The Mind and Art of Jonathan Swift

By Ricardo Quintana | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
OTHER VERSE AND PROSE

1

As the black mood which had descended upon Swift after the queen's death relaxed its numbing grip, the controversialist and the artist came to life at one and the same moment, and while the Drapier was arousing a nation by his Letters and verses, Lemuel Gulliver was making ready to delight the world with an account of his strange adventures. It was not mere coincidence that Swift's revival of interest in the political scene was accompanied by a renewal of his artistic impulses -- it should be clear by this time that the energy which drove the man of action was not different from that which sustained the artist.

It was towards the end of his fifth year of exile in Ireland that Swift became active again. By 1720 he was beginning to write with something of the old abandonment; by 1724 he was working as he had done in the great years of 1711 and 1712. Of the writings produced within the period to which the present book is devoted Gulliver's Travels and the tracts and verses relating to Ireland are of course the major items. In addition to these there are, however, a number of pieces both in prose and in verse that bear the full imprint of Swift's genius, and it is with these miscellaneous compositions that the present chapter has to do.


2

WITHIN the period of which we are speaking there are only two prose compositions of a strictly non-controversial character, but they are both notable works. The earlier of these is A Letter to a Young Gentleman, lately enter'd into Holy Orders (dated 9 January 1720; ptd. 1721), which has already been studied; the second is A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet (dated I December 1720; ptd. 1721).

In this second Letter the reader will find little which he

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