Features November 2013
Jonathan Swift: man of mystery
Untangling the facts and fictions of Jonathan Swift’s life
Francis Bindon, Jonathan Swift, National Portrait Gallery, London
When Harold Bloom got busy defining the Western canon for us some twenty years ago, his short list of the main men and women in literature included only one figure from the high eighteenth century. That was Samuel Johnson, whom Bloom later admitted he read all the time “because he is my great hero as a literary critic and I have tried to model myself upon him all my life.” No Voltaire, Diderot, or Rousseau. No Defoe, Fielding, or Sterne. And no Swift. But the ship has sailed, and now even Johnson can do little more than cling on to canonical status in the place where it really...
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