Who said: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign..."

BookBrowse's Favorite Quotes

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
— Jonathan Swift

Jonathan SwiftThe clergyman and satirist, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), was born in Dublin, Ireland. He completed his education in Ireland by attending Trinity College, Dublin and then moved to live with his mother in Leicestershire, England (his mother was English; his father died seen months before he was born). In 1689 he became secretary to the diplomat, Sir William Temple. Within three years he had gained the confidence of his employer to the point that he was introduced to William III and sent to London to petition the newly crowned king on political matters.

By 1694 Swift had tired of his position and resolved to go into the church. He was ordained in the Anglican church the following year and obtained a prebend, near Belfast, Ireland (a prebend was originally a post connected to a cathedral, usually of an administrative nature; however, the role had been dissolved by Henry VIII more than a century earlier, but the term remained in use in some places as an honorary title for a senior parish priest)

In 1696 he returned to Temple's employment to help prepare his memoirs and correspondence for publication. Temple died three years later and Swift returned to Ireland where he ministered to a congregation of about 15 people, allowing him plenty of time for other pursuits, which included taking his doctor's degree at Dublin University.

In 1701 he returned to England where he published, anonymously, his first political pamphlet. He remained politically active up until 1713, but following the fall of the Tories* after the death of Queen Anne, he moved to Dublin where he was made Dean of St Patricks.

In 1723 he became engrossed in the Irish agitation which led to the publication of the Drapier's Letters, and in 1726 he completed Gulliver's Travels.

He died in 1745 after a long period of illness. He wrote his own epitaph which (translated from Latin by William Butler Yeats) reads as follows:

Swift has sailed into his rest.
Savage indignation there
cannot lacerate his breast.
Imitate him if you can,
world-besotted traveler.
He served human liberty.

*The word 'tories' was originally used to describe rural Irish bandits. In the 17th century it was applied to monarchists in the British House of Commons. By the 18th century the Tories were a group of politicians who favored royal authority and the established church, and opposed parliamentary reform. After 1834 the political group preferred to use the term 'Conservative' - but 'Tories' remains in common usage.

More Quotes

This quote & biography originally ran in an issue of BookBrowse's membership magazine. Full Membership Features & Benefits.

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya

    A riveting story of dislocation, survival, and the power of stories to break or save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.