Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish poet, writer and cleric who gained reputation as a great political writer and an essayist. Jonathan, who became Dean of St. Patrick's in Dublin, is also known for his excellence in satire. His most remembered works include Gulliver's Travels, A modest Proposal, An Argument against Abolishing Christianity and A Tale of a Tub.
Childhood & Early Life
Jonathan Swift was born on 30 November 1667 in Dublin, Ireland to an Irish father Jonathan Swift and an English mother Abigail Erick. Jonathan, who was second child and the only son of his parents, was born seven months after his father's death. His mother left him with his father's family and returned to England. After loosing his parent's contact, Jonathan stayed with his uncle Godwin, who sent him to Kilkenny College for studies. After completing primary schooling, Jonathan went on to study at the Dublin University in 1682, and received a B.A. Degree in 1686. He had to drop his further studies after a political clash broke in Ireland. Jonathan was forced to leave the place and moved to England in 1688, where withy the help of his mother, he secured a job as secretary of an English diplomat Sir William Temple at Moor Park.
Swift left Temple in 1690 because of his persisting illness but returned in the next year. It was during this period, that he began to show signs of Meniere's disease, which remained until his death. Jonathan received his M.A. degree from the Oxford University in 1692 and left Moor Park and moved to Ireland where he was appointed as a priest in the Church of Ireland. He again returned to Temple in 1696 forever. Working as an assistant to Temple, he was given many responsibilities such as writing memoirs and correspondence for publication. Swift wrote The Battle of the Books in 1690, a satire, which was finally published in 1704. After Temple's death on 27 January 1699, Swift stayed in England for a brief period and returned to Ireland to become Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
Jonathan as a Writer
Swift was awarded Doctor of Divinity from Trinity College, Dublin in 1702. During this period he wrote A Tale of Tub and his previous work A Battle of Books was published. With the success of these two, he began to achieve excellence as a writer and came into contact with Alexander Pope, Johan Gay and John Arbuthnot. During year 1707-1709, Swift remained politically active and again in 1710, he traveled to London seeking the claims of Irish clergy to the First-Fruits and Twentieths.
As his urges to the Whig administration of Lord Godolphin went unheeded, he published a political pamphlet The Conduct of the Allies in 1711. The pamphlet harshly criticized the Whig government for its incapability to end the war with France. Tory government, an opposition party to the Whig government, recruited Swift as editor of The Examiner when it came in power in 1710. The party initiated a negotiation with France and signed the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. After the Whig government again returned to power in 1714, the Tory leaders were charged with treason and tried for illegal negotiation with France.
Controversies over Personal Life
Swift was widely believed to share an intimate and close relationship with a girl Esther Johnson. He first met her when she was eight years old. The two maintained a close but ambiguous relationship for the rest of his life. They were believed to have secretly married, though there is no definite proof corroborating this. But it was certain that she held a special place in his heart throughout his life. In his later life, Swift was linked to another fatherless girl, Esther Vanhomrigh, who presumably was infatuated with him, though Swift later tried to break off relationship with her.
Later Life and Death
With Whig government coming to power, Jonathan Swift left England for one more time. He returned to Ireland and began a series of political writing in Irish support. Some of his notable works during this period are Proposal for Universal Use of Irish Manufacturer (1720), Drapier’s Letters (1724) and A Modest Proposal (1729). Some of his masterpiece, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World and Gulliver’s Travels also came during that period. In 1726 he visited England where he stayed with his life long friends Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot and John Gay. With the help of them, Swift anonymously published his book Gulliver’s Travels in 1726. The book was proved to be such a huge success that it’s French, German and Dutch version had to be published in 1727.
Esther Johnson’s death on 28 January 1728 shattered him and pushed him in to a state of mental illness. He wrote his book The Death of Mrs. Johnson as a tribute to Esther Johnson after her death. Moved by her death, Swift began to write extensively on death and in 1731, he wrote Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, which was published in 1739. Before that in 1738, he had begun to show signs of mental illness and gradually lost his ability to speak and walk. On 19 October 1745 Jonathan Swift died. In accordance to his wishes, he was buried near the grave of Esther Johnson and his assets were donated to found a hospital for the mentally ill.