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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From Jonathan Swift to Dr. Jinny - 1



*** THE author of "A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland" refers to an unpublished letter of Dr. Swift, now in the possession of lord Dartrey, which entirely acquits him of that want of hospitality laid to his charge from some passages in his "Hamilton's Bawn." The letter is written to that Dr. Jinny represented in the poem as looking so like a ninny: the purport of it is, "To acquaint the doctor (then rector of Armagh, in the neighbourhood of which he spent the summer) how he passed his time. Among other amusements, he mentions that of writing this very poem, the motives which excited him to it, and the effects it produced. And so far was it from giving umbrage to the lady, or jealousy to the knight, that every addition he made at night came up with the bread and butter as part of the entertainment next morning, and all parties expressed the utmost satisfaction[1]."

  1. The offence which the dean had given was not what this ingenious writer supposes. It was not by the poem on Hamilton's Bawn, which was not written till 1729, (vol. VIII, p. 26) but by the destruction of a favourite old thorn in 1726, (vol. VII, p. 379) that the Acheson family were offended. The tree, which was a remarkable one, was much admired by sir Arthur; yet the dean, in one of his unaccountable humours, gave directions for cutting it down in the absence of the knight, who was of course highly incensed, nor would see Swift for some time after. By way of making his peace, the dean wrote the poem, "On cutting down the old Thorn at Market Hill;" which had the desired effect.