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on 17 June 2012
If satire is your thing then this is for you. The edition is comprehensively and lucidly annotated, which it needs to be as the political situation in England at the time was complex and the protagonists are hardly household names now. But JS transcends the minutiae of his age to present us with brilliantly argued, superbly written diatribes against human folly which still hold water as that folly is timeless and still as endemic in public and private life today. You also get plenty of laughs for your money (try the essay on almanacks and their authors) and acerbic commentary on everything under the sun by the truck-load. JS also wrote comic poetry and some of these are mini-classics in their own right. I'm not sure I would have wanted to get on the wrong side of this formidably intelligent and well-educated man but as a chronicler and essayist he has no peer. A gem of an edition!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 September 2010
If you only know Swift from Gulliver's Travels (Penguin Classics), far more biting and savage than its position as a 'children's book' allows for, then this collection of miscellaneous poetry and prose will likely be an eye-opener. Swift is urban, rebellious, highly literate and a satirist of the first order, drawing on both classical influences (Martial, Juvenal) as well as situating himself amongst more contemporary writers (e.g. Pope).

His 'A Modest Proposal' included here is perhaps one of his most indicative works, and still has the ability to both shock us today as well as make us laugh, in a very bitter kind of way.

This Oxford edition has an informed introduction which contextualises Swift well, plus notes and further reading.
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on 28 August 2012
Indirectly, the book illuminates the man Swift himself, though why he should be of interest is anyone's guess.

Indirect also describes Swift's way of ridiculing all manner of things, which he does at great length. He is prolix and I found his writings tiresome. In the middle of "A Tale of a Tub" for example he inserts an obscure digression on the subject of digressions, and his own favourite digression is to comment upon prefaces. There are far too many Latin expressions mixed into the English texts, and his use of innuendo makes necessary page upon page of explanatory notes.

Having read this book I now understand Samuel Johnson's comment that "Swift has a higher reputation than he deserves. His excellence is strong sense; for his humour, though very well, is not remarkably good"

For an idea of the man Swift the book is fine, but the works themselves are hardly worth reading in their own right.
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