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1. Letters to Swift
II/ Letters to Swift

Journal from Stella (extract)


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1Dear Dr Swift,

2Ironically enough, you might be pleased to know that I achieved Posterity through my Demise. Indeed, you are not without knowing that I remain erased from your printed Correspondence. I am, of course, present through the Letters you wrote to me, but my own Voice seems to have disappeared with me. Your Godson, Thomas, chose to name your Journal after me. Now, poor Dingley would not like that.

3‘Tis amusing that although I was erased from your Correspondence, we are bound to rest next to One another for all Eternity. I should have done what she whom I hastily judged to be of no Consequence – Ms Vanhomrigh, whom you dubbed Vanessa – did, perhaps. Had I kept my Letters and saved them as this young Lady did, Posterity would know my Side of the Story. But perhaps you assumed People would not want to read it?

4Who am I, Dr. Swift? What am I to you, or to the World, for that Matter?

5Qualified as the brightest Virgin of the Green in 1719, and doomed to remain so? Do you resent me? Have I not sacrificed enough for you? Did I not follow your Principles and Directions until I breathed my Last? You had me move to another Place during my last Illness. Gossip. Gossip had always been your greatest Fear.

6Forty Years I knew thee. A lifetime! A Life I spent at your Side, not in the Shadow. Yet, no One seems actually to know me. Stella. The Woman hosting the Drapier’s Receptions.

7Apparently, everybody wonders why. Why did this Woman agree to follow the eminent, the reverend Dr. Swift to Ireland? Why did she leave her Mother and Siblings behind? Esther Johnson, Spinster. Am I, though? I recall staying with you till Death did us part. But on what Terms, ‘tis to the World a Secret.

8Nay, our Closeness cannot mean a Thing. Why would it? You ne’er admitted Love a Guest; the World knows it because you wrote it. It may have been somewhat different in the Sluttery, with a nice Cup of Coffee and an Orange. And Ms Vanhomrigh, of course. Heaven forbid. The Flames of Jealousy burnt in my Chest for too long. It was as if my Heart had been placed in a Box stolen by a Bird, and dropped at Sea. A little Girl shouting on the Verge of a Cliff, hoping for a Traveller to return. You seemed to shun me after you returned from that long Stay in London. What could I possibly have done wrong?

9First a Pupil, then a Friend. I refused a Proposal of Marriage for your Sake. I did hope that someday you would propose that I should be acknowledged as your Wife. I acted as such for Years, presiding over your Table, entertaining your Friends with my Bons Mots, trying to be as perfect as you wished me to be. I read everything you advised me to. I wrote down every new Word you presented me with. I learnt them. I used them. I tried to be as witty as possible, to please you. Was it all in Vain?

10Certainly, I was in Ireland thanks to you and on your Advice. I aspired to some Freedom, which I obtained in this Country. A free Spinster, free to take good Care of you. Always at your Side when you needed me. The World knows that Stella was at your Bedside when you were lying sick. You thought – hoped? – to go before me. But you did not. After leaving me alone for some Years in Hibernia, it was your Turn to be alone in this Country you both despised and protected.

11Mrs Dingley and I were quite happy in Ireland. What a convenient Chaperone, this Mrs Dingley! The third Person thanks to whom we were admittedly never alone, you and I.

12For the Sake of Gossip, that is. That same Gossip that led you to have me removed from your Lodgings as I was dying. No Scandal. Never. I could stay at your Place when you were absent, but had to leave as soon as you returned. Tell me Dr Swift, was it really all for Fear of Scandal, or were you ashamed of me?

13We both were from low Extraction. You know as well as I do how hard life can be for Women. It was harder on me. I was lucky enough to have you as a Friend. But I sometimes think I would have needed more than a mere Friend.

14You did like my moral Qualities, my Spirit, my Generosity, and my Patience. Not my Looks? I was never an ideal Female, was I? You were never a Strephon anyway, no Artifice could have blinded you. Here we were, a greying Spinster and a deaf Bachelor living jointly.

15Those other than I would resent you, maybe. Somehow, I find myself unable to do so.

16’Tis therefore with calm contentment that I can now say that my Scorn has come to naught. I am at Peace. And so are you, I hope.

17With the utmost Affection, I remain Sir, your most obedient Friend,

18Esther Johnson, Spinster

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Élodie GALIANA-CAMARENA, « Journal from Stella (extract) »E-rea [En ligne], 18.2 | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2021, consulté le 04 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Aix Marseille Univ, LERMA, Aix-en-Provence, France
Dr. Élodie Galiana-Camarena teaches British literature and translation at Aix-Marseille Université. She received her PhD on Jonathan Swift in 2020. Her research focuses on the representation of femininity in Swift’s works, correspondence, and life.

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