‘Whole Swarms of Bastards’: A Modest Proposal, the Discourse of Economic Improvement and Protestant Masculinity in Ireland, 1720–1738
This chapter analyses how masculinity figures in the attempts to claim and legitimate authority in the contested space of eighteenth-century Ireland. Focusing on Irish economic discourses and the ideology of improvement in the period from 1720 to 1738, the chapter argues that economic underperformance threatens the Anglo-Irish self-image of effective leadership and governance. It shows how Ascendancy masculinity was challenged by its own imaginings of agricultural sterility, Catholic super-fecundity, and female unruliness. The essay reads Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1729) as a satiric response to a contemporary body of pamphlet literature, but also as an influence on economist Samuel Madden, whose Reflections and Resolutions Proper for the Gentlemen of Ireland (1738) provides an example of satire influencing the very forms it parodies.