Green’s Dictionary of Slang

swaddler n.1

also swadler
[Charles Wesley, Journal, 10 September 1747: ‘We dined with a gentleman, who explained our name to us. It seems we are beholden to Mr Cennick for it, who abounds in such like expressions as, “I curse and blaspheme all the gods in heaven, but the babe that lay in the manger, the babe that lay in Mary’s lap, the babe that lay in swaddling clouts”, &c. Hence they nicknamed him, “Swaddler, or Swaddling John”; and the word sticks to us all, not excepting the Clergy.’ Hotten (1860) adds that during the sermon, ‘an ignorant Romanist, to whom the words of the English Bible were a novelty [...] shouted out in derision “A swaddler! a swaddler!”, as if the whole story were the preacher’s invention’]

1. a Methodist.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK] ‘A Sup of good Whisky’ in Jovial Songster 135: Some Preachers will tell you to drink is bad, / I think so too – if there’s none to be had: / The Swadler will bid you drink none at all, / But while I can get it, a fig for them all.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict. 32: Swaddler – a pitiful fellow, a methodist preacher who preaches on the high road, when a number of people are assembled, his accomplices pick their pockets.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open [as cit. 1835].
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 88: swaddler A fellow who pretends to be anxious for the salvation of every body, and harangues crowds of gaping knaves and fools in the parks, or any other public place. The pickpockets generally pay him well for his efforts.
[UK]G.A. Sala A Trip to Barbary 136: Pudding-head may be either a Papist or a ‘Swaddler’.
[Aus]Mercury (Hobart, Tas.) 17 Jan. 3/2: Cardinal Dillon[...] speaks of ‘Swaddlers’ a term which has been hitherto used in the most offensive sense, by the very lowest of Irish, for Episcopal Protestants.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 315: Swaddler a Wesleyan Methodist; a name originally given to members of that body by the Irish mob; said to have originated with an ignorant Romanist, to whom the words of the English Bible were a novelty, and who, hearing one of John Wesley’s preachers mention the swaddling clothes of the Holy Infant, in a sermon on Christmas-day at Dublin, shouted out in derision, ‘A swaddler! a swaddler!’ as if the whole story were the preacher’s invention ― Southey’s Life of Wesley, II/109.

2. any type of Protestant.

[UK]Coke & Moore Life of Wesley 288: Butler and his mob were now in higher spirits than ever; they scoured the streets day and night, frequently hallooing as they went along, ‘Five pounds for a swaddler’s head!’ [F&H].
[Ire]Tipperary Free Press 10 Aug. 2/5: A powerful Catholic Sovereign would maintain [...] the administration of the laws of his realm even though their violator were a coroneted swaddler.
[UK]Academy 11 May 317: To revive Sir W. Petty’s Colony by importing Northern Presbyterians and Cornish swaddlers [F&H].
[Ire]Joyce ‘An Encounter’ Dubliners (1956) 20: We walked on, the ragged troop screaming after us ‘Swaddlers! Swaddlers!’ thinking that we were Protestants.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 323: Is he a jew or a gentile or a holy Roman or a swaddler or what the hell is he? says Ned.
[US]J. Lait Gangster Girl 160: You s’pose, Annie, that the swaddler smells somethin’.
[Ire](con. 1880–90s) S. O’Casey I Knock at the Door 242: They had boohed him, called him a swadler, or sent stones flying at his heels.
[Ire](con. 1890–1910) ‘Flann O’Brien’ Hard Life (1962) 34: You won’t find Quakers or swaddlers coming out with any of this guff about suffering.
[Ire]C. Brown Down All the Days 81: I’m no bloody swaddler!