The 100 best nonfiction books: No 88 – A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

The satirist’s jaw-dropping solution to the plight of the Irish poor is among the most powerful tracts in the English language

Jonathan Swift, “the gloomy dean”, was a great satirist, a Tory essayist and poet, renowned for Gulliver’s Travels, whose work has not only remained almost continuously in print, but also influenced writers as varied as Thackeray and Orwell. He is also one of a select handful of writers who also appeared in the Observer’s 100 top novels.

When he died in 1745, Swift was buried in his native Dublin with the celebrated epitaph “ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit” (where fierce indignation cannot further tear apart his heart), inscribed on his tomb.

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