Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift edited by Christopher Fox (Cambridge Companions to Literature: Cambridge University Press) (HARDCOVER) explores crucial dimensions of Swift's life and works. As well as ensuring a broad coverage of Swift's writing--including early and later works as well as the better known and the lesser known - the Companion also offers a way into current critical and theoretical issues surrounding the author. Special emphasis is placed on Swift's vexed relationship with the land of his birth, Ireland ; and on his place as a political writer in a highly politicized age.

Various interpretations have been placed on Swift’s life and work. Much has been written in his defense since the unsympathetic studies of Macaulay, Jeffrey and Thackeray appeared; but he remains somewhat of a mystery that this Companion attempts to alleviate. It is not easy to reconcile his contempt for humankind with his affection for his friends and their affection for him; or his attacks on woman with his love for one, and the love which two women felt for him. It is, again, difficult, in view of the decorum of his own life and his real, if formal, religion, to explain the offensiveness of some of his writings. Probably, this was due to a distorted imagination, the result of physical or mental defect; and it must be remembered that it is only here and there that coarseness appears. Sterne remarked, “Swift has said a thousand things I durst not say.” But there is no lewdness in Swift’s work, and no persistent strain of indecency, as in Sterne.

Some have suggested that Swift’s avoidance of the common ties of human life was due to fears of approaching madness; others have supposed that the explanation was physical infirmity; others, again, have found the key in his coldness of temperament or in his strong desire for independence. He appears to have hungered for human sympathy, but to have wanted nothing more. From the passion of love, he seems to have turned with disgust. The early years of poverty and dependence left an indelible mark on him, and he became a disappointed and embittered man. His mind, possessed by a spirit of scorn, turned in upon itself, and his egotism grew with advancing years. Cursed with inordinate pride and arrogance, he became like a suppressed volcano. His keenness of vision caused him to see with painful clearness all that was contemptible and degrading in his fellow men; but he had little appreciation for what was good and great in them. The pains and giddiness to which Swift was subject left their impression upon his work; “at best,” he said, “I have an ill head, and an aching heart.” His misanthropy was really a disease, and his life of loneliness and disappointment was a tragedy, calling for pity and awe, rather than for blame.

Contributors: Christopher Fox, Joseph McMinn, David Oakleaf, Carole Fabricant, Brean Hammond, Margaret Anne Doody, Michael F. Suarez, S.J., Patrick Kelly, Ian Higgins, Marcus Walsh, Pat Rogers, Judith C. Mueller, J. Paul Hunter, Seamus Deane

Contents: List of illustrations; Chronology; List of abbreviations; Introduction Christopher Fox; 1. Swift’s life Joseph McMinn; 2. Politics and history David Oakleaf; 3. Swift the Irishman Carole Fabricant; 4. Swift’s reading Brean Hammond; 5. Swift and women Margaret Anne Doody; 6. Swift’s satire and parody Michael F. Suarez, S.J.; 7. Money and economics Patrick Kelly; 8. Language and style Ian Higgins; 9. Swift and religion Marcus Walsh; 10. Swift the poet Pat Rogers; 11. A Tale of Tub and early prose Judith C. Mueller; 12. Gulliver’s Travels and the later writings J. Paul Hunter; 13. Classic Swift Seamus Deane; Further reading.

The Library and Reading of Jonathan Swift: A Bio-Bibliographical Handbook, Part I Swift's Library in Four Volumes by Heinz J. Vienken Dirk F. Passmann (Peter Lang) The library of Jonathan Swift was sold by auction after his death in 1745. Fortunately, there was a catalogue of the auction, printed in 1746, so we know most of the books Swift owned at the time of his death. The catalogue lists a total of 657 lots. Long before that, Swift had formed a habit of drawing up lists of the books he had read or owned. The first extant, of his reading, dates from 1697/1698, when he was employed by his mentor Sir William Temple. Another inventory, of books he owned, Swift compiled in 1715. The Library and Reading of Jonathan Swift identifies the individual works and lists all authors represented in them in detail.

Swift's books included -- apart from individual works from classical literature, theology, the sciences, and history ‑numerous large collections and anthologies; consequently, the`number of authors within the sale catalogue's 657 lots and within other inventories runs to more than 2,100. Among these, for example, 336 travel writers come from Hakluyt's Principall Navigations, 272 from Purchas his Pilgrims, two huge collections of travel literature Swift used extensively in the preparation of Gulliver's Travels. There are 144 humanists, antiquaries, and polymaths in the anthologies of Graevius,116 in that of Gronovius, and 73 in Michael Maittaire's Opera et Fragmenta Veterum Poetarum Latinorum ( London , 1713). All individual authors in anthologies like Carmina Novem Illustrium Feminarum edited by Fulvius Ursinus (Antwerp, 1568), the Historiae Romanae Scriptores Latini Veteres (1621), Twysden's Historiae Anglicanae scriptores X (Swift owned the edition of 1652) or Ralph Winterton's edition of Poetae minores Graeci (1661) are described with their contents. The library contains 358 historians, 120 theologians, 43 medical writers, 33 legal authors, and 29 diplomats. Among the authors we find some 205 Latin, 160 Greek, 229 French, 158 Italian, 67 Spanish, 50 Dutch, 8 Belgian, and 7 Danish writers. Swift owned 22 different editions of the Bible alone, not only in Greek and Latin, but also in English, French, Italian and other languages, among them a Froben Biblia integra of 1495 and Brian Walton's famous Polyglott Bible in six huge folio volumes, printed between 1653 and 1657.

Whether Greek and Roman classics, historical and theological works, or the lavishly illustrated monumental collections of Graevius and Gronovius on Roman antiquities, in every case the individual authors have been identified, and their writings described in detail. Among the works described in this handbook are some of the finest productions in the history of printing, including works printed by the Elzevirs, Plantin, Froben, the Estiennes, Hackius and Gryphius. In addition one finds some extremely rare books of which only very few copies are extant in major reference libraries throughout the world. These include Humphrey Prideaux's famous Marmora Oxoniensia of 1676, a richly illustrated book on ancient marble, and valuable works on numismatics like that of Hubert Goltzius.

The handbook offers minute examination of the contents of many important works in ecclesiastical history, such as the Magdeburg Centuries or Baronius's Annales, in natural philosophy, as the works of Paracelsus, and in M literature, as the famous Cabinet satyrique. Few other major reference works have ever provided such a comprehensive amount of reliable and indispensable information for Swift scholars as well as philologists, historians, theologians or bibliographers.

All individual books are described with a full collational formula, the complete contents, and remarks on the history and transmission of the text, on the life of the author and on the significance of his writings for a late seventeenth‑ or early eighteenth century reader. In order to provide a contemporary assessment of the author's status in Swift's day, the reader always finds a transcription of the relevant entry from the English translation (in two bulky volumes) of Moreri's The Great Historical, Geographical and Poetical Dictionary (1694), a work also on Swift's shelves.

The exact shelfmark of the copy inspected, whether from the British Library, the Bodleian Library or various other major libraries or collections all over the world, is also given with every entry. A full and partly annotated bibliography of editions and translations, bibliographies, and secondary sources including major biographies, monographs, and important articles on the author and his work, is provided and enables scholars to get an in‑depth introduction to the author in question. Supplementing the work, a substantial bibliography of references abbreviated in the Reference section of individual entries provides full citations for the standard handbooks, biographies, bibliographies and monographs quoted and cited earlier in the work.

Swift's own copies have been consulted whenever their exact locations are known in libraries of Europe and North America . Most marginalia and inscriptions have been scrupulously consulted and checked against existing printed versions. They are fully transcribed in this work, too.

Where Swift is known to have quoted from, referred to or alluded to an author, all identified passages in Swift's writings are presented and discussed. For instance, the reader finds, in the case of the Bible, ten pages relating to Swift's use of the Bible throughout his writings, and, in the case of Virgil, a full survey of allusions, quotations and references to the Roman poet in Swift's works and letters.

Moreover, Swift scholarship of the last decades has unearthed numerous references and allusions to many authors not present in Swift's library. Thus, the second part of the work deals with what is called his " Reading ". Part II will document not only Swift's reading of the literature of his age, as its political pamphlets, but also his reading of Shakespeare. Swift certainly knew many of the great Elizabethan's plays. Among others, Swift alludes to The Merry Wives of Windsor, Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night, Henry V, Hamlet and Julius Caesar. More than 2,000 entries in Part II will reveal how many more works the Dean is known to have read without there being a trace of them in his own library. Many works he may have consulted in the libraries of his friend Thomas Sheridan or of Sir William Temple. Therefore, an appendix contains a transcript of the sale catalogue of Sheridan 's library (1739) and a tentative list of Temple 's library, reconstructed from references in Temple 's works.

Bound with the general bibliography in a separate volume is an index. When­ever the catalogued books contain information relating to a specific passage in Swift's works, the reader will find this in the index. References are to the volume number and page number in The Prose Works of  Jonathan Swift edited by Herbert Davis, The Poems of Jonathan Swift edited by Harold Williams, Jonathan Swift: The Complete Poems, edited by Pat Rogers, and Swift's Correspondence vol. 1,  in both the editions of Harold Williams and of David Woolley. (The collected letters of Jonathan Swift D.D., Irish dean and celebrated author of 'Gulliver's Travels', have long been esteemed with the best to have emerged from eighteenth century England, an age distinguished for the excellence of its letters. In the half century from 1690 to 1740 some two hundred and thirty contemporaries, in all walks of life, thought to preserve his autographs: among them were his literary friends, his printers and publishers, politicians of the day in England and Ireland , his ecclesiastical superiors and other clergy, his friends of the nobility, and closer friends and relatives. He also diligently kept many of their replies. Together these project a marvellously animated panorama not only of his own life, but of his varied acquaintance, and the scenes of London , Dublin , and rural Ireland through a deeply interesting historical era. This entirely new edition prepared by a recognized authority presents over 1500 letters, derived from the earliest authentic texts in manuscript or print, and provides the most comprehensive commentary to date, based upon published and unpublished research of the last thirty years.)

Thus, The Library and Reading of Jonathan Swift offers a meticulous reconstruction of Swift's intellectual contexts and gives a fresh impulse for the interpretation of his writings. At the same time, it is a major reference tool for almost any branch of the humanities.


Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin , Ireland on 30 November 1667 , second child and only son of Jonathan Swift and Abigaile Erick Swift. His father was dead before Jonathan, Junior was born, so the child's education was arranged by other relatives. Jonathan graduated from Trinity Colege, Dublin , in 1686 and then went to England to try his luck. He found a job as secretary to Sir William Temple, and it was in Sir William's household that he met Esther (Stella) Johnson and became her tutor. Now Sir William was an extremely important statesman of the day. He helped arrange the marriage of future British monarchs William and Mary.

Anyway, Jonathan wrote a lot of stuff in between tutoring sessions, but unfortunately burned most of it. The writing that survives shows signs of the great satirist he was to become. But when Sir William died in 1699, Jonathan was left scrambling for a job and eventually ended up with several odd little Church positions back in Ireland . He became a very fashionable satiric writer as far as Dublin society was concerned.

And now for one of my all-time favorite anecdotes. In the early 1700's, a man named John Partridge, a cobler by trade, took up printing almanacs to make some extra money. He challenged his readers to try their hands at prophecy and see if they could beat Partridge's own prophetic abilities. Well, Partridge had made some attacks on the Church of England, and in 1708, Jonathan decided to stand up for his employer. Using the name Isaac Bickerstaff, he prophesied "a trifle...[Partridge] will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at Night, of a raging fever." At the proper time, using another name, Jonathan announced the fulfillment of said prophecy. Partridge, in his next almanac, protested loudly that he was still alive, but no one believed him. The Stationer's Register had already removed his name from their rolls, and that was good enough for most people.

Somewhere around 1716, some biographers say he married Stella Johnson, but there's no proof of this, and you'd think there'd be some sign if he had. Though they lived near each other for most of their lives, they were always very properly chaperoned and may very well have never been alone together.

Gulliver's Travels was published in 1726, Jonathan's first big dive into prose. Though it's been pretty solidly labeled a children's book, it's also a great satire of the times that is pretty much beyond most children. It shows Jonathan's desire to encourage people to read deeper and not take things for granted: readers who paid attention could match all of Gulliver's tall tales with current events and long-term societal problems. In 1729, Jonathan wrote one of my favorites, A Modest Proposal, supposedly written by an intelligent and objective "political arithmetician" who had carefully studied Ireland before making his proposal. Most of you probably know this one. The author calmly suggests one solution for both the problem of overpopulation and the growing numbers of undernourished people: breed those children who would otherwise go hungry or be mistreated in order to feed the general public.

Jonathan died on 19 October 1745 , aged 78. He hadn't been in a good frame of mind for some time. He managed to keep some of his sense of humor, though--his last will and testament provided funds to establish somewhere around Dublin a hospital for "ideots & lunaticks" because "No Nation wanted [needed] it so much."

Irish author and journalist, dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral ( Dublin ) from 1713, the foremost prose satirist in English language. Swift became insane in his last years, but until his death he was known as Dublin 's foremost citizen. Among Swift's best known works is Gulliver's Travels (1726), where the stories of Gulliver's experiences among dwarfs and giants are best known. Swift gave to these journeys an air of authenticity and realism and many contemporary readers believed them to be true.

"They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore seldom fail to punish it with death; for they alledge, that care and vigilante, with a very common understanding, may preserve a man's goods from thieves; but honesty hat no fence against superior cunning: and since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit; where fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no Law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone and the knave gets the advantage." (from Gulliver's Travels: 'A Voyage to Lilliput')

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin . His father, Jonathan Swift Sr., a lawyer and an English civil servant, died seven month's before his son was born. Abigail Erick, Swift's mother, was left without private income to support her family. Swift was taken or "stolen" to England by his nurse, and at the age of four he was sent back to Ireland . Swift's mother returned to England , and she left her son to her wealthy brother-in-law, Uncle Godwin. Swift studied at Kilkenny Grammar School (1674-82), Trinity College in Dublin (1682-89), receiving his B.A. in 1868 and M.A. in 1692. At school Swift was not a very good good student and his teachers noted his headstrong behavior. When the anti-Catholic Revolution of the year 1688 aroused reaction in Ireland , Swift moved to England to the household of Sir William Temple at Moor Park , Surrey - Lady Temple was a relative of Swift's mother. He worked there as a secretary (1689-95, 1696-99), but did not like his position as a servant in the household. In 1695 he was ordained in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Dublin . In Moor Park Swift also was the teacher of a young girl, Esther Johnson. He called her Stella and when she grew up she become an important person in his life. Stella moved to Ireland to live near him and followed him on his travels to London . Their relatioship was a constant source of gossips. According to some speculations, they were married in 1716. Stella died in 1728 and Swift kept a lock of her hair among his papers for the rest of his life.

"As the common forms of good manners were intended for regulating the conduct of those who have weak understandings; so they have been corrupted by the persons for whose use they were contrived. For these people have fallen into a needless and endless way of multiplying ceremonies, which have been extremely troublesome to those who practice them, and insupportable to everyone else: insomuch that wise men are often more uneasy at the over civility of these refiners, than they could possibly be in the conversations of peasants or mechanics." (from 'A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding', 1754)

After William Temple's death in 1699, Swift returned to Ireland . He made several trips to London and gained fame with his essays. Throughout the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14), Swift was one of the central characters in the literary and political life of London . From 1695 to 1696 Swift was the vicar of Kilroot, Laracor from 1700, and prebendary of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin (1701). In Kilroot Swift met Jane Wairing, with whom he had an affair. For Swift's disappointment, she did not consider him a suitable marriage partner. Between the years 1707 and 1709 he was an emissary for the Irish clergy in London . Swift contributed to the 'Bickerstaff Papers' and to the Tattler in 1708-09. He was a cofounder of the Scriblerus Club, which included such member as Pope, Gay, Congreve, and Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford.

In 1710 Swift tried to open a political career among Whigs but changed his party and took over the Tory journal The Examiner. With the accession of George I, the Tories lost political power. Swift withdrew to Ireland . Esther Vanhomrigh, whom Swift had met in 1708, and whom he had tutored, followed him to Ireland after her mother had died. She was 22 years younger than Swift, who nicknamed her Vanessa. In the poem 'Cadenus and Vanessa' from 1713 Swift wrote about the affair: "Each girl, when pleased with what is taught, / Will have the teacher in her thought." In 1723 Swift broke off the relationship. Ester had sent a letter to Stella, asking if she was married to him. Esther never recovered form his rejection. Swift's letters to her were published after her death.

From 1713 to 1742 Swift was the dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It is thought that Swift suffered from Ménière's disease or Alzheimer's disease. Many considered him insane - however, from the beginning of his twentieth year he had suffered from deafness. Swift had predicted his mental decay when he was about 50 and had remarked to the poet Edward Young when they were gazing at the withered crown of a tree: "I shall be like that tree, I shall die from the top." He died in Dublin on October 19, 1745 . Swift left behind a great mass of poetry and prose, chiefly in the form of pamphlets. William Makepeace Thackeray once said of the author: "So great a man he seems to me, that thinking of him is like thinking of an empire falling."

Swift's religious writing is little read today. His most famous works include THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS (1697), exploring the merits of the ancients and the moderns in literature. The authors of renowned books take sides in the battle. Swift stated that "satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own." A TALE OF A TUB (1704) was a religious satire. It has at its core a simple narrative of a father who has triplets and, upon his death, leaves them each a coat which will grow with them. Although the book was published anonymously, it established Swift's reputation.

In ARGUMENTS AGAINST ABOLISHING CHRISTIANITY (1708) the narrator argues for the preservation of the Christian religion as a social necessity. When an ignorant cobbler named John Partridge published an almanac of astrological predictions, Swift parodied it in PREDICTION FOR THE ENSUING YEAR BY ISAAC BICKERSTAFF. He foretold the death of John Partridge on March, 1708, and affirmed on that day his prediction. Partridge protested that he was alive but Swift proved in his 'Vindication' that he was dead. DRAPIER'S LETTERS (1724) was against the monopoly granted by the English government to William Wood to provide the Irish with copper coinage. In A MODEST PROPOSAL (1729) the narrator with grotesque logic recommends, that Irish poverty can solved by the breeding up their infants as food for the rich. When the actor Peter O'Toole read it - for some reason - in the reopening of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin in 1984, several members from the audience departed. Swift has been labelled as a hater of mankind. "Principally I hate and detest that animal called man; although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth, " Swift wrote in a letter to Alexander Pope. However, Swift defended ordinary Irish people against England 's economic oppression and he was known as a prankster. He also had a philanthropical side. As a churchman Swift had spent a third of his earnings on charities and he saved another third each year to found St. Patrick's Hospital for Imbeciles in 1757.

Gulliver's Travels (1726) - Defoe's novel about Robinson Crusoe had appeared in 1719 and in the same vein Swift makes Lemuel Gulliver, a surgeon and a sea captain, recount his adventures. In part one, Gulliver is wrecked on an island where human beings are six inches tall. The Lilliputians have wars, and conduct clearly laughable with their self-importance and vanities - these human follies only reduced into a miniature scale. Gulliver's second voyage takes him to Brobdingnag. "I cannot but conclude that the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth." (from Gulliver's Travels: 'A Voyage to Brobdingnag') He meets giants who are practical but do not understand abstractions. In the third voyage contemporary scientist are held up for ridicule: science is shown to be futile unless it is applicable to human betterment. Gulliver then travels to the flying island of Laputa and the nearby continent and capital of Lagado. There he meets pedants obsessed with their own special field and utterly ignorant of the rest of the life. On the island of Glubbdubdrib Gulliver encounters a community of sorcerers who can summon the spirits of the dead, allowing him to converse with Alexander, Julius Caesar, Aristotle and others. He meets Struldbrughs, who are immortal and, as a result, utterly miserable and become senile in their 80s. In the fourth part Gulliver visits the land of Houyhnhnms , where horses are intelligent but human beings are not. The horses are served with degenerate creatures called Yahoos, demonstrating that human race would destroy itself without divine aid. Swift wrote the book with a serious purpose - "to mend the world". Gulliver's Travels was a topical social satire, a work of propaganda, in which Swift wanted to show the consequences of humanity's refusal to be reasonable. It is still widely read all over the world - especially the two first books are children's favorites - and open to many interpretations. But when Defoe was an optimist, Swift's in his bitter pessimism makes Gulliver return home, preferring the company of horses to that of his family. etc. - For further reading: The Life of Jonathan Swift by Henry Craik (1882); The Mind and Art of Jonathan Swift by Ricardo Quintano (1936); Swift: An Introduction by Ricardo Quintano (1955); Swift and Carroll: A Psychoanalytic Study of Two Lives by Phyllis Greenacre (1955); Swift and Ireland by Oliver W. Ferguson (1962); Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age by Irvin Ehrenpreis (1962-83, 3 vols.); Swift: "Gulliver's Travels", ed. by Richard Gravil (1974); Swift's Landscape by Carole Fabricant (1982); The Character of Swift's Satire, ed. by Claude J. Rawson (1983); Jonathan Swift: Political Writer by J.A. Downie (1984); Jonathan Swift by David Nokes (1985); Gulliver's Travels by S. Brean Hammond (1988)

Headline 3

insert content here