Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jonathan Swift Biography

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Jonathan Swift was an essayist, satirist, poet, Catholic priest, and pamphleteer, first for the Whig political party, and then the Tories.

He was Irish, and he was born and died in Dublin, but his parents were English. They were royalists who had lost all their land during the English Civil War (blame Cromwell). They then moved to Ireland to work as lawyers, but his father died before he was born, and his mother went back to England, leaving him with an uncle, Godwin Swift. His family was related to many famous writers, such as Sir Walter Raleigh.

He went to university in Dublin, but couldn’t finish because of political troubles in Ireland – the Glorious Revolution. So he went back to Englandand his mom helped him get a job as a secretary to a powerful nobleman. There, Swift met an 8 year-old girl named Esther Johnson, whom he became life-long friends. There are rumors that they eventually married, but it’s pure speculation. He called her Stella. Later on, he met another girl named Esther that he may have liked. This time her called her Vanessa. So, he had a weird habit of meeting women named Esther, giving them completely different nicknames, and maybe, possibly having affairs with them.

He got a masters degree at Oxford, became a Catholic priest, went back to Ireland, and got his doctorate of divinity at TrinityCollege in Dublin.

Swift was a member of the Scriblerus Club, including the famous writers and poets: Alexander Pope, John Gay, and John Arbuthnot.

Swift had Ménière's disease – a disorder in the inner ear that causes vertigo, loss of balance, and hearing loss that comes and goes. No one really knows what causes it.

Swift originally published all his work anonymously, or under pseudonyms, such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, and MB Drapier. This was to keep him safe from prosecution (trestné stíhanie).


Tale of a Tub: His first major work, it’s a satire on religion. Three brothers represent the three major branches of Christianity: Peter (Catholic Church), Martin (Lutherans), and Jack (Calvinists). Many, including Queen Anne saw this as an attack on Christianity in general, and Swift got into trouble. The Tub in the title doesn’t refer to a bath, but a dissenter’s pulpit (kazatelňa), where John Swift saw himself, as a priest.

A Modest Proposal: An essay where Swift suggests that poor Irish might help themselves by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. This satirical hyperbole (nadsádzka) mocks heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general.

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