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A Modest Proposal

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  40,934 ratings  ·  1,298 reviews
'... a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food...'

Swift's devastating short satire on how to solve a famine

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victori
Paperback, Little Black Classics #08, 56 pages
Published February 26th 2015 by Penguin Classics (first published 1729)
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Wil Wheaton
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unbelievably funny satire that is painfully relevant today, a couple hundred years after it was written.
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last night my daughter asked me to watch what passes for comedy to pre-teens on Nickelodeon; a show low on laughs but high on laugh track. It's Halloween week and of course the thematic drum of cheap scares and slutty costumes (those of you dads that have 11 year old girls know what it is like to take a knee at the end of the show to have a side-bar chat about this topic alone) plays large when midway through the episode a six year old girl dressed like a failing barrister circa 1735 comes firin ...more
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
**3.5 stars **

A modest proposal’, is a satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. The essay suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles, by selling their children for food to rich ladies and gentlemen! This satirical hyperbole, mocked heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as British policy toward the Irish in general.

A macabre, but tongue in cheek suggestion to the poor of 1729, on how to avoid poverty, by selling their babies
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloom and doom

When I was an undergraduate, Thomas Malthus’ 1798 An Essay on the Principle of Population was on the geography curriculum, and as a studious student, I read (some of) it.

It was depressing, as the gist seemed to be that we’re all going to die. All of us. Slowly. Painfully. Because population grows exponentially, whereas the ability of humans to feed themselves grows only arithmetically/ linearly.

Image: Linear versus exponential growth (Source.)

So we’ll starve. And before that, we’
Sean Barrs
This made me laugh so much. It’s just so brilliantly funny. Swift adopts a very serious tone, and an authoritative voice, that almost sounds real. He delivers his proposal in such a hilariously cold way that embodies a dejected government official. I could imagine him writing this whilst struggling to keep a straight face as he mocks the English law makers.

The rich looked down upon the poor and saw them as a deplorable sub species of human, which is rather ironic because without poverty there w
Elyse  Walters
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One book leads to another....
After listening to the audiobook "Food: A Love Story", by Jim Gaffigan...a hilarious walking companion...
I quoted a Bizzarre Line from Jim..."Maybe All Americans should just eat starving people from other nations"....
my mind went elsewhere with that line ( the complete opposite with Jim... but laughed anyway)....

So....getting a little more serious --
During the comments *Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)*, asked me if I had read/listened to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest
Book Review
A Modest Proposal is a satirical work of fiction by Jonathan Swift, written nearly 300 years ago. It is an Irish piece, originally published anonymously, but served as a way to shove stupidity in the face of the English government and wealthy. Essentially, in order to solve the problem of poverty, people should eat their children. But it was written in a very serious manner, as though it were meant to be real suggestions. Ahead of its time, it propelled Swift to the forefr
Leonard Gaya
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
The famous satirist, author of Gulliver's Travels, wrote several political texts vituperating against the hopeless condition of his native Ireland and the ineptitude of its British rulers (thank God, things have much improved since!). This short volume includes a few of these texts. In one of them, Swift compares man to a broomstick, a glorious animal turned upside-down and defeated; in another, he gives a list of conditions that make a country prosperous and goes on to demonstrate that Ireland ...more
Scribble Orca
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Scribble by: voN heRrn Gaddis
Shelves: defies-a-shelf
Goodreaders, my Friends, “…who peruse this [Review], Be not offended, whilst on it you [chew]: Denude yourselves of all depraved affection, For it contains no badness, nor infection: 'Tis true that it brings forth to you no birth Of any value, but in point of mirth; Thinking therefore how sorrow might your mind Consume, I could no [more] apt subject find; One [plume] of joy surmounts of grief a [duration]; Because to laugh is proper to the [rational person].”–Rabelais ...more
there is no better way to kick off a semester of literature than a modest proposal. one smart ass student always tries to derail the conversation with an early declaration of the proposal’s satire, but no one listens, and within moments i have a class of fifty - sixty students angry, frustrated, and sometimes rabid as i take swift’s ironic side and ask the students, with all the seriousness i can muster (which is quite a bit), if we shouldn’t give it a try? i follow that up with “why not?” after ...more
Macabre but good example of how you can use standard arguments to convince people - no matter how appalling your opinion may be. Scary!
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I read Gogol and out of curiosity, in a process of unearthing some important name in that satirical zone from the past greats, I got a recommendation of reading Swift. Actually I was having an eye on the A Tale of a Tub, but this title just jumped in between and I began with this due to its short length.

First time... Jonathan Swift.

This title is again quite deceptive. This proposal was everything but modest. This should have been called 'An inhumane proposal' or 'An inexorable proposal'
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny-and-ish
This review includes sensitive material that may be upsetting to some friends.

(view spoiler)
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I continue to think that this supremely logical and inevitably practical work will become a part of American legislation any day now. You know, right after the FEMA camps have a permanent place in the common zeitgeist. Anyone want a potato?

Update 11/19/15:

It occurs to me that someone ought to write a cookbook to expound upon this most excellent suggestion. Any takers? Julia Childs? Hannibal Lector? Rush Limbaugh?

So many excellent suggestions, I know, I know.
Dylan Williams
Apr 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Lynne King
I came across this essay via Scribble's review and read it in no time. I thought it would be light reading and it turned out to be something completely different. Satire at its best from Mr Swift.

I read this in the dentist's waiting room this morning and it certainly waylaid my normal fear of going there.

The author has come up with a "modest" (nothing modest here) proposal to aid the Irish economy, stop the begging, give mothers (the breeders) the opportunity to get an income by selling their l
Mark Porton
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift was a total surprise.

I came to this short book/essay (40 pages) not knowing what it was about and not knowing anything about the author.

First things first…………. I needed to read the initial pages a few times over to get used to the style of writing. Once that was done, I was sorted.

Next – Whhhhhooooooaaaaaa!!!!! Eating babies????

I didn’t expect that at all, then I just laughed – what a hideous suggestion!!

His preposterous proposal involves selling ‘plump’ breas
Jonathan Ashleigh
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is obviously an incredible satire, which hopes to give some satisfaction to the rich. I recently reread it after reading The Sorrows of Young Mike. In John Zelazny's parody, the main character parodies Jonathan Swift's modest proposal. It is a parody within a parody and the modern twist is displayed well. ...more
This essay is what's known in English writing as "straight-faced" satire. Well, it's just a little too straight-faced for me. Swift's extended ironic rambling suggest's using Irish children as a food source to solve the problem of the down-trodden masses. It eliminates 100 thousand children from extended suffering, provides an income source for their poor parents, and provides table fare for the upper society. Swift was extremely aggravated with the Irish political system, the English class syst ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Thus we are zealous in Matters of small Moment, while we neglect those those of highest Importance."
- Jonathan Swift, "An Examination of Certain Abuses, Corruptions, and Enormities"


Vol 8 of my Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set. It contains a couple small tracts, as well as a poem and a couple larger satirical essays:

1. Meditation on a Broomstick - 1711/Satire
2. A Description of a City-Shower - 1710/Poem
3. A Short View of the State of Ireland - 1727/Pamphlet
4. A Modest Proposal - 1729/Sati
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally found the quiet time to read this again. Written in response to a very real problem, the poverty and starvation in 1729 Ireland, Jonathan Swift puts forth a shocking proposal for a solution that will make you laugh and also cry. Sometimes to make people listen you have to outrage them, and this piece of satire was Swift's last resort--an attempt to make people look in the mirror and see themselves as part of the problem. I remember this being taught to me in high school as the perfect il ...more
Anthony Vacca
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for roasted young “long pig” that is guaranteed to save a few bucks come the next last-minute dinner with friends or family:

What You Will Need
Butcher knife
Olive oil or butter
Seasonings (I have a soft spot for a pinch of Ambergris, a touch of Wattleseed, and a dash of Spanish Fly)
Roasting pan

Step 1
Trim away the end of the neck, and the end of each leg from the "knee" joint downwards. This is usually only necessary with wild-caught “long pig” because, if farmed, than
Liz Janet
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites







True Satire.

Update February 2016
The best satirical work I think I have ever read. It is basically about how to end hunger by eating children during the eighteenth century Ireland. His main point is that there are too many people in Ireland, particularly children whose parents cannot take care of them, and therefore do not contribute anything towards the community, hence :"a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roa
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This proposal made by J. Swift for combating poverty and overpopulation is as simple as it is ingenious.

But that's the problem with simple and ingenious ideas: There must be someone to find them. Swift was a far-sighted visionary. Although expressed at the end of the 18th century the solutions depicted in his text are still relevant to modern society. I am sure some grave problems of today would be fairly easy to solve. With only some slight modifications to Swift's proposal hunger and poverty
M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews
Even some 300 years after the publication of this story, it still rings true in today's world, and is very much relevant, which makes this short work of satire a true success. It might only have been meant as a work of satire, but the fact that the solution he offers is practical - if not ethical - is thought-provoking and he addresses some of the ills - ills that exist even in the 21st century - that brought about the need for such a solution. ...more
Mar 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone over the age of 14
It's been a long time since I first read this satirical masterpiece by Swift, which reads like its title and is anything but, "A Modest Proposal". In it, the author is 'proposing' a solution to the serious problems of overpopulation, unemployment, and food shortages, not to mention providing the social and moral benefits of kinder husbands and better parents. Mr. Swift has all the economic angles figured out and presents a very convincing argument, so straightforward and valid my daughter's high ...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
This is obviously an incredible satire, which hopes to give some satisfaction to the rich. I recently reread it after reading The Sorrows of Young Mike. In John Zelazny's parody, the main character parodies Jonathan Swift's modest proposal. It is a parody within a parody and the modern twist is displayed well. ...more
Sue K H
Mar 28, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone seems to love this but not me. It's not my kind of humor at all. ...more
There are too many mothers who must beg for alms, trailed by a group of their small children. Rather than being productive members of society, they are hangers-on, surviving on sustenance from us. Further, these infants "grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes."

Children of the poor should be raised, sold at one year, then served "stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled;
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can you believe this guy? I realize that this was, like, a long time ago and things were different back then. Like, less civilized and they didn't value life like we do today and stuff. But omg, seriously! For all intensive purposes, this guy Swift was crazy. After I read this I literally cut my own head off.

So apparently in the eighteenth century (and by the way, isn't it so stupid that it's called the eighteenth century when it was the 1700s? that makes like no sense at all), there was a lot o
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Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for Whigs then for Tories), and poet, famous for works like Gulliver's Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, The Drapier's Letters, The Battle of the Books, and A Tale of a Tub. Swift is probably the foremost prose satirist in the English language, and is less well known for his poetry. Swift published al ...more

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
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“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that 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 fricasie, or a ragoust.” 13 likes
“A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.” 4 likes
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