History: This book was published anonymously by Swift in 1729.
Plot: Swift goes to great lengths to support his argument, including a list of possible preparation styles for the children, and calculations showing the financial benefits of his suggestion. He uses common methods of argument throughout his essay. Swift couches his arguments in then-current events, exploiting common prejudice against Catholics (misnomed Papists) and suggesting that it is the absence of "so many good Protestants" (i.e., English landlords) that allows them to hope to surrender the kingdom to the Pretender. After enumerating the benefits of his proposal, Swift addresses possible objections including the depopulation of Ireland and a litany of other solutions which he dismisses as impractical.
Review: This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift's solution
Opening Line: “It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms.”
Closing Line: ”I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the publick good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children, by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.”
Quotes: ”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 ...”
Rating: Okay, but not a novel.