John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork and Orrery by Isaac Seeman

John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork and Orrery (1707-1762). Portrait by Isaac Seemen (died 1751). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork, 5th Earl of Orrery, and 2nd Baron Marston FRS (2 January 1707 - 16 November 1762)[1] was an Irish poet and prose author.


Boyle was born on 2 January 1707, and was the only son of Charles Boyle, 4th earl of Orrery.[2]

Like his father, he was educated at Christ Church, Oxford.[2] In 1728 Orrery married in Lady Harriet Hamilton, 3rd daughter of the Earl of Orkney, and after her death he married, in 1738, Miss Hamilton, of Caledon, in Tyrone.[3]

He took some part in parliamentary debates, chiefly in opposition to Robert Walpole.[2]

He succeeded as 5th earl in 1731. His father, from some grudge, left his library to Christ Church, specially assigning as his reason his son's want of taste for literature. According to Samuel Johnson, the real reason was that the son would not allow his wife to associate with the father's mistress. The passage in the will seems to have stimulated the son to try to disprove the charge, and he has succeeded in making his name remembered as the friend of Swift and Pope, and afterwards of Johnson.[2]

His acquaintance with Swift began about 1731 (apparently from an application by Swift on behalf of Mary Barber for leave to dedicate her poems to Orrery, although Swift had previously seen a good deal of his father), when Swift was already 64; and their meetings, during the few succeeding years before Swift became decrepit, were not very frequent. If we are to judge, however, from the expressions used by Swift, both in his letters to Orrery and in correspondence with others, the friendship seems to have been cordial so far as it went.[2]

In an early letter Swift hopes Orrery will be "a great example, restorer, and patron of virtue, learning, and wit;" and he writes to Alexander Pope that, next to Pope himself, he loves "no man so well." Pope, too, writes of Orrery to Swift as one 'whose praises are that precious ointment Solomon speaks of." A bond of sympathy existed between Swift and Orrery in a common hatred of Walpole's government. It was to Orrery's hand that Swift entrusted the manuscript of his Four Last Years of the Queen for delivery to Dr. King of Oxford; and Orrery was the go-between employed by Pope to get his letters from Swift. In his will Swift leaves to Orrery a portrait and some silver plate.[2]

On the other hand, there are traditional stories of contemptuous expressions used by Swift of Orrery, and these, if repeated to him, may have inspired in Orrery that dislike which made his Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift so full of rancour and grudging criticism.[2]

His Remarks on Swift, published in November 1751, attracted much attention as the earliest attempt at an account of the life of Jonathan Swift, and 7,500 copies appear to have been sold within a month.[2]

On the death, in 1753, of his kinsman, Richard Boyle, the earl of Cork and Burlington, he succeeded him as 5th earl of Cork, thus uniting the Orrery peerage to the older Cork peerage.[2]

Orrery was afterwards among those who attempted to patronise Samuel Johnson, by whom he was regarded kindly and spoken of as a man "who would have been a liberal patron if he had been rich."[3]

He died on 16 November 1762.[3]


Remarks on SwiftEdit

The Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift, published in 1751, are given in a series of letters to his son and successor, Hamilton Boyle (1730-1764), then an undergraduate at Christ Church. They are written in a stilted and affected style, and neither Lord Orrery's ability, nor his acquaintance with Swift, was such as to give much value to his Remarks.[2]

The malice which he showed made the book the subject of a bitter attack (1754) by Dr. Patrick Delany, who did something to clear Swift from the aspersions cast on him by Orrery. But the grudging praise and feeble estimate of Swift's genius shown in the Remarks are mainly due to the poverty of Orrery's own mind. He was filled with literary aspirations, and, as Berkeley said of him, "would have been a man of genius had he known how to set about it." But he had no real capacity for apprehending either the range of Swift's intellect or the meaning of his humour.[2]

Other worksEdit

He wrote some papers in the World and the Connoisseur, and various prologues and fugitive verses.[3] 2 of his poems were printed in Mary Barber's Poems on Several Occasions.[1]

His other works are: A Translation of the Letters of Pliny the Younger (2 vols. 4to, 1751). An Essay on the Life of Pliny. Memoirs of Robert Carey, Earl of Monmouth, published from the original manuscript, with preface and notes. Letters from Italy in 1754 and 1755, published after his death (with a "Life") by Rev. John Duncombe in 1774.[3]


He was made a D.C.L. of Oxford in 1743.[3]

He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1750.[3]



  • Pyrrha: The fifth ode of the first book of Horace imitated. Dublin: George Faulkner, 1742.


  • Remarks on the life and writings of Dr. Jonathan Swift. London: A. Millar, 1752; Dublin: George Faulkner, 1752; Hildesheim, Germany: G. Olms, 1968
    • (edited by João Fróes). Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press London Associated University Presses 2000
  • An Essay on the Life of Pliny (in Letters of Pliny the Younger)


  • The First Ode of the First Book of Horace. Dublin: George Faulkner, 1741.
  • Letters of Pliny the Younger. London: James Bettenham, 1752.


  • Letters from Italy, in the years of 1754 and 1755 (edited by John Duncombe). London: B. White, 1774.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[4]

See alsoEdit


  • PD-icon.svg Craik, Henry (1886) "Boyle, John (1707-1762)" in Stephen, Leslie Dictionary of National Biography 6 London: Smith, Elder, pp. 111-112 . Wikisource, Web, Apr. 1, 2020.


  1. 1.0 1.1 John Boyle, Fifth Earl of Orrery, Fifth Earl of Cork, Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive. Web, Apr. 1, 2020.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Craik, 111.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Craik, 112.
  4. Search results = au:John Boyle Orrery, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 1, 2020.

External linksEdit


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain, the Dictionary of National Biography (edited by Leslie Stephen). London: Smith, Elder, 1885-1900. Original article is at: Boyle, John (1707-1762)

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