Jonathan Swift quotes on class and society

Jonathan Swift was a keen observer of the society of his day and how the different classes inter-acted. His background was middle class. His education and his position in the church meant he could mix with the rich and powerful, but he was never one of them.

His sympathy often lay with the disadvantaged and downtrodden, and his most scathing quotes were often reserved for those who, although wealthy of supposed good breeding, he regarded as stupid, vulgar and vain.

Cartoon illustration of shamrocks. Image copyright Ireland Calling

A footman may swear; but he cannot swear like a lord. He can swear as often: but can he swear with equal delicacy, propriety, and judgment?
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Jonathan Swift quote. For conversation well endued; She calls it witty to be rude; And, placing raillery in railing, Will tell aloud your greatest failing. Image copyright Ireland Calling
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It is a maxim, that those to whom everybody allows the second place have an undoubted title to the first.
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Jonathan Swift quote. The worthiest people are the most injured by slander, as is the best fruit which the birds have been pecking at. Image copyright Ireland Calling
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Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.
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Jonathan-Swift quote. There are few wild beasts more to be dreaded than a talking man having nothing to say. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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Faith! He must make his stories shorter or change his comrades once a quarter.

Jonathan Swift quote. Faith! He must make his stories shorter or change his comrades once a quarter. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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A set of phrases learnt by rote;
A passion for a scarlet coat;
When at a play to laugh, or cry,
Yet cannot tell the reason why:
Never to hold her tongue a minute;
While all she prates has nothing in it.
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Jonathan-Swift quote. She wears her clothes as if they are thrown on with a pitchfork. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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When the world has once begun to use us ill, it afterwards continues the same treatment with less scruple or ceremony, as men do to a whore.

Cartoon illustration of shamrocks. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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I replied that England (the dear place of my nativity) was computed to produce three times the quantity of food, more than its inhabitants are able to consume.

But, in order to feed the luxury and intemperance of the males, and the vanity of the females, we sent away the greatest part of our necessary things to other countries, from whence in return we brought the materials of diseases, folly, and vice, to spend among ourselves.

Hence it follows of necessity that vast numbers of our people are compelled to seek their livelihood by begging, robbing, stealing, cheating, pimping, forswearing, flattering, suborning, forging, gaming, lying, fawning, hectoring, voting, scribbling, freethinking.
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Jonathan Swift quote. Nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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There was all the world and his wife.
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I remember it was with extreme difficulty that I could bring my master to understand the meaning of the word opinion, or how a point could be disputable; because reason taught us to affirm or deny only where we are certain; and beyond our knowledge we cannot do either.
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This made me reflect, how vain an attempt it is for a man to endeavour to do himself honour among those who are out of all degree of equality or comparison with him.
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Jonathan Swift quote. He was a fiddler, and consequently a rogue. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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