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Apparently doomed to an obscure Anglican parsonage in Laracor, Ireland, even after he had written his anonymous masterpiece, A Tale of a Tub (c.1696), Swift turned a political mission to England from the Irish Protestant clergy into an avenue to prominence as the chief propagandist for the Tory government. His exhilaration at achieving importance in his forties appears engagingly in his Journal to Stella (1710--13), addressed to Esther Johnson, a young protegee for whom Swift felt more warmth than for anyone else in his long life. At the death of Queen Anne and the fall of the Tories in 1714, Swift became dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. In Ireland, which he considered exile from a life of power and intellectual activity in London, Swift found time to defend his oppressed compatriots, sometimes in such contraband essays as his Drapier's Letters (1724), and sometimes in such short mordant pieces as the famous A Modest Proposal (1729); and there he wrote perhaps the greatest work of his time, Gulliver's Travels (1726). Using his characteristic device of the persona (a developed and sometimes satirized narrator, such as the anonymous hack writer of A Tale of a Tub or Isaac Bickerstaff in Predictions for the Ensuing Year, who exposes an astrologer), Swift created the hero Gulliver, who in the first instance stands for the bluff, decent, average Englishman and in the second, humanity in general. Gulliver is a full and powerful vision of a human being in a world in which violent passions, intellectual pride, and external chaos can degrade him or her---to animalism, in Swift's most horrifying images---but in which humans do have scope to act, guided by the Classical-Christian tradition. Gulliver's Travels has been an immensely successful children's book (although Swift did not care much for children), so widely popular through the world for its imagination, wit, fun, freshness, vigor, and narrative skill that its hero is in many languages a common proper noun. Perhaps as a consequence, its meaning has been the subject of continuing dispute, and its author has been called everything from sentimental to mad. Swift died in Dublin and was buried next to his beloved "Stella.
If Fielding showed that the novel (like the traditional epic or drama) could make the chaos of life coherent in art, Sterne only a few years later in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1760--67) laughed away the notion of order. In Sterne's world, people are sealed off in their own minds so that only in unpredictable moments of spontaneous feeling are they aware of another human being. Reviewers attacked the obscenity of Tristram's imagined autobiography as it was published (two volumes each in 1759, early 1761, late 1761, 1765, and one in 1767), particularly when the author revealed himself as a clergyman, but the presses teemed with imitations of this great literary hit of the 1760s. Through the mind of the eccentric hero, Sterne subverted accepted ideas on conception, birth, childhood, education, and the contemplation of maturity and death, so that Tristram's concerns touched his contemporaries and are still important. Since Tristram Shandy is patently a great and lasting comic work that yet seems, as E. M. Forster said, "ruled by the Great God Muddle," much recent criticism has centered on the question of its unity or lack of it; and its manipulation of time and of mental processes has been considered particularly relevant to the problems of fiction in our day. Sterne's Sentimental Journey (1768) has been immensely admired by some critics for its superb tonal balance of irony and sentiment. His Sermons of Mr. Yorick (1760) catches the spirit of its time by dramatically preaching benevolence and sympathy as superior to doctrine. Whether as Tristram or as Yorick, Sterne is probably the most memorably personal voice in eighteenth-century fiction.