The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 20.

London, April 5, 1711.

I put my nineteenth in the post-office just now myself, as I came out of the City, where I dined. This rain ruins me in coach-hire; I walked away sixpennyworth, and came within a shilling length, and then took a coach,1 and got a lift back for nothing; and am now busy.

6. Mr. Secretary desired I would see him this morning; said he had several things to say to me, and said not one; and the Duke of Ormond sent to desire I would meet him at Mr. Southwell’s by ten this morning too, which I did, thinking it was some particular matter. All the Irish in town were there, to consult upon preventing a Bill for laying a duty on Irish yarn; so we talked a while, and then all went to the lobby of the House of Commons, to solicit our friends, and the Duke came among the rest; and Lord Anglesea solicited admirably, and I did wonders. But, after all, the matter was put off till Monday, and then we are to be at it again. I dined with Lord Mountjoy, and looked over him at chess, which put me in mind of Stella and Griffyth.2 I came home, and that dog Patrick was not within; so I fretted, and fretted, and what good did that do me?

And so get you gone to your deans,
You couple of queans.

I cannot find rhyme to Walls and Stoyte. — Yes, yes,

You expect Mrs. Walls,
Be dressed when she calls,
To carry you to Stoyte,
Or else HONI SOIT.

Henley told me that the Tories were insup-port-able people, because they are for bringing in French claret, and will not SUP-PORT. Mr. Harley will hardly get abroad this week or ten days yet. I reckon, when I send away this letter, he will be just got into the House of Commons. My last letter went in twelve days, and so perhaps may this. No it won’t, for those letters that go under a fortnight are answers to one of yours, otherwise you must take the days as they happen, some dry, some wet, some barren, some fruitful, some merry, some insipid; some, etc. — I will write you word exactly the first day I see young gooseberries, and pray observe how much later you are. We have not had five fine days this five weeks, but rain or wind. ’Tis a late spring they say here. — Go to bed, you two dear saucy brats, and don’t keep me up all night.

7. Ford has been at Epsom, to avoid Good Friday and Easter Sunday. He forced me to-day to dine with him; and tells me there are letters from Ireland, giving an account of a great indiscretion in the Archbishop of Dublin, who applied a story out of Tacitus very reflectingly on Mr. Harley, and that twenty people have written of it; I do not believe it yet.3 I called this evening to see Mr. Secretary, who has been very ill with the gravel and pain in his back, by burgundy and champagne, added to the sitting up all night at business; I found him drinking tea while the rest were at champagne, and was very glad of it. I have chid him so severely that I hardly knew whether he would take it well: then I went and sat an hour with Mrs. St. John, who is growing a great favourite of mine; she goes to the Bath on Wednesday, for she is much out of health, and has begged me to take care of the Secretary.

8. I dined to-day with Mr. Secretary St. John; he gave me a letter to read, which was from the publisher of the newspaper called the Postboy;4 in it there was a long copy of a letter from Dublin, giving an account of what the Whigs said upon Mr. Harley’s being stabbed, and how much they abuse him and Mr. Secretary St. John; and at the end there were half a dozen lines, telling the story of the Archbishop of Dublin, and abusing him horribly; this was to be printed on Tuesday. I told the Secretary I would not suffer that about the Archbishop to be printed, and so I crossed it out; and afterwards, to prevent all danger, I made him give me the letter, and, upon further thought, would let none of it be published: and I sent for the printer, and told him so, and ordered him, in the Secretary’s name, to print nothing reflecting on anybody in Ireland till he had showed it me. Thus I have prevented a terrible scandal to the Archbishop, by a piece of perfect good fortune. I will let him know it by next post; and pray, if you pick it out, let me know, and whether he is thankful for it; but say nothing.

9. I was to-day at the House of Commons again about their yarn, at Lord Anglesea’s desire; but the business is again put off till Monday. I dined with Sir John Stanley, by an assignation I had made with Mr. St. John, and George Granville, the Secretary at War; but they let in other company, some ladies, and so we were not so easy as I intended. My head is pretty tolerable, but every day I feel some little disorders; I have left off snuff since Sunday, finding myself much worse after taking a good deal at the Secretary’s. I would not let him drink one drop of champagne or burgundy without water, and in compliment I did so myself. He is much better; but when he is well, he is like Stella, and will not be governed. So go to your Stoyte’s, and I’ll go sleep.

10. I have been visiting Lady Worsley and Mrs. Barton today, and dined soberly with my friend Lewis. The Dauphin is dead of an apoplexy; I wish he had lived till the finishing of this letter, that it might be news to you. Duncombe,5 the rich alderman, died to-day, and I hear has left the Duke of Argyle, who married his niece, two hundred thousand pounds; I hope it is true, for I love that Duke mightily. I writ this evening to the Archbishop of Dublin, about what I told you; and then went to take leave of poor Mrs. St. John, who gave me strict charge to take care of the Secretary in her absence; said she had none to trust but me; and the poor creature’s tears came fresh in her eyes. Before we took leave, I was drawn in by the other ladies and Sir John Stanley to raffle for a fan, with a pox; it was four guineas, and we put in seven shillings apiece, several raffling for absent people; but I lost, and so missed an opportunity of showing my gallantry to Mrs. St. John, whom I designed to have presented it to if I had won. Is Dilly6 gone to the Bath? His face will whizz in the water; I suppose he will write to us from thence, and will take London in his way back. — The rabble will say, “There goes a drunken parson”; and, which is worse, they will say true. Oh, but you must know I carried Ford to dine with Mr. St. John last Sunday, that he may brag, when he goes back, of dining with a Secretary of State. The Secretary and I went away early, and left him drinking with the rest, and he told me that two or three of them were drunk. They talk of great promotions to be made; that Mr. Harley is to be Lord Treasurer, and Lord Poulett7 Master of the Horse, etc., but they are only conjecture. The Speaker is to make Mr. Harley a compliment the first time he comes into the House, which I hope will be in a week. He has had an ill surgeon, by the caprice of that puppy Dr. Radcliffe, which has kept him back so long; and yesterday he got a cold, but is better to-day. — What! I think I am stark mad, to write so much in one day to little saucy MD; here is a deal of stuff, indeed! can’t you bid those little dear rogues good-night, and let them go sleep, Mr. Presto? When your tongue runs there’s no ho with you, pray.

11. Again at the lobby (like a lobcock)8 of the House of Commons, about your Irish yarn, and again put off till Friday; and I and Patrick went into the City by water, where I dined, and then I went to the auction of Charles Barnard’s books; but the good ones were so monstrous dear, I could not reach them, so I laid out one pound seven shillings but very indifferently, and came away, and will go there no more. Henley would fain engage me to go with Steele and Rowe, etc., to an invitation at Sir William Read’s.9 Surely you have heard of him. He has been a mountebank, and is the Queen’s oculist; he makes admirable punch, and treats you in gold vessels. But I am engaged, and will not go, neither indeed am I fond of the jaunt. So good-night, and go sleep.

12. I went about noon to the Secretary, who is very ill with a cold, and sometimes of the gravel, with his champagne, etc. I scolded him like a dog, and he promises faithfully more care for the future. To-day my Lord Anglesea, and Sir Thomas Hammer, and Prior, and I dined, by appointment, with Lieutenant-General Webb.10 My lord and I stayed till ten o’clock; but we drank soberly, and I always with water. There was with us one Mr. Campain,11 one of the October Club, if you know what that is; a Club of country members, who think the Ministers are too backward in punishing and turning out the Whigs. I found my lord and the rest thought I had more credit with the Ministry than I pretend to have, and would have engaged me to put them upon something that would satisfy their desires, and indeed I think they have some reason to complain; however, I will not burn my fingers. I will remember Stella’s chiding, “What had you to do with what did not belong to you?” etc. However, you will give me leave to tell the Ministry my thoughts when they ask them, and other people’s thoughts sometimes when they do not ask; so thinks Dingley.

13. I called this morning at Mrs. Vedeau’s again, who has employed a friend to get the money; it will be done in a fortnight, and then she will deliver me up the parchment. I went then to see Mr. Harley, who I hope will be out in a few days; he was in excellent good humour, only complained to me of the neglect of Guiscard’s cure, how glad he would have been to have had him live. Mr. Secretary came in to us, and we were very merry till Lord Chamberlain (Duke of Shrewsbury)12 came up; then Colonel Masham and I went off, after I had been presented to the Duke, and that we made two or three silly compliments suitable to the occasion. Then I attended at the House of Commons about your yarn, and it is again put off. Then Ford drew me to dine at a tavern; it happened to be the day and the house where the October Club dine. After we had dined, coming down we called to inquire whether our yarn business had been over that day, and I sent into the room for Sir George Beaumont.13 But I had like to be drawn into a difficulty; for in two minutes out comes Mr. Finch,14 Lord Guernsey’s son, to let me know that my Lord Compton,15 the steward of this feast, desired, in the name of the Club, that I would do them the honour to dine with them. I sent my excuses, adorned with about thirty compliments, and got off as fast as I could. It would have been a most improper thing for me to dine there, considering my friendship with the Ministry. The Club is about a hundred and fifty, and near eighty of them were then going to dinner at two long tables in a great ground-room. At evening I went to the auction of Barnard’s books, and laid out three pounds three shillings, but I’ll go there no more; and so I said once before, but now I’ll keep to it. I forgot to tell that when I dined at Webb’s with Lord Anglesea, I spoke to him of Clements, as one recommended for a very honest gentleman and good officer, and hoped he would keep him. He said he had not thought otherwise, and that he should certainly hold his place while he continued to deserve it; and I could not find there had been any intentions from his lordship against him. But I tell you, hunny, the impropriety of this. A great man will do a favour for me, or for my friend; but why should he do it for my friend’s friend? Recommendations should stop before they come to that. Let any friend of mine recommend one of his to me for a thing in my power, I will do it for his sake; but to speak to another for my friend’s friend is against all reason; and I desire you will understand this, and discourage any such troubles given me. — I hope this may do some good to Clements, it can do him no hurt; and I find by Mrs. Pratt,16 that her husband is his friend; and the Bishop of Clogher says Clements’s danger is not from Pratt, but from some other enemies, that think him a Whig.

14. I was so busy this morning that I did not go out till late. I writ to-day to the Duke of Argyle, but said nothing of Bernage, who, I believe, will not see him till Spain is conquered, and that is, not at all. I was to-day at Lord Shelburne’s, and spoke to Mrs. Pratt again about Clements; her husband himself wants some good offices, and I have done him very good ones lately, and told Mrs. Pratt I expected her husband should stand by Clements in return. Sir Andrew Fountaine and I dined with neighbour Vanhomrigh; he is mighty ill of an asthma, and apprehends himself in much danger; ’tis his own fault, that will rake and drink, when he is but just crawled out of his grave. I will send this letter just now, because I think my half-year is out for my lodging; and, if you please, I would be glad it were paid off, and some deal boxes made for my books, and kept in some safe place. I would give something for their keeping: but I doubt that lodging will not serve me when I come back; I would have a larger place for books, and a stable, if possible. So pray be so kind to pay the lodging, and all accounts about it; and get Mrs. Brent to put up my things. I would have no books put in that trunk where my papers are. If you do not think of going to the Bath, I here send you a bill on Parvisol for twenty pounds Irish, out of which you will pay for the lodging, and score the rest to me. Do as you please, and love poor Presto, that loves MD better than his life a thousand millions of times. Farewell, MD, etc. etc.

1 By the Act 9 Anne, cap. 23, the number of hackney coaches was increased to 800, and it was provided that they were to go a mile and a half for one shilling, two miles for one shilling and sixpence, and so on.

2 See Letter 11, note 39.

3 In a letter to Swift, of March 17, 1711, King said that it might have been thought that Guiscard’s attack would have convinced the world that Harley was not in the French interest; but it did not have that effect with all, for some whispered the case of Fenius Rufus and Scevinus in the 15th book of Tacitus: “Accensis indicibus ad prodendum Fenium Rufum, quem eundem conscium et inquisitorem non tolerabant.” Next month Swift told King that it was reported that the Archbishop had applied this passage in a speech made to his clergy, and explained at some length the steps he had taken to prevent the story being published in the Postboy. King thanked Swift for this action, explaining that he had been arguing on Harley’s behalf when someone instanced the story of Rufus.

4 A Tory paper, published thrice weekly by Abel Roper.

5 Sir Charles Duncombe, banker, died on April 9, 1711. The first wife of the Duke of Argyle (see Letter 11, note 57) was Duncombe’s niece, Mary Browne, daughter of Ursula Duncombe and Thomas Browne, of St. Margaret’s, Westminster. Duncombe was elected Lord Mayor in 1700, and was the richest commoner in England.

6 The Rev. Dillon Ashe (see Letter 12, note 23).

7 John, fourth Baron Poulett, was created Earl Poulett in 1706, after serving as one of the Commissioners for the Treaty of Union with Scotland. From August 1710 to May 1711 he was First Lord of the Treasury, and from June 1711 to August 1714 he was Lord Steward of the Household.

8 Lost or stupid person.

9 Sir William Read, a quack who advertised largely in the Tatler and other papers. He was satirised in No. 547 of the Spectator. In 1705 he was knighted for his services in curing many seamen and soldiers of blindness gratis, and he was appointed Oculist in Ordinary to the Queen. Read died in 1715, but his business was continued by his widow.

10 General John Webb was not on good terms with Marlborough. He was a Tory, and had gained distinction in the war at Wynendale (1708), though the Duke’s secretary gave the credit, in the despatch, to Cadogan. There is a well-known account of Webb in Thackeray’s Esmond. He was severely wounded at Malplaquet in 1709, and in 1710 was given the governorship of the Isle of Wight. He died in 1724.

11 Henry Campion, M.P. for Penryn, is mentioned in the Political State for February 1712 as one of the leading men of the October Club. Campion seems to have been Member, not for Penryn, but for Bossiney.

12 See Letter 3, note 32.

13 Sir George Beaumont, Bart., M.P. for Leicester, and an acquaintance of Swift’s mother, was made a Commissioner of the Privy Seal in 1712, and one of the Lords of the Admiralty in 1714. He died in 1737.

14 Heneage Finch, afterwards second Earl of Aylesford, was the son of Heneage Finch, the chief counsel for the seven bishops, who was created Baron Guernsey in 1703, and Earl of Aylesford in 1714.

15 James, Lord Compton, afterwards fifth Earl of Northampton, was the eldest son of George, the fourth Earl. He was summoned to the House of Lords in December 1711, and died in 1754.

16 See Letter 11, note 12.

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