Swift and the Church of Ireland

By Louis A. Landa | Go to book overview

Introduction

SWIFT was not, as he himself declared, 'the gravest of Divines'.1 By his own confession he had 'composed more libels than sermons'--so Pope once remarked of him lightly but perhaps not inaccurately.2 Nevertheless he was a formidable and, in the main, a conscientious clergyman of the Church of Ireland. 'I look upon myself, in the capacity of a clergyman,' he wrote, 'to be one appointed by providence for defending a post assigned me, and for gaining over as many enemies as I can.'3 This suggests a sense of mission which Swift would have been the first to repudiate, yet throughout most of his clerical career he was prompted by deeply felt convictions and tenacity of purpose. It is true that this statement applies less obviously to the spiritual than to the temporal affairs of the Church, a fact which did not escape the eyes of his enemies. One of them termed him a man 'whose Affection to the Church was never doubted, tho' his Christianity was ever question'd'.4 But Swift would not have thought the Anglican Establishment so deserving of his best endeavours had he believed it unsound in doctrine. It was his nature to defend his domain without compromise, and he would have done so in any other sphere. Be that as it may, some of the greatness which surrounds him as a writer might with justice invest him as a churchman.

In his own day such a claim would have been at once

____________________
1
Poems, ii. 764.
2
Corresp. ii. 98.
3
Prose Works, Davis, ix. 262.
4
A Letter to the Reverend Mr. Dean Swift, occasion'd by a Satire said to be written by him, entitled, A Dedication to a Great Man, concerning Dedications ( London, 1719), p. 16.

-xiii-

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Swift and the Church of Ireland
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations Used in the Notes xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • I. Priest and Prebendary 1
  • II. The Dean and His Chapter 68
  • III. Temporalities 96
  • IV. The State of the Establishment 151
  • Conclusion 189
  • Index 197
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