For such a small dot on the map, we have produced more than our fair share of remarkable writers. You won’t believe the list of masterpieces to come from Dublin born novelists, playwrights and poets. If you love literature and cinema then you really must put Dublin on your wish list……

Gulliver’s Travels

Born in Dublin in 1667, Jonathan Swift studied at Trinity College before going to England. He decided on a career in the clergy and involved himself in English politics. He began to make a name for himself as a talented essayist – writing pamphlets satirizing those with different religious and political views to his own. He eventually fell out of favour and returned to Ireland. In 1713, he was offered the deanery of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Although born into Ireland’s colonial ruling class, he became a staunch supporter of the Irish and became known as a great Irish patriot. One of his more notorious pieces of the time was the satirical A Modest Proposal, in which he suggests that the Irish could solve the duel problem of famine and overpopulation by eating their young!

Trivia Moment Swift ‘invented’ the name Vanessa. When living in London, he was involved in a relationship with Esther Vanhomrigh. He invented a codename for their correspondence – Essa, which is a pet name for Esther, and Van from her surname!

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In 1726, he completed a book he had been working on for several years. Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World became universally known as Gulliver’s Travels.

Lemuel Gulliver goes on four adventures, each one bringing new perspectives to his own life and presenting opportunities to satirize the English way of life.

In Lilliput, Gulliver is huge and the Lilliputians are tiny -at first they seem amiable but turn out to be ridiculous and petty (one example -which end of an egg a person cracks causes a deep political rift within the nation).

Brobdingnag is a land of Giants where Gulliver is humiliated by the king when he is made to see the difference between how England is and how it ought to be.

In his third adventure, Gulliver’s ship is attacked by pirates . He is rescued by the flying island of Laputa. The people in Laputa are overthinkers and absurd. They research ridiculous schemes such as extracting sunbeams from cucumbers and softening marble for use in pillows which was seen as Swift’s satire on the Royal Society (the oldest national scientific institution in the world). On this adventure, he also has an opportunity to call up the dead – including Julius Caesar, Aristotle, etc. – and discovers the deceptions of history.

Finally, Gulliver meets the Houyhnhnms. This race of talking horses has been endowed with reason and lives in a rational and clean society. They contrast with the humanoid Yahoos who are filthy and brutal.

Gulliver returns to England, but is unable to reconcile himself to living among “Yahoos”. He becomes a recluse, avoiding his family and his wife, and spending his time speaking with the horses in his stables.

The book was presented as an authentic travel book – a genre that was popular at the time. The adventures read as true stories from different parts of the globe, all the more convincing with the inclusion of grid references and factual details.

Swift was 58 years old when the book appeared. At first, he concealed the fact that he was the author but his identity didn’t remain hidden for long. It was an immediate success with 3 printings that year and another in early 1727 along with French, German and Dutch editions.

Afterwards: By 1738, Swift was showing signs of illness. In 1742, he suffered what may have been a stroke – losing the ability to speak and realising his fear of becoming mentally unsound ‘I shall be like that tree. I shall die at the top’. He died in 1745, aged 78. He was buried in Dublin, in his own cathedral. He left most of his £12,000 fortune to found a hospital for the mentally ill. St. Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles opened in 1757 and still exists as a psychiatric hospital today (thankfully renamed St Patrick’s University Hospital).

He had written his own epitaph in Latin which W. B. Yeats poetically translated almost 200 years later:

Swift has sailed into his rest;
Savage indignation there
Cannot lacerate his breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
World-besotted traveller; he
Served human liberty.

Quotable Jonathan Swift Quotes!

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.

When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.

He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.

No wise man ever wished to be younger.

Visiting Dublin?

Swift is buried in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral where there is also a monument. A bust is dedicated to him in nearby Trinity College library.

The Annual Jonathan Swift Festival was launched in November 2017 to coincide with the 350th birthday of Swift.

Before you go:

Have a look at other famous works from Dublin….



    1. Must admit I had to look him up there….. I’m sorry to say that I don’t know that name at all. Seems to be quite well known in Spain? How did you come across him?

      1. yes he is hugely known in Spain, and I follow him in youtube; he looks for the greatest poets in Spain such as Garcia Lorca, Bunuel, de Falla, and relationship with others such as Dali. Of course he has lived in Spain for 50 years, he is from Dublin. The Irish are all over ::)

  1. I’ve never before felt tempted to read this book, but you make it sound like a really clever piece of writing so maybe I’ll give it a go (and I didn’t know that Gulliver’s Travels wasn’t the original title of Swift’s book, so I’ve definitely learned something!)

    1. I think most people consider it a children’s book…. far more interesting to know what was going on in his head when he was writing it ….

  2. Gulliver’s Travels is one of my all time favourite books. I’ve first read it while in secondary school and, as you can imagine, it captivated me. I haven’t read it since then, would be interesting to flip though the pages again, after all, this book is regarded as one of the most important satirical works in the English language. Thanks for sharing, Marie and have a good weekend. Aiva 🙂

  3. I only read Gulliver’s Travels for the first time last year. It’s interesting, if not a little odd. Certainly a good claim for Irish literature 🙂

    Also, I had no idea that was the origin of ‘Vanessa’. Very interesting!

  4. Great crit of Jonathan Swift and a good run-down of Gulliver’s Travels. Years since I read it, of course, and I doubt if I’ll have time to get around to it in the years left to me as there is just SO MUCH to read. Me? I love Joyce, and I have a great tea-towel (bought in Dublin) that says “You’ve heard about the thick Irishmen? Well, here’s another few” and it has photos of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, W.B. Yeats, G.B. Shaw, and Thomas Beckett. I wish there’d been more room on it for Behan, Heaney, Doyle, Sheridan, O’Nolan, French and various moderns.

    1. Isn’t it extraordinary how many great writers have come of the country…. plenty of reading material there to keep one going for years!!!

  5. I’ve just read some of the other comments (I always do it afterwards in case I’m swayed!) and I can’t believe you haven’t read Ian Gibson. Mind you, I think most of us came to him via the Spanish Civil War stuff, he was great on that and yes, he did write the definitive work on Federico Garcia Lorca. Which reminds me, I should write a post about my visit to Lorca’s village some time. I heard Gibson speak once at a conference in London and he is a brilliant raconteur, as you’d imagine. Wearing my professional hat, I wrote a few pieces for the Times Literary Supplement on Lorca, one of which mentioned the annual pilgrimage to his place of burial (I’m not sure if it’s officially confirmed that this is the place but it’s accepted as being so) and I know a party of 34 hired a coach and went from the UK to join it about 6 years ago. I call that a result.

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