The Holyhead Journal begins with Swift, his manservant Wat and an unnamed hired guide setting off from Elizabeth Kenna’s Chester inn, the Golden Faulcon, in Northgate, then riding seven miles to Penarlag/Hawarden in Flintshire, pausing there at a roadside house for refreshment and then continuing along the post road—probably via Holywell and St Asaph—to Rhuddlan, the fortress town located at the lowest fording place on the river Clwyd, a little over half way between Hawarden and Conwy.
Friday, at 11 in the morning I left Chester. It was Sept. 22d 1727.
I bated at a blind ale-house 7 miles from Chester. I thence rode to Ridland; in all 22 miles. I lay there, had bad meat, and tolerable wine. I left Ridland a quarter after 4 morn. on Saturday, stopt on Penmenmawr,1 examined about my sign verses; the Inn is to be on t’other side therefore the verses to be changed. I baited at Conway, the Guide going to anothr Inn, the Maid of the old Inn saw me in the street, and said that was my House she knew me; there I dined, and send for Ned Holland; a Squire famous for being mentioned in Mr Lyndsay’s Verses to Davy Morice.2 I there again
to saw Hooks Tomb, who was the 41st Child of his Mother, and had himself 27 Children; he dyed about 1638.3 There is a nota bene that one of his posterity new furbishd up the Inscription. I had read in A. Bp Williams Life4 that he was buryed in an obscure Church in north Wales. I enquired, and heard it was at [ ] Church5 within a mile of Bangor, whither I was going; I went to the Church, the Guide grumbling; I saw the Tomb with his Statue kneeling (in marble). It began thus: [Hospes lege et relege quod in hoc obscuro sacello non expectares. Hic jacet omnium Praesulum celeberrimus.]6 I came to Bangor, and crossed the Ferry a mile from it, where there is an Inn, which if it be well kept will break Bangor.7 There I lay; it was 22 miles from Holyhead. I was on horseback at 4 in the morning, resolving to be at Church at Holyhead, but to shew Wat8 Owen Tudors Tomb at Penmany.9 We passt the place (being a little out of the way) by the Guides knavery, who had no mind to stay. I was now so weary with riding, that I was forced to stop at Langueveny, 7 miles from the Ferry, and rest 2 hours. Then I went on very weary, but in a few miles more, Watt’s horse lost his two fore-shoes, so the Horse was forced to limp after us. The Guide was less concerned than I. In a few miles more, my Horse lost a fore-shoe; and could not go on the rocky ways. I walked above 2 miles to spare him. It was Sunday, and no Smith to be got. At last there was a Smith in the way; we left the Guide to shoe the horses, and walked to a hedge Inn 3 miles from Holyhead; There I stayd an hour, with no ale to be drunk, a Boat offered, and I went by Sea and Sayl in it to Holyhead. The guide came about the same time.10 I dined with my an old Inkeeper, Mrs Welch,11 about 3, on a Loyn of mutton, very good, but the worst ale in the world, and no wine, for the day before I came here, a vast number went to Ireld after having drank out all the wine. There was stale beer, and I tryd Stella’s a receit of Oyster shells which I got powderd on purpose; but it was good for nothing.12 I walked on the rocks in the evening, and then went to bed, and dreamt I had got 20 falls from my Horse.
Monday, Septr 25. The Captain13 talks of sailing at 12. The talk goes off, the Wind is fair, but he says it is too fierce; I believe he wants more company. I had a raw chicken for dinner, and Brandy with water for my drink. I walkt morning and afternoon among the rocks. This evening Watt tells me that my Landlady whispered him, that the Grafton packet boat14 just come in, had brought her 18 bottles of Irish Claret.15 I secured one, and supped on part of a neat’s tongue, which a friend at London had given Watt to put up for me,16 and drank a pint of the wine, which was bad enough. Not a soul is yet come to Holyhead; except a young fellow who smiles when he meets me, and would fain be my companion; but it is not come to that yet. I writ abundance of verses this day;17 and severall usefull hints (thô I say it [)]. I went to bed at 10, and dreamt abundance of nonsense.
Tuesd. 26th. I am forced to wear a shirt 3 days; for fear of being lousy. I was sparing of them all the way. It was a mercy there were 6 clean when I left London; otherwise Watt, (whose blunders would bear an history) would have put them all in the great Box of goods which goes by the Carrier to Chester.18 He brought but one cravat, and the reason he gave was because the rest were foul, and he thought he should not put foul linnen into the Portmanteau.19 For, he never dreamt it might be washed on the way. My shirts are all foul now, and by his reasoning, I fear he will leave them at Holyhead when we go. I got anothr Loyn of mutton, but so tough I could not chew it, and drank my 2d pint of wine. I walked this morning a great way among the rocks, and to a hole in one of them from whence at certain periods the water spurted up severall foot high.20 It raind all night, and hath rained since dinner. But now the sun shines and I will take my afternoons walk. It was fairer and milder weather than yesterday yet the Captain never dreams of sailing. To say the truth, Michelms is the worst season in the year. Is this strange stuff? why, what would you21 have me do. I have writt Verses, and put down hints till I am weary.22 I see no creature, I cannot read by candle-light. Sleeping will make me sick. I reckon my self fixed here: and have a mind like Marechall Tallard23 to take a house and garden. I wish you a merry Christmas, and expect to see you by Candlemas.24 I have walked this evening again about 3 miles on the rocks, my giddyness God be thanked is almost gone, & my hearing continues; I am now retired to my Chamber to scribble or sit hum-drum. The night is fair, and they pretend to have some hopes of going to morrow.
Sept. 26th. Thoughts upon being confind at Holyhead.
If this were to be my settlement during life, I could amuse my self a while by forming some conveniencyes to be easy; and should not be frighted either by the solitude, or the meanness of lodging, eating or drinking. I shall say nothing upon the suspense I am in about my dearest friend;25 because that is a case extraordinary, and therefore by way of amusemt, I will speak as if it were not in my thoughts, and only as a passenger who is in a scurvy unprovided comfortless place without one companion, and who therefore wants to be at home, where he hath all conveniences there proper for a Gentlemen of quality. I cannot read at night, and I have no books to read in the day. I have no subject in my head at present to write on. I dare not send my Linnen to be washed for fear of being called away at half an hours warning, and then I must leave them behind me, which is a serious point; in the mean time I am in danger of being lousy, which is a ticklish Point. I live at great expense without one comfortable bit or sup. I am afraid of joyning with passengers for fear of getting acquaintance with Irish.26 The Days are short, and I have five hours at night to spend by my self before I go to bed.27 I should be glad to converse with Farmers or Shopkeepers, but none of them speak English, a Dog is better company than the Vicar, for I remembr him of old. What can I do but write every thing that comes into my head. Watt is a Booby of that Species which I dare not suffer to be familiar with me, for he would ramp on my Shoulders in half an hour.28 But the worst part is my half hourly longing, and hopes and vain expectations of a wind; so that I live in suspense which is the worst circumstance of human nature. I am a little rung29 from two scurvy disorders, and if I should relapse, there is no[t] a welch house curr that would not have more care taken of him than I, and whose loss would not be more lamented. I confine my self to my narrow chambr in all unwalkable hours. The Master of the pacquet boat, one Jones, hath not treated me with the least civility, altho Watt gave him my name. In short, I come from being used like an Emperor30 to be used worse than a Dog at Holyhead; Yet my hat is worn to pieces by answering the civilityes of the poor inhabitants as they pass by. The women might be safe enough, who all wear hats yet never pull them off if the dirty streets did not foul their petticoats by courtisying so low.31 Look you; be not impatient, for I onely wait till my Watch marks 10, and then I will give you ease, and my self sleep, if I can. On my conscience you may know a Welsh dog as well as a Welch man or woman by its peevish passionate way of barking. This paper shall serve to answer all your questions about my Journey; and I will have it printed to satisfy the Kingdom. Forsan et haec olim32 is a damned lye, for I shall always fret at the remembrance of this imprisonment. Pray pity poor Wat, for he is called dunce puppy, and Lyar 500 times an hour, and yet he means not ill, for he means nothing. Oh for a dozen bottles of deanry wine and a slice of bread and butter. The wine you sent us yesterday is a little upon the sour, I wish you had chosen better. I am going to bed at ten o clock, because I am weary of being up.
Wednesday. Last night I dreamt that Ld Bolingbroke and Mr Pope were at my Cathedrall in the Gallery, and that my Ld was to preach. I could not find my Surplice, the Church Servants were all out of the way; the Doors were shut. I sent to my Ld to come into my Stall for more conveniency to get into the Pulpit. The Stall was all broken, the[y] sd the Collegians had done it. I squeezed among the Rabble, saw my Ld in the Pulpit. I thought his prayer was good, but I forget it. In his Sermon, I did not like his quoting Mr Wycherlyes by name, and his Plays.33 This is all, and so I waked. Today we were certainly to sayl; the morning was calm. Wat and I walked up the monstrous
hill mountain properly called Holy head, or Sacrum promontorium by Ptolemy, 2 miles from this town.34 I took breath 59 times, I looked from the top to see the wicklow hills,35 but the day was too hazy, which I felt to my sorrow; for returning, we were overtaken with a furious shower. I got in to a welch cabin almost as bad as an Irish one. There was only an old welch woman sifting flower, who understood no English, and a boy who fell a roaring for fear of me. Wat (otherwise called unfortunate Jack36) ran home for my coat, but stayd so long that I came home in worse rain without him, and he was so lucky to miss me, but took care to carry the key of my room where a fire was ready for me. So I coold my heels in the Parlor till he came, but called for a glass of Brandy. I have been cooking my self dry, and am now in my night gown; and this moment comes a Letter to me from one Whelden37 who tells me he hears I am a lover of the Mathematicks, that he has found out the Longitude, shewn his discourse to Dr Dobbs of yr Colledge,38 and sent Letters to all the Mathematicians in London39 3 months ago, but received no answer; and desires I would read his discourse. I sent back his Letter with my answer under it, too long to tell you, onely I said I had too much of the Longitude already, by 2 Projectors, whom I encouraged, one of which was a cheat, and the other cut his own throat,40 and for himself I thought he had a mind to deceive others, or was deceived himself. And so I wait for dinner. I shall dine like a King all alone, as I have done these 6 days. As it happened, if I had gone strait from Chester to park gate, 8 miles,41 I should have been in Dublin on Sunday last. Now Michlmas approaches, the worst time in the year for the Sea, and this rain has made these parts unwalkable, so that I must either write or doze. Bite42; when we was in the welch cabin, I order Wat to take a cloath and wipe my wet gown and cassock; it happened to be a meal bag, and as my Gown dryd it was all dawbed with flour well cemented with the rain; what do I, but see the Gown and cassock well dryd in my room, and while Wat was at dinner, I was an hour rubbing the meal out of the them, and did it exactly; He is just come up, and I have gravely bid him take them down to rub them, and I wait whether he will find out what I have been doing. The Rogue is come up in six minutes with my Gown, and says there were but few spots (tho he saw a thousand at first), but neither wonders at it nor seems to suspect me who labored like a horse to rub them out. The 3 Pacquet boats43 are now all on this side, and the weather grows worse, and so much rain, that there is an end of my walking. I wish you would send me word how I shall dispose of my time. If the Vicar could but play at Backgammon I were an Emperor; but I know him not.44 I am as insignificant here as parson Brooke45 is in Dublin, by my conscience I believe Caesar would be the same without his army at his back. Well, the longer I stay here, the more you will murmur for want of packets. Whoever would wish to live long, should live here, for a day is longer than a week, and if the weather be foul, as long as a fortnight. Yet here I could live with two or three friends in a warm house, and good wine, much better than being a Slave in Ireld. But my misery is, that I am in the worst part of wales under the very worst circumstances; afraid of a relapse; in utmost solitude; impatient for the condition of our friend; not a soul to converse with, hinderd from exercise by rain, cooped up in a room not half so large as one of the Deanry Closets. My Room smoaks into the bargain, and the w’ther is too cold and moist to be without a fire. There is or should be a Proverbe here: When Mrs Welch’s Chimny smoks, Tis a sign she’ll keep her folks. But, when of smoak the room is clear, It is a sign we sha’nt stay here. All this is to divert thinking. Tell me, am not I in a comfortable way. The Yatcht is to be here for Ld Carteret on the 14th of Octbr.46 I fancy he and I shall come over together. I have opend my door to let in the wind that it may drive out the smoak. I asked the wind why [he] is so cross, he assures me ’tis not his fault, but his cursed master Æolus’s. Here is a young Jackanapes in the same Inn waiting for a wind, who would fain be my companion, and if I stay here much longer, I am afraid all my pride and grandeur will truckle to comply with him, especially if I finish these leaves that remain;47 but I will write close, and do as the Devil did at mass, pull the paper with my teeth to make it hold out.48 Thursday. Tis allowed that we learn patience by suffering. I have now not spirits enough left me to fret. I was so cunning these 3 last days, that whenever I began to rage and storm at the weather, I took special care to turn away my face towards Ireland in hopes by my breath to push the wind forward. But now I give up. However, when upon asking how is the wind, the people answer, Full in yr teeth, I cannot help wishing a T—were in theirs.49 Well, it is now 3 afternoon, I have dined, and invited the Master, the wind and tide serve, and I am just taking boat to go [to] the Ship so adieu till I see you at the Deanery.
Friday. Michlmas day. You will now know something of what it is to be at sea. We had not been half an hour in the ship till a fierce wind rose directly against us. We tryed a good while, but the storm still continued: so we turned back, and it was 8 at night, dark and rainy before the ship got back and at anchor: the other passengers went back in a boat to Holyhead: but to prevent accidents and broken shins, I lay all night on board, and came back this morning at 8: am now in my Chamber, where I must stay, and get in a new stock of patience. You all know50 well enough where I am, for I wrote thrice after your Letter that desired my coming over; the last was from Coventry, 19th. instant, but I brought it with me to Chester, and saw it put into the Post, on Thursday 21st. and the next day followed it my self, but the Pacquet boat was gone before I could get here: because I could not ride 70 miles a day.51
Unless he doubled back to Conwy, which is unlikely given his haste, Swift’s narrative is disordered at this point. Heading along the coast westwards, Penmaenmawr comes after Conwy not before it. The Penmaenmawr Inn was on the Bangor side and another inn, unnamed, was 1¼ miles over on the Conway side (John Watson, Gentleman’s and Citizens Almanack, 1769, p. 107). The Belfast News Letter for 10-13 December 1793 records the small alehouse on the Conway side, previously kept by a Mrs Evans (The Traveller’s Companion, from Holyhead to London 1793, p. 43) as the one Swift called at and which carried two sets of his couplets (‘which still remains on each side of the sign board’). On the way down from Penmaenmawr heading for Bangor, ‘Now the hill you’re safely over / Drink—your spirits to recover’ and on the way up to Penmaenmawr heading for Conwy: ‘Before you venture o’er to pass / Take here a good refreshing glass.’
Edward Holland of Plas Berw (1675-1734), eldest son of the Holland family, owners of Conwy castle and most of the town, a bailiff/magistrate whose family home was an imposing, several-storeyed stone house called ‘Plas Isa,’ on the site now occupied by the Town Hall and very close to Swift’s inn and the town stocks: see W. Bezant Lowe, The Heart of Northern Wales, 2 vols (Llanfairfechan, 1912), I, 224, 240, 345 and 472-75. In 1705 he was one of the two Alderman’s deputies in Conwy. The verses to Davy Morice have not been traced, but their author was probably Robert Lindsay, Dublin resident, chief legal advisor to the proctor of St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1722, and Justice of the Common Pleas in 1733. Lindsay’s father-in-law was John Morris (Morice?) of Belville, co. Tyrone. Lindsay advised Swift on legal matters during the campaign against Walpole and William Wood in the Drapier’s Letters. For Lindsay’s poetry, see his Paulus (1728), Swift’s The Answer and Dialogue between an eminent lawyer and Dr Swift (1730), where Lindsay plays the Arbuthnot role to Swift’s Pope, in a poem similar to the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1735). See Poems, II, 488-91. Lindsay was one of nine executors of Swift’s 1737 will, along with Drs Delany and Helsham.
The gravestone of Nicholas Hookes, erstwhile Conwy postmaster, is set in the chancel floor of the twelfth century Cistercian abbey church of St Mary and All Saints, Conwy and had been a tourist site well before Swift’s visit: see John Dunton, Life and Errors of John Dunton (1705), p. 568. The inscription reads: ‘Here lyeth ye body of Nich’s Hookes of Conway Gen who was ye 41ST child of his father Wm Hookes Esq by Alice his wife and ye father of 27 children who died ye 20 day March 1637. NB This stone was revived in ye year 1720 att ye charge of John Hookes Esq and since by Thos Bradney and W Archer Esq.’
John Williams (1582-1650), Lord Chancellor 1621-5 and Archbishop of York 1641-50, one of those ten ‘Men of great Parts … apt to go out of the common road, by the Quickness of their Imagination,’ along with Bacon, Laud, Strafford, Clarendon, Shaftesbury, Buckingham, Bolingbroke, Robert Harley, Somers (and, we might add, Swift himself): Swift to Bolingbroke, 19 December 1719, Correspondence, II, 316. Williams’s 28-line Latin inscription ends, as Swift’s would do, with an address to the traveller: ‘Abi viator’ (Go, traveller’). His monument, erected by his nephew and heir Sir Griffith Williams, was flanked by the archbishop’s helmet and spurs on a nearby bracket (only the bracket remains today in situ, on the south wall of the chancel). As an armoured archbishop, Williams took up the King’s cause in the Civil War, financed and directed the defence of Conwy castle, but then changed sides and helped the Parliamentarians take both castle and town. The standard biography was by Williams’s chaplain and epitaph writer, Dr John Hacket, Scrinia Reserata: A Memorial offer’d to the Great Deservings of John Williams, D.D. (1693), but Swift may have read the more recent biography by Ambrose Philips, The Life of John Williams (Cambridge, 1700 and 1703: epitaph given on pp. 237-8) or John Le Neve’s The Lives and Characters … of all the Protestant Bishops (1720: see Part I, 225-6).
Llandegai (left blank in the manuscript).
Swift is in the parish church of St Tegai, Llandegai. The full Latin text is found in Hacket and Philips. ‘Take notice and consider, stranger, that in this obscure and unexpected place is to be found John Williams the most distinguished of priests …’
The Cambria inn dated from 1688 and was located at Porthaethwy, on Anglesey: Helen Ramage, Portraits of an Island: Eighteenth Century Anglesey (Llangefni, 1987: 2nd edn, 2001), p. 35.
Swift uses ‘Wat’ six times and ‘Watt’ four times in the Journal. His inconsistency is preserved here in the Journal but elsewhere I refer to him as Wat, as did Gay and Pope in their letter responding to Sheridan’s account of Swift’s journey (Correspondence, III, 135).
Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudor (c. 1400-1461), Welsh courtier and nationalist, warrior prince and master of guerilla warfare, founder of the Tudor dynasty and a much mythologised figure. He was captured by the Yorkist forces and beheaded after the battle of Mortimer’s Cross, Herefordshire, and his body buried in a chapel of Greyfriar’s Church, Hereford. The myth of an Anglesey tomb persisted—see George Borrow, Wild Wales (1862), chapter 36—but the alabaster tomb in Penmynydd Church is that of Owen’s uncle Goronwy ap Tudor, taken there in 1539 (Ramage, p. 35).
The guide and horses had taken the land link between Anglesey and Holy Island: since the sixteenth century this was the bridge at Pont Rhyd Bont (later known as Four Mile Bridge).
The substantial three-storey inn run by the sixty-four-year-old Mrs Jane Welch (1663-1749) was a landmark in Holyhead and is clearly identified and located in Lewis Morris’s 1725 map of the town at the foot of modern-day Thomas Street and on the right-hand side. After their mother’s death, sisters Jane and the widowed Elin Wheldon ran the inn jointly, described by Elin’s son-in-law William Morris as ‘the best house in town … the house where all the lords lieutenant of Ireland put up, and all the best of the gentry and nobility of both kingdoms that come this way:’ The Letters of Lewis, Richard, William and John Morris of Anglesey 1728-1765, ed. John H. Davies, 3 vols (Oxford, 1907), I, 270.
It was thought that calcium carbonate in the shells would clarify the beer. It could not improve beer that was already flat.
Swift would eventually cross to Dublin in the Prince Frederick, named for Frederick Louis George, Prince of Wales (1707-51). At 60 tons she was slightly smaller than the other two packets running at this time (see next note) but had a slightly larger crew of eleven, the master being Lewis Jones: Aled Eames, Ships and Seamen of Anglesey 1558-1918 (Anglesey Antiquarian Society, Llangefni, 1973), p. 542. Jones was delaying departure in the hope of gaining more paying passengers.
The three packet boats, either sloops or cutters, were the largest vessels operating in and out of Holyhead at this time. The 70-ton Grafton and Carteret each had a crew of 10 and 8 respectively and were named for the two Lords Lieutenant of Ireland ‘of my old acquaintance’ (Swift)—the former from August 1721 to February 1722 and August 1723 to May 1724, the latter from October 1724 to April 1726 and from November 1727 to May 1728). Swift makes no comment on the third, Prince Frederick, nor on its passage, but in 1735, and after nine days and two attempts to cross the Irish Sea from west to east against the wind, William Bulkeley described it as an ‘Old crazy ship’ and as ‘that leaky crazy Vessell’ (Ramage, pp. 40-1, citing the manuscript diaries of William Bulkeley of Brynddu, 1734-43). Bulkeley paid the master Thomas Hughes ten shillings for the trip from Dublin to Holyhead, only half the actual cost, which also included food and drink (five shillings), a shilling to the crewmen, four pence to the porter carrying his things to the wherry, another four pence to the boatman and four and sixpence for the wherry fee.
The preferred red wine imported from Bordeaux called ‘Honest Claret’ in Ireland and ‘absolutely necessary to support me’ (Swift to Charles Wogan, 1735-6, Correspondence, IV, 273: 1735).
Possibly his cousin Patty Rolt (Mrs Lancelot), who had nursed Swift back to health at her Greenwich home from 31 August to the third week of September, and for which he had paid her ten shillings and sixpence per week.
Only the first, ‘Lo here I sit at holy head’ is thus dated, but all of the Journal poems were written within this 48-hour period.
Heavy luggage had been sent separately and slowly by carrier to Chester. Wat was in charge of everything else needed on the journey, including Swift’s portmanteau, a large travelling case for clothes, opening in two halves but small enough to be carried on the back of a horse.
A clean cravat—a narrow band around the neck tied at the front—could disguise the lack of a fresh shirt.
Swift’s vigorous morning walk from Mrs Welch’s inn would have been eastwards to the waterspout at Porth Ffynnon, Borthwen (now known as Penrhos Beach), Anglesey (OS reference SH2668 18), a round trip of four miles involving some rocky terrain before reaching the headland at Brynglas. Two hours after low water (about 9.30 a.m.) and with a strong north wind, a blowhole spurts spectacularly. In 1727 the moon was full on 19 September and being close to the equinox the spring tide would bring High Water at Holyhead at 1010 hrs GMT. Dr Ken Roberts and R. Glynne Pritchard, retired sea captain, enlightened me on this matter.
The first product of Swift’s collaboration with Thomas Sheridan, The Intelligencer, came out on 11 May 1728 with the aim to ‘Inform, or Divert, or Correct, or Vex the Town.’ The Holyhead Journal fits the Intelligencer format and length, dealing as it does with ‘Facts, Passages, and Adventures,’ although nothing in the published Intelligencer essays matches its highly personal subject and treatment, which may explain why it was held back from publication. Sheridan was the first to be shown the Journal when Swift landed at Carlingford, and was probably the ‘S—’ in Swift’s memo to himself, ‘Remember the Abbot when you write to S—.’ At this point in the Journal Sheridan is the most likely ‘you’.
Apart from the poetry, including a prose note on Scarron which he turned into his own poem on time, the Journal also contains, with Pope’s first Dunciad as his example, a ‘notice to posterity’ promising not to sully his own work and reputation by naming third-rate writers and thus extending their fame. There are also listed several unusual words and characters, two mischievous jokes, the names of exotic food dishes and some modish terms.
Camille d’Hostun, Marshal Tallard (1652-1728) and his French forces were defeated by the Duke of Marlborough at the Battle of Blenheim (1704). Tallard was then taken to England as a prisoner of war and kept under parole and in some style in Nottingham for eight years. In his Newdigate House there he established a celebrated parterre inside its walled garden, cultivated roses and, most famously, celery.
February 2, the mid-point between the December solstice and the March equinox, winter’s halfway point towards spring.
Sheridan’s letters had kept Swift in touch with Stella’s declining health. Since Swift’s departure for England in April 1727 she and Rebecca Dingley had been living at Arbourhill, home of Lady Eustace near Phoenix Park, Dublin, where Sheridan would write out her last will and where she would die on 28 January 1728.
See chapter 7 n. 4 above.
This close to the autumn equinox, the days and nights were more or less of equal duration. See also n. 20 above.
Wat’s uppity boisterousness is like that of his predecessor Patrick, who in 1711 ‘thinks [he] has the whip hand of me; he begins to master me, so now I am resolved to part with him, and will use him without the least pity’ (Journal to Stella, I, 325).
Conjectural reading of illegible word in MS. Davis reads ‘dizzy [?]’ in Prose, V, 205.
He had been Pope’s guest at his Twickenham villa for several weeks, Viscount Bolingbroke’s guest at Dawley, had dined with the ex-Lord Treasurer Oxford, and been celebrated in London as the author of the Travels. In advance of his planned trip to France he had been recommended by Voltaire to Louis XV’s minister for Foreign Affairs.
There was a protocol for such occasions. In The Man of Manners: or, plebeian polish’d. Being plain and familiar rules for a modest and genteel behaviour, on most of the ordinary occasions of life (3rd edn, London, 1737) Erasmus Jones outlined ‘The manner of walking the Streets and other Publick Places’ and stated that ‘Two meeting in a narrow dirty Pathway, the Party that gives way is to receive the Civility of the Hat, or Curtesy from a Woman’ (p. 5). Swift gave way to the poor: others did not.
Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. ‘It may be pleasing one day to be able to look back on these things’: Aeneas’s encouraging words to his exhausted men who had survived the great storm at sea: Virgil, Aeneid, Book I, l. 203-4.
William Wycherley (1641-1716). The Restoration playwright’s reputation was for elegant and worldly comedies about marriage, sex and property (The Country Wife, The Plain Dealer). Swift owned a presentation copy of the latter in 1709. Wycherley was an Anglican in England, a Catholic in France, and an Anglican again in England; was twice secretly married, imprisoned in the Fleet for debt and, perhaps the clinching disqualification for a mention in a sermon in St Patrick’s, was much admired by the French anti-Christian Voltaire.
Claudius Ptolemaeus (c. 100-c. 178 A.D.), Greek astronomer, mathematician, and geographer. In his Geographia [Theatrum Orbis Terrarum] (Venice, 1511,) Book II, chapter 2, a ‘holy mountain’ is located at 3⅔ longitude and 51 11/24 latitude on the south-east corner of Ireland, another on the Atlantic coast of south-west Spain, but not on Holyhead. Inaccuracy is the norm, however, and Swift’s whimsical claim for Holyhead Mountain adds to the pile, the only question being whether his statement should be taken as ironic. If so, he is placing Holyhead Mountain at the edge of both Europe and of the known world (as in Strabo’s Geography). Ireland is therefore Ultima Thule. A 2-volume edition of Ptolemy’s Theatrum Geographiae veteris (Amsterdam, 1619) is item 93 in Swift’s 1745 Sale Catalogue, and Strabo’s Geography (Paris, 1620) is no. 91. No modern atlas is included.
On a clear day the Wicklow Mountains to the south of Dublin are visible from the top of Holyhead Mountain (at 220 m.).
A proverbially foolish, clumsy, unlucky and inept character in English folklore: see Roger Thompson, ‘Popular Reading and Humour in Restoration England’, Journal of Popular Culture, ix (3), 651-71), who also discusses Pepys and the tradition of anti-Welsh jokes. Swift’s own ‘unfortunate Jack’ (the Dissenter brother) appears in the penultimate paragraph of Section VI of A Tale of a Tub, and there are other echoes of Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller, or the Life of Jack Wilton (1594), a picaresque novel of disasters and atrocities set in the reign of Henry VIII and whose narrator is a page. The Second Part of Unfortunate Jack is about a foolish Welsh servant.
The letter was delivered by hand. Swift replied on the same day and on the same sheet of paper. Wheldon’s letter is as follows: ‘Reverend Sir, / Understanding that you are at Holyhead, in Order for Dublin, and inform’d that you are a Lover of the Mathematicks, I make bold to trouble you with this Writing. I have about 12 months since imparted my Discourse to Dr Dobbs, Professor of Mathematicks at the College of Dublin, of finding out the Longitude by two known Stars; the same Copy I sent to the Lords of the Admiralty and the Trinity Masters, and also to Dr Halley at Greenwich, and to the Commanders of Ships at Liverpool and elsewhere. I begg’d either their Approbation or Objection, and their Reason to the contrary, and ever since, which is above three Months past, have not had a Tittle of Answer. If you are that way inclin’d, you may have a View of my Discourse. I beg Pardon for this Freedom, and remain your humble Servant: / Holy, Sept. 27. 1727. John Wheldon’
Swift’s correspondent was a citizen of Holyhead and the son-in-law of his innkeeper/hostess, Mrs Jane Welch (1663-1749). He lived no more than ten houses away from Welch’s inn. Described in the Holyhead parish register as ‘Mariner’, he was also (1711) one of the Wardens of St Cybi’s church. He was a surgeon on board the Royal Navy man-of-war Experiment, losing his life in the Cuban/Carthagena expedition of 1739, as did Mrs Welch’s own son Henry, who died in a hospital ship. Wheldon may have been related to Lewis Jones, the master of the packet boat waiting to take Swift to Dublin and who eventually did so. The memorial tablet in the north transept of St Cybi’s states that John Wheldon’s daughter Elizabeth had married John Jones, mariner, and their three children were Dr John Jones, Rector of Derrymore, Elizabeth Jones, and Wheldon Jones. Wheldon’s letter to Swift and Swift’s reply found their way into George Faulkner’s Dublin Journal for May 31-June 3 1729 (Correspondence, III, 128-130).
A revealing identifier of Sheridan as the Journal’s primary addressee: Revd Dr Richard Dobbs, a mathematician, had been recently (1724) elected Fellow of Sheridan’s alma mater, Trinity College Dublin (‘yr Colledge’). He was rector of Lisburn, Co. Antrim.
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty at Whitehall, the Trinity Brethren (Water Lane, Lower Thames Street); Dr Edmund Halley (1656-1742), Astronomer Royal since 1721 and member of the Board of Longitude.
The first was William Whiston (1667-1752), an independent-minded/unorthodox Anglican priest who joined the Baptists. He helped to get the Longitude Act passed in 1714 and succeeded Newton as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. It is not clear why Swift calls him a cheat. The second was Swift’s friend, the mathematician and linen merchant Joseph Beaumont of Trim, who cut his throat while the balance of his mind was disturbed, some said by his attempt to find a means of establishing the longitude at sea. His Mathematical Sleaing-Tables: or, The great and only Mistery of weaving linen-cloth explain’d (Dublin, 1712) provided a means of quality control in the weaving of linen by calculating weight and density. Swift worried for a long time about his state of mind and supported him financially.
Parkgate is more like 11 miles (18 kms) from Chester and was then the chief passenger embarkation point (among several) for Ireland on the River Dee estuary of the Wirral Peninsula.
A practical joke based on a straight-faced deception aimed at discomforting its victim without the victim knowing it, hence ‘to take or be taken by any bait’ (OED 6a and b). Swift’s poem ‘The Day of Judgement’ (1731) is his best-known example.
The Grafton, Carteret and Prince Frederick.
In September 1727 the vicar of St Cybi’s church was the 51-year old Simon Langford, Lecturer of Holyhead and Rector of Roscolyn until at least 1737. The Presbyterian sympathies of Sir Arthur Langford had troubled Swift in his Laracor parish (Ehrenpreis, II, 96).
Revd William Brooke, Rector of Killinkere and Mullagh, who lived at Rantavan House, 5 miles south east of Quilca and was a friend of Sheridan.
Yatcht was a common spelling of the time (Dutch jacht). John, Baron Carteret, had been appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 26 October 1727. The Dublin News Letter for 14 November announced that ‘His Majesty’s Ship the Lively, sails to Morrow for Holyhead, in order to convey His Excellency the Lord Carteret here.’ Carteret thus began his second residence in Dublin on the morning of 19 November (‘The Diary of Weather and Winds, 1716-1734’ by Isaac Butler: Dublin City Council MS, p. 260).
The remaining pages in the stolen notebook remained blank.
In Gargantua and Pantagruel (The Works of Rabelais, 1653, trans. Thomas Urquhart, Book I, chapter 6), Satan attempts to record the ‘tittle-tattle of two young mangy whores’ during the mass of St Martin and is forced to lengthen his parchment by pulling it with his teeth.
Nautical ribaldry echoing Rabelais’ account of a storm at sea. In the translation of Pierre Motteux, ‘Grumble, Devils, fart, belch, shite a T[ur]d o’ the Wave’: The Whole Works of F. Rabelais, 2 vols (1718), II, 62 (Book IV, chapter xx). Mayhew describes this as a ‘nauseous posset cup … dried bread floated upon liquor when served’ (p. 409).
In an unrecovered letter of 19 August Sheridan had suggested that Stella’s worsening condition required Swift’s return to Dublin. Swift refers to this fateful letter twice (Correspondence, III, 122-3). The collective pronoun suggests that an inner group of recipients is being addressed here through Thomas Sheridan: Rebecca Dingley (Stella’s companion), the ever-dependable Worralls and perhaps Swift’s superior Archbishop King.
The distance from Northop on the Chester side of the Welsh mountains to Holyhead.