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The admirers of Swift who may chance to turn the leaves of this little volume will be interested, I think, to find that it opens with passages from the “Journal to Stella.” Many of the books in the Little Masterpieces series have contained personalia of one sort or another, but in none of the volumes hitherto has the intimate life of the writer represented been so emphasized in the order of selections. But readers who know Swift will recognize what is gained by taking first of all a look at that strange writer's heart as it is revealed in his daily journal. Vivid as are its off-hand sketches of famous men and of London in a noteworthy era, the fascination of the “Journal to Stella” lies in the extraordinary picture it affords of Jonathan Swift. Readers who know him vaguely as the author of “Gulliver's Travels” and of some morose satire will do well to note the playful, affectionate, sunny side of the man's nature as he corresponds with Esther Johnson about the trifles of each passing day. One's whole thought of Swift grows more tender and more just if he is approached through the “Journal.”' Next come a few letters to personal friends Editor's Introduction
like Oxford, Bolingbroke, and Pope. Always an admirable letter-writer, Swift reveals new elements of his singular personality in each of the letters given here. These are followed by some brilliant pages from "A Tale of a Tub.” “Good God!” Swift was heard murmuring to himself in his sad old age, as he turned the pages of the “Tale,” "what a genius I had when I wrote that book!” No one who reads understandingly the parable of the Three Sons will deny the genius or the daring
Very few people are aware of the scrupulous fidelity with which Swift performed his ecclesiastical duties. His sermons are even less read than Sterne's, and yet there will be some readers of this book who will thoroughly enjoy the Dean's wise and witty and on the whole really edifying discourse on "Sleeping in Church."
In the next two selections, the Dean is preaching politics; blandly and with assumed simplicity in the first of the Drapier's Letters, savagely though with terrible calmness in his "Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents.” “The Drapier's Letters" made the Dean of St. Patrick's a national hero, faulty as some of his financial logic may have been; “The Modest Proposal” has won a fearful immortality in the literature of irony.
Politics is also the inspiration of "Gulliver's Travels," though for nearly three hundred years children have been so persistently lucky as never to discover the real animus of the book. That it is a triumph of story-telling everybody knows. It is written, like the books of Brobdingnag, in a style “clear, masculine, and smooth.” But how much hatred and scorn that smooth style conceals from the innocent eyes of childhood! I have given passages from each of the four voyages of Captain Lemuel Gulliver, choosing from the repulsive fourth section only that chapter which describes the warfare of Christian Europe.
Last of all, I have printed the Dean's epitaph, composed by his own hand. It sets a final seal upon the life and work of one of the most gifted and surely the most unhappy of English men of letters.