Swift was born in Ireland educated at Trinity College, Dublin. For the next ten years he served as secretary to Sir William Temple, a prominent English statesman, and was ordained in 1694. His first major satirical work, A Tale of a Tub, appeared in 1704. In 1710 he became editor of The Examiner, the journal of the ruling Tory party. But with the fall of the Tories in 1714, he accepted a post as Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin.
In the 1720s, Swift, along with Alexander Pope and John Gay, formed a group of Tory satirists known as the Scriblerians after their fictional mouthpiece, Martinus Scriblerus. His 1724 satire on the English plan to introduce debased coinage into Ireland, The Drapier's Letters, elevated him to an Irish patriot. Gulliver's Travels followed in 1726, and A Modest Proposal, his grotesque satire on the twin Irish problems of overpopulation and food shortage, appeared in 1729.
Swift passed the last years of his life in ill health, and died in 1745. His life was written by Samuel Johnson in The Lives of the Poets in 1781.