It was a habit of Dean Swift to spend time as a guest at the country seat of a number of his Irish friends, and according to his most recent biographer, Victoria Glendinning (Jonathan Swift, Hutchinson, 1998), it was in 1728 that he made the first of three annual visits to "the Achesons at Markethill (later called Gosford Castle)" - the author seems to be confusing the village of Markethill with Sir Arthur Acheson's estate, Gosford Demesne. Again according to Victoria Glendinning, his first stay lasted eight months, the second four months and the third three. Swift himself describes Markethill, in a note to the poem A Panegyrick on the Dean... Written in the Year 1730, as ' A Village near Sir Arthur Acheson's House, where the Author passed two Summers.' Presumably the third stay occurred after this poem was written.
In the aforementioned biography, the author also reproduces an engraving that she believes to represent Sir Arthur Acheson's estate. The original is in the National Gallery in London, but the original caption is "Blamount a Seat in Ireland in the County of Armagh One of the Retreats of Jonathan Swift". If it is Sir Arthur Acheson's estate, it is strange that this is the only reference to it by that name. Swift is also said to have spent time with the Robert Copes at Loughgall, which is also in County Armagh - perhaps that is where Blamount lies.
It would be wonderful to believe, as rumour has it, that Swift's life and experiences at Gosford provided inspiration for Gulliver's Travels or that some of it was written there. However, if Swift's first visit to Gosford took place in 1728, it is clear that this cannot be the case, since Gulliver's Travels was first published in 1726.
Disappointing though it may be to know that Gosford did not produce Gulliver, we do know that Swift wrote some poetry at the Achesons'. A dozen of them make reference to the Acheson family and their demesne and the area around Markethill. The village itself is frequently mentioned, as are Sir Arthur Acheson and his wife, a number of their servants, and Drapier's Hill, a part of the Gosford Demesne which Swift bought from Sir Arthur Acheson and where he planned to build a house, but never did. These poems are reproduced here in their entirety (in chronological order):
- On Cutting down the Old Thorn at Market Hill (1728)
- My Lady's Lamentation and Complaint against the Dean (July 28, 1728)
- Lady Acheson Weary of the Dean (1728?)
- On a Very Old Glass (1728?)
- Drapier's Hill (1729)
- To Dean Swift By Sir Arthur Acheson (1729)
- A Pastoral Dialogue - Dermot, Sheelagh (1729)
- The Grand Question debated Whether
Hamilton's Bawn should be turned into a Barrack or a Malt House (1729)
- A Dialogue between an eminent Lawyer and Dr. Swift Dean of St. Patrick's (1730)
- Revolution at Market-Hill - Written in the Year 1730
- A Panegyrick On The Dean in the Person of a Lady in the North (1730)
- The Dean's Reasons for not building at Drapier's Hill (1730)
[N.B. If you have any interesting facts or documents concerning Gosford Forest Park, especially relating to the association with Swift or Gosford Castle and the Acheson family, you can get in contact by e-mail]
>In a summary of the Gosford Papers held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (D/1606 and D/2259), reference is made to Swift having issued "orders to cut down trees during Sir Arthur's absence". Perhaps this poem refers to such an event. In any case, it seems that the old thorn was despatched, by one Neal Gagahan (also mentioned in "A PANEGYRICK..."), with the approval of Sir Arthur's wife.
Note: Sir Archibald Acheson was Secretary of State for Scotland, "Wise Hawthornden and Sterline's Lord" refer to "Drummond of Hawthornden, and Sir William Alexander, E. of Sterling, both famous for their Poetry, who were Friends to Sir Archibald."
AT Market Hill, as well appears
Hither came every Village Maid
Sir Archibald that val'rous Knight,
(Sir Archibald whose fav'rite Name
But Time with Iron Teeth I ween
This aged, sickly, sapless Thorn
Dame Nature, when she saw the Blow,
The Silvan Pow'rs with Fear perplex'd
The Magpye, lighting on the Stock,
The Owl foresaw in pensive Mood
Last trotted forth the gentle Swine
The Nymph who dwells in every Tree,
Thus, when the gentle Spina found
But from the Root a dismal Groan
"Thou chief Contriver of my Fall,
"And thy confed'rate Dame, who brags
"Nor thou, Lord Arthur, shalt escape:
"Nor, when I felt the dreadful Blow,
"May that fell Dean, by whose Command
"Pigs and Fanaticks, Cows, and Teagues
"And thou, the Wretch ordain'd by Fate,
"When thou, suspended high in Air,
Here Swift refers to a number of the activities which kept him occupied at Sir Arthur Acheson's. Lady Acheson's first name was Anne (Nancy here), and both Sir Arthur and Swift teased her for her skinniness. He insisted on her accompanying him on walks about the estate and tried to teach her the finer points of literary appreciation. He mixes with the estate workers as an equal and exchanges pleasantries with them. The "grottos and seats" and the "bow'r" referred to near the end of the poem may be what are today known as Dean Swift's Well and the Dean's Chair where, rumour has it, he spent time writing and chatting with locals passing by on the nearby road.
Note: Skinny and Snipe were nicknames given by the Dean to Lady Acheson.
SURE never did man see
Before he came here
If he had his will,
But, now to my diet,
Next, for his diversion,
Now, changing the scene,
I guess well enough
What, Madam? No walking,
And then he grows mild;
Thus was I drawn in,
But, while in an ill tone,
But, Oh, how we laugh,
Dear friend, Doctor Jenny,
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When Swift stayed with the Achesons, he brought his dogs and his own horses with him, which imposed more of a strain on his hosts' hospitality. Here he acknowledges his tyrannical behaviour towards Lady Acheson and admits he may have outstayed his welcome.
THE Dean wou'd visit Market-hill,
His Manners would not let him wait,
After a Week, a Month, a quarter,
I've said enough to make him blush
But you, my Life, may let him know,
Or you may say-my Wife intends,
Or, Mr. Dean-I should with Joy
The House Accounts are daily rising
His Brace of Puppies how they stuff,
Oh! if I could, how I would maul
Must I be every Moment chid
FRAIL Glass, thou Mortal art, as well as I,
Answered extempore by Dr. SWIFT
WE both are Mortal; but thou, frailer Creature,
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A view of Drapier's Hill today
See the map on the Trails page for the location of Drapier's Hill. Swift published political tracts called The Drapier's Letters under the pseudonym of M.B., Drapier. He purchased this site from Sir Arthur, intending to build a house on it, and gives us to understand here that it was Sir Arthur's suggestion that this mansion should be called Drapier's Hill.
WE give the World to understand,
Does Swift's vanity show through here? He seems to be suggesting that his taking up residence at Drapier's Hill will save Markethill and Drumlack (the Drumleck river flows close to Drapier's Hill ) from obscurity.
GOOD cause have I to sing and vapour,
Banter between a couple of local workers while weeding around Sir Arthur Acheson's house. Dennis was Sir Arthur's Butler.
A NYMPH and Swain, Sheelah and Dermot hight,
My Love to Sheelah is more firmly fixt
My Love for gentle Dermot faster grows
No more that Bry'r thy tender Leg shall rake:
Thy Breeches torn behind, stand gaping wide;
At an old stubborn Root I chanc'd to tug,
In at the Pantry-door this Morn I slipt,
When you saw Tady at long-bullets play,
When you with Oonah stood behind a Ditch,
If Oonah once I kiss'd, forbear to chide:
Dermot, I swear, tho' Tady's Locks could hold
O, could I earn for thee, my lovely Lass,
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Swift mocks the argument between Sir Arthur and his wife about what to do with Hamilton's Bawn, a property which presumably he owned. A Bawn was a place near the house enclosed with mud or stone walls, to keep cattle from being stolen in the night. At this time Hamilton's Bawn was described by Swift as "A large old house two miles from Sr A A's Seat".
Rumms were poor country clergymen, Hannah was Lady Acheson's waiting
woman, Darby and Wood were two of Sir Arthur's managers, Doctor Jenny was a clergyman at Armagh, Noveds, and Blutraks, and Omurs are
Ovids, Plutarchs and Homers, Skinny and Lean are of course nicknames for Lady Acheson.
THE Author of the following Poem, is said to be Dr J. S. D. S. P. D. who writ it, as well as several other Copies of Verses of the like Kind, by Way of Amusement, in the Family of an honourable Gentleman in the North of Ireland, where he spent a Summer about two or three years ago. A certain very great Person, then in that Kingdom, having heard much of this Poem, obtained a Copy from the Gentleman, or, as some say, the Lady, in whose House it was written, from whence, I know not by what Accident, several other Copies were transcribed, full of Errors. As I have a great Respect for the supposed Author, I have procured a true Copy of the Poem, the Publication whereof can do him less Injury than printing any of those incorrect ones which run about in Manuscript, and would infallibly be soon in the Press, if not thus prevented. Some Expressions being peculiar to Ireland, I have prevailed on a Gentleman of that Kingdom to explain them, and I have put the several Explanations in their proper Places.
THUS spoke to my Lady, the Knight full of Care;
FIRST, let me suppose I make it a Malt-House:
THUS ended the Knight: Thus began his meek Wife:
THUs argu'd my Lady, but argu'd in vain;
DEAR Madam, had you but the Spirit to teaze,
DEAR Madam, whene'er of a Barrack I think,
Now, see, when they meet, how their Honour's behave
"Go, bring me my Smock, and leave off your Prate,
NEXT Day, to be sure, the Captain will come,
KIT, run to your Master, and bid him come to us.
"HIST, Huzzy, I think I hear some Body coming -"
To shorten my Tale, (for I hate a long Story,)
NEVER since I was born did I hear so much Wit,
THUS merciless Hannah ran on in her Talk,
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Another reference to Drapier's Hill, and to Swift's unfulfilled ambition to be a bishop, perhaps thwarted by the influence of powerful dignitaries who have been victims of his satire.
SINCE there are persons who complain
SINCE you are pleas'd to condescend
MUST I commend against my conscience
It is difficult to know what to make of this poem. Swift (like "the Spaniard") seems to resent the prospect (if he takes up residence at Drapier's Hill) of being Air Arthur's tenant and therefore subservient to him. A reversal of roles is suggested (the "Revolution").
The "Spaniard" is "Col. Harry Leslie, who served and lived long in Spain", Drumlack is " The Irish Name of a Farm the Dean took, and was to build on, but changed his Mind. He called it Drapier's Hill. Vide that Poem" (today Drumleck River flows nearby), Market-Hill is "A Village near Sir Arthur Acheson's Seat", Hannah is "My Lady's Waiting-Maid", Dennis is Sir Arthur's butler, Peggy Dixon is his House-Keeper and Lorimer his agent.
FROM distant Regions, Fortune sends
O FORTUNE, 'tis a Scandal for thee
PROUD Baronet of Nova Scotia,
COME Spaniard, let us from our Farms
BUT, let us on our first Assault
FOR Hannah; when we have no need of her,
This poem provides us with the fullest insight into the activities and "tyrant" manner of Swift during his stays with the Achesons. We see further proof that he mixed with people of all stations and treated (and mocked) them all equally, his Lord and Ladyship as well as Moll the chamber-maid and Gaghagan, no doubt the same man who chopped down the old thorn (although differently spelt). No household chore is too humble for him to try his hand at ("Our Thatcher, Ditcher, Gard'ner, Baily"). He even seems to have been responsible for erecting separate toilets for ladies and gents. Various references are explained by Swift himself in footnotes to the text. It is here that he describes Markethill as "A Village near Sir Arthur Acheson's House, where the Author passed two Summers". He "interfered" with the work of Robert and Darby, two overseers, of Kit, "My Lady's Footman", of Dennis the butler, and of Mrs Dixon the housekeeper, e.g. he helped to make butter for breakfast by "filling a Bottle with Cream, and shaking it till the Butter comes". "Usher's Post" is glossed as "He sometimes used to walk with the Lady" and "Tutor" as "In bad Weather the Author used to direct my Lady in her Reading". He claims that "The Author preached but once while he was there" and that "The neighbouring Ladies were no great Understanders of Raillery" (i.e. they took "Offence"). Smedley is "A very stupid, insolent, factious, deformed, conceited Parson; a vile Pretender to Poetry, preferred by the D. of Grafton for his Wit."
RESOLV'D my Gratitude to show,
INDULGENT you to Female Kind,
IMPATIENT to be out of Debt,
My Heart with Emulation burns
I THUS begin. My grateful Muse
IN each Capacity I mean
PROCEED we to your preaching next:
CONSIDER now your Conversation;
Now raise your Spirits, Mr. Dean:
YOUR Usher's Post must next be handled:
Now, as a Jester, I accost you;
I Now become your humble Suitor,
BUT, I admire your Patience most;
You merit new Employments daily:
Now, enter as the Dairy Hand-maid:
YOUR Rev'rence thus, with like Success,
BUT, you have rais'd your gen'rous Mind
YE who frequent this hallow'd Scene,
YET, when your lofty Domes I praise,
THEE bounteous Goddess Cloacine,
WHEN Saturn rul'd the Skies alone,
BUT, when at last usurping Jove
THIS bloated Harpy sprung from Hell,
YE Great ones, why will ye disdain
YET, some Devotion still remains
HITHER by luckless Error led,
BE Witness for me, Nymph divine,
BUT, stop ambitious Muse, in time;
Me Phoebus in a midnight Dream
BUT, Cloacina Goddess bright,
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The last of the poems with an obvious Gosford connection. Swift finally renounces the idea of taking up permanent residence at Drapier's Hill: Sir Arthur seems to have become uncommunicative and miserly, no longer a suitable foil for his wit. We also have further confirmation of Swift's officious interference in the daily running of the household - perhaps this is the explanation of the coldness of Sir Arthur towards him now, and why he did not return to Gosford after 1730 - the last line of the poem suggests that Sir Arthur did not want him to.
I'LL not build on yonder mount:
I am, as now too late I find,
But here my Lady will object;
'Tis true, but what advantage comes
Thus, when the learned and the wise
But, as for me, who ne'er could clamber high,
Where friendship is by Fate design'd,
The neighbours wonder why the Knight
Those thankless and officious cares
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