Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was a poet, satirist and clergyman. He was born in Dublin but his father died before he was born and his mother soon afterwards returned to their native England. Jonathan was brought up by his nurse in Cumbria and later by his Uncle Godwin back in Dublin. They weren't happy times for him, however, because he was condescendingly treated like the poor relative who had kindly been given a home. Jonathan went on to Trinity College, Dublin where he was an unruly student and only just scraped through his examinations.
Through family connections he went to work as secretary in the home of Sir William Temple in Surrey, and later became both friend and editor. A young girl named Esther, who was also living in Sir William's house, became Swift's closest friend and perhaps his wife. Their relationship remains a mystery: Swift clearly loved her but we don't know whether or not they ever married.
Despite the skeptism of his cousin, the famous poet John Dryden, Swift soon became known as a poet and writer. He also wrote many political pamphlets and was sometimes dubbed 'the mad parson'. In 1713, he became dean of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin and his popularity as a patriotic writer soon covered Ireland.
Swift suffered serious ill health in his last years. He was always afraid of madness and often suffered from depression. Over the course of his life, he wrote many volumes of prose and poetry but his best-known work is Gulliver's Travels in which he turned 'traveler's tales' into a biting satire on contemporary life. It is an exciting, funny and very inventive story and has appealed to a wide range of readers.
Did you find this review helpful?