The Topicality of A Tale of a Tub

Downie, Alan (J. A.). 2013. The Topicality of A Tale of a Tub. In: Kirsten Juhas; Herman J Real and Sandra Simon, eds. Reading Swift: Papers from The Sixth Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, pp. 133-147. ISBN 978-3-7705-5430-0 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

In “An Apology for the, &.,” dated 3 June 1709, Swift maintained that “the greatest Part” of A Tale of a Tub was “finished” in 1696, while “the Author” maintains that “the Taste of Wit” was calculated for the month of August 1697, the Preface draws attention to “the Danger” presented by the “Wits of the present Age,” the Epistle Dedicatory to Prince Posterity is dated December 1697, and the final section brings the story of the three brothers and their coats down to the final months of 1697. Yet in their search for the Tale’s origins and influences, editors and critics have largely ignored the publications of 1696-97, particularly the pamphlet literature, even though the allegorical tub was supposedly thrown out to divert the wits from writing pamphlets against “Religion and Government” during “the intervals of a long Peace” following on from the Peace of Ryswick, signed on 20 September 1697. It is also worth exploring the biographical aspect to the topicality of A Tale of a Tub to which the “Apology” refers: “He was then a young Gentleman much in the World, and wrote to the Tast of those who were like himself.” As well as often going to London on Temple’s business in these years—including transacting business with booksellers—Swift actually moved to London after Temple’s death.

Item Type:

Book Section

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



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Date Deposited:

11 Oct 2013 09:34

Last Modified:

23 Jun 2017 15:51


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