Dressed to impress, Professor of English Bertrand Goldgar gave a lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 26 in Main Hall. The lecture, which was well-attended by faculty, staff, and jaded Humanities students alike, was the first of this term’s Main Hall Forum series.During his lecture, titled “Swift, Jacobites, and a Jew: Dirty Tricks in 1713,” Goldgar discussed 18th century satirist Jonathan Swift’s political pamphleteering between 1711 and 1714. Swift’s pamphlets, written in reaction to rumors smeared against a friend, demonstrate the larger theme of interaction between journalism and politics at the time.
In 1713, the War of the Spanish Succession was coming to an end while tensions were also running high between the Tory government and the Whigs. It was at this time of political unrest that Swift’s good friend Erasmus Lewis began being smeared with rumors of involvement with the Jacobites, a political group of the time. Goldgar compared such accusations as similar to being rumored to be a Communist spy.
Swift was no longer writing for The Examiner, the Tory newspaper he had formerly edited and written. However, when rumors about Lewis began to fly, he returned to the paper to defend his friend, using it to publish an essay defending Erasmus Lewis and targeting Henry Lewis. Despite his attempts, Swift’s essay did not dispel rumors and was helpless to prevent the Tory government’s loss of power the following year.
“I am showing only a snapshot as part of a view of the whole controversy,” said Professor Goldgar of his lecture, which represents only a small fraction of his recent research.
Goldgar is currently co-editing two volumes in a 15-volume edition of all of Swift’s works. Professor Goldgar is putting the finishing touches on one volume, which will be published by Cambridge University Press later this year, and will be taking a sabbatical beginning this fall to work on the other volume.