Swift, Jonathan (16671745)

Swift, Jonathan, born at Dublin, a posthumous son, of well-connected parents; educated at Kilkenny, where he had Congreve for companion, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was a somewhat riotous and a by no means studious undergraduate, only receiving his B.A. by “special grace” in 1686; two years later the Revolution drove him to England; became amanuensis to his mother's distinguished relative Sir William Temple, whose service, however, was uncongenial to his proud independent nature, and after taking a Master's degree at Oxford he returned to Dublin, took orders, and was presented to the canonry of Kilroot, near Belfast; the quiet of country life palling upon him, he was glad to resume secretarial service in Temple's household (1696), where during the next three years he remained, mastering the craft of politics, reading enormously, and falling in love with Stella (q.v.); was set adrift by Temple's death in 1699, but shortly afterwards became secretary to Lord Berkeley, one of the Lord-Deputies to Ireland, and was soon settled in the vicarage of Laracor, West Meath; in 1704 appeared anonymously his famous satires, the “Battle of the Books” and the “Tale of a Tub,” masterpieces of English prose; various squibs and pamphlets followed, “On the Inconvenience of Abolishing Christianity,” &c.; but politics more and more engaged his attention; and neglected by the Whigs and hating their war policy, he turned Tory, attacked with deadly effect, during his editorship of the Examiner (1710-11), the war party and its leader Marlborough; crushed Steele's defence in his “Public Spirit of the Whigs,” and after the publication of “The Conduct of the Allies” stood easily the foremost political writer of his time; disappointed of an English bishopric, in 1713 reluctantly accepted the deanery of St. Patrick's, Dublin, a position he held until the close of his life; became loved in the country he despised by eloquently voicing the wrongs of Ireland in a series of tracts, “Drapier's Letters,” &c., fruitful of good results; crowned his great reputation by the publication (1726) of his masterpiece “Gulliver's Travels,” the most daring, savage, and amusing satire contained in the world's literature; “Stella's” death and the slow progress of a brain disease, ending in insanity, cast an ever-deepening gloom over his later years (16671745).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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