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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 there before, 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 go 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,
“I to Wimple, thence, alone, to Herefordshire.” What! this great
inister, 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,
* 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 Herefordshire, which I consented to, and wrote you word of it, desiring you would renew my licence of absenee 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 excuse; but before I could write, news came of the queen's death, and all our schemes broke to shatters." S.
What, alone ! No, while I exist, my friend shall not go alone into Hereforshire.”
This conduct was the more noble in Swift, as during the whole course of their intimacy, he never received one personal favour from the minister, though treated with the most unreserved kindness by the man. Nay, whether it were owing to his procrastinating temper, or as Swift calls it in another place, his unmeasurable public thrift, he had neglected to procure for him an order for a thousand pound on the treasury, to pay the debt contracted by him upon his introduction to the deanery, which was all the reward Swift ever asked for his services.* And there is reason to believe, from a passage in a letter of Dr. Arbuthnot to him, dated July 14, that Swift was distressed for money at that time, on account of that neglect. The passage is this, “ Do not think I make you a bare compliment in what I am going to say, for I can assure you I am in earnest. I am in hopes to have two hundred pounds before I go out of town, and you may command all, or any part of it you please, as long as you have occasion for it.” And in the same letter it appears that the doctor had been desired by Swift to apply to Lord Bolingbroke for fifty pounds due to him from that lord, where he says, " As to the fifty pounds, he (Lord Bolingbroke) was ready to pay it, and if he had had it about him, would have given it to me.” But it
* Nothing can show more the s'rong desire which Lord Bolingbroke had to attach Swist to his interest upon his getting into power, than his taking care, during his short ministry of three days only, to have an order signed by the queen on the treasury, to pay that suma to Swift, though by her sudden death he reaped no advantage from it. It appears, that Swift had this order in his possession when he visited London in the year 1726; for he says, in a letter to Dr. Sheridan, “Tell the archdeacon that I never asked for my thousand pounds, which he hears I have got, though I mentioned it to the princess the last time I saw her; but I bid her tell Walpole, I scorned to ask hinn for it." S.
is highly probable from the great delicacy of Swift's sentiments, that this very circumstance of his lying under no obligation to Lord Oxford, was what rendered his attachment to him the stronger, as it must proceed wholly from pure disinterested friendship. That this was his way of thinking, may be seen from several of his letters. In that of July 1, 1714, on his retiring to Letcombe, he thus expresses himself to the lord treasurer :
“ MY LORD, “ WHEN I was with you, I have said more than once, that I would never allow quality or station made any real difference between men. Being now absent and forgotten, I have changed my mind: you have a thousand people who can pretend they love you, with as much appearance of sincerity as I; so that, according to common justice, I can have but a thousandth part in return of what I give. And this difference is wholly owing to your station. And the misfortune is still the greater, because I loved you so much the less for your station : for, in your public capacity, you have often angered me to the heart; but as a private man, never once. So that, if I only look toward myself, I could wish you a private man tomorrow: for I have nothing to ask ; at least nothing that you will give, which is the same thing; and then you would see, whether I should not with much more willingness attend you in a retirement, whenever you please to give me leave, than ever I did at London or Windsor. * From these sentiments I will never write to you, if I can help it, otherwise than as to a private man, or allow myself to have been obliged by you in any other capacity,” &c.
* In the several accounts given of Lord Oxford by Swift in different parts of his writings, there seems to be something contradictory: as in some places he extols him to the skies, and in others, imputes great weakness and faults to him. But this arises from the view he gives of him in two different characters. As a public minister, he represents him to have been one of the wisest, the ablest, and the most disinterested that ever lived; and he confirms this character by enumerating the many great services he had dor.e to the state, without reaping the least advantage to himself, but rather injuring his private fortune. At the same time he shows that he was utterly unqualified to be the leader of a party, or to manage the private intrigues of a court; in which respects, partly from his natural disposition, and partly through want of true policy, he committed numberless errors; to which Swift alludes here, where he says, “ In your public capacity you have often angered me to the heart; but as a private man, never once." S.
And in one many years after, dated Oct. 11, 1722, expostulating with him in a friendly manner on his long silence, he says, “I never courted your acquaintance when you governed Europe, but you courted mine; and now you neglect me, when I use all my insinuations to keep myself in your memory. I am very sensible, that next to your receiving thanks and compliments, there is nothing you more hate than writing letters; but since I never gave you thanks, nor made you compliments, I have so much more merit than any of those thousands whom you have less obliged, by only making their fortunes, without taking them into your friendship, as you did me; whom you always countenanced in too public and particular a manner, to be forgotten either by the world or myself.” The merit of Swift, in thus adhering to his friend at this juncture, was the more extraordinary, because he not only sacrificed to it all regard to his own interest, but that of the public also. It appears, that the queen in the last six nionths of her life, had changed her whole system with regard to parties, and came entirely round to that which had been the great object of all Swift's politics, by making a general sweep of the whigs from all their employments, both civil and military: and
* Lord Oxford had too soon reason to put this declaration of Swift's to the test, and found it nobly answered. S.
the only obstacles thrown in the way were by Lord Oxford; who from private motives of his own, set forth by Swift at large in his “ Inquiry,” &c.* refused to fall into the measure ; and notwithstanding every effort used by Swift, continued inflexible in his resolution. He might therefore have had the strongest plea, from motives of a superior nature, his duty to the public, for deserting him on this occasion, and joining all his other friends in promoting his favourite plan, so essentially necessary to the support of the common cause. Nor could he have been liable to the least censure or reproach for such conduct. But his high notions of friendship, and delicate sense of honour, outweighed all other considerations, and would not let him hesitate a moment whāt part he should take.
It appears, in the course of the Journal, that there grew up between the lord treasurer and Swift, a mutual friendship of the most cordial and purest kind. He mentions dining with him sometimes four, sometimes five and six days together; and if he chanced to absent himself two successive days, he was sure of a friendly chiding for it. He seems to have been adopted into the Harley family, and considered on the footing of a near relation. As an instance of this, he says, in his journal of March, 1713, “I have now dined six days successively with lord treasurer. He had invited a good many of his relations ; and, of a dozen at table, they were all of the Harley family but myself.” He was of all his private parties, and constantly accompanied him in his visits to Windsor. In short, Lord Oxford never seemed to have any enjoyment in which he was not a partaker, When we consider, that he had found in one and the same man, the clearest and ablest head to give advice; and most open and candid heart in communicating his sentiments upon
* See “ Inquiry into the Behaviour of the Queen's last Minis try." $.