CELT document E700001-014

A serious and useful Scheme to make an Hospital for Incurables

Jonathan Swift

A serious and useful Scheme to make an Hospital for Incurables; of universal Benefit to all his Majesty's Subjects 1

Humbly addressed to the Right Honourable Lord ——, the Right Honourable Sir ——,and the Right Honourable ——.



‘Faecunda culpae secula.’ (Horace.)

There is not anything which contributes more to the reputation of particular persons, or to the honour of a nation in general, than erecting and endowing proper edifices for the reception of those who labour under different kinds of distress. The diseased and unfortunate are thereby delivered from the misery of wanting assistance, and others are delivered from the misery of beholding them.

It is certain that the genius of the people of England is strongly turned to public charities, and to so noble a degree, that almost in every part of this great and opulent city, 2 and also in many of the adjacent villages, we meet with a great variety of hospitals, supported by the generous contributions of private families, as well as by the liberality of the public. Some for seamen worn out in the service of their country, and others for infirm disabled soldiers; some for the maintenance of tradesmen decayed, and others for their widows and orphans; some for the service of those who linger under tedious distempers, and others for such as are deprived of their reason.

But I find, upon nice inspection, that there is one kind of charity almost totally disregarded, which, nevertheless, appears to me of so excellent a nature, as to be at present more wanted and better calculated for the ease, quietness, and felicity of this whole kingdom, than any other can possibly be: I mean an hospital for incurables.

I must indeed confess, that an endowment of  p.479 this nature would prove a very large and perpetual expense. However, I have not the least diffidence, that I shall be able effectually to convince the world that my present scheme for such an hospital is very practicable, and must be very desirable by every one who has the interest of his country, or his fellow-creatures, really at heart.

It is observable that, although the bodies of human creatures be affected with an infinite variety of disorders, which elude the power of medicine, and are often found to be incurable, yet their minds are also overrun with an equal variety, which no skill, no power, no medicine, can alter or amend. And I think that, out of regard to the public peace and emolument, as well as the repose of many pious and valuable families, this latter species of incurables ought principally to engage our attention and beneficence.

I believe an hospital for such incurables will be universally allowed necessary, if we only consider what numbers of absolute incurables every profession, rank, and degree, would perpetually produce; which at present are only national grievances, and of which we can have no other effectual method to purge the kingdom.

For instance, let any man seriously consider what numbers there are of incurable fools, incurable knaves, incurable scolds, incurable scribblers (besides myself), incurable coxcombs, incurable infidels, incurable liars, incurable whores, in all places of public resort;——not to mention the incurably vain, incurably envious, incurably proud, incurably affected, incurably impertinent, and ten thousand other incurables which I must of necessity pass over in silence, lest I should swell this essay into a volume. And, without doubt, every unprejudiced person will agree that, out of mere Christian charity, the public ought to be eased as much as possible of this troublesome and intolerable variety of incurables.

And first, under the denomination of incurable fools, we may reasonably expect that such an hospital would be furnished with considerable numbers of the growth of our own universities, who at present appear in various professions in the world, under the venerable titles of physicians, barristers, and ecclesiastics.

And as those ancient seminaries have been for some years past accounted little better than nurseries of such sort of incurables, it should seem highly commendable to make some kind of provision for them, because it is more than probable that, if they are to be supported by their own particular merit in their several callings, they must necessarily acquire but a very indifferent maintenance.

I would not willingly be here suspected to cast reflections on any order of men, as if I thought that small gains from the profession of any art or science were always an undoubted sign of an equally small degree of understanding; for I profess myself to be somewhat inclined to a very opposite opinion, having frequently observed that at the bar, the pulse, and the pulpit, those who have the least learning or sense to plead meet generally with the largest share of promotions and profit: of which many instances might be produced; but the public seems to want no conviction in this particular.

Under the same denominations we may farther expect a large and ridiculous quantity of old rich widows, whose eager and impatient appetites inflame them with extravagant passions for fellows of a very different age and complexion from themselves, who purchase contempt and aversion with good jointures, and being loaded with years, infirmities, and probably ill humour, are forced to bribe into their embraces such whose fortunes and characters are equally desperate.

Besides, our collection of incurable fools would receive an incredible addition from every one of the following articles:—

From young extravagant heirs, who are just of a competent age to become the bubbles of jockeys, sportsmen, gamesters, bullies, sharpers, courtezans, and such sort of honourable pickpockets.

From misers, who half starve themselves to feed the prodigality of their heirs, and who proclaim to the world how unworthy they are of possessing estates, by the wretched and ridiculous methods they take to enjoy them.

From contentious people of all conditions, who are content to waste the greatest part of their own fortunes at law, to be the instruments of impoverishing others.

From those who have any confidence in profession of friendship, before trial; or any dependence on the fidelity of a mistress.

From young illiterate squires, who travel abroad to import lewdness, conceit, arrogance, vanity, and foppery; of which commodities there seems to be so great an abundance at home.

From young clergymen who contrive, by matrimony, to acquire a family before they have obtained the necessary means to maintain one.

From those who have considerable estates in different kingdoms, and yet are so incurably stupid as to spend their whole incomes in this.

These and several other articles which might be mentioned, would afford us a perpetual opportunity of easing the public, by having an hospital for the accommodation of such incurables; who at present, either by the over-fondness of near relations, or the indolence of the magistrates, are permitted to walk abroad, and appear in the most crowded places of this city, as if they were indeed reasonable creatures.

I had almost forgot to hint, that, under this article, there is a modest probability that many of the clergy would be found properly qualified for admittance into the hospital, who might serve in the capacity of chaplains, and save the unnecessary expense of salaries.

To these fools, in order, succeed such as may justly be included under the extensive denomination of incurable knaves; of which our  p.480 several inns of court would constantly afford us abundant supplies.

I think, indeed, that, of this species of incurables, there ought to be a certain limited number annually admitted, which number neither any regard to the quiet or benefit of the nation, nor any other charitable or public-spirited reason, should tempt us to exceed; because, if all were to be admitted on such a foundation who might be reputed incurable of this distemper; and if it were possible for the public to find any place large enough for their reception; I have not the least doubt that all our inns, which are at this day so crowded, would in a short time be emptied of their inhabitants, and the law, that beneficial craft, want hands to conduct it.

I tremble to think what herds of attorneys, solicitors, pettifoggers, scriveners, usurers, hackney-clerks, pickpockets, pawnbrokers, jailors, and justices of the peace, would hourly be driven to such an hospital; and what disturbance it might also create in several noble and wealthy families.

What unexpected distress might it prove to several men of fortune and quality to be suddenly deprived of their rich stewards, in whom they had for many years reposed the utmost confidence, and to find them irrecoverably lodged among such a collection of incurables!

How many orphans might then expect to see their guardians hurried away to the hospital; and how many greedy executors find reason to lament the want of opportunity to pillage!

Would not Exchange Alley have cause to mourn for the loss of its stock-jobbers and brokers; and the Charitable Corporation for the confinement of many of its directors?

Might not Westminster Hall, as well as all the gaming-houses in this great city, be entirely unpeopled; and the professors of art in each of those assemblies become useless in their vocations, by being deprived of all future opportunity to be dishonest?

In short, it might put the whole kingdom into confusion and disorder; and we should find that the entire revenues of this nation would be scarce able to support so great a number of incurables, in this way, as would appear qualified for admission into our hospital.

For if we only consider how this kingdom swarms with quadrille-tables, and gaming-houses, both public and private; and also how each of those houses, as well as Westminster Hall aforesaid, swarms with knaves who are anxious to win, or fools who have anything to lose; we may be soon convinced how necessary it will be to limit the number of incurables, comprehended under these titles, lest the foundation should prove insufficient to maintain any others besides them.

However, if by this scheme of mine the nation can be eased of 20,000 or 30,000 such incurables, I think it ought to be esteemed somewhat beneficial, and worthy of the attention of the public.

The next sort for whom I would gladly provide, and who for several generations have proved insupportable plagues and grievances to the good people of England, are those who may properly be admitted under the character of incurable scolds.

I own this to be a temper of so desperate a nature, that few females can be found willing to own themselves anyway addicted to it; and yet it is thought that there is scarce a single parson, prentice, alderman, squire, or husband, who would not solemnly avouch the very reverse.

I could wish, indeed, that the word scold might be changed for some more gentle term, of equal signification; because I am convinced that the very name is as offensive to female ears, as the effects of that incurable distemper are to the ears of the men; which, to be sure, is inexpressible.

And that it has been always customary to honour the very same kind of actions with different appellations, only to avoid giving offence, is evident to common observation.

For instance: How many lawyers, attorneys, solicitors, under-sheriffs, intriguing chambermaids, and counter-officers, are continually guilty of extortion, bribery, oppression, and many other profitable knaveries, to drain the purses of those with whom they are any way concerned? And yet all these different expedients to raise a fortune pass generally under the milder names of fees, perquisites, vales, presents, gratuities, and such like; although, in strictness of speech, they should be called robbery, and consequently be rewarded with a gibbet.

Nay, how many honourable gentlemen might be enumerated who keep open shop to make a trade of iniquity; who teach the law to wink whenever power or profit appears in her way; and contrive to grow rich by the vice, the contention, or the follies of mankind; and who, nevertheless, instead of being branded with the harsh-sounding names of knaves, pilferers, or public oppressors, (as they justly merit,) are only distinguished by the title of justices of the peace; in which single term, all those several appellations are generally thought to be implied.

But to proceed. When first I determined to prepare this scheme for the use and inspection of the public, I intended to examine one whole ward in this city, that my computation of the number of incurable scolds might be more perfect and exact. But I found it impossible to finish my progress through more than one street.

I made my first application to a wealthy citizen in Cornhill, common councilman for his ward, to whom I hinted, that if he knew e'er an incurable scold in the neighbourhood, I had some hope to provide for her in such a manner as to hinder her from being further troublesome. He referred me with great delight to his next-door friend; yet whispered me, that, with much greater ease and pleasure, he could  p.481 furnish me out of his own family——, and begged the preference.

His next-door friend owned readily that his wife's qualifications were not misrepresented, and that he would cheerfully contribute to promote so useful a scheme; but positively asserted that it would be of small service to rid the neighbourhood of one woman, while such multitudes would remain, all equally insupportable.

By which circumstance I conjectured that the quantity of these incurables in London, Westminster, and Southwark, would be very considerable, and that a generous contribution might reasonably be expected for such an hospital as I am recommending.

Besides, the number of these female incurables would probably be very much increased by additional quantities of old maids, who, being wearied with concealing their ill humour for one half of their lives, are impatient to give it full vent in the other. For old maids, like old thin-bodied wines, instead of growing more agreeable by years, are observed, for the most part, to become intolerably sharp, sour, and useless.

Under this denomination also we may expect to be furnished with as large a collection of old bachelors, especially those who have estates, and but a moderate degree of understanding. For an old wealthy bachelor, being perpetually surrounded with a set of flatterers, cousins, poor dependents, and would-be heirs, who, for their own views, submit to his perverseness and caprice, becomes insensibly infected with this scolding malady, which generally proves incurable, and renders him disagreeable to his friends, and a fit subject for ridicule to his enemies.

As to the incurable scribblers, (of which society I have the honour to be a member,) they probably are innumerable; and, of consequence, it will be absolutely impossible to provide for one-tenth part of their fraternity. However, as this set of incurables are generally more plagued with poverty than any other, it will be a double charity to admit them on the foundation; a charity to the world, to whom they are a common pest and nuisance; and a charity to themselves, to relieve them from want, contempt, kicking, and several other accidents of that nature, to which they are continually liable.

Grub street itself would then have reason to rejoice to see so many of its half starved manufacturers amply provided for; and the whole tribe of meagre incurables would probably shout for joy at being delivered from the tyranny and garrets of printers, publishers, and booksellers.

What a mixed multitude of ballad-writers, ode-makers, translators, farce-compounders, opera-mongers, biographers, pamphleteers, and journalists, would appear crowding to the hospital; not unlike the brutes resorting to the ark before the deluge! And what an universal satisfaction would such a sight afford to all, except pastrycooks, grocers, chandlers, and tobacco-retailers, to whom alone the writings of those incurables were any way profitable!

I have often been amazed to observe what a variety of incurable coxcombs are to be met with between St. James's and Limehouse, at every hour of the day; as numerous as Welsh parsons, and equally contemptible. How they swarm in all coffeehouses, theatres, public walks, and private assemblies; how they are incessantly employed in cultivating intrigues, and every kind of irrational pleasure; how industrious they seem to mimic the appearance of monkeys, as monkeys are emulous to imitate the gestures of men: and from such observations I concluded, that to confine the greatest part of those incurables, who are so many living burlesques of human nature, would be of eminent service to this nation; and I am persuaded that I am far from being singular in that opinion.

As for the incurable infidels and liars, I shall range them under the same article, and would willingly appoint them the same apartment in the hospital; because there is a much nearer resemblance between them than is generally imagined.

Have they not an equal delight in imposing falsities on the public, and seem they not equally desirous to be thought of more sagacity and importance than others? Do they not both report what both know to be false; and both confidently assert what they are conscious is most liable to contradiction?

The parallel might easily be carried on much farther, if the intended shortness of this essay would admit it. However, I cannot forbear taking notice with what immense quantities of incurable liars his majesty's kingdoms are overrun; what offence and prejudice they are to the public; what inconceivable injury to private persons; and what a necessity there is for an hospital, to relieve the nation from the curse of so many incurables.

This distemper appears almost in as many different shapes as there are persons afflicted with it; and, in every individual, is always beyond the power of medicine.

Some lie for their interest, such as fishmongers, flatterers, pimps, lawyers, fortune-hunters, and fortune-tellers; and others lie for their entertainment, as maids, wives, widows, and all other tea-table attendants.

Some lie out of vanity, as poets, painters, players, fops, military officers, and all those who frequent the levees of the great: and others lie out of ill nature, as old maids, &c.

Some lie out of custom, as lovers, coxcombs, footmen, sailors, mechanics, merchants, and chamber maids; and others lie out of complaisance or necessity, as courtiers, chaplains, &c. In short, it were endless to enumerate them all, but this sketch may be sufficient to give us some small imperfect idea of their numbers.

As to the remaining incurables, we may reasonably conclude, that they bear at least an equal proportion to those already mentioned; but with regard to the incurable whores in this kingdom, I must particularly observe that such of them as are public, and make it their profession, have  p.482 proper hospitals for their reception already, if we could find magistrates without passions, or officers without an incurable itch to a bribe. And such of them as are private, and make it their amusement, I should be unwilling to disturb, for two reasons.

First, because it might probably afflict many noble, wealthy, contented, and unsuspecting husbands, by convincing them of their own dishonour, and the unpardonable disloyalty of their wives: and, secondly, because it will be for ever impossible to confine a woman from being guilty of any kind of misconduct, when once she is firmly resolved to attempt it.

From all which observations, every reasonable man must infallibly be convinced that an hospital for the support of these different kinds of incurables would be extremely beneficial to these kingdoms. I think, therefore, that nothing farther is wanting but to demonstrate to the public that such a scheme is very practicable, both by having an undoubted method to raise an annual income at least sufficient to make the experiment, (which is the way of founding all hospitals,) and by having also a strong probability, that such an hospital would be supported by perpetual benefactions; which, in very few years, might enable us to increase the number of incurables to nine-tenths more than we can reasonably venture on at first.


Table 1: A Computation of the Daily and Annual Expenses of an Hospital, to be erected for Incurables.
[Item]Per day
Incurable fools are almost infinite; however, at first, I would have only twenty thousand admitted; and, allowing to each person but one shilling per day for maintenance, which is as low as possible, the daily expense for this article will be£1,000
Incurable knaves, are, if possible, more numerous, including foreigners, especially Irishmen. Yet I would limit the number of these to about thirty thousand; which would amount to£1,500
Incurable scolds would be plentifully supplied from almost every family in the kingdom. And indeed, to make this hospital of any real benefit, we cannot admit fewer, even at first, than thirty thousand, including the ladies of Billingsgate and Leadenhall market, which is£1,500
The incurable scribblers are undoubtedly a very considerable society, and of that denomination I would admit at least forty thousand; because it is to be supposed that such incurables will be found in greatest distress for a daily maintenance. And if we had not great encouragement to hope that many of that class would properly be admitted among the incurable fools, I should strenuously intercede to have ten or twenty thousand more added. But their allowed number will amount to£2,000
Incurable coxcombs are very numerous; and, considering what numbers are annually imported from France and Italy, we cannot admit fewer than ten thousand, which will be£500
Incurable infidels (as they affect to be called) should be received into the hospital to the number of ten thousand. However, if it should accidentally happen to grow into a fashion to be believers, it is probable that the great part of them would, in a very short time, be dismissed from the hospital as perfectly cured. Their expense would be£500
Incurable liars are infinite in all parts of the kingdom; and, making allowance for citizens' wives, mercers, prentices, news-writers, old maids, and flatterers, we cannot possibly allow a smaller number than thirty thousand, which will amount to£1,500
The incurably envious are in vast quantities throughout this whole nation. Nor can it reasonably be expected that their numbers should lessen while fame and honours are heaped upon some particular persons as the public reward of their superior accomplishments, while others, who are equally excellent in their own opinions, are constrained to live unnoticed and contemned. And as it would be impossible to provide for all those who are possessed with this distemper, I should consent to admit only twenty thousand at first, by way of experiment, amounting to£1,000
Of the incurably vain, affected, and impertinent, I should at least admit ten thousand; which number I am confident will appear very inconsiderable, if we include all degrees of females, from the duchess to the chambermaid; all poets, who have had a little success, especially in the dramatic way; and all players, who have met with a small degree of approbation. Amounting only to£500

By which plain computation it is evident that two hundred thousand persons will be daily provided for, and the allowance for maintaining this collection of incurables may be seen in the following account.

Table 2: For the Incurable
Per day
Fools, being 20,000at one shilling each£1,000
Knaves 30,000ditto£1,500
Scolds 30,000ditto£1,500
Scribblers 40,000ditto£2,000
Coxcombs 10,000ditto£500
Infidels 10,000ditto£500
Liars 30,000ditto£1,500
Table 3: For the Incurably
Envious 20,000ditto£1,000
Vain 10,000ditto£500
Total maintained: 200,000Total expense£10,000


Whence it appears, that the daily expense will amount to such a sum, as in 365 days comes to {} £3,650,000.

And I am fully satisfied that a sum much greater than this, may easily be raised, with all possible satisfaction to the subject, and without interfering in the least with the revenues of the crown.

In the first place, a large proportion of this sum might be raised by the voluntary contribution of the inhabitants.

The computed number of people in Great Britain is very little less than eight millions; of which, upon a most moderate computation, we may account one half to be incurables. And as all those different incurables, whether acting in the capacity of friends, acquaintances, wives, husbands, daughters, counsellors, parents, old maids, or old bachelors, are inconceivable plagues to all those with whom they happen to be concerned; and, as there is no hope of being eased of such plagues, except by such an hospital, which by degrees might be enlarged to contain them all; I think it cannot be doubted, that at least three millions and a half of people, out of the remaining proportion, would be found both able and desirous to contribute so small a sum as 20s. per annum, for the quiet of the kingdom, the peace of private families, and the credit of the nation in general. And this contribution would amount to very near our requisite sum.

Nor can this by any means be esteemed a wild conjecture; for where is there a man of common sense, honesty, or good nature, who would not gladly propose even a much greater sum to be freed from a scold, a knave, a fool, a liar, a coxcomb conceitedly repeating the compositions of others, or a vain impertinent poet repeating his own?

In the next place, it may justly be supposed that many young noblemen, knights, squires, and extravagant heirs, with very large estates, would be confined in our hospital. And I would propose that the annual income of every particular incurable's estate should be appropriated to the use of the house. But, besides these, there will undoubtedly be many old misers, aldermen, justices, directors of companies, templars, and merchants of all kinds, whose personal fortunes are immense, and who should proportionably pay to the hospital.

Yet lest by being here misunderstood I should seem to propose an unjust or oppressive Scheme, I shall farther explain my design.

Suppose, for instance, a young nobleman possessed of £10,000 or £20,000 per annum, should accidentally be confined there as an incurable, I would have only such a proportion of his estate applied to the support of the hospital, as he himself would spend if he were at liberty. And, after his death, the profits of the estate should regularly devolve to the next lawful heir, whether male or female.

And my reason for this proposal is, because considerable estates, which probably would be squandered away among hounds, horses, whores, sharpers, surgeons, tailors, pimps, masquerades, or architects, if left to the management of such incurables, would, by this means, become of some real use, both to the public and themselves. And perhaps this may be the only method which can be found to make such young spendthrifts of any real benefit to their country.

And although the estates of deceased incurables might be permitted to descend to the next heirs, the hospital would probably sustain no great disadvantage; because it is very likely that most of these heirs would also gradually be admitted under some denomination or other, and consequently their estates would again devolve to the use of the hospital.

As to the wealthy misers, &c., I would have their private fortunes nicely examined and calculated; because if they were old bachelors, (as it would frequently happen,) their whole fortunes should be appropriated to the endowment: but, if married, I would leave two thirds of their fortunes for the support of their families; which families would cheerfully consent to give away the remaining third, if not more, to be freed from such peevish and disagreeable governors.

So that, deducting from the 200,000 incurables the 40,000 scribblers, who to be sure would be found in very bad circumstances; I believe, among the remaining hundred and sixty thousand fools, knaves, and coxcombs, so many would be found of large estates and easy fortunes, as would at least produce two hundred thousand pounds per annum.

As a farther addition to our endowment, I would have a tax upon all inscriptions and tombstones, monuments and obelisks, erected to the honour of the dead; or on porticoes and trophies, to the honour of the living; because these will naturally and properly come under the article of lies, pride, vanity, &c.

And if all inscriptions throughout this kingdom were impartially examined, in order to tax those which should appear demonstrably false or flattering, I am convinced that not one fifth part of the number would, after such a scrutiny, escape exempted.

Many an ambitious turbulent spirit would then be found, belied with the opposite title of lover of his country; and many a Middlesex justice, as improperly described, sleeping in hope of salvation.

Many an usurer discredited by the appellations of honest and frugal; and many a lawyer with the character of conscientious and equitable.

Many a British statesman and general decaying with more honour than they lived; and their dusts distinguished with a better reputation than when they were animated.

Many dull parsons improperly styled eloquent; and as many stupid physicians improperly styled learned.

Yet, notwithstanding the extensiveness of a tax upon such monumental impositions, I will  p.484 count only upon 20,000, at £5 per annum each, which will amount to £100,000 annually.

To these annuities I would also request the parliament of this nation to allow the benefit of two lotteries yearly, by which the hospital would gain £200,000 clear. Nor can such a request seem any way extraordinary, since it would be appropriated to the benefit of fools and knaves, which is the sole cause of granting one for this present year.

In the last place, I would add the estate of Richard Norton, Esq.; and, to do his memory all possible honour, I would have his statue erected in the very first apartment of the hospital, or in any other which might seem more apt. And on his monument I would permit a long inscription, composed by his dearest friends, which should remain tax-free for ever.

From these several articles, therefore, would annually arise the following sums:

[Item]Per Ann.
From the voluntary contribution£3,500,000
From the estates of the incurables200,000
By the tax upon tombstones, monuments, &c.
(that of Richard Norton, Esq. always excepted)
By two annual lotteries200,000
By the estate of Richard Norton, Esq.600,000
And the necessary sum for the hospital being£3,650,000
There will remain annually over and above356,000

Which sum of £356,000 should be applied towards erecting the building, and answer accidental expenses, in such a manner as should seem most proper to promote the design of the hospital. But the whole management of it should be left to the skill and discretion of those who are to be constituted governors.

It may indeed prove a work of some small difficulty to fix upon a commodious place, large enough for a building of this nature. I should have thoughts of attempting to enclose all Yorkshire, if I were not apprehensive that it would be crowded with so many incurable knaves of its own growth, that there would not be the least room left for the reception of any others; by which accident our whole project might be retarded for some time.

Thus have I set this matter in the plainest light I could, that every one may judge of the necessity, usefulness, and practicableness of this scheme: and I shall only add a few scattered hints, which, to me, seem not altogether unprofitable.

I think the prime minister for the time being ought largely to contribute to such a foundation; because his high station and merits must of necessity infect a great number with envy, hatred, lying, and such sort of distempers; and, of consequence, furnish the hospital annually with many incurables.

I would desire that the governors appointed to direct this hospital should have (if such a thing were possible) some appearance of religion and belief in God; because those who are to be admitted as incurable infidels, atheists, deists, and freethinkers, most of which tribe are only so out of pride, conceit, and affectation, might perhaps grow gradually into believers, if they perceived it to be the custom of the place where they lived.

Although it be not customary for the natives of Ireland to meet with any manner of promotion in this kingdom, I would in this respect have that national prejudice entirely laid aside; and request that, for the reputation of both kingdoms, a large apartment in the hospital may be fitted up for Irishmen particularly, who, either by knavery, lewdness, or fortune-hunting, should appear qualified for admittance; because their numbers would certainly be very considerable.

I would farther request that a father who seems delighted at seeing his son metamorphosed into a fop or a coxcomb, because he has travelled from London to Paris, may be sent along with the young gentleman to the hospital, as an old fool, absolutely incurable.

If a poet have luckily produced any thing, especially in a dramatic way, which is tolerably well received by the public, he should be sent immediately to the hospital; because incurable vanity is always the consequence of a little success. And if his compositions be ill received, let him be admitted as a scribbler.

And I hope, in regard to the great pains I have taken about this Scheme, that I shall be admitted upon the foundation as one of the scribbling incurables. But, as an additional favour, I entreat that I may not be placed in an apartment with a poet who has employed his genius for the stage; because he will kill me with repeating his own compositions: and I need not acquaint the world that it is extremely painful to bear any nonsense—except our own.

My private reason for soliciting so early to be admitted is, because it is observed that schemers and projectors are generally reduced to beggary; but, by my being provided for in the hospital, either as an incurable fool or a scribbler, that discouraging observation will for once be publicly disproved, and my brethren in that way will be secure of a public reward for their labours.

It gives me, I own, a great degree of happiness to reflect that although, in this short treatise, the characters of many thousands are contained among the vast variety of incurables, yet not any one person is likely to be offended; because it is natural to apply ridiculous characters to all the world except ourselves. And I dare be bold to say that the most incurable fool, knave, scold, coxcomb, scribbler, or liar, in this whole nation, will  p.485 sooner enumerate the circle of their acquaintance as addicted to those distempers, than once imagine themselves any way qualified for such an hospital.

I hope indeed that our wise legislature will take this project into their serious consideration, and promote an endowment which will be of such eminent service to multitudes of his majesty's unprofitable subjects, and may in time be of use to themselves and their posterity.

From my Garret in Moorfields,

Document details

The TEI Header

File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): A serious and useful Scheme to make an Hospital for Incurables

Author: Jonathan Swift

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork and Writers of Ireland II Project

Edition statement

2. Second draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 7300 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College Cork.

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2008

Date: 2010

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E700001-014

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Editions and secondary literature

  1. An excellent bibliography covering many aspects of Jonathan Swift's Life, his writings, and criticism, compiled by Lee Jaffe, is available at http://www.jaffebros.com/lee/gulliver/bib/index.html.
  2. J. Bowles Daly (ed.), Ireland in the days of Dean Swift, Irish tracts 1720–1734. (London 1887).
  3. Frederick Ryland (ed.), Swift's Journal to Stella, A.D. 1710–1713. (London 1897).
  4. Temple Scott (ed.), A tale of a tub, and other early works. (London 1897).
  5. Frederick Falkiner, Essays on the portraits of Swift: Swift and Stella. (London 1908).
  6. C. M. Webster, Swift's Tale of a Tub compared with Earlier Satires of the Puritans. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 47/1 (March 1932) 171–178.
  7. Stephen L. Gwynn, The life and friendships of Dean Swift. (London 1933).
  8. Stanley Lane-Poole (ed.), Selections from the prose writings of Jonathan Swift with a preface and notes. (London 1933).
  9. Ricardo Quintana, The mind and art of Jonathan Swift. (Oxford 1936).
  10. Louis A. Landa, Swift's Economic Views and Mercantilism, English Literary History 10/4 (December 1943) 310–335.
  11. R. Wyse Jackson, Swift and his circle. (Dublin 1945).
  12. Herbert Davis, The Satire of Jonathan Swift (New York 1947).
  13. Martin Price, Swift's rhetorical art. (New York 1953).
  14. Robert C. Elliott, Swift and Dr Eachard. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 69/5 (December 1954) 1250–1257.
  15. John Middleton Murry, Jonathan Swift: A Critical Biography. (London 1954).
  16. John Middleton Murry, Swift. (London: Published for the British Council and the National Book League 1955).
  17. Kathleen Williams, Swift and the age of compromise. (London 1959).
  18. John M. Bullitt, Jonathan Swift and the anatomy of satire: a study of satiric technique. (Harvard 1961).
  19. Harold Williams (ed.), The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift. (Oxford 1963–65).
  20. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Jonathan Swift: essays on his satire and other studies. (New York 1964).
  21. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Gulliver's Travels. [based on the Faulkner edition, Dublin 1735] (Oxford 1965).
  22. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Swift: poetical works. (New York 1967).
  23. R. B. McDowell, 'Swift as a political thinker'. In: Roger Joseph McHugh and Philip Edwards, Jonathan Swift: 1667–1967, a Dublin tercentenary tribute (Dublin 1967). 176–186.
  24. Brian Vickers (ed.), The world of Jonathan Swift: essays for the tercentenary. (Oxford 1968).
  25. Kathleen Williams, Jonathan Swift. (London 1968).
  26. Morris Golden, The self observed: Swift, Johnson, Wordsworth. (Baltimore 1972.)
  27. Claude Julien Rawson, Gulliver and the gentle reader: studies in Swift and our time. (London and Boston 1973).
  28. A. L. Rowse, Jonathan Swift, major prophet. (London 1975).
  29. Alexander Norman Jeffares, Jonathan Swift. (London 1976).
  30. Clive T. Probyn, Jonathan Swift: the contemporary background. (Manchester 1978).
  31. Clive T. Probyn (ed.), The art of Jonathan Swift. (London 1978).
  32. Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The man, his works, and the age (three volumes). (London 1962–83).
  33. David M. Vieth (ed.), Essential articles for the study of Jonathan Swift's poetry. (Hamden 1984).
  34. James A. Downie, Jonathan Swift, political writer. (London 1985).
  35. Frederik N. Smith (ed.), The genres of Gulliver's travels. (London 1990).
  36. Joseph McMinn (ed.), Swift's Irish pamphlets. (Gerrards Cross 1991).
  37. Robert Mahony, Jonathan Swift: the Irish identity. (Yale 1995).
  38. Christopher Fox, Walking Naboth's vineyards: new studies of Swift (University of Notre Dame Ward-Philips lectures in English language and literature, Vol. 13). (Notre Dame/Indiana 1995).
  39. Claude Rawson (ed.), Jonathan Swift: a collection of critical essays. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jeresey, 1995).
  40. Michael Stanley, Famous Dubliners: W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone, Oscar Wilde, Edward Carson. (Dublin 1996).
  41. Daniel Carey, 'Swift among the freethinkers'. Eighteenth-century Ireland: Iris an dá chultúr, 12 (1997), 89–99.
  42. Victoria Glendinning, Jonathan Swift. (London 1998).
  43. Aileen Douglas; Patrick Kelly; Ian Campbell Ross, (eds.). Locating Swift: essays from Dublin on the 250th anniversary of the death of Jonathan Swift, 1667–1745. (Dublin 1998.
  44. Bruce Arnold, Swift: an illustrated life. (Dublin 1999).
  45. Nigel Wood (ed.), Jonathan Swift. (London and New York 1999).
  46. Christopher J. Fauske, Jonathan Swift and the Church of Ireland, 1710–24 (Portland/Oregon 2001).
  47. David George Boyce; Robert Eccleshall; Vincent Geoghegan (eds.), Political discourse in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Ireland. (Basingstoke and New York 2001).
  48. Ann Cline Kelly, Jonathan Swift and popular culture: myth, media and the man. (Basingstoke 2002).
  49. Dirk F. Passmann and Heinz J. Vienken, The library and reading of Jonathan Swift: a bio-bibliographical handbook. 4 vols. (Frankfurt 2003).
  50. Mark McDayter, 'The haunting of St James's Library: librarians, literature, and The Battle of the Books'. Huntington Library Quarterly, 66:1–2 (2003) 1–26.
  51. Frank T. Boyle, 'Jonathan Swift' [A companion to satire]. In: Ruben Quintero (ed.), A companion to satire (Oxford 2007) 196–211.
  52. Harry Whitaker, C. U. M. Smith and Stanley Finger (eds.), Explorations of the brain, mind and medicine in the writings of Jonathan Swift. Springer (US) 2007.
  53. Leo Damrosch, Jonathan Swift: his life and his world. Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History. New Haven: Yale University Press [2013].

The edition used in the digital edition

‘A serious and useful Scheme to make an Hospital for Incurables’ (1880). In: The works of Jonathan Swift D. D., Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin. Carefully selected: with a biography of the author, by D. Laing Purves; and original and authentic notes‍. Ed. by D. Laing Purves. Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo & Co., pp. 478–485.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {D. Laing Purves},
  title 	 = {A serious and useful Scheme to make an Hospital for Incurables},
  booktitle 	 = {The works of Jonathan Swift D. D., Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin. Carefully selected: with a biography of the author, by D. Laing Purves; and original and authentic notes},
  editor 	 = {D. Laing Purves},
  address 	 = {Edinburgh},
  publisher 	 = {William P. Nimmo \& Co.},
  date 	 = {1880},
  pages 	 = {478–485}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The text covers pages 478–485.

Editorial declarations

Correction: The text has been proof-read once.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text, with modernised spelling and punctuation. The editor's notes are tagged note type="auth" n="". Corrections to the printed version are marked corr sic="".

Quotation: Direct speech is rendered q.

Hyphenation: When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a line break, the break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word (and punctuation mark).

Segmentation: div0=the whole satire; div1=the section. Paragraphs are marked; page-breaks are marked pb n="".

Interpretation: Names of persons are tagged. Terms and phrases from languages other than English are tagged.

Reference declaration

A canonical reference to a location in this text should be made using “section”, eg section 1.

Profile description

Creation: By Jonathan Swift

Date: August 1733

Language usage

  • The whole text is in English. (en)
  • Some words and phrases are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: political; satire; prose; 18c

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2010-08-04: Conversion script run; header updated, file parsed. New SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2008-09-23: Keywords added; file validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2008-07-24: Value of div0 "type" attribute modified, minor modifications made to header. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2008-01-25: File parsed. SGML and HTML version created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2008-01-20: More markup applied. Bibliography inserted; header modified. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2008-01-05: Proofing (1) begun. Structural and content markup applied. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  7. 2007-12-15: Header constructed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  8. 2007-07-04: Text captured by scanning. (text capture Beatrix Färber)

Index to all documents

CELT Project Contacts



For details of the markup, see the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)

page of the print edition

folio of the manuscript

numbered division

 999 line number of the print edition (in grey: interpolated)

underlining: text supplied, added, or expanded editorially

italics: foreign words; corrections (hover to view); document titles

bold: lemmata (hover for readings)

wavy underlining: scribal additions in another hand; hand shifts flagged with (hover to view)

TEI markup for which a representation has not yet been decided is shown in red: comments and suggestions are welcome.

Source document


Search CELT

  1. This tract, published by Faulkner of Dublin in 1733, was afterwards suppressed—it is supposed, through fear of being interpreted as casting a slur on an hospital for incurables actually erected near Dublin. 🢀

  2. London 🢀


2 Carrigside, College Road, Cork