A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift

March 23, 2016 § 5 Comments

First published in 1729
A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick


I remember first reading this satirical essay almost 10 years ago when my sister brought it home as an assignment from school. She had read it and found it extremely funny, and thought that I would enjoy it. And I remember thinking that this Swift guy is really something else! This was written almost 300 years ago, and I can only imagine how bold it was to publish something like this back then. Even today, this kind of straight-up satire may be lost on some people.

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 a ragout.

Yesterday, I was going through the Internet looking for some classic audiobooks to download for my workout sessions. It’s my first audiobook in a very long while, so I decided to start with something short. I found A Modest Proposal, and thought that it would be a good time to revisit this piece, being slightly short of 25 minutes.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact that I was multi-tasking (exercising and listening to a book is multi-tasking, no matter what anyone says), or that it’s been too long since my last audiobook, or that the reading was simply not great, or that the writing style didn’t fit the reading style. I found myself constantly lost during the reading, not sure whether he had gotten to the end of the sentence, or if he was saying what I thought he was saying. I was unable to understand some bits of it, some of the satire was completely lost on me, and at times, I found the reading to be too draggy, as if the reader was doing it on purpose to highlight a certain point, but for which I could not understand.

Being such a short piece, I sourced for it in written form online yesterday night, just so I could absorb the essay in its entirety, minus the reader. And it felt so much better. The humour was just as I had remembered it, and perhaps the satire felt even more obvious now that I’m reading it a second time 10 years later.

I’ve always wondered if audiobooks are simply not for me. I’ll have to try it again with another book soon.


§ 5 Responses to A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift

  • mee says:

    I’ve given up on audiobook – it’s just not for me. Apparently hearing someone reading something to me makes me sleepy. It’s very different with listening to conversations (i.e. podcasts). On another note this is on my to-read list as it’s very short and included in the 1001 books!

    • Michelle says:

      You should definitely read this one, it’s very witty. And will probably take less than a half hour. It’s readily available online, so as long as you can find one in which the format is good for you, that’s good enough.

      I tried audiobooks a couple of times before, and I thought that it really depended on who is doing the reading. My experience this time shows me that the reader is VERY important. I’m still willing to try another audiobook, hopefully it will surprise me.

      • mee says:

        I already have a little copy of it in Penguin Little Black Classics edition. Just a matter of sparing some time now :). And agree the reader is of the utmost important!

  • michelle says:

    I love audiobooks. They work great for me, especially at the gym. Yes, the reader does make ALL the difference, usually (plus the sound quality of the recording). Was the one you just listened to from Librivox? The ones there are read by volunteers and the quality tends to be not as great as the ones done by professionals.
    I’ve recently had a very good experience with Cassandra Campbell’s reading of The Price of Salt. Some other previous good ones were Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, Donna Tart’s The Secret History, Michael Cox’s The Meaning of Night, George Guidall’s reading of Les Miserables…… oh, and if you are interested, there’s also a version of Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree read by Kate Winslet. 🙂
    Hope you find one that will do the trick for you, soon!

    • Michelle says:

      You’re right, the one I listened to was from LibriVox. And I know that it’s done by volunteers, which is why I’m trying to not let it taint my entire view of audiobooks.

      Thanks so much for your suggestions. It’s good to know someone else has a good experience with audiobooks, makes me not want to give up just yet. =D

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