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Was Swift a monster?

Denis Donoghue, 5 June 1986

Jonathan SwiftA Hypocrite Reversed 
by David Nokes.
Oxford, 427 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 19 812834 7
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... The main problem for David Nokes or for any other biographer of Swift is that the agenda has already been prescribed. Within a few years of Swift’s death in 1745, questions were raised which are still the standard issues. What kind of man wrote the fourth Voyage of Gulliver’s Travels? Did his imagination give him away? ‘In painting Yahoos he becomes one himself,’ according to the Earl of Orrery’s Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr Jonathan Swift (1752 ...

Carry up your Coffee boldly

Thomas Keymer: Jonathan Swift, 16 April 2014

Jonathan SwiftHis Life and His World 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 573 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 16499 2
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Parodies, Hoaxes, Mock Treatises: ‘Polite Conversation’, ‘Directions to Servants’ and Other Works 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Valerie Rumbold.
Cambridge, 821 pp., £85, July 2013, 978 0 521 84326 3
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Journal to Stella: Letters to Esther Johnson and Rebecca Dingley, 1710-13 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Abigail Williams.
Cambridge, 800 pp., £85, December 2013, 978 0 521 84166 5
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... Swift once said​ his favourite writer was La Rochefoucauld, ‘because I found my whole character in him.’ But what did he mean? Not, surely, that he personally resembled a Grand Siècle courtier who prided himself on – among other incongruous attributes – mild passions, virtuous sentiments and flawless social polish ...

Plenty of Pinching

John Mullan: The Sad End of Swift, 29 October 1998

Jonathan Swift 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 324 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 09 179196 0
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... Jonathan Swift’s last formal composition, before he slipped into the dementia that swallowed him for the last five years of his life, was his own epitaph. In May 1740 he made his will, fastidiously apportioning his property and specifying arrangements for his interment. He stipulated that he be buried ‘as privately as possible, and at Twelve o’clock at Night’ in the great aisle of Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral, where he had been Dean since 1714 ...

Stewed, roasted, baked or boiled

Claude Rawson, 6 August 1992

The Intelligencer 
by Jonathan Swift and Thomas Sheridan, edited by James Woolley.
Oxford, 363 pp., £50, March 1992, 0 19 812670 0
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Jonathan SwiftA Literary Life 
by Joseph McMinn.
Macmillan, 172 pp., £35, May 1991, 9780333485842
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... a longish interruption in the summer, and a single further number in May 1729. It was written by Jonathan Swift and his friend Thomas Sheridan, a clergyman, schoolteacher and man of letters, and grandfather of the playwright. It includes at least two of Swift’s important works, his critique of the Beggar’s Opera ...

Masters

Christopher Ricks, 3 May 1984

Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age: Vol III. Dean Swift 
by Irvin Ehrenpreis.
Methuen, 1066 pp., £40, December 1983, 0 416 85400 1
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Swift’s Tory Politics 
by F.P. Lock.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £18, November 1983, 0 7156 1755 9
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Jonathan SwiftPolitical Writer 
by J.A. Downie.
Routledge, 391 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 7100 9645 3
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The Character of Swift’s Satire 
edited by Claude Rawson.
Associated University Presses, 343 pp., £22.50, April 1984, 0 87413 209 6
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... The life of Swift by Irvin Ehrenpreis is a great act of consonance. But one reviewer has deprecated the fact that Ehrenpreis does not write with Swift’s genius. So the first thing to say is that Ehrenpreis, though he has the great good sense never to emulate the supreme Swiftian manner, does nevertheless command the steely style which T ...

The Last Thing Said in Germany

Sheldon Rothblatt, 19 May 1988

War and the Image of Germany: British Academics 1914-1918 
by Stuart Wallace.
John Donald, 288 pp., £20, March 1988, 0 85976 133 9
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... and laugh at Herr Teufelsdröckh of Wahngasse of Weissnichtwo (a scatalogical invention worthy of Jonathan Swift), but opposites are known to attract. As the century moved on, Wisenschaft, a portmanteau word connoting the highest possible academic culture, took hold of the British academic imagination. Would be scholars, slogging away at the education of ...

Oven-Ready Children

Clare Bucknell: Jonathan Swift, 19 January 2017

Jonathan SwiftThe Reluctant Rebel 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 752 pp., £19.99, November 2016, 978 0 670 92205 5
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... One​ of Jonathan Swift’s first published poems was a piece of 18 lines called ‘A Description of the Morning’. It was printed anonymously in an April 1709 edition of the Tatler, which in its original incarnation took an interest in literary criticism, history and philosophy as well as society gossip. Richard Steele, the magazine’s editor and a friend of Swift’s, puffed the poet and his work in an introduction ...
Annotations to ‘Finnegans Wake’ 
by Roland McHugh.
Routledge, 628 pp., £17.95, October 1980, 0 7100 0661 6
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... Why, for instance, does he explain ‘Twone nathandjoe’ (3:12) by ‘two-one’, ‘Jonathan(Swift)’ and ‘Abraham’s son Nathan in Mosenthal’s Deborah’, yet ignore the much more pointed and relevant reference to the ‘Rebus’, attributed to Vanessa (who is named in the same line), which ...
Literature and Popular Culture in 18th-Century England 
by Pat Rogers.
Harvester, 215 pp., £22.50, April 1985, 0 7108 0981 6
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Eighteenth-Century Encounters: Studies in Literature and Society in the Age of Walpole 
by Pat Rogers.
Harvester, 173 pp., £22.50, April 1985, 0 7108 0986 7
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Order from Confusion Sprung: Studies in 18th-Century Literature from Swift to Cowper 
by Claude Rawson.
Allen and Unwin, 431 pp., £30, August 1985, 0 04 800019 1
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Jonathan Swift 
edited by Angus Ross and David Woolley.
Oxford, 722 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 19 281337 4
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... did to pass the time, what they thought about Italian opera, why they were so fascinated with Jonathan Wild, what exactly went wrong in the South Sea Bubble, and why Swift’s Laputa has more to do with money-making gadgetry than with the Royal Society and its proceedings. Rogers’s trust in facts is such that he often ...

What you see is what you get

Terry Eagleton: Bishop Berkeley, 25 April 2013

The Correspondence of George Berkeley 
edited by Marc Hight.
Cambridge, 674 pp., £75, November 2012, 978 1 107 00074 2
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... to such 18th-century divines as William King, Edward Synge, Philip Skelton, Laurence Sterne and Jonathan Swift. Sterne, Joyce and Beckett classify the world compulsively, but only to make a mockery of the whole futile business. Walter Shandy, the obsessive rationalist of Sterne’s great novel, is clearly insane. Seduced by an image of pure ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... has a few shallow thrusts at Pope for his condemnation of the ‘new breed’ of upstart writers. Swift is present as a contrast to the maligned Manley: ‘If Jonathan Swift is to be granted the stature of a political commentator, why not Delarivière Manley? And if ...

History’s Revenges

Peter Clarke, 5 March 1981

The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... well, at least in the later period: Darwin but not Newton, for instance, W.T. Stead but not Jonathan Swift. The system of cross-reference goes a long way in both remedying and explaining some disparities of treatment. It means that the reader whose thirst for knowledge is not slaked by the entry first consulted can be led on a treasure hunt for ...

A Betting Man

Colin Kidd: John Law, 12 September 2019

John Law: A Scottish Adventurer of the 18th Century 
by James Buchan.
MacLehose, 513 pp., £14.99, August 2019, 978 1 84866 608 5
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... of tar-water. The phenomenon of projection is parodied by Berkeley’s fellow Anglo-Irishman Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), where projectors at the Academy of Lagado devise schemes for extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, building houses from the roof downwards, and reconstituting the food ingredients of excrement. In A Modest ...

He’s Humbert, I’m Dolores

Emily Witt, 21 May 2020

My Dark Vanessa 
by Kate Elizabeth Russell.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £12.99, March, 978 0 00 834224 1
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... knows) married his 13-year-old cousin. Strane teaches her the etymology of her name, invented by Jonathan Swift for a pupil 22 years younger than him. ‘Swift once knew a woman named Esther Vanhomrigh, nickname Essa,’ Strane tells her. ‘He broke her name apart and put it back together as something new ...

Vicarious Sages

Michael Mason, 3 November 1983

John Forster: A Literary Life 
by James Davies.
Leicester University Press, 318 pp., £25, June 1983, 0 7185 1164 6
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Mr George Eliot: A Biography of George Henry Lewes 
by David Williams.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 340 25717 2
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Johnnie Cross 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 153 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03333 9
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... must be so tired and perplexed with your labour, in trying to make out a good character for Mr Jonathan Swift.’ This, of course, is part of what Dickens seized on and twisted into ‘Podsnappery’. (Dr Davies has made the beautiful discovery – first published by him in the Dickensian a few years ago – that in Forster’s very first review, of ...

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