Sunday, July 4, 2010

Trim Swift Festival - Academic Seminar

I attended most of the academic programme today. I love these lectures by established experts on Swift and/or Eighteenth Century History and Literature. This year's programme seemed to be different from last year's in having some non-Swift lectures, though most of not all managed to include a reference to or quote by Swift.

I can't start to summarise the lectures I attended but some of the random impression which remain with me include:
One of the earliest lives of Swift written by the Earl of Orrey who claimed to be a friend but wrote a "warts and all" biography" which included this delightful piece: He (Swift) was sour and severe, but not absolutely ill-natured. He was sociable only to particular friends, and to them only at particular hours. He knew politeness more than he practiced it. He was a mixture of avarice, and generosity. (Daniel Cook, University of Bristol).

Swift has been quoted a lot during the present economic collapse because he wrote a lot about banking and money and speculation and collapses. The South Seas collapse happened during his lifetime. It was argued that Swift knew little about economics and his aversion to new banking schemes and speculation had a political root. He was a conservative in these and other matters.

The Closing Address by Alan Downie, Goldsmiths, University of London (pictured above) entitled Disappointed Swift attempted to answer the question Why was Swift so angry? The answer the speaker suggested was based on the fact that his grandfather had been on the anti-Cromwell side in England and had lost status and money as a result. His father came to Ireland as a result and died before Swift was born. Swift felt cheated of his proper inheritance and deprived of the rights he would have had he been born to a well off family living in England.

Last year after a similar day I promised myself that I would read more of and about Swift. As with most of such promises it went largely unfulfilled though I did read Gulliver's Travels recently - the full version, four books. So no promises this year but . . .

Today the Battle of the Books at 1pm. Our team is picked, the training done, the plans made the rest is in the lap of the gods. Then Dylan in Thomond Park.


Unknown said...

Good luck in the battle. Have you ever visited the library in Armagh, where there are a good deal of Swift's papers stored? The books are catalogued by size, which makes for interesting browsing, and the library room itself is gorgeous.

Michael Farry said...

Thanks Barbara, we lost as you know by now but it was great fun and very exciting. No I haven't seen Swift's papers, I'm not a Swift scholar really and hesitate to start. Too much on my plate as it is. I read all Gulliver's Travels recently and was in awe at how good it actually is.