Page images

Letter to Mrs. Fermor.


state that I have always endeavoured to make a judicious choice, and my allusion to the difficulty in question is merely by way of warning.


You are by this time satisfied how much the tenderness of one man of merit is to be preferred to the addresses of a thousand. And by this time the gentleman you have made choice of is sensible how great is the joy of having all those charms and good qualities which have pleased so many, now applied to please one only. It was but just that the same virtues which gave you reputation should give you happiness; and I can wish you no greater than that you may receive it in as high a degree yourself, as so much good-humour must infallibly give it to your husband.

It may be expected, perhaps, that one who has the title of a poet should say something more polite on this occasion; but I am really more a well-wisher to your felicity than a celebrator of your beauty. Besides, you are now a married woman, and in a way to be a great many better things than a fine lady; such as an excellent wife, a faithful friend, a tender parent, and at last, as the consequence of them all, a saint in heaven. You ought now to hear nothing but that which was all you ever desired to hear (whatever others may have spoken to you), I mean truth; and it is with the utmost that I assure you, no friend you have can more rejoice in any good that befals you, is more sincerely delighted with the prospect of your future happiness, or more unfeignedly desires a long continuance of it. I hope you will think it but just that a man who will certainly be spoken of as


Jonathan Swift.

your admirer after he is dead, may have the happiness to be esteemed while he is living,-Yours, etc.


September 23, 1714.

DEAR MR. GAY,-Welcome to your native soil! welcome to your friends! thrice welcome to me! whether returned in glory, blessed with Court interest, the love and familiarity of the great, and filled with agreeable hopes; or melancholy with dejection, contemplative of the changes of fortune, and doubtful for the future; whether returned a triumphant Whig or a desponding Tory, equally all hail! equally beloved and welcome to me! If happy, I am to partake in your elevation; if unhappy, you have still a warm corner in my heart, and a retreat at Binfield in the worst of times at your service. . . . I knew not whither to aim a letter after you; that was a sort of shooting flying: add to this the demand Homer had upon me, to write fifty verses a day, besides learned notes, all which are at a conclusion for this year. Rejoice with me, O my friend, that my labour is over; come and make merry with me in much feasting. We will feed among the lilies (by the lilies I mean the ladies). Are not the Rosalindas of Britain as charming as the Blousalindas of the Hague? ... Talk not of expenses. Homer shall support his children. . . . I shall never know where to end, and am confounded in the many things I have to say to you, though they all amount but to this, that I am entirely, as ever, yours, etc.

The epistolary style of Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver and Dean of St. Patrick's, presents a remarkable contrast to the formal rhetoric of Pope, in its plain, sinewy, concise,

Letters of Junius.'


and homely character. In many of his letters we encounter the witty and satirical touches by which his other writings are distinguished; and the cheerful, familiar tone of those addressed to his favourite Stella' is universally admired. The image of his mind is reflected in almost everything he wrote; and accordingly we very rarely meet with the smallest approach to either. loftiness of thought or delicacy of sentiment. A curious mixture of sunny playfulness and dismal despondency occasionally presents itself, somewhat resembling one of the special characteristics of another eminent letter-writer-to be afterwards noticed-of a very different temperament-I mean the poet Cowper.

Independently of their elegant diction, the letters of Junius' have been compared to those of Swift in respect to closeness, correctness of style, and force of satire; and even the celebrated Letter to the King,' while it must arouse a feeling of indignation in the mind of every loyal subject, cannot be perused without 'a certain amount of admiration.

[ocr errors]


DUBLIN, Oct. 31, 1729.

I received your Lordship's travelling letter of several dates, at several stages, and from different nations,


Swift to Mr. Gay.


languages, and religions. Neither could anything be more obliging than your kind remembrance of me in so many places. As to your ten lustres, I remember when I complained in a letter to Prior that I was fifty years old, he was half angry in jest, and answered me out of Terence -Ista commemoratio est quasi exprobratio. How then ought I to rattle you, when I have a dozen years more to answer for, all monastically passed in this country of liberty and delight, and money and good company! I go on answering your letter. And yet, my Lord, I pretend to value money as little as you; and I will call five hundred witnesses (if you will take Irish witnesses) to prove it. I renounce your whole philosophy, because it is not your practice. . . . But, in the meantime, do not brag-retrenchments are not your talent. . . . I wish you could learn arithmetic, that three and two make five, and will never make more. . . . My Lord, I hate and love to write to you; it gives me pleasure, and kills me with melancholy. The d— take stupidity, that it will not come to supply the want of philosophy.


DUBLIN, March 19, 1729.

I deny it. I do write to you according to the old stipulation; for, when you kept your old company, when I writ to one, I writ to all. But I am ready to enter into a new bargain, since you are got into a new world, and will answer all your letters. You are first to present my most humble respects to the Duchess of Queensberry, and let her know that I never dine without thinking of her; although it be with some difficulty that I can obey her when I dine with forks that have but two prongs, and when the sauce is not very consistent. You must likewise tell her Grace that she is a general toast among all honest folks here; and particularly at the Deanery, even in the face of my Whig subjects. (After an


Joseph Addison.


allusion to Pope, etc.) I ride and walk whenever good weather invites, and am reputed the best walker in this town and five miles round. I writ lately to Mr. Pope. I wish you had a little villakin in his neighbourhood; but you are yet too volatile, and any lady with a coach and six horses would carry you to Japan.

Born in 1672-five years after the author of Gulliver,-Joseph Addison terminated his comparatively short career at the age of fortyseven. Only a few of his letters appear to have been preserved. Although most of them were written at an early period of his life, they exhibit many evidences of that delightful humour which is more fully developed in the classic pages of the Spectator,—now, unfortunately, too little known. For sweetness of expression, propriety of treatment, and dignity of tone, the language of Addison can hardly be surpassed. 'Whoever wishes,' says Dr. Johnson, 'to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.'

In the capacity of Secretary of State, it has been said that he was a better man of business than Prior, but still a bad one. His business letters, however, which are extant, are clear and concise, as well as graceful, and certainly do not

« PreviousContinue »