CELT document E700001-011

An examination of certain abuses, corruptions, and enormities in the city of Dublin


An examination of certain abuses, corruptions, and enormities in the city of Dublin

Like many of Swift's satirical writings the title of this tract is no indication to its subject-matter. Whatever 'abuses, corruptions and enormities' may have been rife in the city of Dublin in Swift's time, the pamphlet which follows certainly throws no light on them. It is in no sense a social document. But it is a very amusing and excellent piece of jeering at the fancied apprehensions that were rife about the Pretender, the “disaffected” people, and the Jacobites. It is aimed at the Whigs, who were continually using the party cries of “No Popery,” “Jacobitism,” and the other cognate expressions to distress their political opponents. At the same time, these cries had their effects, and created a great deal of mischief. The Roman Catholics, in particular, were cruelly treated because of the anxiety for the Protestant succession, and among the lower tradesmen, for whom such cries would be of serious meaning, a petty persecution against their Roman Catholic fellow-tradesmen continually prevailed. Monck Mason draws attention to some curious instances. (See his History of St. Patrick's Cathedral, p. 399, note y.)

In the Journals of the Irish House of Commons (vol. ii., p. 77) is the record of a petition presented in the year 1695, by the Protestant porters of the city of Dublin, against one Darby Ryan, “a papist and notoriously disaffected.” This Ryan was complained of for employing those of his own persuasion and affection to carry a cargo of coals he had bought, to his own customers. The petitioners complained that they, Protestants, were “debased and hindered from their small trade and gains.” Another set of petitioners was the drivers of hackney coaches. They complained that, “before the late trouble, they got a livelihood by driving coaches in and about the city of Dublin, but since that time, so many papists had got coaches, and drove them with such ordinary horses, that the petitioners could hardly get bread … They therefore prayed the house that none but Protestant hackney-coachmen may have liberty to keep and drive hackney-coaches.” Swift may have had these instances in his mind when he urges that the criers who cry their wares in Dublin should be True Protestants, and should give security to the government for permission to cry.

In a country where such absurd complaints could be seriously presented, and as seriously considered, a genuine apprehension must have existed. The Whigs in making capital out of this existing feeling stigmatized their Tory opponents as High Churchmen, and therefore very little removed from Papists, and therefore Jacobites. Of course there were no real grounds for such epithets, but they indulged in them nevertheless, with the addition of insinuations and suggestions—no insinuation being too feeble or too far-fetched so long as it served.

Swift, writing in the person of a Whig, affects extreme anxiety for the  p.263 most ridiculous of signs, and finds a Papist, or a Jacobite, or a disaffected person, in the least likely of places. The tract, in this light, is a really amusing piece. Swift takes the opportunity also to hit Walpole, under a pretended censure of his extravagance, corruption, and avarice.

The text here given of this tract is based on that of the original edition issued in Dublin in 1732. The last paragraph, however, does not appear in that edition, and is reprinted here from Scott.

Jonathan Swift

Whole text


An examination of certain abuses, corruptions, and enormities in the city of Dublin

Nothing is held more commendable in all great cities, especially the metropolis of a kingdom, than what the French call the police; by which word is meant the government thereof, to prevent the many disorders occasioned by great numbers of people and carriages, especially through narrow streets. In this government our famous City of Dublin is said to be very defective, and universally complained of. Many wholesome laws have been enacted to correct those abuses, but are ill executed; and many more are wanting, which I hope the united wisdom of the nation (whereof so many good effects, have already appeared this session) will soon take into their most profound consideration.

As I have been always watchful over the good of mine own country, and particularly for that of our renowned city, where (absit invidia) I had the honour to draw my first breath; 1 I cannot have a minute's ease or patience to forbear enumerating some of the greatest enormities, abuses, and corruptions, spread almost through every part of Dublin; and proposing such remedies as, I hope, the legislature will approve of.

The narrow compass to which I have confined myself in this paper, will allow me only to touch at the most important defects, and such as I think seem to require the most speedy redress.

And first, perhaps there was never known a wiser institution  p.268 than that of allowing certain persons of both sexes, in large and populous cities, to cry through the streets many necessaries of life; it would be endless to recount the conveniences which our city enjoys by this useful invention, and particularly strangers, forced hither by business, who reside here but a short time; for, these having usually but little money, and being wholly ignorant of the town, might at an easy price purchase a tolerable dinner, if the several criers would pronounce the names of the goods they have to sell, in any tolerable language. And therefore till our law-makers shall think it proper to interpose so far as to make these traders pronounce their words in such terms, that a plain Christian hearer may comprehend what is cried, I would advise all new comers to look out at their garret windows, and there see whether the thing that is cried be tripes or flummery, butter-milk or cow-heels. For, as things are now managed, how is it possible for an honest countryman, just arrived, to find out what is meant, for instance, by the following words, with which his ears are constantly stunned twice a day, “Mugs, jugs and porringers, up in the garret, and down in the cellar.” I say, how is it possible for any stranger to understand that this jargon is meant as an invitation to buy a farthing's worth of milk for his breakfast or supper, unless his curiosity draws him to the window, or till his landlady shall inform him. I produce this only as one instance, among a hundred much worse, I mean where the words make a sound wholly inarticulate, which give so much disturbance, and so little information.

The affirmation solemnly made in the cry of herrings, is directly against all truth and probability, “Herrings alive, alive here.” The very proverb will convince us of this; for what is more frequent in ordinary speech, than to say of some neighbour for whom the passing-bell rings, that he is dead as a herring. And, pray how is it possible, that a herring, which as philosophers observe, cannot live longer than one minute, three seconds and a half out of water, should bear a voyage in open boats from Howth to Dublin, be tossed into twenty hands, and preserve its life in sieves for several hours. Nay, we have witnesses ready to produce, that many thousands of these herrings, so impudently asserted to be alive, have been a day and a night upon dry  p.269 land. But this is not the worst. What can we think of those impious wretches, who dare in the face of the sun, vouch the very same affirmative of their salmon, and cry, 'Salmon alive, alive;' whereas, if you call the woman who cries it, she is not ashamed to turn back her mantle, and shew you this individual salmon cut into a dozen pieces. I have given good advice to these infamous disgracers of their sex and calling, without the least appearance of remorse, and fully against the conviction of their own consciences. I have mentioned this grievance to several of our parish ministers, but all in vain; so that it must continue until the government shall think fit to interpose.

There is another cry, which, from the strictest observation I can make, appears to be very modern, and it is that of sweethearts, 2 and is plainly intended for a reflection upon the female sex, as if there were at present so great a dearth of lovers, that the women instead of receiving presents from men, were now forced to offer money, to purchase sweethearts. Neither am I sure, that the cry doth not glance at some disaffection against the government; insinuating, that while so many of our troops are engaged in foreign service, and such a great number of our gallant officers constantly reside in England, the ladies are forced to take up with parsons and attorneys: But, this is a most unjust reflection, as' may soon, be proved by any person who frequents the Castle, our public walks, our balls and assemblies, where the crowds of toupees 3 were never known to swarm as they do at present.

There is a cry, peculiar to this City, which I do not remember to have been used in London, or at least, not in the same terms that it has been practised by both parties, during each of their power; but, very unjustly by the Tories. While these were at the helm, they grew daily more and more impatient to put all true Whigs and Hanoverians out of employments. To effect which, they hired certain ordinary fellows, with large baskets on their shoulders, to call aloud at every house, 'Dirt to carry out;' giving that denomination to our whole party, as if they p.270 would signify, that the kingdom could never be cleansed, till we were swept from the earth like rubbish. But, since that happy turn of times, when we were so miraculously preserved by just an inch, from Popery, slavery, massacre, and the Pretender, I must own it prudence in us, still to go on with the same cry, which hath ever since been so effectually observed, that the true political dirt is wholly removed, and thrown on its proper dunghills, there to corrupt, and be no more heard of.

But, to proceed to other enormities: Every person who walks the streets, must needs observe the immense number of human excrements at the doors and steps of waste houses, and at the sides of every dead wall; for which the disaffected party have assigned a very false and malicious cause. They would have it, that these heaps were laid there privately by British fundaments, to make the world believe, that our Irish vulgar do daily eat and drink; and, consequently, that the clamour of poverty among us, must be false, proceeding only from Jacobites and Papists. They would confirm this, by pretending to observe, that a British anus being more narrowly perforated than one of our own country; and many of these excrements upon a strict view appearing copple crowned, with a point like a cone or pyramid, are easily distinguished from the Hibernian, which lie much flatter, and with lest continuity. I communicated this conjecture to an eminent physician, who is well versed in such profound speculations; and at my request was pleased to make trial with each of his fingers, by thrusting them into the anus of several persons of both nations, and professed he could find no such difference between them as those ill-disposed people allege. On the contrary, he assured me, that much the greater number of narrow cavities were of Hibernian origin. This I only mention to shew how ready the Jacobites are to lay hold of any handle to express their malice against the government. I had almost forgot to add, that my friend the physician could, by smelling each finger, distinguish the Hibernian excrement from the British, and was not above twice mistaken in an hundred experiments; upon which he intends very soon to publish a learned dissertation.

There is a diversion in this City, which usually begins  p.271 among the butchers, but is often continued by a succession of other people, through many streets. It is called the COSSING of a dog; and I may justly number it among our corruptions. The ceremony is this: A strange dog happens to pass through a flesh-market; whereupon an expert butcher immediately cries in a loud voice, and the proper tone, 'Coss, coss,' several times: The same word is repeated by the people. The dog, who perfectly understands the terms of art, and consequently the danger he is in, immediately flies. The people, and even his own brother animals pursue; the pursuit and cry attend him perhaps half a mile; he is well worried in his flight, and sometimes hardly escapes. This, our ill-wishers of the Jacobite kind, are pleased to call a persecution; and affirm, that it always falls upon dogs of the Tory principle. But, we can well defend ourselves, by justly alleging that when they went uppermost, they treated our dogs full as inhumanly: As to my own part, who have in former times often attended these processions, although I can very well distinguish between a Whig and Tory dog, yet I never carried my resentments very far upon a party principle, except it were against certain malicious dogs, who most discovered their malice against us in the worst of times. 4 And, I remember too well, that in the wicked ministry of the Earl of Oxford, a large mastiff of our party being unmercifully cossed, ran, without thinking, between my legs, as I was coming up Fishamble Street; and, as I am of low stature, with very short legs, bore me riding backwards down the hill, for above two hundred yards: And, although I made use of his tail for a bridle, holding it fast with both my hands, and clung my legs as close to his sides as I could, yet we both came down together into the middle of the kennel; where after rolling three or four times over each other, I got up with much ado, amid the shouts and huzzas of a thousand malicious Jacobites: I cannot, indeed, but gratefully acknowledge, that for this and many other services and sufferings, I have been since more than over-paid.

This adventure may, perhaps, have put me out of love with the diversions of cossing, which I confess myself an p.272 enemy to, unless we could always be sure of distinguishing, Tory dogs; whereof great numbers have since been so prudent, as entirely to change their principles, and are now justly esteemed the best worriers of their former friends.

I am assured, and partly know, that all the chimneysweepers' boys, where Members of Parliament chiefly lodge, are hired by our enemies to skulk in the tops of chimneys, with their heads no higher than will just permit them to look round; and at the usual hours when members are going to the House, if they see a coach stand near the lodging of any loyal member, they call 'Coach, coach,' as loud as they can bawl, just at the instant when the footman begins to give the same call. And this is chiefly done on those days, when any point of importance is to be debated. This practice may be of very dangerous consequence. For, these boys are all hired by enemies to the government; and thus, by the absence of a few members for a few minutes, a question may be carried against the true interest of the kingdom, and very probably, not without any eye toward the Pretender.

I have not observed the wit and fancy of this town, so much employed in anyone article, as that of contriving variety of signs to hang over houses; where punch is to be sold. The bowl is represented full of punch, the ladle stands erect in the middle, supported sometimes by one, and sometimes by two animals, whose feet rest upon the edge of the bowl. These animals are sometimes one black lion, and sometimes a couple; sometimes a single eagle, and sometimes a spread one, and we often meet a crow; a swan, a bear, or a cock, in the same posture.

Now, I cannot find how any of these animals, either separate, or in conjunction, are properly speaking, either fit emblems or embellishments, to advance the sale of punch. Besides, it is agreed among naturalists, that no brute can endure the taste of strong liquor, except where he hath been used to it from his infancy: And, consequently, it is against all the rules of hieroglyph, to assign those animals as patrons, or protectors of punch. For, in that case, we ought to suppose, that the host keeps always ready the real bird, or beast, whereof the picture hangs over his door, to  p.273 entertain his guest; which, however, to my knowledge, is not true in fact. For not one of those birds is a proper companion for a Christian, as to aiding and assisting in making the punch. For the birds, as they are drawn upon the sign, are much more likely to mute, or shed their feathers into the liquor. Then, as to the bear, he is too terrible, awkward, and slovenly a companion to converse with; neither are any of them at all, handy enough to fill liquor to the company: I do, therefore, vehemently suspect a plot intended against the Government, by these devices. For, although the spread-eagle be the arms of Germany, upon which account it may possibly be a lawful Protestant sign; yet I, who am very suspicious of fair outsides, in a matter which so nearly concerns our welfare, cannot but call to mind, that the Pretender's wife is said to be of German birth: And that many Popish Princes, in so vast an extent of land, are reported to excel both at making and drinking punch. Besides, it is plain, that the spread-eagle exhibits to us the perfect figure of a cross, which is a badge of Popery. Then, as to the cock, he is well known to represent the French nation, our old and dangerous enemy. The swan, who must of necessity cover the entire bowl with his wings, can be no other than the Spaniard, who endeavours to engross all the treasures of the Indies to himself. The lion is indeed, the common emblem of Royal power, as well as the arms of England; but to paint him black, is perfect Jacobitism, and a manifest type of those who blacken the actions of the best Princes. It is not easy to distinguish, whether the other fowl painted over the punch-bowl, be a crow or raven? It is true, they have both been held ominous birds; but I rather take it to be the former; because it is the disposition of a crow, to pick out the eyes of other creatures; and often even of Christians, after they are dead; and is therefore drawn here, with a design to put the Jacobites in mind of their old practice, first to lull us asleep, (which is an emblem of Death) and then to blind our eyes, that we may not see their dangerous practices against the State.

To speak my private opinion, the least offensive picture in the whole set, seems to be the bear; because he represents ursa major, or the Great Bear, who presides over the  p.274 North, where the Reformation first began, and which, next to Britain, (including Scotland and the north of Ireland) is the great protector of the Protestant religion. But, however, in those signs where I observe the bear to be chained, I can't help surmising a Jacobite contrivance, by which these traitors hint an earnest desire of using all true Whigs, as the predecessors did the primitive Christians; I mean, to represent us as bears, and then halloo their Tory dogs to bait us to death.

Thus I have given a fair account of what I dislike, in all those signs set over those houses that invite us to punch: I own it was a matter that did not need explaining, being so very obvious to the most common understanding. Yet, I know not how it happens, but methinks there seems a fatal blindness, to overspread our corporeal eyes, as well as our intellectual; and I heartily wish, I may be found a false prophet; for, these are not bare suspicions, but manifest demonstrations.

Therefore, away with those Popish, Jacobite, and idolatrous gew-gaws. And I heartily wish a law were enacted, under severe penalties, against drinking any punch at all. For nothing is easier, than to prove it a disaffected liquor. The chief ingredients, which are brandy, oranges, and lemons, are all sent us from Popish countries; and nothing remains of Protestant growth but sugar and water. For, as to biscuit, which formerly was held a necessary ingredient, and is truly British, we find it is entirely rejected.

But I will put the truth of my assertion, past all doubt: I mean, that this liquor is by one important innovation, grown of ill example, and dangerous consequence to the public. It is well known, that, by the true original institution of making punch, left us by Captain Ratcliffe, the sharpness is only occasioned by the juice of lemons, and so continued till after the happy Revolution. Oranges, alas! are a mere innovation, and in a manner but of yesterday. It was the politics of Jacobites to introduce them gradually: And, to what intent? The thing speaks itself. It was cunningly to shew their virulence against his sacred Majesty King William, of ever glorious and immortal memory. But of late, (to shew how fast disloyalty increaseth) they came from one or two, and then to three oranges; nay, at present  p.275 we often find punch made all with oranges, and not one single lemon. For the Jacobites, before the death of that immortal Prince, had, by a superstition, formed a private prayer, that, as they squeezed the orange, so might that Protestant King be squeezed to death: 5 According to that known sorcery described by Virgil, ‘Limus ut hic durescit, et haec ut cera liquescit, &c.’ (Ecl. viii. 80.)

And, thus the Romans, when they sacrificed an ox, used this kind of prayer. “As I knock down this ox, so may thou, O Jupiter, knock down our enemies.” In like manner, after King William's death, whenever a Jacobite squeezed an orange, he had a mental curse upon the “glorious memory,” and a hearty wish for power to squeeze all his Majesty's friends to death, as he squeezed that orange, which bore one of his titles, as he was Prince of Orange. This I do affirm for truth; many of that faction having confessed it to me, under an oath of secrecy; which, however, I thought it my duty not to keep, when I saw my dear country in danger. But, what better can be expected from an impious set of men, who never scruple to drink confusion to all true Protestants, under the name of Whigs? a most unchristian and inhuman practice, which, to Our great honour and comfort, was never charged upon us, even by our most malicious detractors.

The sign of two angels, hovering in the air, and with their right hands supporting a crown, is met with in several parts of this city; and hath often given me great offence: For, whether by the unskilfulness, or dangerous principles of the painters, (although I have good reasons to suspect the latter) those angels are usually drawn with such horrid countenances, that they give great offence to every loyal eye, and equal cause of triumph to the Jacobites being a most infamous reflection upon our most able and excellent ministry.

I now return to that great enormity of our city cries; most of which we have borrowed from London. I shall consider p.276 them only in a political view, as they nearly affect the peace and safety of both kingdoms; and having been originally contrived by wicked Machiavels, to bring in Popery, slavery, and arbitrary power, by defeating the Protestant Succession, and introducing the Pretender, ought, in justice, to be here laid open to the world.

About two or three months after the happy Revolution, all persons who possessed any employment, or office, in Church or State, were obliged by an Act of Parliament, to take the oaths to King William and Queen Mary: And a great number of disaffected persons, refusing to take the said oaths, from a pretended scruple of conscience, but really from a spirit of Popery and rebellion, they contrived a plot, to make the swearing to those Princes odious in the eyes of the people. To this end, they hired certain women of ill fame, but loud shrill voices, under pretence of selling fish, to go through the streets, with sieves on their heads, and cry, “Buy my soul, buy my soul;” plainly insinuating, that all those who swore to King William, were just ready to sell their souls for an employment. This cry was revived at the death of Queen Anne, and, I hear, still continues in London, with great offence to all true Protestants; but, to our great happiness, seems to be almost dropped in Dublin.

But, because I altogether contemn the displeasure and resentment of high-fliers, Tories, and Jacobites, whom I look upon to be worse even than professed Papists, I do here declare, that those evils which I am going to mention, were all brought in upon us in the worst of times, under the late Earl of Oxford's administration, during the four last years of Queen Anne's reign. That wicked minister was universally known to be a Papist in his heart. He was of a most avaricious nature, and is said to have died worth four millions, sterl. 6 besides his vast expenses in building, statues, gold Plate, jewels, and other costly rarities. He was of a mean obscure birth, from the very dregs of the people, and so illiterate, that he could hardly read a paper at the council table. I forbear to touch at his open, profane, profligate life;  p.277 because I desire not to rake into the ashes of the dead, and therefore I shall observe this wise maxim: De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

This flagitious man, in order to compass his black designs, employed certain wicked instruments (which great statesmen are never without) to adapt several London cries, in such a manner as would. best answer his ends. And, whereas it was upon grounds grievously suspected, that all places at Court were sold to the highest bidder: Certain women were employed by his emissaries, to carry fish in baskets on their heads, and bawl through the streets, “Buy my fresh places.” I must, indeed, own that other women used the same cry, who were innocent of this wicked design, and really sold their fish of that denomination to get an honest livelihood; but the rest, who were in the secret, although they carried fish in their sieves or baskets, to save appearances; yet they had likewise, a certain sign, somewhat resembling that of the freemasons, which the purchasers of places knew well enough, and were directed by the women whither they were to resort, and make their purchase. And, I remember very well, how oddly it looked, when we observed many gentlemen finely dressed, about the Court end of the town, and as far as York Buildings, where the Lord Treasurer Oxford dwelt, calling the women who cried “Buy my fresh places,” and talking to them in the corner of a street, after they understood each other's sign: But we never could observe that any fish was bought.

Some years before the cries last mentioned, the Duke of Savoy was reported to have made certain overtures to the Court of England, for admitting his eldest son by the Duchess of Orleans's daughter, to succeed to the Crown, as next heir, upon the Pretender's being rejected; and that son was immediately to turn Protestant. It was confidently reported, that great numbers of people disaffected to the then illustrious but now Royal House of Hanover, were in those measures. Whereupon another set of women were hired by the Jacobite leaders, to cry through the whole town, “Buy my Savoys, dainty Savoys, curious Savoys.” But, I cannot directly charge the late Earl of Oxford with this conspiracy, because he was not then chief Minister. However, the wicked cry still continues in London, and was brought over  p.278 hither, where it remains to this day, and in my humble opinion, a very offensive sound to every true Protestant, who is old enough to remember those dangerous times.

During the Ministry of that corrupt and Jacobite earl above-mentioned, the secret pernicious design of those in power, was to sell Flanders to France; the consequence of which, must have been the infallible ruin of the States General, and would have opened the way for France to obtain that universal monarchy, after which they have so long aspired; to which the British dominions must next, after Holland, have been compelled to submit, and the Protestant religion would be rooted out of the world.

A design of this vast importance, after long consultation among the Jacobite grandees, with the Earl of Oxford at their head, was at last determined to be carried on by the same method with the former; it was therefore again put in practice; but the conduct of it was chiefly left to chosen men, whose voices were louder and stronger than those of the other sex. And upon this occasion, was first instituted in London, that famous cry of “FLOUNDERS.” But the criers were particularly directed to pronounce the word “Flaunders,” and not “Flounders”. For, the country which we now by corruption call Flanders, is in its true orthography spelt Flaunders, as may be obvious to all who read old English books. I say, from hence begun that thundering cry, which hath ever since stunned the ears of all London, made so many children fall into fits, and women miscarry; “Come buy my fresh flaunders, curious flaunders, charming flaunders, alive, alive, ho;” which last words can with no propriety of speech be applied to fish manifestly dead, (as I observed before in herrings and salmon) but very justly to ten provinces, which contain many millions of living Christians. And the application is still closer, when we consider that all the people were to be taken like fishes in a net; and, by assistance of the Pope, who sets up to be the universal Fisher of Men, the whole innocent nation, was, according to our common expression, to be “laid as flat as a flounder.”

I remember, myself, a particular crier of flounders in London, who arrived at so much fame for the loudness of his voice, that he had the honour to be mentioned upon that  p.279 account, in a comedy. He hath disturbed me many a morning, before he came within fifty doors of my lodging. And, although I were not in those days so fully apprized of the designs, which our common enemy had then in agitation, yet, I know not how, by a secret impulse, young as I was, I could not forbear conceiving a strong dislike against the fellow; and often said to myself, “This cry seems to be forged in the Jesuits' school: Alas, poor England! I am grievously mistaken if there be not some Popish Plot at the bottom.” I communicated my thoughts to an intimate friend, who reproached me with being too visionary in my speculations: But, it proved afterwards, that I conjectured right. And I have often since reflected, that if the wicked faction could have procured only a thousand men, of as strong lungs as the fellow I mentioned, none can tell how terrible the consequences might have been, not only to these two Kingdoms, but over all Europe, by selling Flanders to France. And yet these cries continue unpunished, both in London and Dublin, although I confess, not with equal vehemency or loudness, because the reason for contriving this desperate plot, is, to our great felicity, wholly ceased.

It is well known, that the majority of the British House of Commons in the last years of Queen Anne's reign, were in their hearts directly opposite to the Earl of Oxford's pernicious measures; which put him under the necessity of bribing them with salaries. Whereupon he had again recourse to his old politics. And accordingly, his emissaries were very busy in employing certain artful women of no good life or conversation, (as it was fully proved before Justice Peyton) to cry that vegetable commonly called celery, through the town. These women differed from the common criers of that herb, by some private mark which I could never learn; but the matter was notorious enough, and sufficiently talked of, and about the same period was the cry of celery brought over into this kingdom. But since there is not at this present, the least occasion to suspect the loyalty of our criers upon that article, I am content that it may still be tolerated.

I shall mention but one cry more, which hath any reference to politics; but is indeed, of all others the most insolent, as well as treasonable, under our present happy  p.280 Establishment. I mean that of turnups; not of turnips, according to the best orthography, but absolutely turnups. Although this cry be of an older date than some of the preceding enormities, for it began soon after the Revolution; yet was it never known to arrive at so great a height, as during the Earl of Oxford's power. Some people, (whom I take to be private enemies) are, indeed, as ready as myself to profess their disapprobation of this cry, on pretence that it began by the contrivance of certain old procuresses, who kept houses of ill-fame, where lewd women met to draw young men into vice. And this they pretend to prove by some words in the cry; because, after the crier had bawled out, “Turn ups, ho, buy my dainty turnups,” he would sometimes add the two following verses:—

“Turn up the mistress, and turn up the maid, And turn up the daughter, and be not afraid.”

This, say some political sophists, plainly shews that there can be nothing further meant in this infamous cry, than an invitation to lewdness, which indeed, ought to be severely punished in all well-regulated Governments; but cannot be fairly interpreted as a crime of State. But, I hope, we are not so weak and blind to be deluded at this time of day, with such poor evasions. I could, if it were proper, demonstrate the very time when those two verses were composed, and name the author, who was no other than the famous Mr. Swan, so well known for his talent at quibbling, and was as virulent a Jacobite as any in England. Neither could he deny the fact, when he was taxed for it in my presence by Sir Harry Dutton-Colt, and Colonel Davenport, at the Smyrna coffee-house, on the loth of June, 1701. Thus it appears to a demonstration, that those verses were only a blind to conceal the most dangerous designs of that party, who from the first years after the happy Revolution, used a cant way of talking in their clubs after this manner: “We hope, to see the cards shuffled once more, and another king TURN UP trump”: And, “When shall we meet over a dish of TURNUPS?” The same term of art was used in their plots against the government, and in their treasonable letters writ in ciphers, and deciphered by the famous Dr. Wallis, as you may read in the trials of those times. This I thought fit to  p.281 set forth at large, and in so clear a light, because the Scotch and French authors have given a very different account of the word TURNUP, but whether out of ignorance or partiality I shall not decree; because I am sure, the reader is convinced by my discovery. It is to be observed, that this cry was sung in a particular manner by fellows in disguise, to give notice where those traitors were to meet, in order to concert their villainous designs.

I have no more to add upon this article, than an humble proposal, that those who cry this root at present in our streets of Dublin, may be compelled by the justices of the peace, to pronounce turnip, and not turnup; for, I am afraid, we have still too many snakes in our bosom; and it would be well if their cellars were sometimes searched, when the owners least expect it; for I am not out of fear that latet anguis in herba.

Thus, we are zealous in matters of small moment, while we neglect those of the highest importance. I have already made it manifest, that all these cries were contrived in the worst of times, under the ministry of that desperate statesman, Robert, late Earl of Oxford, and for that very reason ought to be rejected with horror, as begun in the reign of Jacobites, and may well be numbered among the rags of Popery and treason: Or if it be thought proper, that these cries must continue, surely they ought to be only trusted in the hands of true Protestants, who have given security to the government.

[Having already spoken of many abuses relating to signposts, I cannot here omit one more, because it plainly relates to politics; and is, perhaps, of more dangerous consequence than any of the city cries, because it directly tends to destroy the succession. It is the sign of his present Majesty King George the Second, to be met with in many streets; and yet I happen to be not only the first, but the only, discoverer of this audacious instance of Jacobitism. And I am confident, that, if the justices of the peace would please to make a strict inspection, they might find, in all such houses, before which those signs are hung up in the manner I have observed, that the landlords were malignant Papists, or, which is worse, notorious Jacobites. Whoever views those signs, may read, over his Majesty's head, the following letters and ciphers,  p.282 G. R. II., which plainly signifies George, King the Second, and not King George the Second, or George the Second, King; but laying the point after the letter G, by which the owner of the house manifestly shews, that he renounces his allegiance to King George the Second, and allows him to be only the second king, inuendo, that the Pretender is the first king; and looking upon King George to be only a kind of second king, or viceroy, till the Pretender shall come over and seize the kingdom. I appeal to all mankind, whether this be a strained or forced interpretation of the inscription, as it now stands in almost every street; whether any decipherer would make the least doubt or hesitation to explain it as I have done; whether any other Protestant country would endure so public an instance of treason in the capital city from such vulgar conspirators; and, lastly, whether Papists and Jacobites of great fortunes and quality may not probably stand behind the curtain in this dangerous, open, and avowed design against the government. But I have performed my duty; and leave the reforming of these abuses to the wisdom, the vigilance, the loyalty, and activity of my superiors.] 7

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Title statement

Title (uniform): An examination of certain abuses, corruptions, and enormities in the city of Dublin

Author: Jonathan Swift

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Electronic edition compiled by: Benjamin Hazard

Funded by: University College, Cork and The Higher Education Authority via the CELT Project.

Edition statement

2. Second draft, with additional bibliographic details.

Extent: 8175 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College Cork.

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2004

Date: 2010

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E700001-011

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Editions and secondary literature

  1. An excellent bibliography covering many aspects of Jonathan Swift's Life, his writings, and criticism, compiled by Lee Jaffe, is available at http://www.jaffebros.com/lee/gulliver/bib/index.html.
  2. J. Bowles Daly (ed.), Ireland in the days of Dean Swift, Irish tracts 1720–1734. (London 1887).
  3. Frederick Ryland (ed.), Swift's Journal to Stella, A.D. 1710–1713. (London 1897).
  4. Temple Scott (ed.), A tale of a tub, and other early works. (London 1897).
  5. Frederick Falkiner, Essays on the portraits of Swift: Swift and Stella. (London 1908).
  6. C. M. Webster, Swift's Tale of a Tub compared with Earlier Satires of the Puritans. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 47/1 (March 1932) 171–178.
  7. Stephen L. Gwynn, The life and friendships of Dean Swift. (London 1933).
  8. Stanley Lane-Poole (ed.), Selections from the prose writings of Jonathan Swift with a preface and notes. (London 1933).
  9. Ricardo Quintana, The mind and art of Jonathan Swift. (Oxford 1936).
  10. Louis A. Landa, Swift's Economic Views and Mercantilism, English Literary History 10/4 (December 1943) 310–335.
  11. R. Wyse Jackson, Swift and his circle. (Dublin 1945).
  12. Herbert Davis, The Satire of Jonathan Swift (New York 1947).
  13. Martin Price, Swift's rhetorical art. (New York 1953).
  14. Robert C. Elliott, Swift and Dr Eachard. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 69/5 (December 1954) 1250–1257.
  15. John Middleton Murry, Jonathan Swift: A Critical Biography. (London 1954).
  16. John Middleton Murry, Swift. (London: Published for the British Council and the National Book League 1955).
  17. Kathleen Williams, Swift and the age of compromise. (London 1959).
  18. John M. Bullitt, Jonathan Swift and the anatomy of satire: a study of satiric technique. (Harvard 1961).
  19. Harold Williams (ed.), The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift. (Oxford 1963–65).
  20. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Jonathan Swift: essays on his satire and other studies. (New York 1964).
  21. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Gulliver's Travels. [based on the Faulkner edition, Dublin 1735] (Oxford 1965).
  22. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Swift: poetical works. (New York 1967).
  23. R. B. McDowell, 'Swift as a political thinker'. In: Roger Joseph McHugh and Philip Edwards, Jonathan Swift: 1667–1967, a Dublin tercentenary tribute (Dublin 1967). 176–186.
  24. Brian Vickers (ed.), The world of Jonathan Swift: essays for the tercentenary. (Oxford 1968).
  25. Kathleen Williams, Jonathan Swift. (London 1968).
  26. Morris Golden, The self observed: Swift, Johnson, Wordsworth. (Baltimore 1972.)
  27. Jane M. Snyder, The meaning of 'Musaeo contingens cuncta lepore', Lucretius 1.934, Classical World 66 (1973) 330–334.
  28. Claude Julien Rawson, Gulliver and the gentle reader: studies in Swift and our time. (London and Boston 1973).
  29. A. L. Rowse, Jonathan Swift, major prophet. (London 1975).
  30. Alexander Norman Jeffares, Jonathan Swift. (London 1976).
  31. Clive T. Probyn, Jonathan Swift: the contemporary background. (Manchester 1978).
  32. Clive T. Probyn (ed.), The art of Jonathan Swift. (London 1978).
  33. Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The man, his works, and the age (three volumes). (London 1962–83).
  34. David M. Vieth (ed.), Essential articles for the study of Jonathan Swift's poetry. (Hamden 1984).
  35. James A. Downie, Jonathan Swift, political writer. (London 1985).
  36. Frederik N. Smith (ed.), The genres of Gulliver's travels. (London 1990).
  37. James Kelly, 'Jonathan Swift and the Irish Economy in the 1720s', Eighteenth-century Ireland: Iris an dá chultúr 6 (1991) 7–36.
  38. Joseph McMinn (ed.), Swift's Irish pamphlets. (Gerrards Cross 1991).
  39. Robert Mahony, Jonathan Swift: the Irish identity. (Yale 1995).
  40. Christopher Fox, Walking Naboth's vineyards: new studies of Swift (University of Notre Dame Ward-Philips lectures in English language and literature, Vol. 13). (Notre Dame/Indiana 1995).
  41. Claude Rawson (ed.), Jonathan Swift: a collection of critical essays. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jeresey, 1995).
  42. Michael Stanley, Famous Dubliners: W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone, Oscar Wilde, Edward Carson. (Dublin 1996).
  43. Daniel Carey, 'Swift among the freethinkers'. Eighteenth-century Ireland: Iris an dá chultúr, 12 (1997) 89–99.
  44. Victoria Glendinning, Jonathan Swift. (London 1998).
  45. Aileen Douglas; Patrick Kelly; Ian Campbell Ross, (eds.). Locating Swift: essays from Dublin on the 250th anniversary of the death of Jonathan Swift, 1667–1745. (Dublin 1998).
  46. Bruce Arnold, Swift: an illustrated life. (Dublin 1999).
  47. Nigel Wood (ed.), Jonathan Swift. (London and New York 1999).
  48. Christopher J. Fauske, Jonathan Swift and the Church of Ireland, 1710–24 (Portland/Oregon 2001).
  49. David George Boyce; Robert Eccleshall; Vincent Geoghegan (eds.), Political discourse in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Ireland. (Basingstoke and New York 2001).
  50. Ann Cline Kelly, Jonathan Swift and popular culture: myth, media and the man. (Basingstoke 2002).
  51. Dirk F. Passmann and Heinz J. Vienken, The library and reading of Jonathan Swift: a bio-bibliographical handbook. 4 vols. (Frankfurt 2003).
  52. Mark McDayter, 'The haunting of St James's Library: librarians, literature, and The Battle of the Books'. Huntington Library Quarterly, 66:1–2 (2003) 1–26.
  53. Frank T. Boyle, 'Jonathan Swift' [A companion to satire]. In: Ruben Quintero (ed.), A companion to satire (Oxford 2007) 196–211.
  54. Harry Whitaker, C. U. M. Smith and Stanley Finger (eds.), Explorations of the brain, mind and medicine in the writings of Jonathan Swift. Springer (US) 2007.
  55. Leo Damrosch, Jonathan Swift: his life and his world. Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History. New Haven: Yale University Press [2013].

The edition used in the digital edition

‘An examination of certain abuses, corruptions, and enormities in the city of Dublin’ (1905). In: The prose works of Jonathan Swift D. D.‍ Ed. by Temple Scott. Vol. 7: Historical and political tracts—Irish. London: George Bell and Sons, pp. 263–282.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Temple Scott},
  title 	 = {An examination of certain abuses, corruptions, and enormities in the city of Dublin},
  booktitle 	 = {The prose works of Jonathan Swift D. D.},
  editor 	 = {Temple Scott},
  address 	 = {London},
  publisher 	 = {George Bell and Sons},
  date 	 = {1905},
  volume 	 = {7: Historical and political tracts—Irish},
  pages 	 = {263–282}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The text consists of Temple Scott's edition on pages 263–282 of volume 7 of his work.

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Correction: The text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. Editorial notes are tagged note type="auth" n="".

Quotation: Direct speech is marked q.

Hyphenation: The editorial practice of the hard-copy editor has been retained.

Segmentation: div0=the whole text, preceded by Introduction in an div. Paragraphs are marked; page-breaks are marked pb n="".

Interpretation: Names of persons are not tagged. Terms for cultural and social roles are not tagged. Text in languages other than English is marked.

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The n attribute of each text in this corpus carries a unique identifying number for the whole text. The title of the text is held as the first head element within each text.

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Profile description

Creation: By Jonathan Swift

Date: 1732

Language usage

  • The whole text is in English. (en)
  • Some phrases are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: political; tract; prose; 18c

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2019-06-05: Changes made to div0 type. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2010-08-04: Conversion script run; header updated, file parsed. New SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2008-09-23: Keywords added; file validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2008-07-24: Header modified. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2008-07-24: Value of div0 "type" attribute modified, additions to bibliography made, content of 'langUsage' revised; minor modifications made to header. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2005-08-25: Normalised language codes and edited langUsage for XML conversion. (ed. Julianne Nyhan)
  7. 2005-08-04T14:20:34+0100: File converted to XML. (ed. Peter Flynn)
  8. 2004-03-05: Minor modifications to header/file; HTML file created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  9. 2004-03-01: File parsed. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  10. 2004-02-28: Header constructed; bibliography compiled, structural mark-up inserted and verified, text proofed. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  11. 2004-02-17: Text scanned and checked. (Text capture Benjamin Hazard)

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  1. Swift was born at No. 7, Hoey's Court, near the Castle grounds. 🢀

  2. A sort of sugar-cakes in the shape of hearts. 🢀

  3. A new name for a modern periwig with a long black tail, and for its owner; now in fashion, Dec. 1, 1733. 🢀

  4. Referring to the last four years of Anne's reign, when Harley was minister. The expression was a Whig one. 🢀

  5. “The squeezing of the orange” was literally a toast among the disaffected in the reign of William III. 🢀

  6. The author's meaning is just contrary to the literal sense in the character of Lord Oxford; while he is in truth sneering at the splendour of Houghton, and the supposed wealth of Sir Robert Walpole🢀

  7. The paragraph here printed in square brackets did not appear in the original Dublin edition of 1732. 🢀


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