Admittedly, Swift was not an easy man with whom to get on with, aggravating his church superior, Archbishop William King of Dublin, himself a truculent steward prone to picking fights.
Arbuckle was an equally thorny character who made enemies easily. He found it necessary to leave the University of Glasgow in a hurry when, as a student, he was involved in an altercation concerning the election of the rector. He retreated to Dublin, where he fell into favor with Robert, Viscount Molesworth of Swords—himself described by one acquaintance as “waspish” and prone to anticlerical outbursts.
These traits helped Molesworth to remain close to that most volatile and barbed of personalities, the freethinker John Toland. He promulgated a kind of literary subterfuge that Swift mocked in a series of texts, notably An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, in which he mentioned Toland by name.
A selection of personality clashes in Enlightenment Dublin.
Quote from Michael Brown (2012) “The Biter Bitten: Ireland and the Rude Enlightenment” in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Volume 45, Number 3 (JSTOR)
To see just how rude it could get, see the post on James Arbuckle.
James Arbuckle was born in Belfast in 1700 and died in Dublin on 16th January 1742. An obituary in Faulkner’s Dublin Journal described him as
remarkable for his learning, political writings, and in some ingenious and witty pieces in the poetical way…a sincere friend, an agreeable companion.
There is evidence Arbuckle was childhood friends with John Smith and Thomas Drennan. He studied in the University of Glasgow, obtaining an MA in 1720, and studying for the ministry up to 1724. He was a poet, publishing a number of works including Snuff (1717), Epistle to the Right Hon. Thomas Earl of Hadington, on the Death of Joseph Addison, Esq. (1719) and, on the beauties of the Clyde, Glotta (1721). A 1719 letter in verse from poet Allan Ramsey to Arbuckle survives (see The Poems of Allan Ramsey, Vol.2, p. 375), as do verses addressed to Ramsey by “James Arbuckle” (The Poems of Allan Ramsey, Vol.1, p. clxxiii).
While at Glasgow he acted as an intermediary between the students, who wanted to restore their right to elect the rector, and the Viscount Molesworth, who lent his support to the students. He also may have assisted John Smith in writing A Short Account of the Late Treatment of the Students of the University of G[lasgo]w (1722), published in Dublin to drum up support for the Glasgow students. In 1722 Arbuckle was also involved in a Glasgow dispute over non-Subscribing ministers in Belfast, defending them from “allegations…derogatory to the Reverend Ministers” in representations made to the Synod of Ayr and Glasgow by Samuel Smith.
Continue reading “James Arbuckle and the Molesworth Circle”