Swift as Priest and Satirist

Swift as Priest and Satirist

Swift as Priest and Satirist

Swift as Priest and Satirist

Synopsis

In the light of recent work on his tenure in the Church of Ireland, this volume presents a timely critical appraisal of Swift's role as a priest vis-a-vis his identity as one of the Enlightenment's premier satirists. The essays in this volume cover four broad categories.

Excerpt

Todd C. Parker

“Still it is a striking fact that Swift, as a Christian divine, has received comparatively little attention. His mystifying personal relationships, his political activities, his defense of Ireland—in these and other aspects he has been examined minutely, but no satisfactory detailed analysis of his religious views has yet appeared to provide a basis for a complete judgment.” When Louis Landa published these words in 1945, two hundred years after Jonathan Swift’s death, he was one of the few scholars qualified to assess the accuracy of his own statement. Landa’s landmark study, Swift and the Church of Ireland (1954), was the first to set Swift as priest in the intricate political and social environment of eighteenth-century Ireland. More recently, Christopher Fauske’s Jonathan Swift and the Church of Ireland 1710–1725 (2002) has shed new light on one of Swift’s least conventionally “literary” periods and has given us a much clearer picture of Swift’s relationship with his contemporary and sometimes antagonist, Archbishop William King. Fauske has juxtaposed Swift against King as a way to foreground the political nature of Swift’s doctrinal positions. Fauske argues that, where “King based his critique [of Dissenters] upon an analysis of church doctrine, an analysis which then justified state-sanctioned protections for the Anglican church. Swift thought the church’s social function justification enough for its privileges. Doctrine, for Swift, was of secondary importance to the church’s social role; for King, the church’s civic function was the consequence of its doctrine.” Swift’s theology thus becomes less an affirmation of divine principle and more an expression of the realpolitik of the Church of Ireland. Fauske understands Swift as a career ecclesiastical politician, someone bent on preserving the Irish Establishment’s heritage and what, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, was left of its prestige and power:

Theology and political philosophy Swift left to others. His own inclina
tions and polemical skills led him to join the political debate not for

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