Swift, Jonathan (1667 – 1745)

“The Doctor is the most learned person I know in this kingdom”

A superb and significant two-page autograph letter signed by Jonathan Swift (“Jonath Swift”), 22nd March 1734. Swift writes a letter of recommendation for his friend Thomas Sheridan, to the Duke of Dorset.

In full, “My Lord, Your Grace must please to remember that I carried you to see a comedy of Terence acted by the Scholars of Doctor Sheridan, with which performance you were very well pleased. The Doctor is the most learned person I know in this kingdom, and the best schoolmaster here in the memory of man, having an excellent tast[e] in all parts of Literature. I prevayled on my Lord Cartaret to make him one of his Chaplains, and to bestow him a good living, which the Doctor afterwards exchanged for another about seven miles from Dublin.

But his health impairing by the Air of the Town, and being invited by the Gentlemen of the County of Cavan to accept the Free School of Cavan, which is endowed equall to his living, and he being born in the county, the present schoolmaster, one Mr. Knowlls, is desirous to change his school for the Doctor’s living of much the same value, called Dunboyn in your Grace’s gift.

This affair hath been so long managing, that it was in agitation before you left me and I begged your consent for the change which, as a very reasonable request, not crossing any measures of your Grace, you were pleased to grant. All things have been long agreed, the B[isho]p of Kilmore (Hort) hath writ to you upon it, so your Lords Justices have done, for some months past but being a thing of no great consequence to the publick State of the Kingdom – your secretaryes have forgot it. In the mean time the poor Doctor hath given up his school in town, to his great loss, and hath parted with his house, continuing in uneasiness and suspence till your letter comes. Therefore I humbly beg, you will please to order me of your secretaryes immediately to send the letter, that will impower the Doctor and Knowles the Schoolmaster to exchange stations. My letter is the worst part of the matter, because it will cost you three minutes to read, but the request is short and reasonable.

I writ some day ago to my Lady E. Germain on the same purpose, but it is possible her ladyship might forget; which your Grace to my knowledge is not capable of. I am with the highest respect, My Lord, your Grace’s most obedient and most humble servant, Jonath Swift”.

Light age-toning and age-spotting, otherwise in remarkably fine condition. Swift’s autograph is extremely rare in any format.

Thomas Sheridan (1687 – 1738) was a writer and schoolmaster, and Swift’s principle collaborator. Sheridan and Swift collaborated on a number of literary projects together. In 1725, as royal chaplain, Sheridan delivered a sermon that was considered by some as politically suspect, and his appointment was cancelled. Sheridan did, indeed, succeed in the job change requested by Swift, and became the headmaster of Cavan School in 1735, where he remained for three years until his death. Whilst Swift’s relationship with Sheridan did ultimately become acrimonious (the exact reasons are not known why), this letter is testimony to Swift’s repeated efforts to help his friend in his career path. A wonderful association piece.