Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation

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For many years Swift had been assembling a collection of conversational inanities, probably since the turn of the eighteenth century. The germ of such a project can be seen in his

Tritical Essay upon The Faculties of the Mind


written in 1707, and published in 1711, which contains a take-off of the “stale Topicks and thread-bare Quotations” that characterised the style of many contemporary authors (


, 21). However, it was not until 1738 that the fruits of this obsessive behaviour emerged, with editions in quick succession from London and Dublin of the work generally known as

Polite Conversation.

Its fuller title reads

A Compleat Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, According to the most Polite Mode and Method, now Used at Court, and the Best Companies of England.

1662 words

Citation: Rogers, Pat. "Polite Conversation". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 27 May 2022 [, accessed 19 April 2024.]

2632 Polite Conversation 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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