The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 16.

London, Feb. 10, 1710-11.

I have just despatched my fifteenth to the post; I tell you how things will be, after I have got a letter from MD. I am in furious haste to finish mine, for fear of having two of MD’s to answer in one of Presto’s, which would be such a disgrace, never saw the like; but, before you write to me, I write at my leisure, like a gentleman, a little every day, just to let you know how matters go, and so and so; and I hope before this comes to you, you’ll have got your box and chocolate, and Presto will take more care another time.

11. Morning. I must rise and go see my Lord Keeper,1 which will cost me two shillings in coach-hire. Don’t you call them two thirteens?2 — At night. It has rained all day, and there was no walking. I read prayers to Sir Andrew Fountaine in the forenoon, and I dined with three Irishmen, at one Mr. Cope’s3 lodgings; the other two were one Morris an archdeacon,4 and Mr. Ford. When I came home this evening, I expected that little jackanapes Harrison would have come to get help about his Tatler for Tuesday: I have fixed two evenings in the week which I allow him to come. The toad never came, and I expecting him fell a reading, and left off other business. — Come, what are you doing? How do you pass your time this ugly weather? Gaming and drinking, I suppose: fine diversions for young ladies, truly! I wish you had some of our Seville oranges, and we some of your wine. We have the finest oranges for twopence apiece, and the basest wine for six shillings a bottle. They tell me wine grows cheap with you. I am resolved to have half a hogshead when I get to Ireland, if it be good and cheap, as it used to be; and I will treat MD at my table in an evening, oh hoa, and laugh at great Ministers of State.

12. The days are grown fine and long, ——— be thanked. O, faith, you forget all our little sayings, and I am angry. I dined to-day with Mr. Secretary St. John: I went to the Court of Requests at noon, and sent Mr. Harley into the House to call the Secretary, to let him know I would not dine with him if he dined late. By good luck the Duke of Argyle was at the lobby of the House too, and I kept him in talk till the Secretary came out; then told them I was glad to meet them together, and that I had a request to the Duke, which the Secretary must second, and his Grace must grant. The Duke said he was sure it was something insignificant, and wished it was ten times greater. At the Secretary’s house I writ a memorial, and gave it to the Secretary to give the Duke, and shall see that he does it. It is, that his Grace will please to take Mr. Bernage into his protection; and if he finds Bernage answers my character, to give him all encouragement. Colonel Masham5 and Colonel Hill6 (Mrs. Masham’s7 brother tell me my request is reasonable, and they will second it heartily to the Duke too: so I reckon Bernage is on a very good foot when he goes to Spain. Pray tell him this, though perhaps I will write to him before he goes; yet where shall I direct? for I suppose he has left Connolly’s.8

13. I have left off Lady Kerry’s bitter, and got another box of pills. I have no fits of giddiness, but only some little disorders towards it; and I walk as much as I can. Lady Kerry is just as I am, only a great deal worse: I dined to-day at Lord Shelburne’s, where she is, and we con ailments, which makes us very fond of each other. I have taken Mr. Harley into favour again, and called to see him, but he was not within; I will use to visit him after dinner, for he dines too late for my head: then I went to visit poor Congreve, who is just getting out of a severe fit of the gout; and I sat with him till near nine o’clock. He gave me a Tatler9 he had written out, as blind as he is, for little Harrison. It is about a scoundrel that was grown rich, and went and bought a coat of arms at the Herald’s, and a set of ancestors at Fleet Ditch; ’tis well enough, and shall be printed in two or three days, and if you read those kind of things, this will divert you. It is now between ten and eleven, and I am going to bed.

14. This was Mrs. Vanhomrigh’s daughter’s10 birthday, and Mr. Ford and I were invited to dinner to keep it, and we spent the evening there, drinking punch. That was our way of beginning Lent; and in the morning Lord Shelburne, Lady Kerry, Mrs. Pratt, and I, went to Hyde Park, instead of going to church; for, till my head is a little settled, I think it better not to go; it would be so silly and troublesome to go out sick. Dr. Duke11 died suddenly two or three nights ago; he was one of the wits when we were children, but turned parson, and left it, and never writ farther than a prologue or recommendatory copy of verses. He had a fine living given him by the Bishop of Winchester12 about three months ago; he got his living suddenly, and he got his dying so too.

15. I walked purely to-day about the Park, the rain being just over, of which we have had a great deal, mixed with little short frosts. I went to the Court of Requests, thinking, if Mr. Harley dined early, to go with him. But meeting Leigh and Sterne, they invited me to dine with them, and away we went. When we got into his room, one H— — a worthless Irish fellow, was there, ready to dine with us; so I stepped out, and whispered them, that I would not dine with that fellow: they made excuses, and begged me to stay; but away I went to Mr. Harley’s, and he did not dine at home; and at last I dined at Sir John Germaine’s,13 and found Lady Betty but just recovered of a miscarriage. I am writing an inscription for Lord Berkeley’s14 tomb; you know the young rake his son, the new Earl, is married to the Duke of Richmond’s daughter,15 at the Duke’s country house, and are now coming to town. She will be fluxed in two months, and they’ll be parted in a year. You ladies are brave, bold, venturesome folks; and the chit is but seventeen, and is ill-natured, covetous, vicious, and proud in extremes. And so get you gone to Stoyte to-morrow.

16. Faith, this letter goes on but slow; ’tis a week old, and the first side not written. I went to-day into the City for a walk, but the person I designed to dine with was not at home; so I came back, and called at Congreve’s, and dined with him and Estcourt,16 and laughed till six; then went to Mr. Harley’s, who was not gone to dinner; there I stayed till nine, and we made up our quarrel, and he has invited me to dinner to-morrow, which is the day of the week (Saturday) that Lord Keeper and Secretary St. John dine with him privately, and at last they have consented to let me among them on that day. Atterbury and Prior went to bury poor Dr. Duke. Congreve’s nasty white wine has given me the heart-burn.

17. I took some good walks in the Park to-day, and then went to Mr. Harley. Lord Rivers was got there before me, and I chid him for presuming to come on a day when only Lord Keeper and the Secretary and I were to be there; but he regarded me not; so we all dined together, and sat down at four; and the Secretary has invited me to dine with him to-morrow. I told them I had no hopes they could ever keep in, but that I saw they loved one another so well, as indeed they seem to do. They call me nothing but Jonathan; and I said I believed they would leave me Jonathan as they found me; and that I never knew a Ministry do anything for those whom they make companions of their pleasures; and I believe you will find it so; but I care not. I am upon a project of getting five hundred pounds,17 without being obliged to anybody; but that is a secret, till I see my dearest MD; and so hold your tongue, and do not talk, sirrahs, for I am now about it.

18. My head has no fits, but a little disordered before dinner; yet I walk stoutly, and take pills, and hope to mend. Secretary St. John would needs have me dine with him to-day; and there I found three persons I never saw, two I had no acquaintance with, and one I did not care for: so I left them early and came home, it being no day to walk, but scurvy rain and wind. The Secretary tells me he has put a cheat on me; for Lord Peterborow sent him twelve dozen flasks of burgundy, on condition that I should have my share; but he never was quiet till they were all gone, so I reckon he owes me thirty-six pounds. Lord Peterborow is now got to Vienna, and I must write to him to-morrow. I begin now to be towards looking for a letter from some certain ladies of Presto’s acquaintance, that live at St. Mary’s,18 and are called in a certain language, our little MD. No, stay, I don’t expect one these six days, that will be just three weeks; an’t I a reasonable creature? We are plagued here with an October Club, that is, a set of above a hundred Parliament men of the country, who drink October beer at home, and meet every evening at a tavern near the Parliament to consult affairs, and drive things on to extremes against the Whigs, to call the old Ministry to account, and get off five or six heads.19 The Ministry seem not to regard them; yet one of them in confidence told me that there must be something thought on, to settle things better. I’ll tell you one great State secret: the Queen, sensible how much she was governed by the late Ministry, runs a little into t’other extreme, and is jealous in that point, even of those who got her out of the others’ hands. The Ministry is for gentler measures, and the other Tories for more violent. Lord Rivers, talking to me the other day, cursed the paper called the Examiner, for speaking civilly of the Duke of Marlborough; this I happened to talk of to the Secretary, who blamed the warmth of that lord and some others, and swore that if their advice were followed they would be blown up in twenty-four hours. And I have reason to think that they will endeavour to prevail on the Queen to put her affairs more in the hands of a Ministry than she does at present; and there are, I believe, two men thought on, one of them you have often met the name of in my letters. But so much for politics.

19. This proved a terrible rainy day, which prevented my walk into the City, and I was only able to run and dine with my neighbour Vanhomrigh, where Sir Andrew Fountaine dined too, who has just began to sally out, and has shipped his mother and sister, who were his nurses, back to the country. This evening was fair, and I walked a little in the Park, till Prior made me go with him to the Smyrna Coffee-house, where I sat a while, and saw four or five Irish persons, who are very handsome, genteel fellows; but I know not their names. I came away at seven, and got home. Two days ago I writ to Bernage, and told him what I had done, and directed the letter to Mr. Curry’s, to be left with Dingley. Brigadiers Hill and Masham, brother and husband to Mrs. Masham, the Queen’s favourite, Colonel Disney,20 and I, have recommended Bernage to the Duke of Argyle; and Secretary St. John has given the Duke my memorial; and, besides, Hill tells me, that Bernage’s colonel, Fielding,21 designs to make him his captain-lieutenant: but I believe I said this to you before, and in this letter; but I will not look.

20. Morning. It snows terribly again; and ’tis mistaken, for I now want a little good weather. I bid you good-morrow; and, if it clear up, get you gone to poor Mrs. Walls, who has had a hard time of it, but is now pretty well again. I am sorry it is a girl: the poor Archdeacon too, see how simply he looked when they told him: what did it cost Stella to be gossip? I’ll rise; so, d’ye hear, let me see you at night; and do not stay late out, and catch cold, sirrahs. — At night. It grew good weather, and I got a good walk, and dined with Ford upon his Opera-day; but, now all his wine is gone, I shall dine with him no more. I hope to send this letter before I hear from MD, methinks there is — something great in doing so, only I can’t express where it lies; and, faith, this shall go by Saturday, as sure as you’re a rogue. Mrs. Edgworth was to set out but last Monday; so you won’t have your box so soon perhaps as this letter; but Sterne told me since that it is safe at Chester, and that she will take care of it. I’d give a guinea you had it.

21. Morning. Faith, I hope it will be fair for me to walk into the City; for I take all occasions of walking. — I should be plaguy busy at Laracor if I were there now, cutting down willows, planting others, scouring my canal, and every kind of thing. If Raymond goes over this summer, you must submit, and make them a visit, that we may have another eel and trout fishing; and that Stella may ride by, and see Presto in his morning-gown in the garden, and so go up with Joe to the Hill of Bree, and round by Scurlock’s Town. O Lord, how I remember names! faith, it gives me short sighs; therefore no more of that, if you love me. Good-morrow, I will go rise like a gentleman; my pills say I must. — At night. Lady Kerry sent to desire me to engage some lords about an affair she has in their house here: I called to see her, but found she had already engaged every lord I knew, and that there was no great difficulty in the matter; and it rained like a dog; so I took coach, for want of better exercise, and dined privately with a hang-dog in the City, and walked back in the evening. The days are now long enough to walk in the Park after dinner; and so I do whenever it is fair. This walking is a strange remedy: Mr. Prior walks, to make himself fat, and I to bring myself down; he has generally a cough, which he only calls a cold; we often walk round the Park together. So I’ll go sleep.

22. It snowed all this morning prodigiously, and was some inches thick in three or four hours. I dined with Mr. Lewis of the Secretary’s office at his lodgings: the chairmen that carried me squeezed a great fellow against a wall, who wisely turned his back, and broke one of the side-glasses in a thousand pieces. I fell a scolding, pretended I was like to be cut to pieces, and made them set down the chair in the Park, while they picked out the bits of glasses; and, when I paid them, I quarrelled still; so they dared not grumble, and I came off for my fare; but I was plaguily afraid they would have said, “God bless your honour, won’t you give us something for our glass?” Lewis and I were forming a project how I might get three or four hundred pounds,22 which I suppose may come to nothing. I hope Smyth has brought you your palsy-drops. How does Stella do? I begin more and more to desire to know. The three weeks since I had your last is over within two days, and I will allow three for accidents.

23. The snow is gone every bit, except the remainder of some great balls made by the boys. Mr. Sterne was with me this morning about an affair he has before the Treasury. That drab Mrs. Edgworth is not yet set out, but will infallibly next Monday: and this is the third infallible Monday, and pox take her! So you will have this letter first; and this shall go to-morrow; and, if I have one from MD in that time, I will not answer it till my next; only I will say, “Madam, I received your letter, and so, and so.” I dined to-day with my Mistress Butler,23 who grows very disagreeable.

24. Morning. This letter certainly goes this evening, sure as you’re alive, young women, and then you will be so shamed that I have had none from you; and, if I was to reckon like you, I would say, I were six letters before you, for this is N.16, and I have had your N.10. But I reckon you have received but fourteen, and have sent eleven. I think to go to-day a Minister-of-State-hunting in the Court of Requests; for I have something to say to Mr. Harley. And it is fine, cold, sunshiny weather; I wish dear MD would walk this morning in your Stephen’s Green; ’tis as good as our Park, but not so large.24 Faith, this summer we’ll take a coach for sixpence25 to the Green Well, the two walks, and thence all the way to Stoyte’s.26 My hearty service to Goody Stoyte and Catherine; and I hope Mrs. Walls had a good time. How inconstant I am! I can’t imagine I was ever in love with her. Well, I’m going; what have you to say? I DO NOT CARE HOW I WRITE NOW.27 I don’t design to write on this side; these few lines are but so much more than your due; so I will write LARGE or small as I please. O, faith, my hands are starving in bed; I believe it is a hard frost. I must rise, and bid you good-bye, for I’ll seal this letter immediately, and carry it in my pocket, and put it into the post-office with my own fair hands. Farewell.

This letter is just a fortnight’s journal to-day. Yes, and so it is, I’m sure, says you, with your two eggs a penny.

Lele, lele, lele.28

O Lord, I am saying lele, lele, to myself, in all our little keys: and, now you talk of keys, that dog Patrick broke the key-general of the chest of drawers with six locks, and I have been so plagued to get a new one, besides my good two shillings!

1 Harcourt.

2 “A shilling passes for thirteenpence in Ireland” (Deane Swift).

3 Robert Cope, a gentleman of learning with whom Swift corresponded.

4 Archdeacon Morris is not mentioned in Cotton’s Fasti Ecclesiae Hiberniae.

5 See Letter 14, note 6.

6 See Letter 10, note 2.

7 Abigail Hill, afterwards Lady Masham, had been introduced into the Queens service as bed-chamber woman by the Duchess of Marlborough. Her High Church and Tory views recommended her to Queen Anne, and in 1707 she was privately married to Mr. Samuel Masham, a gentleman in the service of Prince George (see Letter 14, note 6). The Duchess of Marlborough discovered that Mrs. Masham’s cousin, Harley, was using her influence to further his own interests with the Queen; and in spite of her violence the Duchess found herself gradually supplanted. From 1710 Mrs. Masham’s only rival in the royal favour was the Duchess of Somerset. Afterwards she quarrelled with Harley and joined the Bolingbroke faction.

8 See Letter 4, note 16.

9 No. 14 of Harrison’s series.

10 See Letter 15, note 4.

11 Richard Duke, a minor poet and friend of Dryden’s, entered the Church about 1685. In July 1710 he was presented by the Bishop of Winchester to the living of Witney, Oxfordshire, which was worth 700 pounds a year.

12 Sir Jonathan Trelawney, one of the seven bishops committed to the Tower in 1688, was translated to Winchester in 1707, when he appointed Duke to be his chaplain.

13 See Letter 4, note 3.

14 See Letter 3, note 39.

15 See Letter 14, note 14.

16 See Letter 7, note 28.

17 Cf. Feb. 22, 1711.

18 Esther Johnson lodged opposite St. Mary’s in Dublin.

19 This famous Tory club began with the meeting together of a few extreme Tories at the Bell in Westminster. The password to the Club —“October”— was one easy of remembrance to a country gentleman who loved his ale.

20 “Duke” Disney, “not an old man, but an old rake,” died in 1731. Gay calls him “facetious Disney,” and Swift says that all the members of the Club “love him mightily.” Lady M. W. Montagu speaks of his

“Broad plump face, pert eyes, and ruddy skin,
Which showed the stupid joke which lurked within.”

Disney was a French Huguenot refugee, and his real name was Desaulnais. He commanded an Irish regiment, and took part in General Hill’s expedition to Canada in 1711 (Kingsford’s Canada, ii. 465). By his will (Wentworth papers, 109) he “left nothing to his poor relations, but very handsome to his bottle companions.”

21 There were several Colonel Fieldings in the first half of the eighteenth century, and it is not clear which is the one referred to by Swift. Possibly he was the Edmund Fielding — grandson of the first Earl of Denbigh — who died a Lieutenant-General in 1741, at the age of sixty-three, but is best known as the father of Henry Fielding, the novelist.

22 Cf. Feb. 17, 1711.

23 See Letter 3, note 37.

24 “It is a measured mile round the outer wall; and far beyond any the finest square in London” (Deane Swift).

25 “The common fare for a set-down in Dublin” (ib.).

26 “Mrs. Stoyte lived at Donnybrook, the road to which from Stephen’s Green ran into the country about a mile from the south-east corner” (ib.).

27 “Those words in italics are written in a very large hand, and so is the word large” (ib.). [Italics replaced by capitals for the transcription of this etext.]

28 Deane Swift alters “lele” to “there,” but in a note states how he here altered Swift’s “cypher way of writing.” No doubt “lele” and other favourite words occurred frequently in the MS., as they do in the later letters.

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