and again he burst into language of intense

Farewell dear Sirrahs, dearest lives: there is
peace and quiet with MD, and nowhere else….
Farewell again, dearest rogues: I am never happy,
but when I write or think of MD…. You are as
welcome as my blood to every farthing I have in
the world; and all that grieves me is, I am not
richer, for MD’s sake.

One thing alone dashed the pleasure that such
words gave her. It was always in the plural
that he spoke of her; it was always “dearest
Sirrahs, dearest lives”; MD stood for Stella 
and Mrs. Dingley together. Swift and Stella
were never alone. Grant that this was for
form’s sake merely, grant that the presence of 
Mrs. Dingley, busy with her keys and her lap-
dog and never listening to a word that was
said to her, scarcely counted, was a form too, 
why should such forms be necessary? Why
impose a strain that wasted her health and
half spoilt her pleasure and kept “perfect
friends” who were happy only in each other’s
company apart? Why indeed? There was
a reason; a secret which Stella knew, a secret
which Stella did not impart. Divided they 
had to be. Since then no bond bound them,
since she was afraid to lay the least restric-
tion upon her friend, all the more jealously
must she have searched into his words and
analysed his conduct to ascertain the temper
of his mood and acquaint herself instantly
with the least change in it. So long as he
told her frankly of his “favourites” and
showed himself the bluff tyrant who required
every woman to make advances to him and 
lectured fine ladies and let them tease him,
nothing in the Journal roused her suspicions.
Lady Berkeley might steal his hat; the
Duchess of Hamilton might lay bare her
agony; and Stella, who was kind to her sex,
laughed with the one and sorrowed with the 

But were there traces in the Journal of a
different sort of influence?—something far 
more dangerous because more equal and more
intimate? Imagine some one of Swift’s own
station in life, a girl such as Stella had been
when Swift first knew her, dissatisfied with
the ordinary ways of life, eager, as Stella put
it, to know right from wrong, charming, witty,
untaught—she, indeed, if she existed, might
be a rival to be feared. But did she exist?
If so, there would be no open mention of her 
in the Journal. Instead there would be hesi-
tations, excuses, some uneasiness, and em-
barrassment when, writing his heart out and
never stopping to read it over, Swift was
brought up by something that he could not
say. Indeed, he had only been a month or 
two in England when some such silence roused
Stella’s suspicion. Who was it, she asked, 
that boarded near him, that he dined with
now and then? “I know no such person,”
Swift replied; “I do not dine with boarders.
What the pox! You know whom I have
dined with every day since I left you, better
than I do. What do you mean, Sirrah?”
But he knew what she meant: she meant
Mrs. Vanhomrigh, the widow who lived near
him; she meant her daughter Esther. The 
name kept coming again and again after that 
in the Journal. Swift was too proud to con-
ceal the truth, but he sought nine times out of 
ten to excuse it. When he was in Suffolk-
steet the Vanhomrighs were in St. James’s-
street, and thus saved him a walk. When he
was in Chelsea they were in London, and it
was convenient to keep his best gown and
periwig there. Sometimes the heat kept him
there, sometimes the rain; now they were
playing cards, and young Lady Ashburnham
reminded him so much of Stella that he stayed
on to help her. Sometimes he stayed out of
listlessness; again because he was very busy
and they were simple people who did not
stand on ceremony. At the same time Stella
had only to hint that these Vanhomrighs were
people of no consequence for him to retort,
“Why, they keep as good female company as I
do male…. I saw two lady Bettys there this 
afternoon.” In short, to tell the truth, to write
whatever came into his head, was not easy.

Nevertheless, it was his necessity. To be
Presto and not “t’other I,” to have some 
“sluttery” or private chamber where he could 
relax and talk a “little language” to a woman
who understood him, was the need of his
nature, and surely not a base one. Surely
it was for this girl’s good, as it had been for
Stella’s, to know the great Swift; and if he
taught Vanessa too, as she said he did, “to
distinguish,” could she complain if also he
“left her miserable”? But Vanessa was not 
Stella. She was younger, more vehement,
less disciplined, less wise. She had no Mrs.
Dingley to restrain her, no memories or
Journals to solace her. She pursued, she
threatened, she forced the truth from him.
And when she got it, and the full force of
those bright blue eyes blazed upon her, she
dwindled beneath their illumination; of all
her arbours and laurels, her talks, her
entreaties, nothing remained. To Stella she 
was no more than an uneasy ghost, appearing,
beckoning, vanishing, one of those shadows
which must ever haunt the troubled back-
ground of her life, must always people her
solitude with fears. At any rate, Vanessa
died: Stella had the Journal; Presto was
hers again. She lived on to practise always
those sad arts by which she kept her friend
at her side and enjoyed his confidence and
his lovemaking, until, worn out with the strain
and the concealment, with Mrs. Dingley and
her chatter and her lapdogs, she died herself
and left Swift to mourn and to rage, to recount
her qualities while they buried her, to sit at
length, year after year in silence, broken once
by a whisper, “I am what I am,” which the
servants caught up as they took a knife that 
was by him and put it away.