On this day… 30th November, 1667 – Jonathan Swift born
Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for the Whigs, then for the Tories), poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.
Swift 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 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 (founded in 1713).
Swift later 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. This new role was unwelcome to the Government, which made clumsy attempts to silence him.
During these years, Swift 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.
Did You Know?
There are almost no certain facts about Swift’s personal life that we would be completely sure of.
The work of his biographers should certainly be a painful one, for the simple reason that they have to work with very inadequate amounts of information. Mystery surrounds not only his writing (some of his works are so strange that it is virtually impossible to establish any objective truths as to what they, in fact, mean), but his life as well. What exactly were his relationships with women he nicknames “Stella” and “Vanessa”, was he married to either of them, was he really kidnapped by his wet-nurse when he was a child, was his mother’s husband, who died before his birth, really his father – nobody can answer these questions for sure.