The work of the prolific writer, diarist, and salonnière Hester Lynch Piozzi (1741-1821), also known by her first husband’s name as ‘Mrs Thrale’ and as Samuel Johnson’s close friend and hostess, is no exception to the phenomenon described by Margaret Anne Doody that “much … written by Englishwomen during the middle and later eighteenth century exhibits an awareness of Swift and a sense of his importance as a model.” In addition to searching and securing traces of Swift in Thrale Piozzi’s library and reading, this essay focuses on “Three Dialogues on the Death of Hester Lynch Thrale” (written in August 1779), a witty homage to the Dean’s Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift. In the three true-to-life dialogues between the members of her Streatham circle, Thrale Piozzi skilfully amalgamates her admired predecessor’s tone and content with the Dialogues of the Dead genre, much in fashion at the time, paradoxically creating an (authorial) presence in her own absence.
This new volume of Reading Swift assembles 26 lectures delivered at the Seventh Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift in June 2017, testifying to an extraordinary spectrum of research interests in the Dean of St Patrick’s, Dublin, and his works. Reading Swift follows the tried and tested format of its predecessors, grouping the essays in eight sections: biographical problems; bibliographical and canonical studies; political and religious as well as philosophical, economic, and social issues; poetry; Gulliver’s Travels; and reception studies. The élan vital, which has been such a distinctive feature of Swift scholar-ship in the past thirty-five years, is continuing unabated.