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Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin in 1667. He was the son of an English-born lawyer; he grew up to be an Anglican clergyman, poet, satirist and political writer. Between 1691 and 99, he lived in Moor Park, Surrey, working as the secretary of the retired diplomat sir William Temple; however, Swift spent 1695-6 as vicar of Kilroot in County Antrim. In 1700 he became vicar of Laracor in County Meath.

Politically, Swift began as a Whig; he abandoned them because of their failure to uphold the established Church; in 1710 he accepted the patronage of the Tory Robert Harley. Swift wrote highly effective propaganda for Harley's administration (1710-14), especially against the continued war with France. As a result of this work, Swift was appointed Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin in 1713; he did not receive the English appointment for which he had hoped. When the Tories were forced from power with the accession of the House of Hanover in 1714, Swift was obliged to return to Ireland. Swift invariably defended the liberties of the Anglican minority in Ireland, insisting that they were 'Englishmen abroad'.

Swift's writings include:

Swift's pamphlets attached English misgovernment of Ireland, the 'Irish' vices of corruption and idleness; the landlords' exploitation and absenteeism. His Modest Proposal (1729) argued that Ireland could escape from poverty by raising children for food. The pamphlet has been read in several different ways:

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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