This essay considers the eighteen songs on the Wood’s Halfpence affair which have survived, the vast majority of which celebrate “the Drapier” and respond directly to Swift’s Drapier’s Letters. Close readings of these songs, paying particular attention both to song texts and tunes, illustrate how apparently loyal songs could be used in the service of political opposition. The essay argues that recalling these popular songs is an important context for the Wood’s Halfpence affair and for the shaping of Swift’s reputation in Ireland. It also reminds us of the pervasiveness of music in the cultural life of Dublin, a context which is important for studies of Swift’s poetry, irrespective of the question of Swift’s own musicality.
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.