A DECISION made only at the last moment took Swift to London in 1710 just as the new Tory Ministry was assuming power. Arrived at Chester on September 1 after a fifteen-hour crossing, he next day began what we now know as the Journal to Stella, a series of sixty-five letters ending, in a curiously appropriate fashion, with one again written from Chester — this on June 6, 1713, as he awaited passage back to Dublin to be installed as Dean of St. Patrick's. At the time the Journal was written Esther Johnson had not as yet become Stella, a name conferred somewhat later. All the letters were addressed jointly to her and her companion, Rebecca Dingley. In the so-called "little language" of the Journal they are both indicated by M D, probably standing for My Dears; though sometimes, as at the end of Letter I, M D seems to refer to Esther alone, M E (Madam Elderly?) to Dingley. F W is obviously Farewell.
In Letter 1 Esther and Dingley are asked to consult Joe Beaumont, who lived at Trim, near Laracor, about last-minute occurrences preceding Swift's precipitous departure; there are glimpses of Dr. Raymond, rector of Trim, and of St. George Ashe, Bishop of Cloyne, Swift's old tutor at Trinity College; and Swift mentions his "powers," that is his commission from the Irish clergy to solicit the Ministry for certain benefits for the Irish Church. The opening letter, despite its studied air of indifference, breathes excitement and anticipation.
The entries given here from Letter 63 record Swift's suspense during the days immediately prior to his appointment as Dean. When he learned that he was to have none of the vacant English Deaneries — of Wells, Ely, and Litchfield — there were hurried conferences involving Erasmus Lewis (under-secretary of State), Harley (the Lord Treasurer), Bolingbroke, Lady Masham (the Queen's confidante), and the Duke of Ormonde (a power in all Anglo-Irish affairs), and in the end it was determined that he should have St. Patrick's.
Some of the letters making up the Journal were published in 1766, the rest two years later. Neither edition, however, followed the original MS. in Swift's handwriting with the faithfulness demanded by modern standards, and since in the case of forty of the letters (II to XL, and LIV) the original MS. has since been lost, there exists for these forty only the version — greatly "improved," unfortunately — published by Swift's cousin Deane Swift in 1768. The excerpts given in the present book of selections have all been derived from extant portions of Swift's MS.