Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is an inexhaustibly intriguing figure in the literary and political history of England and Ireland. Best known as the author of 'Gulliver's Travels,' he was an ordained clergyman whose enemies thought did not believe in God. He became a legendary Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, whose ambition for church preferment in England was perpetually frustrated. For four short, intoxicating years he was the intimate of Queen Anne's chief ministers, and their publicist and propagandist . His private life was intense and enigmatic.
Poet, polemicist, pamphleteer and wit, Swift is the master of shock. His black imagination and his preoccupation with the foulness that lies beneath the thin veneer of artifice and civilisation gave a new adjective - 'Swiftian' to the lexicon of criticism.
Like his Gulliver in the land of Lilliput, Swift is a problem in perspective and scale. Victoria Glendinning, a prize-winning biographer, has taken a literary zoom-lens to illuminate this proud and intractable man. She investigates at close range the main events and relationships of Swift's life, providing a compelling a provocative portrait set in a rich tapestry of controversy and paradox.