Swift's bitter attack on fellow colleagues

Hilda Hei Nam Leung '05, English 171,Sages, Satirists, and New Journalists, Brown University, Autumn 2003

Swift attacks more than one object in "A Modest Proposal": the impotent Englishmen (landlords, law makers) who do not care about the Irish problem, the indifferent and lethargic readers who are unmoved by human tragedy, poor Irishmen who treat each other inhumanely, etc. In the following paragraph, Swift's object of attack seems to be fellow projectors and economists, who, like Swift, have made proposals concerning economic problems. By faithfully employing the affected modesty of professional projectors (his pretended openness to other solutions, the anticipation of objections and the defend of his views,) he mocks the ineffectual and convoluted ways in which his colleagues deliver nonsensical proposals. However, his satire on other projectors seems to stem from personal bitterness. The narrator expresses that he has been ‘wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts' that are utterly disregarded. This may be autobiographical; Swift's previous proposals, which were serious and constructive, had been neglected. (E.g. On the Universal Use of Irish Manufactures) Thus, as Swift attacks fellow policy makers in the following paragraph, he crosses the boarder between author and narrator to express his dejection and bitterness for being ignored.

But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it. After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion, as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points.


To what extent is Swift too absorbed in his own persona?

Are direct interjections from the author an intervention to narration and take away the established tone of the narrator?

To what extent is his bitterness in this particular passage overriding the prevailing satiric tone of the proposal?
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Last modified 6 February 2005