Jonathan Swift: A biography
by Victoria Glendinning
(Hardback; 23.50 IRP / 36.50 USD)
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Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is an inexhaustibly intriguing figure in the literary and political history of Ireland and England. Best known as the author of Gulliver's Travels, he was an ordained clergyman whose enemies thought did not believe in God. He became a legendary Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, whose ambition for church preferment in England was perpetually frustrated. For four short, intoxicating years he was the intimate of Queen Anne's chief ministers, and their publicits and propagandist - a 'spin doctor' before the term was invented. His private life was intense and enigmatic. Two younger women, whom he called Stella and Vanessa, moved to Ireland to be close to him. He made both of the unhappy.
Poet, polemicist, pamphleteer and wit, Jonathan Swift is the master of shock. His furious satirical responses to the corruption and hypocrisy he saw around him in private and public life have every revelance for our own times. His black imagination, and his preoccupation with the foulness that lies beneath the thin veneer of artifice and civilisation, gave a new adjective - 'Swiftian' to the lexicon of criticism.
Like his Gulliver in the land of Lilliput, Swift is a problem in perspective and scale. Victoria Glendenning, prize-winning biographer, has taken a literary zoom-lens to illuminate this pround and intractable man. She investigates at close range the main events and relationships of Swift's life, provising a compelling and provocative portrait set in a rich tapestry of controversy and paradox.
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