The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 19.

London, March 24, 1710-11.

It was a little cross in Presto not to send to-day to the Coffee-house to see whether there was a letter from MD before I sent away mine; but, faith, I did it on purpose, because I would scorn to answer two letters of yours successively. This way of journal is the worst in the world for writing of news, unless one does it the last day; and so I will observe henceforward, if there be any politics or stuff worth sending. My shin mends in spite of the scratching last night. I dined to-day at Ned Southwell’s with the Bishop of Ossory1 and a parcel of Irish gentlemen. Have you yet seen any of the Spectators? Just three weeks to-day since I had your last, N.11. I am afraid I have lost one by the packet that was taken; that will vex me, considering the pains MD take to write, especially poor pretty Stella, and her weak eyes. God bless them and the owner, and send them well, and little me together, I hope ere long. This illness of Mr. Harley puts everything backwards, and he is still down, and like to be so, by that extravasated blood which comes from his breast to the wound: it was by the second blow Guiscard gave him after the penknife was broken. I am shocked at that villainy whenever I think of it. Biddy Floyd is past danger, but will lose all her beauty: she had them mighty thick, especially about her nose.

25. Morning. I wish you a merry New Year; this is the first day of the year, you know, with us, and ’tis Lady-day. I must rise and go to my Lord Keeper: it is not shaving-day to-day, so I shall be early. I am to dine with Mr. Secretary St. John. Good-morrow, my mistresses both, good-morrow. Stella will be peeping out of her room at Mrs. De Caudres’2 down upon the folks as they come from church; and there comes Mrs. Proby,3 and that is my Lady Southwell,4 and there is Lady Betty Rochfort.5 I long to hear how you are settled in your new lodgings. I wish I were rid of my old ones, and that Mrs. Brent could contrive to put up my books in boxes, and lodge them in some safe place, and you keep my papers of importance. But I must rise, I tell you. — At night. So I visited and dined as I told you, and what of that? We have let Guiscard be buried at last, after showing him pickled in a trough this fortnight for twopence apiece: and the fellow that showed would point to his body, and, “See, gentlemen, this is the wound that was given him by his Grace the Duke of Ormond; and this is the wound,” etc., and then the show was over, and another set of rabble came in. ’Tis hard our laws would not suffer us to hang his body in chains, because he was not tried; and in the eye of our law every man is innocent till then. — Mr. Harley is still very weak, and never out of bed.

26. This was a most delicious day; and my shin being past danger, I walked like lightning above two hours in the Park. We have generally one fair day, and then a great deal of rain for three or four days together. All things are at a stop in Parliament for want of Mr. Harley; they cannot stir an inch without him in their most material affairs: and we fear, by the caprice of Radcliffe, who will admit none but his own surgeon,6 he has not been well looked after. I dined at an alehouse with Mr. Lewis, but had his wine. Don’t you begin to see the flowers and blossoms of the field? How busy should I be now at Laracor! No news of your box? I hope you have it, and are this minute drinking the chocolate, and that the smell of the Brazil tobacco has not affected it. I would be glad to know whether you like it, because I would send you more by people that are now every day thinking of going to Ireland; therefore pray tell me, and tell me soon: and I will have the strong box.

27. A rainy, wretched, scurvy day from morning till night: and my neighbour Vanhomrigh invited me to dine with them and this evening I passed at Mr. Prior’s with Dr. Freind; and ’tis now past twelve, so I must go sleep.

28. Morning. O, faith, you’re an impudent saucy couple of sluttikins for presuming to write so soon, said I to myself this morning; who knows but there may be a letter from MD at the Coffee-house? Well, you must know, and so, I just now sent Patrick, and he brought me three letters, but not one from MD, no indeed, for I read all the superscriptions; and not one from MD. One I opened, it was from the Archbishop;7 t’other I opened, it was from Staunton;8 the third I took, and looked at the hand. Whose hand is this? says I; yes, says I, whose hand is this? Then there was wax between the folds; then I began to suspect; then I peeped; faith, it was Walls’s hand after all: then I opened it in a rage, and then it was little MD’s hand, dear, little, pretty, charming MD’s sweet hand again. O Lord, an’t here a clutter and a stir, and a bustle? never saw the like. Faith, I believe yours lay some days at the post-office, and that it came before my eighteenth went, but that I did not expect it, and I hardly ever go there. Well, and so you think I’ll answer this letter now; no, faith, and so I won’t. I’ll make you wait, young women; but I’ll inquire immediately about poor Dingley’s exchequer trangum.9 What, is that Vedel again a soldier? was he broke? I’ll put it in Ben Tooke’s hand. I hope Vedel could not sell it. — At night. Vedel, Vedel, poh, pox, I think it is Vedeau;10 ay, Vedeau, now I have it; let me see, do you name him in yours? Yes, Mr. John Vedeau is the brother; but where does this brother live? I’ll inquire. This was a fast-day for the public; so I dined late with Sir Matthew Dudley, whom I have not been with a great while. He is one of those that must lose his employment whenever the great shake comes; and I can’t contribute to keep him in, though I have dropped words in his favour to the Ministry; but he is too violent a Whig, and friend to the Lord Treasurer,11 to stay in. ’Tis odd to think how long they let those people keep their places; but the reason is, they have not enough to satisfy all expecters, and so they keep them all in hopes, that they may be good boys in the meantime; and thus the old ones hold in still. The Comptroller12 told me that there are eight people expect his staff. I walked after dinner to-day round the Park. What, do I write politics to little young women? Hold your tongue, and go to your Dean’s.

29. Morning. If this be a fine day, I will walk into the City, and see Charles Barnard’s library. What care I for your letter, saucy N.12? I will say nothing to it yet: faith, I believe this will be full before its time, and then go it must. I will always write once a fortnight; and if it goes sooner by filling sooner, why, then there is so much clear gain. Morrow, morrow, rogues and lasses both, I can’t lie scribbling here in bed for your play; I must rise, and so morrow again. — At night. Your friend Montgomery and his sister are here, as I am told by Patrick. I have seen him often, but take no notice of him: he is grown very ugly and pimpled. They tell me he is a gamester, and wins money. — How could I help it, pray? Patrick snuffed the candle too short, and the grease ran down upon the paper.13 It an’t my fault, ’tis Patrick’s fault; pray now don’t blame Presto. I walked today in the City, and dined at a private house, and went to see the auction of poor Charles Barnard’s books; they were in the middle of the physic books, so I bought none; and they are so dear, I believe I shall buy none, and there is an end; and go to Stoyte’s, and I’ll go sleep.

30. Morning. This is Good Friday, you must know; and I must rise and go to Mr. Secretary about some business, and Mrs. Vanhomrigh desires me to breakfast with her, because she is to intercede for Patrick, who is so often drunk and quarrelsome in the house, that I was resolved to send him over; but he knows all the places where I send, and is so used to my ways, that it would be inconvenient to me; but when I come to Ireland, I will discharge him.14 Sir Thomas Mansel,15 one of the Lords of the Treasury, setting me down at my door to-day, saw Patrick, and swore he was a Teague-lander.16 I am so used to his face, I never observed it, but thought him a pretty fellow. Sir Andrew Fountaine and I supped this fast-day with Mrs. Vanhomrigh. We were afraid Mr. Harley’s wound would turn to a fistula; but we think the danger is now past. He rises every day, and walks about his room, and we hope he will be out in a fortnight. Prior showed me a handsome paper of verses he has writ on Mr. Harley’s accident:17 they are not out; I will send them to you, if he will give me a copy.

31. Morning. What shall we do to make April fools this year, now it happens on Sunday? Patrick brings word that Mr. Harley still mends, and is up every day. I design to see him in a few days: and he brings me word too that he has found out Vedeau’s brother’s shop: I shall call there in a day or two. It seems the wife lodges next door to the brother. I doubt the scoundrel was broke, and got a commission, or perhaps is a volunteer gentleman, and expects to get one by his valour. Morrow, sirrahs, let me rise. — At night. I dined to-day with Sir Thomas Mansel. We were walking in the Park, and Mr. Lewis came to us. Mansel asked where we dined. We said, “Together.” He said, we should dine with him, only his wife18 desired him to bring nobody, because she had only a leg of mutton. I said I would dine with him to choose; but he would send a servant to order a plate or two: yet this man has ten thousand pounds a year in land, and is a Lord of the Treasury, and is not covetous neither, but runs out merely by slattering19 and negligence. The worst dinner I ever saw at the Dean’s was better: but so it is with abundance of people here. I called at night at Mr. Harley’s, who begins to walk in his room with a stick, but is mighty weak. — See how much I have lost with that ugly grease.20 ’Tis your fault, pray; and I’ll go to bed.

April 1. The Duke of Buckingham’s house fell down last night with an earthquake, and is half swallowed up; won’t you go and see it? — An April fool, an April fool, oh ho, young women. Well, don’t be angry. I will make you an April fool no more till the next time; we had no sport here, because it is Sunday, and Easter Sunday. I dined with the Secretary, who seemed terribly down and melancholy, which Mr. Prior and Lewis observed as well as I: perhaps something is gone wrong; perhaps there is nothing in it. God bless my own dearest MD, and all is well.

2. We have such windy weather, ’tis troublesome walking, yet all the rabble have got into our Park these Easter holidays. I am plagued with one Richardson, an Irish parson, and his project of printing Irish Bibles, etc., to make you Christians in that country: I befriend him what I can, on account of the Archbishop and Bishop of Clogher. — But what business have I to meddle, etc. Do not you remember that, sirrah Stella? what was that about, when you thought I was meddling with something that was not my business? O, faith, you are an impudent slut, I remember your doings, I’ll never forget you as long as I live. Lewis and I dined together at his lodgings. But where’s the answer to this letter of MD’s? O, faith, Presto, you must think of that. Time enough, says saucy Presto.

3. I was this morning to see Mrs. Barton: I love her better than anybody here, and see her seldomer. Why, really now, so it often happens in the world, that where one loves a body best — pshah, pshah, you are so silly with your moral observations. Well, but she told me a very good story. An old gentlewoman died here two months ago, and left in her will, to have eight men and eight maids bearers, who should have two guineas apiece, ten guineas to the parson for a sermon, and two guineas to the clerk. But bearers, parson, and clerk must be all true virgins; and not to be admitted till they took their oaths of virginity: so the poor woman still lies unburied, and so must do till the general resurrection. — I called at Mr. Secretary’s, to see what the D—— ailed him on Sunday. I made him a very proper speech; told him I observed he was much out of temper; that I did not expect he would tell me the cause, but would be glad to see he was in better; and one thing I warned him of, never to appear cold to me, for I would not be treated like a schoolboy; that I had felt too much of that in my life already (meaning from Sir William Temple); that I expected every great Minister who honoured me with his acquaintance, if he heard or saw anything to my disadvantage, would let me know it in plain words, and not put me in pain to guess by the change or coldness of his countenance or behaviour; for it was what I would hardly bear from a crowned head, and I thought no subject’s favour was worth it; and that I designed to let my Lord Keeper21 and Mr. Harley know the same thing, that they might use me accordingly. He took all right; said I had reason; vowed nothing ailed him but sitting up whole nights at business, and one night at drinking; would have had me dine with him and Mrs. Masham’s brother, to make up matters; but I would not. I don’t know, but I would not. But indeed I was engaged with my old friend Rollinson;22 you never heard of him before.

4. I sometimes look a line or two back, and see plaguy mistakes of the pen; how do you get over them? You are puzzled sometimes. Why, I think what I said to Mr. Secretary was right. Don’t you remember how I used to be in pain when Sir William Temple would look cold and out of humour for three or four days, and I used to suspect a hundred reasons? I have plucked up my spirit since then, faith; he spoilt a fine gentleman. I dined with my neighbour Vanhomrigh, and MD, poor MD, at home on a loin of mutton and half a pint of wine, and the mutton was raw, poor Stella could not eat, poor dear rogue, and Dingley was so vexed; but we will dine at Stoyte’s to-morrow. Mr. Harley promised to see me in a day or two, so I called this evening; but his son and others were abroad, and he asleep, so I came away, and found out Mrs. Vedeau. She drew out a letter from Dingley, and said she would get a friend to receive the money. I told her I would employ Mr. Tooke in it henceforward. Her husband bought a lieutenancy of foot, and is gone to Portugal. He sold his share of the shop to his brother, and put out the money to maintain her, all but what bought the commission. She lodges within two doors of her brother. She told me it made her very melancholy to change her manner of life thus, but trade was dead, etc. She says she will write to you soon. I design to engage Ben Tooke, and then receive the parchment from her. — I gave Mr. Dopping a copy of Prior’s verses on Mr. Harley; he sent them yesterday to Ireland, so go look for them, for I won’t be at the trouble to transcribe them here. They will be printed in a day or two. Give my hearty service to Stoyte and Catherine: upon my word I love them dearly, and desire you will tell them so: pray desire Goody Stoyte not to let Mrs. Walls and Mrs. Johnson cheat her of her money at ombre, but assure her from me that she is a bungler. Dine with her to-day, and tell her so, and drink my health, and good voyage, and speedy return, and so you’re a rogue.

5. Morning. Now let us proceed to examine a saucy letter from one Madam MD. — God Almighty bless poor dear Stella, and send her a great many birthdays, all happy, and healthy, and wealthy, and with me ever together, and never asunder again, unless by chance. When I find you are happy or merry there, it makes me so here, and I can hardly imagine you absent when I am reading your letter, or writing to you. No, faith, you are just here upon this little paper, and therefore I see and talk with you every evening constantly, and sometimes in the morning, but not always in the morning, because that is not so modest to young ladies. — What, you would fain palm a letter on me more than you sent: and I, like a fool, must look over all yours, to see whether this was really N.12, or more. [Patrick has this moment brought me letters from the Bishop of Clogher and Parvisol; my heart was at my mouth for fear of one from MD; what a disgrace would it be to have two of yours to answer together! But, faith, this shall go to-night, for fear; and then come when it will, I defy it.] No, you are not naughty at all, write when you are disposed. And so the Dean told you the story of Mr. Harley from the Archbishop; I warrant it never spoiled your supper, or broke off your game. Nor yet, have not you the box? I wish Mrs. Edgworth had the ——-. But you have it now, I suppose; and is the chocolate good, or has the tobacco spoilt it? Leigh stays till Sterne has done his business, no longer; and when that will be, God knows: I befriend him as much as I can, but Harley’s accident stops that as well as all things else. You guess, Madam Dingley, that I shall stay a round twelvemonth; as hope saved, I would come over, if I could, this minute; but we will talk of that by and by. Your affair of Vedeau I have told you of already; now to the next, turn over the leaf. Mrs. Dobbins lies, I have no more provision here or in Ireland than I had. I am pleased that Stella the conjurer approves what I did with Mr. Harley;23 but your generosity makes me mad; I know you repine inwardly at Presto’s absence; you think he has broken his word of coming in three months, and that this is always his trick; and now Stella says she does not see possibly how I can come away in haste, and that MD is satisfied, etc. An’t you a rogue to overpower me thus? I did not expect to find such friends as I have done. They may indeed deceive me too. But there are important reasons[Pox on this grease, this candle tallow!] why they should not.24 I have been used barbarously by the late Ministry; I am a little piqued in honour to let people see I am not to be despised. The assurances they give me, without any scruple or provocation, are such as are usually believed in the world; they may come to nothing, but the first opportunity that offers, and is neglected, I shall depend no more, but come away. I could say a thousand things on this head, if I were with you. I am thinking why Stella should not go to the Bath, if she be told it will do her good. I will make Parvisol get up fifty pounds, and pay it you; and you may be good housewives, and live cheap there some months, and return in autumn, or visit London, as you please: pray think of it. I writ to Bernage, directed to Curry’s; I wish he had the letter. I will send the bohea tea, if I can. The Bishop of Kilmore,25 I don’t keep such company; an old dying fool whom I never was with in my life. So I am no godfather;26 all the better. Pray, Stella, explain those two words of yours to me, what you mean by VILLIAN and DAINGER;27 and you, Madam Dingley, what is CHRISTIANING? — Lay your letter THIS WAY, THIS WAY, and the devil a bit of difference between this way and the other way. No; I will show you, lay them THIS WAY, THIS WAY, and not THAT WAY, THAT WAY.28 — You shall have your aprons; and I will put all your commissions as they come, in a paper together, and do not think I will forget MD’s orders, because they are friends; I will be as careful as if they were strangers. I knew not what to do about this Clements.29 Walls will not let me say anything as if Mr. Pratt was against him; and now the Bishop of Clogher has written to me in his behalf. This thing does not rightly fall in my way, and that people never consider: I always give my good offices where they are proper, and that I am judge of; however, I will do what I can. But, if he has the name of a Whig, it will be hard, considering my Lord Anglesea and Hyde30 are very much otherwise, and you know they have the employment of Deputy Treasurer. If the frolic should take you of going to the Bath, I here send you a note on Parvisol; if not, you may tear it, and there’s an end. Farewell.

If you have an imagination that the Bath will do you good, I say again, I would have you go; if not, or it be inconvenient, burn this note. Or, if you would go, and not take so much money, take thirty pounds, and I will return you twenty from hence. Do as you please, sirrahs. I suppose it will not be too late for the first season; if it be, I would have you resolve however to go the second season, if the doctors say it will do you good, and you fancy so.

1 John Hartstonge, D.D. (died 1717), was Bishop of Ossory from 1693 to 1714, when he was translated to Derry.

2 See Letter 15, note 16.

3 Thomas Proby was Chirurgeon-General in Ireland from 1699 until his death in 1761. In his Short Character of Thomas, Earl of Wharton, Swift speaks of him as “a person universally esteemed,” who had been badly treated by Lord Wharton. In 1724 Proby’s son, a captain in the army, was accused of popery, and Swift wrote to Lord Carteret that the charge was generally believed to be false: “The father is the most universally beloved of any man I ever knew in his station. . . . You cannot do any personal thing more acceptable to the people of Ireland than in inclining towards lenity to Mr. Proby and his family.” Proby was probably a near relative of Sir Thomas Proby, Bart., M.P., of Elton, Hunts, at whose death in 1689 the baronetcy expired. Mrs. Proby seems to have been a Miss Spencer.

4 Meliora, daughter of Thomas Coningsby, Baron of Clanbrassil and Earl of Coningsby, and wife of Sir Thomas Southwell, afterwards Baron Southwell, one of the Commissioners of Revenue in Ireland, and a member of the Irish Privy Council. Lady Southwell died in 1736.

5 Lady Betty Rochfort was the daughter of Henry Moore, third Earl of Drogheda. Her husband, George Rochfort, M.P. for Westmeath, was son of Robert Rochfort, an Irish judge, and brother of Robert Rochford, M.P., to whose wife Swift addressed his Advice to a very Young Lady on her Marriage. Lady Betty’s son Robert was created Earl of Belvedere in 1757.

6 See Letter 17, note 23. Mr. Bussiere, of Suffolk Street, had been called in directly after the outrage, but Radcliffe would not consult him.

7 The letter from Dr. King dated March 17, 1711, commenting on Guiscard’s attack upon Harley.

8 See Feb. 10, 1710-11.

9 The word “trangram” or “tangram” ordinarily means a toy or gimcrack, or trumpery article. Cf. Wycherley (Plain Dealer, iii. 1), “But go, thou trangram, and carry back those trangrams which thou hast stolen or purloined.” Apparently “trangum” here means a tally.

10 See Letter 12, note 2.

11 Swift means Godolphin, the late Lord Treasurer.

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

13 “It caused a violent daub on the paper, which still continues much discoloured in the original” (Deane Swift).

14 “He forgot here to say, ‘At night.’ See what goes before” (Deane Swift).

15 See Letter 17, note 1.

16 Irishman. “Teague” was a term of contempt for an Irishman.

17 To “Mr. Harley, wounded by Guiscard.” In this piece Prior said, “Britain with tears shall bathe thy glorious wound,” a wound which could not have been inflicted by any but a stranger to our land.

18 Sir Thomas Mansel married Martha, daughter and heiress of Francis Millington, a London merchant.

19 Slatterning, consuming carelessly.

20 “The candle grease mentioned before, which soaked through, deformed this part of the paper on the second page” (Deane Swift).

21 Harcourt.

22 William Rollinson, formerly a wine merchant, settled afterwards in Oxfordshire, where he died at a great age. He was a friend of Pope, Bolingbroke, and Gay.

23 In relation to the banknote (see Letter 17, note 14).

24 “Swift was, at this time, their great support and champion” (Deane Swift).

25 See Letter 14, note 15.

26 See Letter 17, note 25.

27 “Stella, with all her wit and good sense, spelled very ill; and Dr. Swift insisted greatly upon women spelling well” (Deane Swift).

28 “The slope of the letters in the words THIS WAY, THIS WAY, is to the left hand, but the slope of the words THAT WAY, THAT WAY, is to the right hand” (Deane Swift).

29 See Letter 17, note 24.

30 See Letter 5, note 11 and Letter 10, note 28.

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