Jonathan Swift

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Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) uses satire to its optimum in his two seminal works, Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World, familiarly known as Gulliver's Travels and A Tale of a Tub. There was a great output of satirical literature in eighteenth century England.


His satire has intensity and virulence which upset not only his intended targets but till today haunts critics who have at times simply ascribed it to Swift's predisposition to misanthropy and depression. Though recent critical knowledge has moved away from this view, the perception of Swift as a misanthrope persists. Perhaps the vehemence of Swift's satire can be attributed in part to the peculiar need felt by eighteenth century thinkers of the immense importance of their times. There is no other way to explain the huge output of satire in the eighteenth century. Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, John Dryden, Alexander Pope were some other eighteenth century writers who utilized satire in the various genres of literature. Certainly none troubled the eighteenth century conscience more than Swift himself who uses savage polemic to subdue what was anathema to him.
It would be wise to take a look at eighteenth century English history to discover where Swift stood and the causes which drew his ire. The late seventeenth century had seen the vigorous emergence in print of ideas which, to put it simply, sought to foreground humanity without any reference to divinity or society. Foremost and most influential was John Locke who in his essay titled, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) attributed the formation of human knowledge to the influence of external stimuli and experience. ...
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