The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 25.

Chelsea, June 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.

I have been all this time at Wycombe, between Oxford and London, with Lord Shelburne, who has the squire’s house at the town’s end, and an estate there in a delicious country. Lady Kerry and Mrs. Pratt were with us, and we passed our time well enough; and there I wholly disengaged myself from all public thoughts, and everything but MD, who had the impudence to send me a letter there; but I’ll be revenged: I will answer it. This day, the 20th, I came from Wycombe with Lady Kerry after dinner, lighted at Hyde Park Corner, and walked: it was twenty-seven miles, and we came it in about five hours.

21. I went at noon to see Mr. Secretary at his office, and there was Lord Treasurer: so I killed two birds, etc., and we were glad to see one another, and so forth. And the Secretary and I dined at Sir William Wyndham’s,1 who married Lady Catharine Seymour, your acquaintance, I suppose. There were ten of us at dinner. It seems, in my absence, they had erected a Club,2 and made me one; and we made some laws to-day, which I am to digest and add to, against next meeting. Our meetings are to be every Thursday. We are yet but twelve: Lord Keeper and Lord Treasurer were proposed; but I was against them, and so was Mr. Secretary, though their sons are of it, and so they are excluded; but we design to admit the Duke of Shrewsbury. The end of our Club is, to advance conversation and friendship, and to reward deserving persons with our interest and recommendation. We take in none but men of wit or men of interest; and if we go on as we begin, no other Club in this town will be worth talking of. The Solicitor-General, Sir Robert Raymond, is one of our Club; and I ordered him immediately to write to your Lord Chancellor in favour of Dr. Raymond: so tell Raymond, if you see him; but I believe this will find you at Wexford. This letter will come three weeks after the last, so there is a week lost; but that is owing to my being out of town; yet I think it is right, because it goes enclosed to Mr. Reading:3 and why should he know how often Presto writes to MD, pray? — I sat this evening with Lady Betty Butler and Lady Ashburnham, and then came home by eleven, and had a good cool walk; for we have had no extreme hot weather this fortnight, but a great deal of rain at times, and a body can live and breathe. I hope it will hold so. We had peaches to-day.

22. I went late to-day to town, and dined with my friend Lewis. I saw Will Congreve attending at the Treasury, by order, with his brethren, the Commissioners of the Wine Licences. I had often mentioned him with kindness to Lord Treasurer; and Congreve told me that, after they had answered to what they were sent for, my lord called him privately, and spoke to him with great kindness, promising his protection, etc. The poor man said he had been used so ill of late years that he was quite astonished at my lord’s goodness, etc., and desired me to tell my lord so; which I did this evening, and recommended him heartily. My lord assured me he esteemed him very much, and would be always kind to him; that what he said was to make Congreve easy, because he knew people talked as if his lordship designed to turn everybody out, and particularly Congreve: which indeed was true, for the poor man told me he apprehended it. As I left my Lord Treasurer, I called on Congreve (knowing where he dined), and told him what had passed between my lord and me; so I have made a worthy man easy, and that is a good day’s work.4 I am proposing to my lord to erect a society or academy for correcting and settling our language, that we may not perpetually be changing as we do. He enters mightily into it, so does the Dean of Carlisle;5 and I design to write a letter to Lord Treasurer with the proposals of it, and publish it;6 and so I told my lord, and he approves it. Yesterday’s7 was a sad Examiner, and last week was very indifferent, though some little scraps of the old spirit, as if he had given some hints; but yesterday’s is all trash. It is plain the hand is changed.

23. I have not been in London to-day: for Dr. Gastrell8 and I dined, by invitation, with the Dean of Carlisle, my neighbour; so I know not what they are doing in the world, a mere country gentleman. And are not you ashamed both to go into the country just when I did, and stay ten days, just as I did, saucy monkeys? But I never rode; I had no horses, and our coach was out of order, and we went and came in a hired one. Do you keep your lodgings when you go to Wexford? I suppose you do; for you will hardly stay above two months. I have been walking about our town to-night, and it is a very scurvy place for walking. I am thinking to leave it, and return to town, now the Irish folks are gone. Ford goes in three days. How does Dingley divert herself while Stella is riding? work, or read, or walk? Does Dingley ever read to you? Had you ever a book with you in the country? Is all that left off? Confess. Well, I’ll go sleep; ’tis past eleven, and I go early to sleep: I write nothing at night but to MD.

24. Stratford and I, and Pastoral Philips (just come from Denmark) dined at Ford’s to-day, who paid his way, and goes for Ireland on Tuesday. The Earl of Peterborow is returned from Vienna without one servant: he left them scattered in several towns of Germany. I had a letter from him, four days ago, from Hanover, where he desires I would immediately send him an answer to his house at Parson’s Green,9 about five miles off. I wondered what he meant, till I heard he was come. He sent expresses, and got here before them. He is above fifty, and as active as one of five-and-twenty. I have not seen him yet, nor know when I shall, or where to find him.

25. Poor Duke of Shrewsbury has been very ill of a fever: we were all in a fright about him: I thank God, he is better. I dined to-day at Lord Ashburnham’s, with his lady, for he was not at home: she is a very good girl, and always a great favourite of mine. Sterne tells me he has desired a friend to receive your box in Chester, and carry it over. I fear he will miscarry in his business, which was sent to the Treasury before he was recommended; for I was positive only to second his recommendations, and all his other friends failed him. However, on your account I will do what I can for him to-morrow with the secretary of the Treasury.

26. We had much company to-day at dinner at Lord Treasurer’s. Prior never fails: he is a much better courtier than I; and we expect every day that he will be a Commissioner of the Customs, and that in a short time a great many more will be turned out. They blame Lord Treasurer for his slowness in turning people out; but I suppose he has his reasons. They still keep my neighbour Atterbury in suspense about the deanery of Christ Church,10 which has been above six months vacant, and he is heartily angry. I reckon you are now preparing for your Wexford expedition; and poor Dingley is full of carking and caring, scolding. How long will you stay? Shall I be in Dublin before you return? Don’t fall and hurt yourselves, nor overturn the coach. Love one another, and be good girls; and drink Presto’s health in water, Madam Stella; and in good ale, Madam Dingley.

27. The Secretary appointed me to dine with him to-day, and we were to do a world of business: he came at four, and brought Prior with him, and had forgot the appointment, and no business was done. I left him at eight, and went to change my gown at Mrs. Vanhomrigh’s; and there was Sir Andrew Fountaine at ombre with Lady Ashburnham and Lady Frederic Schomberg, and Lady Mary Schomberg,11 and Lady Betty Butler, and others, talking; and it put me in mind of the Dean and Stoyte, and Walls, and Stella at play, and Dingley and I looking on. I stayed with them till ten, like a fool. Lady Ashburnham is something like Stella; so I helped her, and wished her good cards. It is late, etc.

28. Well, but I must answer this letter of our MD’s. Saturday approaches, and I han’t written down this side. O, faith, Presto has been a sort of a lazy fellow: but Presto will remove to town this day se’ennight; the Secretary has commanded me to do so; and I believe he and I shall go for some days to Windsor, where he will have leisure to mind some business we have together. To-day, our Society (it must not be called a Club) dined at Mr. Secretary’s: we were but eight; the rest sent excuses, or were out of town. We sat till eight, and made some laws and settlements; and then I went to take leave of Lady Ashburnham, who goes out of town to-morrow, as a great many of my acquaintance are already, and left the town very thin. I shall make but short journeys this summer, and not be long out of London. The days are grown sensibly short already, all our fruit blasted. Your Duke of Ormond is still at Chester; and perhaps this letter will be with you as soon as he. Sterne’s business is quite blown up: they stand to it to send him back to the Commissioners of the Revenue in Ireland for a reference, and all my credit could not alter it, though I almost fell out with the secretary of the Treasury,12 who is my Lord Treasurer’s cousin-germain, and my very good friend. It seems every step he has hitherto taken hath been wrong; at least they say so, and that is the same thing. I am heartily sorry for it; and I really think they are in the wrong, and use him hardly; but I can do no more.

29. Steele has had the assurance to write to me that I would engage my Lord Treasurer to keep a friend of his in an employment: I believe I told you how he and Addison served me for my good offices in Steele’s behalf; and I promised Lord Treasurer never to speak for either of them again. Sir Andrew Fountaine and I dined to-day at Mrs. Vanhomrigh’s. Dilly Ashe has been in town this fortnight: I saw him twice; he was four days at Lord Pembroke’s in the country, punning with him; his face is very well. I was this evening two or three hours at Lord Treasurer’s, who called me Dr. Thomas Swift twenty times; that’s his way of teasing. I left him at nine, and got home here by ten, like a gentleman; and to-morrow morning I’ll answer your little letter, sirrahs.

30. Morning. I am terribly sleepy always in a morning; I believe it is my walk over-night that disposes me to sleep: faith, ’tis now striking eight, and I am but just awake. Patrick comes early, and wakes me five or six times; but I have excuses, though I am three parts asleep. I tell him I sat up late, or slept ill in the night, and often it is a lie. I have now got little MD’s letter before me, N.16, no more, nor no less, no mistake. Dingley says, “This letter won’t be above six lines”; and I was afraid it was true, though I saw it filled on both sides. The Bishop of Clogher writ me word you were in the country, and that he heard you were well: I am glad at heart MD rides, and rides, and rides. Our hot weather ended in May, and all this month has been moderate: it was then so hot I was not able to endure it; I was miserable every moment, and found myself disposed to be peevish and quarrelsome: I believe a very hot country would make me stark mad. — Yes, my head continues pretty tolerable, and I impute it all to walking. Does Stella eat fruit? I eat a little; but I always repent, and resolve against it. No, in very hot weather I always go to town by water; but I constantly walk back, for then the sun is down. And so Mrs. Proby13 goes with you to Wexford: she’s admirable company; you’ll grow plaguy wise with those you frequent. Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Proby! take care of infection. I believe my two hundred pounds will be paid, but that Sir Alexander Cairnes is a scrupulous puppy: I left the bill with Mr. Stratford, who is to have the money. Now, Madam Stella, what say you? you ride every day; I know that already, sirrah; and, if you rid every day for a twelvemonth, you would be still better and better. No, I hope Parvisol will not have the impudence to make you stay an hour for the money; if he does, I’ll UN-PARVISOL him; pray let me know. O Lord, how hasty we are! Stella can’t stay writing and writing; she must write and go a cock-horse, pray now. Well, but the horses are not come to the door; the fellow can’t find the bridle; your stirrup is broken; where did you put the whips, Dingley? Marget, where have you laid Mrs. Johnson’s ribbon to tie about her? reach me my mask: sup up this before you go. So, so, a gallop, a gallop: sit fast, sirrah, and don’t ride hard upon the stones. — Well, now Stella is gone, tell me, Dingley, is she a good girl? and what news is that you are to tell me? — No, I believe the box is not lost: Sterne says it is not. — No, faith, you must go to Wexford without seeing your Duke of Ormond, unless you stay on purpose; perhaps you may be so wise. — I tell you this is your sixteenth letter; will you never be satisfied? No, no, I will walk late no more; I ought less to venture it than other people, and so I was told: but I will return to lodge in town next Thursday. When you come from Wexford, I would have you send a letter of attorney to Mr. Benjamin Tooke, bookseller, in London, directed to me; and he shall manage your affair. I have your parchment safely locked up in London. — O, Madam Stella, welcome home; was it pleasant riding? did your horse stumble? how often did the man light to settle your stirrup? ride nine miles! faith, you have galloped indeed. Well, but where is the fine thing you promised me? I have been a good boy, ask Dingley else. I believe you did not meet the fine-thing-man: faith, you are a cheat. So you will see Raymond and his wife in town. Faith, that riding to Laracor gives me short sighs, as well as you. All the days I have passed here have been dirt to those. I have been gaining enemies by the scores, and friends by the couples; which is against the rules of wisdom, because they say one enemy can do more hurt than ten friends can do good. But I have had my revenge at least, if I get nothing else. And so let Fate govern. — Now I think your letter is answered; and mine will be shorter than ordinary, because it must go to-day. We have had a great deal of scattering rain for some days past, yet it hardly keeps down the dust. — We have plays acted in our town; and Patrick was at one of them, oh oh. He was damnably mauled one day when he was drunk; he was at cuffs with a brother-footman, who dragged him along the floor upon his face, which looked for a week after as if he had the leprosy; and I was glad enough to see it. I have been ten times sending him over to you; yet now he has new clothes, and a laced hat, which the hatter brought by his orders, and he offered to pay for the lace out of his wages. — I am to dine to-day with Dilly at Sir Andrew Fountaine’s, who has bought a new house, and will be weary of it in half a year. I must rise and shave, and walk to town, unless I go with the Dean in his chariot at twelve, which is too late: and I have not seen that Lord Peterborow yet. The Duke of Shrewsbury is almost well again, and will be abroad in a day or two: what care you? There it is now: you do not care for my friends. Farewell, my dearest lives and delights; I love you better than ever, if possible, as hope saved, I do, and ever will. God Almighty bless you ever, and make us happy together! I pray for this twice every day; and I hope God will hear my poor hearty prayers. — Remember, if I am used ill and ungratefully, as I have formerly been, ’tis what I am prepared for, and shall not wonder at it. Yet I am now envied, and thought in high favour, and have every day numbers of considerable men teasing me to solicit for them. And the Ministry all use me perfectly well; and all that know them say they love me. Yet I can count upon nothing, nor will, but upon MD’s love and kindness. — They think me useful; they pretended they were afraid of none but me, and that they resolved to have me; they have often confessed this: yet all makes little impression on me. — Pox of these speculations! they give me the spleen; and that is a disease I was not born to. Let me alone, sirrahs, and be satisfied: I am, as long as MD and Presto are well.

Little wealth,
And much health,
And a life by stealth:

that is all we want; and so farewell, dearest MD; Stella, Dingley, Presto, all together, now and for ever all together. Farewell again and again.

1 Sir William Wyndham, Bart. (1687-1740), was M.P. for Somerset. He was a close partisan of Bolingbroke’s, and in 1713 introduced the Schism Bill, which drove Oxford from office. Wyndham became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was afterwards a leading opponent of Walpole. His wife, Lady Catherine Seymour (died 1713), was the second daughter of Charles, Duke of Somerset (see Letter 28, note 8).

2 Swift was afterwards President of this Club, which is better known as “the Society.”

3 Perhaps Daniel Reading, M.P. for Newcastle, Co. Dublin.

4 Afterwards Congreve formed a friendship with the Whigs; or, as Swift put it,

“Took proper principles to thrive,
And so might every dunce alive.”

5 Atterbury.

6 This pamphlet, published in February 1712, was called “A Proposal for Correcting, Improving, and Ascertaining the English Tongue, in a Letter to the . . . Lord High Treasurer.”

7 No. 47

8 Francis Gastrell, Canon of Christ Church, was made Bishop of Chester in 1713. His valuable Notitia Cestriensis was published in 1845-50.

9 Near Fulham.

10 See Letter 12, note 21.

11 The daughters of Meinhardt Schomberg, Duke of Leinster, in Ireland, and third Duke of Schomberg. Lady Mary married Count Dagenfeldt, and Lady Frederica married, first, the Earl of Holderness, and, secondly, Earl Fitz Walter.

12 Thomas Harley.

13 See Letter 19, note 3.

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