Abbreviated title
A letter to a very young lady on her marriage
JSA Identification Number
3_4_2
Teerink/Scouten Number
25 (2a)
ESTC Number
T39472
Copy and its Location
CUL , Williams 139
Publisher and Printer
Miscellanies in prose and verse. The second volume, Vol. ii., pp 319-337.
London, Motte, Benjamin, 1727.

Commentary

The autograph manuscript of this letter survives in the Huntington Library, dated 11 February 1723. This printing in the Miscellanies of 1727 is the first. The Miscellanies does carry a layer of alteration from the surviving manuscript – it is difficult to attribute the changes – but it is closer to the manuscript than Faulkner’s 1735 text, which probably derives from this one. So, for example, in discussing how to deal with a husband the text moves through ‘engage with high Hand’ (manuscript) to ‘engage with a high Hand’ (Miscellanies) to ‘engage him with a high Hand’ (Works); the word ‘uncapable’ survives the Miscellanies, but gets changed to ‘incapable’ in the Works; and so does ‘which is a Task I take myself to be not ill qualified for’, which eventually becomes ‘a Task for which I take myself to be not ill qualified’. Either Pope or Swift might have made these changes, but they are in line with Swift’s usual revisions for correctness.

The plan to produce volumes of miscellanies modelled on Swift’s 1711 miscellany seems to have been hatched during Swift’s stay with Pope at Twickenham in the spring and summer of 1726. The basic plan had been for the first volume to reprint 1711, the second to focus on prose by Arbuthnot and Swift, and the third to contain verse by Swift and Pope. The third was called the ‘Final’ volume, but Pope then decided on a fourth one, unfortunately called the third. The volumes were to be published in London, by Motte, who had become Swift’s bookseller, and Pope, because he was on the spot (and liked doing that sort of thing) was to take charge of revising and editing. Tensions eventually arose because of Pope’s attitude to Swift’s poetry and Swift’s willingness to publish elsewhere; but surprisingly little evidence has emerged so far of Pope’s distorting the text of Swift’s work.

Benjamin Motte, Jr.’s father was a printer and a friend of Swift’s bookseller, Benjamin Tooke. He had intellectual interests, like his son, who was to publish an Abridgement of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Societ y. He died in 1710 and Motte took over the printing business from his mother when he came of age in 1715. He became a bookseller at the end of 1723 or the beginning of 1724, becoming a partner in the Tooke business. When Benjamin Tooke, Jr., died in May 1723, he left his bookselling business to his brother Samuel but a controlling interest to an older brother, Revd. Andrew Tooke, who was soon to become the censor of Gulliver’s Travels. Benjamin Motte joined Samuel Tooke in partnership shortly afterwards; perhaps he was helping out family friends, but it proved an expensive move. Samuel Tooke died in December 1724, leaving Motte in charge of the business, but when Andrew Tooke died in January 1732, Motte owed him £1,645. Motte’s financial problems with Gulliver’s Travels and the Miscellanies should be seen against this background. Motte gave up his Aldersgate printing house in 1726; in 1727 he bound Charles Bathurst as apprentice for the large sum of £80; he took Bathurst into partnership in 1734; he died intestate in April 1738; Bathurst carried on the business until he died in 1786. All my information on Motte comes from the innovative research of Michael Treadwell.

References The Prose Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis and others, 16 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1939-74), vol. ix, pp. 83-94, 373-5; Irvin Ehrenpeis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, 3 vols. (London: Methuen, 1962-83), vol. iii, pp. 396-404, 736-49; Michael Treadwell, ‘Benjamin Motte, Jr’, in Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 154, The British Literary Book Trade, 1700-1820, ed. James E. Bracken and Joel Silver (Detroit, MI: Gale, 1995).