Swift (1667- 1745)
Anglo-Irish poet, satirist, clergyman.
indignation can no longer tear his heart.
[Ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit.]
In accordance with his will, inscribed on Swift’s tomb in St Patrick’s
where he had served as Dean for 30 years.
Irish author and satirist Jonathan Swift was born November
30, 1667 in Dublin. His father died before Swift's birth, leaving his wife
with a baby daughter and unborn son. As a result, Swift was raised by his
three uncles. It is believed that Swift felt a sense of insecurity during his
childhood because he had no father and his home life was unstable
uncles took care of Swift's education. At age 6, he was sent to Kilkenny
School, considered the best school in Ireland at that time. At 15, Swift
entered Trinity College in Dublin. He was not a particularly good student and
tended to neglect his studies. Although he received his degree in 1686, it
was speciali gratia, meaning "by special favor."
continued his studies at Trinity as a candidate for an advanced degree.
However, in 1689 he was forced to move to England because of political
unrest. In England, he worked as a secretary to Sir William Temple at Moor
Park, Surrey. Temple was a diplomat and writer, who was preparing his
memoirs. Although their relationship was often strained, Swift worked for
Temple for the next ten years.
his employment at Moor Park, Swift was given unlimited access to Temple's
vast library, which helped him to grow intellectually. He also met and
tutored Esther Johnson, the daughter of Temple's widowed housekeeper. In
later writings, Swift referred to Johnson as Stella. His relationship with
Stella continues to be one of controversy and speculation. Some say Swift and
Stella were secretly married.
at Moor Park, Swift began writing his first major work, entitled A Tale of a
Tub. It was published anonymously in 1704, although the work was later
attributed to Swift. A Tale of a Tub was considered blasphemous by Queen
Anne, and it is believed to have adversely affected Swift's chances for
ecclesiastical preferment in England.
Temple died in 1699, Swift returned to Ireland and was preferred to several
posts in the Irish church. He continued to write and publish numerous essays,
and his popularity increased in both Ireland and England. Swift returned to
London in 1710.
Swift had been a member of the Whig party since birth, he was uncomfortable
with many of the party's beliefs. It was at this time that Swift was won over
by the Tories. He became the editor of the Tory publication, The Examiner.
However, when Queen Anne died in 1714, the political tide turned and the Tory
administration collapsed. Swift returned to Ireland for good. By this time,
he had been preferred the deanery of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, a
position he held until the end of his life. Swift wrote very little until the
1720s, when he showed a renewed interest in verse. His most well known essays
during this time include "A Modest Proposal" and "Drapier's
Letters." "A Modest Proposal" is a classic satirical work in
which Swift outlines a plan to sell the children of the Irish poor as food
for the rich.
is believed that Swift began to write his most famous work, Gulliver's
Travels, in 1721 and finished it in 1725. Gulliver's Travels was published
anonymously in 1726 and was an instant success. Its popularity continues to
final years are the subject of some controversy. Some have suggested that
Swift went insane, but that theory has not been confirmed. It is known that
Swift suffered from vertigo, due to an inner ear disease. However, he
remained active throughout the 1730s, before suffering a stroke in 1742. For
the next three years, Swift was cared for by guardians. Jonathan Swift died
in Dublin on October 19, 1745. He was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral, next
to Stella. On the wall next to his coffin is an epitaph written himself. It
reads: The body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology, dean of this
cathedral church, is buried here, where fierce indignation can no more
lacerate his heart. Go, traveler, and imitate, if you can, one who strove
with all his strength to champion liberty.