Jonathan Swift Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Swift has been well described as Ireland’s “patriot- in-spite-of-himself.” Born into an Anglo-Irish family, he always believed his rightful place was in the English court. However, he was destined to live out his life in Ireland, his only preferment being the Dean of St. Patrick’s in Dublin. He fell out of favor with the ruling Tories by his own doing. His brilliant and most difficult satire, A Tale of a Tub (1704), was a parable of the development of Christianity. Although it was published anonymously, Swift was widely believed to be the author and Queen Anne became persuaded that he would never prove a reliable clergyman in the Church of England.

Serving as dean of St. Patrick’s involved Swift heavily in Irish politics. Political censorship in the early eighteenth century usually took the form of criminal charges against publishers and printers rather than the prosecution of authors. The aim was to deprive writers of the means to communicate their works to the public. By charging those who bought, held the copyright, transported, or published certain of Swift’s works with sedition, the government hoped to silence him.

The most egregious case of this form of censorship was directed against Swift’s Irish political pamphlets. In 1720 Swift wrote a short pamphlet entitled A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufactures. Anonymously published, the pamphlet urged the Irish to boycott English manufactured...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin, Ireland, on November 30, 1667, after the death of his father, a lower-middle class Anglo-Irishman. His grandfather, the Reverend Thomas Swift, had been a vicar in Herefordshire. His father, also named Jonathan, had settled in Ireland to work as a steward of the King’s Inns in Dublin. His mother was Abigail Erick, the daughter of a Leicestershire clergyman. Swift’s mother entrusted her young son to a nurse, who spirited the infant Swift away from Ireland for several years; he was eventually returned, and he was peculiarly linked with Ireland throughout his life. In any case, it was his fancy to picture himself a lonely outcast amid barbarians.

Swift attended Kilkenny School in his...

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(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Jonathan Swift, as Louis Bredvold has observed, was the “greatest genius” among the Augustan wits, and even more clearly “one of the most absorbing and enigmatic personalities in literature.” He was a man of brute talent with the pen, a man with remarkable intensity and drive, yet one who was frequently alienated and rebuffed. Of English parentage, Swift was born in 1667 in Dublin, seven months after his father’s death. In straitened circumstances, Swift was reared in Ireland. His father had settled there at the time of the Restoration of Charles II (1660); his paternal grandfather had been an Anglican minister in England. Swift and his mother were dependent on a relatively well-to-do uncle, who did see to young...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Jonathan Swift lived a long, active public life, though its beginning and end were cloaked in darkness. He was born on November 30, 1667, in Dublin, Ireland, to Jonathan and Abigail Erick Swift. His parents had recently moved from England to Dublin, where Swift was born a few months after his father had died. Mysteriously, he was soon separated from his mother, perhaps kidnapped and taken to England, as he later believed. Supported by an uncle, he studied at Kilkenny Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin.

Late in 1689, he established residence at Moor Park as secretary to Sir William Temple, the man of letters and elderstatesman. Temple had arranged the marriage of Princess Mary to William of Orange; their...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Readers insensitive to Jonathan Swift’s ironies have dismissed him as a crazy man who hated humanity. Others have concluded that he was a humane Christian who valued human life. Upheavals in politics, religion, and learning made Swift think that the modern world was going crazy. He longed for a stable, reasonable order in society based on institutions, such as the church, that seek to correct humanity’s vanity and pride. Yet his diabolical imagination told him authority was drowning in change. Swift embodied and recorded the profound contradictions of his era better, perhaps, than any other English writer.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Jonathan Swift, with perhaps the keenest mind and sharpest wit in an age marked by intellectual brilliance, was a mass of contradictions. He was dedicated to the ideals of rationality and common sense, yet he approached the irrational in his contempt for humankind’s failure to live up to his ideal. Profoundly distrustful of all “enthusiasm” or fanaticism, he was himself something of an enthusiast in his glorification of “pure reason.” He was possessed of one of the clearest and most direct styles in the English language, but the subtleties of his irony were misunderstood in his own and later ages.

Although biographical details do not adequately explain either the genius or the contradictions of Swift, the...

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(Novels for Students)

Swift was born in 1667 in Ireland of English parents. Swift's father died shortly before he was born, leaving Jonathan, his sister, and their...

(The entire section is 562 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin, Ireland, November 30, 1667, of Anglo-Irish parents. He was educated in Ireland and graduated from Trinity...

(The entire section is 767 words.)