ONATHAN SWIFT by Nigel Dennis
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Swift has always been a puzzler and like all such has been varyingly decried or trumpeted. Even his genius has been a toss-up. Thanks to Nigel Dennis, in the best of all the short studies on Swift, the Demonic Dean is handled with that moderation he so much sought for in life. Perfect brutishness and perfect reasonableness- these were the extremes of his own nature, and as Dennis tells us, ""his own nature was his mirror of mankind""; thus in the brilliant conceit of Gulliver's Travels the Houyhnhnms (the horses) are chosen to represent the ideal of discipline equaling liberty, and the Yahoo (man, the master) is viewed the true beast- willful, wallowing, wicked- the embodiment of what's been called the ""excremental vision."" What Dennis is essentially interested in establishing- aside from psychological and cultural concerns and the strange ""scandals,"" all superbly done- is the strength of Swift's satires for the modern age, and how these, though written from humiliation and as counters to his own slipshod times, are really attacks upon the spirit of Dissent. Swift loved authority, he saw it as the basic need. He railed against the Church because it was not good enough; likewise against the Crown. In an odd way and to an even odder degree, he resembles Kierkegaard. A Swift revival seems forthcoming. Dennis' splendid book will give it a big boost.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1964
Publisher: Macmillan