Born: 30 Nov, 1667, Dublin, Ireland
Anglo-Irish Priest and Writer
|Jonathan Swift was born on November 30, 1667 in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Protestant Anglo-Irish parents: his ancestors had been Royalists, and all his life he would be a High-Churchman. His father, also Jonathan, died a few months before he was born, upon which his mother, Abigail, returned to England, leaving her son behind, in the care of relatives. In 1673, at the age of six, Swift began his education at Kilkenny Grammar School, which was, at the time, the best in Ireland. Between 1682 and 1686 he attended, and graduated from, Trinity College in Dublin, though he was not, apparently, an exemplary student.
In England, in 1689, he became secretary to Sir William Temple, a diplomat and man of letters, at Moor Park in Surrey. There Swift read extensively in his patron's library, and met Esther Johnson, who would become his "Stella," and it was there, too, that he began to suffer from Meniere's Disease, a disturbance of the inner ear which produces nausea and vertigo, and which was little understood in Swift's day. He visited Oxford in 1691: in 1692, with Temple's assistance, he received an M. A. degree from that University, and published his first poem: on reading it, John Dryden, a distant relation, is said to have remarked "Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet."
Between 1696 and 1699 Swift composed most of his first great work, A Tale of a Tub, a prose satire on the religious extremes represented by Roman Catholicism and Calvinism, and in 1697 he wrote The Battle of the Books, a satire defending Temple's conservative but besieged position in the contemporary literary controversy as to whether the works of the "Ancients" -- the great authors of classical antiquity -- were to be preferred to those of the "Moderns." In 1699 Temple died, and Swift traveled to Ireland as chaplain and secretary to the Earl of Berkeley.
In 1701 Swift was awarded a D. D. from Dublin University, and published his first political pamphlet, supporting the Whigs against the Tories. 1704 saw the anonymous publication of A Tale of a Tub, The Battle of the Books, and The Mechanical Operation of the Spirit.
In 1707 while in London he met Esther Vanhomrigh, who would become his "Vanessa." In 1708 Swift met Addison and Steele, and published his Bickerstaff Papers, satirical attacks upon an astrologer, John Partridge, and a series of ironical pamphlets on church questions, including An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity.
In 1710, which saw the publication of "A Description of a City Shower," Swift, disgusted with their alliance with the Dissenters, fell out with Whigs , allied himself with the Tories , and became the editor of the Tory newspaper The Examiner. Between 1710 and 1713 he also wrote the famous series of letters to Esther Johnson which would eventually be published as The Journal to Stella. In 1713 Swift was installed as Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin -- a promotion which was, again, a disappointment.
In 1716 Swift may or may not have married Esther Johnson. A period of literary silence and personal depression ensued, but beginning in 1718, he broke the silence, and began to publish a series of powerful tracts on Irish problems.
In 1720 he began work upon Gulliver's Travels, intended, as he says in a letter to Pope, "to vex the world, not to divert it." 1724-25 saw the publication of The Drapier Letters, which gained Swift enormous popularity in Ireland, and the completion of Gulliver's Travels. In 1726 Gulliver's Travels was published.
In 1729 A Modest Proposal was published. 1731 saw the publication of Swift's ghastly "A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed."
By 1735, when a collected edition of his Works was published in Dublin, his Meniere's Disease became more acute, resulting in periods of dizziness and nausea: at the same time, prematurely, his memory was beginning to deteriorate. During 1738 he slipped gradually into senility, and finally suffered a paralytic stroke: in 1742 guardians were officially appointed to care for his affairs. Swift died on October 19, 1745.