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Swift 1667 - 1745
Satirist, cleric, and humanitarian Jonathan Swift
is probably best known for his tongue-in-cheek call to the British, A
Modest Proposal, in which he slyly suggested a novel solution to the
'Irish problem': raise Irish children as cattle for export, and feed them
as delicacies on English dinner tables. His caustic suggestion aroused the
dismay of a not-terribly-amused British public.
At heart a moralist and churchman, Swift's unique method of pointing
out British barbarism towards the Irish was in keeping with his ceaseless
campaigning on behalf of the poor. Literally putting his "money where (his)
mouth was", Swift gave fully one-third of his income to charity, and another
third specifically to St. Patrick's Hospital for Imbeciles, the first compassionate
facility for the mentally ill in Ireland.
Born in Dublin, Swift was raised in Ireland by an uncle and attended
Trinity College before emigrating to London, where he received a Master
of Arts at Oxford University. After ordination within the Anglican Church,
Swift was placed in a variety of clerical postings throughout Ireland, which
gave him firsthand experience with the poverty and squalor of the time.
Made famous by his acidly satirical Gulliver's Travels (1726), Swift
himself fell prey to mental and physical illness and died in 1745. His self-penned
epitaph informed the visitor that he was now "where savage indignation can
no longer tear his heart."