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Jonathan Swift – from Liberties to Legend

By Aoife Power

The life story of literary genius Jonathan Swift is one of mystery, affairs, scandal, conjecture and estrangement.  The Liberties-born writer became an influential satirist, essayist and political pamphleteer.

Swift was raised by his uncle after his father died before his birth, and he was abandoned by his mother.  His birthplace, No. 7 Hoey Court, was demolished in the early 19th century; all that remains is a commemorative plaque on the wall of the Castle Steps.  However, evidence of the life and work of this writer and poet is abundant throughout the Liberties.

After achieving a B.A. in Trinity College, Swift left Ireland and became secretary to Sir William Temple.  During this employment, he met Esther Johnson, whom he nicknamed ‘Stella’.  The nature of their relationship is something of speculation and rumour but it is believed that the two were secretly married in 1716.  ‘Stella’ died in 1728 and it’s believed that a lock of hair found among Swift’s possessions was hers.

At this time of his life Swift also developed a disease known as Meniere’s disease, a disease affecting the inner ear causing dizziness, vertigo, migraines, tinnitus and sudden collapses.

Sir William Temple died in 1699 and Swift returned to Ireland, but he travelled frequently to London and became well known for his political essays and satire.

In the early 1700’s Swift became politically involved with the Whig party in England, but soon after changed his loyalties to the Tory party becoming editor of their journal The Examiner.

The fall of the Tory party heralded Swift’s permanent return to Ireland where he was made Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

1720 saw Swift begin work on his most famous piece Gulliver’s Travels, now primarily a children’s book, Gulliver’s Travels was written as a satire of government and religious squabbles, Swift explored the nature of man, and man’s relationship to society.

In 1738, he suffered a paralysing stroke and had become senile. Jonathan Swift died on 19 October 1745. He was laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Swift was an unpredictable man, who once said ‘Principally I hate and detest that animal called man.’

However over the course of his life he gave substantial amounts of money to charity and championed the plight of the lower classes of Irish citizenry, in his legacy he left over £12,000 to the founding of a hospital for the mentally ill, which still exists in the Liberties.

His most famous works include The Bickerstaffe Papers, A Tale of a Tub, Battle of the Books, Predictions for the Ensuing Year, Gulliver’s travels and A Modest Proposal.

After achieving a B.A. in Trinity College, Swift left Ireland and became secretary to Sir William Temple.  During this employment, he met Esther Johnson, whom he nicknamed ‘Stella’.  The nature of their relationship is something of speculation and rumour but it is believed that the two were secretly married in 1716.  ‘Stella’ died in 1728 and it’s believed that a lock of hair found among Swift’s possessions was hers.

At this time of his life Swift also developed a disease known as Meniere’s disease, a disease affecting the inner ear causing dizziness, vertigo, migraines, tinnitus and sudden collapses.

Sir William Temple died in 1699 and Swift returned to Ireland, but he travelled frequently to London and became well known for his political essays and satire.

In the early 1700’s Swift became politically involved with the Whig party in England, but soon after changed his loyalties to the Tory party becoming editor of their journal The Examiner.

The fall of the Tory party heralded Swift’s permanent return to Ireland where he was made Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

1720 saw Swift begin work on his most famous piece Gulliver’s Travels, now primarily a children’s book, Gulliver’s Travels was written as a satire of government and religious squabbles, Swift explored the nature of man, and man’s relationship to society.

In 1738, he suffered a paralysing stroke and had become senile. Jonathan Swift died on 19 October 1745. He was laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Swift was an unpredictable man, who once said ‘Principally I hate and detest that animal called man.’

However over the course of his life he gave substantial amounts of money to charity and championed the plight of the lower classes of Irish citizenry, in his legacy he left over £12,000 to the founding of a hospital for the mentally ill, which still exists in the Liberties.

His most famous works include The Bickerstaffe Papers, A Tale of a Tub, Battle of the Books, Predictions for the Ensuing Year, Gulliver’s travels and A Modest Proposal.

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