Abbreviated title
Polite conversation
JSA Identification Number
Teerink/Scouten Number
ESTC Number
Copy and its Location
CUL , Williams 22
Publisher and Printer
Volume VI. of the author’s works. Containing the Publick spirit of the whigs; and other pieces of political writings, &c., Vol. vi., pp 52-93.
Dublin, Faulkner, George, 1738.


Polite Conversation was first published in London, through the agency of Mary Barber, in 1738, but it was also printed by George Faulkner, both as an individual book and here as part of the Works, in Dublin in 1738. In a letter to Faulkner, in which Swift says Faulkner is so slow he risks the London edition selling in Dublin first, Swift says that he has corrected ‘the several copies you sent me’ (8 March 1738). This text of Polite Conversation, therefore, has the stamp of Swift’s approval, and it includes passages not present in the London edition. The differences between the Dublin and London editions are extensive. The Dublin text contains the usual ‘improvements’ (for example, ‘until’ for ‘till’), but there are other rewritings. This is perhaps the best and fullest text to read, though, except for its excisions, the London edition may represent an earlier stage of composition. The printing is in the usual style of the 1735 Works, with capitals for nouns, and, in the introduction, paragraphs beginning with capitals and small capitals giving an air of order to the argument.

George Faulkner (?1703-1775) was Swift’s most important publisher and editor. In his early years Swift tended to publish his major works through the London trade, but with the Drapier’s Letters (1724) Dublin publication became more important. Faulkner, who had worked for William Bowyer in London and was a polished printer, brought out the first collected edition of the Drapier’s Letters, as Fraud Detected, in 1725, and by 1732 was planning a subscription edition of Swift’s Works. The four volumes came out in 1735, and established Faulkner as Swift’s printer. Swift, at least to some extent, and his friends had collaborated in the edition. Faulkner continued to print Swift and to enlarge his edition, which by 1771 consisted of twenty volumes.

Faulkner did his best both to date Swift’s works and to elucidate them with footnotes. His pioneering work is of first importance both for Swift’s text and for explanatory notes. For further discussion of Faulkner, see the long note in the Gulliver’s Travels volume in the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift, and Mary Pollard’s entry on him in her Dictionary.

References: The Prose Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis and others, 16 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1939-74), vol. iv, pp. 97-201, 290-9; Irvin Ehrenpeis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, 3 vols. (London: Methuen, 1962-83), vol. iii, pp. 832, 866-9, 779-90; Mary Pollard, A Dictionary of Members of the Dublin Book Trade 1550-1800 (London: The Bibliographical Society, 2000); Mary Pollard, ‘George Faulkner’, Swift Studies, 7 (1992), 79-96.