In his succinct and penetrating survey of Swift's life and work, John Middleton Murry draws attention to the paradoxes that we everywhere encounter when we study that enigmatic figure. Gulliver's Travels, which has long been read as a fairy-tale by children, is in fact one of the most searing indictments of humanity ever penned; and its author deliberately shielded himself from all contact with children. Again, Swift, the apostle of rationalism, died with his splendid intellectual faculties in ruins; just as Swift, the Dean of St Patrick's, Dublin, and the champion of Ireland against English misgovernment, came to live in Ireland only because his hopes of power and preferment in England had been blasted. Middleton Murry shows how complex and baffling the contradictions in Swift's nature were, and how his comic genius barely managed to control them within the boundaries of his superb prose. And sometimes his savage indignation, his pathological disgust at humanity's folly and bestiality, shattered the perfection of his prose, revealing Swift's own tragic imagination.
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