The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 17.

London, Feb. 24, 1710-11.

Now, young women, I gave in my sixteenth this evening. I dined with Ford (it was his Opera-day) as usual; it is very convenient to me to do so, for coming home early after a walk in the Park, which now the days will allow. I called on the Secretary at his office, and he had forgot to give the memorial about Bernage to the Duke of Argyle; but, two days ago, I met the Duke, who desired I would give it him myself, which should have more power with him than all the Ministry together, as he protested solemnly, repeated it two or three times, and bid me count upon it. So that I verily believe Bernage will be in a very good way to establish himself. I think I can do no more for him at present, and there’s an end of that; and so get you gone to bed, for it is late.

25. The three weeks are out yesterday since I had your last, and so now I will be expecting every day a pretty dear letter from my own MD, and hope to hear that Stella has been much better in her head and eyes: my head continues as it was, no fits, but a little disorder every day, which I can easily bear, if it will not grow worse. I dined to-day with Mr. Secretary St. John, on condition I might choose my company, which were Lord Rivers, Lord Carteret, Sir Thomas Mansel,1 and Mr. Lewis; I invited Masham, Hill, Sir John Stanley, and George Granville, but they were engaged; and I did it in revenge of his having such bad company when I dined with him before; so we laughed, etc. And I ventured to go to church to-day, which I have not done this month before. Can you send me such a good account of Stella’s health, pray now? Yes, I hope, and better too. We dined (says you) at the Dean’s, and played at cards till twelve, and there came in Mr. French, and Dr. Travors, and Dr. Whittingham, and Mr. (I forget his name, that I always tell Mrs. Walls of) the banker’s son, a pox on him. And we were so merry; I vow they are pure good company. But I lost a crown; for you must know I had always hands tempting me to go out, but never took in anything, and often two black aces without a manilio; was not that hard, Presto? Hold your tongue, etc.

26. I was this morning with Mr. Secretary about some business, and he tells me that Colonel Fielding is now going to make Bernage his captain-lieutenant, that is, a captain by commission, and the perquisites of the company; but not captain’s pay, only the first step to it. I suppose he will like it; and the recommendation to the Duke of Argyle goes on. And so trouble me no more about your Bernage; the jackanapes understands what fair solicitors he has got, I warrant you. Sir Andrew Fountaine and I dined, by invitation, with Mrs. Vanhomrigh. You say they are of no consequence: why, they keep as good female company as I do male; I see all the drabs of quality at this end of the town with them: I saw two Lady Bettys2 there this afternoon; the beauty of one, the good-breeding and nature of t’other, and the wit of neither, would have made a fine woman. Rare walking in the Park now: why don’t you walk in the Green of St. Stephen? The walks there are finer gravelled than the Mall. What beasts the Irish women are, never to walk!

27. Darteneuf and I, and little Harrison the new Tatler, and Jervas the painter, dined to-day with James,3 I know not his other name, but it is one of Darteneuf’s dining-places, who is a true epicure. James is clerk of the kitchen to the Queen, and has a little snug house at St. James’s; and we had the Queen’s wine, and such very fine victuals that I could not eat it. Three weeks and three days since my last letter from MD; rare doings! why, truly we were so busy with poor Mrs. Walls, that indeed, Presto, we could not write, we were afraid the poor woman would have died; and it pitied us to see the Archdeacon, how concerned he was. The Dean never came to see her but once; but now she is up again, and we go and sit with her in the evenings. The child died the next day after it was born; and I believe, between friends, she is not very sorry for it. — Indeed, Presto, you are plaguy silly tonight, and han’t guessed one word right; for she and the child are both well, and it is a fine girl, likely to live; and the Dean was godfather, and Mrs. Catherine and I were godmothers; I was going to say Stoyte, but I think I have heard they don’t put maids and married women together; though I know not why I think so, nor I don’t care; what care I? but I must prate, etc.

28. I walked to-day into the City for my health, and there dined; which I always do when the weather is fair, and business permits, that I may be under a necessity of taking a good walk, which is the best thing I can do at present for my health. Some bookseller has raked up everything I writ, and published it t’other day in one volume; but I know nothing of it, ’twas without my knowledge or consent: it makes a four-shilling book, and is called Miscellanies in Prose and Verse.4 Tooke pretends he knows nothing of it; but I doubt he is at the bottom. One must have patience with these things; the best of it is, I shall be plagued no more. However, I will bring a couple of them over with me for MD; perhaps you may desire to see them. I hear they sell mightily.

March 1. Morning. I have been calling to Patrick to look in his almanac for the day of the month; I did not know but it might be leap-year. The almanac says ’tis the third after leap-year; and I always thought till now, that every third year was leap-year. I am glad they come so seldom; but I’m sure ’twas otherwise when I was a young man; I see times are mightily changed since then. — Write to me, sirrahs; be sure do by the time this side is done, and I’ll keep t’other side for the answer: so I’ll go write to the Bishop of Clogher; good-morrow, sirrahs. — Night. I dined to-day at Mrs. Vanhomrigh’s, being a rainy day; and Lady Betty Butler, knowing it, sent to let me know she expected my company in the evening, where the Vans (so we call them) were to be. The Duchess5 and they do not go over this summer with the Duke; so I go to bed.

2. This rainy weather undoes me in coaches and chairs. I was traipsing to-day with your Mr. Sterne, to go along with them to Moore,6 and recommend his business to the Treasury. Sterne tells me his dependence is wholly on me; but I have absolutely refused to recommend it to Mr. Harley, because I have troubled him lately so much with other folks’ affairs; and besides, to tell the truth, Mr. Harley told me he did not like Sterne’s business: however, I will serve him, because I suppose MD would have me. But, in saying his dependence lies wholly on me, he lies, and is a fool. I dined with Lord Abercorn, whose son Peasley7 will be married at Easter to ten thousand pounds.

3. I forgot to tell you that yesterday morning I was at Mr. Harley’s levee: he swore I came in spite, to see him among a parcel of fools. My business was to desire I might let the Duke of Ormond know how the affair stood of the First-Fruits. He promised to let him know it, and engaged me to dine with him to-day. Every Saturday, Lord Keeper, Secretary St. John, and I dine with him, and sometimes Lord Rivers; and they let in none else. Patrick brought me some letters into the Park; among which one was from Walls; and t’other, yes, faith, t’other was from our little MD, N.11. I read the rest in the Park, and MD’s in a chair as I went from St. James’s to Mr. Harley; and glad enough I was, faith, to read it, and see all right. Oh, but I won’t answer it these three or four days at least, or may be sooner. An’t I silly? faith, your letters would make a dog silly, if I had a dog to be silly, but it must be a little dog. — I stayed with Mr. Harley till past nine, where we had much discourse together after the rest were gone; and I gave him very truly my opinion where he desired it. He complained he was not very well, and has engaged me to dine with him again on Monday. So I came home afoot, like a fine gentleman, to tell you all this.

4. I dined to-day with Mr. Secretary St. John; and after dinner he had a note from Mr. Harley, that he was much out of order.8 Pray God preserve his health! everything depends upon it. The Parliament at present cannot go a step without him, nor the Queen neither. I long to be in Ireland; but the Ministry beg me to stay: however, when this Parliament lurry9 is over, I will endeavour to steal away; by which time I hope the First-Fruit business will be done. This kingdom is certainly ruined as much as was ever any bankrupt merchant. We must have peace, let it be a bad or a good one, though nobody dares talk of it. The nearer I look upon things, the worse I like them. I believe the confederacy will soon break to pieces, and our factions at home increase. The Ministry is upon a very narrow bottom, and stand like an isthmus, between the Whigs on one side, and violent Tories on the other. They are able seamen; but the tempest is too great, the ship too rotten, and the crew all against them. Lord Somers has been twice in the Queen’s closet, once very lately; and your Duchess of Somerset,10 who now has the key, is a most insinuating woman; and I believe they will endeavour to play the same game that has been played against them. — I have told them of all this, which they know already, but they cannot help it. They have cautioned the Queen so much against being governed, that she observes it too much. I could talk till to-morrow upon these things, but they make me melancholy. I could not but observe that lately, after much conversation with Mr. Harley, though he is the most fearless man alive, and the least apt to despond, he confessed to me that uttering his mind to me gave him ease.

5. Mr. Harley continues out of order, yet his affairs force him abroad: he is subject to a sore throat, and was cupped last night: I sent and called two or three times. I hear he is better this evening. I dined to-day in the City with Dr. Freind at a third body’s house, where I was to pass for somebody else; and there was a plaguy silly jest carried on, that made me sick of it. Our weather grows fine, and I will walk like camomile. And pray walk you to your Dean’s, or your Stoyte’s, or your Manley’s, or your Walls’. But your new lodgings make you so proud, you will walk less than ever. Come, let me go to bed, sirrahs.

6. Mr. Harley’s going out yesterday has put him a little backwards. I called twice, and sent, for I am in pain for him. Ford caught me, and made me dine with him on his Opera-day; so I brought Mr. Lewis with me, and sat with him till six. I have not seen Mr. Addison these three weeks; all our friendship is over. I go to no Coffee-house. I presented a parson of the Bishop of Clogher’s, one Richardson,11 to the Duke of Ormond to-day: he is translating prayers and sermons into Irish, and has a project about instructing the Irish in the Protestant religion.

7. Morning. Faith, a little would make me, I could find in my heart, if it were not for one thing, I have a good mind, if I had not something else to do, I would answer your dear saucy letter. O, Lord, I am going awry with writing in bed. O, faith, but I must answer it, or I shan’t have room, for it must go on Saturday; and don’t think I will fill the third side, I an’t come to that yet, young women. Well then, as for your Bernage, I have said enough: I writ to him last week. — Turn over that leaf. Now, what says MD to the world to come? I tell you, Madam Stella, my head is a great deal better, and I hope will keep so. How came yours to be fifteen days coming, and you had my fifteenth in seven? Answer me that, rogues. Your being with Goody Walls is excuse enough: I find I was mistaken in the sex, ’tis a boy.12 Yes, I understand your cypher, and Stella guesses right, as she always does. He13 gave me al bsadnuk lboinlpl dfaonr ufainf btoy dpionufnad,14 which I sent him again by Mr. Lewis, to whom I writ a very complaining letter that was showed him; and so the matter ended. He told me he had a quarrel with me; I said I had another with him, and we returned to our friendship, and I should think he loves me as well as a great Minister can love a man in so short a time. Did not I do right? I am glad at heart you have got your palsy-water;15 pray God Almighty it may do my dearest little Stella good! I suppose Mrs. Edgworth set out last Monday se’ennight. Yes, I do read the Examiners, and they are written very finely, as you judge. I do not think they are too severe on the Duke;16 they only tax him of avarice, and his avarice has ruined us. You may count upon all things in them to be true. The author has said it is not Prior, but perhaps it may be Atterbury. — Now, Madam Dingley, says she, ’tis fine weather, says she; yes, says she, and we have got to our new lodgings. I compute you ought to save eight pounds by being in the others five months; and you have no more done it than eight thousand. I am glad you are rid of that squinting, blinking Frenchman. I will give you a bill on Parvisol for five pounds for the half-year. And must I go on at four shillings a week, and neither eat nor drink for it? Who the Devil said Atterbury and your Dean were alike? I never saw your Chancellor, nor his chaplain. The latter has a good deal of learning, and is a well-wisher to be an author: your Chancellor is an excellent man. As for Patrick’s bird, he bought him for his tameness, and is grown the wildest I ever saw. His wings have been quilled thrice, and are now up again: he will be able to fly after us to Ireland, if he be willing. — Yes, Mrs. Stella, Dingley writes more like Presto than you; for all you superscribed the letter, as who should say, Why should not I write like our Presto as well as Dingley? You with your awkward SS;17 cannot you write them thus, SS? No, but always SSS. Spiteful sluts, to affront Presto’s writing; as that when you shut your eyes you write most like Presto. I know the time when I did not write to you half so plain as I do now; but I take pity on you both. I am very much concerned for Mrs. Walls’s eyes. Walls says nothing of it to me in his letter dated after yours. You say, “If she recovers, she may lose her sight.” I hope she is in no danger of her life. Yes, Ford is as sober as I please: I use him to walk with me as an easy companion, always ready for what I please, when I am weary of business and Ministers. I don’t go to a Coffee-house twice a month. I am very regular in going to sleep before eleven. — And so you say that Stella is a pretty girl; and so she be, and methinks I see her just now as handsome as the day is long. Do you know what? when I am writing in our language, I make up my mouth just as if I was speaking it. I caught myself at it just now. And I suppose Dingley is so fair and so fresh as a lass in May, and has her health, and no spleen. — In your account you sent do you reckon as usual from the 1st of November18 was twelvemonth? Poor Stella, will not Dingley leave her a little daylight to write to Presto? Well, well, we’ll have daylight shortly, spite of her teeth; and zoo19 must cly Lele and Hele, and Hele aden. Must loo mimitate Pdfr, pay? Iss, and so la shall. And so lele’s fol ee rettle. Dood-mollow. — At night. Mrs. Barton sent this morning to invite me to dinner; and there I dined, just in that genteel manner that MD used when they would treat some better sort of body than usual.

8. O dear MD, my heart is almost broken. You will hear the thing before this comes to you. I writ a full account of it this night to the Archbishop of Dublin; and the Dean may tell you the particulars from the Archbishop. I was in a sorry way to write, but thought it might be proper to send a true account of the fact; for you will hear a thousand lying circumstances. It is of Mr. Harley’s being stabbed this afternoon, at three o’clock, at a Committee of the Council. I was playing Lady Catharine Morris’s20 cards, where I dined, when young Arundel21 came in with the story. I ran away immediately to the Secretary, which was in my way: no one was at home. I met Mrs. St. John in her chair; she had heard it imperfectly. I took a chair to Mr. Harley, who was asleep, and they hope in no danger; but he has been out of order, and was so when he came abroad to-day, and it may put him in a fever: I am in mortal pain for him. That desperate French villain, Marquis de Guiscard,22 stabbed Mr. Harley. Guiscard was taken up by Mr. Secretary St. John’s warrant for high treason, and brought before the Lords to be examined; there he stabbed Mr. Harley. I have told all the particulars already to the Archbishop. I have now, at nine, sent again, and they tell me he is in a fair way. Pray pardon my distraction; I now think of all his kindness to me. — The poor creature now lies stabbed in his bed by a desperate French Popish villain. Good-night, and God preserve you both, and pity me; I want it.

9. Morning; seven, in bed. Patrick is just come from Mr. Harley’s. He slept well till four; the surgeon sat23 up with him: he is asleep again: he felt a pain in his wound when he waked: they apprehend him in no danger. This account the surgeon left with the porter, to tell people that send. Pray God preserve him. I am rising, and going to Mr. Secretary St. John. They say Guiscard will die with the wounds Mr. St. John and the rest gave him. I shall tell you more at night. — Night. Mr. Harley still continues on the mending hand; but he rested ill last night, and felt pain. I was early with the Secretary this morning, and I dined with him, and he told me several particularities of this accident, too long to relate now. Mr. Harley is still mending this evening, but not at all out of danger; and till then I can have no peace. Good-night, etc., and pity Presto.

10. Mr. Harley was restless last night; but he has no fever, and the hopes of his mending increase. I had a letter from Mr. Walls, and one from Mr. Bernage. I will answer them here, not having time to write. Mr. Walls writes about three things. First, about a hundred pounds from Dr. Raymond, of which I hear nothing, and it is now too late. Secondly, about Mr. Clements:24 I can do nothing in it, because I am not to mention Mr. Pratt; and I cannot recommend without knowing Mr. Pratt’s objections, whose relation Clements is, and who brought him into the place. The third is about my being godfather to the child:25 that is in my power, and (since there is no remedy) will submit. I wish you could hinder it; but if it can’t be helped, pay what you think proper, and get the Provost to stand for me, and let his Christian name be Harley, in honour of my friend, now lying stabbed and doubtful of his life. As for Bernage, he writes me word that his colonel has offered to make him captain-lieutenant for a hundred pounds. He was such a fool to offer him money without writing to me till it was done, though I have had a dozen letters from him; and then he desires I would say nothing of this, for fear his colonel should be angry. People are mad. What can I do? I engaged Colonel Disney, who was one of his solicitors to the Secretary, and then told him the story. He assured me that Fielding (Bernage’s colonel) said he might have got that sum; but, on account of those great recommendations he had, would give it him for nothing: and I would have Bernage write him a letter of thanks, as of a thing given him for nothing, upon recommendations, etc. Disney tells me he will again speak to Fielding, and clear up this matter; then I will write to Bernage. A pox on him for promising money till I had it promised to me; and then making it such a ticklish point, that one cannot expostulate with the colonel upon it: but let him do as I say, and there is an end. I engaged the Secretary of State in it; and am sure it was meant a kindness to me, and that no money should be given, and a hundred pounds is too much in a Smithfield bargain,26 as a major-general told me, whose opinion I asked. I am now hurried, and can say no more. Farewell, etc. etc.

How shall I superscribe to your new lodgings, pray, madams? Tell me but that, impudence and saucy-face.

Are not you sauceboxes to write “lele”27 like Presto? O poor Presto!

Mr. Harley is better to-night, that makes me so pert, you saucy Gog and Magog.

1 Sir Thomas Mansel, Bart., Comptroller of the Household to Queen Anne, and a Lord of the Treasury, was raised to the peerage in December 1711 as Baron Mansel of Margam. He died in 1723.

2 Lady Betty Butler and Lady Betty Germaine (see Letter 3, note 40 and Letter 4, note 3).

3 James Eckershall, “second clerk of the Queen’s Privy Kitchen.” Chamberlayne (Magnae Britanniae Notitia, 1710, p. 536) says that his wages were 11 pounds, 8 shillings and a penny-ha’penny, and board-wages 138 pounds, 11 shillings and tenpence-ha’penny, making 150 pounds in all. Afterwards Eckershall was gentleman usher to Queen Anne; he died at Drayton in 1753, aged seventy-four. Pope was in correspondence with him in 1720 on the subject of contemplated speculations in South Sea and other stocks.

4 In October 1710 (see Letter 6, note 44) Swift wrote as if he knew about the preparation of these Miscellanies. The volume was published by Morphew instead of Tooke, and it is frequently referred to in the Journal.

5 In 1685 the Duke of Ormond (see Letter 2, note 10) married, as his second wife, Lady Mary Somerset, eldest surviving daughter of Henry, first Duke of Beaufort.

6 Arthur Moore, M.P., was a Commissioner of Trade and Plantations from 1710 until his death in 1730. Gay calls him “grave,” and Pope (“Prologue to the Satires,” 23) says that Moore blamed him for the way in which his “giddy son,” James Moore Smythe, neglected the law.

7 James, Lord Paisley, who succeeded his father (see Letter 10, note 33) as seventh Earl of Abercorn in 1734, married, in 1711, Anne, eldest daughter of Colonel John Plumer, of Blakesware, Herts.

8 Harley’s ill-health was partly due to his drinking habits.

9 Crowd or confusion.

10 The first wife of Charles Seymour, sixth Duke of Somerset, was Lady Elizabeth Percy, only daughter of Joscelyn, eleventh Earl of Northumberland, and heiress of the house of Percy. She married the Duke, her third husband, at the age of eighteen.

11 John Richardson, D.D., rector of Armagh, Cavan, and afterwards chaplain to the Duke of Ormond. In 1711 he published a Proposal for the Conversion of the Popish Natives of Ireland to the Established Religion, and in 1712 a Short History of the Attempts to Convert the Popish Natives of Ireland. In 1709 the Lower House of Convocation in Ireland had passed resolutions for printing the Bible and liturgy in Irish, providing Irish preachers, etc. In 1711 Thomas Parnell, the poet, headed a deputation to the Queen on the subject, when an address was presented; but nothing came of the proposals, owing to fears that the English interest in Ireland might be injured. In 1731 Richardson was given the small deanery of Kilmacluagh.

12 See Feb. 27, 1711.

13 Harley.

14 “Bank bill for fifty pound,” taking the alternate letters (see Letter 15, note 9).

15 See Letter 5, note 17.

16 See Nos. 27 and 29, by Swift himself.

17 “Print cannot do justice to whims of this kind, as they depend wholly upon the awkward shape of the letters” (Deane Swift).

18 See Letter 8, note 2.

19 “Here is just one specimen given of his way of writing to Stella in these journals. The reader, I hope, will excuse my omitting it in all other places where it occurs. The meaning of this pretty language is: ‘And you must cry There, and Here, and Here again. Must you imitate Presto, pray? Yes, and so you shall. And so there’s for your letter. Good-morrow’” (Deane Swift). What Swift really wrote was probably as follows: “Oo must cly Lele and Lele and Lele aden. Must oo mimitate Pdfr, pay? Iss, and so oo sall. And so lele’s fol oo rettle. Dood-mallow.”

20 Lady Catherine Morice (died 1716) was the eldest daughter of Thomas Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and wife of Sir Nicholas Morice, Bart., M.P. for Newport.

21 Perhaps Henry Arundell, who succeeded his father as fifth Baron Arundell of Wardour in 1712, and died in 1726.

22 Antoine, Abbe de Bourlie and Marquis de Guiscard, was a cadet of a distinguished family of the south of France. He joined the Church, but having been driven from France in consequence of his licentious excesses, he came to England, after many adventures in Europe, with a recommendation from the Duke of Savoy. Godolphin gave him the command of a regiment of refugees, and employed him in projects for effecting a landing in France. These schemes proving abortive, Guiscard’s regiment was disbanded, and he was discharged with a pension of 500 pounds a year. Soon after the Tories came to power Guiscard came to the conclusion that there was no hope of employment for him, and little chance of receiving his pension; and he began a treacherous correspondence with the French. When this was detected he was brought before the Privy Council, and finding that everything was known, and wishing a better death than hanging, he stabbed Harley in the breast. Mrs. Manley, under Swift’s directions, wrote a Narrative of Guiscard’s Examination, and the incident greatly added to the security of Harley’s position, and to the strength of the Government.

23 Harley’s surgeon, Mr. Green.

24 See Letter 9, note 20.

25 Mrs. Walls’ baby (see Feb 5, 1711).

26 The phrase had its origin in the sharp practices in the horse and cattle markets. Writing to Arbuthnot in 1727, Swift said that Gay “had made a pretty good bargain (that is a Smithfield) for a little place in the Custom House.”

27 “There.”

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