The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 52.1

Windsor, Sept. 15, 1712.

I never was so long without writing to MD as now, since I left them, nor ever will again while I am able to write. I have expected from one week to another that something would be done in my own affairs; but nothing at all is, nor I don’t know when anything will, or whether ever at all, so slow are people at doing favours. I have been much out of order of late with the old giddiness in my head. I took a vomit for it two days ago, and will take another about a day or two hence. I have eat mighty little fruit; yet I impute my disorder to that little, and shall henceforth wholly forbear it. I am engaged in a long work, and have done all I can of it, and wait for some papers from the Ministry for materials for the rest; and they delay me, as if it were a favour I asked of them; so that I have been idle here this good while, and it happened in a right time, when I was too much out of order to study. One is kept constantly out of humour by a thousand unaccountable things in public proceedings; and when I reason with some friends, we cannot conceive how affairs can last as they are. God only knows, but it is a very melancholy subject for those who have any near concern in it. I am again endeavouring, as I was last year, to keep people2 from breaking to pieces upon a hundred misunderstandings. One cannot withhold them from drawing different ways, while the enemy is watching to destroy both. See how my style is altered, by living and thinking and talking among these people, instead of my canal and river-walk and willows. I lose all my money here among the ladies;3 so that I never play when I can help it, being sure to lose. I have lost five pounds the five weeks I have been here. I hope Ppt is luckier at picquet with the Dean and Mrs. Walls. The Dean never answered my letter, though. I have clearly forgot whether I sent a bill for ME in any of my last letters. I think I did; pray let me know, and always give me timely notice. I wait here but to see what they will do for me; and whenever preferments are given from me, as hope saved, I will come over.

18. I have taken a vomit to-day, and hope I shall be better. I have been very giddy since I writ what is before, yet not as I used to be: more frequent, but not so violent. Yesterday we were alarmed with the Queen’s being ill: she had an aguish and feverish fit; and you never saw such countenances as we all had, such dismal melancholy. Her physicians from town were sent for, but towards night she grew better; to-day she missed her fit, and was up: we are not now in any fear; it will be at worst but an ague, and we hope even that will not return. Lord Treasurer would not come here from London, because it would make a noise if he came before his usual time, which is Saturday, and he goes away on Mondays. The Whigs have lost a great support in the Earl of Godolphin.4 It is a good jest to hear the Ministers talk of him now with humanity and pity, because he is dead, and can do them no more hurt. Lady Orkney,5 the late King’s mistress (who lives at a fine place, five miles from hence, called Cliffden6), and I, are grown mighty acquaintance. She is the wisest woman I ever saw; and Lord Treasurer made great use of her advice in the late change of affairs. I heard Lord Marlborough is growing ill of his diabetes; which, if it be true, may soon carry him off; and then the Ministry will be something more at ease. MD has been a long time without writing to Pdfr, though they have not the same cause: it is seven weeks since your last came to my hands, which was N.32, that you may not be mistaken. I hope Ppt has not wanted her health. You were then drinking waters. The doctor tells me I must go into a course of steel, though I have not the spleen; for that they can never give me, though I have as much provocation to it as any man alive. Bernage’s7 regiment is broke; but he is upon half-pay. I have not seen him this long time; but I suppose he is overrun with melancholy. My Lord Shrewsbury is certainly designed to be Governor of Ireland; and I believe the Duchess will please the people there mightily. The Irish Whig leaders promise great things to themselves from his government; but care shall be taken, if possible, to prevent them. Mrs. Fenton8 has writ to me that she has been forced to leave Lady Giffard, and come to town, for a rheumatism: that lady does not love to be troubled with sick people. Mrs. Fenton writes to me as one dying, and desires I would think of her son: I have not answered her letter. She is retired9 to Mrs. Povey’s. Is my aunt alive yet? and do you ever see her? I suppose she has forgot the loss of her son. Is Raymond’s new house quite finished? and does he squander as he used to do? Has he yet spent all his wife’s fortune? I hear there are five or six people putting strongly in for my livings; God help them! But if ever the Court should give me anything, I would recommend Raymond to the Duke of Ormond; not for any particular friendship to him, but because it would be proper for the minister of Trim to have Laracor. You may keep the gold-studded snuff-box now; for my brother Hill, Governor of Dunkirk, has sent me the finest that ever you saw.10 It is allowed at Court that none in England comes near it, though it did not cost above twenty pounds. And the Duchess of Hamilton has made me pockets for [it] like a woman’s, with a belt and buckle (for, you know, I wear no waistcoat in summer), and there are several divisions, and one on purpose for my box, oh ho! — We have had most delightful weather this whole week; but illness and vomiting have hindered me from sharing in a great part of it. Lady Masham made the Queen send to Kensington for some of her preserved ginger for me, which I take in the morning, and hope it will do me good. Mrs. Brent11 sent me a letter by a young fellow, a printer, desiring I would recommend him here, which you may tell her I have done: but I cannot promise what will come of it, for it is necessary they should be made free here12 before they can be employed. I remember I put the boy prentice to Brent. I hope Parvisol has set my tithes well this year: he has writ nothing to me about it; pray talk to him of it when you see him, and let him give me an account how things are. I suppose the corn is now off the ground. I hope he has sold that great ugly horse. Why don’t you sell to him? He keeps me at charges for horses that I never ride: yours is lame, and will never be good for anything. The Queen will stay here about a month longer, I suppose; but Lady Masham will go in ten days to lie in at Kensington. Poor creature, she fell down in the court here t’other day. She would needs walk across it upon some displeasure with her chairmen, and was likely to be spoiled so near her time; but we hope all is over for a black eye and a sore side: though I shall not be at ease till she is brought to bed. I find I can fill up a letter, some way or other, without a journal. If I had not a spirit naturally cheerful, I should be very much discontented at a thousand things. Pray God preserve MD’s health, and Pdfr’s, and that I may live far from the envy and discontent that attends those who are thought to have more favour at Courts than they really possess. Love Pdfr, who loves MD above all things. Farewell, deelest, ten thousand times deelest, MD MD MD, FW FW, ME ME ME ME. Lele, Lele, Lele, Lele.

1 Addressed to “Mrs. Dingley,” etc. Endorsed “Oct. 1st. At Portraune” [Portraine].

2 Oxford and Bolingbroke.

3 Including Hester Vanhomrigh.

4 He died on Sept. 15, 1712.

5 Elizabeth Villiers, eldest daughter of Sir Edward Villiers, Knight Marischal of England, and sister of the first Earl of Jersey. In 1695 she married Lord George Hamilton (son of Lord William Douglas, afterwards Duke of Hamilton), who was raised to the peerage of Scotland in 1696 as Earl of Orkney. William III. gave her an Irish estate worth 26,000 pounds a year. Swift’s opinion of her wisdom is confirmed by Lord Lansdowne, who speaks, in his Progress of Poetry, of

“Villiers, for wisdom and deep judgment famed,
Of a high race, victorious beauty brings
To grace our Courts, and captivate our Kings.”

The “beauty” seems a poetic licence; Swift says the lady squinted “like a dragon.”

6 Cliefden.

7 See Letter 12, note 7.

8 Swift’s sister (see Letter 9, note 22).

9 Forster reads “returned.”

10 See Swift’s letter to General Hill of Aug. 12, 1712

11 Swift’s housekeeper at Laracor.

12 I.e., be made freemen of the City.

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