Today is Friday and as usual I bring you a guest post. I was in Barcelona recently with my parents, who are very fond of TV quizzes, and there was a question asking which author had written a treatise about farts. When I saw the possible names I knew it had to be Jonathan Swift. And that made me think he should be my guest. And here he is. As usual I bring you a brief biography (below I include links to a few websites where you can find more detailed information, although of course there are more detailed biographies published), some of his quotations (like a few of my previous guests, he’s eminently quotable), and links, not only to information but also to his works (free).
Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin, Ireland on 30th November 1667. His father, who was British, died two months before his birth. He was an attorney and the financial situation of the family was quite difficult after his death, especially as Swift suffered from ill healthl as a child. (He suffered from Meniere’s disease). He went to live with his uncle (his father’s brother), Godwin, who was also an attorney. He studied at Kilkenny Grammar Schools (one of the best schools in Ireland at the time). There he met William Congreve, later poet and playwright, and they remained friends.
He then studied at Trinity College in Dublin, obtaining a BA degree in 1686, and started a Masters. Due to the unrest of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 he moved to England, where he obtained a position as the secretary of English statesman, Sir William Temple, working for him as an assistant in London’s Moor Park as for 10 years. Temple trusted him and gave him important tasks. During his stay there Swift met the sister of Temple’s housekeeper, a girl called Esther Johnson (8 years old at the time). She was fifteen years younger than him, despite that they became friends (lovers?), and he acted as her tutor and mentor nicknaming her ‘Stella’. There are rumours that they married in secret in 1716 and they kept in touch until her death.
He returned to Ireland twice during those 10 years. In 1695 he became ordained a priest. He began to write.
Temple died in 1699. Swift edited and published Temple’s memoirs and was offered a post as secretary and chaplain to the Earl of Berkeley, but when he went to take up the post he was told this had been filled. He went back to Ireland and became priest of a small congregation near Dublin. He took up writing again.
In 1704 he published, anonymously, A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books that was popular but disapproved by the Church of England. When the Tories came into power in 1710 they asked him to be Editor of the Examiner. He became very involved in politics and published well known political pamphlets. His inner thoughts he shared in letters to Johnson that later were published as The Journal to Stella.
When he realised that the Tories would fall from power he went back to Ireland. In 1713 he took post as Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. There were rumours that he engaged in relationships with Esther Vanhomrigh and Anne Long.
In 1726 after finishing his manuscript he traveled to London where some friend helped him get it anonymously published as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships —also known as Gulliver’s Travels. It was an immediate success and has never been out of print since its publication. It has been studied, analysed and there are many interpretations. There is little doubt that the plot reflects historical events that took place during his lifetime.
Esther Johnson died in 1728 and shortly after two close friend also died. In 174 2 he suffered a stroke and could no longer speak. Due to concerns about his capacity to look after his financial affairs his friends declared him legally insane. On October 19th 1745 he died and is now buried inside of Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral. A donation of his money went to fund a psychiatric hospital in Dublin, still in service.
Quotes: (I’ve added a few throughout the post as I love them, but here some more):
The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.
A tavern is a place where madness is sold by the bottle.
There is nothing constant in this world but inconsistency.
A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than yesterday.
Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy is the best bred in the room.
The literature network:
The Victorian web:
In Brainy Quotes:
His page at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin:
Free Links to his Works:
A Modest Proposal:
Jonathan Swift Archive has access to A Modest Proposal, Gulliver’s Travels and A Tale of a Tub:
Gulliver’s Travels (Free in the Gutenberg Project):
This is the link to the author in the Gutenberg Project. Apart from Gulliver’s Travels it contains poems, sermons, prose works and even audios, in many different formats:
Amazon page of Jonathan Swift:
A Modest Proposal (in Amazon):
Gulliver’s Travels (in Amazon):
Thanks so much for reading, and you know, if you’ve enjoyed it, remember to like, share, comment, and of course, CLICK!
And to close a wish from my guest to all of you, that I wholeheartedly share: