The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 54.1

London, Oct. 28, 1712.

I have been in physic this month, and have been better these three weeks. I stop my physic, by the doctor’s orders, till he sends me further directions. DD grows politician, and longs to hear the peace is proclaimed. I hope we shall have it soon, for the Dutch are fully humbled; and Prior is just come over from France for a few days; I suppose upon some important affair. I saw him last night, but had no private talk with him. Stocks rise upon his coming. As for my stay in England, it cannot be long now, so tell my friends. The Parliament will not meet till after Christmas, and by that time the work I am doing will be over, and then nothing shall keep me. I am very much discontented at Parvisol, about neglecting to sell my horses, etc.

Lady Masham is not yet brought to bed; but we expect it daily. I dined with her to-day. Lord Bolingbroke returned about two months ago, and Prior about a week; and goes back (Prior I mean) in a few days. Who told you of my snuff-box and pocket? Did I? I had a letter to-day from Dr. Coghill,2 desiring me to get Raphoe for Dean Sterne, and the deanery for myself. I shall indeed, I have such obligations to Sterne. But however, if I am asked who will make a good bishop, I shall name him before anybody. Then comes another letter, desiring I would recommend a Provost,3 supposing that Pratt (who has been here about a week) will certainly be promoted; but I believe he will not. I presented Pratt to Lord Treasurer, and truly young Molyneux4 would have had me present him too; but I directly answered him I would not, unless he had business with him. He is the son of one Mr. Molyneux of Ireland. His father wrote a book;5 I suppose you know it. Here is the Duke of Marlborough going out of England (Lord knows why), which causes many speculations. Some say he is conscious of guilt, and dare not stand it. Others think he has a mind to fling an odium on the Government, as who should say that one who has done such great services to his country cannot live quietly in it, by reason of the malice of his enemies. I have helped to patch up these people6 together once more. God knows how long it may last. I was to-day at a trial between Lord Lansdowne and Lord Carteret, two friends of mine. It was in the Queen’s Bench, for about six thousand a year (or nine, I think). I sat under Lord Chief-Justice Parker, and his pen falling down I reached it up. He made me a low bow; and I was going to whisper him that I HAD DONE GOOD FOR EVIL; FOR HE WOULD HAVE TAKEN MINE FROM ME.7 I told it Lord Treasurer and Bolingbroke. Parker would not have known me, if several lords on the bench, and in the court, bowing, had not turned everybody’s eyes, and set them a whispering. I owe the dog a spite, and will pay him in two months at furthest, if I can. So much for that. But you must have chat, and I must say every sorry thing that comes into my head. They say the Queen will stay a month longer at Windsor. These devils of Grub Street rogues, that write the Flying Post and Medley in one paper,8 will not be quiet. They are always mauling Lord Treasurer, Lord Bolingbroke, and me. We have the dog under prosecution, but Bolingbroke is not active enough; but I hope to swinge him. He is a Scotch rogue, one Ridpath.9 They get out upon bail, and write on. We take them again, and get fresh bail; so it goes round. They say some learned Dutchman has wrote a book, proving by civil law that we do them wrong by this peace; but I shall show by plain reason that we have suffered the wrong, and not they. I toil like a horse, and have hundreds of letters still to read and squeeze a line out of each, or at least the seeds of a line. Strafford goes back to Holland in a day or two, and I hope our peace is very near. I have about thirty pages more to write (that is, to be extracted), which will be sixty in print. It is the most troublesome part of all, and I cannot keep myself private, though I stole into a room up two pair of stairs, when I came from Windsor; but my present man has not yet learned his lesson of denying me discreetly.

30. The Duchess of Ormond found me out to-day, and made me dine with her. Lady Masham is still expecting. She has had a cruel cold. I could not finish my letter last post for the soul of me. Lord Bolingbroke has had my papers these six weeks, and done nothing to them. Is Tisdall yet in the world? I propose writing controversies, to get a name with posterity. The Duke of Ormond will not be over these three or four days. I desire to make him join with me in settling all right among our people. I have ordered the Duchess to let me have an hour with the Duke at his first coming, to give him a true state of persons and things. I believe the Duke of Shrewsbury will hardly be declared your Governor yet; at least, I think so now; but resolutions alter very often. The Duke of Hamilton gave me a pound of snuff to-day, admirable good. I wish DD had it, and Ppt too, if she likes it. It cost me a quarter of an hour of his politics, which I was forced to hear. Lady Orkney10 is making me a writing-table of her own contrivance, and a bed nightgown. She is perfectly kind, like a mother. I think the devil was in it the other day, that I should talk to her of an ugly squinting cousin of hers, and the poor lady herself, you know, squints like a dragon. The other day we had a long discourse with her about love; and she told us a saying of her sister Fitz-Hardinge,11 which I thought excellent, that in men, desire begets love, and in women, love begets desire. We have abundance of our old criers12 still hereabouts. I hear every morning your women with the old satin and taffeta, etc., the fellow with old coats, suits or cloaks. Our weather is abominable of late. We have not two tolerable days in twenty. I have lost money again at ombre, with Lord Orkney and others; yet, after all, this year I have lost but three-and-twenty shillings; so that, considering card money, I am no loser.

Our Society hath not yet renewed their meetings. I hope we shall continue to do some good this winter; and Lord Treasurer promises the Academy for reforming our language shall soon go forward. I must now go hunt those dry letter for materials. You will see something very notable, I hope. So much for that. God Almighty bless you.

1 The MS. of this letter has not been preserved.

2 See Letter 26, note 2.

3 Swift’s friend, Dr. Pratt (see Letter 2, note 14), was then Provost of Trinity College, Dublin.

4 Samuel Molyneux, then aged twenty-three, was the son of William Molyneux (1656-1698), M.P. for Dublin University, a writer on philosophical and scientific subjects, and the friend of Locke. Samuel Molyneux took his M.A. degree in Dublin in 1710, and in 1712 visited England. He was befriended by the Duke of Marlborough at Antwerp, and in 1714 was sent by the Duke on a mission to the Court of Hanover. He held office under George I., but devoted most of his attention to astronomical research, until his death in 1728.

5 Probably “The Case of Ireland’s being bound by Acts of Parliament in England stated” (1698).

6 Oxford and Bolingbroke.

7 See Letter 36, note 18.

8 See Letter 51, Aug. 7, 1712.

9 George Ridpath (died 1726), a Whig journalist, of whom Pope (Dunciad, i. 208) wrote —

“To Dulness Ridpath is as dear as Mist.”

He edited the Flying Post for some years, and also wrote for the Medley in 1712. In September William Hurt and Ridpath were arrested for libellous and seditious articles, but were released on bail. On October 23 they appeared before the Court of Queen’s Bench, and were continued on their recognizances. In February 1713 Ridpath was tried and, in spite of an able defence by leading Whig lawyers, was convicted. Sentence was postponed, and when Ridpath failed to appear, as ordered, in April, his recognizances were escheated, and a reward offered for his discovery; but he had fled to Scotland, and from thence to Holland.

10 See Letter 52, note 5.

11 Lady Orkney’s sister, Barbara Villiers, who married John Berkeley, fourth Viscount Fitz-Hardinge, had been governess to the Duke of Gloucester, Queen Anne’s son. She died in 1708, in her fifty-second year; and on her husband’s death four years later the peerage became extinct.

12 For the street criers, see the Spectator, No. 251.

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