"It is Dr. Elias's notes which make this edition so important. . . . He is a meticulous scholar, not prepared to take second-hand information. Thus the haphazard guesses about the lives and relationships of various figures of 18th century Ireland, made years ago but unquestionably repeated time after time, are here corrected on the basis of fact. The second volume of this edition is made up entirely of Dr. Elias's commentary and notes, and it proves to be not only an invaluable garnering of cultural and historical facts about mid18th century Ireland, but a witty and entertaining read in its own right. There is no doubt that Dr. Elias has set an editorial standard for those involved in the study of Irish 18th century writing which no future editor can afford to ignore."
Originally appearing in three volumes between 1748 and 1754, the Memoirs have been periodically reprinted and are often quoted by scholars in different disciplines. Until now, however, the work has not received serious editorial attention. In this edition, A. C. Elias Jr. has established for the first time a critical text based on the earliest and most definitive printings, which Pilkington and her son oversaw. For the first time there are explanatory notes that identify the many veiled or anonymous figures in the text and establish the reliability of each anecdote about them. Other new features include an index, a census of early editions, a full bibliography, and a chronology. This edition is produced in a two-volume format, the first comprising the actual Memoirs, and the second the commentary.
Readers are at last in a position to understand exactly what Pilkington is saying in her Memoirs--and what she may be suppressing in the process. They can now approach Pilkington's Swift with confidence at each step, and appreciate her rendering of the many other real-life personages who populate her disarmingly breezy narrative: bishops, scientists, and statesmen; authors, artists, and printers; and assorted rogues, wits, bawds, and eccentrics.
More than any other early-eighteenth-century woman writing in English, says Elias, Pilkington remains accessible to readers today. As a portrayal of Swift, as the recollections of a woman making her way in the male-dominated world of letters, as a source of Irish and English cultural and historical minutiae, and as a delightfully gossipy poke at social pretense, Pilkington's Memoirs are a classic of her era.
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