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Jonathan Swift: The Great Satirist Essay

2126 words - 9 pages

Jonathan Swift is known as one the greatest satirists in literature. His experience in religion, politics and science allow his works to be considered genius in the world of writing. Swift’s writing laid the foundation for several satirical successors. Swift was born in 1667 in Dublin, Ireland. His father had passed away “right before [he] was born” (Draper 3531). He was left “in the care of relatives” for the first three years of his life, while his mother returned to England to take care of business (Cody). Swift’s parents, Jonathan and Abigail, were both Protestants. His religion played a major role in his life, which led to his later career as a Protestant minister.
Jonathan Swift started his education at six years old, when he attended Kilkenny Grammar School, “which was, at the time, the best in Ireland” (Cody). He graduated from Trinity College when he was nineteen, however he wasn’t the best student in school. Shortly after graduating, Trinity College closed during the Glorious Revolution. In 1689, Swift became Sir William Temple’s secretary. Along with becoming Temple’s new secretary, Swift also met and fell in love with a woman named Esther Johnson. Esther is better known as the “‘Stella’ of his famous Journal to Stella” (Byers 52). Surprisingly enough, she was thirteen years younger than Swift.
When Swift was 25, “he returned to Ireland to take holy orders” and this is where he established his career in the Anglican church (Cody). Swift had also started writing several pieces in the genre of satire. One of his early satires includes A Tale of a Tub which mocks Western Christianity. Writing a piece like this was very risky for Swift to do, mostly because his position in any church would be jeopardized. The next satire he wrote was The Battle of Books. In the plot of this story, actual books battle in the King’s library. This battle is meant to symbolize the authors’ of that time struggle to be the best author on the market. These two works were published together with The Mechanical Operation of the Spirit. All three of these early pieces are considered to be “satires [that] exhibit Swift at his most dazzling” (Byers 52).
Jonathan Swift was also politically active in his 30s. His political career was directly correlated to his career in the church. The early 1700s was the times of the Tories vs. the Whigs. Swift was “attempting to obtain for the Irish clergy...financial benefits...which failed” (Byers 52). The Whigs were not in favor of Swift’s cause, so he turned to the support of the Tories. From 1710 to 1714, Swift was “the chief journalist and principal pamphleteer” for leaders of the Tory party (Byers 52). He was also a writer for a Tory paper called the Examiner for a little less than a year.
Swift spent much time traveling back and forth between Dublin and London, as well as serving Queen Anne. However, Queen Anne passed away in 1714 and “Swift’s career in England” was just as ruined as the Tory party (Byers 53). In...

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