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Yet Swift, and therefore this book, are also relevant to the present — as my iPhone’s auto-correction of the adjective “Brobdingnagian” suggests. Twenty-first-century Britain feels its connection to Swift more than to most other people of his century — albeit not to those aspects of Swift which Stubbs chooses to stress. He predicted the end of Anglicanism as the established Church in Ireland, and, if anything, would be surprised to hear that at the futuristic date of 2016 his beloved Anglican Church, and its state, remain united. He anticipated modern discontents with what is now known as crony capitalism, and his sympathies would have been with the Occupy Movement, if not with the presence of tents on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. He would have supported, at least to a degree, the anti-consumerist movement, anti-makeup feminism, and animal rights. He was ahead of his time in personal hygiene (he changed his underwear daily), but also anticipated his fellow Dubliner James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and Sigmund Freud in his explicit acknowledgment of bodily functions. Perhaps where he differs most from that majority of people today, who would not have been happier had they lived in the 18th century, is in his veneration for those ideals which reality does not match. In his falsification of Augustan idealism lies “a large part of his lasting appeal to a more modern readership that accepts decay, mess and sometimes downright chaos as all but unavoidable — and in some cases a source of vibrancy and excitement. This is not to say, either, that Swift would not have preferred the Augustan version to be true. He very clearly would.”

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Peter Dreyer
January 4th, 2017
12:01 PM
Although I'm only halfway through it, this is without doubt the best book on Swift I've ever read! And Catherine Brown's review is also the best I've come across. Swift has sailed into his rest; Savage indignation there Cannot lacerate his Breast. Imitate him if you dare, World-Besotted Traveler; he Served human liberty. (Yeats's translation of Swift's own epitaph) Peter Dreyer

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