The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 27.

London, July 19, 1711.

I have just sent my 26th, and have nothing to say, because I have other letters to write (pshaw, I began too high); but I must lay the beginning like a nest-egg: to-morrow I will say more, and fetch up this line to be straight. This is enough at present for two dear saucy naughty girls.

20. Have I told you that Walls has been with me, and leaves the town in three days? He has brought no gown with him. Dilly carried him to a play. He has come upon a foolish errand, and goes back as he comes. I was this day with Lord Peterborow, who is going another ramble: I believe I told you so. I dined with Lord Treasurer, but cannot get him to do his own business with me; he has put me off till to-morrow.

21, 22. I dined yesterday with Lord Treasurer, who would needs take me along with him to Windsor, although I refused him several times, having no linen, etc. I had just time to desire Lord Forbes1 to call at my lodging and order my man to send my things to-day to Windsor by his servant. I lay last night at the Secretary’s lodgings at Windsor, and borrowed one of his shirts to go to Court in. The Queen is very well. I dined with Mr. Masham; and not hearing anything of my things, I got Lord Winchelsea to bring me to town. Here I found that Patrick had broke open the closet to get my linen and nightgown, and sent them to Windsor, and there they are; and he, not thinking I would return so soon, is gone upon his rambles: so here I am left destitute, and forced to borrow a nightgown of my landlady, and have not a rag to put on to-morrow: faith, it gives me the spleen.

23. Morning. It is a terrible rainy day, and rained prodigiously on Saturday night. Patrick lay out last night, and is not yet returned: faith, poor Presto is a desolate creature; neither servant, nor linen, nor anything. — Night. Lord Forbes’s man has brought back my portmantua, and Patrick is come; so I am in Christian circumstances: I shall hardly commit such a frolic again. I just crept out to Mrs. Van’s, and dined, and stayed there the afternoon: it has rained all this day. Windsor is a delicious place: I never saw it before, except for an hour about seventeen years ago. Walls has been here in my absence, I suppose, to take his leave; for he designed not to stay above five days in London. He says he and his wife will come here for some months next year; and, in short, he dares not stay now for fear of her.

24. I dined to-day with a hedge2 friend in the City; and Walls overtook me in the street, and told me he was just getting on horseback for Chester. He has as much curiosity as a cow: he lodged with his horse in Aldersgate Street: he has bought his wife a silk gown, and himself a hat. And what are you doing? what is poor MD doing now? how do you pass your time at Wexford? how do the waters agree with you? Let Presto know soon; for Presto longs to know, and must know. Is not Madam Proby curious company? I am afraid this rainy weather will spoil your waters. We have had a great deal of wet these three days. Tell me all the particulars of Wexford: the place, the company, the diversions, the victuals, the wants, the vexations. Poor Dingley never saw such a place in her life; sent all over the town for a little parsley to a boiled chicken, and it was not to be had; the butter is stark naught, except an old English woman’s; and it is such a favour to get a pound from her now and then! I am glad you carried down your sheets with you, else you must have lain in sackcloth. O Lord!

25. I was this forenoon with Mr. Secretary at his office, and helped to hinder a man of his pardon, who is condemned for a rape. The Under Secretary was willing to save him, upon an old notion that a woman cannot be ravished; but I told the Secretary he could not pardon him without a favourable report from the judge; besides, he was a fiddler, and consequently a rogue, and deserved hanging for some thing else; and so he shall swing. What, I must stand up for the honour of the fair sex! ’Tis true the fellow had lain with her a hundred times before, but what care I for that! What, must a woman be ravished because she is a whore? — The Secretary and I go on Saturday to Windsor for a week. I dined with Lord Treasurer, and stayed with him till past ten. I was to-day at his levee, where I went against my custom, because I had a mind to do a good office for a gentleman: so I talked with him before my lord, that he might see me, and then found occasion to recommend him this afternoon. I was forced to excuse my coming to the levee, that I did it to see the sight; for he was going to chide me away: I had never been there but once, and that was long before he was Treasurer. The rooms were all full, and as many Whigs as Tories. He whispered me a jest or two, and bid me come to dinner. I left him but just now; and ’tis late.

26. Mr. Addison and I have at last met again. I dined with him and Steele to-day at young Jacob Tonson’s. The two Jacobs3 think it is I who have made the Secretary take from them the printing of the Gazette, which they are going to lose, and Ben Tooke and another4 are to have it. Jacob came to me the other day, to make his court; but I told him it was too late, and that it was not my doing. I reckon they will lose it in a week or two. Mr. Addison and I talked as usual, and as if we had seen one another yesterday; and Steele and I were very easy, though I writ him lately a biting letter, in answer to one of his, where he desired me to recommend a friend of his to Lord Treasurer. Go, get you gone to your waters, sirrah. Do they give you a stomach? Do you eat heartily? — We have had much rain to-day and yesterday.

27. I dined to-day in the City, and saw poor Patty Rolt, and gave her a pistole to help her a little forward against she goes to board in the country. She has but eighteen pounds a year to live on, and is forced to seek out for cheap places. Sometimes they raise their price, and sometimes they starve her, and then she is forced to shift. Patrick the puppy put too much ink in my standish,5 and, carrying too many things together, I spilled it on my paper and floor. The town is dull, wet, and empty; Wexford is worth two of it; I hope so at least, and that poor little MD finds it so. I reckon upon going to Windsor to-morrow with Mr. Secretary, unless he changes his mind, or some other business prevents him. I shall stay there a week, I hope.

28. Morning. Mr. Secretary sent me word he will call at my lodgings by two this afternoon, to take me to Windsor; so I must dine nowhere; and I promised Lord Treasurer to dine with him to-day; but I suppose we shall dine at Windsor at five, for we make but three hours there.6 I am going abroad, but have left Patrick to put up my things, and to be sure to be at home half an hour before two. — Windsor, at night. We did not leave London till three, and dined here between six and seven; at nine I left the company, and went to see Lord Treasurer, who is just come. I chid him for coming so late; he chid me for not dining with him; said he stayed an hour for me. Then I went and sat with Mr. Lewis till just now, and it is past eleven. I lie in the same house with the Secretary, one of the Prebendary’s houses. The Secretary is not come from his apartment in the Castle. Do you think that abominable dog Patrick was out after two to-day, and I in a fright every moment, for fear the chariot should come; and when he came in, he had not put up one rag of my things! I never was in a greater passion, and would certainly have cropped one of his ears, if I had not looked every moment for the Secretary, who sent his equipage to my lodging before, and came in a chair from Whitehall to me, and happened to stay half an hour later than he intended. One of Lord Treasurer’s servants gave me a letter to-night: I found it was from — — with an offer of fifty pounds, to be paid me in what manner I pleased; because, he said, he desired to be well with me. I was in a rage;7 but my friend Lewis cooled me, and said it is what the best men sometimes meet with; and I have been not seldom served in the like manner, although not so grossly. In these cases I never demur a moment, nor ever found the least inclination to take anything. Well, I will go try to sleep in my new bed, and to dream of poor Wexford MD, and Stella that drinks water, and Dingley that drinks ale.

29. I was at Court and church to-day, as I was this day se’ennight: I generally am acquainted with about thirty in the drawing-room, and I am so proud I make all the lords come up to me: one passes half an hour pleasant enough. We had a dunce to preach before the Queen to-day, which often happens. Windsor is a delicious situation, but the town is scoundrel. I have this morning got the Gazette for Ben Tooke and one Barber a printer; it will be about three hundred pounds a year between them. The other fellow was printer of the Examiner, which is now laid down.8 I dined with the Secretary: we were a dozen in all, three Scotch lords, and Lord Peterborow. The Duke of Hamilton9 would needs be witty, and hold up my train as I walked upstairs. It is an ill circumstance that on Sundays much company always meet at the great tables. Lord Treasurer told at Court what I said to Mr. Secretary on this occasion. The Secretary showed me his bill of fare, to encourage me to dine with him. “Poh,” said I, “show me a bill of company, for I value not your dinner.” See how this is all blotted,10 I can write no more here, but to tell you I love MD dearly, and God bless them.

30. In my conscience, I fear I shall have the gout. I sometimes feel pains about my feet and toes: I never drank till within these two years, and I did it to cure my head. I often sit evenings with some of these people, and drink in my turn; but I am now resolved to drink ten times less than before; but they advise me to let what I drink be all wine, and not to put water to it. Tooke and the printer stayed to-day to finish their affair, and treated me and two of the Under Secretaries upon their getting the Gazette. Then I went to see Lord Treasurer, and chid him for not taking notice of me at Windsor. He said he kept a place for me yesterday at dinner, and expected me there; but I was glad I did not go, because the Duke of Buckingham was there, and that would have made us acquainted; which I have no mind to. However, we appointed to sup at Mr. Masham’s, and there stayed till past one o’clock; and that is late, sirrahs: and I have much business.

31. I have sent a noble haunch of venison this afternoon to Mrs. Vanhomrigh: I wish you had it, sirrahs. I dined gravely with my landlord the Secretary. The Queen was abroad to-day in order to hunt; but, finding it disposed to rain, she kept in her coach; she hunts in a chaise with one horse, which she drives herself, and drives furiously, like Jehu, and is a mighty hunter, like Nimrod. Dingley has heard of Nimrod, but not Stella, for it is in the Bible. I was to-day at Eton, which is but just cross the bridge, to see my Lord Kerry’s son,11 who is at school there. Mr. Secretary has given me a warrant for a buck; I can’t send it to MD. It is a sad thing, faith, considering how Presto loves MD, and how MD would love Presto’s venison for Presto’s sake. God bless the two dear Wexford girls!

Aug. 1. We had for dinner the fellow of that haunch of venison I sent to London; ’twas mighty fat and good, and eight people at dinner; that was bad. The Queen and I were going to take the air this afternoon, but not together; and were both hindered by a sudden rain. Her coaches and chaises all went back, and the guards too; and I scoured into the market-place for shelter. I intended to have walked up the finest avenue I ever saw, two miles long, with two rows of elms on each side. I walked in the evening a little upon the terrace, and came home at eight: Mr. Secretary came soon after, and we were engaging in deep discourse, and I was endeavouring to settle some points of the greatest consequence, and had wormed myself pretty well into him, when his Under Secretary came in (who lodges in the same house with us) and interrupted all my scheme. I have just left him: it is late, etc.

2. I have been now five days at Windsor, and Patrick has been drunk three times that I have seen, and oftener I believe. He has lately had clothes that have cost me five pounds, and the dog thinks he has the whip-hand of me: he begins to master me; so now I am resolved to part with him, and will use him without the least pity. The Secretary and I have been walking three or four hours to-day. The Duchess of Shrewsbury12 asked him, was not that Dr. — Dr. — and she could not say my name in English, but said Dr. Presto, which is Italian for Swift. Whimsical enough, as Billy Swift13 says. I go to-morrow with the Secretary to his house at Bucklebury, twenty-five miles from hence, and return early on Sunday morning. I will leave this letter behind me locked up, and give you an account of my journey when I return. I had a letter yesterday from the Bishop of Clogher, who is coming up to his Parliament. Have you any correspondence with him to Wexford? Methinks, I now long for a letter from you, dated Wexford, July 24, etc. O Lord, that would be so pretending;14 and then, says you, Stella can’t write much, because it is bad to write when one drinks the waters; and I think, says you, I find myself better already, but I cannot tell yet whether it be the journey or the waters. Presto is so silly to-night; yes he be; but Presto loves MD dearly, as hope saved.

3. Morning. I am to go this day at noon, as I told you, to Bucklebury: we dine at twelve, and expect to be there in four hours. I cannot bid you good-night now, because I shall be twenty-five miles from this paper to-night, and so my journal must have a break; so good-morrow, etc.

4, 5. I dined yesterday at Bucklebury, where we lay two nights, and set out this morning at eight, and were here at twelve; in four hours we went twenty-six miles. Mr. Secretary was a perfect country gentleman at Bucklebury: he smoked tobacco with one or two neighbours; he inquired after the wheat in such a field; he went to visit his hounds, and knew all their names; he and his lady saw me to my chamber just in the country fashion. His house is in the midst of near three thousand pounds a year he had by his lady,15 who is descended from Jack Newbury, of whom books and ballads are written; and there is an old picture of him in the house. She is a great favourite of mine. I lost church to-day; but I dressed and shaved, and went to Court, and would not dine with the Secretary, but engaged myself to a private dinner with Mr. Lewis, and one friend more. We go to London to-morrow; for Lord Dartmouth, the other Secretary, is come, and they are here their weeks by turns.

6. Lord Treasurer comes every Saturday to Windsor, and goes away on Monday or Tuesday. I was with him this morning at his levee, for one cannot see him otherwise here, he is so hurried: we had some talk; and I told him I would stay this week at Windsor by myself, where I can have more leisure to do some business that concerns them. Lord Treasurer and the Secretary thought to mortify me; for they told me they had been talking a great deal of me to-day to the Queen, and she said she had never heard of me. I told them that was their fault, and not hers, etc., and so we laughed. I dined with the Secretary, and let him go to London at five without me; and here am I alone in the Prebendary’s house, which Mr. Secretary has taken; only Mr. Lewis is in my neighbourhood, and we shall be good company. The Vice-Chamberlain,16 and Mr. Masham, and the Green Cloth,17 have promised me dinners. I shall want but four till Mr. Secretary returns. We have a music-meeting in our town to-night. I went to the rehearsal of it, and there was Margarita,18 and her sister, and another drab, and a parcel of fiddlers: I was weary, and would not go to the meeting, which I am sorry for, because I heard it was a great assembly. Mr. Lewis came from it, and sat with me till just now; and ’tis late.

7. I can do no business, I fear, because Mr. Lewis, who has nothing or little to do here, sticks close to me. I dined today with the gentlemen ushers, among scurvy company; but the Queen was hunting the stag till four this afternoon, and she drove in her chaise above forty miles, and it was five before we went to dinner. Here are fine walks about this town. I sometimes walk up the avenue.

8. There was a Drawing-room to-day at Court; but so few company, that the Queen sent for us into her bed-chamber, where we made our bows, and stood about twenty of us round the room, while she looked at us round with her fan in her mouth, and once a minute said about three words to some that were nearest her, and then she was told dinner was ready, and went out. I dined at the Green Cloth, by Mr. Scarborow’s19 invitation, who is in waiting. It is much the best table in England, and costs the Queen a thousand pounds a month while she is at Windsor or Hampton Court, and is the only mark of magnificence or hospitality I can see in the Queen’s family: it is designed to entertain foreign Ministers, and people of quality, who come to see the Queen, and have no place to dine at.

9. Mr. Coke, the Vice-Chamberlain, made me a long visit this morning, and invited me to dinner; but the toast, his lady,20 was unfortunately engaged to Lady Sunderland.21 Lord Treasurer stole here last night, but did not lie at his lodgings in the Castle; and, after seeing the Queen, went back again. I just drank a dish of chocolate with him. I fancy I shall have reason to be angry with him very soon; but what care I? I believe I shall die with Ministries in my debt. — This night I received a certain letter from a place called Wexford, from two dear naughty girls of my acquaintance; but, faith, I will not answer it here, no in troth. I will send this to Mr. Reading, supposing it will find you returned; and I hope better for the waters.

10. Mr. Vice-Chamberlain lent me his horses to ride about and see the country this morning. Dr. Arbuthnot, the Queen’s physician and favourite, went out with me to show me the places: we went a little after the Queen, and overtook Miss Forester,22 a maid of honour, on her palfrey, taking the air; we made her go along with us. We saw a place they have made for a famous horse-race to-morrow, where the Queen will come. We met the Queen coming back, and Miss Forester stood, like us, with her hat off while the Queen went by. The Doctor and I left the lady where we found her, but under other conductors; and we dined at a little place he has taken, about a mile off. — When I came back I found Mr. Scarborow had sent all about to invite me to the Green Cloth, and lessened his company on purpose to make me easy. It is very obliging, and will cost me thanks. Much company is come to town this evening, to see to-morrow’s race. I was tired with riding a trotting mettlesome horse a dozen miles, having not been on horseback this twelvemonth. And Miss Forester did not make it easier; she is a silly true maid of honour, and I did not like her, although she be a toast, and was dressed like a man.23

11. I will send this letter to-day. I expect the Secretary by noon. I will not go to the race unless I can get room in some coach. It is now morning. I must rise, and fold up and seal my letter. Farewell, and God preserve dearest MD.

I believe I shall leave this town on Monday.

1 Alexander Forbes, fourth Lord Forbes, who was afterwards attainted for his share in the Rebellion of 1745.

2 Obscure (cf. Letter 7, note 30).

3 Jacob Tonson the elder, who died in 1736, outlived his nephew, Jacob Tonson the younger, by a few months. The elder Tonson, the secretary of the Kit-Cat Club, published many of Dryden’s works, and the firm continued to be the chief publishers of the time during the greater part of the eighteenth century.

4 John Barber.

5 By his will Swift left to Deane Swift his “large silver standish, consisting of a large silver plate, an ink-pot, and a sand-box.”

6 I.e., we are only three hours in getting there.

7 Cf. Letter 15, note 9.

8 The Examiner was revived in December 1711, under Oldisworth’s editorship, and was continued by him until 1714.

9 James Douglas, fourth Duke of Hamilton, was created Duke of Brandon in the English peerage in September 1711, and was killed by Lord Mohun in a duel in 1712. Swift calls him “a worthy good-natured person, very generous, but of a middle understanding.” He married, in 1698, as his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Digby, Lord Gerard, a lady to whom Swift often refers in the Journal. She outlived the Duke thirty-two years.

10 See August 27th, 1711.

11 William Fitzmaurice (see Letter 11, note 19).

12 The Duke of Shrewsbury (see Letter 3, note 32) married an Italian lady, Adelhida, daughter of the Marquis of Paliotti, of Bologna, descended maternally from Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite. Lady Cowper (Diary, pp. 8, 9) says that the Duchess “had a wonderful art of entertaining and diverting people, though she would sometimes exceed the bounds of decency; . . . but then, with all her prate and noise, she was the most cunning, designing woman alive, obliging to people in prosperity, and a great party-woman.” As regards the name “Presto,” see Letter 2, note 11.

13 Probably a cousin.

14 Presumptuous: claiming much.

15 See Letter 13, note 15. John Winchcombe, a weaver of Newbury, marched with a hundred of his workmen, at his own expenses, against the Scots in 1513.

16 Thomas Coke, M.P., of Derbyshire, was appointed a Teller of the Exchequer in 1704, and Vice-Chamberlain to the Queen in 1706. In 1706 he married — as his second wife — Mrs. Hale, one of the maids of honour (Luttrell, v. 411, 423; vi. 113, 462; Lady Cowper’s Diary, 15, 16), a lady whose “piercing” beauty it was, apparently, that Steele described under the name of Chloe, in No. 4 of the Tatler. Jervas painted her as a country girl, “with a liveliness that shows she is conscious, but not affected, of her perfections.” Coke was the Sir Plume of Pope’s Rape of the Lock.

17 The committee of management of the Royal household.

18 Francesca Margherita de l’Epine, the famous singer, and principal rival of Mrs. Tofts, came to England in 1692, and constantly sang in opera until her retirement in 1718, when she married Dr. Pepusch. She died in 1746. Her sister, Maria Gallia, also a singer, did not attain the same popularity.

19 Charles Scarborow and Sir William Foster were the Clerks of the Board of Green Cloth.

20 See Letter 27, note 16 on Thomas Coke.

21 The Earl of Sunderland’s second wife, Lady Anne Churchill, who died in 1716, aged twenty-eight. She was the favourite daughter of the Duke of Marlborough, and was called “the little Whig.” Verses were written in honour of her beauty and talent by Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax, Dr. Watts and others, and her portrait was painted by Lely and Kneller.

22 Mary, daughter of Sir William Forester, of Dothill, Shropshire. In 1700, at the age of thirteen, she had been secretly married to her cousin, George Downing, a lad of fifteen. Three years later, Downing, on his return from abroad, refused to acknowledge his wife, and in 1715 both parties petitioned the House of Lords for leave to bring in a Bill declaring the marriage to be void; but leave was refused (Lords’ Journals, xx. 41, 45). Downing had become Sir George Downing, Bart., in 1711, and had been elected M.P. for Dunwich; he died without issue in 1749, and was the founder of Downing College, Cambridge.

23 In a discussion upon what would be the result if beards became the fashion, Budgell (Spectator, No. 331) says, “Besides, we are not certain that the ladies would not come into the mode, when they take the air on horseback. They already appear in hats and feathers, coats and periwigs.”

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