Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Because Johnson's phrase “such a swarm of thoughts" is so extremely apt a description of A Tale of a Tub, interpreting that work has always been a problem. The nineteenth-century solution--partially fathered by a virulent disrespect for the person of Swift--was simply to pronounce the tale an incoherent jumble and ignore it. A technique-conscious twentieth century on the other hand--more cognizant of Swift's moral respectability as well as the targets of his satire--has tried to solve the problem by locating either a unifying factor within the "swarm of thoughts” or a historical position with which they have consonance. The various attempts to discover a unifying factor have contributed greatly to our knowledge of the targets of the satire on corrupted learning, but because they have only selected incidents from the allegory which could be brought into concurrence with their several theories, the argument of the allegory has passed disregarded. Similarly, the various attempts to discover a historical positive have contributed greatly to our knowledge of the theological milieu, but because they have first posited the historical precedent and then sought to interpret the allegory, they, too, have disregarded its argument. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to demonstrate that if one approaches the allegory without presuppositions, and simply centers his analysis on the discovery of ecclesiastical parallels for the story's analogues, there emerges a cogent apology for the Anglican church--an apology which is congruent not only with the theological attitudes expressed in Swift’s other writings but also with what we know of the Swiftian intellectual posture. To accomplish this purpose I have divided my paper into the following chapters: In the first chapter the various schemes of unity and the posited historical precedents are introduced and the deficiencies in their treatment of the allegory is revealed. In the second chapter it is demonstrated that though Swift has chosen to combine two different satires into A Tale of a Tub, the satires must be separated to achieve a proper explication of either. In the third chapter a simple analogical analysis of the allegory is forwarded, along with supporting quotations from Swift’s writings and even further support from an analysis of Swift's intellectual posture. Thus the first chapter should establish this study's pertinence, the second, its legitimacy; and the third, its verity.


Dr. Samuel J. Sackett

Date of Award

Summer 1966

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1966 Bedford David Smith


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