Swift and the Church of Ireland

By Louis A. Landa | Go to book overview

I. Priest and Prebendary

I. ORDINATION AND KILROOT

NEITHER the motives nor the circumstances which led Swift to take Orders are wholly clear. As he approached the step, he was a little hesitant and uncertain, not from spiritual doubts or youthful irresolution but apparently from unwillingness to forgo another promising career had the opportunity offered. It is not unlikely that his feelings were reflected in his remark to a cousin, Thomas Swift, then rather indecisively settling on a career: 'All that I can say is,' he wrote to his cousin, 'I wish to God you were well provided for, though it were with a good living in the Church.'1 What is obvious is that he evinced no strong compulsion to enter the Church; and indeed he would have viewed a 'call' with disdain as savouring of the emotionalism of the despised sectaries. Yet undoubtedly a clerical career presented itself early as at least a possibility. When finally he made his decision, it was after consideration of other prospects, though his range of choice was remarkably narrow and unimpressive. The striking fact is that in Swift's day, for one of his birth, education, and position, the alternatives were few. There is some evidence that he received an offer, presumably from King William, of a post in the army, an offer which must have struck him (he never mistook his own talents) as singularly unsuitable.2 Another offer came from Sir William Temple-- this one of civil employment, in the Office of the Master of Rolls in Ireland.3 His refusal in this instance may have been

____________________
1
Corresp. i. 365.
2
Deane Swift, Essay, p. 108; Lyon, Hawkesworth, p. 17.
3
Auto. Frag. sec. xxv.

-1-

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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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