The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 14.

London, Jan. 16, 1710-11.

O faith, young women, I have sent my letter N.13 without one crumb of an answer to any of MD’s, there’s for you now; and yet Presto ben’t angry, faith, not a bit, only he will begin to be in pain next Irish post, except he sees MD’s little handwriting in the glass-frame at the bar of St. James’s Coffee-house, where Presto would never go but for that purpose. Presto is at home, God help him, every night from six till bed-time, and has as little enjoyment or pleasure in life at present as anybody in the world, although in full favour with all the Ministry. As hope saved, nothing gives Presto any sort of dream of happiness but a letter now and then from his own dearest MD. I love the expectation of it; and when it does not come, I comfort myself that I have it yet to be happy with. Yes, faith, and when I write to MD, I am happy too; it is just as if methinks you were here, and I prating to you, and telling you where I have been: “Well,” says you, “Presto, come, where have you been to-day? come, let’s hear now.” And so then I answer: “Ford and I were visiting Mr. Lewis and Mr. Prior; and Prior has given me a fine Plautus; and then Ford would have had me dine at his lodgings, and so I would not; and so I dined with him at an eating-house, which I have not done five times since I came here; and so I came home, after visiting Sir Andrew Fountaine’s mother and sister, and Sir Andrew Fountaine is mending, though slowly.”

17. I was making, this morning, some general visits, and at twelve I called at the Coffee-house for a letter from MD; so the man said he had given it to Patrick. Then I went to the Court of Requests and Treasury, to find Mr. Harley, and, after some time spent in mutual reproaches, I promised to dine with him. I stayed there till seven, then called at Sterne’s and Leigh’s to talk about your box, and to have it sent by Smyth. Sterne says he has been making inquiries, and will set things right as soon as possible. I suppose it lies at Chester, at least I hope so, and only wants a lift over to you. Here has little Harrison been to complain that the printer I recommended to him for his Tatler is a coxcomb; and yet to see how things will happen; for this very printer is my cousin, his name is Dryden Leach;1 did you never hear of Dryden Leach, he that prints the Postman? He acted Oroonoko;2 he’s in love with Miss Cross.3 — Well, so I came home to read my letter from Stella, but the dog Patrick was abroad; at last he came, and I got my letter. I found another hand had superscribed it; when I opened it, I found it written all in French, and subscribed Bernage:4 faith, I was ready to fling it at Patrick’s head. Bernage tells me he had been to desire your recommendation to me, to make him a captain; and your cautious answer, that he had as much power with me as you, was a notable one; if you were here, I would present you to the Ministry as a person of ability. Bernage should let me know where to write to him; this is the second letter I have had without any direction; however, I beg I may not have a third, but that you will ask him, and send me how I shall direct to him. In the meantime, tell him that if regiments are to be raised here, as he says, I will speak to George Granville,5 Secretary at War, to make him a captain; and use what other interest I conveniently can. I think that is enough, and so tell him, and do not trouble me with his letters, when I expect them from MD; do you hear, young women? write to Presto.

18. I was this morning with Mr. Secretary St. John, and we were to dine at Mr. Harley’s alone, about some business of importance; but there were two or three gentlemen there. Mr. Secretary and I went together from his office to Mr. Harley’s, and thought to have been very wise; but the deuce a bit, the company stayed, and more came, and Harley went away at seven, and the Secretary and I stayed with the rest of the company till eleven; I would then have had him come away; but he was in for’t; and though he swore he would come away at that flask, there I left him. I wonder at the civility of these people; when he saw I would drink no more, he would always pass the bottle by me, and yet I could not keep the toad from drinking himself, nor he would not let me go neither, nor Masham,6 who was with us. When I got home, I found a parcel directed to me; and opening it, I found a pamphlet written entirely against myself, not by name, but against something I writ:7 it is pretty civil, and affects to be so, and I think I will take no notice of it; ’tis against something written very lately; and indeed I know not what to say, nor do I care. And so you are a saucy rogue for losing your money to-day at Stoyte’s; to let that bungler beat you, fie, Stella, an’t you ashamed? Well, I forgive you this once, never do so again; no, noooo. Kiss and be friends, sirrah. — Come, let me go sleep, I go earlier to bed than formerly; and have not been out so late these two months; but the Secretary was in a drinking humour. So good-night, myownlittledearsaucyinsolentrogues.

19. Then you read that long word in the last line; no,8 faith, han’t you. Well, when will this letter come from our MD? to-morrow or next day without fail; yes, faith, and so it is coming. This was an insipid snowy day, no walking day, and I dined gravely with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, and came home, and am now got to bed a little after ten; I remember old Culpepper’s maxim:

“Would you have a settled head,
You must early go to bed:
I tell you, and I tell’t again,
You must be in bed at ten.”

20. And so I went to-day with my new wig, o hoao, to visit Lady Worsley,9 whom I had not seen before, although she was near a month in town. Then I walked in the Park to find Mr. Ford, whom I had promised to meet; and coming down the Mall, who should come towards me but Patrick, and gives me five letters out of his pocket. I read the superscription of the first, “Pshoh,” said I; of the second, “Pshoh” again; of the third, “Pshah, pshah, pshah”; of the fourth, “A gad, a gad, a gad, I’m in a rage”; of the fifth and last, “O hoooa; ay marry this is something, this is our MD”; so truly we opened it, I think immediately, and it began the most impudently in the world, thus: “Dear Presto, We are even thus far.” “Now we are even,” quoth Stephen, when he gave his wife six blows for one. I received your ninth four days after I had sent my thirteenth. But I’ll reckon with you anon about that, young women. Why did not you recant at the end of your letter, when you got my eleventh, tell me that, huzzies base? were we even then, were we, sirrah? But I won’t answer your letter now, I’ll keep it for another time. We had a great deal of snow to-day, and ’tis terrible cold. I dined with Ford, because it was his Opera-day and snowed, so I did not care to stir farther. I will send tomorrow to Smyth.

21. Morning. It has snowed terribly all night, and is vengeance cold. I am not yet up, but cannot write long; my hands will freeze. “Is there a good fire, Patrick?” “Yes, sir.” “Then I will rise; come, take away the candle.” You must know I write on the dark side of my bed-chamber, and am forced to have a candle till I rise, for the bed stands between me and the window, and I keep the curtains shut this cold weather. So pray let me rise; and Patrick, here, take away the candle. — At night. We are now here in high frost and snow, the largest fire can hardly keep us warm. It is very ugly walking; a baker’s boy broke his thigh yesterday. I walk slow, make short steps, and never tread on my heel. ’Tis a good proverb the Devonshire people have:

“Walk fast in snow,
In frost walk slow;
And still as you go,
Tread on your toe.
When frost and snow are both together,
Sit by the fire, and spare shoe-leather.”

I dined to-day with Dr. Cockburn,10 but will not do so again in haste, he has generally such a parcel of Scots with him.

22. Morning. Starving, starving, uth, uth, uth, uth, uth. — Don’t you remember I used to come into your chamber, and turn Stella out of her chair, and rake up the fire in a cold morning, and cry Uth, uth, uth? etc. O, faith, I must rise, my hand is so cold I can write no more. So good-morrow, sirrahs. — At night. I went this morning to Lady Giffard’s house, and saw your mother, and made her give me a pint bottle of palsy-water,11 which I brought home in my pocket; and sealed and tied up in a paper, and sent it to Mr. Smyth, who goes to-morrow for Ireland, and sent a letter to him to desire his care of it, and that he would inquire at Chester about the box. He was not within: so the bottle and letter were left for him at his lodgings, with strict orders to give them to him; and I will send Patrick in a day or two, to know whether it was given, etc. Dr. Stratford12 and I dined to-day with Mr. Stratford13 in the City, by appointment; but I chose to walk there, for exercise in the frost. But the weather had given a little, as you women call it, so it was something slobbery. I did not get home till nine.

And now I’m in bed,
To break your head.

23. Morning. They tell me it freezes again, but it is not so cold as yesterday: so now I will answer a bit of your letter. — At night. O, faith, I was just going to answer some of our MD’s letter this morning, when a printer came in about some business, and stayed an hour; so I rose, and then came in Ben Tooke, and then I shaved and scribbled; and it was such a terrible day, I could not stir out till one, and then I called at Mrs. Barton’s, and we went to Lady Worsley’s, where we were to dine by appointment. The Earl of Berkeley14 is going to be married to Lady Louisa Lennox, the Duke of Richmond’s daughter. I writ this night to Dean Sterne, and bid him tell you all about the bottle of palsy-water by Smyth; and to-morrow morning I will say something to your letter.

24. Morning. Come now to your letter. As for your being even with me, I have spoken to that already. So now, my dearly beloved, let us proceed to the next. You are always grumbling that you han’t letters fast enough; “surely we shall have your tenth;” and yet, before you end your letter, you own you have my eleventh. — And why did not MD go into the country with the Bishop of Clogher? faith, such a journey would have done you good; Stella should have rode, and Dingley gone in the coach. The Bishop of Kilmore15 I know nothing of; he is old, and may die; he lives in some obscure corner, for I never heard of him. As for my old friends, if you mean the Whigs, I never see them, as you may find by my journals, except Lord Halifax, and him very seldom; Lord Somers never since the first visit, for he has been a false, deceitful rascal.16 My new friends are very kind, and I have promises enough, but I do not count upon them, and besides my pretences are very young to them. However, we will see what may be done; and if nothing at all, I shall not be disappointed; although perhaps poor MD may, and then I shall be sorrier for their sakes than my own. — Talk of a merry Christmas (why do you write it so then, young women? sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander), I have wished you all that two or three letters ago. Good lack; and your news, that Mr. St. John is going to Holland; he has no such thoughts, to quit the great station he is in; nor, if he had, could I be spared to go with him. So, faith, politic Madam Stella, you come with your two eggs a penny, etc. Well, Madam Dingley, and so Mrs. Stoyte invites you, and so you stay at Donnybrook, and so you could not write. You are plaguy exact in your journals, from Dec. 25 to Jan. 4. Well, Smyth and the palsy-water I have handled already, and he does not lodge (or rather did not, for, poor man, now he is gone) at Mr. Jesse’s, and all that stuff; but we found his lodging, and I went to Stella’s mother on my own head, for I never remembered it was in the letter to desire another bottle; but I was so fretted, so tosticated, and so impatient that Stella should have her water (I mean decently, do not be rogues), and so vexed with Sterne’s carelessness. — Pray God, Stella’s illness may not return! If they come seldom, they begin to be weary; I judge by myself; for when I seldom visit, I grow weary of my acquaintance. — Leave a good deal of my tenth unanswered! Impudent slut, when did you ever answer my tenth, or ninth, or any other number? or who desires you to answer, provided you write? I defy the D—— to answer my letters: sometimes there may be one or two things I should be glad you would answer; but I forget them, and you never think of them. I shall never love answering letters again, if you talk of answering. Answering, quotha! pretty answerers truly. — As for the pamphlet you speak of, and call it scandalous, and that one Mr. Presto is said to write it, hear my answer. Fie, child, you must not mind what every idle body tells you — I believe you lie, and that the dogs were not crying it when you said so; come, tell truth. I am sorry you go to St. Mary’s17 so soon, you will be as poor as rats; that place will drain you with a vengeance: besides, I would have you think of being in the country in summer. Indeed, Stella, pippins produced plentifully; Parvisol could not send from Laracor: there were about half a score, I would be glad to know whether they were good for anything. — Mrs. Walls at Donnybrook with you; why is not she brought to bed? Well, well, well, Dingley, pray be satisfied; you talk as if you were angry about the Bishop’s not offering you conveniences for the journey; and so he should. — What sort of Christmas? Why, I have had no Christmas at all; and has it really been Christmas of late? I never once thought of it. My service to Mrs. Stoyte, and Catherine; and let Catherine get the coffee ready against I come, and not have so much care on her countenance; for all will go well. — Mr. Bernage, Mr. Bernage, Mr. Fiddlenage, I have had three letters from him now successively; he sends no directions, and how the D—— shall I write to him? I would have burnt his last, if I had not seen Stella’s hand at the bottom: his request is all nonsense. How can I assist him in buying? and if he be ordered to go to Spain, go he must, or else sell, and I believe one can hardly sell in such a juncture. If he had stayed, and new regiments raised, I would have used my endeavour to have had him removed; although I have no credit that way, or very little: but, if the regiment goes, he ought to go too; he has had great indulgence, and opportunities of saving; and I have urged him to it a hundred times. What can I do? whenever it lies in my power to do him a good office, I will do it. Pray draw up this into a handsome speech, and represent it to him from me, and that I would write, if I knew where to direct to him; and so I have told you, and desired you would tell him, fifty times. Yes, Madam Stella, I think I can read your long concluding word, but you can’t read mine after bidding you good-night. And yet methinks, I mend extremely in my writing; but when Stella’s eyes are well, I hope to write as bad as ever. — So now I have answered your letter, and mine is an answer; for I lay yours before me, and I look and write, and write and look, and look and write again. — So good-morrow, madams both, and I will go rise, for I must rise; for I take pills at night, and so I must rise early, I don’t know why.

25. Morning. I did not tell you how I passed my time yesterday, nor bid you good-night, and there was good reason. I went in the morning to Secretary St. John about some business; he had got a great Whig with him; a creature of the Duke of Marlborough, who is a go-between to make peace between the Duke and the Ministry: so he came out of his closet, and, after a few words, desired I would dine with him at three; but Mr. Lewis stayed till six before he came; and there we sat talking, and the time slipped so, that at last, when I was positive to go, it was past two o’clock; so I came home, and went straight to bed. He would never let me look at his watch, and I could not imagine it above twelve when we went away. So I bid you good-night for last night, and now I bid you good-morrow, and I am still in bed, though it be near ten, but I must rise.

26, 27, 28, 29, 30. I have been so lazy and negligent these last four days that I could not write to MD. My head is not in order, and yet is not absolutely ill, but giddyish, and makes me listless; I walk every day, and take drops of Dr. Cockburn, and I have just done a box of pills; and to-day Lady Kerry sent me some of her bitter drink, which I design to take twice a day, and hope I shall grow better. I wish I were with MD; I long for spring and good weather, and then I will come over. My riding in Ireland keeps me well. I am very temperate, and eat of the easiest meats as I am directed, and hope the malignity will go off; but one fit shakes me a long time. I dined to-day with Lord Mountjoy, yesterday at Mr. Stone’s, in the City, on Sunday at Vanhomrigh’s, Saturday with Ford, and Friday I think at Vanhomrigh’s; and that is all the journal I can send MD, for I was so lazy while I was well, that I could not write. I thought to have sent this to-night, but ’tis ten, and I’ll go to bed, and write on t’other side to Parvisol to-morrow, and send it on Thursday; and so good-night, my dears; and love Presto, and be healthy, and Presto will be so too, etc.

Cut off these notes handsomely, d’ye hear, sirrahs, and give Mrs. Brent hers, and keep yours till you see Parvisol, and then make up the letter to him, and send it him by the first opportunity; and so God Almighty bless you both, here and ever, and poor Presto.

What, I warrant you thought at first that these last lines were another letter.

Dingley, Pray pay Stella six fishes, and place them to the account of your humble servant, Presto.

Stella, Pray pay Dingley six fishes, and place them to the account of your humble servant, Presto.

There are bills of exchange for you.

1 See Letter 7, note 22.

2 Thomas Southerne’s play of Oroonoko, based on Mrs. Aphra Behn’s novel of the same name, was first acted in 1696.

3 “Mrs.” Cross created the part of Mrs. Clerimont in Steele’s Tender Husband in 1705.

4 See Letter 12, note 7.

5 George Granville, afterwards Lord Lansdowne, was M.P. for Cornwall, and Secretary at War. In December 1711 he was raised to the peerage, and in 1712 was appointed Comptroller of the Household. He died in 1735, when the title became extinct. Granville wrote plays and poems, and was a patron of both Dryden and Pope. Pope called him “Granville the polite.” His Works in Verse and Prose appeared in 1732.

6 Samuel Masham, son of Sir Francis Masham, Bart., had been a page to the Queen while Princess of Denmark, and an equerry and gentleman of the bed-chamber to Prince George. He married Abigail Hill (see Letter 16, note 7), daughter of Francis Hill, a Turkey merchant, and sister of General John Hill, and through that lady’s influence with the Queen he was raised to the peerage as Baron Masham, in January 1712. Under George I. he was Remembrancer of the Exchequer. He died in 1758.

7 A roughly printed pamphlet, The Honourable Descent, Life, and True Character of the . . . Earl of Wharton, appeared early in 1711, in reply to Swift’s Short Character; but that can hardly be the pamphlet referred to here, because it is directed against libellers and backbiters, and cannot be described as “pretty civil.”

8 “In that word (the seven last words of the sentence huddled into one) there were some puzzling characters” (Deane Swift).

9 Sir Robert Worsley, Bart., married, in 1690, Frances, only daughter of the first Viscount Weymouth. Their daughter Frances married Lord Carteret (see Letter 12, note 22) in 1710. In a letter to Colonel Hunter in March 1709 Swift spoke of Lady (then Mrs.) Worsley as one of the principal beauties in town. See, too, Swift’s letter to her of April 19, 1730: “My Lady Carteret has been the best queen we have known in Ireland these many years; yet is she mortally hated by all the young girls, because (and it is your fault) she is handsomer than all of them together.”

10 See Letter 3, note 1.

11 See Letter 5, note 17.

12 William Stratford, son of Nicholas Stratford, Bishop of Chester, was Archdeacon of Richmond and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, until his death in 1729.

13 See Letter 3, note 22.

14 James, third Earl of Berkeley (1680-1736), whom Swift calls a “young rake” (see Letter 16, note 15). The young Countess of Berkeley was only sixteen on her marriage. In 1714 she was appointed a lady of the bed-chamber to Caroline, Princess of Wales, and she died of smallpox in 1717, aged twenty-two. The Earl was an Admiral, and saw much service between 1701 and 1710; under George I. he was First Lord of the Admiralty.

15 Edward Wettenhall was Bishop of Kilmore from 1699 to 1713.

16 In the Dedication to The Tale of a Tub Swift had addressed Somers in very different terms: “There is no virtue, either in public or private life, which some circumstances of your own have not often produced upon the stage of the world.”

17 Their lodgings, opposite to St. Mary’s Church in Stafford Street, Dublin.

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