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.

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