Jonathan Swift 1667–1745

  • Ian McGowan
Part of the St. Martin’s Anthologies of English Literature book series (AEL)


Swift, a cousin of Dryden, was born in Dublin, and educated beside Congreve at Kilkenny School and Trinity College, Dublin. A period as secretary to the statesman-author Sir William Temple having failed to win him advancement, he was ordained in Ireland (1694). Back in Temple’s household at Moor Park, he wrote The Battle of the Books (1697), part of the debate on the superiority of ancient or modern learning, and A Tale of a Tub (1696; both works published 1704), a combination of religious allegory and intellectual virtuosity. Here too he first met ‘Stella’, Esther Johnson, recipient of many of his writings, with whom his relationship remains unclear. After Temple’s death, he returned to Ireland, receiving church offices, but visiting London often, and writing pamphlets of varying irony (An Argument against Abolishing Christianity, 1708). The Whigs’ favouring dissenters led to his support of the Tories, on whose side he wrote political works (The Conduct of the Allies, 1711; The Public Spirit of the Whigs, 1714). He was a leading member of the Scriblerus Club with Pope (see p. 205).


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Nature America Inc. 1989

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  • Ian McGowan

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