It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town [Dublin; see ], or travel in the country [of Ireland], when they see the streets, the roads and cabin-doors [door-yards] crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning [begging] every passenger for an alms [handout]. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender [claimant to English throne; son of King James II] in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes [i.e., contract as indentured servants to the Caribbean].
 I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the commonwealth [state or society], would deserve so well of the public, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.
 But my intention is very far* from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater* extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets. [*comic excess + incongruously polite tone]
 As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors [social scientists?], I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropt [born] from its dam [dame, mother], may be supported by her milk, for a solar year*, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old* that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment [clothing] for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing of many thousands. [*precise empirical measures create a tone of disinterested science, while the language at end imitates earnestness of social reform, both typical of Enlightenment or Age of Reason and thus satirized]
 There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions*, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us, sacrificing the poor innocent babes, I doubt, more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast. [*What do with this?]
 The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple[s] whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couple[s], who are able to maintain their own children, (although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom) but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand, for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remain an hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is, How this number shall be reared, and provided for? which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build houses, (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing till they arrive at six years old; except where they are of towardly parts [promising abilities], although I confess they learn the rudiments [basic skills (of stealing)] much earlier; during which time they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers [trainees]: As I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me, that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.
[References below to young people as “saleable commodities” or as “selling themselves” may refer to apprenticeships or indentured service.]
 I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old, is no saleable commodity, and even when they come to this age, they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half a crown at most, on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriments and rags [food & clothing] having been at least four times that value. [pricing child plays on popular sentiments of one’s own children being priceless]
 I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.
 I have been assured by a very knowing American [see also para. 16] of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout [fricassee & ragout are stewed dishes or sauces w/ or w/o meat].
[Below, paragraph 10 below
imitates commentators on
 I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration, that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for [i.e., to] breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages [the poor of Ireland], therefore, one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table. [<narrator as naif appears laughable for ignorance of a mother’s likely attitude.] A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter [<terms appropriate to butchery, incongruous to human dignity] will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt [incongruity of precise detail in contrast to the proposal’s outrageous enormity], will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
 I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.
 I grant this food will be
somewhat dear [painfully costly],
and therefore very proper for landlords,
who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best
title to the children. [If a reader has missed satirical purpose, reference to “landlords”
having “already devoured” families relocates target of concern from poor of
 Infant's flesh will be in
season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and
after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish
being a prolific [advantageous]
diet, there are more children born in Roman
Catholic countries about nine months after Lent, the markets will be more
glutted than usual, because the number of Popish
infants, is at least three to one in this kingdom, and therefore it will have
one other collateral advantage, by
lessening the number of Papists among us.
 I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which list I reckon all cottagers, laborers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child [<incongruity of “gentleman” purchasing a slaughtered child’s carcass or body], which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend, or his own family to dine with him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his tenants, the mother will have eight shillings neat profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child. [<again the narrator’s extreme rationality is rendered irrational by his indifference to the likely attitude of the mother; a comic technique of scale is reduction of motherhood to a cash exchange.]
 Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay [remove the skin or hide of] the carcass; the skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen. [the narrator’s attention to the needs of the wealthy contrasts incongruously with his indifference to the poor]]
 As to our City of Dublin, shambles [slaughterhouses] may be appointed for this purpose, in the most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be wanting; although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife [preparing for cooking soon after dismembering], as we do roasting pigs.
 A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I highly esteem, was lately pleased, in discoursing on this matter, to offer a refinement upon my scheme. He said, that many gentlemen of this kingdom, having of late destroyed their deer [hunting privileges and problems of over-hunting were perpetual points of conflict between lords and peasantry], he conceived that the want of venison [deer meat] might be well supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age, nor under twelve; so great a number of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work and service: And these to be disposed of by their parents if alive, or otherwise by their nearest relations. But with due deference to so excellent a friend, and so deserving a patriot, I cannot be [share] altogether in his sentiments; for as to the males, my American* acquaintance* assured me from frequent experience, that their flesh was generally tough and lean, like that of our school-boys, by continual exercise, and their taste disagreeable, and to fatten them would not answer the charge. Then as to the females, it would, I think, with humble submission, be a loss to the public, because they soon would become breeders themselves: And besides, it is not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt to censure such a practice, (although indeed very unjustly) as a little bordering upon cruelty, which, I confess, hath always been with me the strongest objection against any project, how well soever intended. [*References to “American” expertise on cannibalism may relate to New-World travelers’ tales of cannibals, as in The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe ten years before this essay.]
 But in order to justify my friend, he confessed, that this expedient was put into his head by the famous Salmanaazor, a native of the island Formosa [Portuguese name for Taiwan, island off China coast], who came from thence to London, above twenty years ago, and in conversation told my friend, that in his country, when any young person happened to be put to death, the executioner sold the carcass to persons of quality, as a prime dainty; and that, in his time, the body of a plump girl of fifteen, who was crucified for an attempt to poison the Emperor, was sold to his imperial majesty's prime minister of state, and other great mandarins of the court in joints from the gibbet [gallows], at four hundred crowns. Neither indeed can I deny, that if the same use were made of several plump young girls in this town, who without one single groat [coin] to their fortunes, cannot stir abroad without a chair, and appear at a play-house [theater] and assemblies in foreign fineries which they never will pay for; the kingdom would not be the worse. [The “foreign fineries” and theater-going activities of these “young girls” may identify them with the wealthy, turning the eating-of-the-poor argument to a wider application.]
 Some persons of a desponding [pessimistic] spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed; and I have been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken, to ease the nation of so grievous an encumbrance [burden]. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known, that they are every day dying, and rotting, by cold and famine, and filth, and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in almost as hopeful a condition. [<”reason” and “hope” are incongruous to description] They cannot get work, and consequently pine away from want of nourishment, to a degree, that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labor, they have not strength to perform it, and thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come.
 I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. [<incongruity of tone and “subject.”] I think the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance.
 For first, as I have
already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of Papists, with whom we
are yearly over-run, being the principal breeders of the nation, as well as our
most dangerous enemies, and who stay at home on purpose with a design to deliver
the kingdom to the Pretender [claimant to
English throne; son of King James II],
hoping to take their advantage by the absence of so many good Protestants, who
have chosen rather to leave their country
[England], than stay at home and pay
tithes against their conscience to an episcopal curate.
[a parish priest of the Church of England; the
essay implies that if English Protestants wish to resist Catholicism, they might
have served the Church of England better by staying in
 Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which by law may be made liable to a distress [punitive fine], and help to pay their landlord's rent, their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown. [<another indication that the problem is not with the Irish poor but with their treatment by the wealthy English landlords]
 [>incongruity b/w worth of 100,000 children and value of a new menu item>] Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of an hundred thousand children, from two years old, and upwards, cannot be computed at less than ten shillings a piece per annum, the nation's stock will be thereby increased fifty thousand pounds per annum, besides the profit of a new dish, introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom, who have any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among our selves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture.
 Fourthly, The constant breeders, besides the gain of eight shillings sterling per annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them after the first year.
 Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom [increased sales] to taverns, where the vintners [wine-makers] will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for dressing it [making sauces for the new food] to perfection; and consequently have their houses [<taverns or inns] frequented by all the fine gentlemen, who justly value themselves upon their knowledge in good eating; and a skillful cook, who understands how to oblige his guests, will contrive to make it as expensive as they please. [again the inhumanity of the landlords is implied by their supposed association of human flesh with choice cuts of beef or pork]
 Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations have either encouraged by rewards, or enforced by laws and penalties. It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers towards their children [<ridiculous substitution of profit motive for mothers’ evolutionary imperative to care for their children>], when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the public, to their annual profit instead of expense. We should soon see an honest emulation [competition] among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives, during the time of their pregnancy, as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, or sow when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.
 [>First sentence exemplifies rational-empirical tone of absurd proposal>] Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of some thousand carcasses in our exportation of barreled beef: the propagation of swine's flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much wanted among us by the great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our tables [<note implicit sympathy for pigs, in contrast to indifference to human poor]; which are no way comparable in taste or magnificence to a well grown, fat yearly child, which roasted whole will make a considerable figure at a Lord Mayor's feast, or any other public entertainment. But this, and many others, I omit, being studious of brevity.
 Supposing that one thousand families in this city, would be constant customers for infants’ flesh, besides others who might have it at merry meetings, particularly at weddings and christenings [irony], I compute that Dublin would take off annually about twenty thousand carcasses; and the rest of the kingdom (where probably they will be sold somewhat cheaper) the remaining eighty thousand.
 I can think of no one
objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should
be urged, that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the
kingdom. This I freely own, and 'twas indeed one principal design in offering it
[the modest proposal]
to the world. I desire the reader will observe,
that I calculate my remedy for this one individual
 Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glimpse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.
 But, as to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expense and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging [inconveniencing] England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it [salt].
 After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion, as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, As things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for a hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly, There being a round million of creatures in humane figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock, would leave them in debt two million of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession, to the bulk of farmers, cottagers and labourers, with their wives and children, who are beggars in effect; I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food at a year old, in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes, as they have since gone through, by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the inclemencies [severities] of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing [bequeathing] the like, or greater miseries, upon their breed for ever.
 I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest [as in financial interest] in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children, by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.
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