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Jonathan Swift: Irish Blow-in
by Eugene Hammond
Jonathan Swift: Irish Blow-in covers the arc of the first half of Jonathan Swift’s life, offering fresh details of the contentment and exuberance of his childhood, of the support he received from his grandmother, of his striking affection for Esther Johnson from the time she was ten years old (his pet name for her in her twenties was “saucebox”), of his precocious entry into English politics with his Contests and Dissensions pamphlet, of his brilliant and much misunderstood Tale of a Tub, and of his naive determination to do well both as a vicar of the small parish of Laracor in Ireland and as a writer for the Tory administration trying to pull England out of debt by ending the war England was engaged in with France.
I do not share with past biographers the sense that Swift had a deprived childhood. I do not share the suspicion that most of Swift’s enmities were politically motivated. I do not feel critical of him because he was often fastidious with his money. I do not think he was insincere about his religious faith. His pride, his sexual interests, his often shocking or uninhibited language, his instinct for revenge – emphasized by many previous biographers – were all fundamental elements of his being, but elements that he either used for rhetorical effect, or that he tried to keep in check, and that he felt that religion helped him to keep in check. Swift had as firm a conviction as did Freud that we are born with wayward tendencies; unlike Freud, though, he saw both religion and civil society as necessary and helpful checks on those wayward tendencies, and he (frequently, but certainly not always) acknowledged that he shared those tendencies with the rest of us.
This biography, in two books, Jonathan Swift: Irish Blow-in and Jonathan Swift: Our Dean, will differ from most literary biographies in that it does not aim to show how Swift’s life illuminates his writings, but rather how and why Swift wrote in order to live the life he wanted to live. I have liberally quoted Swift’s own words in this biography because his inventive expression of ideas, both in his public works and in his private letters, was what has made him a unique and compelling figure in the history of literature. I hope in these two books to come closer than past biographies to capturing how it felt to Swift himself to live his life.
February 2016 ISBN: 978-1611496062 $140.00
Jonathan Swift: Our Dean
by Eugene Hammond
Jonathan Swift: Our Dean details the political climax of his remarkable career—his writing and publication of The Drapier’s Letters (1724), Gulliver’s Travels (1726), and A Modest Proposal (1729)—stressing the relentless political opposition he faced and the numerous ways, including through his sermons, that he worked from his political base as Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, psychologically as well as physically just outside the Dublin city walls, to attempt to rouse the Irish people to awareness of the ways that England was abusing them.
This book faces squarely the likelihood that Swift had a physical affair with Esther Vanhomrigh between 1719 and 1723, and reassesses in the light of that likelihood his conflicting relations with Esther Vanhomrigh and Esther Johnson. It traces the many loving friendships with both men and women in Ireland that sustained Swift during the years when his health gradually failed him, enabling him to continue indefatigably, both through his writings and his authority as Dean of St. Patrick’s, to contribute to the public welfare in the face of relentless British attempts to squeeze greater and greater profits out of their Irish colony. Finally, it traces how Swift’s political indignation led to his treating many people, friends and enemies, cruelly during the 1730s, even while his humor and his ability to make and attract new friends sustained themselves until his memory finally failed him in 1742.
This biography, in two books, Jonathan Swift: Irish Blow-in and Jonathan Swift: Our Dean, comes closer than past biographies to capturing how it felt to Swift himself to live his life.
March 2016 ISBN: 978-1611496093 $140.00
Violet Oakley: An Artist’s Life
by Bailey Van Hook
Violet Oakley: An Artist’s Life is the first full-length biography of Violet Oakley (1874–1961), the only major female artist of the beaux-arts mural movement in the United States. While not a “sensational page turner,” there is much of human interest here — a pampered and spoiled young woman who suddenly finds herself in greatly reduced circumstances, forced by necessity to make a living in illustration and support her parents; a sensitive and idealistic young woman who, in a desperate attempt to save her neurasthenic father, is driven to embrace Christian Science, a religion derided by her family and friends; a 28 year old woman who receives one of the plum commissions of the era, a mural cycle in the Pennsylvania State Capitol, in a field dominated by much older and predominantly male artists; a woman in her forties who although professionally successful finds herself very much alone and who ‘falls’ for her student, Edith Emerson; a friend of artists like dancer Ruth St. Denis and violinist Albert Spalding who nevertheless was supremely conscious of social mores, the “Miss Oakley” of the Social Register who preferred the company of upper class to bohemian society; the tireless self-promoter who traveled abroad to become the unofficial visual historian of the League of Nations yet who ironically was increasingly regarded as a local artist.
February 2016 ISBN: 978-1611495850 $100.00