At night. I say at night, because I finished my twenty-first this morning here, and put it into the post-office my own self, like a good boy. I think I am a little before you now, young women: I am writing my twenty-second, and have received your thirteenth. I got to town between twelve and one, and put on my new gown and periwig, and dined with Lord Abercorn, where I had not been since the marriage of his son Lord Peasley,1 who has got ten thousand pounds with a wife. I am now a country gentleman. I walked home as I went, and am a little weary, and am got into bed: I hope in God the air and exercise will do me a little good. I have been inquiring about statues for Mrs. Ashe: I made Lady Abercorn2 go with me; and will send them word next post to Clogher. I hate to buy for her: I am sure she will maunder. I am going to study.
29. I had a charming walk to and from town to-day: I washed, shaved and all, and changed gown and periwig, by half an hour after nine, and went to the Secretary, who told me how he had differed with his friends in Parliament: I apprehended this division, and told him a great deal of it. I went to Court, and there several mentioned it to me as what they much disliked. I dined with the Secretary; and we proposed doing some business of importance in the afternoon, which he broke to me first, and said how he and Mr. Harley were convinced of the necessity of it; yet he suffered one of his under-secretaries to come upon us after dinner, who stayed till six, and so nothing was done: and what care I? he shall send to me the next time, and ask twice. To-morrow I go to the election at Westminster School, where lads are chosen for the University: they say it is a sight, and a great trial of wits. Our Expedition Fleet is but just sailed: I believe it will come to nothing. Mr. Secretary frets at their tediousness, but hopes great things from it, though he owns four or five princes are in the secret; and, for that reason, I fear it is no secret to France. There are eight regiments; and the Admiral3 is your Walker’s brother the midwife.
30. Morn. I am here in a pretty pickle: it rains hard; and the cunning natives of Chelsea have outwitted me, and taken up all the three stage coaches. What shall I do? I must go to town: this is your fault. I cannot walk: I will borrow a coat. This is the blind side of my lodging out of town; I must expect such inconveniences as these. Faith, I’ll walk in the rain. Morrow. — At night. I got a gentleman’s chaise by chance, and so went to town for a shilling, and lie this night in town. I was at the election of lads at Westminster to-day, and a very silly thing it is; but they say there will be fine doings to-morrow. I dined with Dr. Freind,4 the second master of the school, with a dozen parsons and others: Prior would make me stay. Mr. Harley is to hear the election to-morrow; and we are all to dine with tickets, and hear fine speeches. ’Tis terrible rainy weather again: I lie at a friend’s in the City.
May 1. I wish you a merry May Day, and a thousand more. I was baulked at Westminster; I came too late: I heard no speeches nor verses. They would not let me in to their dining-place for want of a ticket; and I would not send in for one, because Mr. Harley excused his coming, and Atterbury was not there; and I cared not for the rest: and so my friend Lewis and I dined with Kitt Musgrave,5 if you know such a man: and, the weather mending, I walked gravely home this evening; and so I design to walk and walk till I am well: I fancy myself a little better already. How does poor Stella? Dingley is well enough. Go, get you gone, naughty girl, you are well enough. O dear MD, contrive to have some share of the country this spring: go to Finglas, or Donnybrook, or Clogher, or Killala, or Lowth. Have you got your box yet? Yes, yes. Do not write to me again till this letter goes: I must make haste, that I may write two for one. Go to the Bath: I hope you are now at the Bath, if you had a mind to go; or go to Wexford: do something for your living. Have you given up my lodging, according to order? I have had just now a compliment from Dean Atterbury’s lady,6 to command the garden and library, and whatever the house affords. I lodge just over against them; but the Dean is in town with his Convocation: so I have my Dean and Prolocutor as well as you, young women, though he has not so good wine, nor so much meat.
2. A fine day, but begins to grow a little warm; and that makes your little fat Presto sweat in the forehead. Pray, are not the fine buns sold here in our town; was it not Rrrrrrrrrare Chelsea buns?7 I bought one to-day in my walk; it cost me a penny; it was stale, and I did not like it, as the man said, etc. Sir Andrew Fountaine and I dined at Mrs. Vanhomrigh’s, and had a flask of my Florence, which lies in their cellar; and so I came home gravely, and saw nobody of consequence to-day. I am very easy here, nobody plaguing me in a morning; and Patrick saves many a score lies. I sent over to Mrs Atterbury to know whether I might wait on her; but she is gone a visiting: we have exchanged some compliments, but I have not seen her yet. We have no news in our town.
3. I did not go to town to-day, it was so terrible rainy; nor have I stirred out of my room till eight this evening, when I crossed the way to see Mrs. Atterbury, and thank her for her civilities. She would needs send me some veal, and small beer, and ale, to-day at dinner; and I have lived a scurvy, dull, splenetic day, for want of MD: I often thought how happy I could have been, had it rained eight thousand times more, if MD had been with a body. My Lord Rochester8 is dead this morning; they say at one o’clock; and I hear he died suddenly. To-morrow I shall know more. He is a great loss to us: I cannot think who will succeed him as Lord President. I have been writing a long letter to Lord Peterborow, and am dull.
4. I dined to-day at Lord Shelburne’s, where Lady Kerry9 made me a present of four India handkerchiefs, which I have a mind to keep for little MD, only that I had rather, etc. I have been a mighty handkerchief-monger, and have bought abundance of snuff ones since I have left off taking snuff. And I am resolved, when I come over, MD shall be acquainted with Lady Kerry: we have struck up a mighty friendship; and she has much better sense than any other lady of your country. We are almost in love with one another: but she is most egregiously ugly; but perfectly well-bred, and governable as I please. I am resolved, when I come, to keep no company but MD: you know I kept my resolution last time; and, except Mr. Addison, conversed with none but you and your club of deans and Stoytes. ’Tis three weeks, young women, since I had a letter from you; and yet, methinks, I would not have another for five pounds till this is gone; and yet I send every day to the Coffee-house, and I would fain have a letter, and not have a letter: and I do not know what, nor I do not know how, and this goes on very slow; it is a week to-morrow since I began it. I am a poor country gentleman, and do not know how the world passes. Do you know that every syllable I write I hold my lips just for all the world as if I were talking in our own little language to MD? Faith, I am very silly; but I cannot help it for my life. I got home early to-night. My solicitors, that used to ply me every morning, knew not where to find me; and I am so happy not to hear “Patrick, Patrick,” called a hundred times every morning. But I looked backward, and find I have said this before. What care I? Go to the Dean, and roast the oranges.
5. I dined to-day with my friend Lewis, and we were deep in politics how to save the present Ministry; for I am afraid of Mr. Secretary, as I believe I told you. I went in the evening to see Mr. Harley; and, upon my word, I was in perfect joy. Mr. Secretary was just going out of the door; but I made him come back, and there was the old Saturday Club, Lord Keeper, Lord Rivers, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Harley, and I; the first time since his stabbing. Mr. Secretary went away; but I stayed till nine, and made Mr. Harley show me his breast, and tell all the story; and I showed him the Archbishop of Dublin’s letter, and defended him effectually. We were all in mighty good humour. Lord Keeper and I left them together, and I walked here after nine two miles, and I found a parson drunk fighting with a seaman, and Patrick and I were so wise to part them, but the seaman followed him to Chelsea, cursing at him, and the parson slipped into a house, and I know no more. It mortified me to see a man in my coat so overtaken. A pretty scene for one that just came from sitting with the Prime Ministers! I had no money in my pocket, and so could not be robbed. However, nothing but Mr. Harley shall make me take such a journey again. We don’t yet know who will be President in Lord Rochester’s room. I measured, and found that the penknife would have killed Mr. Harley if it had gone but half the breadth of my thumb-nail lower, so near was he to death. I was so curious as to ask him what were his thoughts while they were carrying him home in the chair. He said he concluded himself a dead man. He will not allow that Guiscard gave him the second stab; though my Lord Keeper, who is blind, and I that was not there, are positive in it. He wears a plaster still as broad as half a crown. Smoke how wide the lines are, but, faith, I don’t do it on purpose: but I have changed my side in this new Chelsea bed, and I do not know how, methinks, but it is so unfit, and so awkward, never saw the like.
6. You must remember to enclose your letters in a fair paper, and direct the outside thus: “To Erasmus Lewis, Esq.; at my Lord Dartmouth’s office at Whitehall.” I said so before, but it may miscarry, you know, yet I think none of my letters did ever miscarry; faith, I think never one; among all the privateers and the storms. O, faith, my letters are too good to be lost. MD’s letters may tarry, but never miscarry, as the old woman used to say. And indeed, how should they miscarry, when they never come before their time? It was a terrible rainy day; yet I made a shift to steal fair weather overhead enough to go and come in. I was early with the Secretary, and dined with him afterwards. In the morning I began to chide him, and tell him my fears of his proceedings. But Arthur Moore10 came up and relieved him. But I forgot, for you never heard of Arthur Moore. But when I get Mr. Harley alone, I will know the bottom. You will have Dr. Raymond over before this letter, and what care you?
7. I hope and believe my walks every day do me good. I was busy at home, and set out late this morning, and dined with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, at whose lodgings I always change my gown and periwig. I visited this afternoon, and among others, poor Biddy Floyd,11 who is very red, but I believe won’t be much marked. As I was coming home, I met Sir George Beaumont12 in the Pall Mall, who would needs walk with me as far as Buckingham House. I was telling him of my head; he said he had been ill of the same disorder, and by all means forbid me bohea tea, which, he said, always gave it him; and that Dr. Radcliffe said it was very bad. Now I had observed the same thing, and have left it off this month, having found myself ill after it several times; and I mention it that Stella may consider it for her own poor little head: a pound lies ready packed up and directed for Mrs. Walls, to be sent by the first convenience. Mr. Secretary told me yesterday that Mr. Harley would this week be Lord Treasurer and a peer; so I expect it every day; yet perhaps it may not be till Parliament is up, which will be in a fortnight.
8. I was to-day with the Duke of Ormond, and recommended to him the care of poor Joe Beaumont, who promises me to do him all justice and favour, and give him encouragement; and desired I would give a memorial to Ned Southwell about it, which I will, and so tell Joe when you see him, though he knows it already by a letter I writ to Mr. Warburton.13 It was bloody hot walking to-day. I dined in the City, and went and came by water; and it rained so this evening again, that I thought I should hardly be able to get a dry hour to walk home in. I will send to-morrow to the Coffee-house for a letter from MD; but I would not have one methinks till this is gone, as it shall on Saturday. I visited the Duchess of Ormond this morning; she does not go over with the Duke. I spoke to her to get a lad touched for the evil,14 the son of a grocer in Capel Street, one Bell; the ladies have bought sugar and plums of him. Mrs. Mary used to go there often. This is Patrick’s account; and the poor fellow has been here some months with his boy. But the Queen has not been able to touch, and it now grows so warm, I fear she will not at all. Go, go, go to the Dean’s, and let him carry you to Donnybrook, and cut asparagus. Has Parvisol sent you any this year? I cannot sleep in the beginnings of the nights, the heat or something hinders me, and I am drowsy in the mornings.
9. Dr. Freind came this morning to visit Atterbury’s lady and children as physician, and persuaded me to go with him to town in his chariot. He told me he had been an hour before with Sir Cholmley Dering, Charles Dering’s nephew, and head of that family in Kent, for which he is Knight of the shire. He said he left him dying of a pistol-shot quite through the body, by one Mr. Thornhill.15 They fought at sword and pistol this morning in Tuttle Fields,16 their pistols so near that the muzzles touched. Thornhill discharged first; and Dering, having received the shot, discharged his pistol as he was falling, so it went into the air. The story of this quarrel is long. Thornhill had lost seven teeth by a kick in the mouth from Dering, who had first knocked him down; this was above a fortnight ago. Dering was next week to be married to a fine young lady. This makes a noise here, but you will not value it. Well, Mr. Harley, Lord Keeper, and one or two more, are to be made lords immediately; their patents are now passing, and I read the preamble to Mr. Harley’s, full of his praises. Lewis and I dined with Ford: I found the wine; two flasks of my Florence, and two bottles of six that Dr. Raymond sent me of French wine; he sent it to me to drink with Sir Robert Raymond and Mr. Harley’s brother,17 whom I had introduced him to; but they never could find time to come; and now I have left the town, and it is too late. Raymond will think it a cheat. What care I, sirrah?
10. Pshaw, pshaw. Patrick brought me four letters to-day: from Dilly at Bath; Joe; Parvisol; and what was the fourth, who can tell? Stand away, who’ll guess? Who can it be? You old man with a stick, can you tell who the fourth is from? Iss, an please your honour, it is from one Madam MD, Number Fourteen. Well; but I can’t send this away now, because it was here, and I was in town; but it shall go on Saturday, and this is Thursday night, and it will be time enough for Wexford. Take my method: I write here to Parvisol to lend Stella twenty pounds, and to take her note promissory to pay it in half a year, etc. You shall see, and if you want more, let me know afterwards; and be sure my money shall be always paid constantly too. Have you been good or ill housewives, pray?
11. Joe has written me to get him a collector’s place, nothing less; he says all the world knows of my great intimacy with Mr. Harley, and that the smallest word to him will do. This is the constant cant of puppies who are at a distance, and strangers to Courts and Ministers. My answer is this, which pray send: that I am ready to serve Joe as far as I can; that I have spoken to the Duke of Ormond about his money, as I writ to Warburton; that for the particular he mentions, it is a work of time, which I cannot think of at present; but, if accidents and opportunities should happen hereafter, I would not be wanting; that I know best how far my credit goes; that he is at a distance, and cannot judge; that I would be glad to do him good, and if fortune throws an opportunity in my way I shall not be wanting. This is my answer, which you may send or read to him. Pray contrive that Parvisol may not run away with my two hundred pounds; but get Burton’s18 note, and let the money be returned me by bill. Don’t laugh, for I will be suspicious. Teach Parvisol to enclose, and direct the outside to Mr. Lewis. I will answer your letter in my next, only what I take notice of here excepted. I forgot to tell you that at the Court of Requests to-day I could not find a dinner I liked, and it grew late, and I dined with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, etc.
12. Morning. I will finish this letter before I go to town, because I shall be busy, and have neither time nor place there. Farewell, etc. etc.
1 Lord Paisley (see Letter 17, note 7).
2 See Letter 11, note 5.
3 Sir Hovenden Walker. The “man midwife” was Sir Chamberlen Walker, his younger brother. The “secret expedition” against Quebec conveyed upwards of 5000 soldiers, under the command of General John Hill (see Letter 10, note 2), but owing to the want of due preparations and the severe weather encountered, the fleet was compelled to return to England without accomplishing anything.
4 Robert Freind, elder brother of John Freind, M.D. (see Letter 9, note 1), became headmaster of Westminster School in 1711, and held the appointment until 1733. He was Rector of Witney, and afterwards Canon of Windsor, Prebendary of Westminster, and Canon of Christ Church. He died in 1751, aged eighty-four.
5 Christopher Musgrave was Clerk of the Ordnance.
6 Atterbury’s wife, Katherine Osborn, has been described as “the inspiration of his youth and the solace of his riper years.”
7 The original Chelsea Bun House, in Jew’s Row, was pulled down in 1839. Sir R. Philips, writing in 1817, said, “Those buns have afforded a competency, and even wealth, to four generations of the same family; and it is singular that their delicate flavour, lightness, and richness have never been successfully imitated.”
8 See Letter 8, note 22. King wrote to Swift (May 15, 1711), “The death of the Earl of Rochester is a great blow to all good men, and even his enemies cannot but do justice to his character. What influence it will have on public affairs God only knows.”
9 See Letter 11, note 11.
10 See Letter 17, note 6.
11 See Letter 18, note 4.
12 See Letter 20, note 13.
13 Swift’s curate at Laracor.
14 Queen Anne was the last sovereign who exercised the supposed royal gift of healing by touch. Dr. Johnson was touched by her, but without effect.
15 Richard Thornhill was tried at the Old Bailey on May 18, 1711, for the murder of Sir Cholmley Dering, M.P. for Kent, and found guilty of manslaughter only; but he was shortly afterwards assassinated (see Journal for Aug. 21, 1711; Spectator, No. 84). The quarrel began on April 27, when they fell to blows, and Thornhill being knocked down, had some teeth struck out by Sir C. Dering stamping on him. The spectators then interfered, and Dering expressed himself as ready to beg pardon; but Thornhill not thinking this was sufficient satisfaction, gave Dering the lie, and on May 9 sent him a challenge.
16 Tothill Fields, Westminster, was a favourite place for duels in the seventeenth century.
17 See Letter 13, note 17.
18 Benjamin Burton, a Dublin banker, and brother-in-law of Swift’s friend Stratford (see Letter 3, note 22). Swift says he hated this “rogue.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00