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Jonathan Swift (1667--1745)

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin, Ireland, of an English family, which had important connections but little wealth. Through the generosity of an uncle, he was educated at Kilkenny Grammar School and then Trinity College in Dublin. Between 1689 and 1699 he worked as a private secretary to a distant kinship Sir William Temple, a retired diplomat. And there he also received a first-rate education in politics through contact with Temple and many other well-known politicians, learning much about the vice, hypocrisy, intrigues, deception and corruption in the political world.

Swift is one of the greatest masters of English prose, his sentences are logical, clear and well-constructed. He is a master satirist. He dared to criticise and mock authorities.

Swift hated the whole mankind and his purpose was to show and awaken readers about some ridiculous things in society that need to be criticised. He also used an inverse view – when he talked about England for example in Gulliver´s Travels – he used irony – there were the small Liliputians and the big problems.

Works:

  • The Tale of Tub (1704)
  • Battle of the Books (written in 1679, published in 1704)
  • Gulliver’s Travels (1726), his greatest satiric work
  • A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen ( 1729 )

Swift was a man of great moral integrity and social charm. He had a deep hatred for all the rich oppressors and a deep sympathy for all the poor and oppressed.

His understanding of human nature is profound. In his opinion, human nature is seriously and permanently flawed. To better human life, enlightenment is needed, but to redress it is very hard. He intends not to condemn but to reform and improve man nature and human institutions, there is often an under or overtone of helplessness and indignation.

  • His satire is usually masked by an outward gravity and an apparent earnestness which renders his satire all the more powerful. 
    • Simplicity and Directness
  • His writing style is based of simple, direct, precise prose. He defined a good style as “proper words in proper places.” Clear, simple, concrete diction, uncomplicated sentence structure, economic and conciseness of language mark all his writings—essays, poems and novels.

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