Jonathan Swift in the Company of Women by Louise Barnett

By Louise Barnett

Jonathan speedy used to be the topic of gossip and feedback in his personal time referring to his family members with ladies and his representations of them in his writings. For over two decades he seemed Esther Johnson, "Stella," as "his most precious friend," but he's reputed by no means to have visible her by myself. From his time to our personal there was hypothesis that the 2 have been secretly married--since their dating appeared so inexplicable then and now. For 13 of the years that speedy appeared devoted to Stella because the stated lady in his existence, he maintained a clandestine--but it seems that additionally nonsexual--relationship with one other girl, Esther Van Homrigh, or "Vanessa." Jonathan quick within the corporation of Women appears to be like back at those much-examined relationships and at others that exhibit fast as a guy who loved the corporate of a few ladies as scholars and as ministrants to his quite a few wishes.

Swift, a guy with a fancy deepest lifestyles, used to be additionally a author whose satiric photos of girls should be unsparing. whereas rapid usually criticized ladies for frivolous pursuits and idle chatter, his so much infamous texts on ladies snapshot their our bodies as loathsome: as he as soon as wrote in a significant political tract, a lady is a "nauseous, unwholesome carcass." Such representations pass a line by way of displaying a repugnance for girls as a intercourse, the organic different. they've got led, now not unusually, to repeated fees of misogyny, a topic that Jonathan rapid within the corporation of Women addresses at a few size. this primary book-length remedy of rapid and ladies comprehensively examines Swift's angle towards girls in all their manifestations in his paintings and existence: as intimates, pals, protégés, better halves, moms, nurses, disobedient daughters, younger ladies who marry older males, and--finally--as poets and critics.

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He expression of indifference to her physical attractiveness is also a gratuitous unkindness. Swift’s final words baldly communicate his sense of having been ill treated: “I singled you out at first from the rest of women, and I expect not to be used like a common lover” (W 1:143). Jane Waring might not have appreciated the honor bestowed upon her, or thought that her differences of opinion from Swift constituted an aff ront, but he had been deeply offended, so much so that he would never again place himself in a position of such vulnerability.

Surely whatever had been said about Swift and Stella was by now stale news, more than a quarter century old. Stella and Dingley had lived in the deanery routinely and openly while Swift was away. And yet, in 1727, when he was sixty years old and had no realistic hope of further advancement, the risk of a scandal was apparently enough to justify treating this treasured companion of so many years unceremoniously. And worse, unfeelingly: Swift wrote to Sheridan that he avoided Stella’s deathbed because “I could not behave myself tolerably, and should redouble her Sorrow” (W 3:2).

Swift concludes that his subject is not that fair (“an angel’s face, a little cracked”), but she is still the most attractive woman because her intangible charms outweigh the physical. Just as Shakespeare conjures up antiromantic images such as “if hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head,” Swift projects the effects of age into the future to create an even more extreme vision to triumph over: When Stella’s locks must all be grey When age must print a furrowed trace On every feature of her face.

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