Swift is best known, where horses are concerned, for his creation of the Houyhnhnms in Gulliver’s Fourth Voyage. But, at a time when the horse was a major feature of everyday life in most parts of the world, Swift was hardly using something remote from his and others’ experience. He was also familiar with works of equine management, including Gervase Markham and such classical texts as Xenophon. Swift had a high regard both for the animal itself and for those who knew how to treat it properly. This essay looks at Swift’s prior dealings with horses, from his retirement to Dublin following the death of the Queen in 1714.
These dealings were far from satisfactory. His time in Ireland until the creation of the Houyhnhnms had been a catalogue of promising horses becoming unpromising, mistrust of horse-dealers, and the incompetence his own grooms and servants in dealing with horses. When he began to write the Fourth Voyage, he had a long period of dissatisfaction and disgruntlement behind him, mainly with the management of horses by those who should have known better, and of increasingly impatient aspiration for a good horse. The stage was set for Houyhnhnmland.
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.
Assembling thirty-five lectures delivered at the Sixth Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift in June 2011, this new volume of Reading Swift testifies to an extraordinary spectrum of research interests in the Dean of St Patrick’s, Dublin, and his works. As in the successful earlier volumes, the essays have been grouped in eight sections: biographical aspects (W. B. Carnochan, John Irwin Fischer, Clive T. Probyn, Abigail Williams); bibliographical and textual studies (Ian Gadd, James E. May); A Tale of a Tub (J. A. Downie, Gregory Lynall and Marcus Walsh, Michael McKeon); historical and religious issues (Christopher J. Fauske, Christopher Fox, Ian Higgins, Ashley Marshall, Nathalie Zimpfer); Irish vistas (Sabine Baltes, Toby Barnard, Andrew Carpenter, D. W. Hayton, James Ward); poetry (Daniel Cook, Kirsten Juhas, Stephen Karian, Dirk F. Passmann and Hermann J. Real, James Woolley); Gulliver’s Travels (Barbara M. Benedict, Allan Ingram, Ann Cline Kelly, Melinda Alliker Rabb); and reception and adaptation (Gabriella Hartvig, Clement Hawes, Heinz-Joachim Müllenbrock, Tim Parnell, Peter Sabor, Nicholas Seager, Howard D. Weinbrot). Clearly, the élan vital, which has been such a distinctive feature of Swift scholarship in the past thirty years, is continuing unabated.