Jonathan Swift’s ‘two-pronged forks’ for auction

Cutlery belonging to Anglo-Irish satirist and a portrait of Obama ancestor among mememtos of Ascendancy in fine art sale

A set of forks which belonged to Jonathan Swift have green-stained ivory handles which  carry the initials of the writer and his family coat of arms

A set of forks which belonged to Jonathan Swift have green-stained ivory handles which carry the initials of the writer and his family coat of arms

 

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the renowned Anglo-Irish satirist and Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, used his quill to deadly effect to puncture pomposity. His infamous essay, A Modest Proposal was intended “for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick”. He suggested the children be fattened up and sold as food to the rich – “offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter”.

How appropriate, then, that cutlery which belonged to the sharp-tongued writer has turned up at auction (see right, above).

A set of his “steel, two-pronged forks, each handle with green stained ivory, engraved with the initials JS and Jonathan Swift’s coat of arms (see right) in the original crimson morocco-bound case” , estimated at €2,000-€3,000 is in the Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers sale on Wednesday.

Obama’s Irish relations The auction also includes items associated with the Anglo-Irish de Montmorency family of Castle Morres (a Co Kilkenny “Big House” demolished in the 1970s). According to the catalogue, the family is “distantly related to President Barack Obama” through a marriage to Bishop John Kearney – the American president’s great-great-great grand uncle.

Bishop Kearney was a first cousin of the Moneygall, Co Offaly, shoemaker, John Kearney whose son, Falmouth Kearney, emigrated to America and is said to be the maternal great-great-great grandfather of President Barack Obama.

A portrait, in poor condition, of Bishop Kearney (a provost of Trinity College and the Bishop of Ossory until his death in 1813), formerly owned by the late Jane Avril de Montmorency, has an estimate of €1,750-€2,500.

Another member of the de Montmorency family to achieve distinction was Geoffrey Fitz-Hervey de Montmorency (1876 – 1955) who served as a colonial administrator during the last years of the British Raj in India. He was “the younger son of the Venerable Waller de Montmorency of Castle Morres, Co Kilkenny” and educated at Malvern College and Pembroke College, Cambridge. In 1921-22 he was chief secretary to the Prince of Wales (subsequently King Edward VIII) on his tour of India and later served as Governor of the Punjab.

Lot 672 in the auction, estimated at €2,200-€2,800, includes the uniforms he wore as Governor of the Punjab; rare photographs; and various mementoes of imperial life.

The auction also includes a “late 19th Century Native American” costume including a hide Poncho War Shirt, “with original hand-painted native designs”; hide leggings; an original-hand painted and beaded Head Dress with feathers; and a “sheep hide, “bead-decorated purse”. The costume was, apparently, collected by a member of the de Montmorency family during his travels. It’s the ultimate, authentic outfit for a “Cowboys & Indians” themed fancy-dress party and has an estimate of €4,000-€6,000.

Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, The Chatsworth Fine Art Sale, The Old Cinema, Chatsworth Street, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny on Wednesday, February 22nd-24th and the auction will take place at the same location on February 25th. For further details and online viewing and bidding arrangements see fonsiemealy.ie

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