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The Battle of the Books - Wikipedia

Therefore, it is likely that the quarrel was more of a spur to Swift's imagination than a debate that he felt inclined to enter. In this piece, there is an epic battle fought in a library when various books come alive and attempt to settle the arguments between moderns and ancients. In Swift's satire, he skilfully manages to avoid saying which way victory fell. He portrays the manuscript as having been damaged in places, thus leaving the end of the battle up to the reader. The battle is told with great detail to particular authors jousting with their replacements and critics.

The battle is not just between Classical authors and modern authors, but also between authors and critics. The prose is a parody of heroic poetry along the lines of Samuel Butler 's parody of battle in Hudibras. The combat in the "Battle" is interrupted by the interpolated allegory of the spider and the bee. A spider, "swollen up to the first Magnitude, by the Destruction of infinite Numbers of Flies" resides like a castle holder above a top shelf, and a bee, flying from the natural world and drawn by curiosity, wrecks the spider's web.

The spider curses the bee for clumsiness and for wrecking the work of one who is his better. The spider says that his web is his home, a stately manor, while the bee is a vagrant who goes anywhere in nature without any concern for reputation. The bee answers that he is doing the bidding of nature, aiding in the fields, while the spider's castle is merely what was drawn from its own body, which has "a good plentiful Store of Dirt and Poison. However, it also illustrates the theme of the whole work. The bee is like the ancients and like authors: it gathers its materials from nature and sings its drone song in the fields.

The spider is like the moderns and like critics: it kills the weak and then spins its web books of criticism from the taint of its own body digesting the viscera. In one sense, the Battle of the Books illustrates one of the great themes that Swift would explore in A Tale of a Tub : the madness of pride involved in believing one's own age to be supreme and the inferiority of derivative works. One of the attacks in the Tale was on those who believe that being readers of works makes them the equals of the creators of works.

The other satire Swift affixed to the Tale , "The Mechanical Operation of the Spirit," illustrates the other theme: an inversion of the figurative and literal as a part of madness. Swift's Battle owed a great deal to Boileau 's Le Lutrin, although it was not a translation.

The Very Best of Jonathan Swift in Plain and Simple English (Translated)

Instead, it was an English work based on the same premise. This prompted a satire of Ozell by Swift and by Alexander Pope.

Further, other "battles of the books" appeared after Swift's. Often, these were merely political attacks, as in the later Battel of the Poets , by Edward Cooke , which was an attack on Alexander Pope.


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Harry Potter and the translator's nightmare

To learn more about how we use and protect your data, please see our privacy policy. We want your feedback! Click here. Subjects Fiction Humor Fiction. The essay is as hilarious today as it was hundreds of years ago If you have struggled in the past reading the satire, then BookCaps can help you out.