Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift

The Reluctant Rebel

Book - 2017
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One of Europe's most important literary figures, Jonathan Swift was also an inspired humorist, a beloved companion, and a conscientious Anglican minister--as well as a hoaxer and a teller of tales. His anger against abuses of power would produce the most famous satires of the English language: Gulliver's Travels as well as the Drapier Papers and the unparalleled Modest Proposal, in which he imagined the poor of Ireland farming their infants for the tables of wealthy colonists.

John Stubbs's biography captures the dirt and beauty of a world that Swift both scorned and sought to amend. It follows Swift through his many battles, for and against authority, and in his many contradictions, as a priest who sought to uphold the dogma of his church; as a man who was quite prepared to defy convention, not least in his unshakable attachment to an unmarried woman, his "Stella"; and as a writer whose vision showed that no single creed holds all the answers.

Impeccably researched and beautifully told, in Jonathan Swift Stubbs has found the perfect subject for this masterfully told biography of a reluctant rebel--a voice of withering disenchantment unrivaled in English.

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.
Edition: First American edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780393239423
039323942X
Branch Call Number: 828.509 SWIFT -S
Characteristics: 739 pages : illustrations (some colour)

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lukasevansherman
Apr 16, 2018

“Speaking crudely, there was Swift the conformist and Swift the anarchic humorist, and together they produced the satirical writer.”
For most people, even the more literary inclined, their knowledge of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) begins and ends with his masterpiece and most famous book, "Gulliver's Travels." It's also probably one of the most misunderstood classic books, more often than not remembered for giants (Brobingnags), little folk (Lilliputs), and talking horses (Houyhnhnms) and less for its satire and misanthropy. You'll still see it occasionally filed as a children's book and many of the film adaptations, including the most recent one with a miscast Jack Black, are geared towards families. In John Stubbs' magisterial biography, he paints an incredibly detailed, complex, and sympathetic (though not sentimental) portrait of one of the most important figures in English literature. He was actually Irish and had a lifelong love/hate relationship with his native country, although he did care about it and wrote the scathing "A Modest Proposal" (the let's eat baby tract) about Ireland. Stubb locates Swift in the fascinating and complicated religious, political, and literary culture of the times. Swift was also a minister and though he supported conservative causes, he was too intelligent and sardonic to lapse into mental conformity or complacency. He was seemingly friends with all the other major writers of the period, including Pope, Congreve, Addison, Steele, Gay, and Dryden, a distant relative. Stubbs takes a nuanced approach to Swift's staunchly traditional political and religious views, as well as the frequent accusations of misogyny in his work (He was a lifelong bachelor.). Even if you don't know much more than "Gulliver's Travels," this is a fantastic biography of an iconic writer.

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