“A Biographical Sketch of the life and works of the great English satirist and essayist, Jonathan Swift, a writer for all seasons and for all times and generations”
My dear friends and thinkers, and readers and fellow lovers of literature and you men and woman of all thoughts, ideas and opinions, I bid and ask you to join with me in another voyage of intellectual discovery where those who may wish to engage in critical thinking and do not engage in and accept media lies, falsehoods and political code words, can join in the mutual effort to gain and attain truth and facts.
Today I have the privilege and honor of speaking of and presenting the life and works of one of the greatest English writers and one of her greatest essayists and satirists, the author of many of the greatest literary treasures of the world, books and works which once begun, cannot be put down and whichengage our minds and souls and spirits as few works of prose can and will do.
I am a great fan of English and American literature, both poets such as Keats, Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, Whitman and A.E. Housman and novelists such as Dickens, Thackeray, Kipling, Melville, Conrad and Austen. When I read these writers, all raise my mind and consciousness to a different level and I acquire in reading them and knowing these authors a different level of understanding. In coming to know them I am lifted up intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I will never regret the time I have spent reading them and being exposed to them and absorbing their greatness, despite our American society telling us on a constant basis that time spent with them has no practical value as producing no income. A life without this great literature is a life cheated and wasted of what these greatest of minds have to offer us.
Jonathan Swift was born in 1667 and died in 1745. He was a satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and Angelican clergymen and was the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. He is best remembered for such works as A Tale of a Tub, 1704; An Argument against Abolishing Christianity, 1712; Gulliver’s Travels, 1726; and A Modest Proposal, 1729. He was born in Dublin. His father died in Dublin several months before Swift was born. His mother returned to England after his birth, leaving him in the care of his uncle, Godwin Swift. He was sent to Kilkenny College at age six and graduated in 1682 when he was 15. He attended Dublin University in 1682 where the curriculum was dominated by logic, philosophy and debate. He received his BA in 1686. In 1688 political troubles forced him to leave for England where he obtained a position as secretary and personal assistant to Sir William Temple, an English diplomat. Swift became a tutor for Esther Johnson, age eight, and maintained some sort of relationship with her for the rest of her life. In 1690 Swift left Temple’s employ for Ireland because of his health but returned to England. During his second stay with Temple, he received his MA from Oxford in 1692. He was appointed the prebend of Kilroot in the Diocese of Connor in 1694. There he was not happy as he was not near the centers of power and influence. Swift returned to Temple’s service in 1696 and remained there until Temple’s death. During this time, he wrote The Battle of the Books, which was not published until 1704. Temple died in 1699 and Swift stayed in England to complete his memoirs. The work made enemies in Temple’s family.
He approached King William and obtained the living of Laracor and the prebend of Dunlavin in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Swift took up residence in Trim, County Meath, after 1700 where he wrote many of his works. In 1702 he received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Trinity College, Dublin. During his visit to England in these years he published A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books.
Swift became active politically in these years. He hoped his services would be rewarded with a church position in England, but Queen Anne took a dislike to him and prevented this. He did, however, secure the position of the deanery of St. Patrick’s. Once in Ireland he began to turn his pamphleteering skills in support of Irish causes, producing his most significant works including Proposal for Universal Use of Irish Manufacture, 1720, Drapier’s Letters, 1724 and A Modest Proposal, 1729. During these years he began writing his masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels, a work that reflects his political experiences of the preceding decade. This work was an immediate hit, with three printings, and in 1727 French, German and Dutch translations appeared.
Swift returned to England in 1727 when he received word that Esther Johnson was dying. Her death in 1728 was a great blow and tragedy for Swift. There were many deaths in Swift’s life from 1731 to 1738, and in 1745 Swift, nearly 80, died.
I first was introduced to Swift and read his works in my required English Lit course. I read with great pleasure and instruction his greatest work, Gulliver’s Travels. It is a wonderful satire. I also later enjoyed his work The Battle of the Books, which presents the same issue of today: Are we to read and value only old books by Caucasian European writers, or make room for the new and modern. Finally, there is one of his great satires: A Modest Proposal, where he suggests a somewhat macabre and cruel solution to the Irish population problem by boiling the Irish children, causing their death. Swift was a great thinker, a great writer and most of all, a great satirist. I have never forgotten reading him to this day and adults, college students, and all my dear children, do not waste a second going to your local bookstore or Amazon and getting hold of the books of this great writer. You will not regret doing so and will be rewarded by reading the works of one of the greatest of minds of one the leading world thinkers.