewterborough. The news of Mr. Hill’s miscarriage in his expedition19 came to-day, and I went to visit Mrs. Masham and Mrs. Hill, his two sisters, to condole with them. I advised them by all means to go to the music-meeting to-night, to show they were not cast down, etc., and they thought my advice was right, and went. I doubt Mr. Hill and his admiral made wrong steps; however, we lay it all to a storm, etc. I sat with the Secretary at supper; then we both went to Lord Treasurer’s supper, and sat till twelve. The Secretary is much mortified about Hill, because this expedition was of his contriving, and he counted much upon it; but Lord Treasurer was just as merry as usual, and old laughing at Sir John Walter and me falling out. I said nothing grieved me but that they would take example, and perhaps presume upon it, and get out of my government; but that I thought I was not obliged to govern bears, though I governed men. They promise to be as obedient as ever, and so we laughed; and so I go to bed; for it is colder still, and you have a fire now, and are at cards at home.

7. Lord Harley and I dined privately to-day with Mrs. Masham and Mrs. Hill, and my brother Masham. I saw Lord Halifax at Court, and we joined and talked; and the Duchess of Shrewsbury came up and reproached me for not dining with her. I said that was not so soon done, for I expected more advances from ladies, especially duchesses: she promised to comply with any demands I pleased; and I agreed to dine with her to-morrow, if I did not go to London too soon, as I believe I shall before dinner. Lady Oglethorpe brought me and the Duchess of Hamilton20 together to-day in the drawing-room, and I have given her some encouragement, but not much. Everybody has been teasing Walter. He told Lord Treasurer that he took his company from him that were to dine with him: my lord said, “I will send you Dr. Swift:” Lord Keeper bid him take care what he did; “for,” said he, “Dr. Swift is not only all our favourite, but our governor.” The old company supped with Lord Treasurer, and got away by twelve.

London, 8. I believe I shall go no more to Windsor, for we expect the Queen will come in ten days to Hampton Court. It was frost last night, and cruel cold to-day. I could not dine with the Duchess, for I left Windsor half an hour after one with Lord Treasurer, and we called at Kensington, where Mrs. Masham was got to see her children for two days. I dined, or rather supped, with Lord Treasurer, and stayed till after ten. Tisdall21 and his family are gone from hence, upon some wrangle with the family. Yesterday I had two letters brought me to Mr. Masham’s; one from Ford, and t’other from our little MD, N.21. I would not tell you till to-day, because I would not. I won’t answer it till the next, because I have slipped two days by being at Windsor, which I must recover here. Well, sirrahs, I must go to sleep. The roads were as dry as at midsummer to-day. This letter shall go to-morrow.

9. Morning. It rains hard this morning. I suppose our fair weather is now at an end. I think I’ll put on my waistcoat to-day: shall I? Well, I will then, to please MD. I think of dining at home to-day upon a chop and a pot. The town continues yet very thin. Lord Strafford is gone to Holland, to tell them what we have done here toward a peace. We shall soon hear what the Dutch say, and how they take it. My humble service to Mrs. Walls, Mrs. Stoyte, and Catherine. — Morrow, dearest sirrahs, and farewell; and God Almighty bless MD, poor little dear MD, for so I mean, and Presto too. I’ll write to you again to-night, that is, I’ll begin my next letter. Farewell, etc.

This little bit belongs to MD; we must always write on the margin:22 you are saucy rogues.

1 See Letter 10, note 31.

2 Charles Paulet, second Duke of Bolton, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1717, and died in 1722. In a note on Macky’s character of the Duke, Swift calls him “a great booby”; and Lady Cowper (Diary, p. 154) says that he was generally to be seen with his tongue lolling out of his mouth.

3 Stella’s maid.

4 See Letter 12, note 7.

5 Colonel Fielding (see Letter 16, note 21).

6 The envoys were Menager and the Abbe du Bois; the priest was the Abbe Gaultier.

7 See Letter 18, note 3.

8 Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe, General, who died in 1702, married Eleanor, daughter of Richard Wall, of Rogane, Tipperary. She died in 1732, and Swift described her as so “cunning a devil that she had great influence as a reconciler of the differences at Court.” One of her sons was General James Oglethorpe, the philanthropist, and friend of Dr. Johnson.

9 “Worrit,” trouble, tease.

10 Sir John Walter, Bart. (died 1722), was M.P. for the city of Oxford. He and Charles Godfrey (see Letter 30, note 11) were the Clerks Comptrollers of the Green Cloth.

11 See Letter 17, note 3.

12 No doubt one of the daughters of Mervyn Tuchet, fourth Earl of Castlehaven, who died in 1686.

13 Henrietta Maria, daughter of Charles Scarborow (see Letter 27, note 19). She married, in 1712, Sir Robert Jenkinson, Bart., M.P. for Oxfordshire, who died without issue in 1717. See Wentworth Papers, 244.

14 In July 1712 a Commission passed empowering Conyers Darcy and George Fielding (an equerry to the Queen) to execute the office of Master of the Horse.

15 At Killibride, about four miles from Trim.

16 Swift’s “mistress,” Lady Hyde (see Letter 5, note 11), whose husband had become Earl of Rochester in May 1711. She was forty-one in 1711.

17 See Sept. 19, 1711.

18 See Letter 29, note 14.

19 See Letter 22, note 3.

20 See Letter 27, note 9.

21 See Letter 26, note 10.

22 “This happens to be the only single line written upon the margin of any of his journals. By some accident there was a margin about as broad as the back of a razor, and therefore he made this use of it” (Deane Swift).

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