Celebrating 350 years since the birth of Jonathan Swift

A new display, ‘Swift350’, has opened in the Long Room of the Old Library to mark the 350th anniversary of the birth of one of Trinity College Dublin’s most famous graduates, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).

Engraved portrait of Jonathan Swift

Frontispiece portrait of Swift from ‘The Works of J.S, D.D, D.S.P.D. in four volumes’, Dublin, 1735. OLS L-11-396

Among the most widely read of all Irish writers, Swift is best known as the author of Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (1726), now universally known as Gulliver’s Travels. His other works include A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books and as a political pamphleteer, Swift is particularly known for A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture, The Drapier’s Letters and A Modest Proposal.

The present display focuses on items from the bequest of A. C. Elias, Jr., author of Swift at Moor Park, whose important collection of Swiftiana in manuscript and print he divided between the University of Pennsylvania and Trinity College Dublin, where it adds significantly to the Library’s already important collections.

On show are items relating to the writer’s close relationship with the much younger Esther Johnson, and her companion Rebecca Dingley, that fascinated, among many others, W. B. Yeats. Among non-print items is the Library’s death mask of the author, placed close to Louis-François Roubiliac’s celebrated bust of Swift, commissioned by College students after Swift’s death.

Esther Johnson’s autograph word-book. TCD MS 11324

Esther Johnson’s autograph word-book. TCD MS 11324

The display is curated by Stephanie Breen, in collaboration with Jane Maxwell, Andrew Carpenter, Aileen Douglas, and Ian Campbell Ross, with assistance from James Woolley and Margaret Gerety, daughter of A. C. Elias, Jr. It will run until end of July 2017 and will be of particular interest to participants of the Swift350 International Conference, taking place in College between 7 and 9 June, with speakers from Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Italy, Israel, Canada, Australia and the United States.

A collaborative online exhibition will be launched in the summer.

 

By Ian Campbell Ross.