- An Adamant Patriot in Changing Times:Jonathan Swift's Later Political Pamphlets
With the last comprehensive editions of Jonathan Swift's works dating back more than half a century, the aim of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift is not only to revise their texts and commentaries in the light of more recent scholarship, but also to provide "the first fully annotated scholarly edition ever undertaken of Swift's complete works" (ix). Irish Political Writings after 1725: A Modest Proposal and Other Works, edited by David Hayton and Adam Rounce, is volume 14 in the series and contains Swift's political pamphlets of the years 1726 to 1737, several speeches and letters, as well as a selection of the Intelligencer papers of 1728–29. These writings, many of which remained unpublished or unfinished in Swift's lifetime, have formed part of numerous edited collections of the dean's works ever since George Faulkner's Dublin edition of 1735. With the exception of the Intelligencer and A Modest Proposal, however, they have led a rather shadowy existence, having primarily played a supporting role in surveys of Irish economic thought in the eighteenth century or in discussions of Swift's political views. Since most of them have [End Page 101] never previously been edited with full scholarly annotation, or with a complete and textually authoritative apparatus, this new edition by two distinguished scholars fills a real gap and is hence more than welcome.
The editors have assembled all those pamphlets that illustrate Swift's engagement in Irish affairs after 1725 and contain his favorite themes, such as the state of the Irish woollen manufacture, the absence of trade, the backwardness of agriculture, the preponderance of poverty, the problem of absenteeism, the monopoly of Irish offices in the hands of Englishmen, the importation of foreign luxuries, the scarcity of coin, and the general English oppression of Ireland. Since ecclesiastical matters like tithes, the granting of vacant places in the church to English candidates, or the exclusion of nonconformists from public office could have a profound impact on the contemporary political debate, it is perhaps surprising that the editors have decided to exclude any "publications on purely ecclesiastical subjects" (xxiii), which accounts for the absence of Swift's contributions to the Test Act debate as well as tracts like On the Bill for the Clergy's Residing in their Livings and Considerations upon Two Bills, despite the inclusion of the related Proposal for an Act of Parliament to Pay off the Debt of the Nation. On the other hand, the scope has been widened from the "political writings" of the volume's title to include "all of Swift's non-religious prose writing on Irish subjects after the publication of the Drapier's Letters" (384), such as his contributions to the Intelligencer on moral and cultural issues. For a more complete picture, the collection also offers "associated and ancillary materials" in the appendixes (321–74), such as manuscript fragments with possible ideas for the Intelligencer and Maxims Controlled in Ireland, and "pamphlets which generated responses from Swift" (385).
The volume opens with a historical introduction that outlines, in roughly chronological order, the complex world of contemporary Irish politics as well as the social and economic contexts in which Swift's pamphlets must be considered and which are to varying degrees reflected in them (xxiii–cviii). In an informative and insightful analysis, the editors illustrate how Irish politics underwent a fundamental change from 1728, after the old political power structure, dominated by the two great rivals, Viscount Midleton and William Conolly, came to be replaced by new, though constantly shifting, "castle" and "patriot" divisions (xlvi–liv). They also demonstrate that the relative calm after 1728, owing to the skillful handling of the administration by Lord Lieutenant Carteret (1724–30), contrasted with the tensions pervading Dublin city politics, which were fueled by economic crisis, sectarian differences, and the general skepticism...