The Lives of Jonathan Swift
Edited by Daniel Cook
Routledge – 2011 – 1,669 pages
Contemporaries were mesmerized by the outrageous wit of Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), a writer still widely regarded as the greatest satirist of all time. Soon after Swift’s death, his friends and enemies raced to publish the definitive account of the Dean of St Patrick’s. Now, Routledge brings these major works together for the first time in a new, three-volume, facsimile collection, supplemented with a full introduction, bibliographies, and other textual apparatus.
The collection’s editor avers that these highly influential biographies of one of the leading literary figures of his generation remain incompletely understood. The persistence of a number of myths can be traced back to these studies of Swift, including his own pseudo-biographical fragment on his early life. It is crucial that many of these biographies were written or commissioned by friends and allies of Swift and that some were written—or were informed by—his enemies. The collection’s editor makes clear that the lives of Swift have a strongly interdependent relationship and, by bringing these studies together in one easy-to-use reference resource, scholars will more readily be able to trace the perambulations of specific anecdotes and biographical readings, and better understand how Johnson’s defining picture of Swift emerged.
Volume I of the collection opens with an extended introductory account of the history of biographies and biographical criticism of Swift in the eighteenth century and beyond. The volume reproduces Lord Orrery’s notorious ‘Judas-biography’, the Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr Jonathan Swift (1752), and a little-known book-length response, A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country, to his Son in the College of Dublin (1752–3), and, finally, the entry on Swift in Cibber’s multivolume collection The Lives of the Poets (1753). The second volume includes the largely overlooked Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift, DD (1752), a freely adapted plagiarism of Orrery’s Remarks, and Patrick Delany’s well-known Observations upon Lord Orrery’s ‘Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr Jonathan Swift’ (1754). This volume also contains the biographical essay from John Hawkesworth’s Works of Jonathan Swift, DD, Dean of St Patrick’s, Dublin (1755), and the undervalued Life of Jonathan Swift by the lesser-known biographer W. H. Dilworth. (Although it is largely unexamined by modern scholars, his influence on contemporary Swift studies merits renewed attention.)
The final volume in the collection, meanwhile, comprises Deane Swift’s seminal Essay upon the Life, Writings, and Character of Dr Jonathan Swift (1755), which includes Jonathan Swift’s own fragmentary ‘Family of Swift’ (c. 1727), and Patrick Delany’s cantankerous response, A Letter to Dean Swift, Esq (1755). The collection ends with full textual apparatus, including contemporary reviews of, and responses to, the competing lives of Jonathan Swift.
The Lives of Jonathan Swift provides a full and fascinating picture of eighteenth-century attitudes to one of the great figures of the age. It will be welcomed by Swift scholars and students, as well as those more broadly interested in the art and function of literary biography.
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Routledge facsimile collections make key archival source material readily available to scholars, researchers, and students of literary studies, as well as those working in allied and related fields. Selected and introduced by expert editors, the gathered materials are reproduced in facsimile, giving users a strong sense of immediacy to the texts and permitting citation to the original pagination.
John Boyle, 5th Earl of Orrery, Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr Jonathan Swift (London: Printed for A. Millar, ).
[Patrick Delany], Observations upon Lord Orrery’s ‘Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr Jonathan Swift’ (Dublin: Robert Main, 1754).
[Anonymous], Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift, DD (London: Printed for J. Cooper, 1752).
[Anonymous], A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country, to his Son in the College of Dublin (Dublin: Printed by Oli. Nelson, 1752–1753).
Cibber/Shiels, The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (London: R. Griffiths, 1753).
John Hawkesworth, The Works of Jonathan Swift, DD, Dean of St Patrick’s, Dublin (London: Printed for C. Bathurst, C. Davis, C. Hitch and L. Hawes, J. Hodges, R. and J. Dodsley, and W. Bowyer, 1755).
W. H. Dilworth, The Life of Dr Jonathan Swift, Dean of Saint Patrick’s, Dublin (London: Printed for G. Wright, 1758).
Deane Swift, An Essay upon the Life, Writings, and Character, of Dr. Jonathan Swift [with ‘The Family of Swift’ (c. 1727)], 2nd edn. (London: Charles Bathurst, 1755).
[Patrick Delany], A Letter to Dean[e] Swift, Esq. (London: W. Reeve, 1755).