The Enlightenment was, at its center, a celebration of ideas – ideas about what the human mind was capable of, and what could be achieved through deliberate action and scientific methodology. Many of the new, enlightened ideas were political in nature. Intellectuals began to consider the possibility that freedom and democracy were the fundamental rights of all people, not gifts bestowed upon them by beneficent monarchs or popes.
Egalitarianism was the buzzword of the century, and it meant the promise of fair treatment for all people, regardless of background. Citizens began to see themselves on the same level as their leaders, subject to the same shortcomings and certainly subject to criticism if so deserved. Experimentation with elected, consensual leadership began in earnest. The belief was that the combined rationality of the people would elect the best possible representatives. The idea of a collective, national intelligence led many to imagine that virtually all the world’s serious problems would soon be solved. Discussion and debate were considered healthy outlets for pent-up frustrations, not signs of internal weakness.
Argumentation as a style of decision-making grew out of the new scientific method, which invited multiple hypotheses to be put to the test. Empiricism, or the reliance on observable, demonstrable facts, was likewise elevated to the level of public discourse. During the Renaissance, there was certainly unbridled optimism, and a sense of humanity’s great unfulfilled potential. The Enlightenment was believed to be the realization of the tools and strategies necessary to achieve that potential. The Renaissance was the seed, while the Enlightenment was the blossom.
Swift’s Ireland was a country that had been effectively controlled by England for nearly 500 years. The Stuarts had established a Protestant governing aristocracy amid the country’s relatively poor Catholic population. Denied union with England in 1707 (when Scotland was granted it), Ireland continued to suffer under English trade restrictions and found the authority of its own Parliament in Dublin severely limited. Swift, though born a member of Ireland’s colonial ruling class, came to be known as one of the greatest of Irish patriots. He, however, considered himself more English than Irish, and his loyalty to Ireland was often ambivalent in spite of his staunch support for certain Irish causes.
The complicated nature of his own relationship with England may have left him particularly sympathetic to the injustices and exploitation Ireland suffered at the hand of its more powerful neighbor.29The king, however, avoids this last punishment, since many towns have tall rocks or high towers, which would pierce the bottom of Laputa and “the whole Mass would fall to the Ground” . Swift’s larger point here is that the English must beware how far they go in depriving the Irish of their liberties, else they risk destroying themselves.One of the most critical elements of the 18th century was the increasing availability of printed material, both for readers and authors. Books fell in price dramatically and used books were sold at Bartholomew Fair and other fairs.
Additionally, a brisk trade in chapbooks and broadsheets carried London trends and information out to the farthest reaches of the kingdom. That was furthered with the establishment of periodicals, including The Gentleman’s Magazine and the London Magazine. People in York aware of the happenings of Parliament and the court, but people in London were also more aware than before of the happenings of York. Furthermore, before copyright, pirate editions were commonplace, especially in areas without frequent contact with London.
Pirate editions thereby encouraged booksellers to increase their shipments to outlying centres like Dublin, which further increased awareness across the whole realm. That was compounded by the end of the Press Restriction Act in 1693, which allowed for provincial printing presses to be established, creating a printing structure that was no longer under government control (Clair 158–176).25Thus when Faulkner printed his edition of Gulliver, he seemed to have had access to Swift’s original manuscript, the changes in Ford’s interleaved copy (containing corrections and revisions, some of which may derive from Ford rather than Swift) and probably some changes from Swift’s “loose papers” kept to correct his work. Also, unlike Motte, Faulkner was working closely with Swift, and so he could readily consult the author himself. Swift no doubt took advantage of the opportunity to make further changes, and stylistic changes may even derive from Faulkner. The text of this edition, published in January 1735, thus derives from multiple sources, the involvement of at least three people, and a healthy mixture of Swift’s original, intermediate, and final intentions concerning his work. Faulkner’s brief “advertisement” or preface only hints at this process, for though he mentions the interleaved copy, he refers to his own edition as containing “corrections”, with no suggestion of revisions.17Swift immediately began to correct his own copy, and supplied some minor alterations to John Hyde, a Dublin bookseller hurrying an edition through the press.
Swift recorded these minor corrections and others in what is known as the “Armagh Gulliver”, which resides at the Armagh Public Library in Northern Ireland. Swift, concerned more about the London edition, asked his friend Charles Ford to help him compile a list of over 100 corrections, mostly minor. With the more substantive changes, Swift via Ford directed Motte to restore the text to the manuscript version. It seems that neither Swift nor Ford had access to the original manuscript at this time, which remained in London. Consequently, they could not supply the full details for the restored passages, though by directing Motte to fix them, they seemed to assume that he had kept his manuscript copy – not a reliable assumption since manuscripts were often destroyed after a book’s publication.
Ford sent the list to Motte on 3 January 1727.