Jonathan Swift

Swift, Jonathan, commonly known as Dean Swift, was born in Dublin, in November, 1667, and died in October, 1745. He was not proud of his native land, but emphatically declared that his birth in Ireland was "a perfect accident," and lost no opportunity of reviling that country. It is doubtful whether great literary talent has ever, before or since, been found in company with such a wholly unpleasant personality as that of Dean Swift. At Dublin University, where he was educated. Swift distinguished himself by his contempt for college laws, and neglect of his studies; and wholly by special grace did he receive his degree. He entered the family of Sir William Temple in the capacity of secretary; in the same household "Stella," immortalized in Swift's books, was a waiting-maid. King William took a fancy to Swift because the latter made him acquainted with asparagus, and offered him the command of a troop of horse. The favour was declined. In 1694, Swift was admitted to Deacon's orders and a few years later went to Ireland as Chaplain to Lord Berkeley. In 1713 he was made dean of St. Patrick's. He began his career in literature as a writer of political tracts, and was secretly employed by the Government to write on its behalf. In 1726 appeared Gulliver's Travels, his most famous work, and at frequent intervals thereafter, his other writings, prose and poetry. In 1740, he evinced the first symptoms of the madness which clouded his closing years. The story of his life is a sad one and goes far to encourage the belief that sometimes, if not always, retribution comes in this life upon the wrong-doer. Swift's career was supremely selfish; nothing was suffered to stand in the way of his interest and gratification, and nobody, save the three women whose names he has linked with his own, and whose unfailing affection he requited so brutally,—with these exceptions, nobody loved him. As a writer, his originality was remarkable; no writer of his time, probably, borrowed so little from his predecessors; and his versatility—for he succeeded in every department of literature that he attempted—is not less wonderful. All things considered, his Gulliver's Travels must be regarded as his greatest work. A selection from this book is here given, illustrating his best manner as a satirist.