1729 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Gay

John Arbuthnot to Jonathan Swift, 19 March 1729; Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, ed. John Nichols (1801) 12:309-11.



LONDON, MARCH 19, 1728-9.

This is the second or third time, dear sir, that I have writ to you without hearing a word of you, or from you, only, in general, that you are very much out of order; sometimes of your two old complaints, the vertigo and deafness, which I am very sorry for. The gentleman who carries this has come better off than I did imagine: I used my little interest as far as it would go, in his affair. He will be able to give you some account of your friends, many of whom have been in great distress this winter. For John Gay, I may say without vanity, owes his life, under God, to the unwearied endeavours and care of your humble servant: for a physician, who had not been passionately his friend, could not have saved him. I had beside my personal concern for him, other motives of my care. He is now become a publick person, a little Sacheverell; and I took the same pleasure in saving him as Radcliffe did in preserving my lord chief justice Holt's wife, whom he attended out of spite to the husband who wished her dead.

The inoffensive John Gay is now become one of the obstructions to the peace of Europe, the terrour of ministers, the chief author of the Craftsman, and all the seditious pamphlets which have been published against the government. He has got several turned out of their places; the greatest ornament of the court banished from it for his sake; another great lady in danger of being chassee likewise; about seven or eight duchesses pushing forward, like the ancient circumcelliones in the church, who shall suffer martydom upon his account first. He s the darling of the city. If he should travel about the country, he would have hecatombs of roasted oxen sacrificed to him: since he became so conspicuous Will Pulteney hangs his head, to see himself so much outdone in the career of glory. I hope he will get a good deal of money by printing his play; but, I really believe, he would get more by showing his person: and I can assure you, this is the very identical John Gay, whom you formerly knew, and lodged with in Whitehall two years ago. I have been diverting myself with making an extract out of a history, which will be printed in the year 1948. I wish I had your assistance to go through with it; for I can assure you, it rises to a very solemn piece of burlesque.

As to the condition of your little club, it is not quite so desperate as you might imagine; for Mr. Pope is as high in favour, as I am afraid the rest are out of it. The king, upon the perusal of the last edition of his Dunciad, declared he was a very honest man. I did not know till this moment that I had so good an opportunity to send you a letter; and now I know it, I am called away, and am obliged to end with my best wishes and respects, being most sincerely yours, &c.