Selected Essays of Jonathan Swift
When Jonathan Swift was accused of being a misanthrope, or in other words, a hater of mankind, he flatly denied the charge by saying, "I love mankind; it's people I can't stand." To the casual observer, mankind and people appear to be the same. However, mankind is an abstract. It is easy to say one loves mankind. The same is true with one's wanting to help the poor, because there is no risk with being concerned about the fate of the "poor"--a faceless abstract that exists only in the mind. On the other hand, people are specific and concrete. Swift was brutal when he criticized specific actions of particular people, and he does it in such a way that the reader laughs about it. In short, Jonathan Swift is perhaps the greatest satirist that ever lived. The student will study "The Battle of the Books," "A Mediation upon a Broomstick," "An Argument against Abolishing Christianity in England," and "A Modest Proposal."