chapter  Chapter IV
10 Pages

Saeva Indignatio

WithJonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift’s Tale of a Tub, a tremendous travesty upon sectarianism and ritualism, published in 1704, had already cost him (he himself thought) preferment in the church to which he was entitled. Swift simply echoes the complaint of all political philosophers from Plato and Aristotle down to De Tocqueville and Maine, that political institutions are only as reliable as the men who control them. It is a rather curious position for a man to take who had his own personal interest in party politics and his own hopes for preferment. Yet his “fierce indignation” is not assumed. For Swift assembles a large number of more or less private peeves, and ridicules men and manners that are strictly contemporary and characteristically British. Swift wrote three moderately long fictions—The Battle of the Books, an episode in a literary controversy; A Tale of a Tub, a satire on sectarianism; and Gulliver’s Travels.