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Jonathan Swift Historical Background and Biography.

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1 Jonathan Swift Historical Background and Biography

2 Jonathan Swift Biography Born in Dublin Ireland in 1667 His father died before his birth and he is left in the care of his Uncle Godwin. Godwin provided Swift with a good education. Swift graduated from Trinity college with a Masters degree in 1688.

3 Political Turmoil: The Glorious Revolution King James II is king of England. He is Roman Catholic. He chose advisors who were religious leaders and answered to the Pope. These leaders were in favor of an alliance with France, England’s mortal enemy. The people feared an alliance with France as well as the growing religious intolerance of the country.

4 Glorious Revolution Continued Parliament begins to fear King James. There is no system to resolve disputes between the King and Parliament, so the King usually won out on all political decisions. Parliament forcibly removes James from the throne and replaces him with his daughter and her husband William and Mary, protestants. This is referred to as the Glorious Revolution. Please note: there is no blood shed. Parliament places new regulations on the monarchs. The King must have backing of parliament to rule. King does still have influence over elections though.

5 Political Parties After the Glorious Revolution, the crown cannot trust either of the major political parties in England. 1.Whigs –Liberal political party in England –Believed in the separation of church and state –Warn of the danger of absolute power of the King (tyrannical rule, think T-rex) –Also believed it was individuals job to check the power of the monarchy –Believed in Contractual Monarchy- Parliament has the right to go against the King when he does not follow the people’s wishes

6 Political Parties Continued 2.Tories –Conservative political party in England –Believe the Church deserves special privileges (no separation of Church and state) –Believe that parliament should support legitimate heirs to the throne regardless of his/her beliefs. –Believe in a strong monarchy

7 Swift’s Life Continued Swift takes a position as secretary to a Whig statesman and essayist. Swift does not gain a position in the party, so he returns to Ireland. He begins to write articles for the English Whigs. All of Swifts early works support the Whigs and the superiority of classic literature and thought over modern writings and science.

8 More on Swift’s Life The Irish Church sends Swift to London to plead for financial help for the struggling Church of Ireland. The Whig leaders refuse to excuse the church from paying its taxes.

9 The Resolution The Tories agree to help Swift and Ireland. Swift changes his alliances and now sides with the Tories. The Tory Government fell in 1714 when Queen Anne came to the throne. The Whigs began to accuse the Tories of treason. This is the influence for the political quarrels in Gulliver’s Travels.

10 Swift’s Alliances Martinus Scribblerus Club- 1714 –Swift and other brilliant and dissatisfied minds of the era began to write satires of politics, science, and learned men. –Gulliver’s Travels is a result of this group. (See other notes on Satire)

11 The End of Swift’s Life Swift developed Meniere’s Disease. This is an infection of the inner ear that leads to vertigo and mental deterioration He is declared mental incompetent in 1742, and dies in 1745 leaving his money and estate to charity.


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