Remarks on the life and writings of Dr. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, In a series of letters from John Earl of Orrery to his son, the Honourable Hamilton Boyle.
London, A. Millar, 1752. 13 cm x 20.5 cm. Frontispiece-Portrait of Swift by Wilson, 339 pages [plus 9 page Index]. Hardcover / Stunning, recent half leather (using the original boards) with gilt lettering and ornament, bound to style of the 18th century by an english masterbinder. Occasionally beautifully and very decently blindstamped with coat of arms of Cheltenham Public Library. Very good condition. Some signs of foxing to the frontispiece and first few pages. From the library of Richard Meade (Ballymartle), with his Exlibris / Bookplate to pastedown.
[ESTC – English Short Title Catalogue No. T80862]
Jonathan Swift had many followers of sorts, the most notorious of whom remains John Boyle, the fifth earl of Orrery, author of what Joseph McMinn has dubbed the ‘Judas-biography’. (Joseph McMinn, ‘Swift’s Life’, in Christopher Fox (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift, (Cambridge, 2003), p.15)
″Let me begin by giving you a short but general view of Swift’s character. He was in decline of life when I knew him. His friendship was an honour to me, and to say the truth, I have even drawn advantage from his errors. I have beheld him in all humours and dispositions, and I have formed various speculations from the several weaknesses, to which I have observed him liable.” (p.3-4)
Orrery’s treatment was not intended to be a laudatory eulogy of the late-Swift. He presented his biography of Swift within a series of educative letters – some twenty-four in all – to his son Hamilton Boyle, then an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford. The epistolary format of Remarks allowed the author to express his mostly haughty judgment on the value of Swift’s writings from the standpoint of a father who wished to filter out the unseemly aspects of the works taken as a whole for the benefit of his impressionable son.
Regarding Swift’s sense of national identity, Orrery writes ‘his [Swift] chief aim was to be removed into England: but when he found himself entirely disappointed, he turned his thoughts to opposition, and became the patron of Ireland, in which he was born… at least in his angry moods, when he was peevish, and provoked at the ingratitude of Ireland, he was frequently heard to say, “I am not of this vile country, I am an Englishman.”…. But Dr. Swift in his cooler hours, never denied his country.’ (p.5-7)
Widely viewed as faulty, and even as malicious, the Remarks nevertheless proved indispensable as a reference for subsequent works on Swift. As The Monthly Review asserted, ‘though his lordship’s account may not prove entirely satisfactory in every particular […] he has given us many facts and circumstances of importance, of which the world might have for ever remained in entire ignorance had not this work appeared (Monthly Review, 5 (November 1751), p.407).
It was the first major study of Swift’s character. The book ran to multiple printings, and corrected editions, in London and Dublin during 1752 alone, with translations in German and French following within a year. (See A.C. Elias, Jr, ‘The First Printing of Orrery’s Remarks on Swift (1751)’, Harvard Library Bulletin, 25 (1977), pp.310-21) (Description and comments: Kevin O’Regan).
John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork and 5th Earl of Orrery, FRS (13 January 1707 – 16 November 1762) was a writer and a friend of Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson. The only son of Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, and his wife Lady Elizabeth Cecil (1687–1708), daughter of John Cecil, 5th Earl of Exeter. He was born at Westminster and attended Christ Church, Oxford. He published a translation of the letters of Pliny the Younger in 1751, and Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift in the same year, and the Memoirs of Robert Carey, 1st Earl of Monmouth. His Letters from Italy was published in 1774 by J. Duncombe. (Wikipedia)