A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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by Jonathan Swift

Satire Political pamphlet Poverty Overpopulation Injustice Cynicism towards British policy

18 minutes

A Modest Proposal is a satirical essay written by Jonathan Swift and published in 1729. Despite being written in a satirical tone, many of Swift's contemporaries misunderstood the author's intent and drew criticism for his writing, calling it in poor taste.

In Ireland there was a serious problem for the peasants, since the owners were inflexible about the lease of the farmland and the peasants barely managed to feed their children. After presenting the problem, he suggests a (totally satirical) solution to it: that parents sell their children to rich landowners for them to eat.

The author opens a debate to confront Irish society with the harsh conditions of day laborers and peasants in his country, through a masterful use of sarcasm and irony.

It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms.


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About Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for the Whigs, then for the Tories), poet and Anglican cleric who ...

We have 2 books by Jonathan Swift in Alice and Books library

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The best A Modest Proposal quotes

But as to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real.


I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for the landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title for the children.


I am assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London; that a young healthy child, well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food; whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled, and I make no doubt, that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or ragout.


Leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.


A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

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