Susan Cahill is Assistant Professor in the School of Canadian Irish Studies, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
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."
Nobel Prize winner (1969) Samuel Beckett was born on April 13, 1906 near Dublin, Ireland into a middle-class Protestant family. As a boy, he studied French and enjoyed cricket, tennis, and boxing. At Trinity College he continued his studies in French and Italian and became interested in theater and film, including American film. After graduation, Beckett taught English in Paris and traveled through France and Germany. While in Paris Beckett met Suzanne Deschevaus-Dusmesnil. During World War II when Paris was invaded, they joined the Resistance. They were later forced to flee Paris after being betrayed to the Gestapo, but returned in 1945. Beckett and Deschevaus-Dusmesnil married in 1961. Samuel Beckett's first novel was Dream of Fair to Middling Women. Among his many works are Murphy; Malone Dies; and The Unnameable. His plays include Endgame, Happy Days, Not I, That Time, and Krapp's Last Tape. In 1953, the production of Waiting For Godot in Paris by director and actor Roger Blin earned Beckett international fame. Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. His style was postmodern minimalist and some of his major themes were imprisonment in one's self, the failure of language, and moral conduct in a godless world. Despite his fame, Samuel Beckett led a secluded life. In his later years he suffered from cataracts and emphysema. His wife Suzanne died on July 17, 1989 and Beckett died on December 22nd of the same year.
Roddy Doyle is the author of five previous novels, including a Booker Prize nominee, The Van, and a Booker Prize winning international bestseller Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. He has also written several screenplays, most recently When Brendan Met Trudy. His first children's book, The Giggler Treatment, will be published in September by Scholastic. He lives in Dublin.
Seamus Heaney was born in Mossbawn, Ireland on April 13, 1939. He received a degree in English from Queen's College in Belfast in 1961. After earning his teacher's certificate in English from St. Joseph's College in Belfast the following year, he took a position at the school as an English teacher. During his time as a teacher at St. Joseph's, he wrote and published work in the university magazine under the pen name Incertus. In 1966, he became an English literature lecturer at Queen's College in Belfast. His first volume of poems, Death of a Naturalist, went on to receive the E.C. Gregory Award, the Cholmondeley Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. After the death of his parents, Heaney published the poetry volumes The Haw Lantern, which includes a sonnet sequence memorializing his mother, and Seeing Things, a collection containing numerous poems for his father. His other works included Field Work, Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996, and Human Chain. Heaney was a professor at Harvard from 1981 to 1997 and its Poet in Residence from 1988 to 2006. From 1989 to 1994 he was also the Professor of Poetry at Oxford and in 1996 was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres. Other awards that he received include the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999). In 2012, he was awarded the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry. His literary papers are held by the National Library of Ireland. He died following a short illness on August 30, 2013 at the age of 74. Heaney's last words were in a text to his wife Marie, "Noli timere", which means "Do not be afraid."