by Jonathan Swift
Diamond in the Literary Sky
Jonathan Swift is arguably the most significant satirist in the history of English prose. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in his timeless work, 'Gulliver's Travels'. Since its publication in 1726, critics have recognised it as the most accomplished satirical castigation of Enlightenment modernism ever written.
According to my research at the British Library, this book was so popular that the publishers implored Swift to write a sequel aimed at the anti-intellectual movement that was sweeping Europe in the 18th century.
The most dominant expression of this movement was the group who believed in out-of-body excursions to higher realms of awareness. It was known as the Astral Projection Society of England, Scotland, Ireland and Pluto and by 1731, its membership totalled almost a million.
Prominent among the devotees at the time was the statesman William Pitt the Elder and later his son, William Pitt the Sillier. Having squandered most of the royalties he'd earned from 'Gulliver's Travels',
Jonathan agreed to the project, and a year after joining the Astral Projection Society in order to research its tenets, Swift handed the publisher his completed sequel. Unfortunately, 'Gullible Travellers' failed to engage the out-of-body believers and the once feted author was reduced to writing the astrological column for The Daily Courant under the pseudonym, Twinkle Twinkle.