In 1720 Jonathan Swift began his most famous work, Gulliver’s Travels, which was published in 1726 and remains to this day a classic of English Literature.
Jonathan Swift was born on November 30, 1667 in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Protestant Anglo-Irish parents. Swift’s ancestors had been Royalists, and all his life he would be a High-Churchman. His father, also Jonathan, died a few months before he was born and young Jonathan grew up fatherless. Almost immediately, his mother Abigail, returned to England, leaving her son behind in the care of an uncle. In 1673, at the age of six, Swift began his education at Kilkenny Grammar School, which was, at the time, the best in Ireland. Between 1682 and 1686 he attended, and graduated from, Trinity College in Dublin. In 1688 William of Orange invaded England, initiating the Glorious Revolution and with Dublin in political turmoil, Trinity College was closed. The ambitious Swift took the opportunity to go to England, where he hoped to gain promotion in the Anglican Church. In England, in 1689, he became secretary to Sir William Temple, a diplomat and man of letters, at Moor Park in Surrey. There Swift read extensively in his patron's library, and met Esther Johnson, just eight years old at the time, and who was to become his "Stella." It was there, too, that he began to suffer from Meniere's Disease and in 1690, at the advice of his doctors, returned to Ireland, but the following year he was back with Temple in England. He visited Oxford in 1691and in 1692, with Temple's assistance, he received an M. A. degree from that University. In 1694, he returned to Ireland to take holy orders and in 1695 was ordained as a priest in the Church of Ireland, the Irish branch of the Anglican Church, and the following year he returned to Temple and Moor Park. It was between 1696 and 1699 that Swift is thought to have composed most of his first great work, A Tale of a Tub, a prose satire on the religious extremes represented by Roman Catholicism and Calvinism. In 1697 he wrote The Battle of the Books, a satire defending Temple's conservative position in the contemporary literary controversy as to whether the works of the "Ancients" — the great authors of classical antiquity — were to be preferred to those of the "Moderns." In 1699 however, Temple died, and Swift traveled to Ireland as chaplain and secretary to the Earl of Berkeley. In 1700 Jonathan Swift was inducted as Vicar of Laracor, provided, that is, with what was known as a "Living" — and given a stipend in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. These appointments were a bitter disappointment for a man who had longed to remain in England. In 1701 Swift was awarded a D. D. from Dublin University, and published his first political pamphlet, supporting the Whigs against the Tories. In 1707 Swift was sent to London as emissary of Irish clergy seeking remission of tax on Irish clerical incomes. Although his requests were rejected, it was here that he met Esther Vanhomrigh, who would become his "Vanessa." In 1708 Swift met Addison and Steele, and published his Bickerstaff Papers, satirical attacks upon an astrologer, John Partridge, and a series of ironical pamphlets on church questions, including An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity. In 1710, Swift had a falling out with the Whigs and joined the Tory party where he became the editor of the Tory newspaper The Examiner. Between 1710 and 1713 he also wrote the famous series of letters to Esther Johnson which would eventually be published as The Journal to Stella. In 1713 Swift was installed as Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin — a promotion which was, again, a disappointment. In 1714, Queen Anne died, and George I took the throne. With his accession the Tories fell from power, and Swift's hopes for an appointment to a position in England came to an end: he returned to Ireland "to die," as he says, "like a poisoned rat in a hole." It is believed by some that Swift secretly married Ether Johnson in 1716, but there is no documentation to prove this to be true. A period of literary silence and personal depression followed, but beginning in 1718, he broke the silence, and began to publish a series of powerful tracts on Irish problems. In 1720 he began his most famous work, Gulliver's Travels which was published in 1726 and remains to this day a classic of English Literature.
In 1728, his “stella” Esther Johnson, died and by 1735, when a collected edition of his Works was published in Dublin, his Meniere's Disease had worsened and his memory was beginning to deteriorate. During 1738 he slipped gradually into senility, and finally suffered a paralytic stroke in 1742. Jonathan Swift died on October 19, 1745 and is buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin beside Esther Johnson.