Thursday, July 27, 2006

Trinity College, Jonathan Swift and the love of literary things

Click on photos to enlarge.

Most of us who have a degree in English fall into raptures when we enter old universities, especially their libraries.

Our group has the good fortune of staying at Trinity College Dublin, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. The library is another world, and visitors can’t take photographs, so I’ve downloaded this one, below, from the internet for you. The Book of Kells (c. AD 806) is housed in a special room in the library building (photo of a closeup of a page in the Book of Kells below the library photo, below).

Posted by Picasa Library at Trinity College

Posted by Picasa close-up of Book of Kells page Chi-Rho

In my photo of Trinity, below, you can see the building where Don and I are staying on the left. Our room looks out on tree-filled Library Square to the right. The library lies across the square from us. Hundreds if not thousands of visitors come to Trinity daily because it is such a landmark in the heart of Dublin and has a lot of historical significance. Every time I walk through the front gate to come “home” I pinch myself.

Posted by Picasa Trinity's front gate

One of Trinity’s best known alumni is Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).

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The author of Gulliver’s Travels (a bitter satire of Anglo-Irish relations) was an outspoken Irishman born in Dublin. He attended Trinity College Dublin 1682-1686 and became Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1713. While Dean, Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels and other scathing attacks on the British and Irish political establishment.

I did not know before reading about Swift in St. Patrick’s cathedral today the compassionate spirit he had.

Posted by Picasa Chairs in St. Patrick's cathedral

In addition to the remarkable stand he took against injustices (kept him from any higher position politically than Dean of the cathedral), he had this memorial (below) erected to his manservant, Alexander McGee, and upon his own death left money to found a hospital for mentally ill patients. Ironically, at the end of his life he suffered from Ménière’s disease, which led many to believe him insane.

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By the way, Don and I saw the new film “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” and highly recommend it. It is a gut-wrenching account of the “Black & Tans” – soldiers of the British government who were sent to stamp out the Irish fight for independence after WWI. If you’ve wondered about the beginnings of the Irish Republican Army, you’ll see it told in this lovely and sad film that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year.

(Another BTW, Don and I met at Trinity College in 1975. Ha, but not this Trinity College. We met at the one in Deerfield, Illinois.)


Donica said...

Wow Ruth! Thanks for bringing me a remembrance of Trinity College. I had just a few days in Dublin and enjoyed my walk through Trinity very much. The fact that you and Don met at Trinity is very cool!

See you in a few weeks!!

Ginnie said...

And for me, too! I remember being so shocked that the front gate was right on the street, almost, and then suddenly you were in this other world! The Book of Kells is one of the most fantastic things in the world to see. I love those books that let you color the designs! As always, I love all your connections, Ruth, esp. with the literary giants!

Rauf said...

I am not surprised when you pinch yourself Ruth, I would have done the same, the atmosphere is so incredibly rich.

Swift was my childhood favourite.
I used to stare at the illustrations in the book for hours.
Almost everything is connected to St. Patrick, being their patron saint. i really envy the wealth of experience you are gathering Ruth, hope your students too are getting rich.
What do the locals say about the heat this year ?

Mei Shile said...

I also remember my visit at Trinity College and I also saw the Book of Kells. I didn't know very much about Jonathan Swift ouside writing Gullivers's Travels. I will go to bed less ignorant tonight :-).

Ruth said...

Donica, I love how Trinity's campus is such a public place with a general invitation for all to come in.

See you soon!!

Ruth said...

Ginnie, thank you. A book that is 1200 years old boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Ruth said...

Rauf, I wish you could visit this place. Yes, you are right, the heat is quite unusual, and the Irish are suffering from it, as there is not as widespread air conditioning as in Michigan where heat and humidity is a way of life in the summer. They are all talking of global warming, and sadly, it is happening very quickly it seems. We've been very fortunate to have just a few showers here and there, also qutie unusual for this place.

Ruth said...

Mei Shile, Swift is now someone I will research more, because I am so impressed with his heart, and the way he put his influence and publications toward helping people.

Don said...

The photo of the library is beautiful, but to stand there and see the grandeur and actually smell the ancient texts is in itself worth the cost of the trip! It actually reminded me of the second floor of your parents house!
As usual Ruth, your artistic choices of images is impeccable.

Ruth said...

Don, I had forgotten how LONG the Long Room is! I'm so glad we stood there together.