A Tale of Tub and other Works (Hardbound)
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A Tale of a Tub, Jonathan Swift’s first major and his most masterly work. It presents a satire of religious excess. When it was written, politics and religion were so closely linked in England, that the religious and political aspects of the satire could not be separated.
The story revolves around the exploits of three sons, Peter, Martin and Jack, representing the main threads of Christianity, viz. Catholic, Anglican, and Puritan, respectively. They receive a bequest from their father, of a coat each, with instructions that no alterations whatsoever may be made in the coats. After some time, the sons find that their coats have fallen out of current fashion. They begin to look for loopholes in their father’s will so that they may make the alterations they want. Each son finds his own means of getting around their father’s admonition, and they struggle with each other for power and dominance.
A Tale of a Tub is essentially an allegory. The altering of coats stands for changing the faith. The will of the father represents the Bible. The original state of the coats stands for primitive Christianity. Swift’s satire is unique in the sense that it offers no resolutions. While he ridicules any number of foolish habits, he never offers the reader a positive set of values to embrace. Since Swift does not state what his ideal point is, it is difficult to be clear about the moral thrust of the work.
The book remains one of the top classics in English Literature. Robert Hendrickson notes in his book British Literary Anecdotes that Swift was always partial to his strikingly original The Tale of a Tub. On reading the work again in later years, he exclaimed “Good God! What a genius I had when I wrote that book.”About the Author
JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745), was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric. He is widely acknowledged as the master of two styles of satire—the Horatian and the Juvenalian. Encyclopaedia Britannica regards him as the foremost prose satirist in English language. His famous works include A Tale of a Tub Gulliver’s Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier’s Letters, The Battle of the Books, and An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity. Swift's fiercely ironic novels and essays, including world classics like Gulliver's Travels and A Tale of a Tub, were immensely popular in his own time for their ribald humor and imaginative insight into human nature. Swift's object was to expose corruption and express political and social criticism through indirection.
After being established as a writer, Swift developed a close, lifelong friendship with Alexander Pope, John Gay, and John Arbuthnot, forming the core of the Martinus Scriblerus Club. Swift also became politically active. In 1711, he published the political pamphlet, The Conduct of the Allies, in which he attacked the Whig government for its inability to end the prolonged war with France.
Swift was part of the inner circle of the Tory government, and often acted as mediator between Henry St John, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1710- 15), and Robert Harley, Lord Treasurer and Prime Minister (1711-14). When the Whigs came to power following the death of Queen Anne and accession of George I in 1714, Swift returned to Ireland. He began to use his pamphleteering skills in support of Irish causes, producing some of his most memorable works like Proposal for Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (1720), Drapier’s Letters (1724), and A Modest Proposal (1729).
John Ruskin considered Swift as one of the three people in history who were the most influential for him. George Orwell named him as one of the writers he most admired, despite disagreeing with him on many moral and political issues.
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