The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 46.1

London, May 10, 1712.

I have not yet ease or humour enough to go on in my journal method, though I have left my chamber these ten days. My pain continues still in my shoulder and collar: I keep flannel on it, and rub it with brandy, and take a nasty diet drink. I still itch terribly, and have some few pimples; I am weak, and sweat; and then the flannel makes me mad with itching; but I think my pain lessens. A journal, while I was sick, would have been a noble thing, made up of pain and physic, visits, and messages; the two last were almost as troublesome as the two first. One good circumstance is that I am grown much leaner. I believe I told you that I have taken in my breeches two inches. I had your N.29 last night. In answer to your good opinion of my disease, the doctors said they never saw anything so odd of the kind; they were not properly shingles, but herpes miliaris, and twenty other hard names. I can never be sick like other people, but always something out of the common way; and as for your notion of its coming without pain, it neither came, nor stayed, nor went without pain, and the most pain I ever bore in my life. Medemeris2 is retired in the country, with the beast her husband, long ago. I thank the Bishop of Clogher for his proxy; I will write to him soon. Here is Dilly’s wife in town; but I have not seen her yet. No, sinkerton:3 ’tis not a sign of health, but a sign that, if it had not come out, some terrible fit of sickness would have followed. I was at our Society last Thursday, to receive a new member, the Chancellor of the Exchequer;4 but I drink nothing above wine and water. We shall have a peace, I hope, soon, or at least entirely broke; but I believe the first. My Letter to Lord Treasurer, about the English tongue,5 is now printing; and I suffer my name to be put at the end of it, which I never did before in my life. The Appendix to the Third Part of John Bull6 was published yesterday; it is equal to the rest. I hope you read John Bull. It was a Scotch gentleman,7 a friend of mine, that writ it; but they put it upon me. The Parliament will hardly be up till June. We were like to be undone some days ago with a tack; but we carried it bravely, and the Whigs came in to help us. Poor Lady Masham, I am afraid, will lose her only son, about a twelvemonth old, with the king’s evil. I never would let Mrs. Fenton see me during my illness, though she often came; but she has been once here since I recovered. Bernage has been twice to see me of late. His regiment will be broke, and he only upon half-pay; so perhaps he thinks he will want me again. I am told here the Bishop of Clogher and family are coming over, but he says nothing of it himself. I have been returning the visits of those that sent howdees8 in my sickness; particularly the Duchess of Hamilton, who came and sat with me two hours. I make bargains with all people that I dine with, to let me scrub my back against a chair; and the Duchess of Ormond9 was forced to bear it the other day. Many of my friends are gone to Kensington, where the Queen has been removed for some time. This is a long letter for a kick10 body. I will begin the next in the journal way, though my journals will be sorry ones. My left hand is very weak, and trembles; but my right side has not been touched.

This is a pitiful letter
For want of a better;
But plagued with a tetter,
My fancy does fetter.

Ah! my poor willows and quicksets! Well, but you must read John Bull. Do you understand it all? Did I tell you that young Parson Gery11 is going to be married, and asked my advice when it was too late to break off? He tells me Elwick has purchased forty pounds a year in land adjoining to his living. Ppt does not say one word of her own little health. I am angry almost; but I won’t, ‘cause see im a dood dallar in odle sings;12 iss, and so im DD too. God bless MD, and FW, and ME, ay and Pdfr too. Farewell, MD, MD, MD, FW, FW, FW. ME, ME Lele. I can say lele it, ung oomens, iss I tan, well as oo.

1 Addressed to “Mrs. Dingley,” etc. Endorsed “May 15.”

2 Madam Ayris.

3 Simpleton.

4 Robert Benson (see Letter 6, note 36).

5 See Letter 41, note 35 and Letter 43, note 7.

6 The title was, An Appendix to John Bull still in his Senses: or, Law is a Bottomless Pit.

7 Arbuthnot.

8 Enquiries by servants.

9 See Letter 17, note 5.

10 Sick.

11 Afterwards Rector of Letcombe, Berks. It was to his house that Swift repaired a few weeks before the Queen’s death. On June 8, 1714, he wrote, “I am at a clergyman’s house, whom I love very well, but he is such a melancholy, thoughtful man, partly from nature, and partly by a solitary life, that I shall soon catch the spleen from him. His wife has been this month twenty miles off at her father’s, and will not return these ten days, and perhaps the house will be worse when she comes.” Swift spells the name “Geree”; later on in the Journal he mentions two of Mr. Gery’s sisters, Betty (Mrs. Elwick) and Moll (Mrs. Wigmore); probably he made the acquaintance of the family when he was living with the Temples at Moor Park (see Letter 59, note 11).

12 Because she is a good girl in other things.

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