Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 - 19 October 1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for the Whigs, then for the Tories), poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.
Swift is remembered for works such as A Tale of a Tub (1704), An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity (1712), Gulliver's Travels(1726), and A Modest Proposal (1729). He is regarded by the Encyclopædia Britannica as the foremost prose satirist in the English language, and is less well known for his poetry. He originally published all of his works under pseudonyms - such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, M. B. Drapier - or anonymously. He was a master of two styles of satire, the Horatian and Juvenalian styles.
His deadpan, ironic writing style, particularly in A Modest Proposal, has led to such satire being subsequently termed "Swiftian"
Jonathan Swift was born on 30 November 1667 in Dublin, Ireland. He was the second child and only son of Jonathan Swift (1640-1667) and his wife Abigail Erick (or Herrick) of Frisby on the Wreake. His father was a native of Goodrich, Herefordshire, but he accompanied his brothers to Ireland to seek their fortunes in law after their Royalist father's estate was brought to ruin during the English Civil War. His maternal grandfather, James Ericke, was the vicar of Thornton in Leicestershire. In 1634 the vicar was convicted of Puritan practices. Some time thereafter, Ericke and his family, including his young daughter Abilgail, fled to Ireland.
Swift's father joined his older brother, Godwin, in the practice of law in Ireland. He died in Dublin about seven months before his namesake was born. He died of syphilis, which he said he got from dirty sheets when out of town.
At the age of one, child Jonathan was taken by his wet nurse to her hometown of Whitehaven, Cumberland, England. He said that there he learned to read the Bible. His nurse returned him to his mother, still in Ireland, when he was three.
His mother returned to England after his birth, leaving him in the care of his Uncle Godwin, a close friend and confidant of Sir John Temple whose son later employed Swift as his secretary
Swift's family had several interesting literary connections. His grandmother Elizabeth (Dryden) Swift was the niece of Sir Erasmus Dryden, grandfather of poet John Dryden. The same grandmother's aunt Katherine (Throckmorton) Dryden was a first cousin of Elizabeth, wife of Sir Walter Raleigh. His great-great grandmother Margaret (Godwin) Swift was the sister of Francis Godwin, author of The Man in the Moonewhich influenced parts of Swift's Gulliver's Travels. His uncle Thomas Swift married a daughter of poet and playwright Sir William Davenant, a godson of William Shakespeare.