Still Unexplained

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), dean of St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin, was a most remarkable man.  To begin with, he wrote two of the cleverest, most original books in English, Gulliver’s Travels and A Tale of a Tub, in prose that David Hume described as “the first polite prose we have,” i.e., the first really stylish, polished prose to be written in England.  For about four years, from 1710 until 1714, that same prose in the form of political pamphlets put him in a position of power as a writer for the Tory ministry of Robert Harley and Henry St. John.  Back in Ireland as dean of his cathedral after the ministry’s fall, he began writing against English misgovernment of Ireland, and when his pamphlets written under the name M.B. Drapier defeated Prime Minister Walpole’s attempt to introduce “Wood’s ha’pence” into Ireland, he became a national hero and once again a figure of real power, this time in Dublin.  When Walpole, exasperated by Swift’s opposition, wished to prosecute him for sedition, he was told that he would need 10,000 men to take Swift from Dublin.

At the same time, he was an entirely orthodox high-churchman who ran his cathedral and the city “liberty” around it with the effectiveness of a born administrator. ...

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