There is a verbal problem which can be confusing for readers of Gulliver’s Travels. They have ceaselessly been told, almost from the day on which Swift’s novel first appeared, that it was consummately misanthropic; and this was quite true, upon the basis of a certain definition of misanthropy. Moreover, no one has explained this particular definition more clearly than Swift himself. In November 1725, on the eve of the publication of the Travels, he wrote, in a famous letter to Alexander Pope, “When you think of the world give it one lash the more at my request. I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities, and all my love is towards individuals: for instance, I hate the tribe of lawyers, but I love Counsellor Such-a-one, and Judge Such-a-one . . . . But principally I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth. This is the system upon which I have governed myself many years, but do not tell.” There is no reason to disbelieve what Swift says here; though if we feel we need proof, we can find it in his biography; for he plainly had very tender feelings for his Stella and Vanessa, and he spoke poignantly of “the terrible wounds near my heart” that the deaths of the Johns Gay and Arbuthnot had been to him.
more from P. N. Furbank at the TLS here.