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Suffolk from the charge of having written these absurd and disrespectful letters; and, indeed, there needs no other justification of his memory from such a charge, than the calm perusal of the following dedication, in which he gives the public his real sentiments on Mrs. Barber's merits, which he seems to have estimated on a very just, and therefore very moderate scale, totally inconsistent with the outrageous enthusiasm which the writer of the letters to the Queen has been pleased to display in her behalf.
It is now generally admitted, that the Dean, notwithstanding the doubts of Johnson and other earlier biographers, must stand acquitted of a line of conduct absurdly inconsistent with his own published sentiments, and personally outrageous to Queen Caroline. Who committed the forgery, or what was its purpose, it may not be so easy to determine. The editor of the Suffolk Papers is disposed to fix the guilt on Mrs. Barber. But as her writings display some common sense, it must surely have occurred to her that her own personal interest could not be advanced, but must be injured, by the insolent terms of the forged expostulation, which might indeed ruin Swift in the Queen's opinion, but could never aid the cause of Mrs. Barber, his supposed protegée. If the present editor were to suggest any hypothesis to account for this mysterious trick, it would be, that Pilkington, or some such person, may have conceived, of his own accord, or have had it suggested to him, that the intercourse betwixt the Queen and Dean Swift, now that the former had admitted Sir Robert Walpole to her councils and favour, was becoming rather inconvenient to her Majesty, or perhaps suspicious to the minister, and that a fair pretext for breaking it off, decidedly and for ever, would be agreeable to both. The reader will find the subject farther treated of, Vol. I. p. 354, Sec. VI.
Whether the forgery was committed with the purpose of breaking off this correspondence, or no, it certainly had the effect; for though the Queen must, as well as Lady Suffolk, have been convinced of the Dean's innocence, she still kept up her resentment, and the final breach between them thus effected was never afterwards repaired. Thus was the observation of the Dean fully illustrated, which states, that persons of high condition seldom relinquish their displeasure, even although they are perfectly satisfied it has been adopted on mistaken grounds, probably because it requires a strong effort of candour to confess an error, whereas it is easy to maintain an unjust prejudice.
* See Vol. XVII. pp. 271, 283, and Lady Suffolk's very able answer, p. 402.
TO THE RIGHT HON.
JOHN EARL OF ORRERY.
LATELY received a letter from Mrs. Barber, wherein she desires my opinion about dedicating her poems to your lordship; and seems in pain to know how far she may be allowed to draw your character, which is a right claimed by all dediAnd this she thinks the more incumbent on her from the surprising instances of your generosity and favour that she hath already received, and which she hath been so unfashionable to publish wherever she goes. This makes her apprehend, that all that she can say to your lordship's advantage will be interpreted as the mere effect of flattery under the style and title of gratitude.
I sent her word, that I could be of no service to her upon this article; yet I confess, my lord, that all those who are thoroughly acquainted with her, will impute her encomiums to a sincere, but overflowing spirit of thankfulness, as well as to the humble opinion she hath of herself, although the world in general may possibly continue in its usual sentiments, and list her in the common herd of dedicators.
Therefore, upon the most mature deliberation, I concluded, that the office of setting out your lordship's character will not come properly from her pen, for her own reasons: I mean the great favours you have already conferred on her: And God for
bid, that your character should not have a stronger support. You are hourly gaining the love, esteem, and respect of wise and good men; and, in due time, if Mrs. Barber can but have a little patience, you will bring them all over, in both kingdoms, to a man I confess the number is not great; but that is not your lordship's fault, and, therefore, in reason, you ought to be contented.
I guess the topics she intends to insist on your learning, your genius, your affability, generosity, the love you bear to your native country, and your compassion for this; the goodness of your nature, your humility, modesty, and condescension; your most agreeable conversation, suited to all tempers, conditions, and understandings: perhaps she may be so weak to add, the regularity of your life; that you believe a God and Providence; that you are a firm Christian, according to the doctrine of the church established in both kingdoms.
These, and other topics, I imagine, Mrs. Barber designs to insist on, in the dedication of her poems to your lordship; but I think she will better shew her prudence by omitting them all; and yet, my lord, I cannot disapprove of her ambition, so justly placed in the choice of a patron; and, at the same time, declare my opinion, that she deserveth your protection on account of her wit and good sense, as well as of her humility, her gratitude, and many other virtues. I have read most of her poems, and believe your lordship will observe, that they generally contain something new and useful, tending to the reproof of some vice or folly, or recommending some virtue. She never writes on a subject with general unconnected topics, but always with a scheme and method driving to some particular end; and wherein many writers in verse, and of some distinction, are so often known to fail. In short,
she seemeth to have a true poetical genius, better cultivated than could well be expected, either from her sex, or the scene she hath acted in, as the wife of a citizen. Yet I am assured, that no woman was ever more useful to her husband in the way of his business. Poetry hath only been her favourite amusement; for which she hath one qualification that I wish all good poets possessed a share of; I mean that she is ready to take advice, and submit to have her verses corrected by those who are generally allowed to be the best judges.
I have, at her entreaty, suffered her to take a copy of this letter and given her the liberty to make it public. For which I ought to desire your lordship's pardon; but she was of opinion it might do her some service; and therefore I complied.
I am, my Lord, with truest esteem and respect, Your lordship's most obedient servant, JONATHAN SWIFT.
Dublin, August 20, 1733.