1. Historical facts

Handout 7: Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

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Handout 7: Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

  • native of Dublin, Ireland; educated at Trinity College; in 1689 secretary to Sir William Temple;

  • in 1700 vicar near Dublin; in 1710 he went over from the Whigs to the Tories – became a major Tory journalist and pamphleteer

  • with Pope formed the ”Scriblerus Club”; edited The Examiner

  • in 1713 was appointed the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral; in 1720s became an ardent supporter of the Irish against the English exploitation

  • ear-disease; stroke; senility and apathy

  • ”practical idealist”: main aim to reform humanity with the strong belief in the moral utility of laughter – method of reform: satire

  • shows 4 different facets of his literary personality in his prose-writing

A/ Swift as a man of Enlightenment

- clear and simple prose with strong rationality

- ”The Conduct of the Allies”(1711): Toryism, demands peace with France

- ”A Project for the Advancement of Religion and the Reformation of Manners”(1709): to supervise public morals

- ”A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture”(1720): Irish patrioitism;

eg. ”Burn everything from England except its coal.”

- The Drapier’s Letters (1724): on a financial problem (copper-coinage) – Swift destroyed the project

B/ Swift’s ’light satirical’ and comic tone

  • ”Isaac Bickerstaff’s Prediction” (1708-9): attack on an astrologer and his bizarre prophecies

  • ”The Battle of the Books” (1697, but published in 1704): mock-heroic prose satire favouring the ancient against the modern authors

- story of an imaginary battle between books in St. James Library – extended allegory in the form of an epic fragment + alegory within the allegory:

the Bee vs. the Spider

the ancients, collects material in Nature moderns, weaves its web from itself

produces ”swetness and light” produces ”dirt and poison”

  • ”The Tale of a Tub” (1696, published in 1704): allegorical parable; 3 brothers (Churches) inherit from the father 3 suits of clothes (Christian faith) and a will (the Scripture)

Peter (Roman Catholic Church) follows rigidly the tradition but Martin and Jack rebel and got copies of the will (translation) – Reformation and Protestantism

  • Swift wrote it against ’nominal’ and superficial Christianity – just like ”An Argument to Prove that the Abolishing of Christianity” (1708): false persona and negative emphasis

C/ Swift as a master of ironic satire

  • Gulliver’s Travels – SEMINAR!

  • ”A Modest Proposal”- false persona, negative emphasis, tone of a cool projector - SEMINAR

D/ Swift’s tender tone in his The Journal to Stella (1710-13; p. 1765): intimate, tender, everyday matters + Swift’s verse: ”Baucis and Philemon”; ”On Stella’s Birthday”; ”A Discription of City Shower” „Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift”

”He gave the little wealth he had No nation wanted it so much.

To build a house for fools and mad; That kingdom he hath left his debtor,

And shewed, by one satirick touch, I wish it soon may have a better.”

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