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A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works

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The originality, concentrated power and ‘fierce indignation’ of his satirical writing have earned Jonathan Swift a reputation as the greatest prose satirist in English literature. Gulliver’s Travels is, of course, his world renowned masterpiece in the genre; however, Swift wrote other, shorter works that also offer excellent evidence of his inspired lampoonery. Perhaps the most famous of these is A Modest Proposal, in which he straight-facedly suggests that Ireland could solve its hunger problems by using its children for food. Also included in this collection are The Battle of Books, A Meditation upon a Broomstick, A Discourse Concerning the Mechanical Operations of the Spirit and An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity in England.
This inexpensive edition will certainly be welcomed by teachers and students of English literature, but its appeal extends to any reader who delights in watching a master satirist wield words as weapons.

64 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1729

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About the author

Jonathan Swift

3,007 books1,778 followers
Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for Whigs then for Tories), and poet, famous for works like Gulliver's Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, The Drapier's Letters, The Battle of the Books, and A Tale of a Tub. Swift is probably the foremost prose satirist in the English language, and is less well known for his poetry. Swift published all of his works under pseudonyms — such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, M.B. Drapier — or anonymously. He is also known for being a master of two styles of satire; the Horatian and Juvenalian styles.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 210 reviews
Profile Image for Ori Fienberg.
166 reviews39 followers
May 11, 2007
I originally had two shelves:

books that make me want to have children so I can read to them


books that make me want to have children so I can eat them

But really this is the only one that would fall in the latter category.

This is one of the greatest pieces of satire ever written, but seriously, have you ever noticed that babies really do taste better? Think about it. Veal, lamb, kittens. I could go on.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,309 reviews20 followers
April 21, 2017
This collection of Jonathan Swift's satirical works is very witty, very clever and very well-written. You do need a reasonably good knowledge of the times in which he wrote to appreciate much of it but I enjoyed it a great deal and I'm very far from being a historian.

When this is funny, which is a lot, it is very funny indeed. It's also thought-provoking; particularly when he addresses issues which still haven't been resolved to this day. I can't quite bring myself to give it the full five stars, however, because there are passages contained herein which are quite tedious and a bit of a slog to get through. They're very much the exception rather than the rule, though, and this is a great read overall.

I can only imagine what an outcry 'A Modest Proposal' must have caused when originally published. The people I've spoken to about it who didn't know the basic premise have found it quite shocking even today.
Profile Image for Tempo de Ler.
729 reviews95 followers
February 20, 2017
"Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own" (p.2)

Gostei muito destes cinco textos, nos quais Jonathan Swift satiriza, com enorme mestria, o meio social e político que o rodeia, condenando a hipocrisia e o cinismo de ambos com a ferocidade de alguém realmente indignado.

A Modest proposal é, desta compilação, o seu trabalho mais forte. O sentido de humor tão bem aguçado e espirituoso, a forma como pinta com humor algumas das suas ideias mais repulsivas, tornam-no uma referência no género.
"of what use is freedom of thought, if it will not produce freedom of action?" (p.51)
Profile Image for Alp Turgut.
405 reviews126 followers
April 1, 2019
İnsanlara olan nefretiyle tanınan Jonathan Swift’in denemelerini okuyucuya sunan "Alçakgönüllü Bir Öneri / A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works", Swift’in entelektüel birikimini ve çeşitli konularla ilgili görüşlerini öğrenebilmek adına güzel bir toplama. Denemelerin genel olarak değerlendirildiğinde bir bütünlük sağlayamadığı eserde en beğendiğim ve tam puan verdiğim bölüm "Çeşitli Konular Üzerine Düşünceler" oldu. Buna ek olarak entelektüel anlamda nitelikli "Basmakalıp bir Deneme", modernle klasik edebiyatı Homeros gibi destansı bir savaşla metaforik olarak kıyasladığı "Kitaplar Arasında Yaşanan Çatışma" ve İngiltere’deki çocuk fazlalığını ironik bir şekilde eleştirdiği "Alçakgönüllü Bir Öneri" bölümlerini de beğendim. Swift'in başyapıtı "Gulliver'in Gezileri"ni okuduktan sonra yazarı daha yakından tanımak için şans verilebilir bir eser. Tam notum: 3,5/5.

İstanbul, Türkiye

Alp Turgut

Profile Image for Marts  (Thinker).
2,668 reviews
December 27, 2009
When one hears 'Swift', Gulliver's Travels usually comes to mind and that was an exceptional work of literature, so I think I'll experience him from a satirical angle.

Actually I ended up listening to this work (having acquired an audio version). Yes I admire Swift's irony in relation to every day situations, though it may seem a bit harsh, the method may at times be the only means of effectivly relating a message.
Profile Image for The Half-blood Reader.
970 reviews52 followers
Shelved as 'dropped'
December 23, 2020
College reads: I only read chapters/sections relevant to my studies, hence the dnf (A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burthen to their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public)
Profile Image for sologdin.
1,717 reviews642 followers
June 1, 2016
Nutshell: misanthropic rightwinger thinks that he’s funny, but he’s just a dick.

The foregoing conclusions are authorized by the author, who admitted in a letter to fellow douchebag Pope:
I have got materials toward a treatise proving the falsity of that definition animal rationale, and to show that it would be only rationis capax. Upon this great foundation of misanthropy, … the whole building of my Travels is erected. (21)
Several texts in this collection:

A Tale of a Tub--
Lots of derridean outworks here, including the opening dedication to some inbred aristocrat
I should now, in right of a dedicator, give your Lordship a list of your own virtues, and at the same time be very unwilling to offend your modesty; but chiefly I should celebrate your liberality towards men of great parts and small fortunes, and give you broad hints that I mean myself. And I was just going on in the usual method to peruse a hundred or two of dedications, and transcribe an abstract to be applied to your Lordship. (27)
Fourth such outwork explains the title:
seamen have a custom when they meet a Whale to fling him out an empty Tub, by way of amusement, to divert him from laying violent hands upon the Ship. This parable was immediately mythologised; the Whale was interpreted to be Hobbes’ “Leviathan,” which tosses and plays with all other schemes of religion and government, whereof a great many are hollow, and dry, and empty, and noisy, and wooden, and given to rotation. This is the Leviathan from whence the terrible wits of our age are said to borrow their weapons. The Ship in danger is easily understood to be its old antitype the commonwealth. (39-40)
Preface otherwise makes sure to avoid going forward “without declaiming, according to custom, against the multitude of writers whereof the whole multitude of writers most reasonably complain” (40). Speaker of the preface notes that in England it’s fine to state openly that “we live in the very dregs of time” (46)—not sure how to take that, as the layers of irony here are numerous—but it would be consistent with the retrograde politics.

The ‘Tale’ proper proceeds as an allegory of three guys (Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist) who inherit cloaks (church praxis) from their father’s will (scripture) and go about dicking up their cloaks. This allegory is intermingled with digressions. The Introduction makes plain that the text is concerned with “oratorical machines” (50), from whose company attorneys are apparently excluded (?). We see that the scheme of “oratorical receptacles or machines contains a great mystery, being a type, a sign, an emblem, a shadow, a symbol, bearing analogy to the spacious commonwealth of writers and to those methods by which they must exalt themselves to a certain eminency above the inferior world” (53).

Most interesting is the use of ellipsis to omit materials (as we may have noted regarding Gulliver’s Travels). Author has a ‘hiatus’ regarding “faction” (54) and regarding Calvinism (140). (In the “Mechanical Operation” text, infra, he also specifically omits the explanation of “the whole scheme of spiritual mechanism,” i.e., ostensibly the point of the text, because “it was thought neither safe nor convenient to print it” (162).) Best elision, from the famous essay on madness, while working through the important problem of “how it is possible to account for such imaginations as these in particular men, without recourse to my phenomenon of vapours ascending from the lower faculties to overshadow the brain, and there distilling into conceptions” (118-19) (which is substantially identical to Ayn Rand’s epistemology, no?): “There is in mankind a certain […] and this I take to be a clear solution of the matter [!]” (120). So, there it is.

Nice jab at ‘critics,’ insofar as we are told:
For it hath been objected that those ancient heroes, famous for their combating so many giants and dragons and robbers, were in their own persons a greater nuisance to mankind than any of the monsters they subdued; and therefore, to render their obligations more complete, when all other vermin were destroyed, should in conscience have concluded with the same justice upon themselves, as Hercules most generously did. (72)
Criticism is thereafter cunningly identified with the intention
to travel through this vast world of writings; to peruse and hunt those monstrous faults bred within them; to drag out the lurking errors, like Cacus from his den; to multiply them like Hydra’s heads; and rake them together like Augeas’ dung; or else drive away a sort of dangerous fowl who have a perverse inclination to plunder the best branches of the tree of knowledge, like those Stymphalian birds that ate up the fruit. (73)
So, good to see that he has developed an enlightened attitude toward his interlocutors, for whom, I think, he has just recommended suicide.

On the other hand, text will, at another moment, with perhaps a different speaker, suggest that Homer, “a person not without some abilities, and for ancient of a tolerable genius,” is nevertheless full of “many gross errors” (92).

Anyway, have dwelled overlong on the “Tale,” which is first rate overall. Much of interest that I haven’t mentioned. Suffice to say that one speaker recommends a derridean oblique approach:
get a thorough insight into the index by which the whole book is governed and turned, like fishes by the tail. For to enter the palace of learning at the great gate requires an expense of time and forms, therefore men of much haste and little ceremony are content to get in by the backdoor. For the arts are all in a flying march, and therefore more easily subdued by attacking from the rear. (104)
“A Discourse Concerning the Mechanical Operation of the Spirit”—
Opens with the suggestion that Mohammed “is known to have borrowed a moiety of his religious system from the Christian faith”(153), and then descends to the bizarre proposition that “there are three general ways of ejaculating the soul” (155). Inter alia, deduces a “history of fanaticism” (167 ff.).

After the ‘Tale,’ we have “A Tritical Essay,” “Meditation Upon a Broomstick,” “On Political Lying,” “The Drapier Letters,” and “A Character, Panegyric, and Description of the Legion Club,” about which little need be said. Also included:

“Thoughts on Various Subjects”—
A collection of generally non-satirical gnomics. I fucking hate the gnomic. Here, author outs himself as troglodyte with such items as “Law in a free country is, or ought to be, the determination of the majority of those who have property in land” (193). Uh, fuck you? Also: “Those who are against religion must needs be fools” (195). Whatever? This text also includes the famous ‘confederacy of dunces’ line deployed later by Toole.

“An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity in England”—
Builds a distinction between “nominal” and “real” Christianity; he won’t defend the latter, as it has “been for some time wholly laid aside by general consent as utterly inconsistent with our present schemes of wealth and power” (201), which strikes me as a nasty disqualificatory thesis. Seriously, you have a state church and you wrote this to oppose repealing the Test Act, no? (“Nothing can be more notorious than that the Atheists, Deists, Socinians, Antitrinitarians, and other subdivisions of freethinkers, are persons of little zeal for the present ecclesiastical establishment; their declared opinion is for repealing the sacramental test” (210). FFS. FFS!)

“A Modest Proposal”—
Obviously one of the great essays in English literary history. One thing I note now in reading through this time is that the impetus for the eponymous proposal is that “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,” which is the first overt reference to cannibalism in the text (259).

(No “Battle of the Books,” weirdly.)

Recommended for those who think praise was originally a pension paid by the world, readers affected in the head by tentiginous humour, and persons who have no children by which they can propose to get a single penny.
Profile Image for saïd.
6,316 reviews972 followers
June 16, 2022
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.
I most recently reread Malthus's 1798 essay On the Principle of Population after the incredibly stupid premise of Avengers: Endgame, in which the villain espouses a (misunderstood) version of Malthusian economics. Malthus was, notably, wrong: he didn't account for technological advancement allowing for mass production and distribution of food products, nor did he anticipate the prevalence of contraceptives and medically safe abortions. The issues preventing the eradication of starvation, malnourishment, and "overpopulation" are all issues of corporate shortcomings refusing to allow the easy distribution of necessities, not issues of production. Malthus's assertion that the exponential growth of the population will rapidly outstrip the linear growth of food production fails to account for variables such as contraceptives, abortions, voluntary (or involuntary) sterilisation, but also anthropogenic stopgap measures such as China's one-child policy (which did, in fact, cut down on the birth rate... at the expense of the older population, which was not able to be sufficiently replaced in a way that would buoy the economy). In short: Malthus's prognosis required an unchanged world in order to hold water, and the world, as it is wont to do, changed.

Around 70 years before Malthus's essay, in 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote his acerbic, deadpan satirical Modest Proposal. The "proposal" begins with a grim description of the extreme poverty and starvation in Ireland:
It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabin doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to Barbados.
Swift goes on to note that children are a long-term investment, i.e., they are a drain on resources for many years before the parents begin to see returns on the investment. "I am assured by our merchants," Swift says, "that a boy or a girl, before twelve years old, is no saleable commodity." After this deceptive concern Swift cuts straight to the meat of the "modest" proposal: eating children. It would solve not only the overpopulation issue, he argues, but also reduce hunger. Swift expounds upon the practical benefits of the trade. And, deadpan as always, he introduces possible alternative solutions (raising taxes, rent control, local economic support, etc.) under the guise of dismissing them as foolish ideas. Any objection to this "proposal," Swift proclaims, would have to be under the heading that it would decrease the population—which is, of course, the intention of the concept.

This was a world before the introduction of one-child policies, and yet Swift managed to predict the rapid negative consequences on sharply decreasing the replacement population. Of course, even with the scientific advancements of the 21st century, each progression is a double-edged sword. Crops and livestock alike have higher yields, and are more resistant to disease thanks to the introduction of pesticides and antibiotics, although there are risks from genetic modification and rapidly evolving pathogens which develop resistance to antibiotics. Land previously unsuitable for farming can now be used, but at the risk of leaving vast amounts of land barren as a result of irrigation diverting resources and crop rotation leaving areas devoid of nutrients. Technological advancement benefits the wealthy far more than the majority of people who would benefit from machine-based production, to say nothing of jobs lost with mechanisation. Advances in shipping and handling, as well as refrigeration and packaging have significantly reduced damage to products, and preservatives can allow for longer-lasting perishables, but these methods produce more waste, contributing significantly to environmental destruction. As efficiency increases, so does demand, meaning resources are more rapidly depleted in what is known as the Jevons paradox.

The issues Swift brings to light are still relevant today, nearly 300 years later. That, I think, is more disturbing than the straight-faced proposal of slaughtering, butchering, and eating children.
Profile Image for Katherine.
61 reviews1 follower
May 8, 2021
I had high hopes for his satirical essays, especially A Modest Proposal, but alas, I am disappointed.

Let’s start with A Modest Proposal; I did a bit of research after reading and found out that this was supposed to “disgust and enrage the reader,” and that’s exactly what it did. Basically, Ireland was deeply in debt and streets were crowded with woman and child beggars. So, Swift proposes a cannibalistic solution: plump the infants and then sell them to men and rich families to eat as a delicate meal, whether it be “stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.” But what disgusted me the most was the role of the women in this imagined society: a “constant breeder” of children. Even worse, this was repeated at a nauseating frequency. I get that this is not to be taken seriously, but I don’t appreciate this type of satire - it just doesn’t sit right with me. Apparently, the purpose of this essay was mock the rich, blame the Irish government, and shed some light on the status quo. So, I’ll blame my dislike on my oblivion to the history of Ireland.

Other than that, this is a collection of essays written in the 1700s that discusses Christianity and politics while integrating Latin and alluding to famous philosophers. (I didn’t finish 2 and only finished 2 in total, but there were a lot more that I chose not to read). Thanks to my limited knowledge, I was clueless and had difficulty understanding the main ideas (but that's my problem, not the writer's). Maybe I'll revisit this in the future after I learn more about Europe’s history, and hopefully, I’ll appreciate his uniquely satirical way of sending a message.
Profile Image for Jessica .
697 reviews27 followers
November 22, 2008
Swift's satire, A Modest Proposal, was not well-known or well-read in his life. Of course, given the nature of the piece--the desperate need for change in Ireland--lack of recognition was difficult.

I have read and taught this many times. Most students don't understand the depths of the satire or the excellent argument structure presented in this essay.

Swift's ability to develop his argument in the way he has makes the piece an excellent read for anyone looking to understand the many forms of developing argument.
Profile Image for Matt.
1,035 reviews666 followers
March 5, 2008

"A Modest Proposal" is so fucking ridiculously contemporary that I can't help but be the one to say it for the millionth time. If you think things have gotten too raw and uncivilized in today's age, and that people were more well mannered in the olden days, you are....full O' SHITE!

I'm sure no one reading this actually does think this way but still...I love being able to add this bit of actual, factual info and not feeling the least bit bad about it because history is genteel only to the people who see the past through rose-colored glasses which are dipped in (bull) shit...

I also like that Swift was a great hater of everything...also, unless I'm mistaken, a royalist conservative and a pretty trenchant religious one at that....and yet, and yet, as Yeats was wont to say: "world besotted traveler he/ served the cause of human liberty"

So SNL, the Daily Show, Carlin, Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce et al were 200 years in the making (and that's just talkin' Swift here, mind you)...

Also I remember reading that prominent literary critic of his once remarked that the narrator this book has what he brilliantly refers to as "a nervous hiccup"- he's not being outwardly snotty, there's no punk rock-ishness intended. You can hear it if you listen, its in the last sentence. The narrator's more like an acquiescent bureaucrat sincerely attempting to remedy the situation at hand for the colonial overlords...who happen to be enslaving his own people with exorbitant rents and property rights which leave much to be desired....which is pretty much where I think a satirist is these days.

If you look at the characters or personae your average comedian or satirical talk show host (ahem, Stewart and Colbert, especially, which gives it a different spin entirely) has, its all about being a sort of befuddled, confused, average guy who is trying to make these lumbering, incoherent systems and bizarre situations run smoothly. The technocrats are mad. The comedian is a member of the lower order, too smart and too normal to be from the avant- outside, anxiously clearing his throat and calling the masters of the universe into question using irony, paradox, scatology, and an almost childlike sense of absurdity to show how wrong and possibly evil the powers that be are, how they show themselves to be almost without fail.

It's not that they stand outside the system- it's that they are a part of the madness and therefore have a front row seat to the insanity in high places. Butchering of language (that precious gift), the unnecessary deaths of innocents, baldfaced lies, cynicism to assume that such things are or should be the due matter of course, sinister opportunities resulting in collateral damage and mind-boggling failure and outrageous profits for shady people who everyone already pretty much knows to be shady, deep down, because they are a part of it too.

So, therefore, all the proposals are modest. Immodesty wouldn't notice itself without the contrast. Swift lives!
Profile Image for Mehmet.
Author 2 books423 followers
January 19, 2022
Severek okuduğum kitapta benim hoşuma giden bazı kısımlar şunlar:

"...Çünkü dalları cennete uzanmış olsa da kökleri yeryüzündedir. Derin tefekküre dalmak etle, kanla yapıalcak iş değildir; etle, kanla girişilen tefekkür deneyimi, doğası gereği gevşer ve maddesel düzeye iner."

"... Gençliğin mahareti keşiftir, yaşlılığınsa yargı gücü; öyle ki ona sunacak daha az şey buldukça yargı gücümüz de gittikçe daha zor beğenir olur: Yaşamın akışı bunu gerektirir. Yaşlandığmızda arkadaşlarımız bizi memnun etmede gittikçe daha çok zorlanırlar, ama aynı zamanda memnun olup olmadığımız da onları gittikçe daha az ilgilendirir. Hiçbir bilge adam genç olmayı dilemez. Başıboş bir akıl yürütme, daha önceki sağlıklı akıl yürütmelerinizin ağırlığını azaltır. İyi davranışların altında yatan itkiler kılı kırk yaran bir incelemeyle gelmez. İyi olsun kötü olsun çoğu eylemin nihai nedeninin insanın kendisine duyduğu sevgi olduğu kabul edilir; ama bazı insanların öz sevgisi onları başkalarını mutlu etmeye iter, başkalarınınkiyse yalnızca kendilerini mutlu etmeye.
Erdemle kötülük arasındaki ayrım budur."

"... Keyfi iktiadr bir prens için en doğal baştan çıkarıcı nesnedir; nasıl ki genç bir adamın şarap ya da kadınlar karşısında, bir yargıcın rüşvet, yaşlı bir adamın cimrilik, bir kadınınsa yüzeysellik karşısında baştan çıkması işten bile değildir."

"... Bir adam kendisiyle benim arama belli bir mesafe koyduğunda, ikimizin de birbirine eşit uzaklıkta olduğumuz fikri beni rahatlatıyor."

"Tüm nehirler denize bağlanır. Xerxex, ordusuna dikkatle bakıp da yüz yıldan kısa bir süre içinde tüm askerlerinin ölmüş olacağını düşününce ağlamış. Anacreon'u öldüren, bir üzüm çekirdeği olmuş; şiddetli hazzın da, tıpkı şiddetli üzüntü gibi, insanı öldürebileceğini biliyoruz. Bu dünyada sabit kalan hiçbir şey yok, iktidarsızlıktan başka; gene de Platon, erdem kendini dünyaya gerçek kıyafetiyle gösterecek olsa, tüm insanların onun karşısında büyüleneceğini düşünüyordu. Ama şimdi, dünyayı yöneten çıkar olduğundan, Jüpiter'in kendisi dahi dünyaya inecek olsa, Danae'ye göründüğü gibi, bir altın yağmuru altında görünmediği sürece hor görülecektir; çünkü bugünlerde güneşin yalnızca yükselişine bakılıyor, batışına değil."

Swift, çok önemli bir adam. Mutlaka okunması gerek, klasikler zaten kişinin okuma sürecinde mutlaka basılması gereken basamaklar.
Profile Image for J..
215 reviews11 followers
February 14, 2015
'A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick' was published anonymously in 1729. These were bad years in Ireland three failed harvests were followed by poverty and disease. 'A modest proposal... ' lays bare the politics and prejudice of the time. The structure of the pamphlet imitates the pamphlets being published which offered up serious proposals to the crisis.

The shocking suggestion is that the poor Irish should sell their children to the rich like cattle in order to gain financially. "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." He discusses the benefits of such commerce to butchers, for the making of gloves for ladies and boots for men. He also suggests that there will be no more domestic violence as women will be valued for child bearing. There were rumours that people indulged in cannibalism but those rumours existed in Edmund Spensers day.

At the time William Petty was surveyor in Ireland and worked for Cromwell, he mapped and measured creditors, what was taken and given to soldiers and the cronies of Cromwell. These statistics were part of a belief in a mathematical solution. The Irish economy was extractive and produce was taken and sold in England.

Swift was Dean of St. Patrick's cathedral a position partly of exile and due to failure in his career. In this work he is emulating his sermons, satirising people who think they can reform and holding forth that people will ever change. He contributed to public arguments about how Ireland was ruled. In the 1720's he objected anonymously via the 'Drapiers letters' to the underhanded winning of a contract to recoin the currency without the consultation of the Anglo Irish community. He became a hero for this intervention. Although Swift denunciates he doesn't necessarily sympathise with the people. I enjoyed this and I encourage visitors to Dublin to visit St Patrick's cathedral.
70 reviews6 followers
December 13, 2007
A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works contains five essays by Swift. A Modest Proposal focuses upon politics, Battle of the Books upon literature and philosophy, and the remaining three address religious belief and practice.

A Modest Proposal is easily the most famous of Swift's essays, and as such most people are aware of its premise. It is incredibly witty, brief, and poignant. A fine satire.

To appreciate Battle of the Books requires a fair amount of understanding regarding ancient and modern philosophy and literature. It casts writings (personified as their writers) in struggle against one another set in a library. But in a broader sense, it can be appreciated as expressing vanity, ingratitude, and disdain by some modern thinkers for ancient thinkers.

Meditation Upon a Broomstick is a very short work drawing analogy between broomstick and man, speaking of the nature and purposes of each.

An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity in England
is a satire against the idea that shortcomings in human nature are religious faults. Even if religion were removed, vices due to human nature would still trouble mankind.

Discourse Concerning the Mechanical Operation of the Spirit is a satire directed against all religious extremists. Swift refers to Muslims and Protestant Christians of his own age in particular. I can't help but think how relevant Swift remains more than 250 years after his death.
Profile Image for Mark Bratkowski.
65 reviews4 followers
February 26, 2017
This is another book that I read to teach at Ursuline next year. Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is without a doubt one of the most intellectual and humorous pieces of satire ever written. Another satiric essay that I liked was "An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity in England". This was written earlier than "A Modest Proposal" but uses soome of the same devices. Swift's evidence shows how ending Christianity would bring political and economic benefits to England. Of course, his argument is sarcastic and in opposition to his own beliefs; Swift was an ordained Anglican minister.

I wasn't nearly as impressed with the other satirical writings. "The Battle of the Books" is about a battle between books written by ancient and modern writers. I felt left out while I was reading it because I didn't know who the "modern" writers of the 17th and 18th centuries were. The work also wasn't finished and that left me at a loss.

I would like to read Swift's magnum opus, "Guliver's Travels", some day. However, I was disappointed by the overall body of his work in this set of essays. I found him to be highly witty, but he could also get too philosophical and meandering, and I often lost my interest in his writing.
December 15, 2022
The reason for picking up A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works was that I wanted to reread A Modest Proposal, which I had previously read in my copy of The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Vol 1 and which I still think is a masterpiece and as such probably the best satire I've ever come across.

As a sort of ‘bonus’ I had four more of Swift’s satirical writings in this book, each of which I liked. I must add though, that by far the most of his satirical writings require (a lot of) background knowledge into the period they were written in. Should you possess this background knowledge, then please, read this little book, as Swift’s satirical writings are fabulous!

See also the Netherlands & Flanders group, message 100 of their Summer Challenge 2014, for a review in Dutch.
Profile Image for John Yelverton.
4,258 reviews37 followers
October 2, 2011
The modest proposal would have been if someone had asked not to write this horrid thing.
Profile Image for Chris.
764 reviews100 followers
March 17, 2019
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.

With this paragraph, around a quarter of the way through a 1729 text, Swift (originally writing anonymously) detonates the bomb that is at the core of A Modest PROPOSAL For preventing the CHILDREN of POOR PEOPLE From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the PUBLICK.

But this, of course, is Swift, and we must never take his writings at their word. When he discusses the main advantages of such a policy for Ireland (such as fewer Catholics, the introduction of a new dish for gentlemen with refined tastes, an added draw for taverns, an income for the 'breeders' and an economic policy to encourage marriage) his purpose is to criticise social attitudes, but as with all satire, outward appearances are outrageous--but also deceptive.

Swift was Anglo-Irish Anglican clergyman, and his position was to be a signpost always to a via media (as characterises the Church of England itself, being somewhere in the middle of a Christian continuum stretching from Dissenter to Roman Catholic). By taking arguments to extremes, as with A Modest Proposal, he exposed what he saw as inherent ridiculousness, but with such po-faced earnestness that it was sometimes hard to know when he was being serious without close reading of the text.

In this slim volume are also included four other works. The Battle of the Books is the longest, and was essentially a discourse on the three strands of Christianity in the west, with the individuals Peter, Martin and Jack standing for Catholicism, Anglicanism and Nonconformism. (As a digression, I wonder if this piece indirectly influenced R M Ballantyne's famous novel The Coral Island, the leads of which were Peterkin, Jack Martin and Ralph, and which itself directly inspired William Golding's characters Piggy, Jack and Ralph in The Lord of the Flies.)

Also here is the very short A Meditation upon a Broomstick, a mock allegory of the human condition perpetrated as a joke upon a Lady Berkeley. This is followed by A Discourse concerning the Mechanical Operation of the Spirit: in this Swift equates spirit with 'enthusiasm', literally the state of being possessed by a god. The manifestation of enthusiasm Swift calls 'ejaculating the spirit, or transporting it beyond the sphere of matter'; to the three expressions of this manifestation--divine prophecy or inspiration, devilish possession, and the product of the imagination or strong emotions--Swift adds 'the mechanical operation of the spirit', which he at first compares to the ass on which Mohammed is said to have travelled to Paradise. (He also has witty words to say about epistolatory conventions, but there is no space, dear reader, to expand on this.)

That only leaves the last of these papers published before 1729, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity in England, which, however dry the subject appears to be from the title, is as knockabout a farce attacking all and sundry as any in this collection. Swift's own footnotes, along with the editor's, are included here, as well as a brief biography by way of introduction.

Even allowing for a three-century gap these pieces have a surprisingly relevant contemporary bite, especially in view of recent political events: the shocking satire of A Modest Proposal throws a light on the downsides of utilitarianism, the dangers of cynical commercialism and the human capacity for self-delusion.
Profile Image for GiGi.
275 reviews3 followers
May 2, 2023
"A full and true account of the battle fought last friday between the ancient and the modern books in saint James's library" ⭐⭐⭐⭐

"A meditation upon a broomstick." ⭐⭐⭐

"A discourse concerning the mechanical operation of the spirit. In a letter to a friend. A fragment." ⭐⭐

"An argument to prove that abolishing Christianity in England may, as things now stand, be attended with some inconveniences, and perhaps not produce those many good effects proposed thereby." ⭐⭐

"A modest proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burthen to their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the public." ⭐⭐⭐
Profile Image for F..
497 reviews32 followers
March 28, 2021
Gulliver’in Gezileri dışında bir kitabını bilmediğim Jonathan Swift’in sıkı bir hiciv ustası olduğunu öğrendiğim denemeler topluluğu.

Yazar, önsözde bilgi olmadan nükte ve zekâ, salt kremadan ibaret derken aslında bir nevi dakika bir gol bir durumu oluşuyor. Zira, yazarımız kapasitesi olmayıp atıp tutanlar kadar zeki ama vasıfsız insanlardan da bayağı mustarip.

Ciddi bir eleştirim olacak, Latince veya Eski Yunanca başta olmak üzere yabancı dil çevirilerinde muhteşem notlarıyla ufkumu açan İş Bankası Kültür Yayınlarının bu kitabında birçok yerde Latince sözlerin çevirileri ve açıklamaları yoktu. Normalde, hiç sorun değil derdim ama o kadar yerinde açıklamalarla bütünü algılamaya yardımcı oluyorlardı bu açıklamalar ki eksik kaldım desem yalan olmaz.

“Hırs, çoğu zaman insanlara en alçak işleri yaptırır.” sözünün altını güzelce dolduruyor Swift. “Kötü arkadaşlık köpeğe benzer; en çok, en sevdiklerini kirletir.” sözünde ise gayriihtiyari aklım Ezel’deki “Oysa herkes öldürür sevdiğini” sözü geldi aklıma Ramiz Dayı’nın. Menfaat, çoğu zaman sinsi bir yol gösterici oluyor tüm insanlığa ne yazık ki.

Kitabın adını aldığı son deneme ise gerçekten tüyler ürpertici ve bir o kadar da düşündürücü. Kitabın kapağını kapatırken yüzümde mutlu bir ifade vardı, teşekkürler Swift bana ayırdığın zaman için.

282 reviews11 followers
November 15, 2020
Alçakgönüllü Bir Öneri / Jonathan Swift

Yazarı Gulliver'in Yolculukları'ndan tanıyorum. Denemelerini de sevdim. ''İrfan sahibi kişilerin yürüttüğü savaşlarda mürekkebin son derece önemli bir silah olduğu anlaşılmalıdır. Her iki taraftan da kahramanlar hünerli ve şiddetli biçimde düşmana sonsuz miktarda mürekkep fırlatabilirler. Bu maddenin acılığı ve zehri yüksektir'' diyor. Tarih boyunca iktidarlar da bunu farkettikleri için olsa gerek yazarların başı dertten kurtulmamış.
Birçok güzel özlü sözü de var;
''Bu dünyaya gerçek bir deha geldiğini şöyle anlayabilirsiniz; ahmaklar ona karşı bir araya gelir''
''Politikada yalanlar uydurma sanatı üzerine bir deneme,, bölümü de çok güzel. ''Politik bir yalan bazen yerinden edilmiş bir devlet adamının kafasından doğar ve bir ayaktakımı güruhu da bu yalanı besleyip buyütür. Nitekim iktidar partisine yirmi yıldır kılavuzluk ettiğini hepimiz görüyoruz'' diyor. Üstelik bütün bunlar ta 1710 yılında yazılmış. Eski püskü(!) şeyler yani.
Profile Image for Orçun.
Author 1 book42 followers
October 17, 2016
Öncelikle şunu söylemek gerek: Bu derlemede Swift'in 1697-1729 yılları arasında yazdığı 8 yazıya yer verilmiş; bu yüzden, kitabı "Alçakgönüllü Bir Öneri ve Diğer Denemeler" diye adlandırmak daha yerinde bir tercih olurdu.
Swift, bir oklu kirpi: Eleştiri oklarını her yöne fırlatıyor; üstelik bunu iç karartan bir ciddiyetle değil, müthiş eğlenceli, pırıl pırıl bir zekâyla yapıyor. Zaten Britanyalılar'ın hiciv, nükte, iğneleme, kara mizah kategorilerinde belirgin bir yeteneği olduğuna hep inanmışımdır; Swift'te, buna bir de İrlandalı cüreti/cesareti ekleniyor. Burada bir araya getirilmiş, çoğu hiciv olarak sınıflandırılabilecek yazıların çoğunda, bir yergi üstadının kullandığı üç silahı, Swift'in de büyük bir ustalıkla kullandığını görüyoruz: Alegori, ironi, parodi. Bazı noktalarda fikirleri fazla sinikmiş gibi görünse de (oysa ki bir papazdır kendileri!), birkaç yerde cinsiyetçilik yapsa da, yazıların çoğunluğunu büyük bir zevkle okudum.
Profile Image for Patrick Nichols.
88 reviews4 followers
March 26, 2012
And thus it may, if the verbal effrontery of such an utterance may be indulged, however briefly, be averred, with the blessings of those guardians on the battlements of concinnity, even modestly asseverated, if such a contradiction does not run counter to said diction, that the author's style, with such a fecund profusion of subordinate and even, dare I say, insubordinate clauses, rococo verbal flourishes, and sesquipedialian agglomerations, while constructed with a labyrinthine ingenuity that even daedalus would praise, are not, in the firm belief of this author, in fact, funny at all.

However, the titular essay is still quite witty, and less guilty of the verbal excesses of the other essays in this collection.
Profile Image for Erica.
32 reviews6 followers
August 21, 2007
This is one of my favorite satirical works of all time in which Swift proposes, to solve the problem of the poverty and starvation rampant in Ireland, that the poor Irish eat their own children to stave off hunger.

"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 fricasie, or a ragoust."

Propositions of cannibalism make me giggle. :)
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