Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge
If you think Gulliver's Travels is biting satire, you should really check out Jonathan Swift's 1729 essay, "A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public." In it, he responds to critics claiming that Irish poverty is becoming a burden on England's government resources. How does he respond? By suggesting that the solution to Irish poverty would be to eat surplus Irish babies. This essay is not for the squeamish, but it is very funny, and it does make the excellent point that human poverty often hits hardest at the most vulnerable people in society, children.
For all of Gulliver's discomfort with women, Jonathan Swift was fully capable of forming loving relationships with ladies. He maintained a long correspondence with a former student of his, Esther Johnson, whom he called "Stella." He also received some pretty passionate love letters from "Vanessa," Hester Vanhomrigh. Vanessa died in 1723 and Stella, in 1728. There are lots of excitingly dramatic theories about the relationships of Stella, Vanessa, and Swift, including that he and Stella were secretly married, but no one really knows if any of these love relationships were consummated. (Source)
Swift suffered for much of his life from a disease of the inner ear called Menière's disease, which causes dizziness, vertigo, deafness, and fainting. He also spent the last few years of his life unable to look after himself due to mental health problems; he could no longer continue his duties as the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and was removed in 1742. While accounts of Swift's madness differ, some speculate that he may have suffered from Alzheimer's disease. (Source)
The Internet company Yahoo! was named – at least in part – for the Yahoos found in Gulliver's Travels.