“With brisk merry lays”: Songs on the Wood’s Halfpence Affair

In: Reading Swift
Moyra Haslett Queen’s University Belfast

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This essay considers the eighteen songs on the Wood’s Halfpence affair which have survived, the vast majority of which celebrate “the Drapier” and respond directly to Swift’s Drapier’s Letters. Close readings of these songs, paying particular attention both to song texts and tunes, illustrate how apparently loyal songs could be used in the service of political opposition. The essay argues that recalling these popular songs is an important context for the Wood’s Halfpence affair and for the shaping of Swift’s reputation in Ireland. It also reminds us of the pervasiveness of music in the cultural life of Dublin, a context which is important for studies of Swift’s poetry, irrespective of the question of Swift’s own musicality.

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Reading Swift

Papers from The Seventh Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift


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