1727 Tale of a Tub Irish Jonathan Swift Biblical Exegesis / Gulliver’s Travels

Jonathan Swift

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Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. He is remembered for works such as Gulliver’s Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier’s Letters, The Battle of the Books, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Tale of a Tub.

A Tale of a Tub was the first major work written by Jonathan Swift. It is arguably his most difficult satire, and perhaps his most masterly. The Tale is a prose parody which is divided into sections of “digression” and a “tale” of three brothers, each representing one of the main branches of western Christianity. Composed between 1694 and 1697, it was eventually published in 1704.

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1727 Tale of a Tub Irish Jonathan Swift Biblical Exegesis / Gulliver’s Travels

Mastery of Religious Satire & Prose / Rare Gift Idea

 

Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. He is remembered for works such as Gulliver’s Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier’s Letters, The Battle of the Books, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Tale of a Tub.

 

A Tale of a Tub was the first major work written by Jonathan Swift. It is arguably his most difficult satire, and perhaps his most masterly. The Tale is a prose parody which is divided into sections of “digression” and a “tale” of three brothers, each representing one of the main branches of western Christianity. Composed between 1694 and 1697, it was eventually published in 1704.

 

Main author: Jonathan Swift

 

Title: A tale of a tub : Written for the universal improvement of mankind. To which is added, An account of a battel between the antient and modern books in St. James’s library. The seventh edition. With the author’s apology ; and explanatory notes, by W. W–tt–n …

 

Published: London : Printed for Benj. Motte, 1727.

 

Language: English

 

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Wear: wear as seen in photos

Binding: tight and secure leather binding

Pages: complete with all 220 pages; plus indexes, prefaces, and such

Illustrations: 8 charming copper engravings

Publisher: London : Printed for Benj. Motte, 1727.

Size: ~6.25in X 3.75in (16cm x 9.5cm)

 

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A Tale of a Tub was the first major work written by Jonathan Swift. It is arguably his most difficult satire, and perhaps his most masterly. The Tale is a prose parody which is divided into sections of “digression” and a “tale” of three brothers, each representing one of the main branches of western Christianity. Composed between 1694 and 1697, it was eventually published in 1704.

A Tale was long regarded as a satire on religion itself, and has famously been attacked for that, starting with William Wotton.[1][2] The “tale” presents a consistent satire of religious excess, while the digressions are a series of parodies of contemporary writing in literature, politics, theology, Biblical exegesis, and medicine. The overarching parody is of enthusiasm, pride, and credulity. At the time it was written, politics and religion were still linked very closely in England, and the religious and political aspects of the satire can often hardly be separated. “The work made Swift notorious, and was widely misunderstood, especially by Queen Anne herself who mistook its purpose for profanity.”[3] “It effectively disbarred its author from proper preferment within the church,”[3] but is considered one of Swift’s best allegories, even by himself. It was enormously popular, but Swift believed it damaged his prospect of advancement in the Church of England.

Contents [hide]

1 The tale

1.1 Overview

1.2 Cultural setting

1.3 Authorial background

1.4 Nature of the satire

1.5 Historical background

2 Publication history

3 Authorship debate

4 Notes

5 References

6 External links

The tale[edit]

Overview[edit]

“A Tale of a Tub” is divided between various forms of digression and sections of a “tale.” The “tale,” or narrative, is an allegory that concerns the adventures of three brothers, Peter, Martin, and Jack, as they attempt to make their way in the world. Each of the brothers represents one of the primary branches of Christianity in the West. This part of the book is a pun on “tub,” which Alexander Pope says was a common term for a Dissenter’s pulpit, and a reference to Swift’s own position as a clergyman. Peter (named for Saint Peter) stands in for the Roman Catholic Church.[4] Jack (named for John Calvin, but whom Swift also connects to “Jack of Leyden”) represents the various Dissenting Protestant churches such as Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Congregationalists, or Anabaptists.[4] The third brother, middle born and middle standing, is Martin (named for Martin Luther), whom Swift uses to represent the ‘via media’ of the Church of England.[4] The brothers have inherited three wonderfully satisfactory coats (representing religious practice) by their father (representing God), and they have his will (representing the Bible) to guide them. Although the will says that the brothers are forbidden from making any changes to their coats, they do nearly nothing but alter their coats from the start. In as much as the will represents the Bible and the coat represents the practice of Christianity, the allegory of the narrative is supposed to be an apology for the Anglican church’s refusal to alter its practice in accordance with Puritan demands and its continued resistance to alliance with the Roman church.[5]

From its opening (once past the prolegomena, which comprises the first three sections), the book alternates between Digression and Tale. However, the digressions overwhelm the narrative, both in their length and in the forcefulness and imaginativeness of writing. Furthermore, after Chapter X (the commonly anthologised “Digression on Madness”), the labels for the sections are incorrect. Sections then called “Tale” are Digressions, and those called “Digression” are also Digressions.[6]

A Tale of a Tub is an enormous parody with a number of smaller parodies within it. Many critics have followed Swift’s biographer Irvin Ehrenpreis in arguing that there is no single, consistent narrator in the work.[7] One difficulty with this position, however, is that if there is no single character posing as the author, then it is at least clear that nearly all of the “personae” employed by Swift for the parodies are so much alike that they function as a single identity. In general, whether a 20th-century reader would view the book as consisting of dozens of impersonations or a single one, Swift writes the Tale through the pose of a Modern or New Man. See the abridged discussion of the “Ancients and Moderns,” below, for more on the nature of the “modern man” in Swift’s day.[8]

Swift’s explanation for the title of the book is that the Ship of State was threatened by a whale (specifically, the Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes) and the new political societies (the Rota Club is mentioned). His book is intended to be a tub that the sailors of state (the nobles and ministers) might toss over the side to divert the attention of the beast (those who questioned the government and its right to rule). Hobbes was highly controversial in the Restoration, but Swift’s invocation of Hobbes might well be ironic. The narrative of the brothers is a faulty allegory, and Swift’s narrator is either a madman or a fool. The book is not one that could occupy the Leviathan, or preserve the Ship of State, so Swift may be intensifying the dangers of Hobbes’s critique rather than allaying them to provoke a more rational response.[9]

The digressions individually frustrate readers who expect a clear purpose. Each digression has its own topic, and each is an essay on its particular sidelight. In his biography of Swift, Ehrenpreis argued that each digression is an impersonation of a different contemporary author. This is the “persona theory,” which holds that the Tale is not one parody, but rather a series of parodies, arising out of chamber performance in the Temple household. Prior to Ehrenpreis, some critics had argued that the narrator of the Tale is a character, just as the narrator of a novel would be. Given the evidence of A. C. Elias about the acrimony of Swift’s departure from the Temple household, evidence from Swift’s Journal to Stella about how uninvolved in the Temple household Swift had been, and the number of repeated observations about himself by the Tale’s author, it seems reasonable to propose that the digressions reflect a single type of man, if not a particular character.[10]

In any case, the digressions are each readerly tests; each tests whether or not the reader is intelligent and sceptical enough to detect nonsense. Some, such as the discussion of ears or of wisdom being like a nut, a cream sherry, a cackling hen, etc., are outlandish and require a militantly aware and thoughtful reader. Each is a trick, and together they train the reader to sniff out bunk and to reject the unacceptable.

 

Category

Literature

Authors

Jonathan Swift

Printing Date

18th Century

Language

English

Binding

Leather

Book Condition

Good