Jonathan Swift

Early Life

Jonathan Swift was born on 30th November in 1667, in Dublin, Ireland. He was a son of Jonathan Swift Sr., an attorney, while his mother, Abigail Erick, was a homemaker. Unfortunately, his father died two months before his birth. Without a steady income, Abigail struggled hard for the survival of her family. Perhaps this poverty impacted Jonathan Swift, who was a sickly child. To get rid of another feeding mouth, his mother gave him to his uncle for a better upbringing.


Jonathan Swift was raised by his uncle. He was enrolled in one of the best schools in Ireland, Kilkenny Grammar School. His transition from a poverty-stricken environment to a conscientious private school setting was rather challenging. However, he managed to perform well and developed a cordial relationship with future playwright and poet, William Congreve. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1686, from Trinity College, Dublin, and went on to pursue a master’s degree.

Some Important Facts of His Life

  1. He coined the famous phrase “sweetness and light” in his essay “Battle of the Books.”
  2. He is widely known for his novel, Gulliver’s Travels; soon after publication, the book became a big hit as 10,000 copies were solid during the first few weeks.
  3. Before delving into the world of fiction, he studied to take up theological preaching as his profession.
  4. After his demise, and according to his will, much of his fortune was given to Imbeciles to St. Patrick’s Hospital.

His Career

Jonathan Swift started writing at a young age and touched the pinnacle of success during his lifetime. His political pamphlet, A Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome, brought him in the limelight and paved the way for other publications. Later, in 1704, he came up with A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books. The people had had already enjoyed his A Tale when they found The Battle of Books even more fascinated. However, the church authorities soon took up his case, and fiercely criticized the book.

After being fully immersed in the political landscape, he produced various other pamphlets including The Conduct of the Allies and The Journal to Stella. His big hit, Gulliver’s Travel, was published in 1726. The book was based on historical events that Swift had lived through years before getting into intense political turmoil. Each of the four books recounts four voyages to exciting fictional places. This well-received attempt was followed by another masterpiece, A Modest Proposal published in 1729. Marked by a satirical tone, the work accounts for the miserable plight of Ireland’s poor children who are suggested to sell their dear children to the rich. Besides these major attempts, he also produced various poems, essays, and periodicals.

His Style

Jonathan Swift is largely known as the greatest satirist of the literary world. After establishing his career as a writer, he earned a lot of success in life in such types of writing. Using a very plain and downright style, he sheds light on the humor of death, man’s ideal in life, and various other topics. His writings are characterized by careful construction, complicated style, and deep insight into human nature. By applying techniques like satire, contrast, and symbolism, he talks about the emotions people experience in life. Jonathan’s works deal with simple yet complex diction to enhance the unique perspective presented to the readers. The recurring thematic strands in most of the writings are might versus right, the individual versus society, and the limits of human understanding. Regarding literary devices, he often turns to metaphors, symbolism, imagery, and similes to create a unique style.

Some Important Works of Jonathan Swift

  • Best Prose: Some of his best books include A Tale of a Tub, An Essay upon Ancient and Modern Learning, Battle of the Books, Gulliver’s Travels, and A Modest Proposal.
  • Other Works: Besides writing novels, he tried his hands in other areas too. Some of them include “Ode to the Athenian Society”, “A Description of the Morning”, “A Description of a City Shower”, “The Progress of Beauty”, “Bon Mots de Stella”, “An Essay on the Fates of Clergymen” “A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding.”

Jonathan Swift’s Impacts on Future Literature

Jonathan Swift started his writing career at a young age. His unique writing style and literary qualities of his masterpieces brought praiseworthy changes and popularity into the world of literature. Also, he had a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and critics and other influential figures like T.S Eliot coined him as the greatest writer of English prose. Similarly, William Dean Howells also sing his praise. He expressed his thoughts and ideas in his literary pieces so well that even today writers tend to imitate his style, considering him a role model for producing fiction and nonfiction.

Famous Quotes

  1. “And he gave it for his opinion, “that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.” (Gulliver’s Travels)
  2. “Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.” (The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces)
  3. “I cannot but conclude that the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth.” (Gulliver’s Travels)
  4. “The tiny Lilliputians surmise that Gulliver’s watch may be his god, because it is that which, he admits, he seldom does anything without consulting.” (Gulliver’s Travels)