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An Answer to Several Letters from Unknown Persons

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2021

David Hayton
Affiliation:
Queen's University Belfast
Adam Rounce
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
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Summary

Headnote

Composed April–May 1729; published 1765; copy text SwJ 390 (see Textual Account).

One of the four unpublished pieces on contemporary Irish problems composed in the spring of 1729, An Answer to Several Letters from Unknown Persons was apparently written in April or May 1729 in response to a letter on the Irish economy from ‘Andrew Trueman’ and ‘Patrick Layfield’ (published in the Dublin Weekly Journal for 7 June 1729, sometime after it was sent to Swift; see below, Appendix E, pp. 365–74). Intelligencer, no. 19 is an earlier response to another letter, not extant, but presumed to be from the same source (see above, p. 74).

The Answer to Several Letters from Unknown Persons is chiefly concerned with the factors holding Ireland back from free participation in a modern economy: these include restrictions on trade, and limited access to preferments, jobs or careers for even the most talented, enlightened and ambitious of its inhabitants. Swift also bemoans that so much of Ireland's possible revenue money is sent overseas, in the form of remittances to absentee landlords and office-holders. In passing, he also criticises Presbyterians, and defends the church and the (perennially unpopular) institution of tithes. Underlying his arguments is a wider refutation of those who make projections for the improvement of Ireland based on the wealth of its natural resources, as this ignores the constitutional limitations which burden the state, and prevent the possibility of amelioration.

ANSWER TO SEVERAL LETTERS FROM UNKNOWN PERSONS

Gentlemen,

I am inclined to think that I received a Letter from you two last Summer, directed to Dublin, while I was in the Country,1 whither it was sent me, and I ordered an answ[er] to it to be printed, but it seems [it] had little effect, and I suppose this will have not much more. But, the heart of this People is waxed gross, and their Ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.

Type
Chapter
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Irish Political Writings after 1725
A Modest Proposal and Other Works
, pp. 108 - 118
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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