Abbreviated title
Some Free Thoughts upon the Present State of Affairs, written in the year 1714
JSA Identification Number
7_18_1
Teerink/Scouten Number
778
ESTC Number
T219084
Copy and its Location
CUL , Williams 218
Publisher and Printer
Some free thoughts upon the present state of affairs. Written in the year 1714., Vol. , pp .
Dublin, Faulkner, George, 1741.

Commentary

This is a work Swift composed late in the reign of Anne, after he had retired to Letcombe. Faulkner’s is the first publication of it, though Swift had wanted it published earlier. The Faulkner text is based on a manuscript that was sent to London for publication in 1714. It was not then published. John Barber gave it to Bolingbroke to look at, but, as Bolingbroke featured in a major way in Swift’s discussion, that was a mistake. Bolingbroke suggested significant excisions and was against publication. In the mid-1730s Swift again tried to get it published but he was thwarted by the Earl of Oxford, the son of Robert Harley, Bolingbroke’s rival in 1714. Faulkner retrieved the manuscript and reprinted it, doubtless with some alterations, though he did not change third-person endings until his 1751 edition.

Both Ian Gadd and Herbert Davis print the surviving manuscript, one provided to Mrs Whiteway by Swift, as copy text. There are very many differences from Faulkner’s edition, due perhaps to authorial revision as well as to censorship, and Faulkner’s text is an important, though faulty, witness to the text Swift was planning in 1714. There are many minor differences from the manuscript which it is impossible to summarize here.

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 (forthcoming), and Mary Pollard’s entry on him in her Dictionary of the Dublin Book Trade.

References: Jonathan Swift, English Political Writings, 1711-1714, ed. Bertrand A. Goldgar and Ian Gadd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 480-506 (488-9); The Prose Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis and others, 16 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1939-74), vol. viii, pp. 75-98, 205-9; Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, 3 vols. (London: Methuen, 1962-83), vol. ii, pp. 737-43; Charles A. Rivington, ‘Tyrant’: The Story of John Barber (York: William Sessions, 1989); 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.