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 Prompt: Tartuffe, A Modest Proposal, and on Man are texts that represent one of the prevalent issues: religious hypocrisy, capitalism, quest for truth, poverty, intellectual skepticism, and excessive pride. In a five-paragraph , explain the issue being attacked in each text and tell how each author used satire to bring awareness of these issues 



For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their

parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the public.


Dr. Jonathan Swift


It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town1, or travel in

the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabin doors crowded with beggars of

the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning2

every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest

livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance3 for their 5

helpless infants who, as they 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


I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious5 number of children in the

arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in 10

the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and

1 this great town: Dublin, the capital of Ireland.
2 importuning: persistently annoying or intrusive.
3 sustenance: nourishment.
4 sell themselves to the Barbadoes: Barbados is an island in the West Indies; the

poor often sought better fortunes by going to the New World, often as indentured
servants because they had no money for their passage.

5 prodigious: extremely large in number.

therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children

sound and useful members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public, as

to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children 15

of professed6 beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number

of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them,

as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this

important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have 20

always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropped

from its dam7, may be supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other

nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings8, which the mother may

certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly

at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a 25

charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their

lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing of

many thousands. There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will

prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their

bastard children, alas! too frequent among us, sacrificing the poor innocent babes, I 30

6 professed: openly declared.
7 dropped from its dam: dam is generally used in animal science as the term for

the female parent of infant livestock rather than a human mother.
8 two shillings: An English unit of currency of the day equal to 12 pence; twenty

shillings constituted a Pound.

doubt, more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the

most savage and inhuman breast.

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a

half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives

are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couple, who are able to 35

maintain their own children, (although I apprehend9 there cannot be so many, under the

present distresses of the kingdom) but this being granted, there will remain an hundred

and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand, for those women who

miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remain

an hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question 40

therefore is, How this number shall be reared, and provided for? which, as I have already

said, under the present situation of affairs10, is utterly impossible by all the methods

hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft 11or agriculture; we

neither build houses, (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom

pick up a livelihood by stealing till they arrive at six years old; except where they are of 45

towardly parts12, although I confess they learn the rudiments13 much earlier; during which

time they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers14: As I have been

9 apprehend: uneasily anticipate.
10 present situation of affairs: conditions.
11 employ them in handicraft: manufacturing of handmade household goods

produced by weaving, sewing, or building furniture.
12 they are of towardly parts: showing exceptional promise; exceptionally

13 rudiments: fundamentals.
14 probationers: novices.

informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan15, who protested to me, that he

never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the

kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art. 50

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old, is no

saleable commodity, and even when they come to this age, they will not yield above three

pounds, or three pounds and half a crown at most, on the exchange; which cannot turn to

account16 either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriments and rags having been

at least four times that value. 55

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be

liable to the least objection.

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 60

will equally serve in a fricasie17, or a ragoust18.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration, that of the hundred and

twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed,

whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black

cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a 65

circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore, one male will be sufficient to

15 Cavan: an Irish county that was once part of Ulster.
16 turn to account: turn to one’s advantage; that is, to turn a profit.
17 fricasie: a fricassee; fried or stewed meat served in a thick white sauce.
18 ragoust: a ragout (ragu); a highly seasoned dish of pieces of meat stewed with


serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in

sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the

mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat

for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when 70

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


I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and

in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increases to 28 pounds. 75

I grant this food will be somewhat dear19, and therefore very proper for landlords,

who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the


Infant’s flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March,

and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French 80

physician, that fish being a prolific diet20, there are more children born in Roman

Catholic countries about nine months after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than

usual, because the number of Popish infants, is at least three to one in this kingdom, and

therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of Papists

among us. 85

I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar’s child (in which list I

reckon all cottagers, laborers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two shillings per

19 dear: expensive.
20 prolific diet: prolific diet; commonly eaten.

annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine21 to give ten shillings for

the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent

nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend, or his own family to dine with 90

him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his

tenants, the mother will have eight shillings neat profit, and be fit for work till she

produces another child.

Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flea22 the

carcass; the skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable gloves for ladies, and 95

summer boots for fine gentlemen.

As to our City of Dublin, shambles23 may be appointed for this purpose, in the

most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be wanting;

although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the

knife, as we do roasting pigs. 100

A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I highly

esteem, was lately pleased, in discoursing on this matter, to offer a refinement upon my

scheme. He said, that many gentlemen of this kingdom, having of late destroyed their

deer, he conceived that the want of venison might be well supplied by the bodies of

young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age, nor under twelve; so great 105

a number of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work and

service: And these to be disposed of by their parents if alive, or otherwise by their nearest

21 repine: fret.
22 flea: flay; skin.
23 shambles: slaughterhouse.

relations. But with due deference to so excellent a friend, and so deserving a patriot, I

cannot be altogether in his sentiments; for as to the males, my American acquaintance

assured me from frequent experience, that their flesh was generally tough and lean, like 110

that of our school-boys, by continual exercise, and their taste disagreeable, and to fatten

them would not answer the charge. Then as to the females, it would, I think, with humble

submission, be a loss to the public, because they soon would become breeders

themselves: And besides, it is not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt

to censure such a practice, (although indeed very unjustly) as a little bordering upon 115

cruelty, which, I confess, hath always been with me the strongest objection against any

project, how well soever 24intended.

But in order to justify my friend, he confessed, that this expedient was put into his

head by the famous Salmanaazor25, a native of the island Formosa, who came from

thence to London, above twenty years ago, and in conversation told my friend, that in his 120

country, when any young person happened to be put to death, the executioner sold the

carcass to persons of quality, as a prime dainty; and that, in his time, the body of a plump

girl of fifteen, who was crucified for an attempt to poison the Emperor, was sold to his

imperial majesty’s prime minister of state, and other great mandarins of the court in joints

from the gibbet, at four hundred crowns26. Neither indeed can I deny, that if the same use 125

24 how well soever: to any extent.
25 Salmanaazor: George Psalmanazar (1679? – May 3, 1763): An acquaintance

of Samuel Johnson and other literary figures of 18th century London, Psalmanazar
convinced many in England that he was the first Formosan to visit Europe; around 1702,
he was proven a fraud.

26 crowns: a coin valued at 5 shillings or ¼ of a British pound.

were made of several plump young girls in this town, who without one single groat27 to

their fortunes, cannot stir abroad without a chair28, and appear at a playhouse and

assemblies in foreign fineries which they never will pay for; the kingdom would not be

the worse.

Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number 130

of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed; and I have been desired to employ

my thoughts what course may be taken, to ease the nation of so grievous an

encumbrance29. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well

known, that they are every day dying, and rotting, by cold and famine, and filth, and

vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now 135

in almost as hopeful a condition. They cannot get work, and consequently pine away

from want of nourishment, to a degree, that if at any time they are accidentally hired to

common labor, they have not strength to perform it, and thus the country and themselves

are happily delivered from the evils to come.

I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think the 140

advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the

highest importance.

For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of

Papists, with whom we are yearly over-run, being the principal breeders of the nation, as

well as our most dangerous enemies, and who stay at home on purpose with a design to 145

27 groat: a silver coin worth four pence.
28 chair: a sedan chair: an enclosed chair carried by servants used to transport

wealthy persons through cities.
29 encumbrance: burden or impediment.

deliver the kingdom to the Pretender30, hoping to take their advantage by the absence of

so many good Protestants, who have chosen rather to leave their country, than stay at

home and pay tithes against their conscience to an episcopal curate31.

Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which

by law may be made liable to a distress, and help to pay their landlord’s rent, their corn 150

and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown.

Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of an hundred thousand children, from two

years old, and upwards, cannot be computed at less than ten shillings a piece per annum,

the nation’s stock will be thereby increased fifty thousand pounds per annum, besides the

profit of a new dish, introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom, 155

who have any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among our selves, the

goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture.

Fourthly, The constant breeders, besides the gain of eight shillings sterling per

annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them after the

first year. 160

Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns, where the

vintners32 will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts33 for dressing it to

30 the Pretender: James Francis Edward Stuart, “the Old Pretender,” claimed to
be the rightful King of England because he was the eldest son of James II, the last
Catholic King of England who was deposed in the “Glorious Revolution of 1688” that
established William and Mary as protestant monarchs.

31 curate: a priest of the Church of England or Church of Ireland who was
supported by local tax revenues; reformation protestants, like the Puritans, generally
opposed the practice of a state supported church.

32 vintner: wine seller or tavern owner.
33 receipts: recipes.

perfection; and consequently have their houses frequented by all the fine gentlemen, who

justly value themselves upon their knowledge in good eating; and a skilful cook, who

understands how to oblige his guests, will contrive to make it as expensive as they please. 165

Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations

have either encouraged by rewards, or enforced by laws and penalties. It would increase

the care and tenderness of mothers towards their children, when they were sure of a

settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the public, to their annual

profit instead of expense. We should soon see an honest emulation34 among the married 170

women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as

fond of their wives, during the time of their pregnancy, as they are now of their mares in

foal, their cows in calf, or sow when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick

them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.

Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of some 175

thousand carcasses in our exportation of barreled beef35: the propagation of swine’s flesh,

and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much wanted among us by the

great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our tables; which are no way comparable in taste

or magnificence to a well grown, fat yearly child, which roasted whole will make a

considerable figure at a Lord Mayor’s feast, or any other public entertainment. But this, 180

and many others, I omit, being studious of brevity.

34 emulation: imitation.
35 barreled beef: even while the Irish population was starving, absentee British

landlords often exported the food from their Irish estates to England and its possessions.

Supposing that one thousand families in this city, would be constant customers for

infants flesh, besides others who might have it at merry meetings, particularly at

weddings and christenings, I compute that Dublin would take off annually about twenty

thousand carcasses; and the rest of the kingdom (where probably they will be sold 185

somewhat cheaper) the remaining eighty thousand.

I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal,

unless it should be urged, that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the

kingdom. This I freely own, and ’twas indeed one principal design in offering it to the

world. I desire the reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual 190

Kingdom of Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be upon Earth.

Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five

shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our

own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that

promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and 195

gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of

learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants

of Topinamboo36: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the

Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being

a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords 200

to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of

honesty, industry, and skill into our shopkeepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken

36 Topinamboo: a region of Brazil.

to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the

price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair

proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it. 205

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, ’till he

hath at least some glimpse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere

attempt to put them into practice.

But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain,

idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon 210

this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no

expense and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in

disobliging England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh

being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I

could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it. 215

After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion, as to reject any offer,

proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual.

But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and

offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two

points. First, As things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for a 220

hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly, There being a round million

of creatures in humane figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into

a common stock, would leave them in debt two million of pounds sterling, adding those

who are beggars by profession, to the bulk of farmers, cottagers and laborers, with their

wives and children, who are beggars in effect; I desire those politicians who dislike my 225

overture, and may perhaps be so bold to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the

parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to

have been sold for food at a year old, in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided

such a perpetual scene of misfortunes, as they have since gone through, by the oppression

of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of 230

common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the

inclemencies37 of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing the like, or

greater miseries, upon their breed for ever.

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 public good 235

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 childbearing.

37 damp or cold weather (for which England is often known).

Pope’s Poems and Prose Summary and Analysis of An Essay on Man: Epistle I


The subtitle of the first epistle is “Of the Nature and State of Man, with Respect to the Universe,” and this section deals with man’s place in the cosmos. Pope argues that to justify God’s ways to man must necessarily be to justify His ways in relation to all other things. God rules over the whole universe and has no special favorites, not man nor any other creature. By nature, the universe is an order of “strong connexions, nice dependencies, / Gradations just” (30-1). This order is, more specifically, a hierarchy of the “Vast chain of being” in which all of God’s creations have a place (237). Man’s place in the chain is below the angels but above birds and beasts. Any deviation from this order would result in cosmic destruction. Because the universe is so highly ordered, chance, as man understands it, does not exist. Chance is rather “direction, which thou canst not see” (290). Those things that man sees as disparate or unrelated are all “but parts of one stupendous whole, / Whose body nature is, and God the soul” (267-8). Thus every element of the universe has complete perfection according to God’s purpose. Pope concludes the first epistle with the statement “Whatever is, is right,” meaning that all is for the best and that everything happens according to God’s plan, even though man may not be able to comprehend it (294).

Here is a section-by-section explanation of the first epistle:

Introduction (1-16): The introduction begins with an address to Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke, a friend of the poet from whose fragmentary philosophical writings Pope likely drew inspiration for An Essay on Man. Pope urges his friend to “leave all meaner things” and rather embark with Pope on his quest to “vindicate the ways of God to man (1, 16).

Section I (17-34): Section I argues that man can only understand the universe with regard to human systems and constructions because he is ignorant of the greater relationships between God’s creations.

Section II (35-76): Section II states that man is imperfect but perfectly suited to his place within the hierarchy of creation according to the general order of things.

Section III (77-112): Section III demonstrates that man’s happiness depends on both his ignorance of future events and on his hope for the future.

Section IV (113-30): Section IV claims that man’s sin of pride—the attempt to gain more knowledge and pretend to greater perfection—is the root of man’s error and misery. By putting himself in the place of God, judging perfection and justice, man acts impiously.

Section V (131-72): Section V depicts the absurdity of man’s belief that he is the sole cause of the creation as well as his ridiculous expectation of perfection in the moral world that does not exist in the natural world.

Section VI (173-206): Section VI decries the unreasonableness of man’s complaints against Providence; God is good, giving and taking equally. If man had the omniscience of God, he would be miserable: “The bliss of man […] / Is, not to act of think beyond mankind” (189-90).

Section VII (207-32): Section VII shows that throughout the visible world, a universal order and gradation can be observed. This is particularly apparent in the hierarchy of earthly creatures and their subordination to man. Pope refers specifically to the gradations of sense, instinct, thought, reflection, and reason. Reason is superior to all.

Section VIII (233-58): Section VIII indicates that if God’s rules of order and subordination are broken, the whole of creation must be destroyed.

Section IX (259-80): Section IX illustrates the madness of the desire to subvert God’s order.

Section X (281-94): Section X calls on man to submit to God’s power. Absolute submission to God will ensure that man remains “Safe in the hand of one disposing Pow’r” (287). After all, “Whatever is, is right” (294).


Pope’s first epistle seems to endorse a sort of fatalism, in which all things are fated. Everything happens for the best, and man should not presume to question God’s greater design, which he necessarily cannot understand because he is a part of it. He further does not possess the intellectual capability to comprehend God’s order outside of his own experience. These arguments certainly support a fatalistic world view. According to Pope’s thesis, everything that exists plays a role in the divine plan. God thus has a specific intention for every element of His creation, which suggests that all things are fated. Pope, however, was always greatly distressed by charges of fatalism. As a proponent of the doctrine of free will, Pope’s personal opinions seem at odds with his philosophical conclusions in the first epistle. Reconciling Pope’s own views with his fatalistic description of the universe represents an impossible task.

The first epistle of An Essay on Man is its most ambitious. Pope states that his task is to describe man’s place in the “universal system” and to “vindicate the ways of God to man” (16). In the poem’s prefatory address, Pope more specifically describes his intention to consider “man in the abstract, his Nature and his State, since, to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection of imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is necessary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being.” Pope’s stated purpose of the poem further problematizes any critical reading of the first epistle. According to Pope’s own conclusions, man’s limited intellect can comprehend only a small portion of God’s order and likewise can have knowledge of only half-truths. It therefore seems the height of hubris to presume to justify God’s ways to man. His own philosophical conclusions make this impossible. As a mere component part of God’s design and a member of the hierarchical middle state, Pope exists within God’s design and therefore cannot perceive the greater logic of God’s order. To do so would bring only misery: “The bliss of man […] / Is, not to act of think beyond mankind” (189-90).

Though Pope’s philosophical ambitions result in a rather incoherent epistle, the poem demonstrates a masterful use of the heroic couplet. Some of the most quoted lines from Pope’s works actually appear in this poem. For example, the quotation “Hope springs eternal in the human breast: / Man never is, but always to be blest” appears in the problematic first epistle (95-6). Pope’s skill with verse thus far outweighs his philosophical aspirations, and it is fortunate that he chose to write in verse rather than prose. Indeed, eighteenth-century critics saw An Essay on Man as a primarily poetic work despite its philosophical themes.