In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift offered a cynical account of how history comes to be written. Yet in his own attempts at writing memoirs and history, he claimed “to write with the utmost impartiality … as a faithful historian.” Contemporaries were not so sure, Chesterfield describing Swift’s History of the Four Last Years of the Queen as “a party pamphlet, founded on the lie of the day.” One of the problems with Swift’s accounts of events was that most of the information he was relaying to his readers as factual was second-hand at best. This would appear to raise serious issues for Swift’s biographers and critics. Propagandists are under no obligation to be factually accurate, let alone tell the truth. Almost all of the evidence for his influence with the ministers originates from Swift himself. In such circumstances, it is incumbent upon biographers to acquire detailed knowledge of the primary sources for themselves rather than merely relying upon the available secondary sources for their understanding of the political and social contexts of the age in which Swift lived.
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.