Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

1667: b. 30 Nov. 1667 [‘born in Dublin on St. Andrew’s Day’, acc a TCD MS], 7 Hoey’s Court, Dublin (Parish of St. Werburgh’s); son of Jonathan Swift, steward at King’s Inn whose his handwriting is preserved in the so-called “Black Book”, and Abigaile Swift [née Erick, b. Wigston Magna, Leicestershire, dg. a butcher; d. 24 April 1710], married by special licence of the Archbishop of Armagh, June 1664), his father dying before his birth (on the supposition that JS Snr. was actually his father); gs. of Thomas Swift (d.1658), vicar of Goodrich in Yorkshire, nr. Ross, dispossessed as Royalist in Civil War; abducted by an over-affectionate nurse who later brought him back to Ireland [both poss. on instructions from Sir John Temple]; after his mother’s return to Leicestershire the young Jonathan Swift [JS] supported by Godwin Swift, an uncle and Attorney-General of palatine county of Tipperary; placed him in Kilkenny Grammar School, 1673, with Congreve, et al. - in the year when the Test Act, which excluded Catholics from Parliament and office, was passed by Cavelier Parliament in the wake of the Restoration of 1660; JS entered TCD, 1682; convicted of taking part in college disturbances and obliged to beg pardon of the Dean on bended knee; grad. BA (e speciale gratia) [1686];


1688: leaves Ireland during the viceroyship of Richard Talbot, Catholic viceroy of James II, and joins his mother in Leicester; apparently sent by her to Sir William Temple, then at Sheen outside London, with a seat at Moor Park, nr. Farnham, 1689; in that household meets Esther Johnson (‘Stella’; 1680-1728), then aged 8, being the dg. of a former steward whose widow was a companion to Temple’s sister Lady Giffard, and poss. the illegitimate dg. of Sir William himself; sent by Temple to Ireland with letter of recommendation to Sir William Southwell, minister of state to William III; fails to secure fellowship at TCD; returns to Moor Hall, acting as secretary to Temple (during 1691-94), and thence to Oxford, where he secures an MA, ad eundum, 1692; wrote Pindaric Odes, 1690-91, one of which, appearing in Athenian Gazette [var. Mercury], provokes Dryden’s remark, ‘Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet’ (acc. Johnson’s Lives); quit Sir William’s household and ordained in Dublin, 1694; obliged to seek Temple’s patronage again to secure living; appointed rector of Kilroot, nr. Belfast, Co. Antrim, with parishes at Ballinure and Templecorran; Jan. 1695; sought marriage with one Jane Waring, dg. of Archdeacon of Dromore (‘Varina’), in the only extant letter of the period; returns to Moor Park and there writes The Battle of the Books, 1696-98; acts as Temple’s literary executor at his death in 1699, and returns to Dublin that year; opposes marriage of his sister Jane (b. April 1666) to one Joseph Fenton, offering her £500 pounds to break it off (acc. to Deane Swift); disappointed in ecclesiastical preferments; appt. chaplain to Earl of Berkeley and to Lord Pembroke, viceroys in Dublin; rectory of Agher, Co. Meath, with united parishes of Laracor and Rathbeggan, to which added prepend of Dunlavin at St. Patrick’s, 1700 (opened 1757), providing income of £230 p.a.;


1701: TCD DD, Feb. 1701 [var. 1702]; appt. prebendary of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, 1701; visits Leicester and London frequently, remaining in London, 1701-04, during which time he formed acquaintance with Pope, Steele, and Addison, et al., thereby associating with the Whig party; ed. Sir William Temple, Miscellanea: The Third Part (1701), incl. sections on popular discontents, health and longevity, ancient and modern learning, and conversation; issues in London a pamphlet Discourses of the Contests and Dissensions between the Nobles and the Commons in Athens and Rome (Sept. 1701), defending Whigs against Tory attack on Partition (or ‘Barrier’) Treaties and dissuasive of impeachment of Lords Somers, Orford, Portland, and Halifax; authorship of same disavowed by Burnet; issues A Tale of a Tub (April or May 1704), a satire on ‘corruption in religion and learning’, in defence of Temple’s Essay upon Ancient and Modern Learning (1692), which William Wotton had criticised; receives copy of Addison’s Travels in Italy inscribed “To Jonathan Swift, the most agreeable of companions, the truest friend, and the greatest genius of his age this work is presented by his most humble servant the author”; emissary for the Irish clergy in London, 1707-09, winning wins First Fruits and twentieths, known as ‘Queen Anne’s Bounty’ and prev. granted to the English clergy, for the Irish Church, negotiating with the Godolphin ministry in London, Nov. 1707-May 1709[var. Feb. 1708-April 1709; Sept. 1710];


1707: first encounters Esther Van Homrigh [vars. Vanhomrigh, Van Homerigh, ‘‘Vanessa’’, b.1690; dg. of Bartholomew Van Homerigh, Dublin Alderman and former Williamite Commissar-General], at an inn in Dubstable en route between Dublin and London, Dec. 1707; later Sherriff of Dublin, MP for Londonderry, and Chief Comm. of Irish Revenue; Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1697; d. 1703, his widow living on till 1715]; issues Baucis and Philemon (Nov. 1707); wrote Story of an Injured Lady Written by Herself, complaining of Ireland’s ‘grief and ill-usage’ by Britain and of suing ‘to be free from the Persecutions of this unreasonable Man, and that he will let me manage my own little fortune to the Best advantage’ (written 1707; suppressed by Swift and published in c.1746); in an Answer to the same, he stated principle of Irish independence from all but the Crown; writes An Argument To Prove, That the Abolishing of Christianity in England, May, as Things now Stand, be attended with some Inconveniencies [... &c.] (1708; publ. 1711); Marlborough and Godolphin consolidate with the whigs, and Lord Wharton becomes Viceroy in Ireland, 1708; issues The Sentiments of a Church of England Man with respect to Religion and Government (1708), and A Letter from a Member of the House of Commons in Ireland, Concerning the Sacramental Test (1708), harming him with the Whigs; satirical pieces in Tatler include ‘Bickerstaff Papers’ (from Jan. 1708), in which he ridicules the almanacker John Partridge by predicting his demise [Partridge Papers, 1708-09], spuriously confirming it on 30 March 1709;


1709: issues Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq. (April 1709); also the poems ‘Description of a City Shower’ and ‘Description of the Morning’, depicting London life (Tatler, 1709); issues A Project for the Advancement of Religion and the Reformation of Manners (1709); returns to Dublin, June 1709; Queen Anne dismissed the Whig ministers Sunderland and Godolphin in June and August; Queen Anne appoints a Tory ministry led by Robert Harley (1st Earl of Oxford); Swift resides in London from Nov. 1710 [var. Sept.]; employed by Harley, with Henry St. John (later Visc. Bolingbroke), 1710-13; writing The Examiner for them, 2 Nov. 1710-July 11; The Conduct of the Allies and Some Remarks on the Barrier Treaty (1711), facilitating the dismissal of the Duke of Marlborough and the creation of 12 new peers; faces antagonism of John Sharp, Bishop of York and Duchess of Somerset - both of whom had influence with Queen Anne and the latter of whom Swift has rashly insulted in a lampoon; squibs and writings issued as Miscellanies in Prose and Verse (1711), incl. ‘Mrs. Frances Harris’s Petition’ (1709), burlesque on a servant who has lost her purse; ‘On Mrs Biddy Floyd’ (1709); ‘A Meditation upon a Broomstick’ (1710); The Virtues of Sid Hamet the Magician’s Rod (1710), sat. poem attack on Godolphin; The W[in]ds[o]r Prophecy (1711), attacking Duchess of Somerset; A Short Character of T. E. of W [Thomas, Earl of Wharton] (1711), viceroy in Ireland, of dissenter background, and supposed author of “Lilliburlero”, charging him with many crimes and vices; issues The Fable of Midas (1711); also Some Advice Humbly Offered to the Members of the October Club (1712), written against extreme Tories; issues ‘The Prediction of Merlin’, and ‘The History of Vanbrugh’s House’;


1712: writes while in London his Journal to Stella (2 sept. 1710 - 6 June 1713), letters addressing Stella and Mrs Dingley [in fact the majority], known as MD, 1st cousin once removed of Sir William Temple, then settled in Ireland; may have been intimate with Vanessa whom he re-encountered as he was living close to her mother’s lodgings, and who appears to have considered herself affianced to him; forms Brothers’ Club (1711-?13), comprising St. John and other ministers, Thomas Prior, Pope, and others, and meeting at St. James’s Palace in the rooms of John Arbuthnot, the Queen’s physician; jointly creates Martinus Scriblerus”, a phantom pedant, whose doings originate later works of Pope and Swift incl. Dunciad and Gulliver’s Travels; contrib. to the Tatler, Spectator, and Intelligencer; issues Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712); writes History of the Four Last Years of the Queen, 1712-13 (publ. posthum. 1758), which contains his portrait of Robert Harley (later Earl of Oxford); receives admission of love from Stella and alters the character of his communication with her, always being in the presence of Mrs Dingley or another afterwards;


1713: disappointed in not being appointed to vacant Deanery of Wells, Ely and Lichfield, the canonry of Windsor, and the see of Hereford, in spite of plea to Bolingbroke; likewise not appointed to see Raphoe and Dromore in Ireland; finally appointed to St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, with consent of Duke of Ormond who preferred the then Dean to bishopric of Dromore; Swift set out for Dublin, June 1713; Journal ends 6th June, at Chester; arrives Dublin circa 8 June; victim of poetical squib by [prob.] John Smedley, Dean of Clogher, nailed to doors of St. Patrick’s (‘Look down, St Patrick, look, we pray [...; &c., as infra]; installed in Deanship, 13 June 1713; retires to his parish at Laracor within a fortnight of his installation (i.e. July); leaves Ireland again, August 1713; issues A Preface to the B****p of S*r*m’s Introduction (1713), an attack on Bishop Burnet [bishop of Sarum/Salisbury]; issues pamphlets incl. The Importance of the Guardian Considered (1713) and Mr C[olli]n’s Discourse on Free Thinking (1713), against Anthony Collins; issues The Publick Spirit of the Whigs (Feb. 1714) in answer to Sir Richard Steele’s Crisis (on the Hanoverian succession), occasioning a pamphlet war that resulted in Steele’s expulsion from the House of Commons, 18 March 1714; returns from Dublin on eve of death of Queen Anne, when the Tories’ apparent indifference to the Protestant succession turned public opinion towards the Whigs, 1714; issues a pamphlet, Some Free Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs, adopting bold plans of Bolingbroke (late Viscount Bolingbroke), incl. utter exclusion of Whigs and dissenters from government, remodelling of army, and restraints on heir to throne (written 1713 but amended by Bolingbroke and then suppressed [var. pub. 1714]);


1714: granted £1,000 by Bolingbroke during his 3-day ministry after the expulsion and exile of Oxford, but offers to join Oxford in retirement [var. in prison] and is refused, the news of both events arriving in the same post; receipt of Bolingbroke’s award intercepted by Queen’s death (1 Aug. 1714); lives in seclusion at Upper Letcombe, Berkshire, during final dissension between Oxford and Bolingbroke; Oxford breaks his staff of office, Jan. 1714; death of Queen Anne and return of Marlborough to London with ascent of Hanoverian Elector to the Throne; visited by Vanessa before his departure for Dublin in mid-Aug. 1714 [var. Sept.]; Vanessa follows him to Dublin, Nov. 1714, settling at the family home in Turnstile Abbey, Dublin (which she later sold on advice of Archbishop King), and at Celbridge [at Marlay Abbey; alt. Kildrochid, the name occas. employed in her letters], where Swift was to visit her in 1720, in response to a letter [prob.] from her to Stella enquiring if they are married, and resulting in a permanent breach between Swift and Vanessa;

1720: writes A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (Dublin 1720), answering the Declaratory Act of that year and stinging the triumphant Whig Administration; gives account of same in letter to Pope (‘a discourse to persuade the wretched people to wear their own manufactures’); prosecution of same by goverrnment dropped; issues The Swearer’s Bank (1720), proposing to start bank for Irish small tradesmen; writes prologue for performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet for the ‘distressed weavers’ of Dublin, 1 April 1721; issues Letter of Advice to a Young Poet (1721); undertakes tour of Ireland that brings him to Clogher, Loughgall, et al., 1722; writes “‘The Description of an Irish Feast” [otherwise “O’Rourke’s Feast”], 1720, a verse translation of ‘Pléaráca na Ruarcach’ written by Hugh MacGauran [anglice Gawran; Gowran], supposedly based on a literal translation provided by the poet [Williams, Poems, Vol. 1, pp.243-44; infra]; writes Letter from Dr Swift to Mr Pope (written 1722, published 1741); death of Vanessa, 2 June, 1723; Swift travels in Leinster, Munster, and Connacht to escape ‘obloquy’, June-Sept 1723; writes Gulliver’s Travels, 1721-25 - commencing as a “History of my Travels”, at first in character of Martin Scriblerus (letter to Charles Ford, April 1721); working on Brobdingnag chapters, June 1722; moves on from “country of Horses” to “the Flying Island” (Jan. 1724); breaks off to enter the controversy over a royal patent awarded to William Wood, an English ironmonger, arranged by Duchess of Kendall, which secured 40% of profit to these two on copper coinage to be minted for Ireland;

issues Drapier’s Letters (March 1724-25 Dec 1725), commencing with A Letter to the Tradesmen, Shopkeepers, Farmers, and Common-People in General of the Kingdom of Ireland, by M[arcus] B[rutus], Drapier, published by John Harding; asserts that no one is legally bound to accept coin not of gold or silver and computes that those who use ‘those Vile Half-pence ... must lose almost Eleven-Pence in every Shilling’; his “Letter to Mr Harding, the printer” [Letter II] argues that it is honourable to submit to a lion but ‘[what] figure of a man can think with patience of being devoured alive by a rat?’; Committee set up by Walpole engaging Isaac Newton to measure the coinage; Swift’s “Observations on the Report of the Committee” [Letter III] result in a reduction of the bill to £40,000 with limits on the amount of currency citizens were obliged to accept (51d.); this elicited a further letter from Swift in letter to “The Whole People of Ireland” damning the comprise as ‘perfect high treason’, characterising the matter as a battle between ‘one rapacious individual and the whole Irish nation’ [Letter IV]; 4th Letter issued on day that Lord Carteret arrives as Viceroy, sent by Walpole, in Oct. 1724; an offer of £300 for the disclosure of identity of the Drapier posted by Lord Chief Justice Whisgift, for which (as he later wrote) ‘no traitor could be found’ although all of Dublin knew the author; Harding imprisoned and suffers seriously in health but later names his son John Drapier Harding; strenuous pursuit impeded by the sympathy of Viceroy Lord Carteret, who advises Swift against declaring himself the author; patent withdrawn and Wood compensated with £3,000 p.a. for 12 years [var. £24,000];


1726: travels to England with MS of Gulliver’s Travels, March 1726; MS delivered by subterfuge to the printer by Pope and Ford after Swift’s departure for Ireland (‘dropped at his house in the dark from a hackney coach’, acc. Motte), Aug. 172[6]; Motte issues Travels into Several Remote Nations of the Works by Lemuel Gulliver (28 Oct. 1726); even the Duchess of Marlborough willing to forgive Swift; visits London for the last time, with hopes of preferment at the dislodgement of Robert Walpole at death of George I, 1727; dines with Walpole, to whom he addresses a letter remonstrating about Ireland; issues “Letter of Advice to a very Young Lady on her Marriage” (1727); issues A Short View of the State of Ireland (1727), a pamphlet reprinted as No.15 of the Intelligencer, a weekly paper begun by Swift and his friend Thomas Sheridan in 1729;

1728: death of Stella, Jan. 1728 (‘I cannot call to mind that I ever heard her make a wrong judgement of persons, books or affairs’), and her bequest to Berkeley rather than to Swift; Swift destroys all her letters, only one escaping; issues A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burden to their Parents or their Country and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick, pub. Oct. 1729, by Harding’s widow; issued An Examination of certain Abuses, Corruptions and Enormities in the City of Dublin (1732); issued The Grand Question Debated (1729); founds the Intelligencer (1729-30; var. 1728) with Thomas Sheridan, giving ‘two or three of us a chance to indulge our fancy by writing a personal commentary’, acc. Swift himself; receives Freedom of City of Dublin, 1729 for the Drapier’s Letters; issues Traulus (1630), attacking Lord Allen; writes Directions to Servants (c.1731; publ. 1745); writes A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation (1731; publ. 1738); writes “Hamilton’s Bawn”, a poem; writes Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift (composed 1731; publ. 1739 - incompletely in London and correctly in Dublin); issues The Day of Judgement (1731); writes A Letter to a Young Gentleman lately entered into Holy Orders (1731); raises a black marble slab in memory of the Duke of Schomberg who is buried beneath the altar of the Cathedral, inscribed with his own Latin inscription naming the English descendents of the Duke who were unwilling to fund a monument, 1731;

issues The Lady’s Dressing-Room (1732) and The Beasts Confession to the Priest (1732), on ‘universal folly of mankind in mistaking their talents’; issues A Serious and Useful Scheme to make an Hospital for Incurables, whether the Incurable Disease were Knavery, Folly, Lying, or Infidelity (1733); writes An Epistle to a Lady (1733) and On Poetry: A Rhapsody (1733), containing satirical advice; also writes A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed [1734]; Strephon and Chloe (1734); The Legion Club (1736), on the Irish Parliament, and regarded as his fiercest verse satire; first edition of his Works printed by George Faulkner (1735), including a ‘prefatory letter’ added to Gulliver’s Travels’; issues imitations of 7th Epistle in Book I and First Ode of Book II of Horace (1738); suffers increasing attacks of giddiness, now known to be Menière’s disease and so diagnosed by Dr. J. C. Bucknill in 1882; makes his will, ‘being of unsound mind and memory’, Aug. 1939; having spent a third of his wealth on Irish charities, he bequeathes another third to establish St. Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles (opened 1757) with a bequest of £11,000; the will includes his epitaph, to be enscribed on black marble ‘large letters, deeply cut and strongly gilded’;


1742: declared of unsound mind and body [var. mad, insane] by committee of 19 in 1742, ‘a shocking object, though in person a very venerable figure’ (acc. Mary Delaney); exhibited by his manservant Patrick Brell; four sermons by Swift appeared in 1744; saw little of Delany and indulged Francis Wilson, rector of Clondalkin, as a friend and was prob. cheated out of of tithes and books from his library by him; JS d. 19 Oct. 1745 (aetat. 78); bur. at night, beside Stella, 22 Oct. at foot of 2nd column from west end, south side of St. Patrick’s Cathedral; his epitaph written by himself (ubi saeva indignation ulterius cor lacerare nequit) appears on an oval plaque set in the wall; William Stopford, later Bishop of Cloyne, acted as one of his executors; the contents of his library catalogued by William Le Fanu in 1745; there are portraits of Swift by Jervas and Francis Bindon (with carved oak frame by John Houghton), and a marble bust by Louis-Francois Roubillion in the TCD Library Long Room; a commemorative service held at the Cathedral on the anniversary of his death. RR CAB ODNB JMC PI DIB DIW DIL OCEL ODQ FDA OCIL

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