Jonathan Swift: Poems Background

Jonathan Swift: Poems Background

Although perhaps best known for his essays and satiric prose, renowned Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift was also a prolific poet. Born into a literary family in Dublin, Ireland, in 1666. From an early age, Swift received an intense and demanding education at Kilkenny College. Upon graduating in 1682, he continued his education at Trinity College, Dublin. His later studies were interrupted when political turmoil forced Swift, the son of a staunch Royalist, to flee Ireland and settle in England. He continued his studies and was awarded a Master's Degree from Oxford in 1692.

While he published several poems in the 1690s, Swift's literary career did not begin in earnest until the turn of the 18th century. A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books were both released in 1704, and established Swift as a master of parody prose. After the success of these works, he established relationships with many famous literary figures of the time, including Alexander Pope and John Gay. Swift also became increasingly political and was awarded positions within Tory governments throughout the early 18th century. Still, that did not prevent him from writing scathing attacks on their administrations, as he did with The Conduct of the Allies, published in 1711.

As he became more politically active, Swift's work shifted towards pamphleteering and essayism. He was candid with his political opinions, which won him both acclaim and criticism. After returning to Ireland in 1714 he became an increasingly vocal supporter of pro-Irish plights. He also received the prestigious position as Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, a powerful position in the Church of Ireland. While in Ireland, Swift produced some of his most enduring and celebrated work, such as Gulliver's Travels, published in 1726, and A Modest Proposal, which followed in 1729. Both of the works were massive critical and commercial successes, and they remain well-read in the modern era. During this period Swift continued to write poetry, though far less concertedly than his satirical and political works. The last years of his life were marked by increasingly poor health, and he did in 1745, at the age of 77.

The poems of Jonathan Swift were collected and published by Penguin Classics in 1989. The collection includes the entirety of Swift's published poems, as well as several unpublished works. Edited by Pat Rogers, the collected also features analytical and explanatory notes, and updated grammar.

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