Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish essayist, satirist, poet, political pamphleteer, and cleric. He became a Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. His common handle was “Dean Swift.” He first supported Whigs and then Tories in his political career.

The most celebrated works of Jonathan swift include A Tale of Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Modest Proposal. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, he is considered one of the leading satirists in the English language. His poetry is less known than his prose works. Originally, he published his work under the pseudonyms such as Isaac Bickerstaff, Lamuel Gulliver, M. B Drapier. He also published his works anonymously. He mastered the two styles of satires: Juvenalian satire and Horatian satire.

His ironic and satirical writing style and deadpan has attained an adjective “Swiftian.” A Modest Proposal is considered as one of the harshest and best satirical work.

A Short Biography of Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was born on 30th November 1667. His father was an attorney and died before Jonathan’s birth. Jonathan Swift was named after his father. Swift’s mother struggled hard to provide sufficient living facilities. Swift was a weak child and prone to many diseases. 

His mother tried to give the best possible living to Swift, so she gave him to his uncle, the brother of his late Father, Godwin Swift. Godwin Swift was one of the respected professional attorneys. In 1674, Swift was admitted to Kilkenny Grammar School, which is known as the best school in Ireland. The transition from poverty to such a severe setting of a private school proved very challenging. In the school, he made a friend William Congreve who turns out to be a playwright and poet in the future. 

At the age of 14, Swift attended Trinity College, Dublin, for his undergraduate studies. He received his degree in Bachelor of Arts in 1686 and enrolled himself in a master’s degree. During his research, a great upheaval broke out in Ireland. The monarchs of England, Ireland, and Scotland were overthrown in the 1688’s Glorious Revolution. These events made Swift shift to England and start from the beginning.

With the influence of his mother, Swift got a position as secretary to Sir William Temple. Swift worked for ten years in Surrey’s Moor Park as an assistant to Temple. Temple also helped Swift in political dealings and in publishing his memoirs and essays. Sir William Temple was quite impressed with the abilities of Swift and started handing over him sensitive and important tasks.

Serving at Moor Part, Swift encountered the daughter of the housekeeper of Temple. She was only eight years old and 15 years younger than Swift. Esther Johnson and Swift became lovers for the rest of their lives regardless of the age gap between the two.

Swift acted as a tutor and mentor of Esther when she was a child. He also called her by the nickname “Stella.” When she got mature, the two had an ambiguous but close relationship until the death of Esther. It is also assumed that in 1716, they got married, and Swift always kept the lock of her hair with him.


Under the influence of Temple, Swift started writing short essays. When Temple died in 1699, he had completed the tasks of editing and publishing Temple’s memoir. He then grudgingly accepted the post of secretary and Chaplain to Earl of Berkeley. When he made the journey to the estate of Earl, he was informed that the post had been filled by someone else. Though discouraged, he was resourceful and rested on his priestly qualifications. He soon found a work of ministering to a small congregation situated 20 miles outside of Dublin.

He preached, gardened, and worked for the next ten years on the house given to him by the church. He also started writing again. He published his first political pamphlet titled A Discourse on the Contests and Dissensions in Athens and Rome.

Swift anonymously published his book A Tale of Tub and The Battle of Books in 1704. A Tale of Hub became widely popular among the public; however, it was criticized and disapproved by the Church of England. Apparently, the book criticizes religion and church; however, it was intended as a parody of pride. When Tories came into an authority in 1710, Swift gained more reputation because of his writings. Tories asked Swift to join them as an editor of their official paper, Examiner. 

After some time, Jonathan Swift turned out to be completely immersed in politics. He started writing some harsh and well-known pamphlets on politics. These pamphlets include The Conduct of the Allies. The pamphlet was an attack on Whigs. In the series of letters to Stella, his beloved, Swift inscribed his personal thoughts and feelings about the Tory government. These letters were later published as The Journal to Stella.

Later Years

Swift returned to England when he saw that the government of Tories would soon lose all its power. He started working on a post of dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin in 1713. Even though he was in a relationship with Esther Johnson, he started a romantic affair with Esther Vanhomrigh. He would call her “Venessa.” His affair with Vanessa inspired him to write a long, narrated poem, “Cadenus and Vanessa.”

It was also rumored that Jonathan Swift had an affair with Anne Long, the celebrated beauty.

While working at St. Patrick, Swift started writing one of the best and most celebrated works, Gulliver’s Travel. The manuscript of the prose work was finished in 1726. When he traveled to London, he anonymously published the book as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, simply known as Gulliver Travels. The book saw immediate success. Since the first print, it is published to date. More interestingly, the book points out several political events that had been part of Swift’s life during the political turmoil.

Soon after the grand success of Gulliver Travels, Esther Johnson, a long longtime love of Swift fell severely ill. In January 1728, she died. Affected by the death of Esther Johnson, Swift wrote The Death of Mrs. Johnson. Swift was troubled by the series of the deaths of his friends around him.

Jonathan Swift suffered a stroke and lost his ability to speak in 1742. Swift died on 19th October 1745. He was buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin next to Esther Johnson.

Jonathan Swift’s Writing Style

Great Satirist

The life of Jonathan Swift overlapped a turn of a century. He is widely recognized as the greatest writer in the history of English literature, even though Swift has also written a prolific number of poems and appears to be well-versed in poetry, he is more generally known for his prose fiction. His best prose fiction includes A Tale of Tub, The Battle of Books, and Gulliver’s Travels.

He also wrote short essays and political pamphlets, including A Modest Proposal. The works of Jonathan Swift fall under the category of satire. He employed sarcasm and irony to expose folly and stupidity in politics, society, and human nature.

One of the best satirical prose fictions of Swift is Gulliver’s Travel. In Gulliver’s, Lamuel Gulliver travels to four different places where he encounters four different kinds of peoples. In the book, he satirizes human nature, politics, religious practices, and irrational practices of science. The book is also considered as a political and scientific allegory. It employed lots of irony and sarcasm. 


Jonathan Swift employed simple and prosaic diction in his writing style. He also deviates from the typical syntax pattern and choice of words, but this happens in very rare cases. His normal writing is very simple and has no peculiarities in this respect. Swift intended to link the language with politics, history, and religion. He employed the middle style in his pamphlets. With this style, he avoided the extremes of the writing style of fanaticism and licentiousness used by decadent courtiers.

Sir Walter Scott commented on the writing style of Jonathan Swift, saying that his writing style consists of simple and naked words and appears to be expressive, clear, and strong. His style is familiar with no vulgarity and meanness. It is beautiful with ornamentation or affectation.

Ironic and Satirical Tone for Social Construction

Certainly, the works and writings of Jonathan Swift do not focus on the technicalities of language. It rather focuses on the satirical tone and harsh irony in his satire. In A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift skillfully imitates and awfully pessimistic policymaker or an economist. In the essay, he satirically advocates the case of eating children of Ireland as a solution to the problems of poverty and overpopulation. Throughout the essay, Jonathan Swift abstains from his altering the role of the character, which is so straight-faced. It creates an absurd sarcasm.

In the essay, Swift harshly satirizes the heartlessness and ridiculousness of the true economists and politicians who made new imprudent and radical measures for improvement in the economy and forgets to talk about the problems and suffering of penniless and improvised Irish.

Even though the measures were not that extreme as the extreme satire of Jonathan Swift, the follies of the politicians and economists are imitated in an asinine and sarcastic manner. As the pieces of satire are the only commentary without any explanation, Swift gives his own personal ideas and opinions at the end of the work to make people understand the underlying message. This marks his ingenious and brilliance. For example, in the essay, he writes that:

“Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance…….”

Moreover, he also satirizes the politicians for their heartlessness by saying that they are not ruling for the sake of their countries for themselves. As he writes: 

 “…..Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing..”

He focuses on the moral learning of the upper class and says that we must educate the landlords to have mercy over the poor people. He also says that if the spirit of honesty, industry and skill is put into our shopkeepers, the world would be a far better place than it is now. As he writes:

“….if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.”

Considering the above passage, one can say that the writing style of Jonathan Swift is not only ironic and filled with amusing satire. It is also important and meaningful to invoke social change that is entirely based on common sense. The manner of satire he introduces in his works evokes consideration and amusement both. The most important thing in his works is the popularity of humor. Even though most readers did seem to enjoy the exhausting political refutation, the humor in his works is enjoyed widely. It also has a major influence on shaping public opinion.

Format of Writing

The style of Jonathan Swift in his parodies is determined by the format of what is being deceived. For example, the format of “A Modest Proposal” is actually in the form of a political pamphlet. In this essay, he employed a formal and non-florid language. He wrote the entire document in the professional format. When the essay begins, it explains the situations in which a mock plan is suggested, and facts are employed to support it.

Similarly, in the prose fiction Gulliver’s Travels, the style of the work is like an adventure and travel story. The story is narrated in the first person. The book is written in simple style and form shared by the stories of his time. The genre he was mimicking, he did not get too far as his works would have been appeared as stupid. In its place, he adapts his form to the contexts of the conventions so that to satirizes the politics, fillies of human nature, religion, and society, not the conventions themselves. In other words, Swift did not intend to make fun of the genre or the adventures of Gulliver’s to the ridiculous places and also the characters employed in Gulliver’s travels. The characters he employed are allegorical and represent the follies of human nature.


To conclude, Jonathan Swift is regarded as one of the leading authors of the English language. He contributed to define and perfect the style of parody and satire. Jonathan Swift combines humor with satire and irony and achieves his desirable result. His works employed misanthropic and biting political and social criticism with irony, grotesque mimicry, and sarcasm.

The presence of his works until the present age is the testament of brilliancy and ingenious. He highlights the fundamental follies of human nature and satirizes them almost 400 years ago; however, in the present age, it is still not resolved and in need to be made more explicit to the coming generation.

Works Of Jonathan Swift