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I know nothing of promises of anything intended for myself; but, I thank God, I am not very warm in my expectations, and know courts too well to be surprised at disappointments; which, however, I shall have no great reason to fear, if I gave my thoughts any trouble that way, which, without af.
fectation, I do not ; although I cannot expect to be believed when I say so.
I am, &c.
FROM THE COUNTESS OF ORKNEY.
London, Nov 21, 1712.
This key will open treasures; but vain in me to know them.* Your convenience is my satisfaction. If I can or may read what will be in this table, it ought and shall be my happiness. You must discern this comes from the most interested joiner that ever made a thing of this nature. Peruse narrowly; and what faults you find, they shall be mended in every particular, to the utmost capacity of, Sir,
Your obliged humble servant,
* Indorsed thus: “Sent with a present of a writing-table, seal, paper, wax, &c.” The writi g-table, as appears from
Swift's Journal, was upon a plan contrived by the countess herself.
‘. . . . . . . of , ... or o, - . . ;
* . , off too. . . . . . . . .
TO THE COUNTESS OF ORKNEY.
* . . . . ...' . - . -
oi o . . . . Nov. 21, 1712. . . MADAM," ... - * * * * * * WHEN, upon parting with your ladyship, you were pleased to tell me I should find your present at home, natural justice prompted me to resolve, that the first use I made of it should be in paying acknowledgments to my benefactor. But, when I opened the writing-table, which I must now call mine, I found you had neither sent pens, ink, nor paper, sufficient for such an undertaking. But I ought to tell your ladyship in order, that I first got there a much more valuable thing : and I cannot do greater honour to my scrutoire, than to assure your ladyship that your letter is the first thing I have put in it, and shall be the last I will ever take out. I must tell your ladyship, that I am this moment under a very great concern. I was fully convinced that I should write with a new spirit by the influence of the materials you sent me; but it is quite otherwise: I have not a grain of invention, whether out of the confusion which attends us when we strive too much to acquit ourselves, or whether your pens and ink are sullen, and think themselves disgraced, since they have changed their owner. I heartily thank your ladyship, for making me a present that looks like a sort of establishment. I plainly see, by the contrivance, that if you were first minister, it would have been a cathedral. As it is, you have more contributed towards fixing me, than all the ministry together: for it is difficult to travel with this equipage, and it will be impossible to travel or live without it. You have an undoubted title
to whatever papers this table shall ever contain (except your letter) and I desire you will please to have another key made for it; that when the court shall think fit to give me a room worth putting it into, your ladyship may come and search it whenever you please. I beg your ladyship to join in laughing with me, at my unreasonable vanity, when I wished that the motto written about the wax was a description of yourself. But, if I am disappointed in that, your ladyship will be so in all the rest; even this ink will never be able to convey your ladyship's note as it ought. The paper will contain no wonders, but when it mentions you; neither is the seal any otherwise an emblem of my life, than by the deep impression your ladyship has made, which nothing but my death can wear out. By the inscription about the pens, I fear there is some mistake; and that your ladyship did not design them for me. However, I will keep them until you can find the person you intended should have them, and who will be able to dispose of them according to your predictions. I cannot find that the workman you employed and directed, has made the least mistake: but there are four implements wanting. The two first I shall not name, because an odd superstition forbids us to accept them from our friends; the third is a sponge, which the people long haye given so ill a reputation to, that I vow it shall be no gift of your ladyship: the last is a flat ivory instrument, used in folding up letters, which I insist you must provide. See, madam, the first-fruits this unlucky present of yours has produced. It is but giving a fiddle to a scraper, or a pestle and mortar to an apothecary, or a tory pamphlet to Mrs Ramsay. Nothing is vol. xvi. Ç
so great a discouragement to generous persons as the fear of being worried by acknowledgments. Besides, your ladyship is an unsufferable kind of giver, making every present fifty times the value, by the circumstances and manner. And I know people in the world, who would not oblige me so much, at the cost of a thousand pounds, as you have done at that of twenty pounds; which, I must needs tell you, is an unconscionable way of dealing, and whereof, I believe nobody alive is so guilty as yourself. In short, you deceive my eyes, and corrupt my judgment: nor am I now sure of anything, but that of being, &c.
FROM THE COUNTESS OF ORKNEY.
Nov. 22, 1712. You are extremely obliging to write how well you take my whim, in telling my true thoughts of your mind: for I was ashamed when I reflected, and hoped I should see you soon after expressing the value I have of you in an uncommon way. But this I, writ with assurance that I am, very
sincerely, Sir, Your obliged humble servant, E. ORKNEY.
FROM MR HARRISON. *
Utrecht, Dec. 16, 1712.
Youh thanks of the 25th of November, Sir, come before their time; the condition of the obligation being, that you should receive twelve shirts, which number shall be completed by the first proper occasion. Your kind letter, however, is extremely seasonable; and (next to a note from the treasury) has proved the most vivifying cordial in the world. If you please to send me now and then as much of the same as will lie upon the top of your pen, I should be contented to take sheets for shirts to the end of the chapter.
Since you are so good as to enter into my affairs, I shall trouble you with a detail of them, as well as of my conduct since I left England; which, in my opinion, you have a right to inspect, and approve or condemn as you think fit. During my state of probation with the Earl of Strafford, it was my endeavour to recommend myself to his excellency rather by fidelity, silence, and an entire submission, than by an affectation to shine in his service: And whatever difficulties, whatever discouragements, fell in my way, I think it appears that they were sur
* William Harrison, who conducted for some time a continuation of the Tatler, under the auspices of Swift; and was, by his interest, sent out as secretary to Lord Raby, afterwards Earl of Strafford, while the peace of Utrecht was negociated. He returned to London with the Barrier Treaty; and died there, 14th February 1712-13, much regretted by Swift. See Vol. III. p. 167, 168.