The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. X.
by Jonathan Swift
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Of late years, that is to say, within the last thirty odd years, there has existed a certain amount of doubt as to whether or no the work known to us as "The History of the Four Last Years of the Queen," was really the product of Swift's pen. That a work of this nature had occupied Swift during his retirement at Windsor in 1713, is undoubted. That the work here reprinted from the edition given to the world in 1758, "by an anonymous editor from a copy surreptitiously taken by an anonymous friend" (to use Mr. Churton Collins's summary), is the actual work upon which Swift was engaged at Windsor, is not so certain. Let us for a moment trace the history of what is known of what Swift did write, and then we shall be in a better position to judge of the authenticity of what we have before us.

All that we know of this work is gathered from Swift's correspondence, as published by Sir Walter Scott in his edition of Swift's Works issued in 1824. The first reference there made is in a note from Dr. William King to Mrs. Whiteway, from which we gather that Swift, towards the end of the year 1736, was meditating the publication of what he had written in 1713. "As to the History," writes King, "the Dean may be assured I will take care to supply the dates that are wanting, and which can easily be done in an hour or two. The tracts, if he pleases, may be printed by way of appendix. This will be indeed less trouble than the interweaving them in the body of the history, and will do the author as much honour, and answer the purpose full as well."

This was written from Paris, under date November 9th, O.S., 1736. It can easily be gathered from this that the tracts referred to are the tracts on the same period which Swift wrote at the time in defence of the Oxford ministry. They are given in the fifth volume of this edition.

On December 7th, 1736, King was in London, and he immediately writes to Swift himself on the matter of the History. "I arrived here yesterday," he says, "and I am now ready to obey your commands. I hope you are come to a positive resolution concerning the History. You need not hesitate about the dates, or the references which are to be made to any public papers; for I can supply them without the least trouble. As well as I remember, there is but one of those public pieces which you determined should be inserted at length; I mean Sir Thomas Hanmer's Representation; this I have now by me. If you incline to publish the two tracts as an Appendix to the History, you will be pleased to see if the character given of the Earl of Oxford in the pamphlet of 1715 agrees with the character given of the same person in the History.[1] Perhaps on a review you may think proper to leave one of them quite out. You have (I think) barely mentioned the attempt of Guiscard, and the quarrel between Rechteren and Mesnager. But as these are facts which are probably now forgot or unknown, it would not be amiss if they were related at large in the notes; which may be done from the gazettes, or any other newspapers of those times. This is all I have to offer to your consideration...."

[Footnote 1: See note on page 95 of this volume.]

There is thus no doubt left as to which were the tracts referred to by King, and as to the desire of Swift to include Sir Thomas Hanmer's Representation—two points that are important as evidence for the authenticity of the edition issued by Lucas in 1758.

Towards the middle of 1737, it must have become common knowledge among Swift's friends in London, that he was preparing for publication his "History of the Four Last Years of Queen Anne's Reign." Possibly King may have dropped a hint of it; possibly Swift may have written to others for information and assistance. Be that as it may, on April 7th, 1737, the Earl of Oxford (son of Swift's old friend) wrote to Swift as follows:

"... One reason of my writing to you now is, (next to my asking your forgiveness) this: I am told that you have given leave and liberty to some one or more of your friends to print a history of the last four years of Queen Anne's reign, wrote by you.

"As I am most truly sensible of your constant regard and sincere friendship for my father, even to partiality, (if I may say so,) I am very sensible of the share and part he must bear in such a history; and as I remember, when I read over that history of yours, I can recollect that there seemed to me a want of some papers to make it more complete, which was not in our power to obtain; besides there were some severe things said, which might have been very currently talked of; but now will want a proper evidence to support; for these reasons it is that I do entreat the favour of you, and make it my earnest request, that you will give your positive directions, that this history be not printed and published, until I have had an opportunity of seeing it; with a liberty of showing it to some family friends, whom I would consult upon this occasion. I beg pardon for this; I hope you will be so good as to grant my request: I do it with great deference to you. If I had the pleasure of seeing you, I would soon say something to you that would convince you I am not wrong: they are not proper for a letter as you will easily guess...."

It is evident that Swift had gone so far as to consult with Faulkner on the matter of the printing of the "History," because he was present when Oxford's letter arrived, and he tells us that Swift answered the letter immediately, and made him read the answer, the purport of which was: "That although he loved his lordship's father more than he ever did any man; yet, as a human creature, he had his faults, and therefore, as an impartial writer, he could not conceal them."

On the 4th of June, 1737, Swift wrote at length to Oxford a letter in which he details the circumstances and the reasons which moved him to write the History. The letter is important, and runs as follows:


"I had the honour of a letter from your lordship, dated April the 7th, which I was not prepared to answer until this time. Your lordship must needs have known, that the History you mention, of the Four last Years of the Queen's Reign, was written at Windsor, just upon finishing the peace; at which time, your father and my Lord Bolingbroke had a misunderstanding with each other, that was attended with very bad consequences. When I came to Ireland to take this deanery (after the peace was made) I could not stay here above a fortnight, being recalled by a hundred letters to hasten back, and to use my endeavours in reconciling those ministers. I left them the history you mention, which I finished at Windsor, to the time of the peace. When I returned to England, I found their quarrels and coldness increased. I laboured to reconcile them as much as I was able: I contrived to bring them to my Lord Masham's, at St. James's. My Lord and Lady Masham left us together. I expostulated with them both, but could not find any good consequences. I was to go to Windsor next day with my lord-treasurer; I pretended business that prevented me, expecting they would come to some [agreement?]. But I followed them to Windsor; where my Lord Bolingbroke told me, that my scheme had come to nothing. Things went on at the same rate; they grew more estranged every day. My lord-treasurer found his credit daily declining. In May before the Queen died, I had my last meeting with them at my Lord Masham's. He left us together; and therefore I spoke very freely to them both; and told them, 'I would retire, for I found all was gone'. Lord Bolingbroke whispered me, 'I was in the right'. Your father said, 'All would do well'. I told him, 'That I would go to Oxford on Monday, since I found it was impossible to be of any use'. I took coach to Oxford on Monday, went to a friend in Berkshire, there stayed until the Queen's death, and then to my station here, where I stayed twelve years, and never saw my lord your father afterward. They could not agree about printing the History of the Four last Years and therefore I have kept it to this time, when I determine to publish it in London, to the confusion of all those rascals who have accused the queen and that ministry of making a bad peace, to which that party entirely owes the Protestant succession. I was then in the greatest trust and confidence with your father the lord-treasurer, as well as with my Lord Bolingbroke, and all others who had part in the administration I had all the letters from the secretary's office, during the treaty of peace out of those, and what I learned from the ministry, I formed that History, which I am now going to publish for the information of posterity, and to control the most impudent falsehoods which have been published since. I wanted no kind of materials. I knew your father better than you could at that time, and I do impartially think him the most virtuous minister, and the most able, that ever I remember to have read of. If your lordship has any particular circumstances that may fortify what I have said in the History, such as letters or materials, I am content they should be printed at the end, by way of appendix. I loved my lord your father better than any other man in the world, although I had no obligation to him on the score of preferment, having been driven to this wretched kingdom, to which I was almost a stranger, by his want of power to keep me in what I ought to call my own country, although I happened to be dropped here, and was a year old before I left it, and to my sorrow did not die before I came back to it again. As to the History, it is only of affairs which I know very well and had all the advantages possible to know, when you were in some sort but a lad. One great design of it is, to do justice to the ministry at that time, and to refute all the objections against them, as if they had a design of bringing in Popery and the Pretender: and farther to demonstrate, that the present settlement of the crown was chiefly owing to my lord your father...."

The Earl of Oxford had failed to extract the manuscript from Swift for the purpose he had expressed in his letter. But his friend and Swift's old friend, Erasmus Lewis, who had been Under-Secretary of State during Lord Oxford's administration, came to the Earl's assistance. He had not written to Swift for many years, but on June 30th, 1737, he took occasion to renew the correspondence and referred to the proposal for publishing the History in a manner which leaves no doubt as to who suggested to him to write:

" ... Now I name him, I mean Lord Oxford, let me ask you if it be true, that you are going to print a History of the Four Last Years of the Queen? if it is, will not you let me see it before you send it to the press? Is it not possible that I may suggest some things that you may have omitted, and give you reasons for leaving out others? The scene is changed since that period of time: the conditions of the peace of Utrecht have been applauded by most part of mankind, even in the two Houses of Parliament: should not matters rest here, at least for some time? I presume your great end is to do justice to truth; the second point may perhaps be to make a compliment to the Oxford family: permit me to say as to the first, that though you know perhaps more than any one man, I may possibly contribute a mite; and, with the alteration of one word, viz. by inserting parva instead of magna, apply to myself that passage of Virgil, et quorum pars parva fui. As to the second point, I do not conceive your compliment to Lord Oxford to be so perfect as it might be, unless you lay the manuscript before him, that it may be considered here."

On the 4th of July, 1737, Oxford replied to Swift's letter of the 4th of June (referring to it as of the 14th of June), and emphasizes his earnest wish to see the manuscript. He also asks that it may be permitted him to show it to some friends:


"Your letter of June 14th, in answer to mine of the 7th of April, is come to my hands; and it is with no small concern that I have read it, and to find that you seem to have formed a resolution to put the History of the Four last Years of the Queen to the press; a resolution taken without giving your friends, and those that are greatly concerned, some notice, or suffering them to have time and opportunity to read the papers over, and to consider them. I hope it is not too late yet, and that you will be so good as to let some friends see them, before they are put to the press; and, as you propose to have the work printed here, it will be easy to give directions to whom you will please to give the liberty of seeing them; I beg I may be one: this request I again repeat to you, and I hope you will grant it. I do not doubt that there are many who will persuade you to publish it; but they are not proper judges: their reasons may be of different kinds, and their motives to press on this work may be quite different, and perhaps concealed from you.

"I am extremely sensible of the firm love and regard you had for my father, and have for his memory; and upon that account it is that I now renew my request, that you would at least defer this printing until you have had the advice of friends. You have forgot that you lent me the History to read when you were in England, since my father died; I do remember it well. I would ask your pardon for giving you this trouble; but upon this affair I am so nearly concerned, that, if I did not my utmost to prevent it, I should never forgive myself."

While this correspondence was in progress, Swift had given the manuscript to Lord Orrery to hand over to Dr. King. On June 24th, 1737, King wrote to Swift stating that he had received a letter from Mrs. Whiteway in which he was told to expect the manuscript from the hands of Lord Orrery. To Mrs. Whiteway he replied, on the same day, that he would wait on Lord Orrery to receive the papers. On July 23rd, 1737, Lord Orrery wrote to Swift informing him that "Dr. King has his cargo."

With the knowledge that the manuscript was on its way to King, Swift wrote the following reply to Lewis's letter:

July 23, 1737.


"While any of those who used to write to me were alive, I always inquired after you. But, since your secretaryship in the queen's time, I believed you were so glutted with the office, that you had not patience to venture on a letter to an absent useless acquaintance; and I find I owe yours to my Lord Oxford. The History you mention was written above a year before the queen's death. I left it with the treasurer and Lord Bolingbroke, when I first came over to take this deanery. I returned in less than a month; but the ministry could not agree about printing it. It was to conclude with the peace. I staid in London above nine months; but not being able to reconcile the quarrels between those two, I went to a friend in Berkshire, and, on the queen's death, came hither for good and all. I am confident you read that History; as this Lord Oxford did, as he owns in his two letters, the last of which reached me not above ten days ago. You know, on the queen's death, how the peace and all proceedings were universally condemned. This I knew would be done; and the chief cause of my writing was, not to let such a queen and ministry lie under such a load of infamy, or posterity be so ill-informed, &c. Lord Oxford is in the wrong to be in pain about his father's character, or his proceedings in his ministry; which is so drawn, that his greatest admirers will rather censure me for partiality; neither can he tell me anything material out of his papers, which I was not then informed of; nor do I know anybody but yourself who could give me more light than what I then received; for I remember I often consulted with you, and took memorials of many important particulars which you told me, as I did of others, for four years together. I can find no way to have the original delivered to Lord Oxford, or to you; for the person who has it will not trust it out of his hands; but, I believe, would be contented to let it be read to either of you, if it could be done without letting it out of his hands, although, perhaps, that may be too late."

Swift is evidently about to accede to the desires of his two friends, and Lewis, in his reply, takes it for granted that the manuscript will soon be in his possession for perusal and examination:

London, Aug. 4, 1737.

"I assure you, my dear Dean, 'twas matter of joy to me to receive a letter from you, and I hope 'tis an earnest of many more I may have hereafter, before you and I leave this world; though I must tell you, that if you and I revive our former Correspondence, you must indulge me the liberty of making use of another hand; for whether it be owing to age, or writing formerly whole nights by candle-light, or to both those causes, my sight is so far impaired, that I am not able, without much pain, to scratch out a letter.

"I do not remember ever to have read your History. I own my memory is much decayed; but still I think I could not have forgotten a matter of so much consequence, and which must have given me so great a pleasure. It is fresh in my mind, that Lord Oxford and the Auditor desired you to confer with me upon the subject matter of it; that we accordingly did so; and that the conclusion was, you would bury everything in oblivion. We reported this to those two, I mean to his lordship and his uncle, and they acquiesced in it. Now I find you have finished that piece. I ask nothing but what you grant in your letter of July 23d, viz. That your friend shall read it to me, and forbear sending it to the press, till you have considered the objections, if any should be made.

"In the meantime, I shall only observe to you in general, that three and twenty years, for so long it is since the death of Queen Anne, having made a great alteration in the world, and that what was sense and reason then, is not so now; besides, I am told you have treated some people's characters with a severity which the present times will not bear, and may possibly bring the author into much trouble, which would be matter of great uneasiness to his friends. I know very well it is your intention to do honour to the then treasurer. Lord Oxford knows it; all his family and friends know it; but it is to be done with great circumspection. It is now too late to publish a pamphlet, and too early to publish a History.

"It was always my opinion, that the best way of doing honour to the treasurer, was to write a History of the Peace of Utrecht, beginning with a short preamble concerning the calamitous state of our debt, and ending with the breaking our army, and restoring the civil power; that these great things were completed under the administration of the Earl of Oxford, and this should be his epitaph. Lord Bolingbroke is undoubtedly writing a History, but I believe will not live to finish it, because he takes it up too high, viz. from the Restoration. In all probability he'll cut and slash Lord Oxford. This is only my guess. I don't know it...."

King must have taken the manuscript to Lord Oxford and Lewis, and been present at its reading. When that reading actually took place is not ascertainable; but there is no doubt that before March 15th, 1738, King was aware of the criticisms made on it. On that day he writes to Mr. Deane Swift, explaining that he has been obliged to defer the publication until he has received Swift's answers to the objections made by the friends who read it. On April 25th, 1738, King wrote again to Mr. Deane Swift, regretting that he could not see him, "because I might have talked over with you all the affair of this History, about which I have been much condemned: and no wonder, since the Dean has continually expressed his dissatisfaction that I have so long delayed the publication of it. However, I have been in no fault: on the contrary, I have consulted the Dean's honour, and the safety of his person. In a word, the publication of this work, as excellent as it is, would involve the printer, publisher, author, and everyone concerned, in the greatest difficulties, if not in a certain ruin; and therefore it will be absolutely necessary to omit some of the characters...."

From which we gather that Lewis and the friends had been able to show King the extreme inadvisability of publishing the work. Swift knew nothing of this at the time, but Lewis did not long keep him in doubt, and the letter Lewis wrote Swift on April 8th, 1738, sets forth at length the objections and criticisms which had so changed King's attitude.

"London, April 8, 1738.

"I can now acquaint you, my dear Dean, that I have at last had the pleasure of reading your History, in the presence of Lord O———d, and two or three more, who think, in all political matters, just as you do, and are as zealous for your fame and safety as any persons in the world. That part of it which relates to the negotiations of peace, whether at London or at Utrecht, they admire exceedingly, and declare they never yet saw that, or any other transaction, drawn up with so much perspicuity, or in a style so entertaining and instructive to the reader, in every respect; but I should be wanting to the sincerity of a friend, if I did not tell you plainly, that it was the unanimous opinion of the company a great deal of the first part should be retrenched, and many things altered.

"1st, They conceive the first establishment of the South Sea Company is not rightly stated, for no part of the debt then unprovided for was paid: however the advantages arising to the public were very considerable; for, instead of paying for all provisions cent. per cent. dearer than the common market-price, as we did in Lord Godolphin's times, the credit of the public was immediately restored, and, by means of this scheme, put upon as good a footing as the best private security.

"2d, They think the transactions with Mr. Buys might have been represented in a more advantageous light, and more to the honour of that administration; and, undoubtedly they would have been so by your pen, had you been master of all the facts.

"3d, The D—— of M——'s courage not to be called in question.

"4th, The projected design of an assassination they believe true, but that a matter of so high a nature ought not to be asserted without exhibiting the proofs.

"5th, The present ministers, who are the rump of those whose characters you have painted, shew too plainly that they have not acted upon republican, or, indeed, any other principles, than those of interest and ambition.

"6th, Now I have mentioned characters, I must tell you they were clearly of opinion, that if those you have drawn should be published as they now stand, nothing could save the author's printer and publishers from some grievous punishment. As we have no traces of liberty now left but the freedom of the press, it is the most earnest desire of your friends that you would strike out all that you have said on that subject.

"Thus, my dear Dean, I have laid before you, in a plain manner the sentiments of those who were present when your History was read; if I have mistaken in anything, I ask pardon of you and them.

"I am not at liberty to name those who were present, excepting only the E—— of O——d, who has charged me to return you his thanks for what you have said of his father.

"What I have to say from myself is, that there were persons in the company to whose judgment I should pay entire deference. I had no opportunity of paying any on this occasion, for I concurred in the same opinion with them, from the bottom of my heart, and therefore conjure you as you value your own fame as an author, and the honour of those who were actors in the important affairs that make the subject of your History, and as you would preserve the liberty of your person, and enjoyment of your fortune, you will not suffer this work to go to the press without making some, or all the amendments proposed. I am, my dear Dean, most sincerely and affectionately yours,


"I thank you for your kind mention of me in your letter to Lord Oxford.

"I had almost forgot to tell you, you have mistaken the case of the D—— of S——, which, in truth, was this, that his grace appearing at court, in the chamber next to the council-chamber, it was apprehended he would come into the cabinet-council; and therefore the intended meeting was put off: whereas one would judge, by your manner of stating it, that the council had met, and adjourned abruptly upon his taking his place there.

"I must add, that if you would so far yield to the opinions of your friends, as to publish what you have writ concerning the peace, and leave out everything that savours of acrimony and resentment, it would, even now, be of great service to this nation in general, and to them in particular, nothing having been yet published on the peace of Utrecht in such a beautiful and strong manner as you have done it. Once more, my dear Dean, adieu; let me hear from you."

It is to be presumed that Swift was again persuaded to abandon the publication of his History. Nothing further is heard of it, except a slight reference by Pope in a letter he wrote to Swift, under date May 17th, 1739, in which Pope informed him that Bolingbroke (who is writing his History of his own Time) has expressed his intention of differing from Swift's version, as he remembers it when he read the History in 1727. The variation would relate in particular to the conduct of the Earl of Oxford.

Slight as this reference is, there is yet enough in it to suggest another reason why Swift should withhold the publication of his work. It might be that this expressed intention of Bolingbroke's to animadvert on his dear friend's conduct, would just move Swift to a final rejection of his intention, and so, possibly, prevent Bolingbroke from publishing his own statement. However, the manuscript must have been returned, for nothing more was heard of it during Swift's lifetime.

Swift died in 1745, and thirteen years later appeared the anonymously edited "History of the Four Last Years." Is this the work which Swift wrote in 1713, which he permitted Pope and Bolingbroke to read in 1727, and which he prepared for publication in 1737?

In 1758 there was no doubt whatever raised, although there were at least two persons alive then—Lord Orrery and Dr. William King—who could easily have proved any forgery, had there been one.

The first suspicion cast on the work came from Dr. Johnson. Writing, in his life of Swift, of the published version, he remarks, "that it seemed by no means to correspond with the notions that I had formed of it from a conversation that I once heard between the Earl of Orrery and old Mr. Lewis." In what particulars this want of correspondence was made evident Johnson does not say. In any case, his suspicion cannot be received with much consideration, since the conversation he heard must have taken place at least twenty years before he wrote the poet's life, and his recollection of such a conversation must at least have been very hazy. Johnson's opinion is further deprived of weight when we read what he wrote of the History in the "Idler," in 1759, the year after its publication, that "the history had perished had not a straggling transcript fallen into busy hands." If the straggling manuscript were worth anything, it must have had some claims to authenticity; and if it had, then Johnson's recollection of what he heard Orrery and Lewis say, twenty years or more after they had said it, goes for very little.

Sir Walter Scott concludes, from the fact that Swift sent the manuscript to Oxford and Lewis, that it was afterwards altered in accordance with Lewis's suggestions. But a comparison of Lucas's text with Lewis's letter shows that nothing of the kind was done.

Lord Stanhope had "very great reason to doubt" the authenticity of the History, and considered it as "falsely ascribed to Swift." What this "very great reason" was, his lordship nowhere stated.

Macaulay, in a pencilled note in a copy of Orrery's "Remarks" (now in the British Museum) describes the History as "Wretched stuff; and I firmly believe not Swift's." But Macaulay could scarcely have had much ground for his note, since he took a description of Somers from the History, and embodied it in his own work as a specimen of what Somers's enemies said of him. If the History were a forgery, what object was gained in quoting from it, and who were the enemies who wrote it?

When, in 1873, Lord Beaconsfield, then Mr. Disraeli, made a speech at Glasgow, in which he quoted from the History and spoke of the words as by Swift, a correspondent in the "Times" criticised him for his ignorance in so doing. But the discussion which followed in the columns of that periodical left the matter just where it was, and, indeed, justified Beaconsfield. The matter was taken up by Mr. Edward Solly in "Notes and Queries;" but that writer threw no new light whatever on the subject.

But the positive evidence in favour of the authenticity is so strong, that one wonders how there could have been any doubt as to whether Swift did or did not write the History.

In the first place we know that Swift was largely indebted for his facts to Bolingbroke, when that statesman was the War Secretary of Queen Anne. A comparison of those portions of Swift's History which contain the facts with the Bolingbroke Correspondence, in which the same facts are embodied, will amply prove that Swift obtained them from this source, and as Swift was the one man of the time to whom such a favour was given, the argument in favour of Swift's authorship obtains an added emphasis.

In the second place, a careful reading of the correspondence between Swift and his friends on the subject of the publication of the History enables us to identify the references to the History itself. The "characters" are there; Sir Thomas Hanmer's Representation is also there, and all the points raised by Erasmus Lewis may be told off, one by one.

In the third place, Dr. Birch, the careful collector, had, in 1742, access to what he considered to be the genuine manuscript. This was three years before Swift's death. He made an abstract of this manuscript at the time, and this abstract is now preserved in the British Museum. Comparing the abstract with the edition published in 1758, there is no doubt that the learned doctor had copied from a manuscript which, if it were not genuine, was certainly the text of the work published in 1758 as "The History of the Four Last Years." But Dr. Birch's language suggests that he believed the manuscript he examined to be in Swift's own handwriting. If that be so, there is no doubt whatever of the authenticity. Birch was a very careful person, and had he had any doubts he could easily have settled them by applying to the many friends of the Dean, if not to the Dean himself. Moreover, it is absurd to believe that a forged manuscript of Swift's would be shown about during Swift's lifetime without it being known as a forgery. Mrs. Whiteway alone would have put a stop to its circulation had she suspected of the existence of such a manuscript.

Finally, it must be remembered that when the History was published in 1758, Lord Orrery was still living. If the work were a forgery, why did not Lord Orrery expose it? Nothing would have pleased him more. He had read the manuscript referred to in the Correspondence. He had carried it to Oxford and given it to King, at Swift's request. He knew all about it, and he said nothing.

These considerations, both negative and positive, lead us to the final conclusion that the History published in 1758 is practically the History referred to in Swift's Correspondence, and therefore the authentic work of Swift himself. We say practically, because there are some differences between it and the text published here. The differences have been recorded from a comparison between Lucas's version and the transcript of a manuscript discovered in Dublin in 1857, and made by Mr. Percy Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald found that this manuscript contained many corrections in Swift's own handwriting. At the time he came across it the manuscript was in the possession of two old ladies named Greene, grand-daughters of Mrs. Whiteway, and grand-nieces of Swift himself. On the title-page there was the following note:

"This is the originall manuscript of the History, corrected by me, and given into the custody of Mrs. Martha Whiteway by me Jonathan Swift, June 15, 1737. seven.

"I send a fair copy of this History by the Earl of Orrery to be printed in England.


Mr. Fitzgerald was permitted to make a collation of this manuscript, and his collation he sent to the late John Forster. It is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington.[2]

[Footnote 2: I regret that I have been unable to trace the existence of this manuscript of Swift's "History." Mr. Fitzgerald himself has no recollection of having made the collation. "Forty-five years ago," he writes, "is a long time to look back to," and he cannot recall the fact.]

If this manuscript be what, on the face of it, it claims to be, then the question of authenticity is for ever settled. As we have no doubt on this point, the corrections and variations between this manuscript, as collated by Mr. Percy Fitzgerald and the Lucas version, have been noted in the present edition.

In 1752 Lord Orrery issued his "Remarks" on the life and character of Swift. The work obtained for him a certain notoriety, and brought down upon him some severe censure from the friends of Swift who were still alive. But, whatever may have been Orrery's private opinion of Swift, that should not invalidate any information as to fact of which he had the knowledge to speak. Writing in that book of the History, he says: "Dr. Swift left behind him few manuscripts. Not one of any consequence, except an account of the peace of Utrecht, which he called 'An History of the four last Years of Queen Anne.' The title of an history is too pompous for such a performance. In the historical style, it wants dignity and candour: but as a pamphlet it will appear the best defence of Lord Oxford's administration, and the clearest account of the Treaty of Utrecht, that has hitherto been written."[3]

[Footnote 3: Second edition, pp. 206-207.]

The most ardent and devoted of Swift's admirers could hardly find a juster criticism of the work. It should satisfy any unprejudiced reader of the printed History as we now have it, and to that extent emphasize the authenticity.

An interesting sidelight on Swift's History is thrown by Chesterfield in a letter he wrote to Dr. Chenevix, Bishop of Waterford, on May 23rd, 1758. We must believe that the noble lord wrote in good faith and certainly in the full belief that the work he was criticising was the work of Swift. Chesterfield's criticism points directly to Swift as the author, since his justification for Bolingbroke's story is to be found in the work as Lucas printed it in 1758. Speaking of the History, Chesterfield calls it "a party pamphlet, founded on the lie of the day, which, as lord Bolingbroke who had read it often assured me, was coined and delivered out to him, to write Examiners, and other political papers upon. That spirit remarkably runs through it. Macarteney, for instance, murdered duke Hamilton;[4] nothing is falser, for though Macarteney was very capable of the vilest actions, he was guiltless of that, as I myself can testify, who was at his trial on the king's bench, when he came over voluntarily to take it, in the late king's time. There did not appear even the least ground for a suspicion of it; nor did Hamilton, who appeared in court, pretend to tax him with it, which would have been in truth accusing himself of the utmost baseness, in letting the murderer of his friend go off from the field of battle, without either resentment, pursuit, or even accusation, till three days afterwards. This lie was invented to inflame the Scotch nation against the Whigs; as the other, that prince Eugene intended to murder lord Oxford, by employing a set of people called Mohocks, which society, by the way, never existed, was calculated to inflame the mob of London. Swift took those hints de la meilleure foi du monde, and thought them materials for history. So far he is blameless."[5]

[Footnote 4: See page 178 of this volume.]

[Footnote 5: "Chesterfield's Works," pp. 498-499.]

Ignoring Chesterfield's indignation, we must believe that the references made by him to Macartney and Eugene, must have been in the manuscript Bolingbroke read; else how could Bolingbroke tell Chesterfield of their meaning? If this be so, we have a still further warrant for a strong presumption in favour of authenticity. There can really be very little doubt on the matter.

What we may doubt, however, is not the authenticity, but the value of the History as an historical document. Without question, Swift wrote in good faith; but he also wrote as a partisan, and a partisan with an affectionate leaning for the principal character in the drama he was describing. Orrery was right when he called it "a pamphlet," and "the best defence of Lord Oxford's administration." As a pamphlet and as a defence it has some claim on our attention. As a contribution to the history of the treaty of Utrecht it is of little account. Swift could not, had he even known everything, write the true story of the negotiations for publication at the time. In the first place, he would never have attempted it—the facts would have been demoralizing; and in the second place, had he accomplished it, its publication would have been a matter for much more serious consideration than was given even to the story he did write. For Swift's purpose, it was much better that he did not know the full extent of the ministry's perfidy. His affection for Oxford and his admiration for Bolingbroke would have received a great shock. He knew their weaknesses of character, though not their infidelity to honour. There can be no defence of the Oxford administration, for the manner in which it separated England from its allies and treated with a monarch who was well known to it as a political chicaner. The result brought a treaty by which Louis XIV. gained and the allies lost, and this in spite of the offers previously made by the bankrupt monarch at Gertruydenberg.

The further contents of this volume deal with what might better be called Swiftiana. They include a collection of very interesting annotations made by Swift in his copies of Macky's "Characters," Clarendon's "History of the Rebellion," Burnet's "History of his Own Time," and Addison's "Freeholder." The notes to Clarendon and Burnet have always found an important place in the many editions of these well-known works which have been issued from time to time. As here reprinted, however, they have in all cases been compared with the originals themselves. It will be found that very many additions have been made, the result of careful comparison and collation with the originals in Swift's handwriting.

My obligations are again due to Mr. W. Spencer Jackson for very valuable assistance in the collation of texts; to Mr. George Ravenscroft Dennis for several important suggestions; to Mr. Percy Fitzgerald for the use I have made of his transcriptions; and to Mr. Strickland of the National Gallery of Ireland for his help in the matter of Swift portraits.

I am greatly indebted to Mr. C. Litton Falkiner of Killiney, co. Wicklow, for his untiring assistance to me during my stay in Dublin; to the Very Rev. the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral for permission to consult the Marsh collection; and to the Rev. Newport J.D. White, the courteous librarian of the Marsh Library, for enthusiastic aid in my researches. I also owe very hearty thanks to Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole for introductions to the librarians of Trinity College and the Royal Irish Academy.

The portrait prefixed to this volume is a reproduction of the bust by Roubiliac in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.



August 14th, 1902.



AN ABSTRACT OF THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND: From the invasion of it by Julius Caesar to the Reign of Henry the Second









By the late


D.D. D.S.P.D.

Published from the

Last MANUSCRIPT Copy, Corrected and

Enlarged by the Author's OWN HAND.


Printed for A. MILLAR, in the Strand:




[Footnote 1: This advertisement was written by the editor, Dr. Charles Lucas of Dublin. This Lucas was the patriot who created such a stir in Irish politics between the years 1743 and 1750. Lord Townshend, in a letter to the Marquis of Granby, called him "the Wilkes of Ireland." As an author he seems to have been very prolific, though of no polish in his writings. Lucas's disclaimers of sympathy with the opinions contained in the work he edited are somewhat over-stated, and his criticisms are petty. A full account of this hot-headed physician may be found in the Dictionary of National Biography. It was Dr. Johnson, in his life of Swift, who first published the information that Lucas edited this "History." [T.S.]]

Thus, the long wished for History of the Four Last Years of the Queen's Reign is at length brought to light, in spite of all attempts to suppress it!

As this publication is not made under the sanction of the name, or names, which the author and the world had a right to expect; it is fit some account of the works appearing in this manner should be here given.

Long before the Dean's apparent decline, some of his intimate friends, with concern, foresaw the impending fate of his fortune and his works. To this it is owing, that these sheets, which the world now despaired of ever seeing, are rescued from obscurity, perhaps from destruction.

For this, the public is indebted to a gentleman, now in Ireland, of the greatest probity and worth, with whom the Dean long lived in perfect intimacy. To this gentleman's hands the Dean entrusted a copy of his History, desiring him to peruse and give his judgment of it, with the last corrections and amendments the author had given it, in his own hand.

His friend read, admired, and approved. And from a dread of so valuable and so interesting a work's being by any accident lost or effaced, as was probable by its not being intended to be published in the author's lifetime; he resolved to keep this copy, till the author should press him for it; but with a determined purpose, it should never see the light, while there was any hopes of the author's own copy being published, or even preserved.

This resolution he inviolably kept, till he and the world had full assurance, that the Dean's executors, or those into whose hands the original copy fell, were so far from intending to publish it, that it was actually suppressed, perhaps destroyed.

Then, he thought himself not only at liberty, but judged it his duty to his departed friend, and to the public, to let this copy, which he had now kept many years most secretly, see the light.

Thus it has at length fallen into the hands of a person, who publishes it for the satisfaction of the public, abstracted from all private regards; which are never to be permitted to come in competition with the common good.

Every judicious eye will see, that the author of these sheets wrote with strong passions, but with stronger prepossessions and prejudices in favour of a party. These, it may be imagined, the editor, in some measure, may have adopted, and published this work as a kind of support of that party, or some surviving remnant thereof.

It is but just to undeceive the reader, and inform him from what kind of hand he has received this work. A man may regard a good piece of painting, while he despises the subject; if the subject be ever so despicable, the masterly strokes of the painter may demand our admiration, while he, in other respects, is entitled to no portion of our regard.

In poetry, we carry our admiration still farther; and like the poet, while we actually contemn the man. Historians share the like fate; hence some, who have no regard to propriety or truth, are yet admired for diction, style, manner, and the like.

The editor considers this work in another light. He long knew the author, and was no stranger to his politics, connections, tendencies, passions, and the whole economy of his life. He has long been hardily singular in condemning this great man's conduct amid the admiring multitude, nor ever could have thought of making an interest in a man, whose principles and manners he could by no rule of reason or honour approve, however he might have admired his parts and wit.

Such was judged the disposition of the man, whose history of the most interesting period of time in the annals of Britain are now, herein, offered to the reader. He may well ask from what motives? The answer is easily, simply given.

The causes assigned for delaying the publication of this history were principally these:[2] That the manuscript fell into the hands of men, who, whatever they might have been by the generality deemed, were by the Dean believed to be of his party, though they did not, after his death, judge it prudent to avow his principles, more than to deny them in his lifetime. These men, having got their beavers, tobacco-boxes, and other trifling remembrances of former friendship, by the Dean's will, did not choose publicly to avow principles, that had marred their friend's promotion, and might probably put a stop to theirs. Therefore, they gave the inquisitive world to understand, that there was something too strong against many great men, as well as the succeeding system of public affairs in general, in the Dean's History of the Four Last Years of the Queen's Reign, to admit of a publication, in our times; and, with this poor insinuation, excused themselves, and satisfied the weakly well-affected, in suppressing the manifestation of displeasing truths, of however great importance to society.

[Footnote 2: The causes for the delay in the publication of the "History" are given at length by the present editor in the Introduction. [T.S.]]

This manuscript has now fallen into the hands of a man, who never could associate with, or even approve, any of the parties or factions, that have differently distracted, it might be said disgraced, these kingdoms; because he has as yet known none, whose motives or rules of action were truth and the public good alone; of one, who judges, that perjured magistrates of all denominations, and their most exalted minions, may be exposed, deprived, or cut off, by the fundamental laws of his country; and who, upon these principles, from his heart approves and glories in the virtues of his predecessors, who revived the true spirit of the British polity, in laying aside a priest-ridden, an hen-pecked, tyrannical tool, who had overturned the political constitution of his country, and in reinstituting the dissolved body politic, by a revolution supported by the laws of nature and the realm, as the only means of preserving the natural and legal, the civil and religious liberties of the members of the commonwealth.

Truth, in this man's estimation, can hurt no good cause. And falsehood and fraud, in religion and politics, are ever to be detected, to be exploded.

Insinuations, that this History contained something injurious to the present establishment, and therefore necessary to be suppressed, serve better the purposes of mistaken or insidious malcontents than the real publication can. And, if any thing were by this, or any other, History to be shown essentially erroneous in our politics, who, that calls himself a Briton, can be deemed such an impious slave, as to conceal the destructive evil? The editor of this work disdains and abhors the servile thought, and wishes to live no longer than he dares to think, speak, write, and, in all things, to act worthy of a Briton.

From this regard to truth and to his country, the editor of this History was glad of an opportunity of rescuing such a writing from those who meant to suppress it. The common cause, in his estimation, required and demanded it should be done; and the sooner it is published, he judged, the better: for, if the conduct of the Queen and her ministers does not deserve the obloquy that has been long industriously cast upon it, what is more just than to vindicate it? What more reasonable than that this should be done, while living witnesses may yet be called, to prove or disprove the several allegations and assertions; since, in a few years more, such witnesses may be as much wanting as to prevent a canonization, which is therefore prudently procrastinated for above an age? Let us then coolly hear what is to be said on this side the question, and judge like Britons.

The editor would not be thought to justify the author of this History, in all points, or even to attempt to acquit him of unbecoming prejudices and partiality. Without being deeply versed in history or politics, he can see his author, in many instances, blinded with passions that disgrace the historian; and blending, with phrases worthy of a Caesar or a Cicero, expressions not to be justified by truth, reason, or common sense, yet think him a most powerful orator, and a great historian.

No unprejudiced person will blame the Dean for doing all that is consistent with truth and decency to vindicate the government of the Queen, and to exculpate the conduct of her ministers and her last general; all good men would rejoice at such a vindication. But, if he meant no more than this, his work would ill deserve the title of an History. That he generally tells truths, and founds his most material assertions upon fact, will, I think be found very evident. But there is room to suspect, that, while he tells no more than the truth, he does not tell the whole truth. However, he makes it very clear, that the Queen's allies, especially our worthy friends the Dutch, were much to blame for the now generally condemned conduct of the Queen, with regard to the prosecution of the war and the bringing about the peace.

The authors drawings of characters are confessedly partial: for he tells us openly, he means not to give characters entire, but such parts of each man's particular passions, acquirements, and habits, as he was most likely to transfer into his political schemes. What writing, what sentence, what character, can stand this torture?—What extreme perversion may not, let me say, does not, this produce? Yet thus does he choose to treat all men, that were not favourers of the latest measures of the Queen, when the best that has been said for her, shows no more than that she was blindfolded and held in leading-strings by her ministers.

He does not spare a man, confessed by all the world to have discharged the duties of his function like a soldier, like an hero. But charges Prince Eugene with raising and keeping up a most horrible mob, with intent to assassinate Harley. For all which odious charges he offers not one individual point of proof.

He is not content with laying open again the many faults already publicly proved upon the late Duke of Marlborough, but insinuates a new crime, by seeming to attempt to acquit him of aspiring at the throne. But this is done in a manner peculiar to this author.

On the other hand, he extols the ministers, and minions of the Queen, in the highest terms; and while he robs their antagonists of every good quality, generally gives those wisdom and every virtue that can adorn human nature.

He is not ashamed to attempt to justify, what all thinking good men must condemn, the Queen's making twelve peers at once, to serve a particular turn.

All these may be ascribed to the strength of his passions, and to the prejudices, early imbibed, in favour of his indulgent royal mistress and her favourites and servants.[3] The judicious will look through the elegant clothing, and dispassionately consider these as mere human errors, to which no well-informed mind can assent. The editor thinks himself bound to protest against them.

[Footnote 3: That Swift should have a strong partiality to Harley and St. John, by whom he was respected and trusted to a most uncommon degree, is natural and obvious; but upon what ground Queen Anne, who disliked his person, and obstructed his preferment, is here termed his indulgent mistress, the author of this preface ought to have condescended to explain. Ṣ]

He makes a few lapses on the other side, without being as clear as an impartial historian would choose to appear. He more than hints at the Queen's displeasure at its being moved in Parliament, that the Prince Elector should be invited to reside in England, to whose crown he was by law declared presumptive heir, but is always open upon the Queen's insisting on the Pretender's being sent out of France.—It is easy to see how incompatible these things appear. Nothing could tend more to secure the Hanover succession, and to enlarge its benefits to Britain, than the bringing over the successor, who should, in every country, be well instructed in the language, customs, manners, religion, and laws of his future subjects, before he comes to hold the reins of government. And our author does not take the proper care to inform us how far the French thought fit to comply with banishing the Pretender their dominions, since many still live in doubt, that if he was sent out of France, he was sent into England.

But there is one expression of our author too perverse, too grossly abused, to admit of any apology, of any palliation. It is not to be supposed, that he was ignorant of any word in the English language. And least of all can he be supposed ignorant of the meaning of a word, which, had it been ever so doubtful before, had a certain meaning impressed upon it by the authority of Parliament, of which no sensible subject can be ignorant.

Notwithstanding this, where our author speaks of the late King James, he calls him the abdicated King, and gives the same epithet even to his family. Though this weak, ill-advised, and ill-fated prince, in every sense of the word, with Romans and English, and to all intents and purposes, abdicated, yet can he, in no sense, be called abdicated; unless the people's asserting their rights, and defending themselves against a king, who broke his compact with his subjects, and overturned their government, can be called abdication in them; which no man in his senses can be hardy enough to support upon any principle of reason or the laws of England. Let the reader judge which this is most likely to be, error or design.

These exceptions the editor thought himself bound to make to some parts of this work, to keep clear of the disagreeable imputations of being of a party, of whatsoever denomination, in opposition to truth and the rights and liberties of the subject.

These laid aside, the work will be found to have many beauties, many excellencies. Some have of late affected to depreciate this History, from an insinuation, made only since the author's death, to wit, that he was never admitted into the secrets of the administration, but made to believe he was a confident, only to engage him in the list of the ministerial writers of that reign.

The falsehood of this will readily appear upon perusal of the work. This shows he knew the most secret springs of every movement in the whole complicated machine. That he states facts, too well known to be contested, in elegant simplicity, and reasons upon them with the talents of the greatest historian. And thus makes an History, composed rather of negotiations than actions, most entertaining, affecting, and interesting, instead of being, as might be expected, heavy, dull, and disagreeable.

It is now fit to apologize for some errors, which the judicious must discover upon a perusal of this work. It is for this, among other reasons, much to be lamented, that this History was not published under the author's own inspection. It is next to impossible to copy or print any work without faults, and most so where the author's eye is wanting.

It is not to be imagined, that even our author, however accurate, however great, was yet strictly and perfectly correct in his writings. Yet, where some seeming inaccuracies in style or expression have been discovered, the deference due to the author made any alteration too presumptuous a task for the editor. These are, therefore, left to the amending hand of every sensible and polite reader; while the editor hopes it will suffice, that he should point out some of those errors, which are to be ascribed either to transcribers or the press, and which may be rectified in the manner following, in reading the work.[4]

[Footnote 4: Here follows list of errata. (These errors have been corrected in the present edition.)]

And thus; with these and perhaps some few such like corrections, it is hoped this work will be found completely correct.


[Footnote 1: The time when it was written does not appear; but it was probably many years after the Queen's death. Ṇ First published in 1765. [W.S.J.]]

Having written the following History at Windsor, in the happy reign of Her Majesty Queen Anne, of ever glorious, blessed, and immortal memory; I resolved to publish it, for the satisfaction of my fellow-subjects, in the year 1713; but, being under a necessity of going to Ireland, to take possession of the deanery of St. Patrick's, Dublin, I left the original with the ministers; and having stayed in that kingdom not above a fortnight, I found, at my return, that my Lord Treasurer Oxford, and the secretary my Lord Bolingbroke, who were then unhappily upon very ill terms with each other, could not agree upon publishing it, without some alterations which I would not submit to. Whereupon I kept it by me until Her Majesty's death, which happened about a year after.

I have ever since preserved the original very safely; too well knowing what a turn the world would take upon the German family's succeeding to the crown; which indeed was their undoubted right, having been established solemnly by the act of an undisputed Parliament, brought into the House of Commons by Mr. Harley, who was then Speaker.

But, as I have said in another discourse,[2] it was very well understood, some years before Her Majesty's death, how the new King would act, immediately upon his entrance, in the choice of those (and those alone) whom he resolved to trust; and consequently what reports would industriously be raised, as well as spread, to expose the proceedings of Her Majesty herself, as well as of her servants; who have been ever since blasted as enemies to the present establishment, by the most ignorant and malicious among mankind.

[Footnote 2: "Memoirs relating to the Change in the Queen's Ministry." See vol. v. of present edition. [T.S.]]

Therefore, as it was my lot to have been daily conversant with the persons then in power; never absent in times of business or conversation, until a few weeks before Her Majesty's death; and a witness of almost every step they made in the course of their administration; I must have been very unfortunate not to be better informed than those miserable pamphleteers, or their patrons, could pretend to. At the same time, I freely confess, it appeared necessary, as well as natural, upon such a mighty change as the death of a sovereign, that those who were to be in power upon the succession, and resolved to act in every part by a direct contrary system of politics, should load their predecessors with as much infamy as the most inveterate malice and envy could suggest, or the most stupid ignorance and credulity in their underlings could swallow.

Therefore, as I pretend to write with the utmost impartiality, the following History of the Four Last Years of her Majesty's Reign, in order to undeceive prejudiced persons at present, as well as posterity; I am persuaded in my own mind, as likewise by the advice of my oldest and wisest friends, that I am doing my duty to God and man, by endeavouring to set future ages right in their judgment of that happy reign; and, as a faithful historian, I cannot suffer falsehoods to run on any longer, not only against all appearance of truth as well as probability, but even against those happy events, which owe their success to the very measures then fixed in the general peace.

The materials for this History, besides what I have already mentioned, I mean the confidence reposed in me for those four years, by the chief persons in power, were extracted out of many hundred letters written by our ambassadors abroad, and from the answers as well as instructions sent them by our secretaries of state, or by the first minister the Earl of Oxford. The former were all originals, and the latter copies entered into books in the secretaries' office, out of both which I collected all that I thought convenient; not to mention several Memorials given me by the ministers at home. Further, I was a constant witness and observer of all that passed; and entered every particular of any consequence upon paper.

I was so far from having any obligation to the crown, that, on the contrary, Her Majesty issued a proclamation, offering three hundred pounds to any person who would discover the author of a certain short treatise,[3] which the Queen well knew to have been written by me. I never received one shilling from the minister, or any other present, except that of a few books; nor did I want their assistance to support me. I very often dined indeed with the treasurer and secretary; but, in those days, that was not reckoned a bribe, whatever it may have been at any time since. I absolutely refused to be chaplain to the Lord Treasurer; because I thought it would ill become me to be in a state of dependence.

[Footnote 3: "The Public Spirit of the Whigs." [D.S.]]

I say this, to shew that I had no other bias than my own opinion of persons and affairs. I preserved several of the opposite party in their employments, who were persons of wit and learning, particularly Mr. Addison and Mr. Congreve, neither of whom were ever in any danger from the treasurer, who much esteemed them both; and, by his lordship's commands, I brought the latter to dine with him. Mr. Steele might have been safe enough, if his continually repeated indiscretions, and a zeal mingled with scurrilities, had not forfeited all title to lenity.[4]

[Footnote 4: A full account of the severance of the friendly relations between Swift and Steele is given in the fifth volume of the present edition (see pp. 276-282). [T.S.]]

I know very well the numberless prejudices of weak and deceived people, as well as the malice of those, who, to serve their own interest or ambition, have cast off all religion, morality, justice, and common decency. However, although perhaps I may not be believed in the present age, yet I hope to be so in the next, by all who will bear any regard for the honour and liberty of England, if either of these shall then subsist or not.

I have no interest or inclination to palliate the mistakes, or omissions, or want of steadiness, or unhappy misunderstandings, among a few of those who then presided in affairs.

Nothing is more common than the virulence of superficial and ill informed writers, against the conduct of those who are now called prime ministers: And, since factions appear at present to be at a greater height than in any former times, although perhaps not so equally poised; it may probably concern those who are now in their height, if they have any regard for their own memories in future ages, to be less warm against others, who humbly differ from them in some state opinions. Old persons remember, at least by tradition, the horrible prejudices that prevailed against the first Earl of Clarendon, whose character, as it now stands, might be a pattern for all ministers; although even Bishop Burnet of Sarum, whose principles, veracity, and manner of writing, are so little esteemed upon many accounts, hath been at the pains to vindicate him.

Upon that irreparable breach between the treasurer and secretary Bolingbroke, after my utmost endeavours, for above two years, to reconcile them, I retired to a friend in Berkshire, where I stayed until Her Majesty's death;[5] and then immediately returned to my station in Dublin, where I continued about twelve years without once seeing England. I there often reviewed the following Memoirs; neither changing nor adding, further than by correcting the style: And, if I have been guilty of any mistakes, they must be of small moment; for it was hardly possible I could be wrong informed, with all the advantages I have already mentioned.

[Footnote 5: See vol. v. of the present edition—the notes on pp. 390, 393-394, 420, 421, and 426. [T.S.]]

I shall not be very uneasy under the obloquy that may, perhaps, be cast upon me by the violent leaders and followers of the present prevailing party. And yet I cannot find the least inconsistence with conscience or honour, upon the death of so excellent a princess as her late Majesty, for a wise and good man to submit, with a true and loyal heart, to her lawful Protestant successor; whose hereditary title was confirmed by the Queen and both Houses of Parliament, with the greatest unanimity, after it had been made an article in the treaty, that every prince in our alliance should be a guarantee of that succession. Nay, I will venture to go one step farther; that, if the negotiators of that peace had been chosen out of the most professed zealots for the interests of the Hanover family, they could not have bound up the French king, or the Hollanders, more strictly than the Queen's plenipotentiaries did, in confirming the present succession; which was in them so much a greater mark of virtue and loyalty, because they perfectly well knew, that they should never receive the least mark of favour, when the succession had taken place.



I propose give the public an account of the most important affairs at home, during the last session of Parliament, as well as of our negotiations of peace abroad, not only during that period, but some time before and since. I shall relate the chief matters transacted by both Houses in that session, and discover the designs carried on by the heads of a discontented party,[1] not only against the ministry, but, in some manner, against the crown itself. I likewise shall state the debts of the nation, show by what mismanagement, and to serve what purposes, they were at first contracted, by what negligence or corruption they have so prodigiously grown, and what methods have since been taken to provide not only for their payment, but to prevent the like mischief for the time to come. Although, in an age like ours, I can expect very few impartial readers, yet I shall strictly follow truth, or what reasonably appeared to me to be such, after the most impartial inquiries I could make, and the best opportunities of being informed, by those who were the principal actors or advisers.[2]

[Footnote 1: P. Fitzgerald says "faction." [W.S.J.]]

[Footnote 2: Swift's informants were, of course, Harley and Bolingbroke, though the latter stated that Swift was given only such information as served the ministry's purpose in the work they had given him for "The Examiner" and the party pamphlets written in their defence. It is, however, quite interesting in this connection, to see how closely Swift's narrative follows the published political correspondence of Bolingbroke. [T.S.]]

Neither shall I mingle panegyric or satire with an history intended to inform posterity, as well as to instruct those of the present age, who may be ignorant or misled; since facts, truly related, are the best applauses, or most lasting reproaches.

Discourses upon subjects relating to the public usually seem to be calculated for London only, and some few miles about it; while the authors suppose their readers to be informed of several particulars, to which those that live remote are, for the generality, utter strangers. Most people, who frequent this town, acquire a sort of smattering (such as it is), which qualifies them for reading a pamphlet, and finding out what is meant by innuendoes, or hints at facts or persons, and initial letters of names, wherein gentlemen at a distance, although perhaps of much better understandings, are wholly in the dark. Wherefore, that these Memoirs may be rendered more generally intelligible and useful, it will be convenient to give the reader a short view of the state and disposition of affairs, when the last session of Parliament began. And because the party-leaders, who had lost their power and places, were, upon that juncture, employing all their engines, in an attempt to re-establish themselves, I shall venture one step further, and represent so much of their characters as may be supposed to have influenced their politics.

On the seventh day of December, one thousand seven hundred and eleven, began the second session of Parliament. It was now above a year since the Queen had thought fit to put the great offices of state, and of her own household, into other hands; however, three of the discontented lords were still in possession of their places, for the Duke of Marlborough continued general, the Duke of Somerset master of the horse, and the Earl of Cholmondeley treasurer of Her Majesty's household;[3] likewise great numbers of the same party[4] still kept employments of value and importance, which had not been usual of late years upon any changes of ministry. The Queen, who judged the temper of her people by this House of Commons, which a landed interest had freely chosen, found them very desirous of a secure and honourable peace, and disposed[5] to leave the management of it to her own wisdom, and that of her own council. She had, therefore, several months before the session began, sent to inform the States General of some overtures which had been made her by the enemy; and, during that summer, Her Majesty took several farther steps in that great affair, until at length, after many difficulties, a congress at Utrecht, for a general peace, was agreed upon, the whole proceedings of which previous negotiations, between our court and that of France, I shall, in its proper place, very particularly relate.

[Footnote 3: See note on p. 385 of vol. v. of present edition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 4: P. Fitzgerald says "the ejected party." [W.S.J.]]

[Footnote 5: P. Fitzgerald adds "(as it was their duty)." [W.S.J.]]

The nation was already upon a better foot, with respect to its debts; for the Earl of Oxford, lord treasurer, had, in the preceeding session, proposed and effected ways and means, in the House of Commons (where he was then a member), for providing a parliamentary fund, to clear the heavy arrear of ten millions (whereof the greatest part lay upon the navy), without any new burthen (at least after a very few years) to the kingdom; and, at the same time, he took care to prevent farther incumbrances upon that article, by finding ready money for naval provisions, which has saved the public somewhat more than cent. per cent. in that mighty branch of our expenses.

The clergy were altogether in the interests and the measures of the present ministry, which had appeared so boldly in their defence, during a prosecution against one of their members,[6] where the whole sacred order was understood to be concerned. The zeal shown for that most religious bill, to settle a fund for building fifty new churches in and about the city of London,[7] was a fresh obligation; and they were farther highly gratified, by Her Majesty's choosing one of their body to be a great officer of state.[8]

[Footnote 6: Dr. Sacheverell. Ṇ]

[Footnote 7: A suggestion originally made by Swift himself. See vol. iii., p. 45, of present edition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 8: Dr. Robinson, Lord Bishop of Bristol, to be Lord Privy Seal. [ORIGINAL NOTE.] Dr. Robinson, who was appointed Bishop of London in 1713, died in 1723. [W.S.J.]]

By this time likewise, all disputes about these principles, which used originally to divide Whig and Tory, were wholly dropped; and those fantastical words ought in justice to have been so too, provided we could have found out more convenient names, whereby to distinguish lovers of peace from lovers of war;[9] or those who would leave Her Majesty some degree of freedom in the choice of her ministers, from others, who could not be satisfied with her choosing any, except such as she was most averse from. But, where a nation is once divided, interest and animosity will keep open the breach, without being supported by any other principles; or, at worst, a body of discontented people can change, and take up what principles they please.

[Footnote 9: Swift had already, in his "Some Free Thoughts upon the Present State of Affairs," attempted to re-define the distinctions of Whig and Tory. The latter, he urged, was of that party which pronounced for the principles of loyalty to the Church and the preservation of the Protestant succession in the House of Hanover. Swift felt that the majority of the people at large were strong for these principles, and the party that would openly accept them as its "platform" would, he argued, be the party that would obtain the people's support. Had Bollngbroke not delayed the publication of this tract, it might have had great influence in keeping the Tories in power. See vol. v. of present edition, pp. 380, 393. [T.S.]]

As to the disposition of the opposite party, we all remember, that the removal of the last ministry was brought about by several degrees; through which means it happened, that they and their friends were hardly recovered out of one astonishment, before they fell into another. This scene lasted for some months, and was followed by a period of rage and despair, natural to those who reflect that they have lost a secure game, by their own rashness, folly, and want of common management, when, at the same time, they knew by experience, that a watchful and dexterous adversary lay ready to take the advantage. However, some time before the session, the heads of that party began to recollect themselves, and rally their forces, like an enemy who hath been beaten out of the field, but finds he is not pursued; for although the chiefs of this faction were thought to have but little esteem or friendship for each other, yet they perfectly agreed in one general end, of distressing, by all possible methods, the new administration, wherein if they could succeed so far as to put the Queen under any great necessity, another Parliament must be called, and perhaps the power[10] devolve again into their own hands.

[Footnote 10: P. Fitzgerald says "and the power naturally." [W.S.J.]]

The issue and event of that grand confederacy appearing in both Houses, although under a different form, upon the very first day the Parliament met, I cannot better begin the relation of affairs, commencing from that period, than by a thorough detection of the whole intrigue, carried on with the greatest privacy and application, which must be acknowledged to have for several days disconcerted some of the ministry, as well as dispirited their friends; and the consequences thereof, which have in reality been so very pernicious to the kingdom.

But because the principal leaders in this design are the same persons to whom, since the loss of their power, all the opposition has been owing which the court received, either in treaties abroad, or the administration at home; it may not be improper to describe those qualities in each of them, which few of their admirers will deny, and which appear chiefly to have influenced them in acting their several parts upon the public stage. For I do not intend to draw their characters entire, which would be tedious, and little to the purpose, but shall only single out those passions, acquirements, and habits, which the owners were most likely to transfer into their political schemes, and which were most subservient to the designs they seemed to have in view.

The Lord Somers[11] may very deservedly be reputed the head and oracle of that party; he hath raised himself, by the concurrence of many circumstances, to the greatest employments of the state, without the least support from birth or fortune; he hath constantly, and with great steadiness, cultivated those principles under which he grew. That accident which first produced him into the world, of pleading for the bishops whom King James had sent to the Tower, might have proved a piece of merit, as honourable as it was fortunate, but the old republican spirit, which the Revolution had restored, began to teach other lessons—That since we had accepted a new King, from a Calvinistical commonwealth, we must also admit new maxims in religion and government. But, since the nobility and gentry would probably adhere to the established Church, and to the rights of monarchy, as delivered down from their ancestors, it was the practice of those politicians to introduce such men as were perfectly indifferent to any or no religion, and who were not likely to inherit much loyalty from those to whom they owed their birth. Of this number was the person I am now describing. I have hardly known any man, with talents more proper to acquire and preserve the favour of a prince; never offending in word or gesture; in the highest degree courteous and complaisant; wherein he set an excellent example to his colleagues, which they did not think fit to follow. But this extreme civility is universal and undistinguished, and in private conversation, where he observeth it as inviolably as if he were in the greatest assembly, it is sometimes censured as formal. Two reasons are assigned for this behaviour: first, from the consciousness of his humble original,[12] he keepeth all familiarity at the utmost distance, which otherwise might be apt to intrude; the second, that being sensible how subject he is to violent passions, he avoideth all incitements to them, by teaching those he converses with, from his own example, to keep a great way within the bounds of decency and respect. And it is indeed true, that no man is more apt to take fire, upon the least appearance of provocation; which temper he strives to subdue, with the utmost violence upon himself: so that his breast has been seen to heave, and his eyes to sparkle with rage, in those very moments when his words, and the cadence of his voice, were in the humblest and softest manner: perhaps that force upon his nature may cause that insatiable love of revenge, which his detractors lay to his charge, who consequently reckon dissimulation among his chief perfections. Avarice he hath none; and his ambition is gratified, by being the uncontested head of his party. With an excellent understanding, adorned by all the polite parts of learning, he hath very little taste for conversation, to which he prefers the pleasure of reading and thinking; and in the intervals of his time amuseth himself with an illiterate chaplain, an humble companion, or a favourite servant.

[Footnote 11: See note on p. 29 of vol. i. of present edition. Swift's "Dedication" of "A Tale of a Tub" to Somers strikes a somewhat different note from that of this "character." [T.S.]]

[Footnote 12: His father, John Somers, was an attorney at law in the town of Worcester. Ṣ]

These are some few distinguishing marks in the character of that person, who now presideth over the discontented party, although he be not answerable for all their mistakes; and if his precepts had been more strictly followed, perhaps their power would not have been so easily shaken. I have been assured, and heard him profess, that he was against engaging in that foolish prosecution of Dr. Sacheverell, as what he foresaw was likely to end in their ruin; that he blamed the rough demeanour of some persons to the Queen, as a great failure in prudence; and that, when it appeared Her Majesty was firmly resolved upon a treaty of peace, he advised his friends not to oppose it in its progress, but find fault with it after it was made; which would be a copy of the like usage themselves had met with, after the treaty of Ryswick;[13] and the safest, as well as the most probable, way of disgracing the promoters and advisers. I have been the larger in representing to the reader some idea of this extraordinary genius, because, whatever attempt hath hitherto been made, with any appearance of conduct, or probability of success, to restore the dominion of that party,[14] was infallibly contrived by him; and I prophesy the same for the future, as long as his age and infirmities will leave him capable of business.

[Footnote 13: See note in vol. v., p. 67, of present edition, [T.S.]]

[Footnote 14: P. Fitzgerald says "faction." [W.S.J.]]

The Duke of Marlborough's character[15] hath been so variously drawn, and is indeed of so mixed a nature in itself, that it is hard to pronounce on either side, without the suspicion of flattery or detraction. I shall say nothing of his military accomplishments, which the opposite reports, of his friends and enemies among the soldiers, have rendered[26] problematical: but if he be among those who delight in war, it is agreed to be not for the reasons common with other generals. Those maligners who deny him personal valour, seem not to consider that this accusation is charged at a venture; since the person of a wise general is too seldom exposed, to form any judgment in the matter: and that fear, which is said to have sometimes[17] disconcerted him before an action, might probably be more for his army than for himself.[18] He was bred in the height of what is called the Tory principle; and continued with a strong bias that way, till the other party had bid higher for him than his friends could afford to give. His want of literature is in some sort supplied by a good understanding, a degree of natural elocution, and that knowledge of the world which is learned in armies and courts. We are not to take the height of his ambition from his soliciting to be general for life:[19] I am persuaded his chief motive was the pay and perquisites, by continuing the war; and that he had then no intentions of settling the crown in his family, his only son having been dead some years before.[20] He is noted to be master of great temper, able to govern or very well to disguise his passions, which are all melted down, or extinguished, in his love of wealth. That liberality which nature has denied him, with respect of money, he makes up by a great profusion of promises: but this perfection, so necessary in courts, is not very successful in camps among soldiers, who are not refined enough to understand or to relish it.[21]

[Footnote 15: For further remarks on Marlborough, see Swift's "Conduct of the Allies," "The Learned Comment on Dr. Hare's Sermon," and "The Examiner." [T.S.]]

[Footnote 16: P. Fitzgerald adds "altogether." [W.S.J.]]

[Footnote 17: P. Fitzgerald says "usually." [W.S.J.]]

[Footnote 18: This reflection on Marlborough's personal courage was one of the points noted by Erasmus Lewis in his letter to Swift of April 8th, 1738. The friends who had met to read and pass opinion on this "History" decided that in any printed form of this work it would be advisable not to call in question the courage of Marlborough. See Sir W. Scott's edition, vol. xix., pp. 133-136. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 19: See "Memoirs Relating to that Change," etc., in vol. v., pp. 372-373 of present edition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 20: See "The Conduct of the Allies," vol. v., p. 103, and also "A Learned Comment," etc., p. 179 of same volume of present edition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 21: See the Letter to Marcus Crassus in "The Examiner," No. 28 in vol. ix. of present edition. [T.S.]]

His wife, the Duchess, may justly challenge her place in this list. It is to her the Duke is chiefly indebted for his greatness and his fall; for above twenty years she possessed, without a rival, the favours of the most indulgent mistress in the world, nor ever missed one single opportunity that fell in her way of improving it to her own advantage.[22] She hath preserved a tolerable court reputation, with respect to love and gallantry;[23] but three Furies reigned in her breast, the most mortal enemies of all softer passions, which were sordid Avarice, disdainful Pride, and ungovernable Rage; by the last of these often breaking out in sallies of the most unpardonable sort, she had long alienated her sovereign's mind, before it appeared to the world.[24] This lady is not without some degree of wit, and hath in her time affected the character of it, by the usual method of arguing against religion, and proving the doctrines of Christianity to be impossible and absurd. Imagine what such a spirit, irritated by the loss of power, favour, and employment, is capable of acting or attempting; and then I have said enough.

[Footnote 22: See the "Account of the Conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough, in a Letter from Herself, to Lord ——," 8vo, 1742, passim. Ṇ See also "Memoirs Relating to that Change," etc., in vol. v. of present edition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 23: P. Fitzgerald adds "(to which, however, she hath been thought not entirely a stranger)." [W.S.J.]]

[Footnote 24: See note in vol. v., p. 368, of present edition. [T.S.]]

The next in order to be mentioned is the Earl of Godolphin.[25] It is said, he was originally intended for a trade, before his friends preferred him to be a page at court; which some have very unjustly objected as a reproach. He hath risen gradually in four reigns, and was much more constant to his second master King James than some others, who had received much greater obligations; for he attended the abdicated King to the sea-side, and kept constant correspondence with him till the day of his death. He always professed a sort of passion for the Queen at St. Germain's; and his letters were to her in the style of what the French call double entendre. In a mixture of love and respect, he used frequently to send her from hence little presents of those things which are agreeable to ladies, for which he always asked King William's leave, as if without her privity; because, if she had known that circumstance, it was to be supposed she would not accept them. Physiognomists would hardly discover, by consulting the aspect of this lord, that his predominant passions were love and play; that he could sometimes scratch out a song in praise of his mistress, with a pencil and card; or that he hath tears at command, like a woman, to be used either in an intrigue of gallantry or politics. His alliance with the Marlborough family, and his passion for the Duchess, were the cords which dragged him into a party, whose principles he naturally disliked, and whose leaders he personally hated, as they did him. He became a thorough convert by a perfect trifle; taking fire at a nickname[26] delivered by Dr. Sacheverell, with great indiscretion, from the pulpit, which he applied to himself: and this is one among many instances given by his enemies, that magnanimity is none of his virtues.

[Footnote 25: See note in vol. v., p. 68, of present edition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 26: Volpone. [ORIGINAL NOTE.]]

The Earl of Sunderland[27] is another of that alliance. It seems to have been this gentleman's fortune, to have learned his divinity from his uncle,[28] and his politics from his tutor.[29] It may be thought a blemish in his character, that he hath much fallen from the height of those republican[30] principles with which he began; for in his father's lifetime, while he was a Member of the House of Commons, he would often, among his familiar friends, refuse the title of Lord (as he hath done to myself), swear he would never be called otherwise than Charles Spencer, and hoped to see the day when there should not be a peer in England. His understanding, at the best, is of the middling size; neither hath he much improved it, either in reality, or, which is very unfortunate, even in the opinion of the world, by an overgrown library.[31] It is hard to decide, whether he learned that rough way of treating his sovereign from the lady he is allied to,[32] or whether it be the result of his own nature. The sense of the injuries he hath done, renders him (as it is very natural) implacable towards those to whom he hath given greatest cause to complain; for which reason he will never forgive either the Queen or the present treasurer.

[Footnote 27: See note in vol. v., pp. 377-378 of present edition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 28: John Digby, third earl of Bristol. [W.S.J.]]

[Footnote 29: Dr. Trimnel, since Bishop of Winton. [ORIGINAL NOTE.] He was Bishop of Norwich, 1708-1721, and of Winchester from 1721 till his death in 1723. [W.S.J.]]

[Footnote 30: P. Fitzgerald says "Whiggish." [W.S.J.]]

[Footnote 31: The library that made such a sensation in the bibliographical world when it was sold at auction in the latter part of the last century. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 32: His lordship married the Duchess of Marlborough's second daughter. "Account, etc.," p. 286. Ṇ]

The Earl of Wharton[33] hath filled the province allotted him by his colleagues, with sufficiency equal to the ablest of them all. He hath imbibed his father's[34] principles in government; but dropped his religion, and took up no other in its stead: excepting that circumstance, he is a firm Presbyterian. He is perfectly skilled in all the arts of managing at elections, as well as in large baits of pleasure for making converts of young men of quality, upon their first appearance; in which public service he contracted such large debts, that his brethren were forced, out of mere justice, to leave Ireland at his mercy, where he had only time to set himself right. Although the graver heads of his party think him too profligate and abandoned, yet they dare not be ashamed of him; for, beside his talents above mentioned, he is very useful in Parliament, being a ready speaker, and content to employ his gift upon such occasions, where those who conceive they have any remainder of reputation or modesty are ashamed to appear. In short, he is an uncontestable instance to discover the true nature of faction; since, being overrun with every quality which produceth contempt and hatred, in all other commerce of the world, he hath, notwithstanding, been able to make so considerable a figure.

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