The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 42.1

London, Feb. 23, 1711-12.

After having disposed my last letter in the post-office, I am now to begin this with telling MD that I dined with the Secretary to-day, who is much out of order with a cold, and feverish; yet he went to the Cabinet Council tonight at six, against my will. The Secretary is much the greatest commoner in England, and turns the whole Parliament, who can do nothing without him; and if he lives and has his health, will, I believe, be one day at the head of affairs. I have told him sometimes that, if I were a dozen years younger, I would cultivate his favour, and trust my fortune with his. But what care oo for all this? I am sorry when I came first acquainted with this Ministry that I did not send you their names and characters, and then you would have relished what2 I would have writ, especially if I had let you into the particulars of affairs: but enough of this. Nite, deelest logues.

24. I went early this morning to the Secretary, who is not yet well. Sir Thomas Hanmer and the Chancellor of the Exchequer came while I was there, and he would not let me stir; so I did not go to church, but was busy with them till noon, about the affair I told you in my last. The other two went away; and I dined with the Secretary, and found my head very much out of order, but no absolute fit; and I have not been well all this day. It has shook me a little. I sometimes sit up very late at Lord Masham’s, and have writ much for several days past: but I will amend both; for I have now very little business, and hope I shall have no more, and I am resolved to be a great rider this summer in Ireland. I was to see Mrs. Wesley this evening, who has been somewhat better for this month past, and talks of returning to the Bath in a few weeks. Our peace goes on but slowly; the Dutch are playing tricks, and we do not push it strongly as we ought. The fault of our Court is delay, of which the Queen has a great deal; and Lord Treasurer is not without his share. But pay richar MD ret us know a little of your life and tonvelsasens.3 Do you play at ombre, or visit the Dean, and Goody Walls and Stoytes and Manleys, as usual? I must have a letter from oo, to fill the other side of this sheet. Let me know what you do. Is my aunt alive yet?

Oh, pray, now I think of it, be so kind to step to my aunt, and take notice of my great-grandfather’s picture; you know he has a ring on his finger, with a seal of an anchor and dolphin about it; but I think there is besides, at the bottom of the picture, the same coat of arms quartered with another, which I suppose was my great-grandmother’s. If this be so, it is a stronger argument than the seal. And pray see whether you think that coat of arms was drawn at the same time with the picture, or whether it be of a later hand; and ask my aunt what she knows about it. But perhaps there is no such coat of arms on the picture, and I only dreamed it. My reason is, because I would ask some herald here, whether I should choose that coat, or one in Guillim’s large folio of heraldry,4 where my uncle Godwin is named with another coat of arms of three stags. This is sad stuff to rite; so nite, MD.

25. I was this morning again with the Secretary, and we were two hours busy; and then went together to the Park, Hyde Park, I mean; and he walked to cure his cold, and we were looking at two Arabian horses sent some time ago to Lord Treasurer.5 The Duke of Marlborough’s coach overtook us, with his Grace and Lord Godolphin in it; but they did not see us, to our great satisfaction; for neither of us desired that either of those two lords should see us together. There was half a dozen ladies riding like cavaliers to take the air. My head is better to-day. I dined with the Secretary; but we did no business after dinner, and at six I walked into the fields; the days are grown pure and long; then I went to visit Perceval6 and his family, whom I had seen but twice since they came to town. They too are going to the Bath next month. Countess Doll of Meath7 is such an owl that, wherever I visit, people are asking me whether I know such an Irish lady, and her figure and her foppery? I came home early, and have been amusing myself with looking into one of Rymer’s volumes of the Records of the Tower, and am mighty easy to think I have no urgent business upon my hands. My third cold is not yet off; I sometimes cough, and am not right with it in the morning. Did I tell you that I believe it is Lady Masham’s hot room that gives it me? I never knew such a stove; and in my conscience I believe both my lord and she, my Lord Treasurer, Mr. Secretary, and myself have all suffered by it. We have all had colds together, but I walk home on foot. Nite dee logues.

26. I was again busy with the Secretary.8 We read over some papers, and did a good deal of business; and I dined with him, and we were to do more business after dinner; but after dinner is after dinner — an old saying and a true, “much drinking, little thinking.” We had company with us, and nothing could be done, and I am to go there again to-morrow. I have now nothing to do; and the Parliament, by the Queen’s recommendation, is to take some method for preventing libels, etc., which will include pamphlets, I suppose. I don’t know what method they will take, but it comes on in a day or two. To-day in the morning I visited upwards: first I saw the Duke of Ormond below stairs, and gave him joy of his being declared General in Flanders; then I went up one pair of stairs, and sat with the Duchess; then I went up another pair of stairs, and paid a visit to Lady Betty; and desired her woman to go up to the garret, that I might pass half an hour with her, but she was young and handsome, and would not. The Duke is our President this week, and I have bespoke a small dinner on purpose, for good example. Nite mi deelest logues.

27. I was again with the Secretary this morning; but we only read over some papers with Sir Thomas Hanmer; then I called at Lord Treasurer’s; it was his levee-day, but I went up to his bed-chamber, and said what I had to say. I came down and peeped in at the chamber, where a hundred fools were waiting, and two streets were full of coaches. I dined in the City with my printer,9 and came back at six to Lord Treasurer, who had invited me to dinner, but I refused him. I sat there an hour or two, and then went to Lord Masham’s. They were all abroad: so truly I came, and read whatever stuff was next me. I can sit and be idle now, which I have not been above a year past. However, I will stay out the session, to see if they have any further commands for me, and that, I suppose, will end in April. But I may go somewhat before, for I hope all will be ended by then, and we shall have either a certain peace, or certain war. The Ministry is contriving new funds for money by lotteries, and we go on as if the war were to continue, but I believe it will not. ’Tis pretty late now, ung oomens; so I bid oo nite, own dee dallars.

28. I have been packing up some books in a great box I have bought, and must buy another for clothes and luggage. This is a beginning towards a removal. I have sent to Holland for a dozen shirts, and design to buy another new gown and hat. I will come over like a zinkerman,10 and lay out nothing in clothes in Ireland this good while. I have writ this night to the Provost. Our Society met to-day as usual, and we were fourteen, beside the Earl of Arran,11 whom his brother, the Duke of Ormond, brought among us against all order. We were mightily shocked; but, after some whispers, it ended in choosing Lord Arran one of our Society, which I opposed to his face, but it was carried by all the rest against me.

29. This is leap year, and this is leap day. Prince George was born on this day. People are mistaken; and some here think it is St. David’s Day; but they do not understand the virtue of leap year. I have nothing to do now, boys, and have been reading all this day like Gumdragon; and yet I was dictating some trifles this morning to a printer. I dined with a friend hard by, and the weather was so discouraging I could not walk. I came home early, and have read two hundred pages of Arran. Alexander the Great is just dead: I do not think he was poisoned; betwixt you and me, all those are but idle stories: it is certain that neither Ptolemy nor Aristobulus thought so, and they were both with him when he12 died. It is a pity we have not their histories. The Bill for limiting Members of Parliament to have but so many places passed the House of Commons, and will pass the House of Lords, in spite of the Ministry, which you know is a great lessening of the Queen’s power. Four of the new lords voted against the Court in this point. It is certainly a good Bill in the reign of an ill prince, but I think things are not settled enough for it at present. And the Court may want a majority upon a pinch. Nite deelest logues. Rove Pdfr.

March 1. I went into the City to inquire after poor Stratford,13 who has put himself a prisoner into the Queen’s Bench, for which his friends blame him much, because his creditors designed to be very easy with him. He grasped at too many things together, and that was his ruin. There is one circumstance relative to Lieutenant-General Meredith14 that is very melancholy: Meredith was turned out of all his employments last year, and had about 10,000 pounds left to live on. Stratford, upon friendship, desired he might have the management of it for Meredith, to put it into the stocks and funds for the best advantage, and now he has lost it all. You have heard me often talk of Stratford; we were class-fellows at school and university. I dined with some merchants, his friends, to-day, and they said they expected his breaking this good while. I gave him notice of a treaty of peace, while it was a secret, of which he might have made good use, but that helped to ruin him; for he gave money, reckoning there would be actually a peace by this time, and consequently stocks rise high. Ford narrowly ‘scaped losing 500 pounds by him, and so did I too. Nite, my two deelest rives MD.

2. Morning. I was wakened at three this morning, my man and the people of the house telling me of a great fire in the Haymarket. I slept again, and two hours after my man came in again, and told me it was my poor brother Sir William Wyndham’s15 house burnt, and that two maids, leaping out of an upper room to avoid the fire, both fell on their heads, one of them upon the iron spikes before the door, and both lay dead in the streets. It is supposed to have been some carelessness of one or both those maids. The Duke of Ormond was there helping to put out the fire. Brother Wyndham gave 6,000 pounds but a few months ago for that house, as he told me, and it was very richly furnished. I shall know more particulars at night. He married Lady Catherine Seymour, the Duke of Somerset’s daughter; you know her, I believe. — At night. Wyndham’s young child escaped very narrowly; Lady Catherine escaped barefoot; they all went to Northumberland House. Mr. Brydges’s16 house, at next door, is damaged much, and was like to be burnt. Wyndham has lost above 10,000 pounds by this accident; his lady above a thousand pounds worth of clothes. It was a terrible accident. He was not at Court to-day. I dined with Lord Masham. The Queen was not at church. Nite, MD.

3. Pray tell Walls that I spoke to the Duke of Ormond and Mr. Southwell about his friend’s affair, who, I find, needed not me for a solicitor, for they both told me the thing would be done. I likewise mentioned his own affair to Mr. Southwell, and I hope that will be done too, for Southwell seems to think it reasonable, and I will mind him of it again. Tell him this nakedly. You need not know the particulars. They are secrets: one of them is about Mrs. South having a pension; the other about his salary from the Government for the tithes of the park that lie in his parish, to be put upon the establishment, but oo must not know zees sings, zey are secrets; and we must keep them flom nauty dallars. I dined in the City with my printer, with whom I had some small affair; but I have no large work on my hands now. I was with Lord Treasurer this morning, and hat17 care oo for zat? Oo dined with the Dean to-day. Monday is parson’s holiday, and oo lost oo money at cards and dice; ze Givars18 device. So I’ll go to bed. Nite, my two deelest logues.

4. I sat to-day with poor Mrs. Wesley, who made me dine with her. She is much better than she was. I heartily pray for her health, out of the entire love I bear to her worthy husband. This day has passed very insignificantly. But it is a great comfort to me now that I can come home and read, and have nothing upon my hands to write. I was at Lord Masham’s to-night, and stayed there till one. Lord Treasurer was there; but I thought, I thought he looked melancholy, just as he did at the beginning of the session, and he was not so merry as usual. In short, the majority in the House of Lords is a very weak one: and he has much ado to keep it up; and he is not able to make those removes he would, and oblige his friends; and I doubt too19 he does not take care enough about it, or rather cannot do all himself, and will not employ others: which is his great fault, as I have often told you. ’Tis late. Nite, MD.

5. I wish you a merry Lent. I hate Lent; I hate different diets, and furmity and butter, and herb porridge; and sour devout faces of people who only put on religion for seven weeks. I was at the Secretary’s office this morning; and there a gentleman brought me two letters, dated last October; one from the Bishop of Clogher, t’other from Walls. The gentleman is called Colonel Newburgh.20 I think you mentioned him to me some time ago; he has business in the House of Lords. I will do him what service I can. The Representation of the House of Commons is printed:21 I have not seen it yet; it is plaguy severe, they say. I dined with Dr. Arbuthnot, and had a true Lenten dinner, not in point of victuals, but spleen; for his wife and a child or two were sick in the house, and that was full as mortifying as fish. We have had fine mighty cold frosty weather for some days past. I hope you take the advantage of it, and walk now and then. You never answer that part of my letters where I desire you to walk. I must keep my breath to cool my Lenten porridge. Tell Jemmy Leigh that his boy that robbed him now appears about the town: Patrick has seen him once or twice. I knew nothing of his being robbed till Patrick told me he had seen the boy. I wish it had been Sterne that had been robbed, to be revenged for the box that he lost,22 and be p-xed to him. Nite, MD.

6. I hear Mr. Prior has suffered by Stratford’s breaking. I was yesterday to see Prior, who is not well, and I thought he looked melancholy. He can ill afford to lose money. I walked before dinner in the Mall a good while with Lord Arran and Lord Dupplin, two of my brothers, and then we went to dinner, where the Duke of Beaufort was our President. We were but eleven to-day. We are now in all nine lords and ten commoners. The Duke of Beaufort had the confidence to propose his brother-in-law, the Earl of Danby,23 to be a member; but I opposed it so warmly that it was waived. Danby is not above twenty, and we will have no more boys, and we want but two to make up our number. I stayed till eight, and then we all went away soberly. The Duke of Ormond’s treat last week cost 20 pounds, though it was only four dishes and four, without a dessert; and I bespoke it in order to be cheap. Yet I could not prevail to change the house. Lord Treasurer is in a rage with us for being so extravagant: and the wine was not reckoned neither; for that is always brought by him that is President. Lord Orrery24 is to be President next week; and I will see whether it cannot be cheaper; or else we will leave the house. . .25 Lord Masham made me go home with him to-night to eat boiled oysters. Take oysters, wash them clean; that is, wash their shells clean; then put your oysters into an earthen pot, with their hollow sides down, then put this pot into a great kettle with water, and so let them boil. Your oysters are boiled in their own liquor, and not mixed water. Lord Treasurer was not with us; he was very ill to-day with a swimming in the head, and is gone home to be cupped, and sent to desire Lady Masham to excuse him to the Queen. Nite, dee MD.

7. I was to-day at the House of Lords about a friend’s Bill. Then I crossed the water at Westminster Stairs to Southwark, went through St. George’s Fields to the Mint, which is the dominion of the King’s26 Bench Prison, where Stratford lodges in a blind alley, and writ to me to come to him; but he was gone to the ‘Change. I thought he had something to say to me about his own affairs. I found him at his usual coffee-house, and went to his own lodgings, and dined with him and his wife, and other company. His business was only to desire I would intercede with the Ministry about his brother-in-law, Ben Burton,27 of Dublin, the banker, who is likely to come into trouble, as we hear, about spreading false Whiggish news. I hate Burton, and told Stratford so; and I will advise the Duke of Ormond to make use of it, to keep the rogue in awe. Mrs. Stratford tells me her husband’s creditors have consented to give him liberty to get up his debts abroad; and she hopes he will pay them all. He was cheerfuller than I have seen him this great while. I have walked much today. — Night, deelest logues.

8. This day twelvemonth Mr. Harley was stabbed; but he is ill, and takes physic to-day, I hear (’tis now morning), and cannot have the Cabinet Council with him, as he intended, nor me to say grace. I am going to see him. Pray read the Representation; ’tis the finest that ever was writ. Some of it is Pdfr’s style, but not very much. This is the day of the Queen’s accession to the Crown; so it is a great day. I am going to Court, and will dine with Lord Masham; but I must go this moment to see the Secretary about some businesses; so I will seal up this, and put it in the post my own self. Farewell, deelest hearts and souls, MD. Farewell MD MD MD FW FW FW ME ME Lele Lele Lele Sollahs lele.

1 Endorsed by Stella “Recd. Mar. 19.”

2 “Would” (MS.).

3 Conversation.

4 John Guillim’s Display of Heraldrie appeared first in 1610. The edition to which Swift refers was probably that of 1679, which is wrongly described as the “fifth edition,” instead of the seventh.

5 “One of the horses here mentioned may have been the celebrated Godolphin Arabian from whom descends all the blue blood of the racecourse, and who was the grandfather of Eclipse” (Larwood’s Story of the London Parks, 99).

6 See Letter 36, note 6.

7 Dorothea, daughter of James Stopford, of New Hall, County Meath, and sister of Lady Newtown-Butler, was the second wife of Edward, fourth Earl of Meath, who died without issue in 1707. She afterwards married General Richard Gorges (see Journal, April 5, 1713), of Kilbrue, County Meath, and Swift wrote an epitaph on them —“Doll and Dickey.”

8 Here follow some obliterated words.

9 Barber (see Letter 12, note 6).

10 “The editors supposed Zinkerman (which they printed in capitals) to mean some outlandish or foreign distinction; but it is the little language for ‘gentleman’” (Forster).

11 The Hon. Charles Butler, second son of Thomas, Earl of Ossory, eldest son of James, Duke of Ormond, was elevated to the peerage of Ireland in 1693 as Earl of Arran, and was also created a peer of England, as Baron Butler. He held various offices under William III. and Queen Anne, and died without issue in 1759.

12 “They” (MS.).

13 See Letter 31, Jan. 12, 1711-12 and Letter 3, note 22.

14 See Letter 11, note 13.

15 Sir William Wyndham, Bart., of Orchard Wyndham, married Lady Catherine Seymour, daughter of the sixth Duke of Somerset (see Letter 25, note 1). Their eldest son, Charles, succeeded his uncle, the Duke of Somerset, as Earl of Egremont; and the second son, Percy, was afterwards created Earl of Thomond. The Wyndhams’ house was in Albemarle Street; the loss was over 20,000 pounds; but they were “much more concerned for their servants than for all the other losses” (Wentworth Papers, 274). The Duke of Ormond “worked as hard as any of the ordinary men, and gave many guineas about to encourage the men to work hard.” The Queen gave the Wyndhams temporary lodgings in “St. James’s house.”

16 See Letter 3, note 31.

17 What.

18 Devil’s.

19 “To” (MS.).

20 See Letter 35, note 25.

21 See Letter 41, note 34.

22 See Letter 12, Jan. 1, 1710-11.

23 Peregrine Hyde Osborne, Earl of Danby, afterwards Marquis of Caermarthen and third Duke of Leeds (see Letter 56, note 6). His sister Mary was married to the Duke of Beaufort (see Letter 39, note 7).

24 See Letter 9, note 17.

25 Several undecipherable words. Forster reads, “Pidy Pdfr, deelest Sollahs.”

26 “K” (MS.). It should, of course, be “Queen’s.”

27 See Letter 22, note 18.

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