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Swift, Jonathan

Born: 1667 AD
Died: 1745 AD
Nationality: Irish
Categories: Authors, Satirists

1667 – Swift was born in Dublin on November 30, 1667.

1674-1682 – Swift studied at Kilkenny Grammar School.

1682-1689 – Swift attended Trinity College in Dublin. Swift was studying for his Masters 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. Temple was an English diplomat who, having arranged the Triple Alliance of 1668, retired from public service to his country estate to tend his gardens and write his memoirs. Growing into confidence with his employer, Swift "was often trusted with matters of great importance." Within three years of their acquaintance, Temple had introduced his secretary to William III, and sent him to London to urge the King to consent to a bill for triennial Parliaments. When Swift took up his residence at Moor Park, he met Esther Johnson, then 8 years old, the fatherless daughter of one of the household servants. Swift acted as her tutor and mentor, giving her the nickname "Stella" and the two maintained a close, but ambiguous, relationship for the rest of Esther’s life.

1690-1692 – Swift left Temple in 1690 for Ireland because of his health, but returned to Moor Park the following year. The illness, fits of vertigo or giddiness, now known to be Ménière’s disease, would continue to plague Swift throughout his life. During this second stay with Temple, Swift received his M.A. from Hertford College, Oxford University in 1692.

1694 – Swift left Moor Park to be ordained a priest in the Church of Ireland and was appointed to a prebend in Kilroot, near Carrickfergus.

1696 – Swift was miserable in his new position, being isolated in a small, remote community. While there, however, Swift may have become romantically involved with Jane Waring. A letter from him survives offering to remain if she would marry him and promising to leave and never return to Ireland if she refused. She must have refused, because Swift left his post and returned to England and Temple’s service at Moor Park. There he was employed in helping 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).

1702 – In February 1702, Swift received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Trinity College, Dublin. That spring he traveled to England and returned to Ireland in October, accompanied by Esther Johnson – now twenty years old – and her friend Rebecca Dingley, another member of Wm. Temple’s household.

1704 – During his visits to England in these years Swift published A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books (1704) and began to gain a reputation as a writer.

1707-1710 – Swift became increasingly active politically in these years. Swift was in London, unsuccessfully urging upon the Whig administration of Lord Godolphin the claims of the Irish clergy to the First-Fruits and Twentieths ("Queen Anne’s Bounty"), which brought in about £2500 a year, already granted to their brethren in England. He found the opposition Tory leadership more sympathetic to his cause and Swift was recruited to support their cause as editor of the Examiner when they came to power in 1710.

1711 – Swift published the political pamphlet "The Conduct of the Allies," attacking the Whig government for its inability to end the prolonged war with France.

1714 – Also during these years in London, Swift became acquainted with the Vanhomrigh family and became involved with one of the daughters, Hester, yet another fatherless young woman and an ambiguous relationship to confuse Swift’s biographers. Swift furnished Hester with the nickname "Vanessa" and she features as one of the main characters in his poem Cadenus and Vanessa. The poem and their correspondence suggests that Hester was infatuated with Swift, that he may have reciprocated her affections, only to regret it and then try to break it off. Hester followed Swift to Ireland, where there appears to have been a confrontation, possibly involving Esther Johnson.

1727 – Swift returned to England one more time in 1727 and stayed with Alexander Pope once again. The visit was cut short when he received word that Esther Johnson was dying and Swift rushed back home to be with her.

1738 – Swift began to show signs of illness and appears to have suffered a stroke, losing the ability to speak and realizing his worst fears of becoming mentally disabled. In order to protect him from unscrupulous hangers on, who had begun to prey on the great man, his closest companions had him declared of "unsound mind and memory."

1745 – On October 19, 1745, Swift died. He was buried by Esther Johnson’s side, in accordance with his wishes. The bulk of his fortune was left to found a hospital for the mentally ill.