Jonathan Swift: An expert satirist

Jonathan Swift. Satirist. Gulliver's Travels. A Modest Proposal. Author.

I remember reading A Modest Proposal at a young age and finding it funny—because our class had the background on the satirical piece itself. Audiences when the piece dropped weren’t so lucky and were quite disgusted by its implications, but the joke might’ve been lost on them, because the author, Jonathan Swift, was an expert satirist, so one could argue that he really didn’t want to eat those kids…but we’ll get to that in tomorrow’s post.


Jonathan Swift was born into poverty on Nov. 30 in Dublin, Ireland. Swift was sick as a child, perhaps due to malnutrition and Meniere’s disease, but eventually was sent to live with his uncle Godwin Swift who supplied a young Jonathan with an education and some support. Later in life, Swift would come to work as a secretary for Sir William Temple who was a retired diplomat and, as such, he met numerous political elites, and eventually Temple helped swift enter Oxford University where Swift graduated with his M.A.

Swift was later appointed as Chaplin to Lord Berkely and he became a Doctor of Divinity. He wrote The Battle of the Books and a humorous religious piece titled A Tale of the Tub. Swift was somewhat prolific at this time and also formed some literary alliances, as well. “In 1713, Swift formed the literary club Scriblerus along with Alexander Pope and others,” states “… Swift also published his masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels (1724) under the pen name Lemuel Gulliver in 1726.” He kept busy writing and he kept busy poking fun at a system that he felt was unfair to the Irish and exacerbated poor social conditions.

Swift passed away in 1745 after a battle with declining health and Alzheimer’s.

Notable Works

  • A Tale of a Tub (1704)
  • The Battle of the Books (1704)
  • Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
  • The Drapier’s Letters (1724)