Introduction: Biographical and Historical Contexts

  • Jonathan Swift
Part of the Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism book series (CSICC)


“As to my native country,” said Jonathan Swift, “I happened indeed by a perfect accident, to be born here, my mother being left here from returning to her house at Leicester … and thus I am a Teague, or an Irishman, or what people please, although the best part of my life was in England” (Corresp. 4: 229). The author of Gulliver’s Travels was born November 30, 1667, in Hoey’s Court, a street in a fashionable part of Dublin. Six months earlier, his father, also named Jonathan, had died. This death, the son would later say, “was much lamented on account of his reputation for integrity with a tolerable good understanding” (Prose Writings 5: 191). The elder Jonathan Swift had immigrated from England to Ireland around 1660, to take a job at the King’s Inns, the center of Dublin’s legal establishment. In the summer of 1664, he had married another English immigrant, Abigail Erick, from Leicester. Through his English father, the author of Gulliver’s Travels was related to the poet and playwright John Dryden. But a family member Swift respected far more was his grandfather Thomas Swift, an Anglican clergyman who had supported Charles I and the Royalist cause during the English Civil War and who had suffered, as a result, under the Puritans (Ehrenpreis 1: 4, 24; Swift, Prose Writings 5: 190).


Historical Context Trinity College Privy Council Prose Writing Irish Literature 
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Copyright information

© Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Swift

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