Quotes by Jonathan Swift
Instead of dirt and poison we have rather chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax; thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.
Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy is the best bred in the company.
Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
And surely one of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish had been left unsaid…
There are few, very few, that will own themselves in a mistake, though all the World sees them to be in downright nonsense.
There is nothing in this world constant, but inconstancy.
…one enemy can do more hurt, than ten friends can do good.
Those dreams that on the silent night intrude, and with false flitting shapes our minds delude ... are mere productions of the brain. And fools consult interpreters in vain.
...reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired...
Pedantry is properly the over-rating of any kind of knowledge we pretend to.
I love good creditable acquaintance; I love to be the worst of the company.
It is impossible that any thing so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death, should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.
Hobbes clearly proves that every creature
Lives in a state of war by nature.
Books, the children of the brain.
But nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches, as to conceive how others can be in want.
I can discover no political evil in suffering bullies, sharpers, and rakes, to rid the world of each other by a method of their own; where the law hath not been able to find an expedient.
So weak thou art, that fools thy power despise;
And yet so strong, thou triumph'st o'er the wise.
Pride, ill nature, and want of sense, are the three great sources of ill manners.
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own.
Nothing is so great an instance of ill manners as flattery. If you flatter all the company, you please none; if you flatter only one or two, you affront the rest.
For, in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery: but in fact, eleven men well armed will certainly subdue one single man in his shirt.
Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.
'Tis very warm weather when one's in bed.
We are so fond of one another, because our ailments are the same.
I shall be like that tree; I shall die from the top.
If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.
Jonathan Swift's Biography
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. Swift's most famous 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.

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 1686 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 Swift was ordained in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Dublin. While in staying in Moor Park, Swift also was the teacher of a young girl, Esther Johnson, whom he called Stella. 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 relationship 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.

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. There he 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 Swift 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. Hester 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; she never recovered form his rejection.

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."

Jonathan Swift died in Dublin on October 19, 1745. He 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 author himself pretends to be an objective chronicler of events, but his sympathies are more on the side of the ancients. A TALE OF A TUB (1704) was a religious satire. Swift once stated that "satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own." At its core the tale a simple narrative of a father who has triplets, Martin, Peter and Jack; they refer to different churches. The father is of course God. Upon his death, he leaves them each a coat which will grow with them. Swift finished the tale in 1697, but hesitated to publish it. Although the work eventually appeared 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 recommends with grotesque logic, that Irish poverty can be 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." 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. - OTHER TRAVELLER'S TALES: Homer's Odyssey, Marco Polo's Travels, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, adventures of Baron Münchhausen by Rudolf Eric Raspe (1737-1794), etc.
Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008