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An Answer to Several Letters Sent Me From Unknown Hands

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 1729; published posthumously, 1765; copy text 1765a (see Textual Account); the footnotes that form part of this text were provided by the editor, Deane Swift.

The unfinished Answer to Several Letters Sent Me from Unknown Hands is one of the four pieces from 1729 on Irish economic questions not published in Swift's lifetime. It is notionally addressed to correspondents who had sent Swift their schemes and projections, but who have never been identified.

Although unpublished, the rhetoric of the paper moves beyond its original recipients, and reads as though intended for an audience of members of Parliament, in its listing of projects to improve Ireland: these include the construction of roads, themanaging of bogland, reforestation, the spread of tillage, and the grant of an Irishmint.Of these, two, the improvement of bogland and the extension of tillage, were incorporated in the so-called ‘Navigation Bill’ of 1729–30 (see D. W. Hayton, ‘Patriots and Legislators: Irishmen and their Parliaments, c. 1689 – c. 1740’, in Julian Hoppit (ed.), Parliaments, Nations and Identities in Britain and Ireland, 1660–1860, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003, p. 116). One proposal noted by Swift – the abolition of the Irish language – did not form part of the public discussion.

AN ANSWER TO SEVERAL LETTERS SENT ME FROM UNKNOWN HANDS. WRITTEN IN THE YEAR M DCC XXIX.

I am very well pleased with the good opinion you express of me, and wish it were any way in my power to answer your expectations, for the service of my country. I have carefully read your several schemes and proposals, which you think should be offered to the parliament. In answer, I will assure you, that, in another place, I have known very good proposals rejected with contempt by public assemblies, merely because they were offered from without doors; and yours perhaps might have the same fate, especially if handed into the public by me, who am not acquainted with three members, nor have the least interest with one. My printers have been twice prosecuted, to my great expence, on account of discourses I writ for the public service, without the least reflection on parties or persons; and the success I had in those of the Drapier was not owing to my abilities, but to a lucky juncture, when the fuel was ready for the first hand that would be at the pains of kindling it.

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Chapter
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Irish Political Writings after 1725
A Modest Proposal and Other Works
, pp. 119 - 127
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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