Abbreviated title
A modest proposal
JSA Identification Number
10_8_6
Teerink/Scouten Number
41
ESTC Number
T52771
Copy and its Location
CUL, Hib.5.735.13
Publisher and Printer
The works of J.S, D.D, D.S.P.D, Vol. iv, pp 237-85.
Dublin, Faulkner, George, 1735.

Commentary

This is George Faulkner’s version of A Modest Proposal in his collection of Swift’s Works of 1735. The work was first printed as a pamphlet by Sarah Harding in 1729. It was then printed under the editorship of Pope in the fourth volume (called the third) of the Swift-Pope Miscellanies in 1732.

The Miscellanies, either in the Motte London or Fairbrother Dublin version, provided Faulkner with his copy, though he incorporated corrections probably deriving from Swift. (A copy of the Miscellanies with Swift’s corrections survives in the Rothschild collection in the library of Trintity College Cambridge.) Faulkner corrects misprints noted by Swift, specifies ‘in Ireland’ rather than ‘in this Kingdom’, changes ‘till’ to ‘until (as usual), corrects ‘neat Profit’ to ‘net Profit’, and adds a daring ‘idolatrous’ to ‘Episcopal Curate’.

Faulkner is a very capable, if not exceptionally polished, printer. This text, like all of Faulkner’s work, is well printed and rather formal in its presentation. It uses printer’s ornaments, small capitals at the beginning of each paragraph, and capitals at the beginning of all nouns. Although it differs in details, his work is very like that of John Wright in the Miscellanies volume.

This text is remarkable for its inventive use of typography, and Faulkner has retained the complex italicization of the original. Towards the close of the pamphlet Swift uses italics for the whole section in which counter-proposals (familiar from Swift’s other writings on Ireland) are rejected, but there is a more subtle use of italic running throughout the piece. Some of it is doubtless parodic, underlining the sentimental and patriotic (‘dear native Country’), but on other occasions points up the outrageous (‘just dropt from it s Dam’; ‘Gloves for Ladies and Summer Boots for fine Gentlemen’). The italic points up the varied and inconsistent voicing of the proposal.

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. xii, pp. 109-18, 335-6; Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, 3 vols. (London: Methuen, 1962-83), vol. iii, pp. 629-31, 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.