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Jonathan Swift
Irish poet and satirist
(1667-1745)



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Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own.
-- The Battle of the Books, preface (1704)

Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe, how much altered her person for the worse.
-- A Tale of a Tub (1704), Ch. 9

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
-- Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711-26)

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
-- Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711-26)

The latter part of a wise man’s life is taken up in curing the follies, prejudices, and false opinions he had contracted in the former.
-- Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711-26)

Ambition often puts men upon doing the meanest offices; so climbing is performed in the same posture with creeping.
-- Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711-26)

The reason why so few marriages are happy is because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages.
-- Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711-26)

When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
-- Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711-26)

Will she pass in a crowd? Will she make a figure in a country church?
-- Journal to Stella, 1711

We are so fond of one another, because our ailments are the same.
-- Journal to Stella, 1711

'Tis an old maxim in the schools,
That flattery's the food of fools;
Yet now and then your men of wit
Will condescend to take a bit.
-- Cadenus and Vanessa (1713)

But nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches, as to conceive how others can be in want.
-- A Preface to the Bishop of Sarum's Introduction to the Third Volume of the History of the Reformation of the Church of England (8 December, 1713)

Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.
-- Letter to a Young Clergyman (January 9, 1720)

Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired...
-- Letter to a Young Clergyman (January 9, 1720), on proving Christianity to unbelievers

He is taller by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders.
-- On the Emperor of Lilliput, in: Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Lilliput, Ch. 2

Big-endians and small-endians.
-- Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Lilliput, Ch. 4

It is allowed on all hands, that the primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger end; but his present majesty’s grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown.
-- On the Emperor of Lilliput, in: Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Lilliput, Ch. 2

I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.
-- Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Brobdingnag, Ch. 6

And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, tnd do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.
-- Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Brobdingnag, Ch. 6

He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in vials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers.
-- Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Laputa, Ch. 5

I said the thing which was not. (For they have no word in their language to express lying or falsehood.)
-- Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Houyhnhnms, Ch. 3

Poor Nations are hungry, and rich Nations are proud, and Pride and Hunger will ever be at Variance.
-- Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Houyhnhnms, Ch. 5

A soldier is a Yahoo (man) hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can.
-- Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Houyhnhnms, Ch. 5

I told him...that we ate when we were not hungry, and drank without the provocation of thirst.
-- Gulliver's Travels (1726), Voyage to Houyhnhnms, Ch. 6

This evil fortune, which generally attends extraordinary men in the management of great affairs, has been imputed to divers causes, that need not be here set down, when so obvious a one occurs, if what a certain writer observes be true, that when a great genius appears in the world the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
-- Essay on the Fates of Clergymen (1728)

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.
-- A Modest Proposal (1729)

A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
-- A Modest Proposal (1729)

Yet malice never was his aim;
He lashed the vice but spared the name.
No individual could resent,
Where thousands equally were meant.
His satire points at no defect
But what all mortals may correct;
For he abhorred that senseless tribe
Who call it humor when they gibe.
-- Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift (1731)

I won't quarrel with my bread and butter.
-- Polite Conversation (1738)

Faith, that's as well said, as if I had said it myself.
-- Polite Conversation (1738)

I can discover no political evil in suffering bullies, sharpers, and rakes, to rid the world of each other by a method of their own; where the law hath not been able to find an expedient.
-- A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding (1754, published posthumously)

It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom.
-- The Conduct of the Allies

Ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit
(Translation: Where savage indignation can lacerate his heart no more.)
-- Epitaph. Inscribed on Swift's grave, St. Patrick's, Dublin

* * * *

“The wily shafts of state, those juggler’s tricks
Which we call deep designs and politics,
(As in a theatre the ignorant fry
Because the cords escape their eye
Wonder to see the motions fly)
Methinks, when you expose the scene,
Down the ill-organ’d engines fall;
Off fly the vizards and discover all.
How plain I see through the deceit!
How shallow, and how gross, the cheat! …
Look where the Pulley’s tied above!
Oh what poor engines move
The Thoughts of Monarchs and Design of States,
What pretty Motives rule their Fates! …
Away the frighted Peasants fly,
Scar’d at th’unheard-of Prodigy…
Lo, it appears!
See, how they tremble! How they quake!”
—Jonathan Swift, “Ode to the Honourable Sir William Temple,” (1689)

"Jonathan Swift was the author of Gulliver’s Travels. There and in the lines quoted above he showed a remarkable ability to see through political trickery and manipulation. Swift would have been fascinated by the colossal fraud perpetrated on the British people and the world by factions of the City of London financiers, the monarchy, the foreign office, and other elite forces. We refer of course to Brexit, a cynical bait and switch conducted under the cloak of demagogic anti-establishment rhetoric."--- tarpley.net - July 7, 2016


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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