Commemorating Jonathan Swift

Marble bust of Swift by L-F Roubiliac in the Long Room (TCD Art Collection)

To celebrate the sesquarcentennial – that’s 350th – anniversary of Jonathan Swift’s birth Trinity College has organised something completely different: a collaborative online exhibition reuniting original Swift artifacts from all over Dublin.

Trinity College Dublin has a very important place in the history of satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745). Not only was he a student here but the first record of his existence known to scholarship is his name inscribed in the student admissions book and the record of one of his examinations in the College. Swift’s time as a student in Trinity was not his finest moment. In his memoir he complains that he was awarded his degree by special grace (that is, he almost didn’t graduate) even though he claims to have followed all the rules. The archives don’t lie, however, and the future Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral appears to have been fined several times for misdemeanours such as insolence and ‘haunting the town’.

Trinity College in the late seventeenth century. From the National Library of Ireland (NLI MS 392)

Trinity is marking the 350th anniversary of Jonathan Swift’s birth this year with a number of activities. There is an exhibition from the Library’s world-renowned collection of Swift-related books and manuscripts in the Long room. This collection was developed partly through gift and bequest and the exhibition showcases particularly the generous bequest of American Swiftian A. C. Elias. Also planned is an international conference on 7-9 June at which experts will speak on themes such as Swift and politics, travel, family and friends.

To re-imagine Swift’s Dublin, the Library has embarked on a new departure. For the first time, a collaborative online exhibition has been curated which brings together Swift-related artifacts which still survive in places outside the College: these include St Patrick’s Cathedral, where Swift was Dean; Marsh’s Library, much frequented by Swift; and St Patrick’s Hospital which was built as a result of the bequest left by Swift for a hospital to care for individuals with mental illness. Included in the exhibition are a snuff box (from the Cathedral), a wine bottle (from the National Museum), and the writing desk upon which Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels (from St Patrick’s Mental Health Services).

An nineteenth-century illustrated edition of Gulliver’s Travels for children (Dublin City Library)

Commenting on the continued relevance of Swift in the 21st century writing, Dr Aileen Douglas of the School of English remarked that ‘for a long time eighteenth-century Protestant writers like Swift were seen as not Irish, but in works like the Drapier’s Letters Swift can be seen beginning to speak for the Irish nation.’ A great part of Swift’s legacy lies in the work Gulliver’s Travels, which has never been out of print since it was published in 1726 and which belongs, not just to Irish literature, but to world literature. Dr Douglas remarks that ‘its relevance only increases over time. Gulliver is always on a voyage, never quite belongs and is in the end totally alienated. In today’s world of movement and dispossession there is a great deal of resonance there.’

The Library thanks all its collaborators in the making of this exhibition.

Dr Jane Maxwell


Seachtain na Gaeilge 2017 sa Seomra Fada

TCD MS 10878/L/2/1 Cré na Cille (An chéad eagrán, 1949)

TCD MS 10878/L/2/1
Cré na Cille (An chéad eagrán, 1949)

Beidh taispeántas beag lámhscríbhinní Chré na Cille le Máirtín Ó Cadhain le feiceáil sa Seomra Fada, Leabharlann Choláiste na Tríonóide, ar feadh Seachtain na Gaeilge 2017 (1-17ú Márta). Tá cóip phearsanta Chré na Cille an gCadhnach le fheiceáil – an chéad eagrán atá i gceist – agus an leabhar lán le ceartúcháin i lámh an gCadhanach. Foilsíodh an dara chló i 1965. Seans go raibh sé i gceist go gcuirfí na h-athraithe sin isteach sa dara chló, ach níor cuireadh.

Chomh maith leis an leabhar, tá dréacht-leathanaigh ceartaithe ó Chré na Cille i lámh an gCadhanach. Is féidir na héagsúlachtaí téacsúil idir an t-eagrán a foilsíodh agus an dréacht a fheicéail, agus mar sin is féidir a stíl scríbhneoireachta a thabhairt faoi deara.

Buailaigí isteach!

Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin

Lámhscríbhinní Mháirtín Uí Chadhain: dearcadh an taighdeora

Thug mé cuairt ar Sheomra na Lámhscríbhinní i Leabharlann Choláiste na Tríonóide don chéad uair i dtús mhí Iúil 2008. Alt a bhí á scríobh agam ag an am ar Mháirtín Ó Cadhain agus bailiú an bhéaloidis a thug ann mé. Sarar chríochnaigh mé an t-alt seo, theastaigh uaim sracfhéachint a thabhairt ar pháipéir neamhfhoilsithe an Chadhnaigh. Ní raibh mé ag gabháil ró-fhada do chomhaid éagsúla sa chnuasach ollmhór seo nuair a thuig mé go mbeadh orm m’alt a athscríobh ó bhonn: is é sin le rá, thuig mé nach foláir féachaint ar scríbhinní neamhfhoilsithe Uí Chadhain (maraon lena scríbhinní foilsithe) chun pictiúir iomlán a fháil ar dhearcadh an Chadhnaigh i leith bhailiú an bhéaloidis agus an bhéaloidis trí chéile (agus i leith go leor, leor nithe eile chomh maith).

TCD MS 10878/M/3/1. Leabhair cleachtaithe a bhí ag MÓC i gCampa an Currach, 1940í.

TCD MS 10878/M/3/1. Leabhair cleachtaithe a bhí ag MÓC i gCampa an Currach, 1940í.

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The thing with no mouth, or, Happy Hallow’een

Margaret Dobbin, nee Cochrane, of Hilden, near Moira (MS 11354)

Margaret Dobbin, nee Cochrane, of Hilden, near Moira (MS 11354)

What better conduit between the quick and the dead can there be than a collection of historical records which purport to let the living hear the voices of those who have gone before? Today’s blog post selects a few items from among the Library’s historical manuscripts which really come into their own at Hallow’een. They include a vengeful seventeenth-century spirit, an old faithful, the classic ghostly ‘coach and pair’ and something genuinely weird from the pen of the great Edith Somerville. This last one will make you shudder.

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Wilde About Oscar!

On 28 September in Paris, all eyes will be on the Petit Palais Musée des Beaux-Arts, as the city opens its first major exhibition on the life and works of the flamboyant Irish writer, Oscar Wilde. Manuscripts, photographs, paintings and personal effects are among almost 200 exhibits coming from public and private collections worldwide for the exhibition, which is co-curated by Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland. Included in the  exhibits are three items borrowed from the Oscar Wilde collection held in Trinity College Library.

Tithe Street Sale Catalogue (EPB Quin Case)

Tite Street Sale Catalogue (EPB Quin Case)

Known for his biting wit, extravagant dress and glittering conversation, Oscar Wilde is one of the best known personalities of the 19th century. His love affair with France began as a child, having learned to speak French from a native governess. He considered himself an ardent Francophile and regularly visited Paris, eventually dying there in 1900, when he was hounded out of England after his conviction for homosexuality. His tomb, in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery, is now a place of pilgrimage.

The Oscar Wilde collection was acquired by the Library of Trinity College Dublin in 2011 from Julia Rosenthal, a rare book dealer and avid collector of Wildeana, based in London. Rosenthal purchased her first autograph Wilde letter in 1976 and built her collection from there, and it has  been of immense value to Wilde scholarship. Richard Ellmann, Thomas Wright, Horst Schroeder and Neil Mc Kenna all made extensive use of it for their biographical works on the author. This truly unique collection of both manuscript and print materials, contains autographed first editions; letters (a small number of which are unpublished); photographs and portraits; theatre programmes and music; and some rare items of memorabilia.

One subject of the Dublin-Paris loan is a letter from Wilde in 1891 to his son Cyril, who was aged five at the time. Writing from Paris, he remarks that he is going ‘to visit a poet, who has given me a wonderful book about a Raven’. The poet was Mallarmé and the book was a translation of Poe’s The Raven. Signed ‘your loving Papa, Oscar Wilde’, it is the only known surviving letter from Wilde to either of his children.

Letter from Oscar Wilde to his son Cyril, 1891 (TCD MS 11437/1/1/1)

Letter from Oscar Wilde to his son Cyril, 1891 (TCD MS 11437/1/1/1)

Another highlight of the Trinity collection, and also included in the loan, is the ‘Tite Street Sale Catalogue’ of Wilde’s books and household goods. Among the items listed for sale are inscribed editions of Wilde’s parents’ writings and the rabbit hutch and toys belonging to his two young sons, Cyril and Vyvyan. These effects were sold at the demand of Wilde’s creditors at the time of his trial in 1895, and only four copies of the auction catalogue are known to have survived.

The final item loaned to Paris is a moving letter from Wilde to his friend, the writer Eliza Stannard (who used the pseudonym John Strange Winter), written shortly after his release from Reading Gaol in May 1897. Some of Wilde’s most poignant letters were written during these few short years of exile in France, until his death in Paris in 1900. Writing from a hotel in Bernaval-sur-Mer, Normandy, Wilde remarks, ‘of course I have passed through a very terrible punishment and have suffered to the pitch of anguish and despair’ and refers to himself as ‘an unworthy son’. ‘France has been charming to me and about me during all my imprisonment’, he writes, ‘and has now – mother of all artists as she is – give me asile’.

Letter from Oscar Wilde to Eliza Stannard, 1897 (TCD MS 11437/1/1/5)

Letter from Oscar Wilde to Eliza Stannard, 1897 (TCD MS 11437/1/1/5)

The exhibition at the Petit Palais runs from 28 September 2016 – 18 January 2017.

Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin