Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), pseudonym of Isaac Bickerstaff
Irish author and journalist, dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral (Dublin) from 1713, the foremost prose satirist in English language.
Swift became insane in his last years, but until his death he was known as Dublin's foremost citizen. Among Swift's best known works is Gulliver's Travels (1726), where the stories of Gulliver's experiences among dwarfs and giants are best known.
Swift was born in Dublin. He studied at Kilkenny Grammar School (1674-82), Trinity College in Dublin (1682-89), receiving his B.A. in 1868 and M.A. in 1692. When the anti-Catholic Revolution of the year 1688 aroused reaction in Irland, Swift moved in security to the household of Sir William Temple at Moor Park, Surrey, in England. He worked there as a secretary (1689-95, 1696-99). In 1695 he was ordained in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Dublin. After Temple's death in 1699 Swift returned to Ireland, making also several trips to London and gaining fame with his essays. Throughout the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14) Swift was one of the central characters in the literary and political life of London.
From 1695 to 1696 Swift
was vicar of Kilroot, Laracor from 1700, and prebendary of St. Patrick's
Cathedral, Dublin (1701).
Between the years 1707 and 1709 he was emissary for the Irish clergy in London. Swift contributed to the 'Bickerstaff Papers' and to the Tattler in 1708-09. He was cofounder of the Scriblerus Club, which included such member as Pope, Gay, Congreve and Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford.
In 1710 Swift tried to open a political career among Whigs but changed his party and took over the Tory journal The Examiner. With the accession of George I, the Tories lost political power and Swift withdrew to Ireland. From 1713 to 1742 he was dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Swift died in Dublin on October 19, 1745.
wrote a great deal of prose, chiefly in the form of pamphlets. His religious
writing is little read today.
Swift's most famous works include:
- THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS (1697), exploring the merits of the ancients and the moderns in literature.
- A TALE OF A TUB (1704), a religious satire.
- ARGUMENTS AGAINST ABOLISHING CHRISTIANITY (1708), also a
religious satire, where the narrator argues for the preservation of the Christian religion as a social necessity.
- DRAPIER'S LETTERS (1724), against the monopoly granted by the English government to William Wood to provide the Irish with copper coinage.
- GULLIVER´S TRAVELS (1726) Defoe's novel about Robinson Crusoe had
appearared in 1719 and in the same vein Swift makes
Lemuel Gulliver, a surgeon and a sea captain, recount his adventures. In part one, Gulliver is wrecked on an island where
human beings are six inches tall. The Lilliputians have wars, and conduct clearly laughable with their self-importance and vanities
- these human follies only reduced into a miniature scale. Gulliver's second voyage takes him to Brobdingnag. He meets giants
who are practical but do not understand abstractions. In the third voyage contemporary scientist are held up for ridicule:
science is shown to be futile unless it is applicable to human betterment. Gulliver travels to the flying island of Laputa and the
nearby continent and capital of Lagado. There he meets pedants obsessed with their own special field and utterly ignorant of
the rest of the life. He also meets Struldbrughs, who are immortal and, as a result, utterly miserable. In the fourth part Gulliver
visits the land of Houyhnhnms, where horses are intelligent but human beings are not. The horses are served with degenerate
creatures called Yahoos, demonstrating that human race would destroy itself without divine aid.
- A MODEST PROPOSAL (1729), where the narrator with horrifying logic
recommends, that Irish poverty can solved by the breeding up their infants as food for the rich. When Peter O'Toole read it -
for some reason - in the reopening of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin in 1984, several members from the audience departed.
- Other traveller´s tales: HOMER´S ODYSSEY
MARCO POLO´S TRAVELS
DANIEL DEFOE´S ROBINSON CRUSOE
ADVENTURES OF BARON MÜNCHAUSEN by Rudolf Eric Raspe (1737-1794)
The Life of Jonathan Swift by Henry Craik (1882)
The Mind and Art of Jonathan Swift by Ricardo
Swift: An Introduction by Ricardo Quintano (1955)
Swift and Ireland by Oliver W. Ferguson (1962)
Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age by Irvin Ehrenpreis (1962-83, 3 vols.)
Jonathan Swift by David Nokes (1985)
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