The '1735' Faulkner Edition of Swift's Works


The first attempt at a collected edition of Swift's Works remains little studied and decidedly puzzling in several important respects. Eighteenth-century commentators mostly either ignored it or derided it as scrappy and discreditable. For the next two hundred years, it was usually regarded as an irrelevance or an embarrassment. In the last half century, however, it has been increasingly treated as Swift's attempt to create a literary monument for himself. Unfortunately, we have little evidence as to how much involvement Swift had in the selection of the contents or how much textual oversight he exercised during the process of publication. Such evidence as we possess suggests probably not a lot in either case. Recent scholars have generally agreed that the 1735 text of Gulliver's Travels has greater authority than the London edition of 1726, but beyond that much remains questionable. Analysis of the contents of the Works does not suggest that Swift saw it as a 'monument' or as a claim to literary eminence. For whatever reasons, the edition omits important published works (including A Tale of a Tub), as well as Verses on the Death of Dr Swift (written 1731) and The History of the Last Four Years of the Queen (a work important to Swift, but not published until 1758). Conversely, the edition does include a great many trivial and occasional pieces. It heavily emphasizes Irish works, not the writings of 1710-14, the period to which Swift harked back nostalgically for the rest of his life. The Faulkner Works comes across as an odd mélange of major and minor works plus topical trivia, not as a systematic attempt to build a posthumous reputation. Given Swift's longstanding casual attitude towards the publication or even preservation of most of his works, moreover, we would be unwise to assume that '1735' possesses textual authority except in the case of Gulliver.