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date: 29 September 2022

Jonathan Swift 1667–1745
Irish poet and satirist 

  1. Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own.
    The Battle of the Books (1704) preface
  2. Instead of dirt and poison we have rather chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax; thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.
    The Battle of the Books (1704); see Arnold
  3. It is computed, that eleven thousand persons have, at several times, suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end.
    Gulliver's Travels (1726) ‘A Voyage to Lilliput’ ch. 4
  4. And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.
    Gulliver's Travels (1726) ‘A Voyage to Brobdingnag’ ch. 7
  5. He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sun-beams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into vials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers.
    Gulliver's Travels (1726) ‘A Voyage to Laputa, etc.’ ch. 5
  6. He replied that I must needs be mistaken, or that I said the thing which was not. (For they have no word in their language to express lying or falsehood.)
    Gulliver's Travels (1726) ‘A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms’ ch. 3
  7. Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.
    Letter to a Young Gentleman lately entered into Holy Orders (9 January 1720)
  8. Principally I hate and detest that animal called man; although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth.
    letter to Pope, 29 September 1725
  9. I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.
    A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents or Country (1729)
  10. He was a bold man that first eat an oyster.
    Polite Conversation (1738) Dialogue 2
  11. May you live all the days of your life.
    Polite Conversation (1738)
  12. Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken.
    Polite Conversation (1738)
  13. Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe, how much it altered her person for the worse.
    A Tale of a Tub (1704) ch. 9
  14. I never saw, heard, nor read, that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the country. Nothing can render them popular, but some degree of persecution.
    Thoughts on Religion (1765)
  15. We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
    Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711)
  16. When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
    Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711)
  17. The stoical scheme of supplying our wants, by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.
    Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711)
  18. Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old.
    Thoughts on Various Subjects (1727 ed.)
  19. Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
    A Tritical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind (1709); see Anacharsis
  20. There is nothing in this world constant, but inconstancy.
    A Tritical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind (1709)
  21. So geographers, in Afric-maps,
    With savage-pictures fill their gaps;
    And o'er unhabitable downs
    Place elephants for want of towns.
    ‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 177
  22. So, naturalists observe, a flea
    Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
    And these have smaller fleas to bite 'em,
    And so proceed ad infinitum.
    ‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 337
  23. A stick and a string, with a fly at one end and a fool at the other.
    description of angling; the remark has also been attributed to Samuel Johnson, in the form ‘a stick and a string, with a worm at one end and a fool at the other’
    in The Indicator 27 October 1819
  24. It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into.
    attributed, but not traced in Swift's works, probably apocryphal
  25. Ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit.
    Where fierce indignation can no longer tear his heart.
    epitaph; Shane Leslie The Skull of Swift (1928) ch. 15; see Yeats