The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 13.

London, Jan. 4, 1710-11.

I was going into the City (where I dined and put my 12th, with my own fair hands, into the post-office as I came back, which was not till nine this night. I dined with people that you never heard of, nor is it worth your while to know; an authoress and a printer.1 I walked home for exercise, and at eleven got to bed; and, all the while I was undressing myself, there was I speaking monkey things in air, just as if MD had been by, and did not recollect myself till I got into bed. I writ last night to the Archbishop, and told him the warrant was drawn for the First-Fruits; and I told him Lord Peterborow was set out for his journey to Vienna; but it seems the Lords have addressed to have him stay, to be examined about Spanish affairs, upon this defeat there, and to know where the fault lay, etc. So I writ to the Archbishop a lie; but I think it was not a sin.

5. Mr. Secretary St. John sent for me this morning so early, that I was forced to go without shaving, which put me quite out of method. I called at Mr. Ford’s, and desired him to lend me a shaving; and so made a shift to get into order again. Lord! here is an impertinence: Sir Andrew Fountaine’s mother and sister2 are come above a hundred miles, from Worcester, to see him before he died. They got here but yesterday; and he must have been past hopes, or past fears, before they could reach him. I fell a scolding when I heard they were coming; and the people about him wondered at me, and said what a mighty content it would be on both sides to die when they were with him! I knew the mother; she is the greatest Overdo3 upon earth; and the sister, they say, is worse; the poor man will relapse again among them. Here was the scoundrel brother always crying in the outer room till Sir Andrew was in danger; and the dog was to have all his estate if he died; and it is an ignorant, worthless, scoundrel-rake: and the nurses were comforting him, and desiring he would not take on so. I dined to-day the first time with Ophy Butler4 and his wife; and you supped with the Dean, and lost two-and-twenty pence at cards. And so Mrs. Walls is brought to bed of a girl, who died two days after it was christened; and, betwixt you and me, she is not very sorry: she loves her ease and diversions too well to be troubled with children. I will go to bed.

6. Morning. I went last night to put some coals on my fire after Patrick was gone to bed; and there I saw in a closet a poor linnet he has bought to bring over to Dingley: it cost him sixpence, and is as tame as a dormouse. I believe he does not know he is a bird: where you put him, there he stands, and seems to have neither hope nor fear; I suppose in a week he will die of the spleen. Patrick advised with me before he bought him. I laid fairly before him the greatness of the sum, and the rashness of the attempt; showed how impossible it was to carry him safe over the salt sea: but he would not take my counsel; and he will repent it. ’Tis very cold this morning in bed; and I hear there is a good fire in the room without (what do you call it?), the dining-room. I hope it will be good weather, and so let me rise, sirrahs, do so. — At night. I was this morning to visit the Dean,5 or Mr. Prolocutor, I think you call him, don’t you? Why should not I go to the Dean’s as well as you? A little, black man, of pretty near fifty? Ay, the same. A good, pleasant man? Ay, the same. Cunning enough? Yes. One that understands his own interests? As well as anybody. How comes it MD and I don’t meet there sometimes? A very good face, and abundance of wit? Do you know his lady? O Lord! whom do you mean?6 I mean Dr. Atterbury, Dean of Carlisle and Prolocutor. Pshaw, Presto, you are a fool: I thought you had meant our Dean of St. Patrick’s. — Silly, silly, silly, you are silly, both are silly, every kind of thing is silly. As I walked into the city I was stopped with clusters of boys and wenches buzzing about the cake-shops like flies.7 There had the fools let out their shops two yards forward into the streets, all spread with great cakes frothed with sugar, and stuck with streamers of tinsel. And then I went to Bateman’s the bookseller, and laid out eight-and-forty shillings for books. I bought three little volumes of Lucian in French for our Stella, and so and so. Then I went to Garraway’s8 to meet Stratford and dine with him; but it was an idle day with the merchants, and he was gone to our end of the town: so I dined with Sir Thomas Frankland at the Post Office, and we drank your Manley’s health. It was in a newspaper that he was turned out; but Secretary St. John told me it was false: only that newswriter is a plaguy Tory. I have not seen one bit of Christmas merriment.

7. Morning. Your new Lord Chancellor9 sets out to-morrow for Ireland: I never saw him. He carries over one Trapp10 a parson as his chaplain, a sort of pretender to wit, a second-rate pamphleteer for the cause, whom they pay by sending him to Ireland. I never saw Trapp neither. I met Tighe11 and your Smyth of Lovet’s yesterday by the Exchange. Tighe and I took no notice of each other; but I stopped Smyth, and told him of the box that lies for you at Chester, because he says he goes very soon to Ireland, I think this week: and I will send this morning to Sterne, to take measures with Smyth; so good-morrow, sirrahs, and let me rise, pray. I took up this paper when I came in at evening, I mean this minute, and then said I, “No, no, indeed, MD, you must stay”; and then was laying it aside, but could not for my heart, though I am very busy, till I just ask you how you do since morning; by and by we shall talk more, so let me leave you: softly down, little paper, till then; so there — now to business; there, I say, get you gone; no, I will not push you neither, but hand you on one side — So — Now I am got into bed, I’ll talk with you. Mr. Secretary St. John sent for me this morning in all haste; but I would not lose my shaving, for fear of missing church. I went to Court, which is of late always very full; and young Manley and I dined at Sir Matthew Dudley’s. — I must talk politics. I protest I am afraid we shall all be embroiled with parties. The Whigs, now they are fallen, are the most malicious toads in the world. We have had now a second misfortune, the loss of several Virginia ships. I fear people will begin to think that nothing thrives under this Ministry: and if the Ministry can once be rendered odious to the people, the Parliament may be chosen Whig or Tory as the Queen pleases. Then I think our friends press a little too hard on the Duke of Marlborough. The country members12 are violent to have past faults inquired into, and they have reason; but I do not observe the Ministry to be very fond of it. In my opinion we have nothing to save us but a Peace; and I am sure we cannot have such a one as we hoped; and then the Whigs will bawl what they would have done had they continued in power. I tell the Ministry this as much as I dare; and shall venture to say a little more to them, especially about the Duke of Marlborough, who, as the Whigs give out, will lay down his command; and I question whether ever any wise State laid aside a general who had been successful nine years together, whom the enemy so much dread, and his own soldiers cannot but believe must always conquer; and you know that in war opinion is nine parts in ten. The Ministry hear me always with appearance of regard, and much kindness; but I doubt they let personal quarrels mingle too much with their proceedings. Meantime, they seem to value all this as nothing, and are as easy and merry as if they had nothing in their hearts or upon their shoulders; like physicians, who endeavour to cure, but feel no grief, whatever the patient suffers. — Pshaw, what is all this? Do you know one thing, that I find I can write politics to you much easier than to anybody alive? But I swear my head is full; and I wish I were at Laracor, with dear, charming MD, etc.

8. Morning. Methinks, young women, I have made a great progress in four days, at the bottom of this side already, and no letter yet come from MD (that word interlined is morning). I find I have been writing State affairs to MD. How do they relish it? Why, anything that comes from Presto is welcome; though really, to confess the truth, if they had their choice, not to disguise the matter, they had rather, etc. Now, Presto, I must tell you, you grow silly, says Stella. That is but one body’s opinion, madam. I promised to be with Mr. Secretary St. John this morning; but I am lazy, and will not go, because I had a letter from him yesterday, to desire I would dine there to-day. I shall be chid; but what care I? — Here has been Mrs. South with me, just come from Sir Andrew Fountaine, and going to market. He is still in a fever, and may live or die. His mother and sister are now come up, and in the house; so there is a lurry.13 I gave Mrs. South half a pistole for a New Year’s gift. So good-morrow, dears both, till anon. — At night. Lord! I have been with Mr. Secretary from dinner till eight; and, though I drank wine and water, I am so hot! Lady Stanley14 came to visit Mrs. St. John,15 and sent up for me to make up a quarrel with Mrs. St. John, whom I never yet saw; and do you think that devil of a Secretary would let me go, but kept me by main force, though I told him I was in love with his lady, and it was a shame to keep back a lover, etc.? But all would not do; so at last I was forced to break away, but never went up, it was then too late; and here I am, and have a great deal to do to-night, though it be nine o’clock; but one must say something to these naughty MD’s, else there will be no quiet.

9. To-day Ford and I set apart to go into the City to buy books; but we only had a scurvy dinner at an alehouse; and he made me go to the tavern and drink Florence, four and sixpence a flask; damned wine! so I spent my money, which I seldom do, and passed an insipid day, and saw nobody, and it is now ten o’clock, and I have nothing to say, but that ’tis a fortnight to-morrow since I had a letter from MD; but if I have it time enough to answer here, ’tis well enough, otherwise woe betide you, faith. I will go to the toyman’s, here just in Pall Mall, and he sells great hugeous battoons;16 yes, faith, and so he does. Does not he, Dingley? Yes, faith. Don’t lose your money this Christmas.

10. I must go this morning to Mr. Secretary St. John. I promised yesterday, but failed, so can’t write any more till night to poor, dear MD. — At night. O, faith, Dingley. I had company in the morning, and could not go where I designed; and I had a basket from Raymond at Bristol, with six bottles of wine and a pound of chocolate, and some tobacco to snuff; and he writ under, the carriage was paid; but he lied, or I am cheated, or there is a mistake; and he has written to me so confusedly about some things, that Lucifer could not understand him. This wine is to be drunk with Harley’s brother17 and Sir Robert Raymond, Solicitor-General, in order to recommend the Doctor to your new Lord Chancellor, who left this place on Monday; and Raymond says he is hasting to Chester, to go with him. — I suppose he leaves his wife behind; for when he left London he had no thoughts of stirring till summer. So I suppose he will be with you before this. Ford came and desired I would dine with him, because it was Opera-day; which I did, and sent excuses to Lord Shelburne, who had invited me.

11. I am setting up a new Tatler, little Harrison,18 whom I have mentioned to you. Others have put him on it, and I encourage him; and he was with me this morning and evening, showing me his first, which comes out on Saturday. I doubt he will not succeed, for I do not much approve his manner; but the scheme is Mr. Secretary St. John’s and mine, and would have done well enough in good hands. I recommended him to a printer,19 whom I sent for, and settled the matter between them this evening. Harrison has just left me, and I am tired with correcting his trash.

12. I was this morning upon some business with Mr. Secretary St. John, and he made me promise to dine with him; which otherwise I would have done with Mr. Harley, whom I have not been with these ten days. I cannot but think they have mighty difficulties upon them; yet I always find them as easy and disengaged as schoolboys on a holiday. Harley has the procuring of five or six millions on his shoulders, and the Whigs will not lend a groat;20 which is the only reason of the fall of stocks: for they are like Quakers and fanatics, that will only deal among themselves, while all others deal indifferently with them. Lady Marlborough offers, if they will let her keep her employments, never to come into the Queen’s presence. The Whigs say the Duke of Marlborough will serve no more; but I hope and think otherwise. I would to Heaven I were this minute with MD at Dublin; for I am weary of politics, that give me such melancholy prospects.

13. O, faith, I had an ugly giddy fit last night in my chamber, and I have got a new box of pills to take, and hope I shall have no more this good while. I would not tell you before, because it would vex you, little rogues; but now it is over. I dined to-day with Lord Shelburne; and to-day little Harrison’s new Tatler came out: there is not much in it, but I hope he will mend. You must understand that, upon Steele’s leaving off, there were two or three scrub Tatlers21 came out, and one of them holds on still, and to-day it advertised against Harrison’s; and so there must be disputes which are genuine, like the strops for razors.22 I am afraid the little toad has not the true vein for it. I will tell you a copy of verses. When Mr. St. John was turned out from being Secretary at War, three years ago, he retired to the country: there he was talking of something he would have written over his summer-house, and a gentleman gave him these verses —

From business and the noisy world retired,
Nor vexed by love, nor by ambition fired;
Gently I wait the call of Charon’s boat,
Still drinking like a fish, and ———— like a stoat.

He swore to me he could hardly bear the jest; for he pretended to retire like a philosopher, though he was but twenty-eight years old: and I believe the thing was true: for he had been a thorough rake. I think the three grave lines do introduce the last well enough. Od so, but I will go sleep; I sleep early now.

14. O, faith, young women, I want a letter from MD; ’tis now nineteen days since I had the last: and where have I room to answer it, pray? I hope I shall send this away without any answer at all; for I’ll hasten it, and away it goes on Tuesday, by which time this side will be full. I will send it two days sooner on purpose out of spite; and the very next day after, you must know, your letter will come, and then ’tis too late, and I will so laugh, never saw the like! ’Tis spring with us already. I ate asparagus t’other day. Did you ever see such a frostless winter? Sir Andrew Fountaine lies still extremely ill; it costs him ten guineas a day to doctors, surgeons, and apothecaries, and has done so these three weeks. I dined to-day with Mr. Ford; he sometimes chooses to dine at home, and I am content to dine with him; and at night I called at the Coffee-house, where I had not been in a week, and talked coldly a while with Mr. Addison. All our friendship and dearness are off: we are civil acquaintance, talk words of course, of when we shall meet, and that is all. I have not been at any house with him these six weeks: t’other day we were to have dined together at the Comptroller’s;23 but I sent my excuses, being engaged to the Secretary of State. Is not it odd? But I think he has used me ill; and I have used him too well, at least his friend Steele.

15. It has cost me three guineas to-day for a periwig.24 I am undone! It was made by a Leicester lad, who married Mr. Worrall’s daughter, where my mother lodged;25 so I thought it would be cheap, and especially since he lives in the city. Well, London lickpenny:26 I find it true. I have given Harrison hints for another Tatler to-morrow. The jackanapes wants a right taste: I doubt he won’t do. I dined with my friend Lewis of the Secretary’s office, and am got home early, because I have much business to do; but before I begin, I must needs say something to MD, faith — No, faith, I lie, it is but nineteen days to-day since my last from MD. I have got Mr. Harley to promise that whatever changes are made in the Council, the Bishop of Clogher shall not be removed, and he has got a memorial accordingly. I will let the Bishop know so much in a post or two. This is a secret; but I know he has enemies, and they shall not be gratified, if they designed any such thing, which perhaps they might; for some changes there will be made. So drink up your claret, and be quiet, and do not lose your money.

16. Morning. Faith, I will send this letter to-day to shame you, if I han’t one from MD before night, that’s certain. Won’t you grumble for want of the third side, pray now? Yes, I warrant you; yes, yes, you shall have the third, you shall so, when you can catch it, some other time; when you be writing girls. — O, faith, I think I won’t stay till night, but seal up this just now, and carry it in my pocket, and whip it into the post-office as I come home at evening. I am going out early this morning. — Patrick’s bills for coals and candles, etc., come sometimes to three shillings a week; I keep very good fires, though the weather be warm. Ireland will never be happy till you get small coal27 likewise; nothing so easy, so convenient, so cheap, so pretty, for lighting a fire. My service to Mrs. Stoyte and Walls; has she a boy or a girl? A girl, hum; and died in a week, humm; and was poor Stella forced to stand for godmother? — Let me know how accompts stand, that you may have your money betimes. There’s four months for my lodging, that must be thought on too: and so go dine with Manley, and lose your money, do, extravagant sluttikin, but don’t fret. — It will be just three weeks when I have the next letter, that’s to-morrow. Farewell, dearest beloved MD; and love poor, poor Presto, who has not had one happy day since he left you, as hope saved. — It is the last sally I will ever make, but I hope it will turn to some account. I have done more for these,28 and I think they are more honest than the last; however, I will not be disappointed. I would make MD and me easy; and I never desired more. — Farewell, etc. etc.

1 Probably Mrs. Manley and John Barber (see Letter 11, note 28 and Letter 12, note 6).

2 Sir Andrew Fountaine’s (see Letter 5, note 28) father, Andrew Fountaine, M.P., married Sarah, daughter of Sir Thomas Chicheley, Master of the Ordnance. Sir Andrew’s sister, Elizabeth, married Colonel Edward Clent. The “scoundrel brother,” Brig, died in 1746, aged sixty-four (Blomefield’s Norfolk, vi. 233-36).

3 Dame Overdo, the justice’s wife in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair.

4 See Letter 3, note 5.

5 Atterbury, who had recently been elected Prolocutor to the Lower House of Convocation.

6 Dr. Sterne, Dean of St. Patrick’s, was not married.

7 January 6 was Twelfth-night.

8 Garraway’s Coffee-house, in Change Alley, was founded by Thomas Garway, the first coffee-man who sold and retailed tea. A room upstairs was used for sales of wine “by the candle.”

9 Sir Constantine Phipps, who had taken an active part in Sacheverell’s defence. Phipps’ interference in elections in the Tory interest made him very unpopular in Dublin, and he was recalled on the death of Queen Anne.

10 Joseph Trapp, one of the seven poets alluded to in the distich:—

“Alma novem genuit celebres Rhedycina poetas,
Bubb, Stubb, Grubb, Crabb, Trapp, Young, Carey, Tickell, Evans.”

Trapp wrote a tragedy in 1704, and in 1708 was chosen the first Professor of Poetry at Oxford. In 1710 he published pamphlets on behalf of Sacheverell, and in 1712 Swift secured for him the post of chaplain to Bolingbroke. During his latter years he held several good livings. Elsewhere Swift calls him a “coxcomb.”

11 See Letter 7, note 21.

12 The extreme Tories, who afterwards formed the October Club.

13 Crowd. A Jacobean writer speaks of “the lurry of lawyers,” and “a lurry and rabble of poor friars.”

14 See Letter 5, note 10.

15 St. John’s first wife was Frances, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Winchcombe, Bart., of Berkshire, and in her right St. John enjoyed the estates of Bucklebury, which on her death in 1718 passed to her sister. In April 1711 Swift said that “poor Mrs. St. John” was growing a great favourite of his; she was going to Bath owing to ill-health, and begged him to take care of her husband. She “said she had none to trust but me, and the poor creature’s tears came fresh in her eyes.” Though the marriage was, naturally enough, unhappy, she did not leave St. John’s house until 1713, and she returned to him when he fell from power. There are letters from her to Swift as late as 1716, not only doing her best to defend his honour, but speaking of him with tenderness.

16 “Battoon” means (1) a truncheon; (2) a staff of office. Luttrell, in 1704, speaks of “a battoon set with diamonds sent him from the French king.”

17 Edward Harley, second son of Sir Edward Harley, was M.P. for Leominster and Recorder of the same town. In 1702 he was appointed Auditor of the Imposts, a post which he held until his death in 1735. His wife, Sarah, daughter of Thomas Foley, was a sister of Robert Harley’s wife, and his eldest son eventually became third Earl of Oxford. Harley published several books on biblical subjects.

18 See Letter 6, note 12. The last number of Steele’s Tatler appeared on Jan. 2, 1711; Harrison’s paper reached to fifty-two numbers.

19 Dryden Leach (see Letter 7, note 22).

20 Cf. Letter 7, October 28th.

21 Published by John Baker and John Morphew. See Aitken’s Life of Steele, i. 299-301.

22 In No. 224 of the Tatler, Addison, speaking of polemical advertisements, says: “The inventors of Strops for Razors have written against one another this way for several years, and that with great bitterness.” See also Spectator, Nos. 428, 509, and the Postman for March 23, 1703: “The so much famed strops for setting razors, etc., are only to be had at Jacob’s Coffee-house. . . . Beware of counterfeits, for such are abroad.”

23 Sir John Holland (see Letter 3, note 28).

24 Addison speaks of a fine flaxen long wig costing thirty guineas (Guardian, No. 97), and Duumvir’s fair wig, which Phillis threw into the fire, cost forty guineas (Tatler, No. 54)

25 Swift’s mother, Abigail Erick, was of a Leicestershire family, and after her husband’s death she spent much of her time with her friends near her old home. Mr. Worrall, vicar of St. Patrick’s, with whom Swift was on terms of intimacy in 1728-29, was evidently a relative of the Worralls where Mrs. Swift had lodged, and we may reasonably suppose that he owed the living to Swift’s interest in the family.

26 The title of a humorous poem by Lydgate. A “lickpenny” is a greedy or grasping person.

27 Small wooden blocks used for lighting fires. See Swift (“Description of the Morning”),

“The small-coal man was heard with cadence deep,
Till drowned in shriller notes of chimney-sweep;”

and Gay (Trivia, ii. 35),

“When small-coal murmurs in the hoarser throat,
From smutty dangers guard thy threatened coat.”

28 The Tory Ministers.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00