A Modest Proposal
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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 Publick, commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a satirical pamphlet written by Jonathan Swift in 1729. The work has now become one of the epitomes of satire, and the modern phrase “a modest proposal” derives from the work.
Even today, readers unacquainted with its reputation as a satirical work often do not immediately realize that Swift was not seriously proposing cannibalism. It is no longer true, as it was in Swift’s time, that any educated reader would be familiar with the satires of Horace and Juvenal, and so recognize that Swift’s essay follows the rules and structure of Latin satires.
County Mayo cannibalism
Although it was written as a satire attacking the indifference of landlords to the state of their tenants and on the political economists with their calculations on the schemes to raise income, the work came to be seen as prophetic in the late 1870's when cannibalism became rife in County Mayo, an impoverished part of the West of Ireland. The cannibalism is believed by many only to have ceased when an apparition of the Blessed Virgin occurred at the location of the present day Knock Shrine in 1879.