Jonathan Swift

Date Of Birth:
30 November 1667
Date Of Death:
19 October 1745
Place Of Birth:
Dublin, Ireland

Jonathan Swift was an Irish writer of English parentage whose fame rests on sharply satirical works that include the novel Gulliver's Travels (1726) and the harshly comic essay A Modest Proposal (1729). Raised in Dublin and a graduate of Trinity College (1685), Swift began writing while working as secretary to diplomat William Temple (1689-99). Ordained by the Church of Ireland in 1694, Jonathan Swift's first published works were tongue-in-cheek church histories, political pamphlets and essays on the ideological differences between the ancients and the moderns. He spent three years in London (1710-13) and was active in Tory politics until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. Once back in Ireland, he became a dean at St. Patrick's Cathedral and a champion of Irish liberties. Swift's Drapier's Letters (1724) made him a famous essayist and darn-near Irish hero, and A Modest Proposal, an intentionally ridiculous but well-reasoned essay that suggests feeding the fattened children of the poor to the wealthy, is a classic of modern prose. He also wrote poems, including "Cadenus and Vanessa" (1726) and "Stella's Birthday" (1727), but his light verse is overshadowed by his savageness as a satirist. By the late 1730s he was in ill health, and in 1742 was declared "unsound" of mind and given a guardian. He died in 1745.

Extra Credit

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was illustrated a century later by French caricaturist J.J. Grandville and has been adapted many times for television and film, including 1939’s feature-lenght animated version by Max Fleischer.

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