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JOURNAL TO STELLA.
THE JOURNAL TO STÉLLA, from 2d September 1710 to 6th June 1713, forms a natural introduction to the political pieces by which Swift supported the last ministry of Queen Anne. But it may also be thought a fit preface to his works in general, as affording the closest insight into his temper, principles, and habits, during the busiest and happiest period of his life. It contains, indeed, documents for his private history, of a nature equally curious and authentic. The letters of literary men are usually written under some feeling, that they may one day become public ; at least they are calculated so as to bear relation to the habits and feelings of their correspondents; and thus far the writer is necessarily under a degree of restraint. In a private diary, on the other hand, the journalist pays some attention to the arranging and methodizing his thoughts; for, supposing that it is intended for the writer's sole use, there are few who care to review even their own sentiments in absolute dishabille : But the JOURNAL TO Stella is as unconstrained as conversation the most intimate and familiar, nearly as much so, indeed, as thought itself. To account for this, we must recollect, that Swift had united the destiny of Mrs Johnson so closely to his own, that his hopes, fears, wishes, and expectations, were sure to be identified with those of his correspondent. The strange and peculiar relation in which they had now for some years stood to each other, had produced between them all the confidence and mutual interest of marriage, while their affection was unchilled by familiarity, or by possession. Swift, therefore, wrote to Stella, alike without coldness or suspicion, with all the intimacy of a husband, but with all the feelings of a lover. Nothing was too precious to be withheld from her ; and, at the same time, nothing so trifling in which she was not to find interest, if it related to him. Hence that curious and diverting mixture of the meanest and most common domestic details with state secrets, court intrigues, and the fate of ministries ; where the history of the Duke of Marlborough's disgrace is hardly detailed with more minute accuracy than the progress and cure of the doctor's broken shin. This miscellaneous mode of writing is a warrant to the reader, that he has the real sentiments of the author. He who bends his mind to a single subject, will gradually, and even unconsciously, become guarded in his mode of treating it, and, consequently, will rather plead a cause than deliver an opinion. But, while throwing into his Journal the ideas as they rose in his mind, grand or minute, important or trifling, Swift insures us, that he had not even that very harmless motive for a certain disguise of sentiment, which arises from the wish of doing all things in order. His ideas, upon subjects of importance, break from him at intervals; and, as he was under no necessity to preserve an appearance of uniformity, the attentive reader may perceive when he judges coolly ; when he is swayed by passion, or prejudice ; when he alters or revokes an opinion ; and when, without doing so, his opinions are inconsistent with each other. In short, it is a picture of the man, the author, and the politician. A very short survey of the circumstances under which the Journal was written, will prevent the reader having the trouble of referring to the Life of Swift, unless from a wish to see them more fully detailed.
The bishops of Ireland had long solicited, that Queen Anne would be pleased to remit the right of the crown to the first-fruits and twentieth-parts payable by the clergy of that kingdom. Their applications had not hitherto been followed by any thing excepting fair promises. On the 31st of August 1710, the bishops, by the following letter, addressed to Dr Harstonge, Bishop of Ossory, and Dr Lindsay, Bishop of Killaloe, directed them to prosecute this petition to the crown ; and joined Swift with them as a confidential agent, or solicitor.
« Our VERY GOOD LORDS,
Dublin, Aug. 31, 1710. “ Whereas several applications have been made to her majesty, about the first-fruits and twentieth-parts payable to her majesty by the clergy of this kingdom, beseeching her majesty, that she would be graciously pleased to extend her bounty to the clergy here, in such manner as the convocation have humbly laid before her majesty, or as her majesty shall, in her goodness and wisdom, think fit; and the said applications lię still before her majesty; and we do hope, from her royal bounty, a favourable answer.
“ We do therefore entreat your Lordships, to take on you the solicitation of that affair, and to use such proper
methods and applications as you, in your prudence, shall judge most likely to be effectual. We have likewise desired the bearer, Dr Swift, to concern himself with you, being persuaded of his diligence and good affection; and we desire, that, if your Lordships' occasions require your leaving London before you have brought the business to effect, that
would leave with him the papers relating to it, with your directions for his management in it, if you think it advisable so to do. We are your Lordships' most humble servants and brethren,
WM. KILLALA. “ To the Right Rev. Fathers in God,
John, Lord Bishop of Ossory, and
With these credentials Swift set forth for London, and arrived there in the beginning of September, in the midst of the convulsions occasioned by the fall of the Whig ministry under Godolphin and Somers. From that time, he was not only a spectator, but an active and busy agitator in the politics of their Tory successors. His progress, and final success, in the negotiation concerning the remission, are detailed in the Journal, and in the letters passing between Archbishop King and Dr Swift upon that subject. This was solely owing to his own influence and exertions; for the Bishops of Ossory and Killaloe had left London before his arrival, But this, though the original cause of his journey, soon became a very subordinate occupation: Trusted with the most important secrets by the new ministers; living on the footing of intimacy with the most noble and most powerful of the prevailing party; feeling all the consciousness of present influence, and anticipating, doubtless, the most ambitious views of future eminence,--Swift, during this period, enjoyed both the present and the future. Time glided on, however, and he at length felt, after repeated disappointment, that some secret bar impeded his rise in the church. The ministers, who sometimes needed his good offices to conciliate the public, and sometimes to reconcile their private differences, seem carefully to have concealed from him, that the queen's personal dislike was the real impediment to his preferment. By dint of a strenuous demand, accompanied by a determined resolution to retire in case of its being refused, he extorted, with difficulty, the deanery of St Patrick's. When he had attained this preferment, he returned to Ireland to possess himself of it; yet wondering internally, that the ministers, whom he had so effectually served, and by whom he was personally so much respected, should have assigned his tardy preferment in a separate kingdom.
During the period of his residence in London, he sent to Mrs Johnson a daily journal of his actions, sentiments, wishes, opinions, hopes, and fears. With the usual caution that marked all his correspondence with Stella, the Diary is not addressed to her alone, (though written solely on her account,) but jointly to her companion Mrs Dingley. Habits of great intimacy, and that pleasure of indulging infantine whims, which is its natural consequence, had introduced between them what Swift calls a “ little language,” in which his fondness loved to display itself. This pretty jargon has been decyphered with considerable ability by former editors; and it is only here necessary to say, that MD usually stands for Stella and Dingley, though sometimes for the former alone ; D. stands for Dingley, and DD for Dingley and Stella, yet sometimes for Stella alone. Swift himself is represented by the letters PDFR; but this odd and awkward combination of consonants is, in printing, usually exchanged for Presto : a name given to him by the Duchess of Shrewsbury, who, being a foreigner, could not remember the English word-swift.
While Dean Swift was engaged with the history of the last years of Queen Anne, he resumed possession of this Journal, perhaps to refresh his memory as to facts; and to this circumstance it may be we owe its preservation. It is hardly necessary to add, that the Journal was strictly confidential, and was written. to Stella, under a solemn prohibition to show it to any one whatso