Swift Papers

Scope and Content

Collection of papers of and related to Jonathan Swift, comprising a poem by Lord Orrery, letters to Martha Whiteway, Swift's cousin and housekeeper in later years, several manuscript fragments partly or wholly in the hand of Jonathan Swift, many reflecting Swift's interest in language and word-play, and some miscellaneous pieces with no obvious connection to Swift. The letters are dated 1732-1747/8; most of the fragments are undated but circumstantial evidence suggests that most of the Swift fragments date between 1720 and 1735; the miscellaneous items are also undated, with some evidence that they date from the 1740s.

These papers were originally in a loosely-tied packet titled Original Letters from Dean Swift and Lord Orrery. This packet originally also contained letters from Lord Orrery, which have been dispersed. The papers were probably collected together in the first instance by Martha Whiteway. It is not known how the papers came into HLP's possession. They may have passed to John Boyle, 5th Earl of Orrery (1707-1762), who became acquainted with Swift in 1732. In 1751 he published Remarks on the life and writings of Dr Jonathan Swift. A number of items are endorsed by Samuel Johnson, who knew Lord Orrery. It may be that Samuel Johnson acquired the items while he was writing his Lives of the English Poets (1779).

Contents are as follows:

  • (1) Cover leaf, with note in HLP's hand, Mrs Piozzi. Original Letters from Dean Swift and Lord Orrery. There is also a note in faint pencil, probably by Augustus Salusbury, son of John Salusbury Piozzi Salusbury: 21 Sept. 1880. Nothing of the kind. Now there is 1 letter from Lady Orrery, none from Lord. The rest are unsigned...; Besides they are not letters but fragments...;;
  • (2) Verses addressed to the Rev. Dr Swift, endorsed by Swift On the Hermitage;
  • (3) Poem by Orrery addressed to Swift on his birthday, 30 November 1732, in Orrery's hand;
  • (4) Letter to Mrs [Martha] Whiteway from W[illiam] K[ing] concerning a manuscript of Swift's history, 2 March 1737/8;
  • (5) Personal letter to Mrs Whiteway from Lady Margaret Orrery, 29 December 1742;
  • (6) Letter to Mrs Whiteway Car: Fred: Scott [Caroline Frederick Scott, later chief engineer of the British Army in India, died 1756], praising the behaviour of Whiteway's son [? Ffolliot] during the seige of Fort William, 26 January 1747/8;
  • (7) Verse by Swift in his hand, a word play on Guinea and the greek alphabet, n.d. [c 1720];
  • (8) Notes by Swift on North American Indians (based on works of Louis Hennepin) and other verses;
  • (9) Notes by Swift on the education of women and draft of some lines from his poem addressed to Mr Gay, n.d. [c late 1720s];
  • (10) Notes by Swift comprising a list of possible subjects for papers in the periodical Intelligencer, n.d. [c 1729];
  • (11) Notes by Swift regarding Irish affairs, n.d. [c 1728];
  • (12) Notes by Swift headed Quilca Lingua, including phrases in Irish idiom and Scots dialect, n.d. [c 1722];
  • (13) Notes by Swift on English politics in Autumn 1713;
  • (14) Notes by Swift on English bulls (logical blunders), n.d. [c 1730];
  • (15) Latin notes by Swift from Annales, Historia, Germania and Agricola of Tacitus;
  • (16) Notes by Swift on Suetonius, in Latin and English;
  • (17) Copy by Swift of his letter in their shared artificial language, Latino-Anglicus, to Thomas Sheridan, retrospectively dated by Swift as July 1734, but actually answering a letter from Sheridan dated 16 July 1735;
  • (18) Manuscript of prose piece entitled A digression or whimsical dedication to Florella, signed Orondates;
  • (19) Manuscript of poem beginning Arise, O George, why stoopst Thou, O awake;
  • (20) Manuscript of poem entitled Epilogue designed to be spoken by Mrs W, possibly written in 1745 for Peg Woffington;
  • (21) Manuscript of poem entitled How can you think the fair will change;
  • (22) Manuscript fragment of tale Amanda & Celia;
  • (23) Manuscript of poem entitled On a young lady's removal from the circle of her acquaintance in the city;
  • (24) Manuscript of poem, untitled, possibly a dialogue between physicians Cheney and Winter;
  • (25) Manuscript notes on the Jewish Sabbath.

See detailed description in I. Ehrenpreis and J.L. Clifford, Swiftiana in Rylands English MS. 659, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 37 (1954), pp. 368-392.  See also two articles by George Mayhew published in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, namely Swift's games with language in English MS. 659 (vol. 36 (1954), pp. 414-438) and A draft of ten lines from Swift's poem to John Gay (vol. 37 (1955), pp. 257-262).