Home  »  Volume IX: English FROM STEELE AND ADDISON TO POPE AND SWIFT  »  § 25. Swift a Master of Style and of Satire

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

IV. Swift

§ 25. Swift a Master of Style and of Satire

Swift’s style is very near perfection. Clear, pointed, precise, he seems to have no difficulty in finding words to express exactly the impression which he wishes to convey. The sentences are not always grammatically correct, but they come home to the reader, like the words of a great orator or advocate, with convincing force. He realises so clearly what he is describing that the reader is, of necessity, interested and impressed. There are no tricks of style, no recurring phrases; no ornaments, no studied effects; the object is attained without apparent effort, with an outward gravity marking the underlying satire or cynicism, and an apparent calmness concealing bitter invective. There is never any doubt of his earnestness, whatever may be the mockery on the surface. For the metaphysical and the speculative, he had no sympathy.