Known as the master of English prose satire, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) told Alexander Pope that he wrote this masterpiece to "vex the world rather than divert it." In a cruel twist of irony, it paints humans as either stupid or ape-like. Four extraordinary journeys of ship's surgeon Lemuel Gulliver are described in a straightforward and unadorned narrative, including one to Lilliput, where inhabitants only six inches tall bicker over trivialities, and another to Brobdingnag, where giants reduce man to insignificance.
This timeless work has broad appeal thanks to its combination of a child-friendly writing style and painstaking attention to detail. For older readers, it's a hilarious send-up of 18th-century English manners and morals as well as a satire of Swift's own time in politics.
As the third of five sons, my father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire, which I inherited. At age 14, he sent me to Emanuel College in Cambridge, where I stayed for three years and worked hard in school. However, the cost of keeping me there was too much for our modest income, so I was forced to take a job as an apprentice with Mr. The renowned London surgeon James Bates, with whom I stayed for four years; my father's occasional small financial contributions, which I invested in studying navigation and other travel-related mathematics the likes of which I had always assumed it would be my good fortune to do Before I left Mr. Bates, I went to see my dad, and thanks to him and my uncle John and some other relatives, I was able to save up enough money to cover tuition and living expenses for two years and seven months of physics school at Leyden. understanding its utility on extended journeys
As soon as I got back from Leyden, my good master Mr. Bates, the new head surgeon at
for another three and a half years, with Captain Abraham Pannell at the helm; we made a couple of trips to the Levant and other places. I returned home with the intention of making London my permanent home, and Mr. My master, Bates, was very supportive of me, and he referred me to a number of patients. I bought a portion of a modest home in the Old Jury and, on the advice of friends, I changed my living situation by marrying Mrs. Mrs. Mary Burton, the middle child of Mr. Edward Burton, a hosier on Newgate Street, gave me four hundred pounds in exchange for a cut of his business. Two years after the death of my good master Bates, my business began to fail; for my conscience would not permit me to imitate the bad practice of too many of my brethren. Thus, after talking it over with my wife and a few friends, I've decided to head back out to sea. Over the course of six years, I worked as the ship's surgeon on two different vessels and sailed several times between the East and West Indies, where I was able to increase my financial standing. When I wasn't out on the water, I was reading some of the best works ever written, both ancient and modern, from the plentiful library at my disposal. wherein I was very competent because of the sharpness of my memory.
The last of these trips didn't go so well, so I decided to stay put with my wife and kids for a while. I had moved from the Old Jury to Fetter-Lane and then to Wapping in the hopes of doing business with the local naval personnel, but my efforts were ultimately fruitless. Following a three-year wait in the hopes that things would improve, I took an advantageous offer from the ship's master, Captain William Prichard.
While they were moving back and forth across my body, I must admit that I often wanted to grab forty or fifty of the first ones that came within my reach and smash them on the ground. These fantasies were quickly dispelled, however, by the recollection of how I had felt (which, in retrospect, wasn't the worst thing they could do) and the promise of honor I had made them (or so I had thought when I was acting submissively). Furthermore, I now believed that I was obligated by the laws of hospitality to the people who had lavished such luxury and expense upon me. Even though I had one hand free, my mind could not process the audacity of these puny humans to mount and walk upon my body. not being frightened by the sight of such a gigantic being as I must be to them When they saw that I was done asking for meat, a high-ranking representative from His Imperial Majesty's court suddenly appeared before me. After climbing up the inside of my right leg, His Excellency led a small army of attendants to an attack on my face. Producing his credentials under the Signet Royal, which he applied close to my eyes, he spoke for ten minutes, showing no signs of anger but rather a kind of determined resolution, frequently pointing forwards, which I later learned was in the direction of the capital city, about half a mile away. where His Majesty's Council has decreed I must be transported With few words and no real intent, I responded, putting my free hand over his Excellency's head so as not to damage him or his train, and then bringing it down to sign over my own head and body. for the express purpose of demonstrating my eagerness for independence He shook his head in disapproval and held out his hand as if to show that I needed to be carried as a prisoner, so I gathered that he understood me just fine. Other than that, he used signs to convey to me that I would be provided with adequate food and drink and excellent care. Then I considered trying to free myself once more, but when I felt the sting of their arrows on my face and hands, which were now covered in blisters and still had many of the darts embedded in them, and when I saw that my enemies had grown in number, I decided against it. I gave them tokens to show that they could treat me however they wished. Upon hearing this, the Hurgo and his train retreated with good manners and smiling faces. Soon after, I heard a general shout consisting of repeated chants of "Peplom selan," and I could feel a sizable portion of the people on my left side loosening the cords enough to allow me to turn to my right. and to calm myself by making water, which I did in great abundance, much to the surprise of the people, who had guessed my plan from the way I was acting and had consequently opened to the right and left on that side. so I could avoid the deluge that was crashing down on me with such a roar and a violence that scared the cats Before this, however, they had slathered some sort of ointment on my face and both my hands that had a pleasant aroma and, within minutes, had taken away all the sting from their arrows. The combination of these factors and the reviving effects of their nourishing food and drink put me in the mood for a nap. After the fact, I was told that I slept for around eight hours; and it was no surprise, since the Emperor had ordered the doctors to mix a sleepy potion into the wine hogsheads. It would appear that the very first thing that happened after I landed was that I was found sleeping on the ground. It was brought to the Emperor's attention via express, and he ordered that I be tied in the manner I have described (during the night while I slept), and that he send me an abundance of food and drink. with a vehicle waiting to take me to the state capital. To some, this decision may seem extremely courageous and risky; indeed, I am quite certain that no European prince would follow suit on a similar occasion; however, I believe that it was both extremely prudent and generous. Because if these people had tried to kill me while I slept with spears and arrows, I would have woken up with the first sense of smart, which might have roused my rage and strength. so that I was able to cut the ropes that bound me; and since they offered no resistance, I showed them no pity. They are outstanding mathematicians who have achieved great success in the field of mechanics with the support of the Emperor, a well-known patron of science and scholarship. This prince has a number of wheeled machines for moving heavy objects like trees. Some of his largest men-of-war are only nine feet long, and he has them hauled on these engines the three or four hundred yards to the water from the woods where the timber grows. The greatest engine they had was immediately put into the hands of 500 carpenters and engineers. About seven feet in length and four in width, the wooden frame was suspended three inches off the ground and propelled by twenty-two wheels. I heard a shout when this engine, which apparently left four hours after my landing, finally arrived. As I laid there, it was positioned parallel to me. The hardest part, however, was lifting me up and putting me in the car. Eighty one-foot poles were set up for this, and very strong cords the size of packthread were hooked to numerous bandages that the construction workers had wrapped around my neck, hands, body, and legs. Over the course of three hours, nine hundred of the strongest men were employed to draw up these cords using a system of pulleys mounted on the poles, and I was successfully hoisted, slung, and secured in the engine. This was all relayed to me after I had fallen asleep during the entire procedure thanks to the soporiferous medicine that had been mixed into my drink. Half a mile away, I was dragged to the city by fifteen hundred of the emperor's largest horses, each of which stood about four and a half inches tall. I was woken up by a ridiculous accident about four hours into our journey, when the carriage had to be stopped for a while so that something broken could be fixed. Upon hearing that I was sleeping, two or three of the young natives climbed into the engine, and one of them, a member of the Guards, approached my face very gently. I awoke from a deep sleep to find that someone had shoved the pointy end of his half-pike up my left nostril, where it tickled like a straw and caused me to sneeze violently. They then snuck away unnoticed, and it was three weeks before I figured out what had woken me up. We continued marching for the rest of the day, and that night I slept with two rows of 500 guards, each armed with a torch and bow and arrows in case I tried to get up. At first light the following day, we resumed our march and by midday had come within two hundred yards of the city gates. The emperor and his entourage came out to greet us, but his high-ranking officers wouldn't let him risk his life by riding on top of me. An ancient temple, once thought to be the largest in the entire kingdom, stood where the carriage came to a halt. However, after being desecrated by an unnatural murder a number of years prior, the temple was shunned by the faithful. since they had been put to mundane purposes and had had their furnishings and decorations removed It was decided that I would stay in this building. The north-facing great gate was only about four feet high and almost two feet wide, so I could easily slink through it. Each side of the gate had a small window that was no more than six inches off the ground; into the one on the left, the King's smiths brought fourscore and eleven chains, about the same size as the ones that European women use to hang their watches from their wrists, to be used as a decoration. which I had padlocked with six and thirty locks to my left leg Twenty feet away from this temple, on the opposite side of the major road, stood a turret that must have been at least five feet tall. In this way, I was told, the emperor and many of the principal lords of his court were able to get a good look at me, though I still couldn't see them. Above a hundred thousand people were estimated to have left the city on the same mission, and despite my guards, I'm confident that there were no fewer than ten thousand people who climbed ladders to reach my body and stood atop me at various points. But a decree was quickly issued to make it illegal under penalty of death. Once the construction workers realized I couldn't escape, they snipped every last one of my restraints, and I got up feeling more down than I ever had before. Yet, the commotion and surprise of the crowd as they saw me stand and walk cannot be put into words. My left leg was bound by chains about two yards long, which not only let me walk backwards and forwards in a semicircle but also, because they were fastened to the temple wall just four inches from the gate, let me sneak inside and lie down flat. Copyright 1999 Tom Doherty Associates, LLC all original content
Author's property 1996, Jonathan Swift This passage has been excerpted with the author's permission. This is a protected work. Without the express written permission of the author/publisher, this excerpt may not be copied or distributed in any form.
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