Jonathan Swift
"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others"
Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift is responsible for writing one of the most popular books of all time, 'Gulliver's Travels'. A book that has never been out of print since publishing on the 28th of October 1726. The book is timeless having had many tv and film adaptations. Swift was born on the 30th of November 1667 in Dublin, but it was Kilkenny that ignited the mind of the literary great.

 

Swift was born into poverty. His father died two months before his birth leaving his mother struggling to provide for her child. Wishing the best for her son, she gave him up to her late husband's brother, Godwin Swift. Godwin was Attorney-General of lands in Tipperary on behalf of the Duke of Ormonde and for his service received a residence in Dublin and an estate in Jenkinstown, Kilkenny; 'Swift's Heath'.

 

Aged 6, Godwin enrolled Swift into Kilkenny College in 1674 where at first he struggled to keep up with other students. Two subjects in particular, literature and public speaking, would serve him well later on in life. Spending eight of his formative years here learning until 1682, there is no doubt that Kilkenny had a massive impact on Swift. In his own word, ‘I went to Kilkenny College at a remarkable time in history. Along with my fellow scholars; William Congreve, the playwright and Bishop Berkeley, the philosopher and writer we were at the centre of a lively cultural and intellectual movement in Kilkenny City.’.

He rode the four mile journey to Kilkenny College everyday on horse back from Swift's Heath and his bedroom has remained largely untouched from the time he stayed there until today.

 

After Kilkenny College, he went to Trinity College Dublin, where he received his B.A. in 1686. He left for England thereafter where he received his M.A. from Hart Hall, Oxford in 1692.

He died in Dublin on the 19th of October 1745. He wrote his own epitaph in Latin which reads;

'Here is laid the Body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology, Dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce Indignation can no longer injure the Heart. Go forth, Voyager, and copy, if you can, this vigorous Champion of Liberty'

W. B. Yeats would later write 'Swift's Epitaph', offering his take on the meaning behind it.

Swift's Heath

Swift's Epitaph

SWIFT has sailed into his rest;

Savage indignation there

Cannot lacerate his breast.

Imitate him if you dare,

World-besotted traveller; he

Served Human Liberty.

William Butler Yeats

An old copy of Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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