Irish Times
16 June 2012

Jonathan Swift’s letters at Sotheby’s

SOTHEBY’S IS to auction “important and extremely rare” Irish historical papers in London next month. Three volumes of original letters relating to the government of Ireland in the 18th century are estimated to make between £80,000 and £120,000 (€100,000-€150,000).

Many of the letters were written to Lionel Cranfield Sackville – the first duke of Dorset and lord lieutenant of Ireland – and shed light on the difficulties encountered by the British administration trying to govern the country.

Topics include: the emergence of Henry Grattan’s Irish Patriot Party; support in Ireland for the American Revolution; the lawlessness of Tipperary where “even the common operations of justice cannot be carried into execution”; and less weighty matters such as the complaint, by an archbishop, about the dreadful wine served in Dublin Castle.

Seven letters written by Jonathan Swift between 1732 and 1736, while he was dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, are estimated at £40,000-£60,000 (€50,000-€70,000).

The papers of Sen James Douglas, including letters by Michael Collins relating to the drafting of the constitution of the Irish Free State and the proposed Divorce Bill of 1925, are estimated at £25,000-£35,000 (€30,000-€40,000). Douglas (1887-1954) was a Co Tyrone-born Quaker and businessman best-known for managing the Irish White Cross, a charity established during the War of Independence to distribute funds raised for “relief in Ireland” by sympathisers in the US. He was appointed by Michael Collins to draft the Irish Free State’s constitution and served a number of terms in Seanad Éireann.

The documents will go on view in Dublin on June 28th at Sotheby’s, 16 Molesworth Street, from 10.30am-4.30pm. The auction will take place in London on July 10th

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