Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift - Public domain
Jonathan Swift - Public domain

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is a 17th century Irish writer, well known for his humorous writings. His satires and pamphlets made him a famous Dublin writer, still known today, and celebrated every year by the Irish capital where he was born.

Biography of Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin on November 30, 1667, and was taken in by his uncles following the death of his father. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the prestigious Trinity College, where he studied from 1681 to 1688. There he discovered a passion for literature, and lived in a rather tense Dublin climate, opposing Protestants and Catholics.

Since his childhood, Swift has suffered from a then unknown disease of nausea, dizziness and tinnitus that will follow him for the rest of his life. Although handicapped by these symptoms, Swift will manage to overcome all his disadvantages. Today’s medicine seems to think it is Menière’s disease.

After finishing his studies, Jonathan Swift left Ireland for England, in County Leicester. There he meets his mother, and is hired as a secretary for the politician Sir William Temple. He also becomes the tutor of Esther Johnson, Temple’s illegitimate daughter, and will be in love with her for many years.

The money he received for his work enabled him to finance theological studies, which he completed in 1692. During this time, he joined Freemasonry, and still frequented Esther Johnson. Upon completion of his theological studies, Jonathan Swift officially became a pastor in Kilroot. He will not stay there for long, and will join Sir William Temple in Moor Park. There he wrote “The Battle of the Books” and then the “Tale of the Barrel”, a satirical text attacking the stupidity and ignorance of the society of the time. Queen Anne expressed her displeasure to him.

As early as 1701, Swift was again inspired and decided to write a first pamphlet: “A Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome”. The following year, he returned to Ireland with Esther Johnson, and began writing for a few local newspapers including the Examiner. There he strongly criticized the government’s inability to govern peacefully and stop the war with France. While he was writing, he entered St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, but was unable to gain access to the archbishopric, as Queen Anne refused to forgive him for his early writings.

In 1728, Jonathan Swift lost Esther Johnson, and became involved in numerous political writings with arguments of rare virulence. Many of his readers both appreciated and feared his texts, so cynical and implacable were they.

Jonathan Swift died in Dublin on October 19, 1745 and was buried in his cathedral alongside his wife Esther Johnson. The words on his grave read: “Here lies the remains of Jonathan Swift, D.D., the dean of this cathedral, whose heart will no longer be torn apart by fierce indignation. Go your way, traveler, and imitate if you can the man who defended freedom against all odds”.