As satirists of religious enthusiasm, Swift and the third Earl of Shaftesbury sometimes were confused with one another in the eighteenth century. Their politics and understandings of religion, however, made them each other’s satirical target. This essay argues that, in order to understand the partisan dialogue between Shaftesbury and Swift, it is necessary to grasp its clandestine nature. Only very close readings of the two writers’ texts unveil their hidden allusions to each other; in fact, these were part of a strategic game of rhetorical hide-and-seek. In the light of this premise, new interpretations of both Shaftesbury and Swift are being offered, showing that their intellectual duel was far more than a footnote in the struggle between Whigs and Tories. Rather, this clandestine dialogue reveals the broader lines of their political and religious battle.
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.