Tribute to Jonathan Swift

gulltravSatirist, essayist, poet and cleric Jonathan Swift was born 30 November 1667. He is remembered for works such as Gulliver’s Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier’s Letters, The Battle of the Books, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Tale of a Tub. Swift’s family had several interesting literary connections: His grandmother, Elizabeth (Dryden) Swift, was the niece of Sir Erasmus Dryden, grandfather of the poet John Dryden. The same grandmother’s aunt, Katherine (Throckmorton) Dryden, was a first cousin of Elizabeth, wife of Sir Walter Raleigh. His great-great grandmother, Margaret (Godwin) Swift, was the sister of Francis Godwin, author of The Man in the Moone which influenced parts of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. His uncle, Thomas Swift, married a daughter of the poet and playwright Sir William Davenant, a godson of William Shakespeare. He is probably the foremost prose satirist in the English language, and is less well known for his poetry. Swift originally published all of his works under pseudonyms – such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, MB Drapier – or anonymously. He is also known for being a master of two styles of satire: the Horatian and Juvenalian styles.

In February 1702, Swift received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Trinity College, Dublin. That spring he traveled to England and returned to Ireland in October, accompanied by Esther Johnson and his friend Rebecca Dingley, another member of William Temple’s household. During his visits to England in these years Swift published A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books (1704) and began to gain a reputation as a writer. This led to close, lifelong friendships with Alexander Pope, John Gay, and John Arbuthnot, forming the core of the Martinus Scriblerus Club. Swift also became increasingly active politically in these years & went to London many times & The Tory Party recruited him to support their cause as editor of The Examiner when they came to power in 1710. In 1711, Swift published the political pamphlet “The Conduct of the Allies & became part of the inner circle of the Tory government, and often acted as mediator between Henry St John (Viscount Bolingbroke) the secretary of state for foreign affairs (1710–15) and Robert Harley (Earl of Oxford) lord treasurer and prime minister (1711–14). Swift recorded his experiences and thoughts during this difficult time in a long series of letters to Esther Johnson.

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GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (1939)

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After the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and accession of George I, the Tory leaders were tried for treason for conducting secret negotiations with France so Swift left England rapidly and returned to Ireland. Once back in Ireland he began to turn his pamphleteering skills in support of Irish causes, producing some of his most memorable works: Proposal for Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (1720), Drapier’s Letters (1724), and A Modest Proposal (1729), earning him the status of an Irish patriot.Also during these years, he began writing his masterpiece, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, and then a captain of several ships, better known as Gulliver’s Travels. Much of the material reflects his political experiences of the preceding decade. For instance, the episode in which the giant Gulliver puts out the Lilliputian palace fire by urinating on it can be seen as a metaphor for the Tories’ illegal peace treaty; having done a good thing in an unfortunate manner. In 1726 he paid a long-deferred visit to London, taking with him the manuscript of Gulliver’s Travels. During his visit he stayed with his old friends Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot and John Gay, who helped him arrange for the anonymous publication of his book. First published in November 1726, it was an immediate hit, with a total of three printings that year and another in early 1727. French, German, and Dutch translations appeared in 1727, and pirated copies were printed in Ireland.

Swift returned to England one more time in 1727 but The visit was cut short when Swift received word that Esther Johnson was dying and rushed back home to be with her. On 28 January 1728, Esther Johnson died. Sadly After this, Death became a frequent feature in Swift’s life. In 1731 he wrote Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift. In 1738 Swift began to show signs of illness, and in 1742 he may have suffered a stroke, losing the ability to speak. Swift sadly passed away three years later on 19 October 1745 (aged 77). After being laid out in public view for the people of Dublin to pay their last respects, he was buried in his own cathedral by Esther Johnson’s side, in accordance with his wishes. The bulk of his fortune (twelve thousand pounds) was left to found a hospital for the mentally ill, which opened in 1757, and which still exists as a psychiatric hospital. There have also been many film Animation and Television adaptations made of of the novel. including the 1939 version and the more recent Hallmark version starring Ted Danson as Lemuel Gulliver, which was offered with one of the newspapers a few years ago (There might still be copies on Ebay).

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