A major Irish figure: Jonathan Swift (Dublin, 1667-1745)

Ireland, land of birth and exile

Jonathan SWIFT was born in Ireland and studied at Trinity College, Dublin, but left in 1689 for England. He returned, against his will, in 1714, and the fall of the Tories made his « exile » permanent. With his cutting satirical works, he began to play a major role in the social and political life of the country whose independence he ardently promoted.

 

1726: Gulliver’s Travels

The most well-known of Swift’s works is a satirical story and philosophical tale with a moralising aim, as given in Part IV, Chapter 12: “I write for the noblest end, to inform and instruct mankind”, in the tradition of Thomas More’s Utopia (1516 Latin; 1551 English) and Francis BACON’s Nova Atlantis (1627). Often described as an altruistic misanthrope, Swift, while constantly denouncing the cruelty man is capable of, remains confident in the perfectibility of mankind.

 

The Drapier’s Letters (1724)

Poitiers, Bibliothèques universitaires, Fonds ancien, FD 1916

C – The Hibernian Patriot / Jonathan Swift.- Dublin ; London : A. Moor, 1730

Poitiers, Bibliothèques universitaires, Fonds ancien, FD 2170

B – Fraud detected : or the Hibernian Patriot / Jonathan Swift.- Dublin : G. Faulkner, 1725

Poiters, Bibliothèques universitaires, Fonds ancien, FD 2105

A – A Letter to the whole People of Ireland. By M.B. Drapier, author of the Letter to the Shop-Keepers, etc. [i.e. Jonathan Swift].- Dublin : J. Harding, 1724

The letters (doc. A) – the anonymous Drapier anonyme is none other than Swift himself – are present in this collection in two editions and two collections whose titles underline the patriotic nature of the works : Fraud detected : or, the Hibernian Patriot (1725) (doc. B) and The Hibernian Patriot (1730) (doc. C).

The Drapier explains that he is publishing these letters so that the profiteers and usurpers will be publicly denounced and that the people of Ireland, informed about this misdoings, will benefit. These letters, sometimes virulent pamphlets, illustrate in particular, the vigourous and successful campaign led by the Drapier against a William Wood, who had been given permission to mint Irish coins whose real value was less than the nominal value (see Landed ownership ; doc. D).

Poitiers, Bibliothèques universitaires, Fonds ancien, FD 2113

D – Letter to the Shop-Keepers / Jonathan Swift.- Dublin : J. Harding, 1724

The most significant of these Letters is the 4th, addressed “To the Whole People of Ireland”, dated 13th October 1724,  in which Swift remarks ironically “One great merit I am sure we have, which those of English birth can have no pretence to, that our ancestors reduced this kingdom to the obedience of England, for which we have been rewarded with a worse climate, the privilege of being governed by laws to which we do not consent, a ruined trade, a House of Peers without jurisdiction, almost an incapacity for all employments; and the dread of Wood’s halfpence.”

Swift’s disingenuous disclaimer at the end of Gulliver’s Travels, (Part IV, Chapter 12) can thus be better understood: “But this description, I confess, does by no means affect the British nation, who may be an example to the whole world for their wisdom, care, and justice in planting colonies; their liberal endowments for the advancement of religion and learning; their choice of devout and able pastors to propagate Christianity; their caution in stocking their provinces with people of sober lives and conversations from this the mother kingdom; their strict regard to the distribution of justice, in supplying the civil administration through all their colonies with officers of the greatest abilities, utter strangers to corruption; and, to crown all, by sending the most vigilant and virtuous governors, who have no other views than the happiness of the people over whom they preside, and the honour of the king their master.

But as those countries which I have described do not appear to have any desire of being conquered and enslaved, murdered or driven out by colonies, nor abound either in gold, silver, sugar, or tobacco, I did humbly conceive, they were by no means proper objects of our zeal, our valour, or our interest.”

 

Defender of liberty

Poems and songs, also present in the collections, and often anonymous, show the Drapier’s popularity. Thus, in rhetorical style, in rhyming iambic pentameter, a young man of 14 – we are told – writes:  “Hail! Mighty Man, whose unexhausted Spring / Affords thee Matter on the Dullest Thing ; / Whose piercing Pen explain’d thy puzzling Theme, / Procu’d us Safety, and extoll’d your Name”  (doc. C, p. 252).

Ainsi une chanson populaire, dès le premier couplet, le loue pour s’être battu contre les ennemis de l’Irlande avec pour seules armes une plume, de l’encre et du papier : « En vers courts et gais/ nous chanterons les louanges/de ce patriote honnête, le Drapier/ qui, comme tout le monde sait/ a confronté nos ennemis/ avec seuls plume, encre et papier. » (Song I, New Songs Sung at the Club at Mr Taplin’s The Sign of the Drapier’s Head in Truck-Street ; doc. C, p. 253-254). En filigrane, derrière ce portrait élogieux du drapier, c’est l’œuvre de toute une vie à laquelle hommage est rendu, celle de Jonathan SWIFT, infatigable défenseur de la droiture et de la liberté.

 

Epitaph in Saint-Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

True to his skills as a teacher and intermediary, true to the values he never ceased to uphold, Swift left a Latin epitaph on his death in 1745, which serve as his last testament. Translated into English by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats (The Winding Stair and Other Poems, 1933) it reads:

Swift has sailed into his rest;
Savage indignation there
Cannot lacerate his Breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
World-Besotted Traveler; he
Served human liberty.

Les œuvres de Swift, ou qui lui sont attribuées, recensées dans le Fonds Dubois, présentées par ordre chronologique

1720: A Proposal for the universal use of Irish manufacture, in cloaths and furniture of houses, etc… utterly rejecting and renouncing every thing wearable that comes from England. Written in the year 1720 [by Jonathan Swift] – [S.l.] : [s.n.], 1737. –12° FD 2201

1720: A defence of English commodities. Being an answer to the proposal for the universal use of Irish manufactures, and utterly rejecting and renouncing every thing that is wearable that comes from England…to which is annexed, an elegy upon the… death of Mr. Demar… who died at Dublin the 6th day of July, 1720. Written by Dean Swift – Printed at Dublin : and reprinted at London, by J. Roberts… MDCCXX. – [2], 28 p. ; 8° FD 2133

1720:  Swearer’s-Bank : or parliamentary security for establishing a new Bank in Ireland. Wherein the medicinal use of oaths is considered. With the “Best in Christendom”, a tale. Written by Dean Swift … To which is prefixed an Essay upon English bubbles by Thomas Hope [i.e. Jonathan Swift]… – Dublin : Th. Hume ; London : R. Roberts, 1720. – 8°  FD 2132

1724: A Letter to Mr Harding the Printer, upon occasion of a paragraph in his News-Paper of Aug. lst, relating to Mr Wood’s Half-pence. By M.B., Drapier, Author of the Letter to the Shop-Keepers, etc. [i.e. Jonathan Swiftt] – Dublin : J. Harding, [1724]. – 8° FD 2112

1724:  A Letter to the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Molesworth. By M.B. Drapier, Author of the Letter to the Shop-keepers, etc. [i.e. Jonathan Swift] – Dublin : J. Harding, [1724]. – 8° FD 2107

1724: A Letter to the Shop-Keepers, Tradesmen, Farmers, and Common-People of Ireland, concerning the Brass Half-pence coined by Mr Woods, with a design to have them pass in this Kingdom. Wherein is shewn the power of the said Patent, the value of the Half-Pence … By M.B. Drapier [i.e. Jonathan Swift] – Dublin : J. Harding, [1724]. – 16° FD 2113

1724: A Letter to the whole People of Ireland. By M.B. Drapier, author of the Letter to the Shop-Keepers, etc. [i.e. Jonathan Swift] – Dublin : J. Harding, 1724. –8° FD 2105

1724: Some observations upon a Paper, call’d, the Report of the Committee of the Most Honourable the Privy-Council in England, relating to Wood’s Half-pence. By M.B. Drapier, Author of the Letter to the Shop-Keepers, etc. [i.e. Jonathan Swift]. The second edition corrected – Dublin : J. Harding, [1724]. –8° FD 2111

1725: Fraud detected : or, the Hibernian Patriot. Conataining, all the Drapier’s Letters to the People of Ireland, on Wood’s coinage  [by Jonathan Swift], etc. interspers’d with … particulars … To which are added, Prometheus, a poem. Also… songs sung at the Drapier’s Club – Dublin : G. Faulkner, 1725. – 8° FD 2170

1729: Seasonable remarks on trade. With some reflections on the advantages that might accrue to Great Britain, by a proper regulation of the trade of Ireland. Wrote in London, but now first publish’d in Dublin, as a preface to other essays on the trade and manufactures of Ireland (avec John Browne).
[Contient : An essay on trade in general ; and, on that of Ireland in particular, de John Browne (p. 47-105). Considerations on two papers lately publisched. The first call’d, Seasonable remarks, &c. And the other, An essay on trade in general, and that of Ireland in particular” de Jonathan Swift (p. 107-124).  An appeal to the reverend Dean Swift, by way of reply to the observer on seasonable remarks” de John Browne (p. 125-132). A letter in answer to a paper intitl’d An appeal to the reverend Dean Swift de Jonathan Swift (p. 133-144)] FD 2151

1730:    The Hibernian Patriot : being a collection of the Drapier’s Letters to the People of Ireland, concerning Mr.Wood’s Brass Half-Pence. Together with Considerations on the attempts made to pass that coin. And reasons for the People of Ireland’s refusing it. To which are added, poems and songs relating to the same subject – Printed ad Dublin. London: reprinted and sold by A. Moor in St. Paul’s Church-yard, and the booksellers of London and Westminster, MDCCXXX. – [8], 264 p. [sig. [ ]1 A3 B-R8 S4) ; 8° FD 1916

1730:    A Modest proposal for preventing the children of poor people from being a burthen to their parents or the country, and for making them beneficial to the publicks – Dublin printed ; and reprinted ad London : for Weaver Bickerton, 1730. – 23,[1] p. ; 8° FD 2154

1731: An Infallible scheme to pay the publick debt of this nation in six months. Humbly offered to the consideration of the present P——t… – [S.l.] : [s.n.], 1731. – 16 p. ; 16°. (Également attribué à Jonathan Swift) FD 2205

1737:    The Drapier’s Letters to the People of Ireland, concerning Mr Wood’s Brass Half-Pence: Letter I-VII. Written in 1724 by M.B. Drapier, i.e. Jonathan Swift] – [S.l.] : [s.n.], 1737. – Pag. 57-207 ; 12° FD 2202

1737: A Proposal for the universal use of Irish manufacture, in cloaths and furniture of houses, etc… utterly rejecting and renouncing every thing wearable that comes from England. Written in the year 1720 [by Jonathan Swift] – [S.l.] : [s.n.], 1737. –12° FD 2201

1745: The Drapier’s second letter to the good people of Ireland  – Dublin : [s.n.], 1745. –8° FD 2375

1749: Dean Swift’s Ghost, to the citizens of Dublin. Concluding with a word particularly to the weavers. [By Jonathan Swift ?] – Dublin : [s.n.], 1749. –8° FD 2330

1753: A dialogue between Dean Swift and and Tho. Prior. esq., in the isles of St. Patrick’s church, Dublin… October 9th 1753] FRIEND TO THE PEACE AND PROSPERITY OF IRELAND. – Dublin : G. and A. Ewing, 1753. – 8° FD 2353

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