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Swift, Jonathan (1667–1745)

Karen Sonnelitter


In the history of protest literature, few authors have been as successful as Jonathan Swift in making their dissident voices heard. Although he sometimes wielded his satirical pen on behalf of narrow partisan political interests, the universal themes of his best writing assure its immortality. His best-known work, Gulliver's Travels , takes pomposity and the absurdity of the human condition as its subjects, and his Battle of the Books lampoons the self-importance of scholarly discourse, but some of his most powerful satires take aim at wrongs done to his native Ireland. In A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public , Swift argued with deadpan seriousness that impoverished Irish families should breed children to be sold as culinary delicacies for the rich. Swift was born in Dublin on November 30, 1667. Little is known about his early life, but it seems that when he was a child his widowed mother returned to England, her birthplace, and left him in Ireland to be raised by an uncle. He entered Trinity College in 1682 and completed his BA degree in 1686. In 1688 political troubles in Ireland stemming from England's “Glorious Revolution” prompted Swift to emigrate to England, where he became secretary to Sir William Temple. While living at Temple's home, Swift met ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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