Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World By Leo Damrosch

Paperback review

Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 00:55

   
 

Book Title:
Jonathan Swift His Life and His World

ISBN-13:
9780300205411

Author:
Leo Damrosc

Publisher:
Yale University Press

Guideline Price:
£10.99

“It’s easy to forget that the documents that happen to survive record only a tiny fraction of people’s lives.” In this extensive biography of the man most widely known as the writer of Gulliver’s Travels and dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Leo Damrosch navigates the world in which Swift lived. The book, far from being a dry academic analysis based on sketchy records, is a romp through the years when Britain became established as a world power. Swift was more than a clergyman inhabiting the fringes of national political intrigue. He was a witty and engaging storyteller, poet and satirist, publishing much anonymously, so as not to damage his chances of career-advancing patronage. Chapter titles – “Swift the Londoner”, “The Reluctant Dubliner” – speak volumes about the Dublin-born writer’s ambiguous national identity. Damrosch writes with wry humour and clarity of detail, often cuttingly disputing the theories of previous Swift biographers. To read this hefty book is to get a highly enjoyable education.