Swift, Oldisworth, and the Politics of The Examiner, 1710-14

In: Reading Swift

Abstract

In 1710-11, Jonathan Swift penned thirty-three issues of the Tory Examiner, the leading ministerial paper at the end of Queen Anne’s reign. This essay revisits the story of Swift’s instalment as Mr Examiner and his stepping down from that role. Scholars have argued that Swift served as Mr Examiner at the request of Robert Harley, who wanted him to moderate the paper’s High Tory tone, and that as the paper began to move back toward the political right, Harley dismissed Swift. Critics have had little to say about the pre- and post-Swift phases of The Examiner, but reading Swift’s contribution within the context of the whole enterprise raises questions about these long-standing assumptions of Harley’s management of the paper. The Examiner of later 1711-14, moreover, functions as a complement to Swift’s polemical contributions to ministerial defence and Tory unity. The notion that Harley was responsible for removing Swift turns out to seem implausible. There are excellent reasons to see The Examiner as the more radically Tory Henry St John’s project – and thus to rethink Swift’s complicated and obscure relationship with the Ministry during the last years of Queen Anne’s reign.

Reading Swift

Papers from The Seventh Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift

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