Dean Swift And The Preacher Who Stole His Sermon

The eccentric Dean Swift, in the course of one of those journies to

Holyhead, which, it is well known, he several times performed on foot,

was travelling through Church Stretton, Shropshire, when he put up at

the sign of the Crown, and finding the host to be a communicative

good-humored man, inquired if there was any agreeable person in town,

with whom he might partake of a dinner (as he had desired him to provide

and that such a person should have nothing to pay. The landlord

immediately replied, that the curate, Mr. Jones, was a very agreeable,

companionable man, and would not, he supposed, have any objection to

spend a few hours with a gentleman of his appearance. The Dean directed

him to wait on Mr. Jones, with his compliments, and say that a traveller

would be glad to be favored with his company at the Crown, if it was

agreeable. When Mr. Jones and the Dean had dined, and the glass began

to circulate, the former made an apology for an occasional absence,

saying that at three o'clock he was to read prayers and preach at the

church. Upon this intimation, the Dean replied, that he also should

attend prayers. Service being ended, and the two gentlemen having

resumed their station at the Crown, the Dean began to compliment Mr.

Jones on his delivery of a very appropriate sermon; and remarked, that

it must have cost him (Mr. Jones) some time and attention to compose

such a one.

Mr. Jones observed, that his duty was rather laborious, as he served

another parish church at a distance; which, with the Sunday and weekly

service at Church Stretton, straitened him much with respect to the time

necessary for the composition of sermons; so that when the subjects

pressed, he could only devote a few days and nights to that purpose.

Well, says the Dean, it is well for you to have such a talent; for my

part, the very sermon you preached this afternoon, cost me some months

in the composing. On this observation, Mr. Jones began to look very

gloomy, and to recognize his companion. However, rejoined the Dean,

don't you be alarmed; you have so good a talent at delivery, that I

hereby declare, you have done more honor to my sermon this day, than I

could do myself; and by way of compromising the matter, you must

accept of this half-guinea for the justice you have done in the delivery

of it.