Awesome Men Throughout History: Jonathan Swift
Since the bulk of my readers are guys, I think it’s safe to talk about farts and how hilarious they are. I don’t know too many other men who feel differently, and I often use the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles as something of a Voight-Kampff test on people. If they don’t laugh, they’re to be treated with extreme suspicion.
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little (not really), but way classier and more historically meaningful people than me have felt the same way about farts. Mozart, for instance. Benjamin Franklin is another one; he once wrote a pseudo-scientific paper about the possibility of a dietary supplement that could make farts smell good. James Joyce famously penned a weird love letter to his wife about letting her fart on him.
And finally, there’s this week’s Awesome Man Throughout History: writer, satirist, and fart enthusiast Jonathan Swift.
You may recognize Swift as the guy who wrote Gulliver’s Travels, and also as the guy who wrote A Modest Proposal, which tricks at least one person in every 9th grade English class into thinking that Swift was serious about wanting the Irish to eat their own babies. It happens every year, I swear.
Generally speaking, Swift was an 18th century writer whose work was often political in nature and employed self-deprecating humor and exaggeration as often as it savagely attacked its targets with irony, sarcasm, and direct ridicule. He was pretty much his era’s version of The Onion.
Swift did have a lighter side though, and fart jokes were definitely part of it. In 1722, Swift wrote an essay titled “The Benefit of Farting Explain’d,” under the pen name of Don Fartinhando Puff-Indorst, Professor of Bumbast at the University of Craccow. The essay also mentions a “Lady Damp-Fart, of Her-fart-shire” and someone who was “Groom of the Stool to the Princess of Arse-Mini in Sardinia.” Not exactly subtle.
Anyway, the essay talks about how farts intersect with law (farting was frowned upon by the censorship laws of the time), society, and science, and then goes off into a weird, sexist rant that may have coined the old joke about how women don’t fart because they can’t shut up long enough to build up the necessary pressure.
“Suppressing [gas]. . . causes Cholicks, hystericks, rumblings, belching, spleen, etc,” Swift opines, “but in the women of a more strong constitution, it vents itself entirely in talkativeness; hence we have a reason, why women are more talkative than men.”
Despite all that, any serious literary figure who can dedicate time to writing about farts is worthy of Awesome Men consideration, so let one fly for Jonathan Swift.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.