Jonathan Swift is probably best remembered today as the author of Gulliver’s Travels.
This story is often regarded as a children’s adventure story but was really a political satire on 18th century Britain and Ireland.
Swift was born in Dublin on 30th November 1667 to protestant Anglo-Irish parents. His father died a few months before Swift was born, leaving the family short of money.
Even so, Swift was able to attend Kilkenny Grammar School and went to Trinity College Dublin when he was only 15. He graduated at the age of 19, although he was not considered an outstanding student.
Writer and man of the church
Swift began his working life as a secretary to the English diplomat Sir William Temple. He was also ordained as a priest in the Church of Ireland. He would later become the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Religion and politics were his two major interests and the subject of most of his writing.
In 1692, Swift published his first poem but it was not a great success. The great playwright of the day, John Dryden, who was distant relative of Swift, said: “Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet.”
Much to Swift’s disappointment, that turned out to be true but he did go on to become the leading political and religious satirist of his day – so much so that his works are now probably better remembered than Dryden’s plays.
The savage satire of Gulliver’s Travels
In 1726, Swift published Gulliver’s Travels using the pseudonym, Lemuel Gulliver, who is the main character in the book. Because the book sees Gulliver going to strange lands populated by tiny people, giants and even horses, Gulliver’s Travels is often considered as an adventure story.
In fact, it was a savage satire on the pettiness of human nature.
For example, in Gulliver’s Travels the Lilliputians go to war over disagreements about whether a boiled egg should be cracked open from the broad end or the narrow. It is a comment, of course, on the pointless wars that plague every generation.
In the book, the leading character Gulliver challenges the reader to disagree with him and prove him wrong in his description of human frailties.
A Tale of a Tub – the divisions in religion
Each brother is left a coat by their father with strict instructions that the coats cannot be altered in any way. However, as time passes the coats fall out of fashion and the sons try to find ways to get round their father’s wishes so they can alter the coats to suit their own styles.
Do you qualify to become an Irish citizen?There are three main ways for a person to qualify for Irish citizenship – through birth, through marriage or civil partnership or through naturalisation. Check if you qualify for Irish citizenship
Did you know?People researching their Irish ancestry have received a welcome boost today as the Catholic parish registers are now available online. The registers are considered the single most important resource for researching Irish ancestry. Find out more.
Have you heard about…A Group of fun-loving ladies called the ‘Dancing Grannies’ wowed onlookers on a Belfast street with an impromptu Riverdance performance. Find out more.
What about this…‘The Irish Robin Hood’ - Redmond O’Hanlon is a legendary figure in Ireland. His ancestors had been a powerful family up until the 17th century, when their land was taken during the Catholic uprising and the Cromwellian invasion. So he became a highwayman. Find out more.