The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 15.

London, Jan. 31, 1710-11.

I am to send you my fourteenth to-morrow; but my head, having some little disorders, confounds all my journals. I was early this morning with Mr. Secretary St. John about some business, so I could not scribble my morning lines to MD. They are here intending to tax all little printed penny papers a halfpenny every half-sheet, which will utterly ruin Grub Street, and I am endeavouring to prevent it.1 Besides, I was forwarding an impeachment against a certain great person; that was two of my businesses with the Secretary, were they not worthy ones? It was Ford’s birthday, and I refused the Secretary, and dined with Ford. We are here in as smart a frost for the time as I have seen; delicate walking weather, and the Canal and Rosamond’s Pond2 full of the rabble sliding and with skates, if you know what those are. Patrick’s bird’s water freezes in the gallipot, and my hands in bed.

Feb. 1. I was this morning with poor Lady Kerry, who is much worse in her head than I. She sends me bottles of her bitter; and we are so fond of one another, because our ailments are the same; don’t you know that, Madam Stella? Han’t I seen you conning ailments with Joe’s wife,3 and some others, sirrah? I walked into the City to dine, because of the walk, for we must take care of Presto’s health, you know, because of poor little MD. But I walked plaguy carefully, for fear of sliding against my will; but I am very busy.

2. This morning Mr. Ford came to me to walk into the City, where he had business, and then to buy books at Bateman’s; and I laid out one pound five shillings for a Strabo and Aristophanes, and I have now got books enough to make me another shelf, and I will have more, or it shall cost me a fall; and so as we came back, we drank a flask of right French wine at Ben Tooke’s chamber; and when I got home, Mrs. Vanhomrigh sent me word her eldest daughter4 was taken suddenly very ill, and desired I would come and see her. I went, and found it was a silly trick of Mrs. Armstrong,5 Lady Lucy’s sister, who, with Moll Stanhope, was visiting there: however, I rattled off the daughter.

3. To-day I went and dined at Lady Lucy’s, where you know I have not been this long time. They are plaguy Whigs, especially the sister Armstrong, the most insupportable of all women, pretending to wit, without any taste. She was running down the last Examiner,6 the prettiest I had read, with a character of the present Ministry. — I left them at five, and came home. But I forgot to tell you, that this morning my cousin Dryden Leach, the printer, came to me with a heavy complaint, that Harrison the new Tatler had turned him off, and taken the last Tatler’s printers again. He vowed revenge; I answered gravely, and so he left me, and I have ordered Patrick to deny me to him from henceforth: and at night comes a letter from Harrison, telling me the same thing, and excused his doing it without my notice, because he would bear all the blame; and in his Tatler of this day7 he tells you the story, how he has taken his old officers, and there is a most humble letter from Morphew and Lillie to beg his pardon, etc.8 And lastly, this morning Ford sent me two letters from the Coffee-house (where I hardly ever go), one from the Archbishop of Dublin, and t’other from — Who do you think t’other was from? — I’ll tell you, because you are friends; why, then it was, faith, it was from my own dear little MD, N.10. Oh, but will not answer it now, no, noooooh, I’ll keep it between the two sheets; here it is, just under; oh, I lifted up the sheet and saw it there: lie still, you shan’t be answered yet, little letter; for I must go to bed, and take care of my head.

4. I avoid going to church yet, for fear of my head, though it has been much better these last five or six days, since I have taken Lady Kerry’s bitter. Our frost holds like a dragon. I went to Mr. Addison’s, and dined with him at his lodgings; I had not seen him these three weeks, we are grown common acquaintance; yet what have not I done for his friend Steele? Mr. Harley reproached me the last time I saw him, that to please me he would be reconciled to Steele, and had promised and appointed to see him, and that Steele never came. Harrison, whom Mr. Addison recommended to me, I have introduced to the Secretary of State, who has promised me to take care of him; and I have represented Addison himself so to the Ministry, that they think and talk in his favour, though they hated him before. — Well, he is now in my debt, and there’s an end; and I never had the least obligation to him, and there’s another end. This evening I had a message from Mr. Harley, desiring to know whether I was alive, and that I would dine with him to-morrow. They dine so late, that since my head has been wrong I have avoided being with them. — Patrick has been out of favour these ten days; I talk dry and cross to him, and have called him “friend” three or four times. But, sirrahs, get you gone.

5. Morning. I am going this morning to see Prior, who dines with me at Mr. Harley’s; so I can’t stay fiddling and talking with dear little brats in a morning, and ’tis still terribly cold. — I wish my cold hand was in the warmest place about you, young women, I’d give ten guineas upon that account with all my heart, faith; oh, it starves my thigh; so I’ll rise and bid you good-morrow, my ladies both, good-morrow. Come, stand away, let me rise: Patrick, take away the candle. Is there a good fire? — So — up-a-dazy. — At night. Mr. Harley did not sit down till six, and I stayed till eleven; henceforth I will choose to visit him in the evenings, and dine with him no more if I can help it. It breaks all my measures, and hurts my health; my head is disorderly, but not ill, and I hope it will mend.

6. Here has been such a hurry with the Queen’s Birthday, so much fine clothes, and the Court so crowded that I did not go there. All the frost is gone. It thawed on Sunday, and so continues, yet ice is still on the Canal (I did not mean that of Laracor, but St. James’s Park) and boys sliding on it. Mr. Ford pressed me to dine with him in his chamber. — Did not I tell you Patrick has got a bird, a linnet, to carry over to Dingley? It was very tame at first, and ’tis now the wildest I ever saw. He keeps it in a closet, where it makes a terrible litter; but I say nothing: I am as tame as a clout. When must we answer our MD’s letter? One of these odd-come-shortlies. This is a week old, you see, and no farther yet. Mr. Harley desired I would dine with him again to-day; but I refused him, for I fell out with him yesterday,9 and will not see him again till he makes me amends: and so I go to bed.

7. I was this morning early with Mr. Lewis of the Secretary’s office, and saw a letter Mr. Harley had sent to him, desiring to be reconciled; but I was deaf to all entreaties, and have desired Lewis to go to him, and let him know I expect further satisfaction. If we let these great Ministers pretend too much, there will be no governing them. He promises to make me easy, if I will but come and see him; but I won’t, and he shall do it by message, or I will cast him off. I’ll tell you the cause of our quarrel when I see you, and refer it to yourselves. In that he did something, which he intended for a favour; and I have taken it quite otherwise, disliking both the thing and the manner, and it has heartily vexed me, and all I have said is truth, though it looks like jest; and I absolutely refused to submit to his intended favour, and expect further satisfaction. Mr. Ford and I dined with Mr. Lewis. We have a monstrous deal of snow, and it has cost me two shillings to-day in chair and coach, and walked till I was dirty besides. I know not what it is now to read or write after I am in bed. The last thing I do up is to write something to our MD, and then get into bed, and put out my candle, and so go sleep as fast as ever I can. But in the mornings I do write sometimes in bed, as you know.

8. Morning. I HAVE DESIRED APRONIA TO BE ALWAYS CAREFUL, ESPECIALLY ABOUT THE LEGS. Pray, do you see any such great wit in that sentence? I must freely own that I do not. But party carries everything nowadays, and what a splutter have I heard about the wit of that saying, repeated with admiration above a hundred times in half an hour! Pray read it over again this moment, and consider it. I think the word is ADVISED, and not DESIRED. I should not have remembered it if I had not heard it so often. Why — ay — You must know I dreamed it just now, and waked with it in my mouth. Are you bit, or are you not, sirrahs? I met Mr. Harley in the Court of Requests, and he asked me how long I had learnt the trick of writing to myself? He had seen your letter through the glass case at the Coffee-house, and would swear it was my hand; and Mr. Ford, who took and sent it me, was of the same mind. I remember others have formerly said so too. I think I was little MD’s writing-master.10 — But come, what is here to do, writing to young women in a morning? I have other fish to fry; so good-morrow, my ladies all, good-morrow. Perhaps I’ll answer your letter to-night, perhaps I won’t; that’s as saucy little Presto takes the humour. — At night. I walked in the Park to-day in spite of the weather, as I do always when it does not actually rain. Do you know what it has gone and done? We had a thaw for three days, then a monstrous dirt and snow, and now it freezes, like a pot-lid, upon our snow. I dined with Lady Betty Germaine, the first time since I came for England; and there did I sit, like a booby, till eight, looking over her and another lady at piquet, when I had other business enough to do. It was the coldest day I felt this year.

9. Morning. After I had been abed an hour last night, I was forced to rise and call to the landlady and maid to have the fire removed in a chimney below stairs, which made my bed-chamber smoke, though I had no fire in it. I have been twice served so. I never lay so miserable an hour in my life. Is it not plaguy vexatious? — It has snowed all night, and rains this morning. — Come, where’s MD’s letter? Come, Mrs. Letter, make your appearance. Here am I, says she, answer me to my face. — O, faith, I am sorry you had my twelfth so soon; I doubt you will stay longer for the rest. I’m so ‘fraid you have got my fourteenth while I am writing this; and I would always have one letter from Presto reading, one travelling, and one writing. As for the box, I now believe it lost. It is directed for Mr. Curry, at his house in Capel Street, etc. I had a letter yesterday from Dr. Raymond in Chester, who says he sent his man everywhere, and cannot find it; and God knows whether Mr. Smyth will have better success. Sterne spoke to him, and I writ to him with the bottle of palsy-water; that bottle, I hope, will not miscarry: I long to hear you have it. O, faith, you have too good an opinion of Presto’s care. I am negligent enough of everything but MD, and I should not have trusted Sterne. — But it shall not go so: I will have one more tug for it. — As to what you say of Goodman Peasly and Isaac,11 I answer as I did before. Fie, child, you must not give yourself the way to believe any such thing: and afterwards, only for curiosity, you may tell me how these things are approved, and how you like them; and whether they instruct you in the present course of affairs, and whether they are printed in your town, or only sent from hence. — Sir Andrew Fountaine is recovered; so take your sorrow again, but don’t keep it, fling it to the dogs. And does little MD walk indeed? — I’m glad of it at heart. — Yes, we have done with the plague here: it was very saucy in you to pretend to have it before your betters. Your intelligence that the story is false about the officers forced to sell,12 is admirable. You may see them all three here every day, no more in the army than you. Twelve shillings for mending the strong box; that is, for putting a farthing’s worth of iron on a hinge, and gilding it; give him six shillings, and I’ll pay it, and never employ him or his again. — No indeed, I put off preaching as much as I can. I am upon another foot: nobody doubts here whether I can preach, and you are fools. — The account you give of that weekly paper13 agrees with us here. Mr. Prior was like to be insulted in the street for being supposed the author of it; but one of the last papers cleared him. Nobody knows who it is, but those few in the secret, I suppose the Ministry and the printer. — Poor Stella’s eyes! God bless them, and send them better. Pray spare them, and write not above two lines a day in broad daylight. How does Stella look, Madam Dingley? Pretty well, a handsome young woman still. Will she pass in a crowd? Will she make a figure in a country church? — Stay a little, fair ladies. I this minute sent Patrick to Sterne: he brings back word that your box is very safe with one Mr. Earl’s sister in Chester, and that Colonel Edgworth’s widow14 goes for Ireland on Monday next, and will receive the box at Chester, and deliver it you safe: so there are some hopes now. — Well, let us go on to your letter. — The warrant is passed for the First-Fruits. The Queen does not send a letter; but a patent will be drawn here, and that will take up time. Mr. Harley of late has said nothing of presenting me to the Queen: I was overseen15 when I mentioned it to you. He has such a weight of affairs on him, that he cannot mind all; but he talked of it three or four times to me, long before I dropped it to you. What, is not Mrs. Walls’ business over yet? I had hopes she was up and well, and the child dead before this time. — You did right, at last, to send me your accompts; but I did not stay for them, I thank you. I hope you have your bill sent in my last, and there will be eight pounds’ interest soon due from Hawkshaw: pray look at his bond. I hope you are good managers; and that, when I say so, Stella won’t think I intend she should grudge herself wine. But going to those expensive lodgings requires some fund. I wish you had stayed till I came over, for some reasons. That Frenchwoman16 will be grumbling again in a little time: and if you are invited anywhere to the country, it will vex you to pay in absence; and the country may be necessary for poor Stella’s health: but do as you like, and do not blame Presto. — Oh, but you are telling your reasons. — Well, I have read them; do as you please. — Yes, Raymond says he must stay longer than he thought, because he cannot settle his affairs. M—— is in the country at some friend’s, comes to town in spring, and then goes to settle in Herefordshire. Her husband is a surly, ill-natured brute, and cares not she should see anybody. O Lord, see how I blundered, and left two lines short; it was that ugly score in the paper17 that made me mistake. — I believe you lie about the story of the fire, only to make it more odd. Bernage must go to Spain; and I will see to recommend him to the Duke of Argyle, his General, when I see the Duke next: but the officers tell me it would be dishonourable in the last degree for him to sell now, and he would never be preferred in the army; so that, unless he designs to leave it for good and all, he must go. Tell him so, and that I would write if I knew where to direct to him; which I have said fourscore times already. I had rather anything almost than that you should strain yourselves to send a letter when it is inconvenient; we have settled that matter already. I’ll write when I can, and so shall MD; and upon occasions extraordinary I will write, though it be a line; and when we have not letters soon, we agree that all things are well; and so that’s settled for ever, and so hold your tongue. — Well, you shall have your pins; but for candles’ ends, I cannot promise, because I burn them to the stumps; besides, I remember what Stella told Dingley about them many years ago, and she may think the same thing of me. — And Dingley shall have her hinged spectacles. — Poor dear Stella, how durst you write those two lines by candlelight? bang your bones! Faith, this letter shall go to-morrow, I think, and that will be in ten days from the last, young women; that’s too soon of all conscience: but answering yours has filled it up so quick, and I do not design to use you to three pages in folio, no, nooooh. All this is one morning’s work in bed; — and so good-morrow, little sirrahs; that’s for the rhyme.18 You want politics: faith, I can’t think of any; but may be at night I may tell you a passage. Come, sit off the bed, and let me rise, will you? — At night. I dined to-day with my neighbour Vanhomrigh; it was such dismal weather I could not stir further. I have had some threatenings with my head, but no fits. I still drink Dr. Radcliffe’s19 bitter, and will continue it.

10. I was this morning to see the Secretary of State, and have engaged him to give a memorial from me to the Duke of Argyle in behalf of Bernage. The Duke is a man that distinguishes people of merit, and I will speak to him myself; but the Secretary backing it will be very effectual, and I will take care to have it done to purpose. Pray tell Bernage so, and that I think nothing can be luckier for him, and that I would have him go by all means. I will order it that the Duke shall send for him when they are in Spain; or, if he fails, that he shall receive him kindly when he goes to wait on him. Can I do more? Is not this a great deal? — I now send away this letter, that you may not stay. — I dined with Ford upon his Opera-day, and am now come home, and am going to study; do not you presume to guess, sirrahs, impudent saucy dear boxes. Towards the end of a letter I could not say saucy boxes without putting dear between. An’t that right now? Farewell. THIS should BE longer, BUT that I send IT to-night.20

O silly, silly loggerhead!

I send a letter this post to one Mr. Staunton, and I direct it to Mr. Acton’s in St. Michael’s Lane. He formerly lodged there, but he has not told me where to direct. Pray send to that Acton, whether21 the letter is come there, and whether he has sent it to Staunton.

If Bernage designs to sell his commission and stay at home, pray let him tell me so, that my recommendation to the Duke of Argyle may not be in vain.

1 The Stamp Act was not passed until June 1712: see the Journal for Aug. 7, 1712.

2 Both in St. James’s Park. The Canal was formed by Charles II. from several small ponds, and Rosamond’s Pond was a sheet of water in the south-west corner of the Park, “long consecrated,” as Warburton said, “to disastrous love and elegiac poetry.” It is often mentioned as a place of assignation in Restoration plays. Evelyn (Diary, Dec. 1, 1662) describes the “scheets” used on the Canal.

3 Mrs. Beaumont.

4 The first direct mention of Hester Vanhomrigh. She is referred to only in two other places in the Journal (Feb. 14, 1710-11, and Aug, 14, 1711).

5 See Letter 3, note 17.

6 No. 27, by Swift himself.

7 No. 7 of Harrison’s series.

8 The printers of the original Tatler.

9 Harley had forwarded to Swift a banknote for fifty pounds (see Journal, March 7, 1710-11).

10 At Moor Park.

11 Scott says that Swift here alludes to some unidentified pamphlet of which he was the real or supposed author.

12 See Letter 11, note 13.

13 The Examiner.

14 See Letter 6, note 43.

15 Mistaken.

16 Mrs. De Caudres, “over against St. Mary’s Church, near Capel Street,” where Stella now lodged.

17 “A crease in the sheet” (Deane Swift).

18 “In the original it was, good mallows, little sollahs. But in these words, and many others, he writes constantly ll for rr” (Deane Swift).

19 See Letter 4, note 19.

20 “Those letters which are in italics in the original are of a monstrous size, which occasioned his calling himself a loggerhead” (Deane Swift). [Italics replaced by capitals for the transcription of this etext.]

21 I.e., to ask whether.

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