The doughty presence of A. L. Rowse competes with that of Jonathan Swift in this new biography, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Rowse, the author of some forty books, is an old-line literary historian who can't be held to the straight and narrow; he brings a certain theatricality to any period he chooses. Here he presents the great English satirist against a vivid 18th-century panorama of Tories, churchmen, and poets. Swift's own frustrated political ambitions illuminate the conflicts of the period. Rowse pays obeisance to Swift the satirist and political pamphleteer, but he is partial to the poetry, the letters, and the Journal to Stella; and partial indeed to Stella herself, the ""housekeeperish"" servant's daughter educated by Swift to be his life's companion, despite a dalliance with the more socially glamorous Vanessa. Rowse also emphasizes Swift's quality of charity and the wholeness of the man. Though the Ehrenpreis biography will remain the definitive scholarly work, this congenial, undemanding book is sure to be widely read.