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LIFE AND POETICAL WORKS

OF

JONATHAN SWIFT, D.D.,

AND

DEAN OF SAINT PATRICK'S, DUBLIN.

ADVERTISEMENT.

It is remarkable that the most celebrated writer of his day, during the brilliant Augustan epoch of English literature flourished under the reign of a queen, and that in the reign of a queen his works, after the lapse of a century, again appear in a cheap and popular form. To the system of publication which prevailed in his own times Swift was mainly indebted for the wide-spread reputation he acquired, by the diffusion of his writings through the greatest variety of channels, till by means of cheap and multiplied additions his masterly productions became as familiar to the readers of humble station as of high, and to those of other countries as of his own.

It was the great author's uniform object — alike agreeable to his literary ambition and to his high and liberal spirit — to give his works to the public upon as low terms as by mechanic art they could be prepared; and with this view he declined to make them a source of profit, to employ means to protect them as copyright, and more particularly to embody them in large and high-priced editions, accessible indeed to the few, but a book sealed and a fountain of knowledge shut

up

from the rest of mankind. The repeated restrictions placed upon the cheap knowledge system, after the accession of the Whigs to power in Swift's own times, were denounced by him with the spirit of a sage and a patriot, as inconsistent with civil freedom and the instruction of mankind. Other circumstances favored the change ; fashion, capital, taste, and art, all combined to create a monopoly of expensive and select editions, and in proportion as the immortal productions of the celebrated dean were withdrawn from the masses and the great public of the world to circulate among the polite, the fashionable, and the refined, his celebrity was unfairly restricted. He was judged by partial rules; and the author of “ The Drapier's Letters” and “Gulliver's Travels,” who had written for mankind, was made the hero of a clique, amenable to the opinions of a caste, subjected to every wind of doctrine and party caprice, now extravagantly exalted by one faction, and then as uujustly reviled by another. The sense of mankind was no longer taken upon his merits as at the period when he lived, when the wide world of politics and letters was his arbitrator, when the twopenny tracts and the old penny broadsides diffused the knowledge of his inimitable writings into the remotest corners of the United Empire. If, in proportion as Swift's productions were extensively spread abroad, his fame and popularity stood on a wider and firmer basis, it forms a strong argument of their superior merit, of their ability and usefulness, and of the genuine wit and entertainment as well as the instruction which they contained. Swift wrote with no object but that of honest ambition to serve the cause which he conscientiously approved, and without even the common motives to stand foremost in literary fame, of which it is evident, from the little care he bestowed upon the publication or re-editions of his works, he was far less studious than of the purpose for which he wrote.

It was with a view of replacing the eccentric dean of St. Patrick's, his character and his writings, in the fair and full light of the public eye under which they formerly appeared by the same means of multiplied cheap editions, and of appealing from the merely select and patrician order, for which he never wrote, to the general and unbiassed judgment of the millions and of their posterity, that the following edition of his entire works was undertaken, and that a new life of the author was prepared, with scrupulous love of truth and fidelity, from the mass of voluminous materials placed at the disposal of the editor.

Having thus briefly alluded to the motives which actuated him in venturing to undertake so very onerous and responsible a task, it is the editor's next duty to describe the means he adopted to facilitate his obe ject, and the new claims which he has to advance in looking for the countenance and support of the masses, as distinguished from the possessors of the large and expensive editions, now become, we believe, very nearly and happily exhausted ;- another proof of the witty dean's fame, were any wanting, among the select few who have engrossed them.

One of the first objects to which the present editor directed his attention in the outset was to the glaring inaccuracies and discrepancies which, upon close inspection, were found to deface the existing texts of the different editions, from the period of the first spurious one of the “ Miscellanies," and from Hawkesworth and Sheridan, to the splendid eight guinea edition brought out by sir Walter Scott. It is well known that Swift frequently revised the first impressions of his works; in particular his “Gulliver's Travels,” and his satirical poems, much more than his political tracts and other pieces of a more temporary interest; and that this circumstance in great part rendered the original copy of little value for the purpose of being collated with subsequent editions, after those of Hawkesworth and Nichols made their appearance. Any one who compares the spurious edition of the “ Miscellanies” of Pope and Swift with that subsequently prepared by these great writers, will perceive the extent of the dean's care in this respect; and the appearance of a copy of the “Gulliver's Travels” in the hands of a London bookseller' a short time ago, by its numerous interlineations and era

• This curious and valuable specimen of the dean's reverence for the judgment of posterity was seen not a great while ago at the shop of — we believe — a Mr.

sures, bore ample proofs of the author's desire to correct and improve his first essays to the utmost of his power.

" To write with fervor and correct with phlegm,” was a maxim of his friend Pope, of which, with due leisure, Swift knew how to make an admirable use; and to this habit, founded upon a wise love of enduring reputation and profound respect for public opinion, we are indebted for the general correctness and clearness from ambiguities of thought and expression, which distinguish all the works of Swift published with his knowledge during his lifetime. To the same circumstance, favorable alike to Swift's reputation and the labors of his editor, the purity and genuineness of the early texts taken from his own corrected editions, consisting of the “Gulliver's Travels,” “Political Tracts,” “ Miscellanies,” and “Poems,” by Hawkesworth and Sheridan, with the additions of Nichols, are to be attributed ; and in so far as these have been departed from in the hope of farther emendations and improvements, in $0 much will the genuine text of Swift be found to be defaced and corrupted. It is a curious fact that, although these series of editions have indubitably been taken one from the other, and not from collating the most recent with the earliest edition and with the original copies in different institutions, there should yet occur variations and discrepancies so great as to render matter of doubt and difficulty to decide upon the original reading. Many of Swift's separately printed works differed from the same given in the editions, and all these editions likewise varied from each other; without excepting that genuine and most valuable work of all, the “Journal to Stella,” of which a fair copy, as well as of the “ General Correspondence,” enriches the national collection in the British Museum.

It is in these posthumous publications, which never, like the printed copies, received the revision of the dean's own hand, that many variations and discrepancies are more peculiarly observable; and for an obvious reason. Never having been written por designed for publication - thrown off in all the confidence of friendship — very often hastily composed in the burry of business and on the impulse of warm feelings - it is almost impossible they should not abound with errors such as we still see, and be open to different interpretations and various readings in proportion to the differences of opinion in his editors. This portion of Swift's writings, a sort of public property (for in regard to his whole literary estate he may be said to have died intestate), which never received either his sanction or revision for publication, is exactly that which is most faulty in regard to the text, and calls for the greatest jenity from public opinion upon every other account.

Accordingly upon this portion of the text the editor has bestowed special care, by engaging adequate assistance to collate and compare not only the editions with each other, but each edition with the original MSS., wheresoever they were to be met with, at considerable labor and expense. Laborious as it was, many circumstances favored this under

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