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Jonathan Swift: A Portrait

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Jonathan Swift: A Portrait

Current Status:
In Season
Victoria Glendinning

We gave it a B+

Broadly put, what Shakespeare did for the English language, Swift did for British wit. Much of what’s known about ”the Dean,” who died at 77 in 1745, is maddeningly hazy, inspiring tall tales worthy of Gulliver’s Travels. In this sly, spare portrait, literary biographer Glendinning discerns the ”exorbitant personality” behind the myths: How this portly cleric preferred coffeehouses to church, subverted party-line politics as Britain’s first spin doctor, unwittingly fell for a woman rumored to be his half sister, and went insane. Throughout Jonathan Swift: A Portrait, Glendinning shows that Swift’s scathingly satirical humor was no mere affectation but the ”cantankerous genius” that shaped — for good and ill — his life. B+