Vanity Fea


martes, 9 de diciembre de 2014


From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble.

SWIFT, Jonathan (1667-1745), born in Dublin after his father's death. He was son of Jonathan Swift by Abigail (Erick) of Leicester, and grandson of Thomas Swift, the well-known Royalist vicar of Goodrich, descended from a Yorkshire family. He was a cousin of *Dryden. He was educated with *Congreve, at Kilkenny Grammar School, then at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was censured for offences against discipline, obtaining his degree only by 'special grace'. He was admitted (1689) to the household of Sir William *Temple, and there acted as secretary. He was sent by Temple to William III to convince him of the necessity of triennial parliaments, but his mission was not successful. He wrote Pindaric *odes, one of which, printed in the Athenian Mercury (1692) provoked, according to Dr *Johnson, Dryden's remark, 'Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet.' Chafing at his position of dependence, and indignant at Temple's delay in getting him preferment, he returned to Ireland, was ordained (1694), and received the small prebend of Kilroot. He returned to Temple at Moor Park in 1696, where he edited Temple's correspondence, and in 1697 wrote *The Battle of the Books, which was published in 1704 together with *A Tale of a Tub, his celebrated satire on 'corruptions in religion and learning.' At Moor Park he first met Esther Johnson ('Stella'), the daughter of a servant or companion of Temple's sister. On the death of Temple in 1699, Swift went again to Ireland, whre he was given a prebend in St Patrick's, Dublin, and the living of Laracor. He wrote his Discourse of the Contests and Dissensions between the Nobles and the Commons in Athens and Rome, with reference to the impeachment of the Whig lords, in 1701. In the course of numerous visits to London he became acquainted with *Addison, *Steele, Congreve, and Halifax. He was entrusted in 1707 with a mission to obtain the grant of Queen Anne's Bounty for Ireland, and in 1708 began a series of pamphlets on church questions with his ironical Argument against Abolishing Christianity, followed in the same year by his Letter Concerning the Sacramental Test, an attack on the Irish Presbyterinas which injured him with the Whigs. Amid these serious occupations, he diverted himself with theseries of squibs upon the astrologer John Partridge (1708-9, see under BICKERSTAFF), which have become famous, and his 'Description of a City Shower' and 'Description of the Morning', poems depicting scenes of London life, which were published in the *Tatler (1709). Disgusted at the Whig alliance with Dissent, he went over to the Tories in 1710, joined the Brothers' Club, attacked the Whig ministers in the *Examiner, which he edited, and in 1711 wrote The Conduct of the Allies and Some Remarks on the Barrier Treaty, pamphlets written to dispose the mind of the nation to peace. He became dean of St Patrick's in 1713. He had already begun his Journal to Stella, a series of intimate letters (1710-13) to Esther Johnson and her companion Rebecca Dingley, who had moved to Ireland in 1700/1; it is written partly in baby language, and gives a vivid account of Swift's daily life in London where he was in close touch with Tory ministers. Swift's relations with Estella remain obscure; they were intimate and affectionate, and some form of marriage may have taken place. Another woman, Esther Vanhomrigh (pro. "Vannumery") , entered his life in 1708; his poem *Cadenus and Vanessa suggests that she fell deeply in love with him ('She wished her Tutor were her lover') and that he gave her some encouragement. She is said to have died of shock in 1723 after his final rupture with her, inspired by her jealousy of Stella. Stella died in 1728.

Swift wrote various political pamphlets, notably The Importance of the Guardian Considered (1713) and The Public Spirit of the Whigs (1714), in reply to Steele's Crisis; and about the time of the queen's death in 1714 and the fall of the Tory ministry, several papers (published much later) in defence of the latter. In the same year he joined *Pope, *Arbuthnot, *Gay, and others in the celebrated *Scriblerus Club. He returned to Ireland in Aug. 17814 and occupied himself with Irish affairs, being led by his resentment of the policy of the Whigs to acquire a sense of their unfair treatment of Ireland.By his famous *Drapier's Letters (1724) he prevented the introduction of 'Wood's Half Pence' into Ireland. He came to England in 1726, visited Pope and Gay, and dined with Sir Robert *Walpole, to whom he addressed a letter of remonstrance on Irish affairs with no result. He published *Gulliver's Travels in the same year, and paid a last visit to England in 1727, when the death of George I created for a moment hopes of dislodging Walpole. He wrote some of his most famous tracts and characteristic poems during his last years in Ireland, The Grand Question Debated (1729); Verses on the Death of Dr Swift (1731, pub. 1739), in which with mingled pathos and humoiur he reviews his life and work; A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious *Conversation (1738); and the ironical Directions to Servants (written about 1731 and published after his death). He kept up his correspondence with *Bolingbroke, Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot, attracted to himself a small circle of friends,, and was adored by the people. He spent a third of his income on charities, and saved another third to found St. Patrick's Hospital for Imbeciles (opened 1757). The symptoms of the illness from which he suffered for most of his life (now thought to have been Ménière's disease) became very marked in his last years, and his faculties decayed to such a degree that many considered him insane, though modern biographical opinion rejects this view. He was buried by the side of Stella, in St. Patrick's, Dublin, his own famous epitaph 'ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit' (where fierce indignation cannot further tear apart the heart) being inscribed into his tomb. Nearly all his works were published anonymously, and for only one, Gulliver's Travels, did he receive any payment (£200). Dr Johnson, *Macaulay, and *Thackeray, among many other writers, were alienated by his ferocity and coarseness, and his works tended to be undervalued in the later 18th-19th centuries. The 20th century has seen a revival of biographical and critical interest, stressing on the whole Swift's sanity, vigour, and satirical inventiveness rather than his alleged misanthropy.

Swift published a great number of works. Besides the more important, referred to above, mention may be made of the following:

Political writings: The Virtues of Sid Hamet the Magician's Rod (1710), an attack on Godolphin; The W—ds—r Prophecy (1711), attacking the duchess of Somerset; A Short Character of T[homas] E[arl] of W[harton] (1711)); The Fable of Midas (1711); Some Advice Humbly Offered to the Members of the October club, the extreme Tories (1712); Some Free Thoughts upon the Present State of Affairs (1714); Traulus (1730), attacking Lord Allen; and the History of the Four Last Years of the Queen [Anne] (1758), which contains his famous character of *Harley.

Pamphlets relating to Ireland: A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (1720); The Swearer's-Bank (1720), The Story of the Injured Lady (?1746); A Short View of the State of Ireland (1728); *A Modest Proposal (1729); An Examination of Certain Abuses, Corruptions and Enormities in the City of Dublin (1732); The Legion Club (the Irish Parliament, 1736).

Pamphlets on church questions. The Sentiments of a Church of England Man with Respect to Religion and Government (1708); A Project for the Advancement of Religion and the Reformation of Manners (1709); A Preface to the B—p of S—r—m's Introduction (1713), an attack on Bishop *Burnet; Mr C—ns's Discourse on Free Thinking, a satire on Anthony *Collins (1713); A Letter to a Young Gentleman, Lately Entered into Holy Orders (1721), Swift's Sermons (of which four were published in 1744), are marked by the author's usual characteristics of vigour and common sense.

Miscellaneous verses and other writings. 'Mrs Frances Harris's petition', a servant who has lost her purse, an amusing burlesque (1709); *Baucis and Philemon (1709); 'On Mrs Biddy Floyd' (1709); 'A Meditation upon a Broom-Stick' (1710); A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712); Imitations of the Seventh Epistle of the First Book of *Horace and the First Ode of the Second Book of Horace (1738); A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet (1721); a 'Letter to a Very Young Lady on Her Marriage' (1727); the 'Journal of a Dublin Lady' (1729); The Lady's Dressing-Room (1732); The Beasts Confession to the Priest (1732), a satire on 'the universal folly of mankind in mistaking their talents'; A Serious and Useful Scheme to Make an Hospital for Incurables—whether the incurable disease were knavery, folly, lying, or, infidelity (1733); On Poetry, a Rhapsody (1733), satirical advice to a poet; A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed; and Strephon and Chloe (1734).

The Prose Works have been edited by Herbert Davis (16 vols, 1939-74); Journal to Stella by H. Williams (2 vols, 1948); Poems by H. Williams (1937); Correspondence by H. Williams (5 vols, 1963-5); Complete Poems ed. P. Rogers (Penguin, 1983), with an important commentary. See also Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age (3 vols, 1962-83) and a useful short study by R. Quintana, Swift: An Introduction (1955).


Universal Criticism: Arbuthnot and Swift

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