A shipwreck brings Lemuel Gulliver to Lilliput, where he finds himself in a kingdom of tiny people.

This experience is later reversed when he lands among the giants of Brobdingnag. And yet more contrasts lie in store for him between the Houyhnhnms – a race of noble horses – and the savage sub-human Yahoos.

Gulliver’s Travels has not been out of print since its publication in 1726. Readers, ‘from the cabinet council to the nursery’, have enjoyed Swift’s fusion of fantasy and reality on many levels.

While politics and religion are prime targets for his satire, he also holds a mocking mirror to human nature in general.



The Dauntless hero, whose spirit of adventure and fascination with other cultures takes him to extraordinary lands.

The Emperor of Lilliput

The ‘Delight and Terror of the Universe’, liberal with Guliver, belligerent towards his neighbours.


The scheming treasurer of Lilliput hates Guliver

The King of Brobdingnag

The benign and wise monarch of the land of giants, who is ‘perfectly astonished’ by Gulliver’s account of European affairs.


A nine year old Brobdingnagian girl who loves love and cares for Gulliver her ‘mankin’

The Court of Laputa

The crazed aristocracy of the flying island. Who are ‘so taken up with intense speculations’ that they neglect their people.

The Struldbruggs

Immortal beings condemned to perpetual senility in the land of Luggnagg.

The Houyhnhnms

A nobel,rational race of horses, whose chief virtues are ‘friendship and benevolence’

The Yahoos

Hairy, naked humanoids, as backward and ‘disagreeable’ as the Houyhnhnms are gentle and enlightened.

Don Pedro

A Portuguese ship’s captain, who treats Gulliver with kindness.


My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire: I was the third of five sons.

Opening line

Every man desires to live long, but no man wishes to be old.

I cannot but conclude that the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth.

Undoubtedly, philosophers are in the right when they tell us that nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison

And he gave it for his opinion, “that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together

Difference in opinions has cost many millions of lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine

… a wife should be always a reasonable and agreeable companion, because she cannot always be young.

Ingratitude is amongst them a capital crime, as we read it to have been in some other countries: for they reason thus; that whoever makes ill-returns to his benefactor, must needs be a common enemy to the rest of the mankind, from where he has received no obligations and therefore such man is not fit to live

Of so little weight are the greatest services to princes, when put into the balance with a refusal to gratify their passions.

       “He likewise directed, “that every senator in the great council of a nation, after he had delivered his opinion, and argued in the defence of it, should be obliged to give his vote directly contrary; because if that were done, the result would infallibly terminate in the good of the public.”  

About Jonathan Swift



Born on the 30th November 1667 in Dublin, Ireland. Jonathan Swift was the second child and only son of Jonathan Swift (1640–1667) and his wife Abigail Erick (or Herrick) of Frisby on the Wreake. His father was from Goodrich, Herefordshire, but moved with his brothers to Ireland to seek their fortunes in law after their Royalist father’s estate was brought to ruin during the English Civil War. 

In addition his maternal grandfather, James Ericke, was the vicar of Thornton in Leicestershire. However in 1634 the vicar was convicted of Puritan practices. After that, Ericke and his family, including his young daughter Abigail, fled to Ireland.

Swift’s father died in Dublin around seven months before his namesake was born. Of syphilis, which he said he got from dirty sheets when out of town.

Jonathan was taken by his wet nurse to her hometown of Whitehaven, Cumberland, England. Where he learned to read the Bible. His nurse returned him to his mother, still in Ireland, when he was three..

Godwin Swift was both uncle and benefactor, and was the one who took primary responsibility for the young man, sending him with one of his cousins to Kilkenny College (also attended by philosopher George Berkeley). Arriving  there at the age of six, where he was expected to have already learned the basic declensions in Latin. He had not, and thus began his schooling in a lower form. Swift graduated in 1682, when he was 15.

Attending  Dublin University (Trinity College, Dublin) in 1682, financed by Godwin’s son Willoughby. The four-year course followed a curriculum largely set in the Middle Ages for the priesthood. 

The lectures were dominated by Aristotelian logic and philosophy. The basic skill taught the students was debate, and they were expected to be able to argue both sides of any argument or topic. Swift was an above-average student but not exceptional, and received his B.A. in 1686 “by special grace.”

Swift was studying for his master’s degree when political troubles in Ireland surrounding the Glorious Revolution forced him to leave for England in 1688, where his mother helped him get a position as secretary and personal assistant of Sir William Temple at Moor Park, Farnham. 

In 1690, Swift left Temple for Ireland because of his health, but returned the year after. The Symptoms were vertigo or giddiness, now known to be Ménière’s disease, and it continued to plague him throughout his life. 

In his second stay with Temple, Swift received his M.A. from Hart Hall, Oxford, in 1692. He then left Moor Park, because he thought he could not advance his career, with Temple’s patronage. He was appointed to the prebend of Kilroot in the Diocese of Connor in 1694, with his parish located at Kilroot, near Carrickfergus in County Antrim.

After a failed romance with Jane Waring, Swift left his post and returned to England and Temple’s service at Moor Park again, in 1696, remaining there until Temple’s death. There he was employed in helping to prepare Temple’s memoirs and correspondence for publication. 

During this time, Swift wrote The Battle of the Books, a satire responding to critics of Temple’s Essay upon Ancient and Modern Learning (1690), though Battle was not published until 1704.

Temple died on 27 January 1699. Swift, a harsh judge of human nature, said that all that was good and amiable in mankind had died with Temple. He stayed on briefly in England to complete editing Temple’s memoirs, and perhaps in the hope that recognition of his work might earn him a suitable position in England.

He then accepted the lesser post of secretary and chaplain to the Earl of Berkeley, one of the Lords Justice of Ireland. When he reached Ireland, he found that the secretaryship had already been given to another. However he became  the living of Laracor, Agher, and Rathbeggan, and the prebend of Dunlavin in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Swift ministered to a congregation of about 15 at Laracor, which was just over four and half miles (7.5 km) from Summerhill, County Meath, and twenty miles (32 km) from Dublin. He had abundant leisure for cultivating his garden, making a canal after the Dutch fashion of Moor Park, planting willows, and rebuilding the vicarage. As chaplain to Lord Berkeley, he spent much of his time in Dublin and travelled to London frequently over the next ten years. 


He wrote many of his works during this time period. In February 1702, Swift received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Trinity College, Dublin. That spring he travelled to England and then returned to Ireland in October, accompanied by Esther Johnson—now 20—and his friend Rebecca Dingley, another member of William Temple’s household. 

There is a great mystery over Swift’s relationship with Esther Johnson, nicknamed “Stella”. Many, notably his close friend Thomas Sheridan, believed that they were secretly married in 1716; others, like Swift’s housekeeper Mrs Brent and Rebecca Dingley  dismissed the story as absurd. Swift certainly did not wish her to marry anyone else.

In 1704, when their mutual friend William Tisdall informed Swift that he intended to propose to Stella, Swift wrote to him to dissuade him from the idea. Although the tone of the letter was courteous, Swift privately expressed his disgust for Tisdall as an “interloper”, and they were estranged for many years..

Swift was part of the inner circle of the Tory government, and often acted as mediator between Henry St John (Viscount Bolingbroke), the secretary of state for foreign affairs (1710–15), and Robert Harley (Earl of Oxford), lord treasurer and prime minister (1711–1714). Swift recorded his experiences and thoughts during this difficult time in a long series of letters to Esther Johnson, collected and published after his death as A Journal to Stella. The animosity between the two Tory leaders eventually led to the dismissal of Harley in 1714. With the death of Queen Anne and accession of George I that year, the Whigs returned to power, and the Tory leaders were tried for treason for conducting secret negotiations with France.

Swift became acquainted with the Vanhomrigh family (Dutch merchants who had settled in Ireland, then moved to London) and became involved with one of the daughters, Esther. Swift furnished Esther with the nickname “Vanessa” (derived by adding “Essa”, a pet form of Esther, to the “Van” of her surname, Vanhomrigh), and she features as one of the main characters in his poem Cadenus and Vanessa

The poem and their correspondence suggest that Esther was infatuated with Swift, and that he may have reciprocated her affections, only to regret this and then try to break off the relationship. Esther followed Swift to Ireland in 1714, and settled at her old family home, Celbridge Abbey. Their uneasy relationship continued for some years; then there appears to have been a confrontation, possibly involving Esther Johnson. Esther Vanhomrigh died in 1723 at the age of 35, having destroyed the will she had made in Swift’s favour. Another lady with whom he had a close but less intense relationship was Anne Long, a toast of the Kit-Cat Club.


Before the fall of the Tory government, Swift hoped that his services would be rewarded with a church appointment in England. However, Queen Anne appeared to have taken a dislike to Swift and thwarted these efforts. 

Anne, who could be a bitter enemy, made it clear that Swift would not have received the preferment if she could have prevented it. With the return of the Whigs, Swift’s best move was to leave England and he returned to Ireland in disappointment, a virtual exile, to live “like a rat in a hole”.

Once in Ireland, however, Swift began to turn his pamphleteering skills in support of Irish causes, producing some of his most memorable works, earning him the status of an Irish patriot. This new role was unwelcome to the Government, which made clumsy attempts to silence him. 

His printer, Edward Waters, was convicted of seditious libel in 1720, but four years later a grand jury refused to find that the Drapier’s Letters (which, though written under a pseudonym, were universally known to be Swift’s work) were seditious. Swift responded with an attack on the Irish judiciary almost unparalleled in its ferocity, his principal target being the “vile and profligate villain” William Whitshed, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.

Also during these years, he began writing his masterpiece, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, and then a captain of several ships, better known as Gulliver’s Travels. Much of the material reflects his political experiences of the preceding decade.

 For instance, the episode in which the giant Gulliver puts out the Lilliputian palace fire by urinating on it can be seen as a metaphor for the Tories’ illegal peace treaty; having done a good thing in an unfortunate manner. First published in November 1726, it was an immediate hit, with a total of three printings that year and another in early 1727. French, German, and Dutch translations appeared in 1727, and pirated copies were printed in Ireland.

Swift returned to England one more time in 1727, and stayed once again with Alexander Pope. The visit was cut short when Swift received word that Esther Johnson was dying, and rushed back home to be with her. On 28 January 1728, Johnson died; Swift had prayed at her bedside, even composing prayers for her comfort.

On the 19th October 1745, Swift, at nearly 80, died. After being laid out on public, view for the people of Dublin to pay their last respects, he was buried in his own cathedral by Esther Johnson’s side, in accordance with his wishes. The bulk of his fortune (£12,000) was left to found a hospital for the mentally ill, originally known as St Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles, which opened in 1757, and which still exists as a psychiatric hospital.


Standalone Novels

Gulliver’s Travels1979


A Tale of A Tub1704
The Journal to Stella1766


Cadeun and Vanessa1726
Baucis and Philemon1983


The Battle of the Books1697
Abolishing Christianity and Other Short Pieces1745
A Modest Proposal1729
Directions to Servants1731
Polite Conversation1738

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