‘The death of Swift’s printer John Harding – new evidence that implicates Swift’, Melbourne Irish Studies Seminar Series, 17 November 2020

With an introduction by Professor Dianne Hall. Zoom presentation accessible here.

4 thoughts on “‘The death of Swift’s printer John Harding – new evidence that implicates Swift’, Melbourne Irish Studies Seminar Series, 17 November 2020

  1. Surprising then that Harding’s widow called their son John Draper Harding and that she continued publishing Swift’s works in the later 1720s,
    ‘Hurt’ also can be used as a general term for ‘harm’.
    Other scholars – most notably Rumbold – have also pointed to the poor quality of Harding’s printing.


    1. Hi Elmer, thanks for the narky and impulsive comment that avoids all of the main evidence I presented. As for the middle name ‘Draper’, that would not have been to honour the ‘Drapier’ but to commemorate what the child’s father had done for Ireland (my thesis, p.300). The child died in infancy on January 1727 seemingly because she had nothing to feed him (her poem of 1726). It was only after that, and due to pressure applied by Sheridan, that Swift started sending her an occasional work to print. Your point about ‘Hurt’ is a stretch too. But I’m happy to discuss it all with you. My email is on the blog.


  2. Apologies if my comment appeared ‘narky’ as you suggest. But I remain sceptical about your central argument. Printers were quire regularly prosecuted for libel in the Eighteen century. When this happened, it was a point of honour among them not to reveal the names of the authors they published. I have previously researched a case in the late Eighteenth Century in which a printer claimed as ‘a man of honour’ he simply could not this – despite threats and inducements of various kinds.
    The beating in prison could well have been designed to compel Harding to reveal the name of the author of the Draper’s letters.
    Given the absence of any direct evidence of Swift’s involvement, your case ultimately rests on conjecture.


    1. Hi Elmer, thanks for the follow-up. I agree with regard to the ‘point of honour’ for printers. It was especially true for Harding with respect to Swift. Harding was never going to betray Swift, not voluntarily, but he had been due to appear in court where efforts were going to be made to force the betrayal from him, and regardless, this ‘point of honour’ was not enough to satisfy Swift at the time anyway. All of this and more I explained in quite painstaking detail, with supporting evidence, in my presentation. As for the beating, all available evidence, as detailed in my talk, shows clearly that it was ordered by the viceroy, Swift’s friend, for the purpose of protecting Swift. Nothing points the other way. So, my problem with your comments remains the same as before; namely, that you have pre-judged my presentation without engaging with it at all. That said, I appreciate the fact that you’ve gone to the trouble of commenting. All best, Craig.


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