Vol. 12: Carey, Daniel.

Type: Article

Carey, Daniel. ‘Swift Among The Freethinkers’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 12 (1997), pp 89-99.

Jonathan Swift’s ongoing ‘literary battles’ with freethinkers impelled him to use a variety of rhetorical strategies to combat the threat which freethinkers posed to Anglican orthodoxy and to Swift’s political position as a Tory. This article assesses the successes and failures of Swift’s strategies, supporting the idea that Swift’s voice achieved its greatest impact and victory over his opponent when assuming the “identity of a satirised narrator”. Carey analyses Swift’s attacks on his freethinking opponents, “the unholy trio” of Toland, Tindal and Collins. In response to complaints about church mysteries, Swift composed his ‘Sermon on the Trinity’, a polemic delivered in his own voice, launching an ad hominem attack on freethinkers: “The slightly scattered nature of his objections and replies in the sermon indicates the vulnerability of Swift’s position, open to attack by opponents”. The article also looks in detail at Swift’s more successful attacks on freethinking, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity and Mr C[olli]ns’s Discourse of Free-Thinking put into plain English by way of Abstract for the Use of the Poor.