In Search of Swift

In Search of Swift

In Search of Swift

In Search of Swift

Excerpt

This addition to the existing shelf load of volumes about the stormy Dean of St. Patrick's may possibly be unwelcome in some circles. New and eccentric opinions on matters of scholarship are things that can be readily advanced without evoking any particular feeling of irritation amongst those already in possession of a special field. But I have noticed that the man who is rash enough to suggest that established text-books are wrong, not so much in their views as in their facts, must be prepared for a rough time.

However, for nearly twenty years I have been an unwilling target for a succession of adverse comments on a short paper that I read to the Old Dublin Society in 1941, and that subsequently appeared in the journal of that body. And as this annoyance is a continuing one, and shows no signs of coming to an end, a man who happens to have been serious in what he said is driven eventually to make matters either worse or better by repeating his point in louder and better documented tones. As a general rule no one will ever come to one's rescue in such matters except oneself.

The circumstances under which I first became involved in this trouble are described fully in the preface to a volume of my plays entitled The Golden Cuckoo, and need not be restated here. It is sufficient to say that ever since my attention was first drawn to the Black Book of King's Inns by my father--who at the time was a successor of Sir John Temple as Treasurer of that ancient corporation, and who was also the heir of what was left of the office of Master of the Rolls--the subject of Swift has been a matter of absorbing curiosity to me--a curiosity that has now developed into a wider interest in the prevailing methods of biography itself, and the fascinating processes by which history comes to be written.

Like most tyros in the realm of research, I began with a deep respect for the printed word, especially when it has been repeated several times over by more than one reporter, and I was quite unaware of the fact that, in such matters, two and two do not necessarily make four. Nor had I

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