Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 January 2022
This chapter explores the ironic and contentious potential of sympathy, in particular the manner in which slight differences in earnest commitments can create polemic relationships just as charged as those that stem from deeper ideological rifts. I focus on Swift and his interactions with hack writer John Dunton. The two writers, I argue, do not disagree about what they dislike, but rather have slightly different, though equally genuine, commitments to the same religious and political institutions. Scholars have seen Swift and Dunton as writers who are representative of the ironic and earnest styles, respectively. While Dunton’s work often lacks the same level of irony or self-awareness as Swift’s, it was still often subversive or duplicitous in a way that was amenable to Swift and that first attracted Swift to his writing. Drawing on Adam Smith, I suggest that this relationship reveals how interests and affects are inseparable from communal relationships and social groupings that are inherently factional and fractious. In Smith's account, any affective state is a combination of a judgment and a social identification: it is always positional and partial.