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For the last thirty years of his life, in his capacity as the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Jonathan Swift lived in a small, populous, and largely independent district of Dublin. Beyond the jurisdiction of the civic and ecclesiastical authorities, the Liberty of St Patrick’s was in some part a realm unto itself, and Swift was its sovereign. His dealings with his many neighbours have, however, attracted little scholarly attention. This essay accordingly offers a literary-historical survey of the quarter and its residents. Following a brief overview of how Swift conceptualized the condition of being a neighbour, it describes the privileges of his office, the built environment of the franchise that was his charge, and the kinds of person who lodged there. The second half of the essay introduces some of the Dean’s more prominent neighbours, four individuals with whom he had disputes of various kinds. For all the provocations of those amongst whom he lived, his vis-à-vis with his neighbours can finally be seen to have been a source of considerable personal contentment.

In: Reading Swift