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Of the great literary figures in the prose literature of the eighteenth century, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) stands out singularly. In him is seen a queer literary genius. His place is not certainly with the highest literary talents in English, yet he is a name greatly popular with a wide circle of readers of English. He has won a unique prestige in home and abroad with his Gulliver’s Travels that has its parallel in popularity only in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. 

Jonathan Swift, an Irishman by birth, was a talented literary man, who, however, lacked consistency, and could not shine, as he ought to have been. In his professional life, as a man of diverse capabilities, he could have gained much, but did not exert what he should have done. In the same way, in his literary career, he did not fruitfully employ his gifts and rather preferred to indulge in caricature and denunciation of his political rivals, which unfortunately did not bring him much credit or literary fame. In fact, he was temperamentally different from all the writers of his time. Some radical disorder seemed to rule his system and to make him extraordinary in his views and approach. 

Nevertheless, Jonathan Swift is a popular name in English literature. His contribution to it is immense. In more than one way, he stands out primarily as an innovator in his prose-satire. He lived in an age of satire and fully exploited his genius to give a new direction to satirical literature by including it in the province of prose also. As an author of prose-satire, he is remembered particularly for a number of works, including The Battle of the Books, The Tale of a Tub and Gulliver’s Travels. The Battle of the Books is a quite engaging work, where the satire is both personal and general. This is a highly successful in belittlement and the method is almost mock-epical. Swift's re is to expose and ridicule modern literary men and life cover of an ingenious allegory of the fable of the ‘spider and  Tale of a Tub is a virulent satire on the three principal forms of religion, while the other work is a rare exhibition of his satirical power to make aggressive denunciations through entertaining tales, ‘The satire here is definitely more general, than personal. There are some pointed digressions in the work to satirise pride and emptiness among modern scholars and the wicked folly of religious enthusiasts, The latter work is certainly a political satire, and Swift is found here unsparing on his political opponents. Fortunately, the entire presentation is so diverting that the story of Guiliver’s experience remains quite engaging, absorbing, without the least political background or party rivalry. Swift's other prose satires include A Short Character of his Excellency Thomas Earl of Wharton, which contains his effective attack on the able and unscrupulous politician, Wharton Isaac Bickerstaff's Predictions for the Year 1708, containing a mockery of Partridge, the astrologer, and so on. Swift’s significance is also seen in his political writings. Here his work — Conduct of the Allies — is to be particularly mentioned. 

As a prose-satirist, Swift is given a high position both as a master of the prose-style and as an exponent of satirical literature. His place is with Alexander Pope at the top of the satirical literature of the eighteenth century. His contribution to this literature is unequivocal and his importance as a literary master is definitely immense here. 

But this is not the only importance of Swift in the history of English literature, In the rise of the journalistic writing, he is found to have a significant role, too. His journal, The Examiner came after Defoe’s The Review and, to some extent, showed the line of growth to the most illustrious periodicals of the time — The Tatler and The Spectator. 

The eighteenth century is described as an age of prose and reason. Swift is acknowledged as an original writer of the age and one of the greatest masters of the English prose of all times. In directness, force and simplicity, in the play of wit, fancy and caricature, his prose-works have a few parallels. His contribution to and influence on the technique of modern prose are undeniable, in fact, really commendable.


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