Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Jonathan Swift, Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, Church of Ireland


Jonathan Swift (1667-17 45) was unequivocally a priest of the Church of Ireland for fifty years but also was, more famously, a great satirist. The apparent contrast between the two conflicting functions (priest and writer of satires) of the late dean of Saint Patrick's Cathedral of Dublin has stimulated a great deal of critical discussion during the centuries since his death. Perhaps most prominent among recent contributions to the critical dialogue is Todd Parker's edited volume Swift as Priest and Satirist. Brean Hammond has also devoted quite a bit of space (at least two full chapters) to this internal conflict in his even more recent Jonathan Swift. There are also two pertinent contributions to the question in recent issues of the important periodical Swift Studies: one by Nathalie Zimpfer, "Swift and Religion: From Myth to Reality;' in the 2009 issue and Christopher Fauske's article, "A Most Unlikely Friendship? Jonathan Swift, George Berkeley and the Bonds of Philosophy ... ;' in the 2010 issue. Most of this fine work is not exactly relevant to this essay, but will be of interest to anyone who wants to pursue research into the larger question of Swift's theological thinking. These essays do not address the question I will answer in the article below: What was Swift's view of the afterlife? My focus will be on three important poems, but I will also offer supporting analysis of several other Swift texts.