Saturday, November 30, 2013

Jonathan Swift was Born - 1667



Jonathan Swift was the author of the classic Gulliver’s Travels (1726), and was a major figure of English literature. He was also a satirist, cleric and political pamphleteer. Swift was born in Dublin, Ireland on November 30, 1667, seven months after the death of his father. At an early age, Jonathan was sent to live with his uncle, Godwin Swift who supported him and gave him the best education possible. He later enrolled in the Trinity College in Dublin where he earned a B.A. degree. Although Swift wanted to continue studying for a M.A. degree, he was unable to do so due to political unrest during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Upon moving to Leicester, England, Swift took up a job working as a secretary to Sir William Temple, a retired diplomat. Living at his home in Moore Park, Surrey, he was introduced to a number of politically influential people. Also at Moore Park, Swift, then 22 years of age met Stella, daughter of another employee at Moore Park who was only 6 years old. They formed an affectionate friendly relationship and Swift became her tutor and mentor. Sir William Temple helped Swift gain admission into Oxford University using his influential connections. In 1692, Swift graduated with a M.A. degree. 

After returning from Ireland where he served as an Anglican priest for a year, Swift was requested by Temple to assist him in writing his memoirs, managing and publishing his work after his death. Swift started work on his own writing during this time as well and wrote The Battle of the Books (1704). In 1700, Swift was appointed Chaplin to Lord Berkeley and in 1701 Trinity College Dublin awarded him a Doctor of Divinity degree. In 1704, Swift published, A Tale of the Tub, a satirical take on religion.  He became an active figure of Dublin society and politics. After joining the Tories in 1710, Swift wrote many noted political pamphlets including The Conduct of the Allies (1711), The Public Spirit of the Whigs (1714), Meditation on a Broomstick (1703) and A Modest Proposal. In 1713, Swift formed the literary club, Scriblerus along with Alexander Pope and others. He also became the dean of St. Patrick’s in Dublin. Swift continued writing, often under a pseudonym, an example being Draiper Letters (1724) under the name M.B. Draiper. Swift also published his masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels under the pen name Lemuel Gulliver in 1726. An immediate best-seller, the book has inspired many theater and film adaptations. The novel represents the culmination of Swift’s years spent in politics with Whigs and Tories and also deals with socio-political issues hidden between the lines. In 1728, his beloved Stella died and this plunged Swift into a deep depression. His health had already started to decline due to early onset Alzheimer’s. Jonathan Swift died on October 19, 1745 and was buried beside Stella in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. 
 
 

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Literary Legends of the British Isles. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links: 


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