I got one of these invitations just before Christmas and was really taken by the originality and execution of the illustration - a quill and inkwell formed from maps of St. Patrick's Cathedral and the surrounding area.
Highly appropriate for an exhibition devoted to Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's, on the 350th anniversary year of his birth. Swift was also the author of Gulliver's Travels and we are now in the final decade run up to the 300th anniversary of the publication of that evergreen tale.
This was my first sight of the current Deputy Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor himself, Brendan Carr, had been billed to launch the exhibition but his deputy, Rebecca Moynihan, did a fine job.
And it was an appropriate occasion for her as she represents Dublin 8, Swift's old stomping ground, on the City Council. I have family connections with her constituency so this was a double bonus for me.
She is also involved in a number of local causes which would have merited Swift's approval, such as the regeneration of Dolphin House, St. Theresa's Gardens and Fatima Mansions, this last now transmuted into some sort of slightly upmarket Herberton (pace Rialto). In passsing, full marks to the LUAS for keeping Fatima alive in naming the local tramstop.
This is the second literary event I have been at in recent times where the speaker has broken into song.
Moyra Haslett was telling us about ballads both written by and about Swift. She gave us numerous examples, the first two of which she sang herself and another one was the song below in praise of Drapier (Swift).
Swift had conducted a long campaign against Wood's Ha'pence, under the pseudonym Drapier. The Ha'pence were eventually withdrawn. Hence the song of praise (below).
Thanks to the QUB Irish Song Project, you can listen to it being sung by Ian Lynch and read the transcript at the same time.
I.My granny, in common no doubt with many other grannies, had a phrase "burn everything English bar their coal". Moyra mentioned that the phrase originated with Swift, but he appears to have had a more compassionate disposition, exempting Britain's people as well as her coal.
With brisk merry Lays
We’ll sing to the Praise
Of that honest Patriot, the DRAPIER;
Who, all the World knows,
Confounded our Foes,
With Nothing but Pen, Ink and Paper.
A Spirit Divine,
Ran through ev’ry Line,
And made all our Hearts for to caper:
He sav’d us our Goods,
And Dumfounder’d Woods;
Then long Life and Health to the DRAPIER.
WE ne’er shall forget,
His Judgment, or Wit,
But Life, you must know, is a Vapour;
In Ages to come,
We well may Presume,
They’ll Monuments raise to the DRAPIER.
WHEN Senators meet,
They’ll surely think fit,
To Honour and Praise the good DRAPIER;
Nay Juries shall join,
And Sheriffs Combine,
To thank him in well written Paper.
YOU Men of the Comb,
Come lay by your Loomb,
And go to the Sign of the DRAPIER;
To TAPLIN Declare,
You one and all are,
Kind Loving good Friends to his Paper.
THEN join Hand in Hand,
T’each other firm stand,
All Health to the CLUB and the DRAPIER;
Who merrily meet,
And sing in Truck-Street,
In Praise of the well written Paper.
Brendan Twomey entertained us with Stories about Swift, but his most interesting contribution was on Swift's financial affairs.
He told us how Swift managed to save a third of his substantial income, in the absence of a developed banking system, through complicated security backed mortgage transactions. Brendan is currently doing a PhD on this subject and he estimates that on his death, Swift left some £15,000, a whopping sum. Although much of this was tied up in complicated transactions, virtually all of it was realisable in the decade or so after his death.
In studying the details of Swift's financial transactions, Brendan is convinced that the Dean would have merited the Nobel Prize for Economics for his extensive pioneering work in the field of micro-credit.
While I'm sure it's a bit late for that now, there would probably be nothing to stop Pope Francis, when he gets a grip on things, canonising Swift for his work in this field.
The exhibition itself has some very interesting material on the panels, but there is also much interesting and original material in the glass cases which I intend examining on a further visit.
As far as the panels are concerned, the exhibition could not have omitted reference to Swift's Modest Proposal for solving the poverty problem.
It always reminds me of Islam Karimov (may God be good to him) who had a practice of boiling his political opponents. But when I mentioned it to a friend recently he told me there was nothing new about this practice. Apparently the Babylonians boiled Jews who refused to eat pork.
At least Swift's proposal would have put meat on the table and cash in the pocket.
Gulliver's Travels figure strongly in the exhibition and there was even a very fine book of essays on the subject, originally published by the City Council in MMVIII, on sale after the launch for the ridiculous price of €5. Snapped up it was.
[You can see a report, including two mini-reports by Philip Bromwell on the exhibition and what else is on in the capital during the year, here - for as long as it remains up.]
Thanks again to the Deputy Lord Mayor for launching this exhibition which I understand continues till the end of the month in the Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse Street. A scaled down version is then due to tour the city libraries during the year.