America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Jonathan Swift Applies to The Onion
Cameron Hunt McNabb
13 March 2015
To the Most Honourable Parties of Concern:
What Occasion I have the Pleasure of writing to you is to commend myself to the Position of contributing Author to your great Scheme, so titled The Onion. My Work has found its way into diverse Countries and Places and into an Audience of equal proportion. Most notably my modest, republican Proposal regarding the Children of the Poor in the deplorable Kingdom of Ireland was met with Praise for its free market Expediency (see the writing sample and the Honourable Stephen T. Colbert’s letter of reference attached). I do therefore humbly offer it to your consideration that, in all ways possible, I am well suited to this Occupation.
For first let me applaud the title of your Publication. An Onion is by far the most approved Object for your Endeavour, as it moves Tears in the eyes of even the most Savage and inhuman breast. This can be the only response by Members of our common-wealth to the Subjects and Opinions of the day, upon which you and your Learned and Polite Persons report.
Secondly, I am fond of Onions, whether roasted or boiled or stewed, and they are a Commodity in Climates varied. Thus the Readers of your Sentiments are not met with a thing unknown, and the best Course for being informed on new Thoughts is that which one already likes and is well acquainted with.
But I have digressed, and I shall therefore return to my subject and humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least Objection.
I, being one not prone to melancholy or a desponding Spirit, believe that the Rudiments of my Art will produce some hearty and sincere attempt in discoursing on Topicks of publick attention. Be they matters of the Nation's Debts, the Wars abroad, or the Undertakings of Miley (of Cyrus), I shall not fail to record these events, as a Patriot, for the Country. In years past such Accounts have been filled with vain, idle, visionary thoughts on Politicians, Dynasties of ducks, and Roman Catholicks, so that I am altogether certain that these current Schemes are in dire need of such an refined Recorder.
Moreover, such a Project will be of Use towards the Improvement of Knowledge, the Preservation of our Religious Constitution, and the Correcting and Enlarging of our Language, all of which lie under the Mortification of extreme Imperfection (see the writing sample “A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue” attached). The Purity of the English Tongue in particular has decayed into such vulgar Monosyllables, from the barbarous Custom of abbreviating Words in Observations on the Twitter, that save for my Style and your Patronage, all hope would be lost.
I think the advantages of my Application which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance. I beg you not to let me at length utterly despair of Success but to heed those Virtues which all so highly esteem and put my Work into Practice.
Your most Obedient, most Obliged, and most Humble Servant,
Cameron Hunt McNabb is an assistant professor of English at Southeastern University. She specializes in medieval and early modern drama, and she has published in numerous peer-reviewed and popular venues. Most recently, she published two articles in Salon, "The truth about Internet slang: it goes way back" and "The creation of William Shakespeare: how the Bard really became a legend."