FACT CHECK: Did Jonathan Swift Say, ‘A Love Without Esteem Is Capricious And Volatile; Esteem Without Love Is Languid And Cold’?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

A Facebook post credits Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift with saying, “A love without esteem is capricious and volatile; esteem without love is languid and cold.”

Verdict: False

The statement does not appear in any of Swift’s written works. It actually comes from an anonymous essay published in 1753 that was likely written by John Hawkesworth.

Fact Check:

Swift, an Anglo-Irish writer active during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, is perhaps best known for writing “Gulliver’s Travels” and “A Modest Proposal.” (RELATED: ‘The Trick Is Not To Expect It But To Delight In It When It Comes’ – Did Charles Dickens Say This Quote About Happiness?)

While Swift did explore various elements of the human condition in his writings, there is no evidence that he authored the quote attributed to him in the Facebook post. A search of his complete works didn’t turn up any matching or similar phrases.

The Daily Caller reached out to several experts, all of whom confirmed the quote did not come from Swift.

“In fact it sounds like something Swift would NOT say,” Leo Damrosch, a literature professor at Harvard University, told the Caller in an email. “He was deeply suspicious of romantic love and always insisted that strong friendship was better.”

Other experts – Penn State Brandywine professor Paul deGategno and Hillsdale College professor Dutton Kearney – told the Caller that the statement comes from an anonymous article published in a March 1753 edition of a London-based journal. “It’s from The Adventurer, Essay Number 36,” said Kearney in an email to the Caller. “Swift never wrote for this journal.”

Hawkesworth, one of the publication’s founders, may have actually authored the saying, according to deGategno.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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