SWIFT'S correspondence, the incomparable Journal to Stella apart, is not unusually distinguished for its engaging qualities. We do not find it particularly graceful or charming or witty. Swift is ordinarily concerned in his letters with practical matters and leaves the impression of one who is writing with little thought of anything save the immediate business in hand. Indeed, though the correspondence deserves to live because of the light it throws on his career and on the historical events of his time, we are attracted to it by this very quality of directness and apparent candor. This is not the legendary Swift but an unassuming and straightforward man trying to manage his affairs in a sensible fashion. There are, to be sure, moments of high drama, there are periods of psychic depression, and if we follow closely enough we come to recognize how subtly his style adjusts itself to the correspondent of the moment. But the impression of candor remains.
The letter of July 19, 1715, to Harley, the Earl of Oxford, deserves to be remembered as one of the most impressive in the entire correspondence. Earlier that year Parliament had met and, with the Whigs in a majority, had voted to impeach Oxford and Bolingbroke, who stood charged with Jacobite intrigues during the late Queen's reign. Bolingbroke and other prominent Tories fled, but Oxford stood his ground and was committed to the Tower, from which he was was released two years later when the charges against him were dropped. When news of his imprisonment reached Dublin, Swift wrote at once, offering his services to Oxford. To the end he remained in ignorance of the negotiations which certain of the Tory Ministers had held with the Pretender, and although we today may be disposed to see in the behaviour of these men little more than a precautionary manoeuvre, we may be sure that Swift would never have condoned their action. In his History of the Four Last Years of the Queen — completed in 1713 but unpublished until 1758 — he had already undertaken to place Oxford's Ministry in the proper light for all time, and as he wrote to his old friend he was beginning a further historical apology, the Enquiry into the Behaviour of the Queen's last Ministry (printed in 1765), to which there is reference in the letter.
The letter to Pope of September 29, 1725, is well-known because of the statements about Gulliver's Travels, then about completed. Swift was already laying plans for the visit to England which he was to make the following year& #8212; a visit during the course of which he was to spend much time with Pope at the latter's house at Twickenham while readying the Travels for publication.