The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 9.

London, Nov. 11, 1710.

I dined to-day, by invitation, with the Secretary of State, Mr. St. John. Mr. Harley came in to us before dinner, and made me his excuses for not dining with us, because he was to receive people who came to propose advancing money to the Government: there dined with us only Mr. Lewis, and Dr. Freind1 (that writ “Lord Peterborow’s Actions in Spain”). I stayed with them till just now between ten and eleven, and was forced again to give my eighth to the bellman, which I did with my own hands, rather than keep it till next post. The Secretary used me with all the kindness in the world. Prior came in after dinner; and, upon an occasion, he (the Secretary) said, “The best thing I ever read is not yours, but Dr. Swift’s on Vanbrugh”; which I do not reckon so very good neither.2 But Prior was damped, until I stuffed him with two or three compliments. I am thinking what a veneration we used to have for Sir William Temple, because he might have been Secretary of State at fifty; and here is a young fellow, hardly thirty, in that employment.3 His father is a man of pleasure,4 that walks the Mall, and frequents St. James’s Coffee-house, and the chocolate-houses; and the young son is principal Secretary of State. Is there not something very odd in that? He told me, among other things, that Mr. Harley complained he could keep nothing from me, I had the way so much of getting into him. I knew that was a refinement; and so I told him, and it was so: indeed, it is hard to see these great men use me like one who was their betters, and the puppies with you in Ireland hardly regarding me: but there are some reasons for all this, which I will tell you when we meet. At coming home, I saw a letter from your mother, in answer to one I sent her two days ago. It seems she is in town; but cannot come out in a morning, just as you said; and God knows when I shall be at leisure in an afternoon: for if I should send her a penny-post letter, and afterwards not be able to meet her, it would vex me; and, besides, the days are short, and why she cannot come early in a morning, before she is wanted, I cannot imagine. I will desire her to let Lady Giffard know that she hears I am in town; and that she would go to see me, to inquire after you. I wonder she will confine herself so much to that old beast’s humour. You know I cannot in honour see Lady Giffard, and consequently not go into her house. This I think is enough for the first time.

12. And how could you write with such thin paper? (I forgot to say this in my former.) Cannot you get thicker? Why, that’s a common caution that writing-masters give their scholars; you must have heard it a hundred times. ’Tis this:

“If paper be thin,
Ink will slip in;
But, if it be thick,
You may write with a stick.”5

I had a letter to-day from poor Mrs. Long,6 giving me an account of her present life, obscure in a remote country town, and how easy she is under it. Poor creature! ’tis just such an alteration in life, as if Presto should be banished from MD, and condemned to converse with Mrs. Raymond. I dined to-day with Ford, Sir Richard Levinge,7 etc., at a place where they board, hard by. I was lazy, and not very well, sitting so long with company yesterday. I have been very busy writing this evening at home, and had a fire: I am spending my second half-bushel of coals; and now am in bed, and ’tis late.

13. I dined to-day in the City, and then went to christen Will Frankland’s8 child; and Lady Falconbridge9 was one of the godmothers: this is a daughter of Oliver Cromwell, and extremely like him by his pictures that I have seen. I stayed till almost eleven, and am now come home and gone to bed. My business in the City was, to thank Stratford for a kindness he has done me, which now I will tell you. I found Bank Stock was fallen thirty-four in the hundred, and was mighty desirous to buy it; but I was a little too late for the cheapest time, being hindered by business here; for I was so wise to guess to a day when it would fall. My project was this: I had three hundred pounds in Ireland; and so I writ to Mr. Stratford in the City, to desire he would buy me three hundred pounds in Bank Stock, and that he should keep the papers, and that I would be bound to pay him for them; and, if it should rise or fall, I would take my chance, and pay him interest in the meantime. I showed my letter to one or two people who understand those things; and they said money was so hard to be got here, that no man would do it for me. However, Stratford, who is the most generous man alive, has done it: but it costs one hundred pounds and a half, that is, ten shillings; so that three hundred pounds cost me three hundred pounds and thirty shillings. This was done about a week ago, and I can have five pounds for my bargain already. Before it fell, it was one hundred and thirty pounds; and we are sure it will be the same again. I told you I writ to your mother, to desire that Lady Giffard would do the same with what she owes you; but she tells your mother she has no money. I would to God all you had in the world was there. Whenever you lend money, take this rule, to have two people bound, who have both visible fortunes; for they will hardly die together; and, when one dies, you fall upon the other, and make him add another security: and if Rathburn (now I have his name) pays you in your money, let me know, and I will direct Parvisol accordingly: however, he shall wait on you and know. So, ladies, enough of business for one night. Paaaaast twelvvve o’clock. I must only add, that, after a long fit of rainy weather, it has been fair two or three days, and is this day grown cold and frosty; so that you must give poor little Presto leave to have a fire in his chamber morning and evening too; and he will do as much for you.

14. What, has your Chancellor10 lost his senses, like Will Crowe?11 I forgot to tell Dingley that I was yesterday at Ludgate, bespeaking the spectacles at the great shop there, and shall have them in a day or two. This has been an insipid day. I dined with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, and came gravely home, after just visiting the Coffee-house. Sir Richard Cox,12 they say, is sure of going over Lord Chancellor, who is as arrant a puppy as ever ate bread: but the Duke of Ormond has a natural affection to puppies; which is a thousand pities, being none himself. I have been amusing myself at home till now, and in bed bid you good-night.

15. I have been visiting this morning, but nobody was at home, Secretary St. John, Sir Thomas Hanmer,13 Sir Chancellor Cox-comb, etc. I attended the Duke of Ormond with about fifty other Irish gentlemen at Skinners’ Hall, where the Londonderry Society laid out three hundred pounds to treat us and his Grace with a dinner. Three great tables with the dessert laid in mighty figure. Sir Richard Levinge and I got discreetly to the head of the second table, to avoid the crowd at the first: but it was so cold, and so confounded a noise with the trumpets and hautboys, that I grew weary, and stole away before the second course came on; so I can give you no account of it, which is a thousand pities. I called at Ludgate for Dingley’s glasses, and shall have them in a day or two; and I doubt it will cost me thirty shillings for a microscope, but not without Stella’s permission; for I remember she is a virtuoso. Shall I buy it or no? ’Tis not the great bulky ones, nor the common little ones, to impale a louse (saving your presence) upon a needle’s point; but of a more exact sort, and clearer to the sight, with all its equipage in a little trunk that you may carry in your pocket. Tell me, sirrah, shall I buy it or not for you? I came home straight, etc.

16. I dined to-day in the city with Mr. Manley,14 who invited Mr. Addison and me, and some other friends, to his lodging, and entertained us very handsomely. I returned with Mr. Addison, and loitered till nine in the Coffee-house, where I am hardly known, by going so seldom. I am here soliciting for Trounce; you know him: he was gunner in the former yacht, and would fain be so in the present one if you remember him, a good, lusty, fresh-coloured fellow. Shall I stay till I get another letter from MD before I close up this? Mr. Addison and I meet a little seldomer than formerly, although we are still at bottom as good friends as ever, but differ a little about party.

17. To-day I went to Lewis at the Secretary’s office; where I saw and spoke to Mr. Harley, who promised, in a few days, to finish the rest of my business. I reproached him for putting me on the necessity of minding him of it, and rallied him, etc., which he took very well. I dined to-day with one Mr. Gore, elder brother to a young merchant of my acquaintance; and Stratford and my other friend merchants dined with us, where I stayed late, drinking claret and burgundy; and am just got to bed, and will say no more, but that it now begins to be time to have a letter from my own little MD; for the last I had above a fortnight ago, and the date was old too.

18. To-day I dined with Lewis and Prior at an eating-house, but with Lewis’s wine. Lewis went away, and Prior and I sat on, where we complimented one another for an hour or two upon our mutual wit and poetry. Coming home at seven, a gentleman unknown stopped me in the Pall Mall, and asked my advice; said he had been to see the Queen (who was just come to town, and the people in waiting would not let him see her; that he had two hundred thousand men ready to serve her in the war; that he knew the Queen perfectly well, and had an apartment at Court, and if she heard he was there, she would send for him immediately; that she owed him two hundred thousand pounds, etc., and he desired my opinion, whether he should go try again whether he could see her; or because, perhaps, she was weary after her journey, whether he had not better stay till to-morrow. I had a mind to get rid of my companion, and begged him of all love to go and wait on her immediately; for that, to my knowledge, the Queen would admit him; that this was an affair of great importance, and required despatch: and I instructed him to let me know the success of his business, and come to the Smyrna Coffee-house, where I would wait for him till midnight; and so ended this adventure. I would have fain given the man half a crown; but was afraid to offer it him, lest he should be offended; for, beside his money, he said he had a thousand pounds a year. I came home not early; and so, madams both, goodnight, etc.

19. I dined to-day with poor Lord Mountjoy, who is ill of the gout; and this evening I christened our coffee-man Elliot’s15 child, where the rogue had a most noble supper, and Steele and I sat among some scurvy company over a bowl of punch; so that I am come home late, young women, and can’t stay to write to little rogues.

20. I loitered at home, and dined with Sir Andrew Fountaine at his lodging, and then came home: a silly day.

21. I was visiting all this morning, and then went to the Secretary’s office, and found Mr. Harley, with whom I dined; and Secretary St. John, etc., and Harley promised in a very few days to finish what remains of my business. Prior was of the company, and we all dine at the Secretary’s to-morrow. I saw Stella’s mother this morning: she came early, and we talked an hour. I wish you would propose to Lady Giffard to take the three hundred pounds out of her hands, and give her common interest for life, and security that you will pay her: the Bishop of Clogher, or any friend, would be security for you, if you gave them counter-security; and it may be argued that it will pass better to be in your hands than hers, in case of mortality, etc. Your mother says, if you write, she will second it; and you may write to your mother, and then it will come from her. She tells me Lady Giffard has a mind to see me, by her discourse; but I told her what to say, with a vengeance. She told Lady Giffard she was going to see me: she looks extremely well. I am writing16 in my bed like a tiger; and so good-night, etc.

22. I dined with Secretary St. John; and Lord Dartmouth, who is t’other Secretary, dined with us, and Lord Orrery17 and Prior, etc. Harley called, but could not dine with us, and would have had me away while I was at dinner; but I did not like the company he was to have. We stayed till eight, and I called at the Coffee-house, and looked where the letters lie; but no letter directed for Mr. Presto: at last I saw a letter to Mr. Addison, and it looked like a rogue’s hand; so I made the fellow give it me, and opened it before him, and saw three letters all for myself: so, truly, I put them in my pocket, and came home to my lodging. Well, and so you shall hear: well, and so I found one of them in Dingley’s hand, and t’other in Stella’s, and the third in Domville’s.18 Well, so you shall hear; so, said I to myself, What now, two letters from MD together? But I thought there was something in the wind; so I opened one, and I opened t’other; and so you shall hear, one was from Walls. Well, but t’other was from our own dear MD; yes it was. O faith, have you received my seventh, young women, already? Then I must send this to-morrow, else there will be old19 doings at our house, faith. — Well, I won’t answer your letter in this: no, faith, catch me at that, and I never saw the like. Well; but as to Walls, tell him (with service to him and wife, etc.) that I have no imagination of Mr. Pratt’s20 losing his place: and while Pratt continues, Clements is in no danger; and I have already engaged Lord Hyde21 he speaks of, for Pratt and twenty others; but, if such a thing should happen, I will do what I can. I have above ten businesses of other people’s now on my hands, and, I believe, shall miscarry in half. It is your sixth I now have received. I writ last post to the Bishop of Clogher again. Shall I send this to-morrow? Well, I will, to oblige MD. Which would you rather, a short letter every week, or a long one every fortnight? A long one; well, it shall be done, and so good-night. Well, but is this a long one? No, I warrant you: too long for naughty girls.

23. I only ask, have you got both the ten pounds, or only the first; I hope you mean both. Pray be good housewives; and I beg you to walk when you can, for health. Have you the horse in town? and do you ever ride him? how often? Confess. Ahhh, sirrah, have I caught you? Can you contrive to let Mrs. Fenton22 know, that the request she has made me in her letter I will use what credit I have to bring about, although I hear it is very difficult, and I doubt I shall not succeed? Cox is not to be your Chancellor: all joined against him. I have been supping with Lord Peterborow at his house, with Prior, Lewis, and Dr. Freind. ’Tis the ramblingest lying rogue on earth. Dr. Raymond is come to town: ’tis late, and so I bid you good-night.

24. I tell you, pretty management! Ned Southwell told me the other day he had a letter from the bishops of Ireland, with an address to the Duke of Ormond, to intercede with the Queen to take off the First-Fruits. I dined with him to-day, and saw it, with another letter to him from the Bishop of Kildare,23 to call upon me for the papers, etc.; and I had last post one from the Archbishop of Dublin, telling me the reason of this proceeding; that, upon hearing the Duke of Ormond was declared Lord Lieutenant, they met; and the bishops were for this project, and talked coldly of my being solicitor, as one that was favoured by t’other party, etc., but desired that I would still solicit.24 Now the wisdom of this is admirable; for I had given the Archbishop an account of my reception from Mr. Harley, and how he had spoken to the Queen, and promised it should be done; but Mr. Harley ordered me to tell no person alive. Some time after, he gave me leave to let the Primate and Archbishop know that the Queen had remitted the First-Fruits; and that in a short time they should have an account of it in form from Lord Dartmouth, Secretary of State. So while their letter was on the road to the Duke of Ormond and Southwell, mine was going to them with an account of the thing being done. I writ a very warm answer25 to the Archbishop immediately; and showed my resentments, as I ought, against the bishops; only, in good manners, excepting himself. I wonder what they will say when they hear the thing is done. I was yesterday forced to tell Southwell so, that the Queen had done it, etc.; for he said, my Lord Duke would think of it some months hence, when he was going for Ireland; and he had it three years in doing formerly, without any success. I give you free leave to say, on occasion, that it is done; and that Mr. Harley prevailed on the Queen to do it, etc., as you please. As I hope to live, I despise the credit of it, out of an excess of pride; and desire you will not give me the least merit when you talk of it; but I would vex the bishops, and have it spread that Mr. Harley had done it: pray do so. Your mother sent me last night a parcel of wax candles, and a bandbox full of small plumcakes. I thought it had been something for you; and, without opening them, sent answer by the maid that brought them, that I would take care to send the things, etc.; but I will write her thanks. Is this a long letter, sirrahs? Now, are you satisfied? I have had no fit since the first: I drink brandy every morning, and take pills every night. Never fear, I an’t vexed at this puppy business of the bishops, although I was a little at first. I will tell you my reward: Mr. Harley will think he has done me a favour; the Duke of Ormond, perhaps, that I have put a neglect on him; and the bishops in Ireland, that I have done nothing at all. So goes the world. But I have got above all this, and, perhaps, I have better reason for it than they know: and so you shall hear no more of First-Fruits, dukes, Harleys, archbishops, and Southwells.

I have slipped off Raymond upon some of his countrymen, to show him the town, etc., and I lend him Patrick. He desires to sit with me in the evenings; upon which I have given Patrick positive orders that I am not within at evenings.

1 John Freind, M.D. (1675-1728), was a younger brother of the Robert Freind, of Westminster School, mentioned elsewhere in the Journal. Educated under Dr. Busby at Westminster, he was in 1694 elected a student of Christ Church, where he made the acquaintance of Atterbury, and supported Boyle against Bentley in the dispute as to the authorship of the letters of Phalaris. In 1705 he attended the Earl of Peterborough to Spain, and in the following year wrote a defence of that commander (Account of the Earl of Peterborough’s Conduct in Spain). A steady Tory, he took a share in the defence of Dr. Sacheverell; and in 1723, when M.P. for Launceston, he fell under the suspicion of the Government, and was sent to the Tower. On the accession of George II., however, he came into favour with the Court, and died Physician to the Queen.

2 See Letter 8, note 19.

3 St. John was thirty-two in October 1710. He had been Secretary at War six years before, resigning with Harley in 1707. Swift repeats this comparison elsewhere. Temple was forty-six when he refused a Secretaryship of State in 1674.

4 Sir Henry St. John seems to have continued a gay man to the end of his life. In his youth he was tried and convicted for the murder of Sir William Estcourt in a duel (Scott). In 1716, after his son had been attainted, he was made Viscount St. John. He died in 1742, aged ninety.

5 “Swift delighted to let his pen run into such rhymes as these, which he generally passes off as old proverbs” (Scott). Many of the charming scraps of “Old Ballads” and “Old Plays” at the head of Scott’s own chapters are in reality the result of his own imagination.

6 See Letter 3, note 18.

7 Sir Richard Levinge, Bart., had been Solicitor-General for Ireland from 1704 to 1709, and was Attorney-General from 1711 to 1714. Afterwards he was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland.

8 See Letter 2, note 18.

9 Thomas Belasyse, second Viscount Fauconberg, or Falconbridge (died 1700), a nobleman of hereditary loyalty, married, in 1657, the Protector’s youngest daughter, Mary Cromwell, who is represented as a lady of high talent and spirit. She died on March 14, 1712. Burnet describes her as “a wise and worthy woman,” who would have had a better prospect of maintaining her father’s post than either of her brothers.

10 Richard Freeman, Chief Baron, was Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1707 until his death in November 1710.

11 See Letter 7, note 17.

12 Sir Richard Cox, Bart. (1650-1733), was Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1703 to 1707. In 1711 he was appointed Chief-Justice of the Queen’s Bench, but he was removed from office on the death of Queen Anne. His zealous Protestantism sometimes caused his views to be warped, but he was honest and well-principled.

13 Sir Thomas Hanmer, Bart. (1676-1746), succeeded Bromley as Speaker in 1714. In February 1713 Swift said, “He is the most considerable man in the House of Commons.” His edition of Shakespeare was published by the University of Oxford in 1743-44. Pope called it “pompous,” and sneered at Hanmer’s “superior air” (Dunciad, iv. 105).

14 See Letter 5, note 8.

15 Elliot was keeper of the St. James’s Coffee-house (see Letter 1).

16 Forster suggested that the true reading is “writhing.” If so, it is not necessary to suppose that Lady Giffard was the cause of it. Perhaps it is the word “tiger” that is corrupt.

17 The Hon. Charles Boyle (1676-1731), of the Boyle and Bentley controversy, succeeded to the peerage as Lord Orrery in 1703. When he settled in London he became the centre of a Christ Church set, a strong adherent of Harley’s party, and a member of Swift’s “club.” His son John, fifth Earl of Orrery, published Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift in 1751.

18 William Domville, a landed proprietor in County Dublin, whom Swift called “perfectly as fine a gentleman as I know.”

19 On May 16, 1711, Swift wrote, “There will be an old to do.” The word is found in Elizabethan writers in the sense of “more than enough.” Cf. Macbeth, ii. 3: “If a man were porter of hell gate, he should have old turning the key.”

20 See Letter 3, note 10. Clements was related to Pratt, the Deputy Vice-Treasurer, and was probably the Robert Clements who became Deputy Vice-Treasurer, and whose grandson Robert was created Earl of Leitrim in 1795.

21 Letter 5, note 11.

22 Swift’s sister Jane, who had married a currier in Bride Street, named Joseph Fenton, a match to which Swift strongly objected. Deane Swift says that Swift never saw his sister again after the marriage; he had offered her 500 pounds if she would show a “proper disdain” of Fenton. On her husband’s dying bankrupt, however, Swift paid her an annuity until 1738, when she died in the same lodging with Esther Johnson’s mother, Mrs. Bridget Mose, at Farnham (Forster’s Swift, pp. 118-19).

23 Welbore Ellis, appointed Bishop of Kildare in 1705. He was translated to Meath in 1731, and died three years later.

24 The expression of the Archbishop is, “I am not to conceal from you that some expressed a little jealously, that you would not be acceptable to the present courtiers; intimating that you were under the reputation of being a favourite of the late party in power” (King to Swift, Nov. 2, 1710).

25 This indignant letter is dated Nov. 23, 1710. It produced an apologetic reply from the Archbishop (Nov. 30, 1710), who represented that the letter to Southwell was a snare laid in his way, since if he declined signing it, it might have been interpreted into disrespect to the Duke of Ormond. Of the bishops King said, “You cannot do yourself a greater service than to bring this to a good issue, to their shame and conviction.”

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