Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was a man who loved ciphers and a cipher of a man, an Anglo-Irishman who claimed not to like Ireland but became one of its greatest champions. He was viewed as an oddity even by the friends who knew him well and admired him most. And yet, in spite of his obscure origins and curious personal hangups, he became famous for works like Gulliver’s Travels, A Tale of a Tub, and A Modest Proposal, in which his clear and incisive prose skewered institutions, authority figures, and conventional wisdom. A master of sustained irony and deft political satire, he’s been read and admired by high-minded critics and general audiences for three centuries.
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Voltaire was born Francois Marie Arouet in 1694 in Paris, France, the son of a respectable but not particularly eminent lawyer. By the time he died at the age of 83, he was widely regarded as one of the greatest French writers in history, a distinction he still holds today. Astoundingly prolific, he is best known as the author of Candide – but the stories of his life, including the scrapes brought about by his fearless tongue, are perhaps at least as fascinating as anything his razor-sharp pen committed to paper.
Enjoy French literature? Travel to the nineteenth century and visit another incredibly prolific author in Episode 152 George Sand.
Support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Jacke Wilson examines the life and works of Aristophanes, whose comic plays included The Clouds, which pokes fun at philosophers such as Socrates, and Lysistrata, where the females of Athens and Sparta go on a sex strike in an attempt to end the war.