Date of Award
Dr. Gilbert Morris
During the seventy-eight years of Jonathan Swift's life, from 1667 to 1745, English satire was in its heyday. The stinging bit of the pen became recognized as one of the strongest political weapons, and those who possessed the natural gift of creating this weapon were sought high and low by those who desired to sway public opinion. There are really three main reasons why this period, in particular, was an age of satire. "First, it was a time of radically changing values, when intensely held convictions were in conflict with each other, and a new world order was emerging. Second, a new style of writing developed that made a most effective satiric instrument. It was the style advocated by the new science which requires a simple, plain, clear, expository vehicle to describe the experiments of the newly formed Royal Society, which ironically enough, was the target of some of Swift's most biting satire. As Dryden once said, "With its neat clean strokes, satire could cut off a man's head without knocking it from his shoulders." And third, politicians became aware for the first time that the writer, especially the satirist, could be a powerful weapon against the opposition." Political parties courted him. He acquired new dignity and status within the close-knit coffee house society of London. Yes, the satirist's influence was considerable, and Jonathan Swift was one of the most influential satirists of this period.
Hargis, Carol, "18th Century Political Satire as Exemplified by Jonathan Swift through "Gulliver's Travels"" (1970). Honors Theses. 596.