SWIFT, JONATHAN. 1667-1745.
Autograph Letter Signed ("J: Swift"), 3 pp recto and verso, 4to (conjoined leaves), Deanery House, Dublin, March 1, 1734, to John Barber, folds, lightly toned and spotted, one ink burn hole, preserved in calf and moiré silk folder.
Provenance: published in Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Verse (London: 1789, pp 99-101); sold by Sotheby's, April 18, 1885, to Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau; Alfred Morrison; sold by Sotheby's, December 10, 1918, to Maggs; private collector, Maryland; purchased in 1973 by the present owner.
THE AGING DEAN ON POPE, ARBUTHNOT, SICKNESS, AND DEATH. Writing to his "very good and old Friend," the government printer and former Lord Mayor of London John Barber [1675-1741], Swift begins by thanking him for the gift of an engraved portrait, and recommending a Mr Richardson. He asks after Barber's health ("Are you often in your Coach ... ? ... I hope your Stomack for eating is not declined: And how are you treated by the Gout?"), and describes himself as "struck ... to the Heart by the account of my Dear Friend Doctor Arbuthnott's Death." Arbuthnot had passed away on February 27a crushing blow to his collaborator and fellow Scriblerian, Swift.
The Scriblerian theme continues: "Do you sometimes see Mr Pope? We still correspond pretty constantly. He publishes Poems oftner, and better than ever, which I wonder at the more, because he complains with too much reason of his Disorders. What a Havock hath Death made among our Friends since that of the Queen!"
Swift was intensely conscious of the passage of timein 1731 he had written "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift"and his "letters from this period are increasingly written about the past" (ODNB). He was suffering more acutely than ever from "That old Vertigo in his head," Ménière's syndrome, which had afflicted him from the age of twenty: "I am grown leaner than You were when we parted last, and am never wholly free from Giddyness, and weakness, and sickness in my Stomack.... I ride a dozen miles as often as I can, and I allways walk the Streets except in the Night, which my Head will not suffer me to do." His beloved Stella had died in 1728, followed by Gay in 1732, and Swift would soon write to Pope, "I have no body now left but you." The letter closes in similarly melancholy fashion: "My chief support is French wine, which although not equal to yours, I drink a bottle to my self every day. I keep three horses, two Men and an old Woman in a large empty House, and dine half the week like a King by my self."
Swift letters of this length and insightful content are rare at auction.
Books, Maps and Manuscripts
Auction terms and conditions