The eighteenth century witnessed a major revolution, in some ways more profound than the Civil War, the Printing Trade. It was a state of anarchy within which struggling writers, who came from the lower strata, were writing in journals, newspapers, magazines etc. Great consumption of these kinds of writings led to the formation of the Grub Street (a London Street inhabited by literary hacks such as writers of small histories, dictionaries and temporary poems. The term Grub Street is often used collectively for poor and needy authors who wrote for meager sums of money.) This popular culture, which in the view of historians is created, produced and consumed by people themselves, acquired an identity which it never had before. Moreover, it was a time of political strife and patriotism gave way to intense party feelings. Almost all writers could be bought; even the best of them, with a few exceptions, were in the pay or service of one party or the other. Literature became the handmaid of politics and of state-craft. It was at this time that writers like Swift and Pope wrote satires against hack writers, the tradition invented by Dryden in his poem ‘MacFlecknoe’ in which he has mocked and ridiculed writers whom he thought as worthless (Shadwell, Ogilvy etc) and exalted worthy writers of natural poetic talent (Fletcher, Ben Jonson etc).
Among such Satirical works of Swift, where he has attempted to satirize scholastic and modern incoherence in learning, is his book A Tale of a Tub. It can be seen as embodying, as the ‘Author’s Apology’ states, the author’s intention, its satiric purpose being to expose the corruptions in learning and religion. Here, Swift, on the surface level, claims to be a part of the community of the hack writers, Grub Street and also to conform to the literary practices that such writers deployed, to glorify them in a manner such that the glorification becomes only an attack on, a... [continues]
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