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date: 16 April 2021

Swift, Jonathanfree

  • Clive Probyn

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

by Isaac Whood, 1730

by courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland

Swift, Jonathan (1667–1745), writer and dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, was born on 30 November 1667, probably at 7 Hoey's Court, St Werburgh's parish, Dublin, the second of two children of Jonathan Swift (1640–1667), steward of the King's Inns, Dublin, and his wife, Abigail Erick (1640–1710), whom he had met after arriving in Ireland. Swift minimized attention to the female line of his family, but it is known that his mother was the daughter of James Ericke, vicar of Thornton, Leicestershire, 1627–34. Accused of holding an unlawful nonconformist conventicle and of dereliction of duty in January 1634, Ericke was prosecuted in the court of high commission in May, and about October he left for Ireland. Abigail was born in Dublin.

Family background

Swift's earliest known and direct male ancestor was William Swyfte of Canterbury (c.1500–1567), of unknown occupation, who married (c.1533) Agnes Barbett, also of Canterbury (d. 1569). Their eldest son, Thomas (d. 1592), was for forty years rector of St Andrew's, Canterbury. William, son of Thomas (1566–1624), succeeded him at St Andrew's, and William's son, also Thomas, the vicar of Goodrich in Herefordshire (1595–1658), was remembered as a staunch royalist noted for his loyalty in Mercurius Rusticus (1685) and for having been 'plundred by the roundheads six and thirty times' (Family of Swift, 189). Of this Thomas's eleven children (Mary, Godwin, Dryden, Emily, Elizabeth, Thomas, Sarah, William, Katherine, Jonathan, and Adam) the eldest son, Godwin (1628–1695), was trained at Gray's Inn from 1650, was called to the English bar in July 1660, to the Irish bar in May 1663, and was attorney-general for Ormond's palatinate in Tipperary until June 1668. Godwin's brother Thomas married the eldest daughter of Sir William Davenant, leaving a son, also called Thomas, rector of Puttenham, Surrey. Godwin's youngest brother, Adam (1642–1704), reached Ireland last of all and lived in Bull Alley, near Godwin, practising as a solicitor. William was admitted a solicitor in Dublin in November 1661, and lived in nearby Bride Street. Thomas's fifth son, Swift's father, Jonathan, was probably the first of Godwin's brothers to migrate to Ireland and was named Jonathan after his mother's brother Jonathan Dryden. The satirist and the poet John Dryden (1631–1700) were second cousins once removed.

By 1660 Jonathan was working at the King's Inns, Dublin, the hall of the Irish lawyers' corporation, whose governing body included Sir John Temple, and in June 1664 he and Abigail married privately and by special licence issued by the prerogative court of the archbishop of Armagh. In his autobiographical fragment Swift says simply that his father Jonathan 'had some employments, and agencyes' (Family of Swift, 191): in fact he was an office-holder, having been appointed steward of the King's Inns, Dublin, on 25 January 1666, and attorney one day later. Two children were born of this marriage: Jane (bap. 1 May 1666, d. 1736) and Jonathan, born about seven months after the death of Jonathan senior, and probably at his uncle Godwin's house, 7 Hoey's Court (Faulkner's Dublin Journal). Jane probably remained in Ireland until her brother went to Kilkenny College in 1673, and thence went to England with her mother, but she was married from the Bride Street household of her uncle William, whom Swift described in November 1692 as 'the best of my relations' (Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.7). In spite of her brother's disapproval Jane married Joseph Fenton, a Dublin currier, in 1699, and although he never lost touch with her and met her several times after her marriage, he also provided her with an annuity of £15 for as long as she stayed out of Ireland. Her will is in Le Brocquy, Cadenus (Le Brocquy, pp. 149–51).

Education in Ireland

The untimely death of Swift's father inevitably produced financial difficulties for his widow. Before he was a year old, and perhaps without his mother's knowledge or consent, the infant Swift was taken by his devoted nursemaid to Whitehaven, Cumberland. At some point after the event Abigail was informed, and consequently instructed the nurse to remain in Whitehaven with the child until it was safe to attempt a return voyage. Swift remained with the nurse for three years, and was apparently able to spell and read the Bible by three years of age (Family of Swift). For reasons that cannot now be ascertained, but which may have included financial exigency, Abigail and her daughter, Jane, left Ireland and returned to her family in Leicestershire. There is no certainty that she saw her son again until his visits to her in spring 1689 and autumn 1692.

Swift's uncle Godwin is usually credited with the responsibility for taking charge of his education, but there is no reason for excluding William and Adam from sharing the cost. From the age of six and until fourteen Swift attended the best school available at the time, Kilkenny College, about 70 miles south-west of Dublin, where William Congreve was his younger contemporary, as were his cousin Thomas Swift (1665–1752) and Francis Stratford; the latter was to become a Hamburg merchant and director of the South Sea Company in 1711. Of his schooldays Swift later recalled 'the delicious Holidays, the Saterday afternoon, and the charming Custards in a blind Alley … the Confinement ten hours a day, to nouns and Verbs, the Terror of the Rod, the bloddy Noses, and broken Shins' (12 Nov 1708, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.59). Both college masters during Swift's time, Edward Jones and Edward Ryder, were Cambridge trained and became bishops. Swift studied the humanist and scholastic curriculum, Latin and Greek composition and translation, oratory, and rhetoric, in a context of 'pious, royalist Anglicanism' (Ehrenpreis, 1.39).

On 24 April 1682 Swift and cousin Thomas were entered at Trinity College, Dublin, as pensioners, or fee-paying students. The undergraduate syllabus offered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aristotelian philosophy. Aristotelian mathematics and politics were added for the MA. Narcissus Marsh was one of the provosts (1679–83) during Swift's time, and he produced a notable manual of logic specifically for the college, Institutiones logicae, which Swift was later to recall for the fourth voyage of Gulliver's Travels. His tutor was St George Ashe (later provost of Trinity College and bishop of Clogher), who remained a lifelong friend to Swift and also to Esther Johnson. Like Marsh he was a man deeply interested in the new sciences and mathematics in particular. Swift did 'passably well' in all subjects except abstract philosophy and formal rhetoric. As a student he was 'more than a drudge and less than an angel' (Ehrenpreis, 1.62, 70), but in his autobiographical fragment Swift claims that he was 'stopped of his Degree, for Dullness and Insufficiency' (Family of Swift, 192). Swift was not a brilliant student, but he exaggerated his academic insufficiency: records indicate that, like four others out of thirty-eight students graduating with him, he was granted his BA ex speciali gratia, by what might be called a condoned pass grade.

According to his own account Swift experienced at this time the first symptoms of what was much later (1861) diagnosed as labyrinthine vertigo or Ménière's syndrome, a disease of the inner ear contracted 'before twenty years old', which Swift mistakenly attributed to 'a Surfeit of fruit' and which 'almost brought him to his Grave'. Symptoms began in his left ear and included vertigo, deafness, and 'coldness of Stomach' (Family of Swift, 193), and in October 1724 he wrote of 'the Noise of seven Watermills in my Ears' (Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 2.626). In its acute form the disease is disabling.

England and Sir William Temple

On 26 January 1689 Swift and his cousin Thomas left Trinity College, Dublin, in Jonathan's case two months short of the required seven-year period of residence required for the MA degree. Many Anglo-Irish protestants preferred exile in post-revolutionary England to continued residence in a prospectively rebellious and, under Richard Talbot, earl of Tyrconnell (appointed lord lieutenant in January 1687 and a supporter of James II), Roman Catholic oligarchy. Protestants in the army and the judiciary and privy councillors were systematically replaced, and in the first week of December 1688 rumour of a protestant massacre elicited no reassurance from the lord deputy, and a panic led to an exodus. During some months spent with his mother in Leicester, not demonstrably the first meeting since his infancy—since he may have visited her there either before or during his time at Trinity College—but perhaps only the second, there was a flirtation with Elizabeth Jones of Wanlip, Leicestershire. His 'Letters to Elisa' mentioned in his letter to John Winder were doubtless burnt (13 Jan 1699, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.16).

Swift then entered upon a ten-year period of service (including two long breaks) with Sir William Temple, the son of the Swifts' benefactor Sir John Temple in Ireland. Sir William and his family had moved from Dublin to Sheen, Surrey, in 1665. His last surviving child, John, had drowned himself on 14 April 1689, and Swift arrived in the middle of the year. For the next ten years he was financially assisted in Temple's household by remittances from his uncle William and from first cousin Willoughby. He probably accompanied Temple when, early in the summer of 1689, he moved from Sheen to Moor Park, Surrey. In Temple's own words, 'his whole family having been long known to mee obliged mee thus farr to take care of Him' (29 May 1690, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.1). Here, in a household run by Temple's sister, the widowed Martha, he first met Esther Johnson (Stella) (1681–1728), the daughter of Temple's housekeeper, Bridget Johnson, and the widow of Edward Johnson. Swift later (1726) affirmed that he and Stella had been 'perfect Friends these 35 Years', then, five days later, 'thirty-three years' (ibid., 15 and 20 July 1726, 2.698, 700). Both were dependants, Stella as Lady Giffard's gentlewoman-in-waiting, and Swift as Temple's copyist, keeper of accounts, and his reader. Later on he was appointed editor of Temple's posthumous works.

It has been suggested, in Denis Johnston's In Search of Swift (pp. 111–12), that Stella may have been Temple's natural daughter by Bridget; that Swift's father died too soon to have been the writer's father, and that Swift may have been the natural son of Sir John Temple (1600–1677), master of the rolls, and Abigail Erick. If this were so Swift would have been the natural half-brother of Sir William Temple, and Stella's uncle. Few have been convinced by this theory, although certainty is lacking in crucial details of the standard account, notably baptismal records. As his cousin Deane Swift was to say in the last year of Swift's life, 'A thousand stories have been invented of him within these two years and imposed upon the world' (4 April 1744, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 4.1506). A somewhat tendentious genealogical table of the Temple and Swift families from 1600, angled to the theory that Swift was the son of Sir John Temple, is to be found in Johnston (pp. 232–3).

Swift was more than Temple's secretary and amanuensis. He was also employed as Temple's emissary to William III's court, and he claims to have met the king several times on the latter's visits to Moor Park. If Temple was a father figure for Swift, Temple regarded Swift not so much as a surrogate son but more as a valuable employee bound to him by obligations and duty. Recent scholarship (Elias, 46–7) has stressed Swift's awkward dependence upon the bounty of a vain and superficial cultural intelligence, with the ambitious young Swift rankling at his subordinate status in Temple's household. Even so, this must be set against the fact that at Moor Park he also came into contact with some whig grandees whose influence, though fading, would be useful to him in his own developing career. These included Charles Spencer, earl of Sunderland, future (and absentee) lord lieutenant of Ireland for ten months, and the earl of Portland, lord chamberlain. Over the king's opposition to the proposed bill for triennial parliaments, and through Portland, Swift made his first court appearance, carrying a historical explanation to the king of the grounds for the bill's introduction. It is not clear that Swift actually met the king, but when his venture failed to have its intended effect Swift took the experience as a salutary lesson in the ways of court intrigue. In May 1690, using the Temple sinecure as master of the rolls in Ireland, Temple offered him a post in that office worth 'about 120 ll a year'. Swift turned it down in favour of ordination, thereby indicating his disdain for merely materialistic self-advancement (Family of Swift, 194; Ehrenpreis, 1.145–7). Temple further assisted Swift in the latter's application for the post of secretary to Sir Robert Southwell, secretary of state for Ireland in King William's expedition to reconquer Ireland after the rebellion. Swift was back in Ireland probably just after the battle of the Boyne was fought on 1 July 1690. No immediate benefit—not even the improvement in health promised by physicians—seems to have come from this early attempt to find a suitable Irish appointment, and he returned to England and reached Moor Park in December. By February 1692 Swift was weighing up his marriage prospects, beginning a career in the church, and knew enough about Leicester people to disparage them as 'a parcel of very wretched fools' (11 Feb 1692, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.2) for their gossip about his conduct towards an unknown woman. On 5 July 1692, two days before Thomas, and less than a month after his incorporation from Hart Hall, Oxford (later Hertford College), he received the MA. He spent the autumn months with his mother.

First publications and an Irish parish

Swift had been writing Pindaric odes in the elaborate style of Abraham Cowley since 1689, and his first published anonymous poem was 'Ode: to the King on his Irish Expedition' (Dublin, 1691), followed by 'Ode to the Athenian Society', published under his own name and with a rather embarrassing letter in praise of the non-existent society in the Supplement to the Fifth Volume of the Athenian Gazette (1692). With Temple's encouragement he also translated 200 lines of Virgil. In December 1693 he wrote his ode 'Occasioned by Sir William Temple's Late Illness and Recovery'. He left Temple's household for the second time in May 1694, apparently against the wishes of Temple himself, and with the stated intention of being ordained in Ireland in the following September. He felt that he had already spent too much time without settling into a profession. He was replaced as Temple's secretary for two years from 1694 by his parson cousin Thomas Swift. Before proceeding with the ordination, however, Archbishop Marsh insisted on the canonical requirement of testimonials to 'a good life and behaviour', and duly received a certificate relating to Swift's 'Morals and Learning' and his reasons for quitting Temple's household. Once this had been settled he was ordained deacon in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 28 October 1694, then priest on 13 January 1695, and both ceremonies were performed by William Moreton, bishop of Kildare. On 28 January he was appointed by the Irish government (through Lord Capel) to the prebend of Kilroot in the cathedral of Connor. Kilroot was effectively three parishes, worth about £100 a year, comprising the vicarages of Kilroot, on the north side of Belfast Lough, Templecorran, on the north and east boundary of Kilroot, and the rectory of Ballynure, north-west of Kilroot. In this sparsely populated, isolated, neglected, and overwhelmingly Scottish Presbyterian parish he was installed on 15 March.

Swift's sojourn at Kilroot was, materially speaking, comfortless at best, and theologically alarming at worst, given its poverty and its overwhelmingly nonconformist character. Weary of his new post after only a few months he accepted Temple's urging to return to Moor Park in May 1696, but not before pressing Jane Waring (1674–1720), daughter of the archdeacon of Dromore, to reconsider her earlier refusal of his marriage proposal; this had been based on doctors' advice about her own health and also on Swift's uncertain financial prospects. Swift gave her a latinized nickname, Varina, and she was thus the first of the 'three frail, fatherless, first-born young women to whom [Swift] attached himself' (Ehrenpreis, 1.165).

Moor Park again

At Moor Park Swift returned to his earlier secretarial duties, but now with the special responsibility of preparing Temple's poems, essays, and three volumes of letters for the press. He also read very widely in Temple's library, especially in political and ecclesiastical history, the Greek and Roman classics, travel literature, French literature, and in the darker corners of esoteric religious works. Although there is no mention of its gestation this is the place and the period, in the second half of 1696, during which his first book, A Tale of a Tub, was conceived and written, notably the allegory of the three brothers representing Roman Catholicism (Peter), Calvinism (Jack), and Anglicanism (Martin), as well as the attacks on 'Moderns' in philosophy, science, and textual scholarship in the five 'digressions'. It is difficult to imagine Temple approving his secretary's satirical writing, no matter how brilliant, but there is one intriguing possibility suggesting that this was the case. Alone among biographical authorities Deane Swift claims that Temple not only read the Tale's digressions but also that Swift submitted each of them 'to the judgment and correction of his learned friend' (D. Swift, 60; Elias, 155–206). Swift's The Battle of the Books is a defence of Temple's cultural opposition to certain branches of 'modern' learning such as accurate historical and textual scholarship and mathematics, as expressed in Temple's Essay upon the Ancient and Modern Learning (1690). This had been answered in the second version of William Wotton's Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning (1697), and by Richard Bentley, whose 'Dissertation upon the epistles of Phalaris' (June 1697) was designed to show up Temple's shaky scholarship. In 1705, and in response to the barbs in the anonymous Tale of a Tub, Wotton published a third and final version.

Swift did not formally resign from Kilroot until early in January 1698. Sir William Temple died on 27 January 1699, 'and with him all that was great and good among men', Swift remarked (Ehrenpreis, 1.257), leaving him a legacy of £100 and the obligation to prepare several unpublished works for the press. Swift petitioned the king through Temple's friend the earl of Romney for a prebend of Canterbury or Westminster, 'upon the Claym of a promise his Majesty had made to Sr W[illiam] T[emple]' (Family of Swift, 195). Again nothing came of this and he returned to Ireland in August 1699, having accepted in June the invitation of the second earl of Berkeley, the new lord justice, to become his domestic chaplain and private secretary. Swift lost the secretarial position to the opportunist manoeuvrings of Arthur Bushe soon after arriving in Dublin, but remained Berkeley's chaplain for almost two years (to early April 1701), as well as gaining a lifelong friendship with Berkeley's second daughter, Lady Elizabeth Germain. On 30 November 1699 the first two volumes of his edition of Temple's letters were on sale, and these included his own translations from the French and Latin originals. On 16 February 1700 Swift was appointed to Laracor—the two vicarages of Laracor and Rathbeggan and the rectory of Agher, lying mostly to the south-east of Trim. With a combined value of about £230 annually this produced the bulk of Swift's income for the next twelve years. On 4 May and alleging her cooling ardour towards himself as well as 'untractable behaviour' (Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.18), Swift set out the conditions under which he would entertain marriage to Jane Waring. The full circumstances of this letter are not known, but it is hardly surprising, given its offputting demands and stern moral tone, that their relationship faded. Varina eventually died unmarried.

On 22 October Swift achieved his first substantial position in the church, and thereby the key to his eventual deanery, with his appointment to the prebend of Dunlavin in the cathedral of St Patrick. In 1701 (April to September) he was in England, having accompanied Berkeley when he was recalled, and published anonymously his first political work, on the balance of power in the state, A Discourse of the Contests and Dissensions between the Nobles and Commons in Athens and Rome (October 1701). The historian's art always compelled Swift's interest, and this is an example of parallel history, in which he defended the whig John, Lord Somers, under the name of Aristides, and also attacked his future patron Robert Harley and the Harleyites. Its allegorical technique foreshadows much of Gulliver's Travels.

Stella was also in London, now twenty, with a legacy from Temple made up of land leases in Ireland worth £1000, and half as much again in invested money. Swift persuaded her and her companion Rebecca Dingley (c.1666–1743) to move to Dublin. The latter had a small annuity of £14, both her parents had been first cousins to Temple, and she was fifteen years Stella's senior. Swift was to pay them an annual allowance of £44 (Ehrenpreis, 2.300).

In August 1701 Stella and Dingley, known by Swift in the Journal to Stella collectively as 'MD'—perhaps code for 'my dears'—moved from Moor Park to Dublin to live in William Street, between Trinity College and St Patrick's. Swift took the degree of doctor of divinity at Trinity College, granted on 16 February 1702, and then left for England in late April in the wake of the king's death on 8 March. There he arranged the publication of Temple's Miscellanea, the Third Part in July, including 'A defence of the essay on ancient and modern learning' for which Benjamin Tooke jun. paid him £30. The third volume of Temple's Letters (1703) earned him another £50 from the same source (2 September 1702). The key figures in the whig junto, Somers, Halifax, and Sunderland—the latter known to Swift from his Moor Park days—courted him when they learned that he was the author of the Contests and Dissensions and promised 'the greatest preferments'.

Swift was back in Ireland from October 1702 to November 1703. William King, bishop of Derry, became his formal ecclesiastical superior as archbishop of Dublin from March 1703: 'we generally differed in politicks', Swift recalled in 1717 (18 July 1717, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 2.466), although each was whig in state politics and tory in church politics. He left Dublin for England on 11 December 1703, probably carrying the manuscript of A Tale of a Tub with him. The Lords' rejection in December of the bill designed to prevent occasional conformity elicited great political excitement and drew Swift into its factionalism: the Test Act was seen in Ireland as the crucial and primary defence of the Church of Ireland. Swift's views of the whigs and the danger in their moves to abolish the test this time may be seen in his later work The Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man, with Respect to Religion and Government (1708, published 1711). He was in England until May 1704, making another regular visit to his mother in Leicester, and in April he was discouraging by letter William Tisdall's suit for Esther Johnson without at the same time making such an offer to Stella himself.

The London publication of A Tale of a Tub, again issued anonymously, happened three weeks before Swift left the country (10 May). It was dedicated to Lord Somers by 'The Bookseller', and, like each of three subsequent reprints, was printed for John Nutt, even though Benjamin Tooke, who owned the copyright, paid Swift for it and employed John Nutt as the trade publisher. On 1 June 1704 Swift was back in Dublin; he remained there until November 1707, having completed his sixteenth crossing between Ireland and England (fourteen of which voyages may be identified). By February 1711 the total was nineteen.

England, 1707–1709

Swift attended the earl of Pembroke, lord lieutenant of Ireland, in London, from November 1707 to June 1709. At some point about December 1707, if not before, and in Dublin, Swift met the Van Homrighs. Hester, the widowed mother, two sons, and two daughters, Esther (1688–1723) and Mary, were newly arrived from Dublin and living in some style near St James's Square. Esther Van Homrigh (Vanessa) was twenty-one years Swift's junior, and seven years younger than Stella. The only return visit to England made by Stella and Dingley coincided with Swift's time there, and they stayed for the summer months, returning to Dublin before November 1708. The two most important women in Swift's life were thus in London at the same time, and as far as is known each was kept unaware, then and later, of the other's true significance to him. Outside this very private circle his new friends included Pembroke's companion, the art collector and punster Sir Andrew Fountaine, and, by February 1708, Joseph Addison, Sunderland's under-secretary of state of the southern department, and also later appointed secretary to Thomas, earl of Wharton, lord lieutenant of Ireland. Swift's primary business was to represent Archbishop King and the Church of Ireland in negotiations for the remission to the Irish clergy of the first fruits and twentieth parts payable by them from the first year's ecclesiastical revenue of a benefice (effected in England in 1704 and converted into a fund known as Queen Anne's Bounty). Though A Tale and Contests and Dissensions had been published anonymously, he was soon making his mark on the world of the London wits. Addison described him in 1708 as 'The Truest Friend And the Greatest Genius of his Age' (Forster, 160) and both were on close terms with Somers.

In April the almanac maker and astrologer (or, in Swift's terms, 'Cobler, Starmonger, and Quack') John Partridge asserted in a letter to Isaac Manley, postmaster of Ireland, that reports of his own death had been much exaggerated. In a brilliant spoof of the almanac style, signed by ‘Isaac Bickerstaff’, Swift had predicted Partridge's death on 29 March in Predictions for the Year 1708 (published January 1708). This was not only Swift's practical joke against vulgar superstition: it was also part of his moderate defence of the Church of England against 'the “low party” of the Dissenters, the freethinkers and the moneyed men, and … the high Tories, who were either non-jurors or Jacobites' (Prose Works, 1.x). The Tatler (no. 9, April 1709) carried one of Swift's best poems, the urban georgic A Description of the Morning, and in June he had the first of two interviews with Sidney, earl of Godolphin, lord treasurer for the past six years and a strong supporter of the Occasional Conformity Bill. Godolphin made it clear that any hope Swift had for obtaining remission of the first fruits from the whig government would depend on using his influence to deliver the consent of the Irish clergy to the repeal of the Test Act in Ireland. Swift was deeply offended by this tactic, his second chastening experience of real court politics. And in what one of his commentators has called his winter of discontent (1708–9) prospects of preferment from whig politicians had seemed to shrink as his literary opportunities in a whig group blossomed. By July and in a letter to Ambrose Philips he was gleefully referring to himself, Addison, and Richard Steele as the 'Triumvirate' (a term he also applied eighteen years later to himself, Pope, and Bolingbroke) and enjoying London's coffee-house culture. Godolphin was dismissed by the queen on 8 October 1710 and Swift took his revenge with a lampoon, 'The Virtues of Sid Hamet the Magician's Rod'.

The years 1708–10 brought Swift's first extensive taste of life at the centre of English literary and political culture, and he revelled in it. He was occupied by his campaign against repealing the Test Act in Ireland, when he was 'writing [his] Speculations' (14 Sept 1708, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.53) on church and state relations: the brilliantly perverse logic of An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity (written about April 1708, published 1711); the flatly didactic A Project for the Advancement of Religion, and the Reformation of Manners (written about August to September 1708, published 1709); Remarks upon a Book [by Matthew Tindal], Intitled ‘The Rights of the Christian Church Asserted’ (written at the end of 1707 and in early 1708, and not published until Faulkner's edition of Swift's Works, 1762); A Letter from a Member of the House of Commons in Ireland to a Member of the House of Commons in England, Concerning the Sacramental Test (published 1709); and The Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man (1708, possibly begun 1704, but not published until 1711 in Miscellanies in Prose and Verse). Swift met John Arbuthnot, physician-in-ordinary to the queen at this time, and to this period also belongs the first extant letter to his lifelong friend and confidant Charles Ford. A prose essay on the Act of Union (1707) and Ireland's relationship to England as a mistress cast off in favour of Scotland, The Story of the Injured Lady, was written between January and May 1710, but not published until 1746.

In April 1709 Benjamin Tooke jun. paid Swift £40 for the third part of Temple's Memoirs (published in June), the last pseudo-filial act of his literary executorship for Temple which over a period of ten years had earned him between £200 and £250 (£50 for the third volume of Temple's Letters, 1703; and perhaps the same for the two-volume 1699 Letters and 1701 Miscellanea: the Third Part). He set out for Ireland on 5 May, spending six weeks with his mother in Leicester—a visit that probably reflects her failing health, since she died on 29 April 1710—and probably completed the 'Apology' for the fifth edition of the Tale here also, since it is dated 'June 3, 1709'. On 19 June Edmund Curll's Complete Key to the ‘Tale of a Tub’ attributed Swift's Tale to Thomas and Jonathan Swift conjointly. The only direct evidence for this was Thomas's own suggestion, and it was roundly dismissed as an impertinence in Jonathan's letter from Dublin to Benjamin Tooke of 29 June. Lord Lieutenant Wharton, whom Swift disliked intensely, was coming to the end of his period of residence in Dublin, and Swift seems to have avoided Dublin and gone directly to his beloved country vicarage at Laracor, with visits to particular friends such as Ford, the Ashe brothers, and Lady Shelburne. In October–November he was embroiled in a dispute with Lady Giffard, who had been against publishing Temple's Memoirs and had accused him in print (The Post-Man, 6 Oct 1709) of publishing the 'Third part' against the author's stated intentions and from an unauthorized and 'unfaithfull' copy. Temple had written at the head of the text: 'Written for the satisfaction of my friends'. Swift refuted the charge (10 Nov 1709, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.83), asserting that Temple himself had corrected the editor's copy.

Late in 1710 the fifth London edition of A Tale of a Tub appeared, printed for John Nutt and published anonymously by Benjamin Tooke jun., including the 1709 'Apology' containing important statements on his intentions and satiric techniques. Edmund Curll's Key, together with comments lifted from Wotton's observations on the Tale, were inserted beneath the text, the latter as if they were editorially from 'W. Wotton'. Swift's own (unsigned) comments were reproduced among these as notes. He remained in Ireland until August 1710. In London political power was inexorably slipping from the hands of Godolphin and the whig junto towards the outstretched arms of Robert Harley, tory moderate, and Swift was about to change his political loyalties.

London and tory propaganda

Having been commissioned at the end of August 1710 by King and fellow Irish prelates to plead with the new government the cause of the Irish clergy, Swift left Dublin once more to seek remission of the first fruits. On his arrival in London on 7 September 1710, shortly before Godolphin's dismissal, he found himself 'caressed by both parties'. He was now a more experienced negotiator, sensitive to and prepared to deal with the wiles of political managers. Swift presented his arguments in person to Robert Harley, chancellor of the exchequer, on 4 October, and again in a four-hour meeting with Harley on the following Saturday at York Buildings, Buckingham Street, south of the Strand, perhaps the single most important meeting in Swift's political career. He decided thereafter to be less fond of the whiggish St James's Coffee House. Charles Jervas, the Irish portrait painter and Pope's teacher, was finishing his portrait at this time. On 21 October Swift learned that the queen had granted the request of the Irish church, a personal triumph for Swift. Harley had taken less than three weeks to effect something that Swift's whig friends had been unable or unwilling to do in three years. He also offered an introduction to Secretary Henry St John, a successful device to secure Swift's loyalty and propaganda services as unpaid editor of the tory weekly The Examiner, which had been running since August under the editorial control of Dr William King, assisted by Dr John Freind, Matthew Prior, Delarivier Manley, St John, and Francis Atterbury (whose state treason trial in 1723 was to provide the material for an episode dealing with espionage and secret codes in Gulliver's Travels, part 2, chap. 6). Its printer was John Barber, later appointed printer to the South Sea Company through Swift's influence (October 1711).

Swift's contributions to The Examiner comprise thirty-three essays written from a tory point of view 'to assert the principles, and justify the proceedings of the new ministers'. Published on Thursdays from 2 November 1710 (no. 14) to 14 June 1711 (no. 46, jointly written with Manley, the subsequent editor), Swift's essays were each answered in The Medley the following Monday by Addison's friend, the whig MP Arthur Mainwaring. As chief ministerial writer Swift dined at Harley's table, meeting Matthew Prior there on 10 October, and was in St John's company on several occasions before a formal meeting with him on 11 November. The go-between in forging these relationships was the Welshman Erasmus Lewis, Harley's under-secretary. On 17 February 1711 Swift was admitted to the first of Harley's Saturday Club dinners at his house in York Buildings, a kind of inner cabinet comprising Harley, St John, Sir Simon Harcourt, and Earl Rivers.

Harley took Swift to Windsor for the first time in July. St John and the British ministers had signed secret and public articles with the French by the end of September, and Swift was given the task of selling the policies and the peace to the English public. His most important and influential political publication came out on 27 November 1711 (predated 1712) and was a central element in the paper war between the whigs and tories. Aimed at winning over the 'country gentlemen', The Conduct of the Allies attacks the whigs for prolonging a war ruinously expensive for the nation but profitable to a monied clique driven by self-interest at the cost of the landed interest. It charged Queen Anne's general, the duke of Marlborough, with corruption and self-aggrandizement, and accused Godolphin and the whig junto of megalomania. It also described the inequitable financial burden carried by England on behalf of the allies. The pamphlet was read in proof and corrected by St John and others, and was purchased and distributed by the ministry. Harley made additions to both the second and fourth editions. The first edition of 1000 copies sold in two days, the second in five hours, the third in less than a week, and by the sixth edition in January a total of 11,000 copies had sold. A Dublin printing of the Conduct (also in 1712) by John Hyde incorporated authorial changes and later became Faulkner's copy text in 1738 (authorial changes ceased with the fourth London edition).

As the leading tory propagandist Swift could not have been nearer the centre of tory foreign policy in this specific example, yet this does not mean that he was privy to all ministerial policies. He had known nothing of the secretive Harley's peace negotiations with France begun in August 1710: Secretary of State St John himself did not learn of them until April 1711, and Swift four months later. Neither was he aware of the secret discussion about a second Stuart restoration, nor privy to Harley's connection with Daniel Defoe. His modern editor says: 'there is very little inside information in The Examiner' (Ellis, xxix–xxxi). Moreover Swift never met the queen or the duke and duchess of Marlborough (Ehrenpreis, 2.526). Two further works were instigated by and written for the tory ministers: Some Remarks on the Barrier Treaty (based on confidential papers and published on 22 February 1712), and The Publick Spirit of the Whigs (23 February 1714). On 27 February 1711 Miscellanies in Prose and Verse had appeared anonymously.

Antoine de Guiscard, a French double agent, attempted to assassinate Harley on 8 March 1711. The incident drove home to Swift how closely his own career was now bound up with Harley (elevated to the peerage as the earl of Oxford and of Mortimer on 24 May 1711), and a very deep affection and respect developed for Harley the man. Swift also dated the breach between Harley and St John from the time of this incident. On 26 April he took up residence in the riverside village of Chelsea, and he stayed there until 5 July, when he moved to Suffolk Street, near the Van Homrighs. Esther Van Homrigh's letters to Swift date from 1709, although his first extant letter to her is dated 18 December 1711. Her letters to him, with one exception (1 September 1712), are drafts retained by Vanessa, with many scorings and deletions.

A blow to Swift's chances of preferment was struck by his lampoon on the queen's favourite, the red-haired whig duchess of Somerset, The Windsor Prophecy (printed as a black letter broadside and in limited circulation on 24 December 1711, but with four printed editions before the end of the month). On 22 January he met Henry Sacheverell, the incendiary high-church tory preacher. Swift's close association with Harley's cultural interests is commemorated in the dedicatory remarks addressed to him in a project to found an English equivalent to that begun by the French Academy, A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue (written by 22 February and published over Swift's name on 17 May 1712). Its purpose was to establish 'a society or academy for correcting and settling our language, that we may not perpetually be changing as we do'. St John was raised to the peerage as Viscount Bolingbroke in July, and Swift moved further up the tory ladder. As evidence of his key political usefulness he was shown a draft of the queen's speech of 9 April 1713 and 'corrected [it] in sevrall Places' (Journal to Stella, 2.635), and he also had input into the queen's speech of 2 March 1714. In August and up to May 1713 he was working at a vindication of the queen and her last ministry by means of an account of the negotiations leading to the peace treaty of Utrecht. He was also incorporated into the Brothers' Club (‘The Society’) with John Arbuthnot (author of the five John Bull pamphlets, 1712), Matthew Prior, and others (originally twelve and eventually twenty-two members), which was founded by Bolingbroke as the tory answer to the whig Kit-Cat Club. Yet in spite of his access to the ministers and to official correspondence, and largely because of the procrastination of both Oxford and Bolingbroke, Swift could not bring his History of the Four Last Years of the Queen (more precisely, a history of one sixteen-month period) to a satisfactory and timely completion. More positively he clearly savoured the recommendatory powers of a 'master of requests' (White Kennett's sardonic term: Ehrenpreis, 2.608), finding posts for Benjamin Tooke and John Barber as printers of the government Gazette, and introducing the Irish philosopher George Berkeley at court. Among the writers he helped were his fellow Irishman Thomas Parnell and the poets William Diaper and William Harrison, the latter a whig who edited and wrote most of the continuation of The Tatler in January–May 1711. But in May 1713 Swift fell out with Richard Steele, by now his political opposite number, over Steele's allusion in The Examiner to Swift's role.

In the middle of all this activity on behalf of others nothing seemed to be offering to satisfy Swift's own ambition 'to live in England, and with a competency to support me with honour' (4 May 1711, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.126). His interest in the deanery of Wells, expressed in a letter to the earl of Oxford (5 January 1712), produced nothing. In April both Oxford and Bolingbroke dangled the prospect of his becoming a prebendary or canon of the royal free chapel of Windsor, but in the end it was Ireland that was to offer his best chance. On 21 April 1713, after terrible suspense and disappointments severe enough to induce him to quit London entirely, he heard that the deanery of St Patrick's was his. He received the news of his appointment as a sentence of exile.

From 2 September 1710 until 6 June 1713 a minutely detailed account of Swift's London years—the most hectic, influential, and satisfying period of his public life—is given in the Journal to Stella. This contains all sixty-five extant letters from Swift to 'MD' (or Stella) except three: an undated letter from some time in January 1698, another of 30 April 1721, and one dated 11 March 1727. With one or two exceptions Stella's own letters were destroyed, probably by Swift himself. There are many references to Mrs Van Homrigh's hospitality in the Journal to Stella, but Vanessa is never singled out for mention by name. The title Journal to Stella was invented by John Nichols in 1779, but it was Sheridan who first published the letters as a separate group under the title Dr. Swift's Journal to Stella in 1784 (the numbering is chaotic, the annotation sloppy, and the last letter is missing).

The golden years of toryism were now almost over, and although Swift did not yet know it Dublin would soon be his home, or 'what fortune hath made my home' (12 Oct 1727, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 3.786) for the rest of his life. He arrived there via Holyhead on 10 June 1713, took the oaths, and three days later was formally installed dean, an appointment which also entailed an ex officio seat on the board of the Dublin workhouse and Foundling Hospital. He stayed for only two sickness-ridden weeks before shifting to his cottage at Laracor, hating 'the Thoughts of Dublin' and preferring 'a field-bed and an Earthen floor before the great House there, which they say is mine … I will never see England again … I am now fitter to look after Willows, and to cutt Hedges than meddle with Affairs of State' (ibid., 8 July 1713, 1.219). Even so he had not yet given up all hope of positions and preferment in England, and he was back in London on 9 September, only to find the tory leadership irredeemably split, with Bolingbroke distrusted, Oxford both intransigent and inert, and each capable only of subverting the other's position.

At Windsor in early October Swift composed Cadenus and Vanessa, a lengthy poetical history of his relationship with Esther Van Homrigh. He also spent time with Oxford, and the first extant letter from Alexander Pope to Swift (8 December 1713) is from this visit, although it suggests a friendship already well established—from Pope's point of view at least—since he alludes to a previous occasion on which Swift had offered him 20 guineas to change his religion. The House of Lords declared The Publick Spirit of the Whigs (23 February 1714) a seditious and scandalous libel (in particular for its remarks about Scottish peers), and within a month of publication a royal proclamation was issued offering a £300 reward for discovery of its author (20 March 1714). The work included an attack on Steele, the key remaining whig propagandist, editor of The Englishman and author of the recent The Crisis (19 January), for raising fears about the succession and of Catholic resurgence should the Hanoverian succession not be accepted, as well as for his attack on the tories' peace settlement. This was Swift's last defence of the OxfordBolingbroke ministry: its origin may not have been in a ministerial request but in what his biographer calls the 'bored disgust' of 'a truly independent citizen whose sense of justice has been outraged' (Ehrenpreis, 2.706).

In February 1714 Swift was elected a governor of Bethlem Hospital, and his licence for absence from Ireland was renewed. He thus spent more time in London with Pope, Arbuthnot, John Gay, and Parnell, in a literary fraternity known as the Scriblerus Club, hatching literary plots against the political and literary establishments. In time some of these would see the light of day as Gulliver's Travels, The Beggar's Opera, and The Dunciad. On 15 April he drafted an application for the vacant office of historiographer royal, but three months later the post went to Thomas Maddox. At the end of May the rift between Oxford and Bolingbroke, as well as his own failure to reconcile them, finally determined Swift to leave London in despair and for good. He stayed in Oxford for a week, and then (3 June) set off for Letcombe Bassett, 50 miles from London, in Berkshire, where he was visited by Pope. Swift's 'letter' to Pope dated 'Jan. 10, 1721' (more a pamphlet-apologia, not sent as a letter, and not published until 1741) is the best single account of his political credo and a direct explication of these crucial four years of Swift's political ascendancy. The 'letter' outlines his abiding principles in the current 'plot-discovering age' and explains his position in relation to the Hanoverian succession, to the 'Revolution-principle', to the maintenance of standing armies in peacetime, to annual parliaments, and to the rise of the monied interest and its opposition to the landed interest. He vents his anger 'at the End of a Pen' in Some Free Thoughts upon the Present State of Affairs, written in May–June 1714 at Upper Letcombe, near Letcombe Bassett. As causes of fatal tory weakness, it singled out Oxford's secretive and hesitant leadership (Swift gave him the ironic nickname ‘The Dragon’); the turbulence of high-church tories (like Sacheverell) and dissenters; the ministry's inadequate defence of the established church; the ministry's failure to deal decisively with uncertainties over the Hanoverian succession; and the personal feuding of the two leaders. Swift's retirement to the country, 'weary to death of Courts and Ministers, and Business and Politicks' (11 June 1714, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 1.278), was greeted by consternation among some of his friends.

Exile in Ireland and a new life

On 27 July 1714 Oxford was dismissed by the queen. Bolingbroke enjoyed only four more days as secretary of state and was already engaged in secret negotiations with the Pretender. Oxford was imprisoned in the Tower, impeached for high treason and high crimes and misdemeanours. The OxfordBolingbroke ministry and all its plans were in tatters, and the political moment for Swift's History and Some Free Thoughts upon the Present State of Affairs had passed. The former was published posthumously in 1758, the latter in 1741. The queen's death on 1 August not only ended the prospect of a tory government; it also destroyed any remaining chances of Swift's preferment in England. Convinced that the future would be whig he returned to Ireland and arrived in Dublin on 24 August, having warned Vanessa on 12 August to be discreet about the few contacts he would permit her to have with him in Dublin. Before November she had followed him to Ireland and settled at Celbridge, a family property 11 miles west of Dublin. Tattle about their relationship began almost immediately. In exile he made new friends such as Knightley Chetwode, yet maintained his public melancholy in a poem 'In Sickness' (October 1714: 'My Life is now a Burthen grown / To others, e'er it be my own'). Arbuthnot kept him in touch with the Scriblerus Club in London, notably reporting the doings of Pope, Parnell, Gay, and others.

Rumours and relationships

There is much to know about Swift's relationship with Vanessa and Stella, but it seems clear that Vanessa asked more from Swift than he was prepared to give. Her coercive letters to him are full of recriminations and the pain of deferred meeting: his to her are tense, replete with negatives, full of warnings about 'Decency' and the need for absolute discretion. There is an element of fear and sexual danger in his response to her assertiveness. His relationship with Stella, on the other hand, besides its much greater duration (from her childhood to her death at forty-seven) is more self-confident, playful, risk-free: his letters and poems to her read sometimes as though he is speaking to an extension of himself. A persistent tradition which, however unlikely it may seem, remains impossible to disprove or prove, dates a secret marriage between Swift and Stella somewhere between the end of July and 4 October 1716, at either Clogher or Dublin, performed by Swift's old tutor, St George Ashe (Sheridan cites Mrs Sican as his authority for this event). If it took place at all it could not be consummated, the theory goes, because of their late discovered consanguinity either as uncle and niece or as first cousins (Johnston, 203). Apart from the three principals, the only person who could have settled these rumours, and who knew both women well enough, was Charles Ford, known as ‘Glass heel’ to Vanessa and as ‘Don Carlos’ to Stella. As Swift's most trusted emissary in all matters he never spoke about the issue. Whatever Swift's relationship with Stella may have been in private (apart from the fact of Swift being her mentor), their public one in verse and prose and in his letters to her in the Journal to Stella was that of an intimate and loving friendship between two people who understood each other perfectly and who each understood and indulged the other's mind games. Stella was far from the only woman in Swift's life, and for a time unwittingly competed for his attention with Vanessa, but she was undoubtedly the most important person in Swift's private life, the 'fairest Soul in the World' (27 July 1726, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 3.702), and his deep and abiding attachment to her is beyond question. His love for her also transcends accurate chronology: on the night of her death, 28 January 1728, he writes that he had known Stella 'from six years old' (J. Swift, On the Death of Mrs. Johnson), yet she was born on 13 March 1681, and in 1687 he was still a student at Trinity College. A physical sexual relationship with Vanessa seems plausible even though the evidence is purely conjectural. It is too easy to assume that Vanessa represents the physical woman and Stella the companionable or maternal woman in this triangular relationship.

By the end of 1718 Swift had further consolidated his Irish friendships, notably with the Revd Patrick Delany, a junior fellow of Trinity College, a fellow churchman, and eventually author of the second biographical study, Observations upon Lord Orrery's ‘Remarks on … Swift’ (1754). Through him Swift met Dr Richard Helsham (senior fellow of Trinity) and Dr Thomas Sheridan (1687–1738), priest and schoolmaster, grandfather of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and father of Swift's godson and future biographer Thomas (1719–1788). Stella's birthday on 13 March 1719 saw the first of Swift's graceful, lucid, gently ironic, and self-deprecating annual verse tributes to her. In a letter to Charles Ford there is the first mention of Gulliver's Travels. 'I am now writing a History of my Travells, which will be a large Volume, and gives Account of Countryes hitherto unknown; but they go on slowly for want of Health and Humour' (15 April 1721, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 2.533). He was now rarely free for more than a month of attacks of deafness and dizziness, and adopted vigorous walking and horse-riding as a palliative measure. In June 1722 he was prescribing reading and exercise for Vanessa and urging that she might 'grow less Romantick, and talk and act like a Man of this World' (ibid., 1 June 1722, 2.563).

Irish life and writing

Between Swift's return to Dublin in 1714 and the first of his Irish tracts lies a six-year period in which he learned that exile in Ireland would give him the greatest political and artistic challenge of his life. This was the period during which the patriotism of a would-be Englishman was refashioned into an anti-colonial humanitarianism that took Ireland as its point of reference. Unlike many writers of the time Swift forged a programme of political writing based on the evidence at his own doorstep: terrible human deprivation and social injustice. With exquisite timing his Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (May 1720) was published to coincide with the celebration of George I's sixtieth birthday. It signalled the end of Swift's retreat from public life, a return to the public world, and warned of much greater oppositional writing to come. He never romanticized the poor, and here, on the first of several occasions, he not only attacked the punitive trade laws which implemented England's crushing mercantilist domination of Ireland's economy but also targeted an exploitative Anglo-Irish gentry and landlord class, as well as a supine working population. Its printer, Edward Waters, was arrested, and at his trial was found not guilty. Chief Justice William Whitshed refused to accept the jury's verdict and sent them back nine times before the issue was finally resolved ten months later by the duke of Grafton, the new lord lieutenant. (Whitshed's betrayal of freedom and country at the abortive trial of another printer, John Harding, four years later was lampooned by Swift in 'Whitshed's motto on his coach … liberty and my native country').

For his 'Summer Rambles' in 1721 Swift chose co. Meath, and there wrote The Journal, a poetical account of a summer house party at the Rochforts' Gaulstown House. In the following year he speaks of travelling 400 miles in Ulster and sleeping in thirty different beds between May and October. He was at Clogher with Bishop Stearne, Loughgall with Robert Cope, and Quilca, co. Cavan, with Sheridan. On 2 June 1723 Vanessa died; she made no reference to him in her will but ensured that twenty-eight of his letters to her and seventeen of her drafts to him would survive. Swift set out on a four-month tour of southern Ireland. His apocalyptic mood is perhaps indicated by the melodramatically sublime imagery of his Latin poem 'Carberiae rupes', written at Skull, south-west Cork, in June 1723 (and later translated by Swift's protégé William Dunkin). He spent Christmas with Stella and Rebecca Dingley at Sheridan's Quilca and in January 1724 told Ford that he had 'left the Country of Horses, and am in the flying Island, where I shall not stay long, and my two last Journyes will be soon over'. In other words the fourth part of Gulliver's Travels, 'Voyage to the Houyhnhnms', had been written by the end of 1723 but before the third part, 'Voyage to Laputa', which belongs chiefly to 1724.

Swift was also about to intervene again in Anglo-Irish economics and politics, turning his attention to an ironmaster called William Wood and his patent (granted on 12 July 1722 after a huge bribe had been paid to King George's mistress) to manufacture copper coins for Ireland. The ‘Wood's ha'pence’ controversy turned Swift into a popular hero and, borrowing the initials of the Roman tyrannicide patriot Marcus Brutus, his M. B. Drapier became a permanent figure in the history of Irish nationalism, whether Swift liked the status or not. Of the seven Drapier's letters, the five printed by John Harding are: A Letter to the Shop-keepers, Tradesmen, Farmers, and Common-people of Ireland … by M. B. Drapier (March 1724); A Letter to Mr Harding the Printer (6 August); Some Observations … Relating to Wood's Half-Pence (5 September); A Letter to the Whole People of Ireland (22 October, the very day Carteret arrived in Dublin as lord lieutenant with specific instructions to soothe Irish feelings and facilitate the introduction of Wood's coinage); and A Letter to … Viscount Molesworth (31 December). His A Letter to the Lord Chancellor Middleton and An Humble Address to both Houses of Parliament (the former written by 26 October 1724) were not published until Faulkner's edition of Swift's Works of 1735. The former is notable for the way in which Swift dropped his pseudonym, flaunted his authorship, and paraded his address at the deanery. On 26 October Carteret offered a £300 reward, valid for six months, for the name of the author of the fourth Letter, but it was the printer, Harding, who was arrested, and who consequently died the following spring after his release from gaol. The Drapier's identity was public knowledge even to Carteret, but never officially revealed or received, and in April 1725 his creator was made a freeman of the city of Dublin. He was also appointed to the board of Dublin's charity school, the Blue Coat. In a gesture that reflects another aspect of his deepening Irish identity he had set about cultivating his 3 acre garden, Naboth's Vineyard, near the deanery, and built around it what he claimed to be the best wall in Ireland at the cost of £600. Still convinced that he was now 'out of the World' (19 June 1725, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 2.646), he found that his Dublin friendships were also deepening, particularly those with Dr Patrick Delany at Delville, his villa outside Dublin, with the Grattans at nearby Belcamp, and with the Achesons at Market Hill. From April to October 1725 he, Stella, and Dingley stayed with Sheridan at Quilca, and it was during this visit that Swift completed Gulliver's Travels.

To England with Gulliver

A full rough draft of Swift's masterpiece had been completed and was being transcribed by 14 August 1725. He told Ford: 'they are admirable Things, and will wonderfully mend the World' (14 Aug 1725, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 2.662). The Irish parliament was formally told that Wood's patent had been cancelled on 7 September. There was no more need for the Drapier, and Swift was now free to prepare for the publication and reception of the Travels. He carefully informed his close friends about its purpose. His famous letters to Pope (29 September and 26 November 1725) explained its 'great foundation of Misanthropy (though not in Timon's manner)', and on 6 March he crossed St George's Channel with a fair copy of the manuscript. He spent two days with Pope in London, and during the next two weeks Arbuthnot accompanied him on visits to Lord Chesterfield, the earl of Pulteney, and Bolingbroke—who in April 1725 had returned from exile in France and was soon affecting to praise the life of Horatian retirement at his Dawley farm, near Uxbridge—and again with Pope at Twickenham. On 7 April Swift had an audience with the princess of Wales at Leicester House, and probably met Henrietta Howard, mistress of the prince of Wales and, after 1724, Pope's neighbour at Marble Hill, Twickenham. He also learned that manuscript copies of 'Cadenus and Vanessa' (largely written at Windsor for Vanessa in 1713 and not intended for publication) were being circulated in Dublin. Along with friends he dined with Sir Robert Walpole at Chelsea and had a specially arranged formal interview with him on 27 April. Courageously, but again unsuccessfully, Swift pressed the case of Ireland's constitutional, economic, and educational inequalities under England's domination. He also stressed the abuses of church patronage by English appointees and the financial and social consequences of absentee landlords in language that strikingly anticipates A Modest Proposal. In May, along with Martha Blount and John Gay, he was Pope's guest at Twickenham, playing backgammon with Pope's mother and dining with Bolingbroke and Congreve. He visited Lord Bathurst, and was taken by Pope to Cobham's estate at Stowe. In May he received the news he most dreaded: Stella was seriously ill.

Before setting off for Dublin, where his return as ‘the Drapier’ was signalled by public acclamation (22 August 1726), Swift had composed a letter (written out by John Gay) to the publisher Benjamin Motte and using the pseudonym ‘Richard Sympson’, the name not only of Gulliver's cousin but also of one of the publishers of Temple's Introduction to the History of England (1695). The clandestine business of getting into print a pseudonymous and satirically explosive political satire entitled Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (known from the start by its more popular title, Gulliver's Travels) was managed chiefly by Pope, with the assistance of John Gay and Erasmus Lewis. For speed, and to counter the risk of piracy, Motte used five printing houses (those of Edward Say, Henry Woodfall, James Bettenham, William Pearson, and, for the greatest share, that of Jane Ilive). The first edition appeared on 28 October 1726 in two octavo volumes at the price of 8s. 6d., but with unauthorized deletions and insertions by Andrew Tooke (the brother of Benjamin Tooke jun.), and sold out within a week. Gay wrote: 'From the highest to the lowest it is universally read, from the Cabinet-council to the Nursery' ([7] Nov 1726, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 3.728). Motte followed up with two more octavo editions in 1726 and a duodecimo in 1727, and there was a serialized version which began in the Penny Post (25 November 1726). There were two Dublin editions before the end of 1726, each set up from Motte's first edition: the first, by John Hyde of Dame Street, containing Swift's corrections and revisions; the second for Risk, Ewing, and Smith, also of Dame Street, on 1–3 December. The book sold well in French: the first complete translation appeared at The Hague in January 1727, and an abridged adaptation by the Abbé Desfontaines in Paris in April. Swift never saw proofs of the Travels, so when he read the second volume he was dismayed by 'several passages which appear to be patched and altered … basely mangled, and abused, and added to, and blotted out by the printer' (ibid., [7] Nov 1726, 3.731). Swift provided Ford with a list of corrections for Motte (3 January 1727), all but two or three of which were adopted for his second edition of 1727. Ford's two copies of the interleaved first edition containing additions and corrections are extant (one in the Forster collection at the V&A, the other in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York). Swift received from Motte £200 and possibly more from the sales of the book, largely due to Pope's effort at instilling into his friend the principles of 'prudent management' (ibid., 12 May 1735, 4.1156).

Gulliver's Travels is the book by which Swift is chiefly remembered, and it is the record of his own experience in politics under Queen Anne as an Irishman in what G. B. Shaw called 'John Bull's other island'. Its allegorical mode of satire constantly modulates between specific allusions and general types, reflecting characters and events traceable to prototypes in Stuart and Georgian court politics (in Lilliput and Brobdingnag), and to people and events in Swift's own personal life (the king of Brobdingnag as Temple, for example, or the Flying Island as an allegory of English imperialism in Ireland). It also includes moments of farcical low comedy in the Academy of Lagado (part 3) and elsewhere. It is in part 4 (the voyage to the land of the Houyhnhnms) that Swift reaches the supremely vexing point of his whole writing career, mixing comedy with the tragi-comic psychological collapse of Gulliver, the representative Englishman who turns his back on the whole human race because it has failed to live up to the ideal of reason.

Last visit to England

Stella survived through 1727, though she remained seriously ill. Ireland itself was stricken by flooding rains, crops had failed for two successive years, the exchange rate had plunged, and there was widespread and acute rural poverty. One piece of good news was that Carteret, whom Swift had come to admire as lord lieutenant, returned to Dublin that November and Swift re-established contact with him. There was not much else to celebrate. For reasons which included his own health and a need to make arrangements for publication of two volumes of the PopeSwift Miscellanies (1727) in prose and verse (designed by Pope to commemorate their friendship, with a title-page monogram combining the initials of their two names), Swift left for England on 9 April. He visited the family home at Goodrich, Herefordshire, and then proceeded to Oxford, to Twickenham by 22 April, and, with the intention of making his first visit to France, equipped himself with letters of introduction from Bolingbroke and Voltaire. News of the death of George I on the day he arrived in London stalled his plans, and he was eventually persuaded by Bolingbroke against the trip. Deafness and giddiness continued to plague him (at Twickenham, with Pope, 12 August), and since his licence of absence from Dublin expired in the first week of October he planned to return on 15 September. News of Stella's worsening illness and experience of his own poor health created an almost unbearable conflict within him. His travel plans were in jeopardy, but there was a possibility of convalescing either in France or at his cousin Patty Rolt's home in London. He eventually retreated to the latter at the end of August. On Monday 18 September he set off for Ireland, reaching Holyhead six days later, and there was delayed for what seems to have been one of the most traumatic weeks of his life. Out of raging impatience, forced immobility, and the darkest foreboding, he wrote down an extraordinary and magnificently detailed record of this week in a stolen notebook, now known as The Holyhead Journal.

Stella died on 28 January 1728. Swift was desolate, too distraught even to attend her evening funeral service in St Patrick's, and moved to a corner of the deanery which screened him from all sight and sound coming from the cathedral.

Dublin literary life

Gay's The Beggar's Opera, for which Swift had (apocryphally) provided the first hint of a 'Newgate [or Quaker] pastoral', opened triumphantly on 29 January 1728 at Lincoln's Inn Fields, with a record-breaking run of sixty-two performances: 'The Beggars Opera hath knockt down Gulliver, I hope to see Popes Dullness knock down the Beggars Opera, but not till it hath fully done its Jobb', Swift wrote on 28 March (Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 3.807). The third and last volume of the PopeSwift Miscellanies appeared on 7 or 8 March 1728, and on 9 March Swift returned to the national tragedy with A Short View of the State of Ireland, a 'factual' listing of how the case of Ireland contradicted every one of fourteen received indicators of national prosperity. Pope's Dunciad appeared on 18 May, and the Variorum Dunciad of the following year was to be dedicated to Swift as 'Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver'. Dublin literary life was also enhanced by what Swift called a 'Triumfeminate' of bluestockings. He went out of his way to sponsor the poetical career of Mrs Mary Barber, wife of a Dublin woollen draper, and implausibly denominated her 'by far the best Poet of her Sex in England' (ibid., 2 Aug 1733, 3.1058). He permitted his commendatory letter about her to the earl of Orrery to stand as the preface to her Poems on Several Occasions (1734). He also encouraged Constantia Grierson, who was, until her early death on 2 December 1732 at the age of twenty-six, a classical scholar and editor of Terence and Tacitus, a minor poet, and wife of the printer George Grierson. The third member of the trio was Mrs E. Sican, a grocer's wife, a 'good reader and a judge' whose skills were rather more domestic than poetical.

With Thomas Sheridan Swift collaborated on a 'weekly' Dublin periodical, The Intelligencer. Printed by Sarah Harding (widow of the printer of The Drapier's Letters), it comprised twenty numbers running from 11 May 1728 to 10 May 1729. Swift wrote nos. 1 and 3 (the latter a defence of The Beggar's Opera), 5, 7, and 8 (the verse attack on Richard Tighe, 'Mad Mullinix and Timothy', is Swift's), 9 and 10 (Swift's contribution is 'Tim and the Fables', but not the last four lines), 15 (a reprint of A Short View of the State of Ireland, an analysis of the perilous Irish economy), 19 (on the shortage of silver coin in Ireland), and 20. From June 1728 to February 1729 he stayed at Market Hill, near Armagh, as the guest of Sir Arthur and Lady Acheson, as he did from June to October 1729, when his return to Dublin was celebrated with bellringing, bonfires, and illuminations, and yet again from the end of June to the end of September 1730. Here he wrote the 'Market Hill' poems, full of domestic and daily detail: 'I hate Dublin, and love the Retirement here, and the Civility of my Hosts', he remarked (2 Aug 1728, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 3.819). In 1729 he went so far as to purchase land from Sir Arthur Acheson with the intention of building himself a house there. The scheme did not materialize, but the story of it remains in the poem called 'Drapier's Hill' (1729).

Swift returned to the vexed question of Ireland's manufacturing industries in 1729, in A proposal that all the ladies and women in Ireland should appear constantly in Irish manufactures (published 1765). In October 1729, against the background of the recent famine, in 1727, and Stella's death in January 1728, he wrote (as usual, anonymously) an icily rational fourteen pages of bleak and vertiginous irony describing the most appalling human suffering wrapped in the precise terms of a mathematical model: A modest proposal for preventing the children of poor people from being a burthen to their parents, or the country, and for making them beneficial to the publick. This, the most famous pamphlet in the English language and the finest example of Swift's transgressive irony, proposes infanticide and cannibalism as the solutions to Ireland's (apparent) problems of poverty, over-population, a crumbling economy, and food shortage. Here, the venerable economic adage that people are the riches of a nation is applied with a ruthless literal logic, so that babies raised in poor and Catholic families may be 'consumed' by the rich Anglo-Irish protestant class, just as the landlords have already 'consumed' their tenant-parents. The impartial narrator, whose wife is past childbearing age, expects that as a reward for his patriotism a statue will be set up for him in Dublin as a 'Preserver of the Nation' (Prose Works, 12.109).

In 1729 Swift met Matthew Pilkington and his wife, Laetitia, whose Memoirs, published in 1748–54, were to provide much garbled information on Swift's later years. In March 1731 he looked back on two years of more or less uninterrupted giddiness and periodic deafness. Bolingbroke informed him that efforts were still being made to get him an English preferment, and Drapier's clubs were set up in and around Dublin to celebrate Swift as the champion of Ireland. Notorious and notable poems from this period include 'The Lady's Dressing Room', 'A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed', 'Strephon and Chloe', and 'Cassinus and Peter', dubbed misogynist by some and feminist by others. There is also the raging, levelling satire of 'The Place of the Damn'd' and 'The Day of Judgement'. He had by him two unfinished prose pieces dating back to 1704, A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation (published 1738) and Directions to Servants (1745). About the end of the year he sent John Gay '3 acts [properly, scenes] of a play called the players rehearsal' (Elias, 71–2). This was The Rehearsal at Goatham, a ten-scene farce based on Master Peter's puppet show in Don Quixote. The final volume of the PopeSwift Miscellanies appeared in October 1732, and Swift had by this date met his future biographer the earl of Orrery (14 October).

Swift's letters from this period are increasingly written about the past. When news of the death of John Gay on 4 December reached him Swift was unable to open the letter from Pope and Arbuthnot bearing the news for a full five days, 'by an impulse foreboding some misfortune' (Ehrenpreis, 3.734). As one of the governors of the city's hackney coaches, carts, and carriages, he enjoyed preferential treatment by the coachmen of Dublin, but this pleasure, along with his delight in evening walking, had to be curtailed because of dizziness. Swift nevertheless continued to regard the liberty of St Patrick's (a precinct independent of the archbishop's administration) as a little world under his own absolute control.

A month after its London publication in April, Swift denied writing The Life and Character of Doctor Swift: Written by Himself, possibly because he had intended the more detailed and libellous Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift (1739) to be published posthumously. It may also have been a ploy to focus public attention on the latter, the 'authentic' version, without doubt one of his best poems. The last stanza of the poem includes the lines

He gave what little Wealth he had,To Build a House for Fools and Mad

—a signal of his intention to provide Dublin with a madhouse of its own. His will, he said, had 'settled my whole Fortune on the City, in trust for building and maintaining an hospital for Ideots and Lunaticks' (16–17 July 1735, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 4.1176), and by the spring of 1736 he had £7500 out at interest, sufficient for both a site and for running costs. St Patrick's Hospital was not opened until 19 September 1757. It had a provision for fifty patients and was sited next to Dr Steevens's Hospital.

George Faulkner, the enterprising printer of the successful bi-weekly Dublin Journal from 1725 to 1775 (Swift's 'Prince of Dublin Printers'; 16 Feb 1734, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 3.1080), proposed a subscription edition of Swift's works in four volumes. Swift indulged, he said, what he could not prevent, and although he would have preferred publication in England, he nevertheless actively assisted in Faulkner's project, particularly as it offered a chance to correct Gulliver's Travels from Ford's interleaved copy. Three volumes were published at the end of 1734, the fourth in January 1735, and these are collectively regarded by his modern editors (Davis and Williams) as the most accurate and most important authorized edition. Faulkner also acted as a trusted carrier of Swift's letters to Pope and John Barber in England. Lawfully recognized ownership of literary property did not exist in Ireland between 1670 and 1800, yet Swift condoned Faulkner's action in reprinting London publications because it triggered his sense of injustice (the operation of the English copyright law was yet another aspect of England's indifference to the interests and basic rights of its dependent colonies). Swift's own position in Dublin's print world was unassailable. When the Walpole administration discovered that he was the author of An Epistle to a Lady—which had included a sharp attack on both Walpole and his ministry from lines 133 onwards—the possibility of arresting Swift for libel was canvassed. The unlikelihood of extracting Swift peacefully from Ireland without deploying an army determined that the idea be dropped. Nevertheless, the bookseller Motte was taken in charge. As another measure of Swift's symbiotic relationship with the world of print in Dublin, he supplied a preface for Shelton's and Blunt's 1733 translation of Don Quixote, published by Sarah Hyde (widow of John Hyde, the publisher of the first Irish Travels), J. Dobson, and R. Owen. This was also the period of the Anglo-Latin letters, joint letters, and occasional Anglo-Greek letters between Swift and Sheridan. Arbuthnot died on 27 February 1735, and in the same year Mrs Brent, Swift's faithful housekeeper since his days in Kilroot. She was succeeded by Mrs Ridgeway, although it is clear that his cousin, the recently widowed Martha Whiteway (1690–1768), the daughter of Swift's uncle Adam by his second wife, was assuming control in the deanery. She co-wrote with Swift a number of amusing and sharply expressed letters to and from Swift and others in the last ten years of his life, in which her own ironic wit echoes Swift's own. Increasingly, from 1740 to the end, it was Mrs Whiteway who wrote for Swift.

On 7 February 1736 Swift wrote to Pope: 'I have no body now left but you: Pray be so kind as to out-live me, and then die as soon as you please, but without pain, and let us meet in a better place, if my religion will permit' (Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 4.1239). And on 2 December to Pope he admitted: 'years and Infirmatyes have quite broke me. I mean that odious continual disorder in my Head. I neither read, nor write; nor remember, nor converse. All I have left is to walk, and ride' (ibid., 4.1304). He also continued the habit of reading Job 3: 3 on his birthday ('Let the day perish wherein I was born'). Nevertheless the volcano was still active. When landowners in the Irish House of Commons tried to deprive the clergy of their legal tithes of pasturage Swift turned on them with extraordinarily vitriolic energy in 'A character, panegyric, and description of the Legion Club' (in manuscript circulation in Dublin before London miscellany publication in June). His Irish patriotism was again recognized when he was made a freeman of the city of Cork in August 1737. The ageing Swift nevertheless maintained a lively interest in the younger generation of Swifts: there was his young cousin and future biographer Deane Swift, whom he introduced to Pope in a letter of 28 April 1739; and William Swift, fourth son of Swift's cousin Godwin, a student at Trinity College before being called to the Irish bar. He also began a correspondence with George Lyttelton. The fifth and sixth volumes of Faulkner's works of Swift appeared in April 1738. Another of his close friends, Thomas Sheridan, died on 10 October 1738. In January 1739 Dr William King, with Pope's active collaboration and Swift's consequent irritation, mangled the text of Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift for London publication, obliging him to publish the authentic text in Dublin; it was printed by Faulkner in February. Alderman John Barber presented the Jervas portrait of Swift to Oxford University in early 1739, and the St Patrick's chapter paid for Bindon's 1739 full-length portrait, now hanging in the deanery house. Swift thus lived long enough to savour fully the deserved rewards of his literary fame in Ireland.


On 4 December 1739 Swift asked Faulkner if he knew the whereabouts of the manuscript of Directions to Servants, and towards the end of 1740 there were additional and increasing signs of Swift's distress and of a diminishing capacity to control his own affairs. There were disputes about his literary property and allegations by the earl of Orrery that Swift's letters (and Pope's to Swift) had been and were being stolen, possibly by the Revd Dr Francis Wilson, one of Swift's prebendaries then living at the deanery, and evidently a man capable of extraordinary brutality and cunning. Orrery also alleged that theft extended to some of those already printed in Faulkner's Letters to and from Dr. J. Swift … 1714 to 1738 (13 June 1741). On 5 May 1740 Swift made his last will, superseding all earlier wills and including the now celebrated Latin inscription for his monument:

Hic depositum est CorpusIONATHAN SWIFT S. T. D.Hujus Ecclesiæ CathedralisDecani,Ubi sæva IndignatioUlteriusCor lacerare nequit.Abi ViatorEt imitare, si poteris,Strenuum pro viriliLibertatis Vindicatorem.Obiit 19° Die Mensis OctobrisA.D. 1745. Anno Ætatis 78°.

Here lies the body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology, Dean of this Cathedral, where savage indignation can no longer tear at his heart. Pass on, traveller, and, if you can, emulate his tireless efforts in defence of liberty. He died on the 19th day of the month of October, 1745, at the age of 78.A freely paraphrased English version was written by W. B. Yeats as 'Swift's Epitaph' (1931). Annuities were to be paid to Rebecca Dingley, land bought for his planned St Patrick's Hospital for 'Idiots, Lunaticks Incurables', and its financial future provided for. Bequests of land or money were provided for Martha Whiteway (who was to receive his repeating gold watch), his housekeeper Anne Ridgeway (daughter of Mrs Brent), Mary Harrison (Martha's daughter), and the Whiteway family. Memorial presents were to go to Pope (a miniature of Robert Harley, earl of Oxford), to Harley's son Edward (two gold medals), to the earl of Orrery, to his cousin Deane Swift, to Mrs Barber (a medal of Queen Anne), and to a group of Irish clergy including the Grattans and Delany; the Revd James Stopford was to receive Swift's portrait of Charles I by Van Dyck, and John Worrall his best beaver hat. In the summer of 1742 Swift's last decline began, so that by 22 November, according to Mrs Whiteway, his 'understanding was quite gone' (Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 4.1501). He lost weight, his memory was now permanently impaired, he was walking in his room obsessively for anything up to ten hours a day, and he was sleepless, suffering from boils, and in an agony of pain in one of his eyes, before becoming listless and generally inactive. After an investigation into the state of his body and mind (20 May 1742) guardians were appointed. A series of strokes meant that for the remaining three years of his life he spoke little. His last words were recorded by Deane Swift and included: 'I am what I am' and 'I am a fool' (ibid., 4 April 1744, 4.1506). Swift died aged nearly seventy-eight on 19 October 1745 and was buried three days later according to his wishes, on the south side of the middle aisle of St Patrick's. His death mask, taken just before the post-mortem and later presented by T. G. Wilson, is in Trinity College Library, Dublin (see Johnston, facing p. 186, for an illustration).

As a satirist Swift has no equal in English literature for range, subtlety, and power. His life and works continue to vex as well as instruct and amuse his readers. Those who printed and disseminated his work (Waters, Harding, Barber, Motte, Faulkner) fully recognized the incendiary nature of his writing and ran very severe risks: arrest and gaol were the common experiences, and one of them paid the ultimate price. A further sign of the controversial nature of both the man and the writing was the occasionally acrimonious flurry of critical biographies that appeared so promptly after his death: three full-length studies between 1752 and 1755 as well as the material included in Laetitia Pilkington's Memoirs of 1748–54. As early as 1726 Pope composed verse on Swift's ancestors and in a series of five 'Verses on Gulliver's Travels' (including one from Gulliver's wife, Mary), inaugurated a still flourishing genre of continuations in plays, poems, novels, and satirical imitations, the most notable of which has been Matthew Hodgart's A new voyage to the country of the Houyhnhnms; being the fifth part of the ‘Travels into several remote parts of the world’ by Lemuel Gulliver (1969)—close enough to the original to fool some unwary readers. Orrery, the first biographer, was quick to sense the public interest in his subject and had been compiling notes for a book during the last three years of Swift's life. Deane Swift's Essay was the last of the biographical essays (1755) that could claim any personal connection with its subject, but others of significance have appeared regularly in each generation: Samuel Johnson's in 1779, Thomas Sheridan's in 1784, Walter Scott's in 1814, Henry Craik's in 1882, John Middleton Murry's in 1954, and so on, until Irvin Ehrenpreis's three-volume Freudian critical biography of 1962–83.

Rumours and legends about Swift's parentage, alleged marriage, misanthropy, and madness started early and developed freely, not least during the Victorian period. In Swift's own century, and although fully sensitive to both his brilliance and his power, Dr Johnson, in Lives of the Poets, sharply criticized aspects of both Swift's writing and his personality, even managing to make his insistence upon personal hygiene sound eccentric. For his physical satire in the fourth part of Gulliver's Travels Swift was censured, notably in a lurid lecture by Thackeray published in 1853, in which he recommended his readers avoid reading it altogether ('the moral is horrible, shameful, unmanly; and giant and as great as this Dean is I say we should hoot him'), and in which Swift is demonized and Stella ('Who does not love her?') sentimentalized as the gloomy dean's innocent victim (Swift, in The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century). He has been commonly demonized for his poems on the body (both male and female), verse which still has the power to disturb, if no longer to shock. He was psychologized by Middleton Murry (who coined the famous phrase 'excremental vision' in 1954), savaged by both Aldous Huxley and D. H. Lawrence for an alleged dislike of what Huxley called 'the bowels', and more recently dubbed misogynist by some feminist critics. He has been commended for resisting the brutalities of colonialism in A Modest Proposal and in Gulliver's fourth voyage. As a member of the Anglo-Irish protestant ascendancy in an overwhelmingly Catholic country Swift sustained a powerful critique of what he called 'Fair LIBERTY' (Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, 1731) as both a humane ideal for all and a means by which an oligarchy disguised its rapaciousness.

His satire is meant to bite. Coolly dispassionate readings of Swift are not common, and hardly possible. For a writer who described human life to Pope as 'a ridiculous tragedy, which is the worst kind of composition' (20 April 1731, Correspondence, ed. Woolley, 3.915), it is hardly surprising that paradoxes are characteristic of his writing and of responses to it. Of all the works of eighteenth-century English literature, it is probably Gulliver's Travels that is the best-known and most widely read today. Its printed and visual representations, always more or less censored, have been universally popular with younger readers. It was the subject of one of the first fully animated colour films ever made (director Dave Fleischer, Paramount, 1939), and there have been later film versions: in 1959 (Three Worlds of Gulliver); in 1976 (Gulliver's Travels: a live action and animation version aimed at children, and starring Richard Harris); and in 1995 as a television mini-series, not aimed at children.

Past and recent biographers have responded to a darker side of Swift. One has written of Swift and the modern imagination: 'He left us with the carefully cultivated image of a lonely misanthrope, chiselling his savage indignation on his tombstone, and leaving, as his benefactions to mankind, a privy and a madhouse' (Nokes, 413). Yet he is one of the very best letter-writers in English, and his correspondence speaks of a vivid and intensely sociable engagement with the public and private worlds about him. His poetry—raucous, acerbic, challenging, amusing, and occasionally moving—includes the most vivid representation of the human voice in any contemporary poetry. Together the letters and poems constitute an autobiography of the man. His work has provoked strong responses from each generation of readers, and he is one of those writers whose effect on our minds and imagination will not go away. In the words of a fellow Irishman, who also believed that Swift was the founding figure in Irish political nationalism, 'Swift haunts me; he is always just around the next corner' (W. B. Yeats, The Words upon the Window-Pane, 1934).


  • The correspondence of Jonathan Swift, ed. H. Williams, 5 vols. (1963–5)
  • The correspondence of Jonathan Swift, ed. D. Woolley, 4 vols. (1999–2004)
  • I. Ehrenpreis, Swift: the man, his works and the age, 3 vols. (1962–83)
  • The poems of Jonathan Swift, ed. H. Williams, 2nd edn, 3 vols. (1958)
  • D. Johnston, In search of Swift (1959)
  • L. A. Landa, Swift and the Church of Ireland (1954)
  • J. Swift, Journal to Stella, ed. H. Williams, 2 vols. (1948)
  • ‘Family of Swift (1728–38)’, The prose works of Jonathan Swift, 5: Miscellaneous and autobiographical pieces, fragments and marginalia, ed. H. Davis (1962), 187–95
  • The prose works of Jonathan Swift, ed. H. Davis and others, 16 vols. (1939–74)
  • A. C. Elias, Swift at Moor Park (1982)
  • A tale of a tub, ed. A. C. Guthkelch and D. Nichol Smith (1958)
  • F. Ellis, ed., Swift vs. Mainwaring: ‘The Examiner’ and ‘The Medley’ (1985)
  • J. Woolley, ed., Jonathan Swift and Thomas Sheridan, The Intelligencer (1992)
  • C. Probyn, ed., The art of Jonathan Swift (1978)
  • J. Boyle, Remarks on … Jonathan Swift (1752)
  • C. M. P. G. N. S. T. N. S., ‘Anecdotes of Dean Swift and Miss Johnson’, GM, 1st ser., 27 (1757), 487–91
  • P. Delany, Observations on Lord Orrery's ‘Remarks on … Swift’ (1754)
  • A. Downie, Robert Harley and the press (1979)
  • H. Craik, The life of Jonathan Swift (1882)
  • F. Falkiner, ‘On the portraits, busts and engravings of Swift and their artists’, in Prose works of Jonathan Swift, ed. T. Scott, 12 (1908), 3–18
  • J. Lyon, ‘Materials for a life of Dr. Swift’, 1765
  • D. Nokes, Jonathan Swift: a hypocrite reversed (1985)
  • The letters of Jonathan Swift to Charles Ford, ed. D. Nichol Smith (1935)
  • J. W. Phillips, Printing and bookselling in Dublin, 1670–1800 (1998)
  • T. Sheridan, Remarks on the life and writings of … Swift (1784)
  • D. Swift, An essay upon the life, writings and character of … Swift (1755)
  • Faulkner's Dublin Journal (22 Oct 1745)
  • S. Le Brocquy, Cadenus: a reassessment in the light of new evidence of the relationships between Swift, Stella, and Vanessa (1962)
  • J. Forster, The life of Jonathan Swift, 1: 1667–1711 (1875)


  • BL, corresp. with Lord Hartley, MS loan 29
  • BL, letters to first Lord Oxford, Add. MS 70292
  • BL, letters to Rochfort family, Add. MS 38671
  • BL, corresp. with countess of Suffolk, Add. MS 22625
  • BL, corresp. with Esther Van Homrigh, Add. MS 39839
  • Longleat House, Warminster, letters
  • NL Ire., corresp. with Thomas Sheridan
  • Yale U., Beinecke L., letters to Samuel Gerrard


  • C. Jervas, oils, 1710, Bodl. Oxf.; version, NPG
  • C. Jervas, oils, 1718, NPG
  • F. Bindon, oils, 1724, NG Ire.
  • I. Whood, drawing, 1730, NG Ire. [see illus.]
  • A. van Haecken, mezzotint, 1740 (after Markham), BM, NPG
  • death mask, 1745, TCD
  • attrib. F. Bindon, oils, NG Ire.
  • C. Jervas, oils, NG Ire.
  • J. van Nost, marble bust, NG Ire.
  • L. Roubiliac, marble bust, TCD
  • B. Wilson, etching (after T. Barber), BM, NPG; repro. in Lord Orrery, Remarks on the life and writings of Swift (1752)
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National Gallery of Ireland
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Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
John Rylands University Library of Manchester
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National Portrait Gallery, London
British Museum, London