Imatges de pÓgina

been already mentioned, that, finding all his endeayours to reconcile his great friends useless, he had retired to Letcomb, in order to make one effort more to compel them to unite for their common interest, by the publication of his “ Free Thoughts," &c. Lord Bolingbroke, to whom this piece was shown by Barber *, contrived to have the printing of it deferred, as he was then just upon the point of accomplishing his long-concerted plan, of turning out lord Oxford, and stepping into his place. This was effected just four days before the queen’s death, on the 27th of July, 1714. One of lord Bolingbroke's first objects upon getting into power, was to secure Swift to his interest. He got lady Masham to write to him, in the most pressing terms, on the 29th, to return immediately to town. And on the 30th, he meant to dispatch Barber to him, with letters from himself and lady Masham for the same purpose. Which is thus related by Barber, in his letter of July 31, past six at night.

“ I am heartily sorry I should be the messenger of so ill news, as to tell you the queen is dead or dying: if alive, 'tis said she can't live till morning. You may easily imagine the confusion we are all in on this sad occasion. I had set out yesterday to wait on you, but for this sad accident; and should have brought letters from lord Bolingbroke and lady Masham, to have prevented your going.-He said twenty things in your favour, and commanded me to bring you up, whatever was the consequence."


* From whom it came into the possession of Mr. Faulk





It was chiefly through the influence of lady Masham, who was then at the height of favour with the queen, and had openly quarrelled with the treasurer, that he was turned out of his employment, and Bolingbroke appointed minister in his room. Nothing can show, in a stronger light, the great consequence of Swift in all state affairs at that time, than lady Masham's letter to him on this occasion ; which, on that account, I shall here present entire to the reader.

July 29, 1714. “ I own it looks unkind in me, not to thank all this time, for your sincere kind letter ; but I was resolved to stay till I could tell you, the queen had so far got the better of the Dragon *, as to take her power out of his hands. He has been the most ungrateful man to her, and to all his best friends, that ever was born. I cannot have so much time now to write all my mind, because my dear mistress is not well ; and I think I may lay her illness to the charge of the treasurer, who for three weeks together, was teasing and vexing her without intermission, and she could not get rid of him till Tuesday last. I must put you in mind of one passage in your

letter to me, which is, I pray God to send you wise and faithful friends to advise you at this time, when there are so great difficulties to struggle with. That is very plain and true; therefore will you, who have gone through so much, and taken more pains than any body, and given wise advice (if that wretched man had had sense enough, and honesty to have taken it) I say will


* I nickname for lord Oxford. S.


leave us, and go into Ireland ? No, it is impossible; your goodness is still the same, your charity and compassion for this poor lady *, who has been barbarously used, won't let you do it. I know


take delight to help the distressed ; and there cannot be a greater object than this good lady, who deserves pity. Pray, dear friend, stay here, and don't believe us all alike, to throw away good advice, and despise every body's understanding but their own. I could say a great deal upon the subject, but I must go to her, for she is not well. This comes to you by a safe hand, so that neither of us need be in any pain about it.

My lord and brother are in the country. My sister and girls are your humble servants.”

So warm and pressing a letter from one who made, and unmade ministers (for it was to her lord Oxford owed his advancement, as well as his disgrace) intreating, nay, in a manner imploring him to come and be their chief counsellor and director, in their new plan of administration; might have opened the most inviting prospects to Swift, of gratifying his utmost ambition with regard to his own interests; and at the same time, of accomplishing the plan which he invariably pursued, with respect to those of the publick. But to a man of his delicate sense of honour, there was an insuperable bar in the way to prevent his embracing so flattering an offer. He had two days before received the following letter from lord Oxford, upon his losing the staff,

“ If I tell my dear friend the value I put upon his undeserved friendship, it will look like suspecting you

The queen. S.

or myself. Though I have had no power since the twenty-fifth of July 1713, I believe now, as a private man, I may prevail to renew your licence of absence, conditionally you will be present with me; for to morrow morning I shall be a private person. When I have settled my domestick affairs here, I go to Wimple; thence, alone, to Herefordshire. If I have not tired you tête à tête, fling away so much time upon one, who loves you. And I believe, in the mass of souls, ours were placed near each other. I send you an imitation of Dryden, as I went to Ken: sington.

“ To serve with love,

And shed your blood,
Approved is above :

But here below,
Th' examples show,
'Tis fatal to be good."

In these two letters, there were two roads opened to Swift. One, leading to preferment, power, and -all that his most ambitious hopes could aspire after. The other to the melancholy cell of a disgraced minister, abandoned by an ungrateful world; where - he might have the satisfaction of affording him in

his distress, that sovereign balm of consolation, · which can only be administered by a sincere friend. Swift hesitated not a moment in his choice the alternative, as may be seen by his letter to miss Vanhomrigh, written soon after his receipt of the other two.

“ Who told you I was going to Bath: No such thing. But poor lord Oxford desires I will go with him to Herefordshire; and I only expect his answer, whether I shall go therefore, or meet him hereabouts,


or go to Wimple (his son's house) and so with him down: and I expect to leave this place in two or three days, one way or other. I will stay with him till the parliament meets again, if he desires it. I am written to earnestly by somebody, to come to town, and join with those people now in power; but I will not do it. Say nothing of this, but guess the person. I told lord Oxford I would


with him when he was out; and now he begs it of me, I cannot refuse him. I meddle not with his faults, as he was minister of state ; but you know his personal kindness to me was excessive. He distinguished and chose me above all other men, while he was great, and his letter to me, the other day, was the most moving imaginable,” &c. *

There is one expression in lord Oxford's letter which is indeed very affecting, where he says, 66 I go to Wimple, thence alone to Herefordshire.” What ! this great minister, who had conferred so many obligations, and made the fortunes of such numbers, not to find one companion to attend him in his reverse of fortune! Methinks I see Swift reading this passage, and exclaiming, What, alone! No, while I exist, my friend shall not go alone into Herefordshire,”

This resolution of Swift's is fully confirmed in a letter to archdeacon Wall, dated August 8, 1714. “Upon the earl of Oxford's removal, he desired I would go with him into Hereford. shire, which I consented to, and wrote you word of it, desiring you would renew my licence of absence at the end of this month, for I think it then expires. I had earnest invitations from those, in power to go to town, and assist them in their new ministry, which I resolved to excise ; but before I could write, news came of the queen’s death, and all our schemes broke to sbatters.” S.

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