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  • 11/29/2003

Jonathan Swift

 (November 30,1667 -October 19,1745)

Jonathan Swift was born onNovember 30,1667 (after his father's death) byEnglish parents, and educated by his Uncle Godwin. After a not very successful career atTrinity College, Dublin, he went to stay with his mother, Abigail Erick, atLeicester.
Soon afterwards an opening for Swift presented itself working for SirWilliam Temple. In 1689 Swift went to live atMoor Park,Surrey, where he read to Temple, wrote for him, and kept his accounts. Growing into confidence with his employer, he "was often trusted with matters of great importance." Within three years of their acquaintance, Temple had introduced his secretary toWilliam III, and sent him to London to urge the King to consent to a bill for triennial Parliaments.
When Swift took up his residence at Moor Park he found there a little girl of eight, daughter of a merchant namedEdward Johnson, who had died young. Swift says thatEsther Johnson was born onMarch 18,1681 - she was later known as Stella and would later figure largely in Swift's life.
By1694 Swift had grown tired of his position, and finding that Temple, who valued his services, was slow in finding him preferment, he left Moor Park in order to carry out his resolve to go into the Church. He was ordained, and obtained the prebend ofKilroot, nearBelfast.
In May1696 Temple induced Swift to return to Moor Park, where he was employed in preparing Temple's memoirs and correspondence for publication. During this time Swift wroteThe Battle of the Books, which was, however, not published until1704. On his return to Temple's house, Swift found his old playmate grown from a sickly child into a girl of fifteen, in perfect health.
In the summer of1699 Swift was offered and accepted the post of secretary and chaplain to theEarl of Berkeley, one of the Lords Justices, but when he reached Ireland he found that the secretaryship had been given to another. He soon, however, obtained the living of Laracor, Agher, and Rathbeggan, and the prebend of Dunlavin inSt. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.
At Laracor, a mile or two from Trim, and twenty miles from Dublin, Swift ministered to a congregation of about fifteen persons, and had abundant leisure for cultivating his garden, making a canal (after the Dutch fashion of Moor Park), planting willows, and rebuilding the vicarage. As chaplain to Lord Berkeley, he spent much of his time in Dublin. When Lord Berkeley returned to England in April 1701, Swift, after taking his Doctor's degree at Dublin, went with him, and soon afterwards published, anonymously, a political pamphlet,A Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome.
Swift was politically active between1707 and1710, successfully petitioning the English government on behalf of the Irish bishops for the surrender by the Crown of the First-Fruits and Twentieths, which brought in about 2500 pounds a year. As a result he became more and more intimate with the Tory leaders and increasingly cool towards his older acquaintances.
Swift received the reward of his services to the Government--the Deanery of St. Patrick's, Dublin--in April 1713. Swift was back again in the political strife in London in September, taking Oxford's part in the quarrel between that statesman andBolingbroke. On the fall of the Tories at the death of QueenAnne, he saw that all was over, and retired to Ireland, not to return again for twelve years.
In1723 Swift became engrossed in the Irish agitation which led to the publication of theDrapier's Letters, and in1726 he paid a long-deferred visit to London, taking with him the manuscript ofGulliver's Travels.
OnJanuary 28,1728, Stella died. Swift could not bear to be present, but on the night of her death he began to write his very interestingCharacter of Mrs. Johnson. He was too ill to be present at the funeral at St. Patrick's, but afterwards, we are told, a lock of her hair was found in his desk, wrapped in a paper bearing the words, "Only a woman's hair."
Swift continued to produce pamphlets manifesting growing misanthropy, though he showed many kindnesses to people who stood in need of help. He seems to have given Mrs. Dingley fifty guineas a year, pretending that it came from a fund for which he was trustee. The mental decay which he had always feared--"I shall be like that tree," he once said, "I shall die at the top"--became marked about1738. Paralysis was followed byaphasia, and after acute pain, followed by a long period of apathy, death relieved him in October 1745. He was buried by Stella's side, in accordance with his wishes. The bulk of his fortune was left to found a hospital for idiots and lunatics.

Notable Works

· The Battle of the Books (1704)

·A Tale of a Tub (1704)

· The Journal to Stella (1710-1713)

· An Argument against Abolishing Christianity (1711)

· A Proposal for Correcting...The English Tongue

·Gulliver's Travels (1726)

·A Modest Proposal (1729)

· The Lady's Dressing Room (1732)

· The Intelligencer (w Thomas Sheridan) (?)

· Bickerstaff-Partridge Papers (1707?)

· Three Sermons/Prayers (e|?)

· Cadenus and Vanessa (poem)

· On the Conduct of the Allies (1713)

· The Grand Question Debated (1729)

· Verses on His Own Death (1731)

· On Poetry, a Rhapsody (1733)

· A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation (1731)

· Directions to Servants (1731)

Taken from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_SwiftFor more information:
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