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Reading: Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift, the Irish author, was born on November 30th, 1667 Read this text about him and then answer the True/False questions below.

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin on 30 November 1667. His father died before he was born and he had no real family life. He was educated at Kilkenny School where he made an impression as a rebel rather than as a scholar. He went on to Trinity College in Ireland before moving to England in 1689 where he worked as secretary to the writer and politician, Sir William Temple. Swift stayed with Temple until the diplomat’s death in 1699. Although the two men often argued, Swift’s work left him plenty of time to read and write.

Swift’s earliest works include The Battle of the Books (1697) and A Tale in the Tub (1704) in which the writer displayed his talents as a satirist. His targets were literature and religion. Politics soon became another target when Swift started editing The Examiner, an official Tory publication. He produced several pamphlets attacking the Whigs, accusing them of prolonging the War of the Spanish Succession out of self-interest.

When Swift was working for Sir William Temple, he supervised the education of Esther Johnson ("Stella"). In 1710, Swift started writing his Journal to Stella, a series of intimate letters. It is possible that Swift secretly married Esther but scholars are not completely sure.

In 1713, Swift became dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. His most famous piece of work, Gulliver’s Travels, was published anonymously in 1726 with the title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. The book was supposed to be an allegorical attack on the hypocrisy of courts, statesmen and political parties. The book was also a deep reflection on human society. The first section was so imaginative and funny that it soon became a favourite children’s story. Swift is said to have taken six years to write Gulliver’s Travels. As soon as it was published it became a success, being read "from cabinet-council to the nursery". At the height of his success, Swift gave a third of his income to charity, and saved another third to found a hospital.

Jonathan Swift died on 19 October 1745 after a long period of mental decay. He was buried in his own cathedral with the following epitaph: "Here lies the body of Jonathan Swift, dean of this cathedral, where burning indignation can no longer lacerate his heart. Go, traveller, and imitate if you can a man who was an undaunted champion of liberty".

True or False?

  1. Swift had a happy childhood.
  2. His talents as a writer were not obvious from an early age.
  3. Jonathan Swift married Esther Johnson.
  4. One of his most famous books was The Examiner.
  5. He was a very religious man.
  6. Swift didn’t become successful until after his death.
  7. He was extremely interested in politics.
  8. He died unexpectedly.
  9. Swift was a mean man.
  10. He was buried in England.


1. False 2. True 3. True or False 4. False 5. True 6. False 7. True 8. False 9. False 10. False


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