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Swift at Moor Park

Swift at Moor Park
Problems in Biography and Criticism

A. C. Elias, Jr.

368 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 1982 | ISBN 9780812278224 | $79.95s | Outside the Americas £64.00
Ebook 2017 | ISBN 9781512801873 | Buy from Combined Academic Publishers £64.00
An Anniversary Collection volume

Sometime toward the middle of 1689, a twenty­one-year-old Irishman named Jonathan Swift entered the employ of Sir William Temple, an essayist and retired diplomat. Swift spent most of the next decade working as secretary at Moor Park, Temple's country house in Surrey. When he left in 1699, he was already a satirist of exceptional power. Drawing upon considerable new documentary evidence, Swift at Moor Park represents the most exhaustive study yet published about this formative period in Swift's literary career and challenges traditional assumptions and conclusions concerning those years.

A. C. Elias begins with the work Swift actually did as Temple's secretary-amanuensis, the one area of Swift's Moor Park experience for which a good portion of documentary evidence survives. He collates and thoroughly evaluates the more traditional biographical evidence that has been cited over the years and applies his findings to careful analyses of Swift's earliest poems and prose works. Included among these are portions of the celebrated Tale of a Tub, as they seem to work in a Moor Park context for Moor Park readers. The results are as unexpected as they are likely to prove controversial, with clear implications about the nature and workings of Swift's satiric method throughout his career. The Swift who emerges is equally unexpected—betraying hints of a fondness for mischief, a basic sense of pragmatism, and a disconcertingly original intelligence—yet for all that remains a remarkably elusive figure and perhaps, as Elias suggests, an unknowable one in the end.

If Swift at Moor Park investigates Swift's personality and the genesis of his satiric art, it is equally concerned with methodology—with the testing and evaluating of evidence, with its ability to support valid generalization, with the relationship between biographical knowledge and literary criticism, and with the peculiar temptations and pitfalls that Swift, perhaps more than any other figure of his time, provides for those who set out to explain him. A close analysis of a crucial decade in Swift's life, this volume is essential for the scholar of this central figure in English literature.

A. C. Elias, Jr., is a scholar based in Philadelphia.

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