Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World
by Jonathan Swift
[As given in the original edition.]
The author of these Travels, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, is my ancient
and intimate friend; there is likewise some relation between us
on the mother's side. About three years ago, Mr. Gulliver
growing weary of the concourse of curious people coming to him at
his house in Redriff, made a small purchase of land, with a
convenient house, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire, his native
country; where he now lives retired, yet in good esteem among his
Although Mr. Gulliver was born in Nottinghamshire, where his
father dwelt, yet I have heard him say his family came from
Oxfordshire; to confirm which, I have observed in the churchyard
at Banbury in that county, several tombs and monuments of the
Before he quitted Redriff, he left the custody of the following
papers in my hands, with the liberty to dispose of them as I
should think fit. I have carefully perused them three times.
The style is very plain and simple; and the only fault I find is,
that the author, after the manner of travellers, is a little too
circumstantial. There is an air of truth apparent through the
whole; and indeed the author was so distinguished for his
veracity, that it became a sort of proverb among his neighbours
at Redriff, when any one affirmed a thing, to say, it was as true
as if Mr. Gulliver had spoken it.
By the advice of several worthy persons, to whom, with the
author's permission, I communicated these papers, I now venture
to send them into the world, hoping they may be, at least for
some time, a better entertainment to our young noblemen, than the
common scribbles of politics and party.
This volume would have been at least twice as large, if I had not
made bold to strike out innumerable passages relating to the
winds and tides, as well as to the variations and bearings in the
several voyages, together with the minute descriptions of the
management of the ship in storms, in the style of sailors;
likewise the account of longitudes and latitudes; wherein I have
reason to apprehend, that Mr. Gulliver may be a little
dissatisfied. But I was resolved to fit the work as much as
possible to the general capacity of readers. However, if my own
ignorance in sea affairs shall have led me to commit some
mistakes, I alone am answerable for them. And if any traveller
hath a curiosity to see the whole work at large, as it came from
the hands of the author, I will be ready to gratify him.
As for any further particulars relating to the author, the reader
will receive satisfaction from the first pages of the book.
I hope you will be ready to own publicly, whenever you shall be
called to it, that by your great and frequent urgency you
prevailed on me to publish a very loose and uncorrect account of
my travels, with directions to hire some young gentleman of
either university to put them in order, and correct the style, as
my cousin Dampier did, by my advice, in his book called "A Voyage
round the world." But I do not remember I gave you power to
consent that any thing should be omitted, and much less that any
thing should be inserted; therefore, as to the latter, I do here
renounce every thing of that kind; particularly a paragraph about
her majesty Queen Anne, of most pious and glorious memory;
although I did reverence and esteem her more than any of human
species. But you, or your interpolator, ought to have
considered, that it was not my inclination, so was it not decent
to praise any animal of our composition before my master
HOUYHNHNM: And besides, the fact was altogether false; for to my
knowledge, being in England during some part of her majesty's
reign, she did govern by a chief minister; nay even by two
successively, the first whereof was the lord of Godolphin, and
the second the lord of Oxford; so that you have made me say the
thing that was not. Likewise in the account of the academy of
projectors, and several passages of my discourse to my master
HOUYHNHNM, you have either omitted some material circumstances,
or minced or changed them in such a manner, that I do hardly know
my own work. When I formerly hinted to you something of this in
a letter, you were pleased to answer that you were afraid of
giving offence; that people in power were very watchful over the
press, and apt not only to interpret, but to punish every thing
which looked like an INNUENDO (as I think you call it). But,
pray how could that which I spoke so many years ago, and at about
five thousand leagues distance, in another reign, be applied to
any of the YAHOOS, who now are said to govern the herd;
especially at a time when I little thought, or feared, the
unhappiness of living under them? Have not I the most reason to
complain, when I see these very YAHOOS carried by HOUYHNHNMS in a
vehicle, as if they were brutes, and those the rational
creatures? And indeed to avoid so monstrous and detestable a
sight was one principal motive of my retirement hither.
Thus much I thought proper to tell you in relation to yourself,
and to the trust I reposed in you.
I do, in the next place, complain of my own great want of
judgment, in being prevailed upon by the entreaties and false
reasoning of you and some others, very much against my own
opinion, to suffer my travels to be published. Pray bring to
your mind how often I desired you to consider, when you insisted
on the motive of public good, that the YAHOOS were a species of
animals utterly incapable of amendment by precept or example:
and so it has proved; for, instead of seeing a full stop put to
all abuses and corruptions, at least in this little island, as I
had reason to expect; behold, after above six months warning, I
cannot learn that my book has produced one single effect
according to my intentions. I desired you would let me know, by
a letter, when party and faction were extinguished; judges
learned and upright; pleaders honest and modest, with some
tincture of common sense, and Smithfield blazing with pyramids of
law books; the young nobility's education entirely changed; the
physicians banished; the female YAHOOS abounding in virtue,
honour, truth, and good sense; courts and levees of great
ministers thoroughly weeded and swept; wit, merit, and learning
rewarded; all disgracers of the press in prose and verse
condemned to eat nothing but their own cotton, and quench their
thirst with their own ink. These, and a thousand other
reformations, I firmly counted upon by your encouragement; as
indeed they were plainly deducible from the precepts delivered in
my book. And it must be owned, that seven months were a
sufficient time to correct every vice and folly to which YAHOOS
are subject, if their natures had been capable of the least
disposition to virtue or wisdom. Yet, so far have you been from
answering my expectation in any of your letters; that on the
contrary you are loading our carrier every week with libels, and
keys, and reflections, and memoirs, and second parts; wherein I
see myself accused of reflecting upon great state folk; of
degrading human nature (for so they have still the confidence to
style it), and of abusing the female sex. I find likewise that
the writers of those bundles are not agreed among themselves; for
some of them will not allow me to be the author of my own
travels; and others make me author of books to which I am wholly
a stranger.
I find likewise that your printer has been so careless as to
confound the times, and mistake the dates, of my several voyages
and returns; neither assigning the true year, nor the true month,
nor day of the month: and I hear the original manuscript is all
destroyed since the publication of my book; neither have I any
copy left: however, I have sent you some corrections, which you
may insert, if ever there should be a second edition: and yet I
cannot stand to them; but shall leave that matter to my judicious
and candid readers to adjust it as they please.
I hear some of our sea YAHOOS find fault with my sea-language, as
not proper in many parts, nor now in use. I cannot help it. In
my first voyages, while I was young, I was instructed by the
oldest mariners, and learned to speak as they did. But I have
since found that the sea YAHOOS are apt, like the land ones, to
become new-fangled in their words, which the latter change every
year; insomuch, as I remember upon each return to my own country
their old dialect was so altered, that I could hardly understand
the new. And I observe, when any YAHOO comes from London out of
curiosity to visit me at my house, we neither of us are able to
deliver our conceptions in a manner intelligible to the other.
If the censure of the YAHOOS could any way affect me, I should
have great reason to complain, that some of them are so bold as
to think my book of travels a mere fiction out of mine own brain,
and have gone so far as to drop hints, that the HOUYHNHNMS and
YAHOOS have no more existence than the inhabitants of Utopia.
Indeed I must confess, that as to the people of LILLIPUT,
BROBDINGRAG (for so the word should have been spelt, and not
erroneously BROBDINGNAG), and LAPUTA, I have never yet heard of
any YAHOO so presumptuous as to dispute their being, or the facts
I have related concerning them; because the truth immediately
strikes every reader with conviction. And is there less
probability in my account of the HOUYHNHNMS or YAHOOS, when it is
manifest as to the latter, there are so many thousands even in
this country, who only differ from their brother brutes in
HOUYHNHNMLAND, because they use a sort of jabber, and do not go
naked? I wrote for their amendment, and not their approbation.
The united praise of the whole race would be of less consequence
to me, than the neighing of those two degenerate HOUYHNHNMS I
keep in my stable; because from these, degenerate as they are, I
still improve in some virtues without any mixture of vice.
Do these miserable animals presume to think, that I am so
degenerated as to defend my veracity? YAHOO as I am, it is well
known through all HOUYHNHNMLAND, that, by the instructions and
example of my illustrious master, I was able in the compass of
two years (although I confess with the utmost difficulty) to
remove that infernal habit of lying, shuffling, deceiving, and
equivocating, so deeply rooted in the very souls of all my
species; especially the Europeans.
I have other complaints to make upon this vexatious occasion; but
I forbear troubling myself or you any further. I must freely
confess, that since my last return, some corruptions of my YAHOO
nature have revived in me by conversing with a few of your
species, and particularly those of my own family, by an
unavoidable necessity; else I should never have attempted so
absurd a project as that of reforming the YAHOO race in this
kingdom: But I have now done with all such visionary schemes for
APRIL 2, 1727
[The author gives some account of himself and family. His first
inducements to travel. He is shipwrecked, and swims for his
life. Gets safe on shore in the country of Lilliput; is made a
prisoner, and carried up the country.]
My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire: I was the third
of five sons. He sent me to Emanuel College in Cambridge at
fourteen years old, where I resided three years, and applied
myself close to my studies; but the charge of maintaining me,
although I had a very scanty allowance, being too great for a
narrow fortune, I was bound apprentice to Mr. James Bates, an
eminent surgeon in London, with whom I continued four years. My
father now and then sending me small sums of money, I laid them
out in learning navigation, and other parts of the mathematics,
useful to those who intend to travel, as I always believed it
would be, some time or other, my fortune to do. When I left Mr.
Bates, I went down to my father: where, by the assistance of him
and my uncle John, and some other relations, I got forty pounds,
and a promise of thirty pounds a year to maintain me at Leyden:
there I studied physic two years and seven months, knowing it
would be useful in long voyages.
Soon after my return from Leyden, I was recommended by my good
master, Mr. Bates, to be surgeon to the Swallow, Captain Abraham
Pannel, commander; with whom I continued three years and a half,
making a voyage or two into the Levant, and some other parts.
When I came back I resolved to settle in London; to which Mr.
Bates, my master, encouraged me, and by him I was recommended to
several patients. I took part of a small house in the Old Jewry;
and being advised to alter my condition, I married Mrs. Mary
Burton, second daughter to Mr. Edmund Burton, hosier, in
Newgate-street, with whom I received four hundred pounds for a
But my good master Bates dying in two years after, and I having
few friends, my business began to fail; for my conscience would
not suffer me to imitate the bad practice of too many among my
brethren. Having therefore consulted with my wife, and some of
my acquaintance, I determined to go again to sea. I was surgeon
successively in two ships, and made several voyages, for six
years, to the East and West Indies, by which I got some addition
to my fortune. My hours of leisure I spent in reading the best
authors, ancient and modern, being always provided with a good
number of books; and when I was ashore, in observing the manners
and dispositions of the people, as well as learning their
language; wherein I had a great facility, by the strength of my
The last of these voyages not proving very fortunate, I grew
weary of the sea, and intended to stay at home with my wife and
family. I removed from the Old Jewry to Fetter Lane, and from
thence to Wapping, hoping to get business among the sailors; but
it would not turn to account. After three years expectation that
things would mend, I accepted an advantageous offer from Captain
William Prichard, master of the Antelope, who was making a voyage
to the South Sea. We set sail from Bristol, May 4, 1699, and our
voyage was at first very prosperous.
It would not be proper, for some reasons, to trouble the reader
with the particulars of our adventures in those seas; let it
suffice to inform him, that in our passage from thence to the
East Indies, we were driven by a violent storm to the north-west
of Van Diemen's Land. By an observation, we found ourselves in
the latitude of 30 degrees 2 minutes south. Twelve of our crew
were dead by immoderate labour and ill food; the rest were in a
very weak condition. On the 5th of November, which was the
beginning of summer in those parts, the weather being very hazy,
the seamen spied a rock within half a cable's length of the ship;
but the wind was so strong, that we were driven directly upon it,
and immediately split. Six of the crew, of whom I was one,
having let down the boat into the sea, made a shift to get clear
of the ship and the rock. We rowed, by my computation, about
three leagues, till we were able to work no longer, being already
spent with labour while we were in the ship. We therefore
trusted ourselves to the mercy of the waves, and in about half an
hour the boat was overset by a sudden flurry from the north.
What became of my companions in the boat, as well as of those who
escaped on the rock, or were left in the vessel, I cannot tell;
but conclude they were all lost. For my own part, I swam as
fortune directed me, and was pushed forward by wind and tide. I
often let my legs drop, and could feel no bottom; but when I was
almost gone, and able to struggle no longer, I found myself
within my depth; and by this time the storm was much abated. The
declivity was so small, that I walked near a mile before I got to
the shore, which I conjectured was about eight o'clock in the
evening. I then advanced forward near half a mile, but could not
discover any sign of houses or inhabitants; at least I was in so
weak a condition, that I did not observe them. I was extremely
tired, and with that, and the heat of the weather, and about half
a pint of brandy that I drank as I left the ship, I found myself
much inclined to sleep. I lay down on the grass, which was very
short and soft, where I slept sounder than ever I remembered to
have done in my life, and, as I reckoned, about nine hours; for
when I awaked, it was just day-light. I attempted to rise, but
was not able to stir: for, as I happened to lie on my back, I
found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the
ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down in the
same manner. I likewise felt several slender ligatures across my
body, from my arm-pits to my thighs. I could only look upwards;
the sun began to grow hot, and the light offended my eyes. I
heard a confused noise about me; but in the posture I lay, could
see nothing except the sky. In a little time I felt something
alive moving on my left leg, which advancing gently forward over
my breast, came almost up to my chin; when, bending my eyes
downwards as much as I could, I perceived it to be a human
creature not six inches high, with a bow and arrow in his hands,
and a quiver at his back. In the mean time, I felt at least
forty more of the same kind (as I conjectured) following the
first. I was in the utmost astonishment, and roared so loud, that
they all ran back in a fright; and some of them, as I was
afterwards told, were hurt with the falls they got by leaping
from my sides upon the ground. However, they soon returned, and
one of them, who ventured so far as to get a full sight of my
face, lifting up his hands and eyes by way of admiration, cried
out in a shrill but distinct voice, HEKINAH DEGUL: the others
repeated the same words several times, but then I knew not what
they meant. I lay all this while, as the reader may believe, in
great uneasiness. At length, struggling to get loose, I had the
fortune to break the strings, and wrench out the pegs that
fastened my left arm to the ground; for, by lifting it up to my
face, I discovered the methods they had taken to bind me, and at
the same time with a violent pull, which gave me excessive pain,
I a little loosened the strings that tied down my hair on the
left side, so that I was just able to turn my head about two
inches. But the creatures ran off a second time, before I could
seize them; whereupon there was a great shout in a very shrill
accent, and after it ceased I heard one of them cry aloud TOLGO
PHONAC; when in an instant I felt above a hundred arrows
discharged on my left hand, which, pricked me like so many
needles; and besides, they shot another flight into the air, as
we do bombs in Europe, whereof many, I suppose, fell on my body,
(though I felt them not), and some on my face, which I
immediately covered with my left hand. When this shower of
arrows was over, I fell a groaning with grief and pain; and then
striving again to get loose, they discharged another volley
larger than the first, and some of them attempted with spears to
stick me in the sides; but by good luck I had on a buff jerkin,
which they could not pierce. I thought it the most prudent
method to lie still, and my design was to continue so till night,
when, my left hand being already loose, I could easily free
myself: and as for the inhabitants, I had reason to believe I
might be a match for the greatest army they could bring against
me, if they were all of the same size with him that I saw. But
fortune disposed otherwise of me. When the people observed I was
quiet, they discharged no more arrows; but, by the noise I heard,
I knew their numbers increased; and about four yards from me,
over against my right ear, I heard a knocking for above an hour,
like that of people at work; when turning my head that way, as
well as the pegs and strings would permit me, I saw a stage
erected about a foot and a half from the ground, capable of
holding four of the inhabitants, with two or three ladders to
mount it: from whence one of them, who seemed to be a person of
quality, made me a long speech, whereof I understood not one
syllable. But I should have mentioned, that before the principal
person began his oration, he cried out three times, LANGRO DEHUL
SAN (these words and the former were afterwards repeated and
explained to me); whereupon, immediately, about fifty of the
inhabitants came and cut the strings that fastened the left side
of my head, which gave me the liberty of turning it to the right,
and of observing the person and gesture of him that was to speak.
He appeared to be of a middle age, and taller than any of the
other three who attended him, whereof one was a page that held up
his train, and seemed to be somewhat longer than my middle
finger; the other two stood one on each side to support him. He
acted every part of an orator, and I could observe many periods
of threatenings, and others of promises, pity, and kindness. I
answered in a few words, but in the most submissive manner,
lifting up my left hand, and both my eyes to the sun, as calling
him for a witness; and being almost famished with hunger, having
not eaten a morsel for some hours before I left the ship, I found
the demands of nature so strong upon me, that I could not forbear
showing my impatience (perhaps against the strict rules of
decency) by putting my finger frequently to my mouth, to signify
that I wanted food. The HURGO (for so they call a great lord, as
I afterwards learnt) understood me very well. He descended from
the stage, and commanded that several ladders should be applied
to my sides, on which above a hundred of the inhabitants mounted
and walked towards my mouth, laden with baskets full of meat,
which had been provided and sent thither by the king's orders,
upon the first intelligence he received of me. I observed there
was the flesh of several animals, but could not distinguish them
by the taste. There were shoulders, legs, and loins, shaped like
those of mutton, and very well dressed, but smaller than the
wings of a lark. I ate them by two or three at a mouthful, and
took three loaves at a time, about the bigness of musket bullets.
They supplied me as fast as they could, showing a thousand marks
of wonder and astonishment at my bulk and appetite. I then made
another sign, that I wanted drink. They found by my eating that
a small quantity would not suffice me; and being a most ingenious
people, they slung up, with great dexterity, one of their largest
hogsheads, then rolled it towards my hand, and beat out the top;
I drank it off at a draught, which I might well do, for it did
not hold half a pint, and tasted like a small wine of Burgundy,
but much more delicious. They brought me a second hogshead,
which I drank in the same manner, and made signs for more; but
they had none to give me. When I had performed these wonders,
they shouted for joy, and danced upon my breast, repeating
several times as they did at first, HEKINAH DEGUL. They made me
a sign that I should throw down the two hogsheads, but first
warning the people below to stand out of the way, crying aloud,
BORACH MEVOLAH; and when they saw the vessels in the air, there
was a universal shout of HEKINAH DEGUL. I confess I was often
tempted, while they were passing backwards and forwards on my
body, to seize forty or fifty of the first that came in my reach,
and dash them against the ground. But the remembrance of what I
had felt, which probably might not be the worst they could do,
and the promise of honour I made them--for so I interpreted my
submissive behaviour--soon drove out these imaginations.
Besides, I now considered myself as bound by the laws of
hospitality, to a people who had treated me with so much expense
and magnificence. However, in my thoughts I could not
sufficiently wonder at the intrepidity of these diminutive
mortals, who durst venture to mount and walk upon my body, while
one of my hands was at liberty, without trembling at the very
sight of so prodigious a creature as I must appear to them.
After some time, when they observed that I made no more demands
for meat, there appeared before me a person of high rank from his
imperial majesty. His excellency, having mounted on the small of
my right leg, advanced forwards up to my face, with about a dozen
of his retinue; and producing his credentials under the signet
royal, which he applied close to my eyes, spoke about ten minutes
without any signs of anger, but with a kind of determinate
resolution, often pointing forwards, which, as I afterwards
found, was towards the capital city, about half a mile distant;
whither it was agreed by his majesty in council that I must be
conveyed. I answered in few words, but to no purpose, and made a
sign with my hand that was loose, putting it to the other (but
over his excellency's head for fear of hurting him or his train)
and then to my own head and body, to signify that I desired my
liberty. It appeared that he understood me well enough, for he
shook his head by way of disapprobation, and held his hand in a
posture to show that I must be carried as a prisoner. However,
he made other signs to let me understand that I should have meat
and drink enough, and very good treatment. Whereupon I once more
thought of attempting to break my bonds; but again, when I felt
the smart of their arrows upon my face and hands, which were all
in blisters, and many of the darts still sticking in them, and
observing likewise that the number of my enemies increased, I
gave tokens to let them know that they might do with me what they
pleased. Upon this, the HURGO and his train withdrew, with much
civility and cheerful countenances. Soon after I heard a general
shout, with frequent repetitions of the words PEPLOM SELAN; and I
felt great numbers of people on my left side relaxing the cords
to such a degree, that I was able to turn upon my right, and to
ease myself with making water; which I very plentifully did, to
the great astonishment of the people; who, conjecturing by my
motion what I was going to do, immediately opened to the right
and left on that side, to avoid the torrent, which fell with such
noise and violence from me. But before this, they had daubed my
face and both my hands with a sort of ointment, very pleasant to
the smell, which, in a few minutes, removed all the smart of
their arrows. These circumstances, added to the refreshment I
had received by their victuals and drink, which were very
nourishing, disposed me to sleep. I slept about eight hours, as
I was afterwards assured; and it was no wonder, for the
physicians, by the emperor's order, had mingled a sleepy potion
in the hogsheads of wine.
It seems, that upon the first moment I was discovered sleeping on
the ground, after my landing, the emperor had early notice of it
by an express; and determined in council, that I should be tied
in the manner I have related, (which was done in the night while
I slept;) that plenty of meat and drink should be sent to me, and
a machine prepared to carry me to the capital city.
This resolution perhaps may appear very bold and dangerous, and I
am confident would not be imitated by any prince in Europe on the
like occasion. However, in my opinion, it was extremely prudent,
as well as generous: for, supposing these people had endeavoured
to kill me with their spears and arrows, while I was asleep, I
should certainly have awaked with the first sense of smart, which
might so far have roused my rage and strength, as to have enabled
me to break the strings wherewith I was tied; after which, as
they were not able to make resistance, so they could expect no
These people are most excellent mathematicians, and arrived to a
great perfection in mechanics, by the countenance and
encouragement of the emperor, who is a renowned patron of
learning. This prince has several machines fixed on wheels, for
the carriage of trees and other great weights. He often builds
his largest men of war, whereof some are nine feet long, in the
woods where the timber grows, and has them carried on these
engines three or four hundred yards to the sea. Five hundred
carpenters and engineers were immediately set at work to prepare
the greatest engine they had. It was a frame of wood raised three
inches from the ground, about seven feet long, and four wide,
moving upon twenty-two wheels. The shout I heard was upon the
arrival of this engine, which, it seems, set out in four hours
after my landing. It was brought parallel to me, as I lay. But
the principal difficulty was to raise and place me in this
vehicle. Eighty poles, each of one foot high, were erected for
this purpose, and very strong cords, of the bigness of
packthread, were fastened by hooks to many bandages, which the
workmen had girt round my neck, my hands, my body, and my legs.
Nine hundred of the strongest men were employed to draw up these
cords, by many pulleys fastened on the poles; and thus, in less
than three hours, I was raised and slung into the engine, and
there tied fast. All this I was told; for, while the operation
was performing, I lay in a profound sleep, by the force of that
soporiferous medicine infused into my liquor. Fifteen hundred of
the emperor's largest horses, each about four inches and a half
high, were employed to draw me towards the metropolis, which, as
I said, was half a mile distant.
About four hours after we began our journey, I awaked by a very
ridiculous accident; for the carriage being stopped a while, to
adjust something that was out of order, two or three of the young
natives had the curiosity to see how I looked when I was asleep;
they climbed up into the engine, and advancing very softly to my
face, one of them, an officer in the guards, put the sharp end of
his half-pike a good way up into my left nostril, which tickled
my nose like a straw, and made me sneeze violently; whereupon
they stole off unperceived, and it was three weeks before I knew
the cause of my waking so suddenly. We made a long march the
remaining part of the day, and, rested at night with five hundred
guards on each side of me, half with torches, and half with bows
and arrows, ready to shoot me if I should offer to stir. The
next morning at sunrise we continued our march, and arrived
within two hundred yards of the city gates about noon. The
emperor, and all his court, came out to meet us; but his great
officers would by no means suffer his majesty to endanger his
person by mounting on my body.
At the place where the carriage stopped there stood an ancient
temple, esteemed to be the largest in the whole kingdom; which,
having been polluted some years before by an unnatural murder,
was, according to the zeal of those people, looked upon as
profane, and therefore had been applied to common use, and all
the ornaments and furniture carried away. In this edifice it was
determined I should lodge. The great gate fronting to the north
was about four feet high, and almost two feet wide, through which
I could easily creep. On each side of the gate was a small
window, not above six inches from the ground: into that on the
left side, the king's smith conveyed four-score and eleven
chains, like those that hang to a lady's watch in Europe, and
almost as large, which were locked to my left leg with
six-and-thirty padlocks. Over against this temple, on the other
side of the great highway, at twenty feet distance, there was a
turret at least five feet high. Here the emperor ascended, with
many principal lords of his court, to have an opportunity of
viewing me, as I was told, for I could not see them. It was
reckoned that above a hundred thousand inhabitants came out of
the town upon the same errand; and, in spite of my guards, I
believe there could not be fewer than ten thousand at several
times, who mounted my body by the help of ladders. But a
proclamation was soon issued, to forbid it upon pain of death.
When the workmen found it was impossible for me to break loose,
they cut all the strings that bound me; whereupon I rose up, with
as melancholy a disposition as ever I had in my life. But the
noise and astonishment of the people, at seeing me rise and walk,
are not to be expressed. The chains that held my left leg were
about two yards long, and gave me not only the liberty of walking
backwards and forwards in a semicircle, but, being fixed within
four inches of the gate, allowed me to creep in, and lie at my
full length in the temple.
[The emperor of Lilliput, attended by several of the nobility,
comes to see the author in his confinement. The emperor's person
and habit described. Learned men appointed to teach the author
their language. He gains favour by his mild disposition. His
pockets are searched, and his sword and pistols taken from him.]
When I found myself on my feet, I looked about me, and must
confess I never beheld a more entertaining prospect. The country
around appeared like a continued garden, and the enclosed fields,
which were generally forty feet square, resembled so many beds of
flowers. These fields were intermingled with woods of half a
stang, (1) and the tallest trees, as I could judge, appeared to
be seven feet high. I viewed the town on my left hand, which
looked like the painted scene of a city in a theatre.
I had been for some hours extremely pressed by the necessities of
nature; which was no wonder, it being almost two days since I had
last disburdened myself. I was under great difficulties between
urgency and shame. The best expedient I could think of, was to
creep into my house, which I accordingly did; and shutting the
gate after me, I went as far as the length of my chain would
suffer, and discharged my body of that uneasy load. But this was
the only time I was ever guilty of so uncleanly an action; for
which I cannot but hope the candid reader will give some
allowance, after he has maturely and impartially considered my
case, and the distress I was in. From this time my constant
practice was, as soon as I rose, to perform that business in open
air, at the full extent of my chain; and due care was taken every
morning before company came, that the offensive matter should be
carried off in wheel-barrows, by two servants appointed for that
purpose. I would not have dwelt so long upon a circumstance
that, perhaps, at first sight, may appear not very momentous, if
I had not thought it necessary to justify my character, in point
of cleanliness, to the world; which, I am told, some of my
maligners have been pleased, upon this and other occasions, to
call in question.
When this adventure was at an end, I came back out of my house,
having occasion for fresh air. The emperor was already descended
from the tower, and advancing on horse-back towards me, which had
like to have cost him dear; for the beast, though very well
trained, yet wholly unused to such a sight, which appeared as if
a mountain moved before him, reared up on its hinder feet: but
that prince, who is an excellent horseman, kept his seat, till
his attendants ran in, and held the bridle, while his majesty had
time to dismount. When he alighted, he surveyed me round with
great admiration; but kept beyond the length of my chain. He
ordered his cooks and butlers, who were already prepared, to give
me victuals and drink, which they pushed forward in a sort of
vehicles upon wheels, till I could reach them. I took these
vehicles and soon emptied them all; twenty of them were filled
with meat, and ten with liquor; each of the former afforded me
two or three good mouthfuls; and I emptied the liquor of ten
vessels, which was contained in earthen vials, into one vehicle,
drinking it off at a draught; and so I did with the rest. The
empress, and young princes of the blood of both sexes, attended
by many ladies, sat at some distance in their chairs; but upon
the accident that happened to the emperor's horse, they alighted,
and came near his person, which I am now going to describe. He
is taller by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his
court; which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders.
His features are strong and masculine, with an Austrian lip and
arched nose, his complexion olive, his countenance erect, his
body and limbs well proportioned, all his motions graceful, and
his deportment majestic. He was then past his prime, being
twenty-eight years and three quarters old, of which he had
reigned about seven in great felicity, and generally victorious.
For the better convenience of beholding him, I lay on my side, so
that my face was parallel to his, and he stood but three yards
off: however, I have had him since many times in my hand, and
therefore cannot be deceived in the description. His dress was
very plain and simple, and the fashion of it between the Asiatic
and the European; but he had on his head a light helmet of gold,
adorned with jewels, and a plume on the crest. He held his sword
drawn in his hand to defend himself, if I should happen to break
loose; it was almost three inches long; the hilt and scabbard
were gold enriched with diamonds. His voice was shrill, but very
clear and articulate; and I could distinctly hear it when I stood
up. The ladies and courtiers were all most magnificently clad;
so that the spot they stood upon seemed to resemble a petticoat
spread upon the ground, embroidered with figures of gold and
silver. His imperial majesty spoke often to me, and I returned
answers: but neither of us could understand a syllable. There
were several of his priests and lawyers present (as I conjectured
by their habits), who were commanded to address themselves to me;
and I spoke to them in as many languages as I had the least
smattering of, which were High and Low Dutch, Latin, French,
Spanish, Italian, and Lingua Franca, but all to no purpose.
After about two hours the court retired, and I was left with a
strong guard, to prevent the impertinence, and probably the
malice of the rabble, who were very impatient to crowd about me
as near as they durst; and some of them had the impudence to
shoot their arrows at me, as I sat on the ground by the door of
my house, whereof one very narrowly missed my left eye. But the
colonel ordered six of the ringleaders to be seized, and thought
no punishment so proper as to deliver them bound into my hands;
which some of his soldiers accordingly did, pushing them forward
with the butt-ends of their pikes into my reach. I took them all
in my right hand, put five of them into my coat-pocket; and as to
the sixth, I made a countenance as if I would eat him alive. The
poor man squalled terribly, and the colonel and his officers were
in much pain, especially when they saw me take out my penknife:
but I soon put them out of fear; for, looking mildly, and
immediately cutting the strings he was bound with, I set him
gently on the ground, and away he ran. I treated the rest in the
same manner, taking them one by one out of my pocket; and I
observed both the soldiers and people were highly delighted at
this mark of my clemency, which was represented very much to my
advantage at court.
Towards night I got with some difficulty into my house, where I
lay on the ground, and continued to do so about a fortnight;
during which time, the emperor gave orders to have a bed prepared
for me. Six hundred beds of the common measure were brought in
carriages, and worked up in my house; a hundred and fifty of
their beds, sewn together, made up the breadth and length; and
these were four double: which, however, kept me but very
indifferently from the hardness of the floor, that was of smooth
stone. By the same computation, they provided me with sheets,
blankets, and coverlets, tolerable enough for one who had been so
long inured to hardships.
As the news of my arrival spread through the kingdom, it brought
prodigious numbers of rich, idle, and curious people to see me;
so that the villages were almost emptied; and great neglect of
tillage and household affairs must have ensued, if his imperial
majesty had not provided, by several proclamations and orders of
state, against this inconveniency. He directed that those who
had already beheld me should return home, and not presume to come
within fifty yards of my house, without license from the court;
whereby the secretaries of state got considerable fees.
In the mean time the emperor held frequent councils, to debate
what course should be taken with me; and I was afterwards assured
by a particular friend, a person of great quality, who was as
much in the secret as any, that the court was under many
difficulties concerning me. They apprehended my breaking loose;
that my diet would be very expensive, and might cause a famine.
Sometimes they determined to starve me; or at least to shoot me
in the face and hands with poisoned arrows, which would soon
despatch me; but again they considered, that the stench of so
large a carcass might produce a plague in the metropolis, and
probably spread through the whole kingdom. In the midst of these
consultations, several officers of the army went to the door of
the great council-chamber, and two of them being admitted, gave
an account of my behaviour to the six criminals above-mentioned;
which made so favourable an impression in the breast of his
majesty and the whole board, in my behalf, that an imperial
commission was issued out, obliging all the villages, nine
hundred yards round the city, to deliver in every morning six
beeves, forty sheep, and other victuals for my sustenance;
together with a proportionable quantity of bread, and wine, and
other liquors; for the due payment of which, his majesty gave
assignments upon his treasury:--for this prince lives chiefly
upon his own demesnes; seldom, except upon great occasions,
raising any subsidies upon his subjects, who are bound to attend
him in his wars at their own expense. An establishment was also
made of six hundred persons to be my domestics, who had
board-wages allowed for their maintenance, and tents built for
them very conveniently on each side of my door. It was likewise
ordered, that three hundred tailors should make me a suit of
clothes, after the fashion of the country; that six of his
majesty's greatest scholars should be employed to instruct me in
their language; and lastly, that the emperor's horses, and those
of the nobility and troops of guards, should be frequently
exercised in my sight, to accustom themselves to me. All these
orders were duly put in execution; and in about three weeks I
made a great progress in learning their language; during which
time the emperor frequently honoured me with his visits, and was
pleased to assist my masters in teaching me. We began already to
converse together in some sort; and the first words I learnt,
were to express my desire "that he would please give me my
liberty;" which I every day repeated on my knees. His answer, as
I could comprehend it, was, "that this must be a work of time,
not to be thought on without the advice of his council, and that
swear a peace with him and his kingdom. However, that I should
be used with all kindness. And he advised me to "acquire, by my
patience and discreet behaviour, the good opinion of himself and
his subjects." He desired "I would not take it ill, if he gave
orders to certain proper officers to search me; for probably I
might carry about me several weapons, which must needs be
dangerous things, if they answered the bulk of so prodigious a
person." I said, "His majesty should be satisfied; for I was
ready to strip myself, and turn up my pockets before him." This
I delivered part in words, and part in signs. He replied, "that,
by the laws of the kingdom, I must be searched by two of his
officers; that he knew this could not be done without my consent
and assistance; and he had so good an opinion of my generosity
and justice, as to trust their persons in my hands; that whatever
they took from me, should be returned when I left the country, or
paid for at the rate which I would set upon them." I took up the
two officers in my hands, put them first into my coat-pockets,
and then into every other pocket about me, except my two fobs,
and another secret pocket, which I had no mind should be
searched, wherein I had some little necessaries that were of no
consequence to any but myself. In one of my fobs there was a
silver watch, and in the other a small quantity of gold in a
purse. These gentlemen, having pen, ink, and paper, about them,
made an exact inventory of every thing they saw; and when they
had done, desired I would set them down, that they might deliver
it to the emperor. This inventory I afterwards translated into
English, and is, word for word, as follows:
"IMPRIMIS, In the right coat-pocket of the great man-mountain"
(for so I interpret the words QUINBUS FLESTRIN,) "after the
strictest search, we found only one great piece of coarse-cloth,
large enough to be a foot-cloth for your majesty's chief room of
state. In the left pocket we saw a huge silver chest, with a
cover of the same metal, which we, the searchers, were not able
to lift. We desired it should be opened, and one of us stepping
into it, found himself up to the mid leg in a sort of dust, some
part whereof flying up to our faces set us both a sneezing for
several times together. In his right waistcoat-pocket we found a
prodigious bundle of white thin substances, folded one over
another, about the bigness of three men, tied with a strong
cable, and marked with black figures; which we humbly conceive to
be writings, every letter almost half as large as the palm of our
hands. In the left there was a sort of engine, from the back of
which were extended twenty long poles, resembling the pallisados
before your majesty's court: wherewith we conjecture the
man-mountain combs his head; for we did not always trouble him
with questions, because we found it a great difficulty to make
him understand us. In the large pocket, on the right side of his
middle cover" (so I translate the word RANFULO, by which they
meant my breeches,) "we saw a hollow pillar of iron, about the
length of a man, fastened to a strong piece of timber larger than
the pillar; and upon one side of the pillar, were huge pieces of
iron sticking out, cut into strange figures, which we know not
what to make of. In the left pocket, another engine of the same
kind. In the smaller pocket on the right side, were several
round flat pieces of white and red metal, of different bulk; some
of the white, which seemed to be silver, were so large and heavy,
that my comrade and I could hardly lift them. In the left pocket
were two black pillars irregularly shaped: we could not, without
difficulty, reach the top of them, as we stood at the bottom of
his pocket. One of them was covered, and seemed all of a piece:
but at the upper end of the other there appeared a white round
substance, about twice the bigness of our heads. Within each of
these was enclosed a prodigious plate of steel; which, by our
orders, we obliged him to show us, because we apprehended they
might be dangerous engines. He took them out of their cases, and
told us, that in his own country his practice was to shave his
beard with one of these, and cut his meat with the other. There
were two pockets which we could not enter: these he called his
fobs; they were two large slits cut into the top of his middle
cover, but squeezed close by the pressure of his belly. Out of
the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of
engine at the bottom. We directed him to draw out whatever was
at the end of that chain; which appeared to be a globe, half
silver, and half of some transparent metal; for, on the
transparent side, we saw certain strange figures circularly
drawn, and though we could touch them, till we found our fingers
stopped by the lucid substance. He put this engine into our
ears, which made an incessant noise, like that of a water-mill:
and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god
that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion,
because he assured us, (if we understood him right, for he
expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any thing
without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said, it
pointed out the time for every action of his life. From the left
fob he took out a net almost large enough for a fisherman, but
contrived to open and shut like a purse, and served him for the
same use: we found therein several massy pieces of yellow metal,
which, if they be real gold, must be of immense value.
"Having thus, in obedience to your majesty's commands, diligently
searched all his pockets, we observed a girdle about his waist
made of the hide of some prodigious animal, from which, on the
left side, hung a sword of the length of five men; and on the
right, a bag or pouch divided into two cells, each cell capable
of holding three of your majesty's subjects. In one of these
cells were several globes, or balls, of a most ponderous metal,
about the bigness of our heads, and requiring a strong hand to
lift them: the other cell contained a heap of certain black
grains, but of no great bulk or weight, for we could hold above
fifty of them in the palms of our hands.
"This is an exact inventory of what we found about the body of
the man-mountain, who used us with great civility, and due
respect to your majesty's commission. Signed and sealed on the
fourth day of the eighty-ninth moon of your majesty's auspicious
When this inventory was read over to the emperor, he directed me,
although in very gentle terms, to deliver up the several
particulars. He first called for my scimitar, which I took out,
scabbard and all. In the mean time he ordered three thousand of
his choicest troops (who then attended him) to surround me at a
distance, with their bows and arrows just ready to discharge; but
I did not observe it, for mine eyes were wholly fixed upon his
majesty. He then desired me to draw my scimitar, which, although
it had got some rust by the sea water, was, in most parts,
exceeding bright. I did so, and immediately all the troops gave
a shout between terror and surprise; for the sun shone clear, and
the reflection dazzled their eyes, as I waved the scimitar to and
fro in my hand. His majesty, who is a most magnanimous prince,
was less daunted than I could expect: he ordered me to return it
into the scabbard, and cast it on the ground as gently as I
could, about six feet from the end of my chain. The next thing
he demanded was one of the hollow iron pillars; by which he meant
my pocket pistols. I drew it out, and at his desire, as well as
I could, expressed to him the use of it; and charging it only
with powder, which, by the closeness of my pouch, happened to
escape wetting in the sea (an inconvenience against which all
prudent mariners take special care to provide,) I first cautioned
the emperor not to be afraid, and then I let it off in the air.
The astonishment here was much greater than at the sight of my
scimitar. Hundreds fell down as if they had been struck dead;
and even the emperor, although he stood his ground, could not
recover himself for some time. I delivered up both my pistols in
the same manner as I had done my scimitar, and then my pouch of
powder and bullets; begging him that the former might be kept
from fire, for it would kindle with the smallest spark, and blow
up his imperial palace into the air. I likewise delivered up my
watch, which the emperor was very curious to see, and commanded
two of his tallest yeomen of the guards to bear it on a pole upon
their shoulders, as draymen in England do a barrel of ale. He
was amazed at the continual noise it made, and the motion of the
minute-hand, which he could easily discern; for their sight is
much more acute than ours: he asked the opinions of his learned
men about it, which were various and remote, as the reader may
well imagine without my repeating; although indeed I could not
very perfectly understand them. I then gave up my silver and
copper money, my purse, with nine large pieces of gold, and some
smaller ones; my knife and razor, my comb and silver snuff-box,
my handkerchief and journal-book. My scimitar, pistols, and
pouch, were conveyed in carriages to his majesty's stores; but
the rest of my goods were returned me.
I had as I before observed, one private pocket, which escaped
their search, wherein there was a pair of spectacles (which I
sometimes use for the weakness of mine eyes,) a pocket
perspective, and some other little conveniences; which, being of
no consequence to the emperor, I did not think myself bound in
honour to discover, and I apprehended they might be lost or
spoiled if I ventured them out of my possession.
[The author diverts the emperor, and his nobility of both sexes,
in a very uncommon manner. The diversions of the court of
Lilliput described. The author has his liberty granted him upon
certain conditions.]
My gentleness and good behaviour had gained so far on the emperor
and his court, and indeed upon the army and people in general,
that I began to conceive hopes of getting my liberty in a short
time. I took all possible methods to cultivate this favourable
disposition. The natives came, by degrees, to be less
apprehensive of any danger from me. I would sometimes lie down,
and let five or six of them dance on my hand; and at last the
boys and girls would venture to come and play at hide-and-seek in
my hair. I had now made a good progress in understanding and
speaking the language. The emperor had a mind one day to
entertain me with several of the country shows, wherein they
exceed all nations I have known, both for dexterity and
magnificence. I was diverted with none so much as that of the
rope-dancers, performed upon a slender white thread, extended
about two feet, and twelve inches from the ground. Upon which I
shall desire liberty, with the reader's patience, to enlarge a
This diversion is only practised by those persons who are
candidates for great employments, and high favour at court. They
are trained in this art from their youth, and are not always of
noble birth, or liberal education. When a great office is
vacant, either by death or disgrace (which often happens,) five
or six of those candidates petition the emperor to entertain his
majesty and the court with a dance on the rope; and whoever jumps
the highest, without falling, succeeds in the office. Very often
the chief ministers themselves are commanded to show their skill,
and to convince the emperor that they have not lost their
faculty. Flimnap, the treasurer, is allowed to cut a caper on the
straight rope, at least an inch higher than any other lord in the
whole empire. I have seen him do the summerset several times
together, upon a trencher fixed on a rope which is no thicker
than a common pack-thread in England. My friend Reldresal,
principal secretary for private affairs, is, in my opinion, if I
am not partial, the second after the treasurer; the rest of the
great officers are much upon a par.
These diversions are often attended with fatal accidents, whereof
great numbers are on record. I myself have seen two or three
candidates break a limb. But the danger is much greater, when
the ministers themselves are commanded to show their dexterity;
for, by contending to excel themselves and their fellows, they
strain so far that there is hardly one of them who has not
received a fall, and some of them two or three. I was assured
that, a year or two before my arrival, Flimnap would infallibly
have broke his neck, if one of the king's cushions, that
accidentally lay on the ground, had not weakened the force of his
There is likewise another diversion, which is only shown before
the emperor and empress, and first minister, upon particular
occasions. The emperor lays on the table three fine silken
threads of six inches long; one is blue, the other red, and the
third green. These threads are proposed as prizes for those
persons whom the emperor has a mind to distinguish by a peculiar
mark of his favour. The ceremony is performed in his majesty's
great chamber of state, where the candidates are to undergo a
trial of dexterity very different from the former, and such as I
have not observed the least resemblance of in any other country
of the new or old world. The emperor holds a stick in his hands,
both ends parallel to the horizon, while the candidates
advancing, one by one, sometimes leap over the stick, sometimes
creep under it, backward and forward, several times, according as
the stick is advanced or depressed. Sometimes the emperor holds
one end of the stick, and his first minister the other; sometimes
the minister has it entirely to himself. Whoever performs his
part with most agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and
creeping, is rewarded with the blue-coloured silk; the red is
given to the next, and the green to the third, which they all
wear girt twice round about the middle; and you see few great
persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these
The horses of the army, and those of the royal stables, having
been daily led before me, were no longer shy, but would come up
to my very feet without starting. The riders would leap them
over my hand, as I held it on the ground; and one of the
emperor's huntsmen, upon a large courser, took my foot, shoe and
all; which was indeed a prodigious leap. I had the good fortune
to divert the emperor one day after a very extraordinary manner.
I desired he would order several sticks of two feet high, and the
thickness of an ordinary cane, to be brought me; whereupon his
majesty commanded the master of his woods to give directions
accordingly; and the next morning six woodmen arrived with as
many carriages, drawn by eight horses to each. I took nine of
these sticks, and fixing them firmly in the ground in a
quadrangular figure, two feet and a half square, I took four
other sticks, and tied them parallel at each corner, about two
feet from the ground; then I fastened my handkerchief to the nine
sticks that stood erect; and extended it on all sides, till it
was tight as the top of a drum; and the four parallel sticks,
rising about five inches higher than the handkerchief, served as
ledges on each side. When I had finished my work, I desired the
emperor to let a troop of his best horses twenty-four in number,
come and exercise upon this plain. His majesty approved of the
proposal, and I took them up, one by one, in my hands, ready
mounted and armed, with the proper officers to exercise them. As
soon as they got into order they divided into two parties,
performed mock skirmishes, discharged blunt arrows, drew their
swords, fled and pursued, attacked and retired, and in short
discovered the best military discipline I ever beheld. The
parallel sticks secured them and their horses from falling over
the stage; and the emperor was so much delighted, that he ordered
this entertainment to be repeated several days, and once was
pleased to be lifted up and give the word of command; and with
great difficulty persuaded even the empress herself to let me
hold her in her close chair within two yards of the stage, when
she was able to take a full view of the whole performance. It
was my good fortune, that no ill accident happened in these
entertainments; only once a fiery horse, that belonged to one of
the captains, pawing with his hoof, struck a hole in my
handkerchief, and his foot slipping, he overthrew his rider and
himself; but I immediately relieved them both, and covering the
hole with one hand, I set down the troop with the other, in the
same manner as I took them up. The horse that fell was strained
in the left shoulder, but the rider got no hurt; and I repaired
my handkerchief as well as I could: however, I would not trust
to the strength of it any more, in such dangerous enterprises.
About two or three days before I was set at liberty, as I was
entertaining the court with this kind of feat, there arrived an
express to inform his majesty, that some of his subjects, riding
near the place where I was first taken up, had seen a great black
substance lying on the around, very oddly shaped, extending its
edges round, as wide as his majesty's bedchamber, and rising up
in the middle as high as a man; that it was no living creature,
as they at first apprehended, for it lay on the grass without
motion; and some of them had walked round it several times; that,
by mounting upon each other's shoulders, they had got to the top,
which was flat and even, and, stamping upon it, they found that
it was hollow within; that they humbly conceived it might be
something belonging to the man-mountain; and if his majesty
pleased, they would undertake to bring it with only five horses.
I presently knew what they meant, and was glad at heart to
receive this intelligence. It seems, upon my first reaching the
shore after our shipwreck, I was in such confusion, that before I
came to the place where I went to sleep, my hat, which I had
fastened with a string to my head while I was rowing, and had
stuck on all the time I was swimming, fell off after I came to
land; the string, as I conjecture, breaking by some accident,
which I never observed, but thought my hat had been lost at sea.
I entreated his imperial majesty to give orders it might be
brought to me as soon as possible, describing to him the use and
the nature of it: and the next day the waggoners arrived with
it, but not in a very good condition; they had bored two holes in
the brim, within an inch and half of the edge, and fastened two
hooks in the holes; these hooks were tied by a long cord to the
harness, and thus my hat was dragged along for above half an
English mile; but, the ground in that country being extremely
smooth and level, it received less damage than I expected.
Two days after this adventure, the emperor, having ordered that
part of his army which quarters in and about his metropolis, to
be in readiness, took a fancy of diverting himself in a very
singular manner. He desired I would stand like a Colossus, with
my legs as far asunder as I conveniently could. He then
commanded his general (who was an old experienced leader, and a
great patron of mine) to draw up the troops in close order, and
march them under me; the foot by twenty-four abreast, and the
horse by sixteen, with drums beating, colours flying, and pikes
advanced. This body consisted of three thousand foot, and a
thousand horse. His majesty gave orders, upon pain of death,
that every soldier in his march should observe the strictest
decency with regard to my person; which however could not prevent
some of the younger officers from turning up their eyes as they
passed under me: and, to confess the truth, my breeches were at
that time in so ill a condition, that they afforded some
opportunities for laughter and admiration.
I had sent so many memorials and petitions for my liberty, that
his majesty at length mentioned the matter, first in the cabinet,
and then in a full council; where it was opposed by none, except
Skyresh Bolgolam, who was pleased, without any provocation, to be
my mortal enemy. But it was carried against him by the whole
board, and confirmed by the emperor. That minister was GALBET,
or admiral of the realm, very much in his master's confidence,
and a person well versed in affairs, but of a morose and sour
complexion. However, he was at length persuaded to comply; but
prevailed that the articles and conditions upon which I should be
set free, and to which I must swear, should be drawn up by
himself. These articles were brought to me by Skyresh Bolgolam
in person attended by two under-secretaries, and several persons
of distinction. After they were read, I was demanded to swear to
the performance of them; first in the manner of my own country,
and afterwards in the method prescribed by their laws; which was,
to hold my right foot in my left hand, and to place the middle
finger of my right hand on the crown of my head, and my thumb on
the tip of my right ear. But because the reader may be curious
to have some idea of the style and manner of expression peculiar
to that people, as well as to know the article upon which I
recovered my liberty, I have made a translation of the whole
instrument, word for word, as near as I was able, which I here
offer to the public.
"Golbasto Momarem Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue, most
mighty Emperor of Lilliput, delight and terror of the universe,
whose dominions extend five thousand BLUSTRUGS (about twelve
miles in circumference) to the extremities of the globe; monarch
of all monarchs, taller than the sons of men; whose feet press
down to the centre, and whose head strikes against the sun; at
whose nod the princes of the earth shake their knees; pleasant as
the spring, comfortable as the summer, fruitful as autumn,
dreadful as winter: his most sublime majesty proposes to the
man-mountain, lately arrived at our celestial dominions, the
following articles, which, by a solemn oath, he shall be obliged
to perform:--
"1st, The man-mountain shall not depart from our dominions,
without our license under our great seal.
"2d, He shall not presume to come into our metropolis, without
our express order; at which time, the inhabitants shall have two
hours warning to keep within doors.
"3d, The said man-mountain shall confine his walks to our
principal high roads, and not offer to walk, or lie down, in a
meadow or field of corn.
"4th, As he walks the said roads, he shall take the utmost care
not to trample upon the bodies of any of our loving subjects,
their horses, or carriages, nor take any of our subjects into his
hands without their own consent.
"5th, If an express requires extraordinary despatch, the
man-mountain shall be obliged to carry, in his pocket, the
messenger and horse a six days journey, once in every moon, and
return the said messenger back (if so required) safe to our
imperial presence.
"6th, He shall be our ally against our enemies in the island of
Blefuscu, and do his utmost to destroy their fleet, which is now
preparing to invade us.
"7th, That the said man-mountain shall, at his times of leisure,
be aiding and assisting to our workmen, in helping to raise
certain great stones, towards covering the wall of the principal
park, and other our royal buildings.
"8th, That the said man-mountain shall, in two moons' time,
deliver in an exact survey of the circumference of our dominions,
by a computation of his own paces round the coast.
"Lastly, That, upon his solemn oath to observe all the above
articles, the said man-mountain shall have a daily allowance of
meat and drink sufficient for the support of 1724 of our
subjects, with free access to our royal person, and other marks
of our favour. Given at our palace at Belfaborac, the twelfth
day of the ninety-first moon of our reign."
I swore and subscribed to these articles with great cheerfulness
and content, although some of them were not so honourable as I
could have wished; which proceeded wholly from the malice of
Skyresh Bolgolam, the high-admiral: whereupon my chains were
immediately unlocked, and I was at full liberty. The emperor
himself, in person, did me the honour to be by at the whole
ceremony. I made my acknowledgements by prostrating myself at
his majesty's feet: but he commanded me to rise; and after many
gracious expressions, which, to avoid the censure of vanity, I
shall not repeat, he added, "that he hoped I should prove a
useful servant, and well deserve all the favours he had already
conferred upon me, or might do for the future."
The reader may please to observe, that, in the last article of
the recovery of my liberty, the emperor stipulates to allow me a
quantity of meat and drink sufficient for the support of 1724
Lilliputians. Some time after, asking a friend at court how they
came to fix on that determinate number, he told me that his
majesty's mathematicians, having taken the height of my body by
the help of a quadrant, and finding it to exceed theirs in the
proportion of twelve to one, they concluded from the similarity
of their bodies, that mine must contain at least 1724 of theirs,
and consequently would require as much food as was necessary to
support that number of Lilliputians. By which the reader may
conceive an idea of the ingenuity of that people, as well as the
prudent and exact economy of so great a prince.
[Mildendo, the metropolis of Lilliput, described, together with
the emperor's palace. A conversation between the author and a
principal secretary, concerning the affairs of that empire. The
author's offers to serve the emperor in his wars.]
The first request I made, after I had obtained my liberty, was,
that I might have license to see Mildendo, the metropolis; which
the emperor easily granted me, but with a special charge to do no
hurt either to the inhabitants or their houses. The people had
notice, by proclamation, of my design to visit the town. The
wall which encompassed it is two feet and a half high, and at
least eleven inches broad, so that a coach and horses may be
driven very safely round it; and it is flanked with strong towers
at ten feet distance. I stepped over the great western gate, and
passed very gently, and sidling, through the two principal
streets, only in my short waistcoat, for fear of damaging the
roofs and eaves of the houses with the skirts of my coat. I
walked with the utmost circumspection, to avoid treading on any
stragglers who might remain in the streets, although the orders
were very strict, that all people should keep in their houses, at
their own peril. The garret windows and tops of houses were so
crowded with spectators, that I thought in all my travels I had
not seen a more populous place. The city is an exact square,
each side of the wall being five hundred feet long. The two
great streets, which run across and divide it into four quarters,
are five feet wide. The lanes and alleys, which I could not
enter, but only view them as I passed, are from twelve to
eighteen inches. The town is capable of holding five hundred
thousand souls: the houses are from three to five stories: the
shops and markets well provided.
The emperor's palace is in the centre of the city where the two
great streets meet. It is enclosed by a wall of two feet high,
and twenty feet distance from the buildings. I had his majesty's
permission to step over this wall; and, the space being so wide
between that and the palace, I could easily view it on every
side. The outward court is a square of forty feet, and includes
two other courts: in the inmost are the royal apartments, which
I was very desirous to see, but found it extremely difficult; for
the great gates, from one square into another, were but eighteen
inches high, and seven inches wide. Now the buildings of the
outer court were at least five feet high, and it was impossible
for me to stride over them without infinite damage to the pile,
though the walls were strongly built of hewn stone, and four
inches thick. At the same time the emperor had a great desire
that I should see the magnificence of his palace; but this I was
not able to do till three days after, which I spent in cutting
down with my knife some of the largest trees in the royal park,
about a hundred yards distant from the city. Of these trees I
made two stools, each about three feet high, and strong enough to
bear my weight. The people having received notice a second time,
I went again through the city to the palace with my two stools in
my hands. When I came to the side of the outer court, I stood
upon one stool, and took the other in my hand; this I lifted over
the roof, and gently set it down on the space between the first
and second court, which was eight feet wide. I then stept over
the building very conveniently from one stool to the other, and
drew up the first after me with a hooked stick. By this
contrivance I got into the inmost court; and, lying down upon my
side, I applied my face to the windows of the middle stories,
which were left open on purpose, and discovered the most splendid
apartments that can be imagined. There I saw the empress and the
young princes, in their several lodgings, with their chief
attendants about them. Her imperial majesty was pleased to smile
very graciously upon me, and gave me out of the window her hand
to kiss.
But I shall not anticipate the reader with further descriptions
of this kind, because I reserve them for a greater work, which is
now almost ready for the press; containing a general description
of this empire, from its first erection, through along series of
princes; with a particular account of their wars and politics,
laws, learning, and religion; their plants and animals; their
peculiar manners and customs, with other matters very curious and
useful; my chief design at present being only to relate such
events and transactions as happened to the public or to myself
during a residence of about nine months in that empire.
One morning, about a fortnight after I had obtained my liberty,
Reldresal, principal secretary (as they style him) for private
affairs, came to my house attended only by one servant. He
ordered his coach to wait at a distance, and desired I would give
him an hours audience; which I readily consented to, on account
of his quality and personal merits, as well as of the many good
offices he had done me during my solicitations at court. I
offered to lie down that he might the more conveniently reach my
ear, but he chose rather to let me hold him in my hand during our
conversation. He began with compliments on my liberty; said "he
might pretend to some merit in it;" but, however, added, "that if
it had not been for the present situation of things at court,
perhaps I might not have obtained it so soon. For," said he, "as
flourishing a condition as we may appear to be in to foreigners,
we labour under two mighty evils: a violent faction at home, and
the danger of an invasion, by a most potent enemy, from abroad.
As to the first, you are to understand, that for about seventy
moons past there have been two struggling parties in this empire,
under the names of TRAMECKSAN and SLAMECKSAN, from the high and
low heels of their shoes, by which they distinguish themselves.
It is alleged, indeed, that the high heels are most agreeable to
our ancient constitution; but, however this be, his majesty has
determined to make use only of low heels in the administration of
the government, and all offices in the gift of the crown, as you
cannot but observe; and particularly that his majesty's imperial
heels are lower at least by a DRURR than any of his court (DRURR
is a measure about the fourteenth part of an inch). The
animosities between these two parties run so high, that they will
neither eat, nor drink, nor talk with each other. We compute the
TRAMECKSAN, or high heels, to exceed us in number; but the power
is wholly on our side. We apprehend his imperial highness, the
heir to the crown, to have some tendency towards the high heels;
at least we can plainly discover that one of his heels is higher
than the other, which gives him a hobble in his gait. Now, in
the midst of these intestine disquiets, we are threatened with an
invasion from the island of Blefuscu, which is the other great
empire of the universe, almost as large and powerful as this of
his majesty. For as to what we have heard you affirm, that there
are other kingdoms and states in the world inhabited by human
creatures as large as yourself, our philosophers are in much
doubt, and would rather conjecture that you dropped from the
moon, or one of the stars; because it is certain, that a hundred
mortals of your bulk would in a short time destroy all the fruits
and cattle of his majesty's dominions: besides, our histories of
six thousand moons make no mention of any other regions than the
two great empires of Lilliput and Blefuscu. Which two mighty
powers have, as I was going to tell you, been engaged in a most
obstinate war for six-and-thirty moons past. It began upon the
following occasion. It is allowed on all hands, that the
primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the
larger end; but his present majesty's grandfather, while he was a
boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the
ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon
the emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his
subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their
eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories
tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account;
wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown. These
civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of
Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the exiles always fled for
refuge to that empire. It is computed that eleven thousand
persons have at several times suffered death, rather than submit
to break their eggs at the smaller end. Many hundred large
volumes have been published upon this controversy: but the books
of the Big-endians have been long forbidden, and the whole party
rendered incapable by law of holding employments. During the
course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefusca did frequently
expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism
in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our
great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the
Blundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought
to be a mere strain upon the text; for the words are these:
'that all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end.'
And which is the convenient end, seems, in my humble opinion to
be left to every man's conscience, or at least in the power of
the chief magistrate to determine. Now, the Big-endian exiles
have found so much credit in the emperor of Blefuscu's court, and
so much private assistance and encouragement from their party
here at home, that a bloody war has been carried on between the
two empires for six-and-thirty moons, with various success;
during which time we have lost forty capital ships, and a much a
greater number of smaller vessels, together with thirty thousand
of our best seamen and soldiers; and the damage received by the
enemy is reckoned to be somewhat greater than ours. However,
they have now equipped a numerous fleet, and are just preparing
to make a descent upon us; and his imperial majesty, placing
great confidence in your valour and strength, has commanded me to
lay this account of his affairs before you."
I desired the secretary to present my humble duty to the emperor;
and to let him know, "that I thought it would not become me, who
was a foreigner, to interfere with parties; but I was ready, with
the hazard of my life, to defend his person and state against all
[The author, by an extraordinary stratagem, prevents an invasion.
A high title of honour is conferred upon him. Ambassadors arrive
from the emperor of Blefuscu, and sue for peace. The empress's
apartment on fire by an accident; the author instrumental in
saving the rest of the palace.]
The empire of Blefuscu is an island situated to the north-east of
Lilliput, from which it is parted only by a channel of eight
hundred yards wide. I had not yet seen it, and upon this notice
of an intended invasion, I avoided appearing on that side of the
coast, for fear of being discovered, by some of the enemy's
ships, who had received no intelligence of me; all intercourse
between the two empires having been strictly forbidden during the
war, upon pain of death, and an embargo laid by our emperor upon
all vessels whatsoever. I communicated to his majesty a project
I had formed of seizing the enemy's whole fleet; which, as our
scouts assured us, lay at anchor in the harbour, ready to sail
with the first fair wind. I consulted the most experienced
seamen upon the depth of the channel, which they had often
plumbed; who told me, that in the middle, at high-water, it was
seventy GLUMGLUFFS deep, which is about six feet of European
measure; and the rest of it fifty GLUMGLUFFS at most. I walked
towards the north-east coast, over against Blefuscu, where, lying
down behind a hillock, I took out my small perspective glass, and
viewed the enemy's fleet at anchor, consisting of about fifty men
of war, and a great number of transports: I then came back to my
house, and gave orders (for which I had a warrant) for a great
quantity of the strongest cable and bars of iron. The cable was
about as thick as packthread and the bars of the length and size
of a knitting-needle. I trebled the cable to make it stronger,
and for the same reason I twisted three of the iron bars
together, bending the extremities into a hook. Having thus fixed
fifty hooks to as many cables, I went back to the north-east
coast, and putting off my coat, shoes, and stockings, walked into
the sea, in my leathern jerkin, about half an hour before high
water. I waded with what haste I could, and swam in the middle
about thirty yards, till I felt ground. I arrived at the fleet
in less than half an hour. The enemy was so frightened when they
saw me, that they leaped out of their ships, and swam to shore,
where there could not be fewer than thirty thousand souls. I
then took my tackling, and, fastening a hook to the hole at the
prow of each, I tied all the cords together at the end. While I
was thus employed, the enemy discharged several thousand arrows,
many of which stuck in my hands and face, and, beside the
excessive smart, gave me much disturbance in my work. My greatest
apprehension was for mine eyes, which I should have infallibly
lost, if I had not suddenly thought of an expedient. I kept,
among other little necessaries, a pair of spectacles in a private
pocket, which, as I observed before, had escaped the emperor's
searchers. These I took out and fastened as strongly as I could
upon my nose, and thus armed, went on boldly with my work, in
spite of the enemy's arrows, many of which struck against the
glasses of my spectacles, but without any other effect, further
than a little to discompose them. I had now fastened all the
hooks, and, taking the knot in my hand, began to pull; but not a
ship would stir, for they were all too fast held by their
anchors, so that the boldest part of my enterprise remained. I
therefore let go the cord, and leaving the looks fixed to the
ships, I resolutely cut with my knife the cables that fastened
the anchors, receiving about two hundred shots in my face and
hands; then I took up the knotted end of the cables, to which my
hooks were tied, and with great ease drew fifty of the enemy's
largest men of war after me.
The Blefuscudians, who had not the least imagination of what I
intended, were at first confounded with astonishment. They had
seen me cut the cables, and thought my design was only to let the
ships run adrift or fall foul on each other: but when they
perceived the whole fleet moving in order, and saw me pulling at
the end, they set up such a scream of grief and despair as it is
almost impossible to describe or conceive. When I had got out of
danger, I stopped awhile to pick out the arrows that stuck in my
hands and face; and rubbed on some of the same ointment that was
given me at my first arrival, as I have formerly mentioned. I
then took off my spectacles, and waiting about an hour, till the
tide was a little fallen, I waded through the middle with my
cargo, and arrived safe at the royal port of Lilliput.
The emperor and his whole court stood on the shore, expecting the
issue of this great adventure. They saw the ships move forward
in a large half-moon, but could not discern me, who was up to my
breast in water. When I advanced to the middle of the channel,
they were yet more in pain, because I was under water to my neck.
The emperor concluded me to be drowned, and that the enemy's
fleet was approaching in a hostile manner: but he was soon eased
of his fears; for the channel growing shallower every step I
made, I came in a short time within hearing, and holding up the
end of the cable, by which the fleet was fastened, I cried in a
loud voice, "Long live the most puissant king of Lilliput!" This
great prince received me at my landing with all possible
encomiums, and created me a NARDAC upon the spot, which is the
highest title of honour among them.
His majesty desired I would take some other opportunity of
bringing all the rest of his enemy's ships into his ports. And
so unmeasureable is the ambition of princes, that he seemed to
think of nothing less than reducing the whole empire of Blefuscu
into a province, and governing it, by a viceroy; of destroying
the Big-endian exiles, and compelling that people to break the
smaller end of their eggs, by which he would remain the sole
monarch of the whole world. But I endeavoured to divert him from
this design, by many arguments drawn from the topics of policy as
well as justice; and I plainly protested, "that I would never be
an instrument of bringing a free and brave people into slavery."
And, when the matter was debated in council, the wisest part of
the ministry were of my opinion.
This open bold declaration of mine was so opposite to the schemes
and politics of his imperial majesty, that he could never forgive
me. He mentioned it in a very artful manner at council, where I
was told that some of the wisest appeared, at least by their
silence, to be of my opinion; but others, who were my secret
enemies, could not forbear some expressions which, by a
side-wind, reflected on me. And from this time began an intrigue
between his majesty and a junto of ministers, maliciously bent
against me, which broke out in less than two months, and had like
to have ended in my utter destruction. Of so little weight are
the greatest services to princes, when put into the balance with
a refusal to gratify their passions.
About three weeks after this exploit, there arrived a solemn
embassy from Blefuscu, with humble offers of a peace, which was
soon concluded, upon conditions very advantageous to our emperor,
wherewith I shall not trouble the reader. There were six
ambassadors, with a train of about five hundred persons, and
their entry was very magnificent, suitable to the grandeur of
their master, and the importance of their business. When their
treaty was finished, wherein I did them several good offices by
the credit I now had, or at least appeared to have, at court,
their excellencies, who were privately told how much I had been
their friend, made me a visit in form. They began with many
compliments upon my valour and generosity, invited me to that
kingdom in the emperor their master's name, and desired me to
show them some proofs of my prodigious strength, of which they
had heard so many wonders; wherein I readily obliged them, but
shall not trouble the reader with the particulars.
When I had for some time entertained their excellencies, to their
infinite satisfaction and surprise, I desired they would do me
the honour to present my most humble respects to the emperor
their master, the renown of whose virtues had so justly filled
the whole world with admiration, and whose royal person I
resolved to attend, before I returned to my own country.
Accordingly, the next time I had the honour to see our emperor, I
desired his general license to wait on the Blefuscudian monarch,
which he was pleased to grant me, as I could perceive, in a very
cold manner; but could not guess the reason, till I had a whisper
from a certain person, "that Flimnap and Bolgolam had represented
my intercourse with those ambassadors as a mark of disaffection;"
from which I am sure my heart was wholly free. And this was the
first time I began to conceive some imperfect idea of courts and
It is to be observed, that these ambassadors spoke to me, by an
interpreter, the languages of both empires differing as much from
each other as any two in Europe, and each nation priding itself
upon the antiquity, beauty, and energy of their own tongue, with
an avowed contempt for that of their neighbour; yet our emperor,
standing upon the advantage he had got by the seizure of their
fleet, obliged them to deliver their credentials, and make their
speech, in the Lilliputian tongue. And it must be confessed,
that from the great intercourse of trade and commerce between
both realms, from the continual reception of exiles which is
mutual among them, and from the custom, in each empire, to send
their young nobility and richer gentry to the other, in order to
polish themselves by seeing the world, and understanding men and
manners; there are few persons of distinction, or merchants, or
seamen, who dwell in the maritime parts, but what can hold
conversation in both tongues; as I found some weeks after, when I
went to pay my respects to the emperor of Blefuscu, which, in the
midst of great misfortunes, through the malice of my enemies,
proved a very happy adventure to me, as I shall relate in its
proper place.
The reader may remember, that when I signed those articles upon
which I recovered my liberty, there were some which I disliked,
upon account of their being too servile; neither could anything
but an extreme necessity have forced me to submit. But being now
a NARDAC of the highest rank in that empire, such offices were
looked upon as below my dignity, and the emperor (to do him
justice), never once mentioned them to me. However, it was not
long before I had an opportunity of doing his majesty, at least
as I then thought, a most signal service. I was alarmed at
midnight with the cries of many hundred people at my door; by
which, being suddenly awaked, I was in some kind of terror. I
heard the word BURGLUM repeated incessantly: several of the
emperor's court, making their way through the crowd, entreated me
to come immediately to the palace, where her imperial majesty's
apartment was on fire, by the carelessness of a maid of honour,
who fell asleep while she was reading a romance. I got up in an
instant; and orders being given to clear the way before me, and
it being likewise a moonshine night, I made a shift to get to the
palace without trampling on any of the people. I found they had
already applied ladders to the walls of the apartment, and were
well provided with buckets, but the water was at some distance.
These buckets were about the size of large thimbles, and the poor
people supplied me with them as fast as they could: but the
flame was so violent that they did little good. I might easily
have stifled it with my coat, which I unfortunately left behind
me for haste, and came away only in my leathern jerkin. The case
seemed wholly desperate and deplorable; and this magnificent
palace would have infallibly been burnt down to the ground, if,
by a presence of mind unusual to me, I had not suddenly thought
of an expedient. I had, the evening before, drunk plentifully of
a most delicious wine called GLIMIGRIM, (the Blefuscudians call
it FLUNEC, but ours is esteemed the better sort,) which is very
diuretic. By the luckiest chance in the world, I had not
discharged myself of any part of it. The heat I had contracted
by coming very near the flames, and by labouring to quench them,
made the wine begin to operate by urine; which I voided in such a
quantity, and applied so well to the proper places, that in three
minutes the fire was wholly extinguished, and the rest of that
noble pile, which had cost so many ages in erecting, preserved
from destruction.
It was now day-light, and I returned to my house without waiting
to congratulate with the emperor: because, although I had done a
very eminent piece of service, yet I could not tell how his
majesty might resent the manner by which I had performed it:
for, by the fundamental laws of the realm, it is capital in any
person, of what quality soever, to make water within the
precincts of the palace. But I was a little comforted by a
message from his majesty, "that he would give orders to the grand
justiciary for passing my pardon in form:" which, however, I
could not obtain; and I was privately assured, "that the empress,
conceiving the greatest abhorrence of what I had done, removed to
the most distant side of the court, firmly resolved that those
buildings should never be repaired for her use: and, in the
presence of her chief confidents could not forbear vowing
[Of the inhabitants of Lilliput; their learning, laws, and
customs; the manner of educating their children. The author's
way of living in that country. His vindication of a great lady.]
Although I intend to leave the description of this empire to a
particular treatise, yet, in the mean time, I am content to
gratify the curious reader with some general ideas. As the
common size of the natives is somewhat under six inches high, so
there is an exact proportion in all other animals, as well as
plants and trees: for instance, the tallest horses and oxen are
between four and five inches in height, the sheep an inch and
half, more or less: their geese about the bigness of a sparrow,
and so the several gradations downwards till you come to the
smallest, which to my sight, were almost invisible; but nature
has adapted the eyes of the Lilliputians to all objects proper
for their view: they see with great exactness, but at no great
distance. And, to show the sharpness of their sight towards
objects that are near, I have been much pleased with observing a
cook pulling a lark, which was not so large as a common fly; and
a young girl threading an invisible needle with invisible silk.
Their tallest trees are about seven feet high: I mean some of
those in the great royal park, the tops whereof I could but just
reach with my fist clenched. The other vegetables are in the
same proportion; but this I leave to the reader's imagination.
I shall say but little at present of their learning, which, for
many ages, has flourished in all its branches among them: but
their manner of writing is very peculiar, being neither from the
left to the right, like the Europeans, nor from the right to the
left, like the Arabians, nor from up to down, like the Chinese,
but aslant, from one corner of the paper to the other, like
ladies in England.
They bury their dead with their heads directly downward, because
they hold an opinion, that in eleven thousand moons they are all
to rise again; in which period the earth (which they conceive to
be flat) will turn upside down, and by this means they shall, at
their resurrection, be found ready standing on their feet. The
learned among them confess the absurdity of this doctrine; but
the practice still continues, in compliance to the vulgar.
There are some laws and customs in this empire very peculiar; and
if they were not so directly contrary to those of my own dear
country, I should be tempted to say a little in their
justification. It is only to be wished they were as well
executed. The first I shall mention, relates to informers. All
crimes against the state, are punished here with the utmost
severity; but, if the person accused makes his innocence plainly
to appear upon his trial, the accuser is immediately put to an
ignominious death; and out of his goods or lands the innocent
person is quadruply recompensed for the loss of his time, for the
danger he underwent, for the hardship of his imprisonment, and
for all the charges he has been at in making his defence; or, if
that fund be deficient, it is largely supplied by the crown. The
emperor also confers on him some public mark of his favour, and
proclamation is made of his innocence through the whole city.
They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore
seldom fail to punish it with death; for they allege, that care
and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may preserve a
man's goods from thieves, but honesty has no defence against
superior cunning; and, since it is necessary that there should be
a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon
credit, where fraud is permitted and connived at, or has no law
to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave
gets the advantage. I remember, when I was once interceding with
the emperor for a criminal who had wronged his master of a great
sum of money, which he had received by order and ran away with;
and happening to tell his majesty, by way of extenuation, that it
was only a breach of trust, the emperor thought it monstrous in
me to offer as a defence the greatest aggravation of the crime;
and truly I had little to say in return, farther than the common
answer, that different nations had different customs; for, I
confess, I was heartily ashamed. (2)
Although we usually call reward and punishment the two hinges
upon which all government turns, yet I could never observe this
maxim to be put in practice by any nation except that of
Lilliput. Whoever can there bring sufficient proof, that he has
strictly observed the laws of his country for seventy-three
moons, has a claim to certain privileges, according to his
quality or condition of life, with a proportionable sum of money
out of a fund appropriated for that use: he likewise acquires
the title of SNILPALL, or legal, which is added to his name, but
does not descend to his posterity. And these people thought it a
prodigious defect of policy among us, when I told them that our
laws were enforced only by penalties, without any mention of
reward. It is upon this account that the image of Justice, in
their courts of judicature, is formed with six eyes, two before,
as many behind, and on each side one, to signify circumspection;
with a bag of gold open in her right hand, and a sword sheathed
in her left, to show she is more disposed to reward than to
In choosing persons for all employments, they have more regard to
good morals than to great abilities; for, since government is
necessary to mankind, they believe, that the common size of human
understanding is fitted to some station or other; and that
Providence never intended to make the management of public
affairs a mystery to be comprehended only by a few persons of
sublime genius, of which there seldom are three born in an age:
but they suppose truth, justice, temperance, and the like, to be
in every man's power; the practice of which virtues, assisted by
experience and a good intention, would qualify any man for the
service of his country, except where a course of study is
required. But they thought the want of moral virtues was so far
from being supplied by superior endowments of the mind, that
employments could never be put into such dangerous hands as those
of persons so qualified; and, at least, that the mistakes
committed by ignorance, in a virtuous disposition, would never be
of such fatal consequence to the public weal, as the practices of
a man, whose inclinations led him to be corrupt, and who had
great abilities to manage, to multiply, and defend his
In like manner, the disbelief of a Divine Providence renders a
man incapable of holding any public station; for, since kings
avow themselves to be the deputies of Providence, the
Lilliputians think nothing can be more absurd than for a prince
to employ such men as disown the authority under which he acts.
In relating these and the following laws, I would only be
understood to mean the original institutions, and not the most
scandalous corruptions, into which these people are fallen by the
degenerate nature of man. For, as to that infamous practice of
acquiring great employments by dancing on the ropes, or badges of
favour and distinction by leaping over sticks and creeping under
them, the reader is to observe, that they were first introduced
by the grandfather of the emperor now reigning, and grew to the
present height by the gradual increase of party and faction.
Ingratitude is among them a capital crime, as we read it to have
been in some other countries: for they reason thus; that whoever
makes ill returns to his benefactor, must needs be a common enemy
to the rest of mankind, from whom he has received no obligation,
and therefore such a man is not fit to live.
Their notions relating to the duties of parents and children
differ extremely from ours. For, since the conjunction of male
and female is founded upon the great law of nature, in order to
propagate and continue the species, the Lilliputians will needs
have it, that men and women are joined together, like other
animals, by the motives of concupiscence; and that their
tenderness towards their young proceeds from the like natural
principle: for which reason they will never allow that a child
is under any obligation to his father for begetting him, or to
his mother for bringing him into the world; which, considering
the miseries of human life, was neither a benefit in itself, nor
intended so by his parents, whose thoughts, in their love
encounters, were otherwise employed. Upon these, and the like
reasonings, their opinion is, that parents are the last of all
others to be trusted with the education of their own children;
and therefore they have in every town public nurseries, where all
parents, except cottagers and labourers, are obliged to send
their infants of both sexes to be reared and educated, when they
come to the age of twenty moons, at which time they are supposed
to have some rudiments of docility. These schools are of several
kinds, suited to different qualities, and both sexes. They have
certain professors well skilled in preparing children for such a
condition of life as befits the rank of their parents, and their
own capacities, as well as inclinations. I shall first say
something of the male nurseries, and then of the female.
The nurseries for males of noble or eminent birth, are provided
with grave and learned professors, and their several deputies.
The clothes and food of the children are plain and simple. They
are bred up in the principles of honour, justice, courage,
modesty, clemency, religion, and love of their country; they are
always employed in some business, except in the times of eating
and sleeping, which are very short, and two hours for diversions
consisting of bodily exercises. They are dressed by men till
four years of age, and then are obliged to dress themselves,
although their quality be ever so great; and the women attendant,
who are aged proportionably to ours at fifty, perform only the
most menial offices. They are never suffered to converse with
servants, but go together in smaller or greater numbers to take
their diversions, and always in the presence of a professor, or
one of his deputies; whereby they avoid those early bad
impressions of folly and vice, to which our children are subject.
Their parents are suffered to see them only twice a year; the
visit is to last but an hour; they are allowed to kiss the child
at meeting and parting; but a professor, who always stands by on
those occasions, will not suffer them to whisper, or use any
fondling expressions, or bring any presents of toys, sweetmeats,
and the like.
The pension from each family for the education and entertainment
of a child, upon failure of due payment, is levied by the
emperor's officers.
The nurseries for children of ordinary gentlemen, merchants,
traders, and handicrafts, are managed proportionably after the
same manner; only those designed for trades are put out
apprentices at eleven years old, whereas those of persons of
quality continue in their exercises till fifteen, which answers
to twenty-one with us: but the confinement is gradually lessened
for the last three years.
In the female nurseries, the young girls of quality are educated
much like the males, only they are dressed by orderly servants of
their own sex; but always in the presence of a professor or
deputy, till they come to dress themselves, which is at five
years old. And if it be found that these nurses ever presume to
entertain the girls with frightful or foolish stories, or the
common follies practised by chambermaids among us, they are
publicly whipped thrice about the city, imprisoned for a year,
and banished for life to the most desolate part of the country.
Thus the young ladies are as much ashamed of being cowards and
fools as the men, and despise all personal ornaments, beyond
decency and cleanliness: neither did I perceive any difference in
their education made by their difference of sex, only that the
exercises of the females were not altogether so robust; and that
some rules were given them relating to domestic life, and a
smaller compass of learning was enjoined them: for their maxim
is, that among peoples of quality, a wife should be always a
reasonable and agreeable companion, because she cannot always be
young. When the girls are twelve years old, which among them is
the marriageable age, their parents or guardians take them home,
with great expressions of gratitude to the professors, and seldom
without tears of the young lady and her companions.
In the nurseries of females of the meaner sort, the children are
instructed in all kinds of works proper for their sex, and their
several degrees: those intended for apprentices are dismissed at
seven years old, the rest are kept to eleven.
The meaner families who have children at these nurseries, are
obliged, besides their annual pension, which is as low as
possible, to return to the steward of the nursery a small monthly
share of their gettings, to be a portion for the child; and
therefore all parents are limited in their expenses by the law.
For the Lilliputians think nothing can be more unjust, than for
people, in subservience to their own appetites, to bring children
into the world, and leave the burthen of supporting them on the
public. As to persons of quality, they give security to
appropriate a certain sum for each child, suitable to their
condition; and these funds are always managed with good husbandry
and the most exact justice.
The cottagers and labourers keep their children at home, their
business being only to till and cultivate the earth, and
therefore their education is of little consequence to the public:
but the old and diseased among them, are supported by hospitals;
for begging is a trade unknown in this empire.
And here it may, perhaps, divert the curious reader, to give some
account of my domestics, and my manner of living in this country,
during a residence of nine months, and thirteen days. Having a
head mechanically turned, and being likewise forced by necessity,
I had made for myself a table and chair convenient enough, out of
the largest trees in the royal park. Two hundred sempstresses
were employed to make me shirts, and linen for my bed and table,
all of the strongest and coarsest kind they could get; which,
however, they were forced to quilt together in several folds, for
the thickest was some degrees finer than lawn. Their linen is
usually three inches wide, and three feet make a piece. The
sempstresses took my measure as I lay on the ground, one standing
at my neck, and another at my mid-leg, with a strong cord
extended, that each held by the end, while a third measured the
length of the cord with a rule of an inch long. Then they
measured my right thumb, and desired no more; for by a
mathematical computation, that twice round the thumb is once
round the wrist, and so on to the neck and the waist, and by the
help of my old shirt, which I displayed on the ground before them
for a pattern, they fitted me exactly. Three hundred tailors were
employed in the same manner to make me clothes; but they had
another contrivance for taking my measure. I kneeled down, and
they raised a ladder from the ground to my neck; upon this ladder
one of them mounted, and let fall a plumb-line from my collar to
the floor, which just answered the length of my coat: but my
waist and arms I measured myself. When my clothes were finished,
which was done in my house (for the largest of theirs would not
have been able to hold them), they looked like the patch-work
made by the ladies in England, only that mine were all of a
I had three hundred cooks to dress my victuals, in little
convenient huts built about my house, where they and their
families lived, and prepared me two dishes a-piece. I took up
twenty waiters in my hand, and placed them on the table: a
hundred more attended below on the ground, some with dishes of
meat, and some with barrels of wine and other liquors slung on
their shoulders; all which the waiters above drew up, as I
wanted, in a very ingenious manner, by certain cords, as we draw
the bucket up a well in Europe. A dish of their meat was a good
mouthful, and a barrel of their liquor a reasonable draught.
Their mutton yields to ours, but their beef is excellent. I have
had a sirloin so large, that I have been forced to make three
bites of it; but this is rare. My servants were astonished to
see me eat it, bones and all, as in our country we do the leg of
a lark. Their geese and turkeys I usually ate at a mouthful, and
I confess they far exceed ours. Of their smaller fowl I could
take up twenty or thirty at the end of my knife.
One day his imperial majesty, being informed of my way of living,
desired "that himself and his royal consort, with the young
princes of the blood of both sexes, might have the happiness," as
he was pleased to call it, "of dining with me." They came
accordingly, and I placed them in chairs of state, upon my table,
just over against me, with their guards about them. Flimnap, the
lord high treasurer, attended there likewise with his white
staff; and I observed he often looked on me with a sour
countenance, which I would not seem to regard, but ate more than
usual, in honour to my dear country, as well as to fill the court
with admiration. I have some private reasons to believe, that
this visit from his majesty gave Flimnap an opportunity of doing
me ill offices to his master. That minister had always been my
secret enemy, though he outwardly caressed me more than was usual
to the moroseness of his nature. He represented to the emperor
"the low condition of his treasury; that he was forced to take up
money at a great discount; that exchequer bills would not
circulate under nine per cent. below par; that I had cost his
majesty above a million and a half of SPRUGS" (their greatest
gold coin, about the bigness of a spangle) "and, upon the whole,
that it would be advisable in the emperor to take the first fair
occasion of dismissing me."
I am here obliged to vindicate the reputation of an excellent
lady, who was an innocent sufferer upon my account. The
treasurer took a fancy to be jealous of his wife, from the malice
of some evil tongues, who informed him that her grace had taken a
violent affection for my person; and the court scandal ran for
some time, that she once came privately to my lodging. This I
solemnly declare to be a most infamous falsehood, without any
grounds, further than that her grace was pleased to treat me with
all innocent marks of freedom and friendship. I own she came
often to my house, but always publicly, nor ever without three
more in the coach, who were usually her sister and young
daughter, and some particular acquaintance; but this was common
to many other ladies of the court. And I still appeal to my
servants round, whether they at any time saw a coach at my door,
without knowing what persons were in it. On those occasions,
when a servant had given me notice, my custom was to go
immediately to the door, and, after paying my respects, to take
up the coach and two horses very carefully in my hands (for, if
there were six horses, the postillion always unharnessed four,)
and place them on a table, where I had fixed a movable rim quite
round, of five inches high, to prevent accidents. And I have
often had four coaches and horses at once on my table, full of
company, while I sat in my chair, leaning my face towards them;
and when I was engaged with one set, the coachmen would gently
drive the others round my table. I have passed many an afternoon
very agreeably in these conversations. But I defy the treasurer,
or his two informers (I will name them, and let them make the
best of it) Clustril and Drunlo, to prove that any person ever
came to me INCOGNITO, except the secretary Reldresal, who was
sent by express command of his imperial majesty, as I have before
related. I should not have dwelt so long upon this particular,
if it had not been a point wherein the reputation of a great lady
is so nearly concerned, to say nothing of my own; though I then
had the honour to be a NARDAC, which the treasurer himself is
not; for all the world knows, that he is only a GLUMGLUM, a title
inferior by one degree, as that of a marquis is to a duke in
England; yet I allow he preceded me in right of his post. These
false informations, which I afterwards came to the knowledge of
by an accident not proper to mention, made the treasurer show his
lady for some time an ill countenance, and me a worse; and
although he was at last undeceived and reconciled to her, yet I
lost all credit with him, and found my interest decline very fast
with the emperor himself, who was, indeed, too much governed by
that favourite.
[The author, being informed of a design to accuse him of
high-treason, makes his escape to Blefuscu. His reception
Before I proceed to give an account of my leaving this kingdom,
it may be proper to inform the reader of a private intrigue which
had been for two months forming against me.
I had been hitherto, all my life, a stranger to courts, for which
I was unqualified by the meanness of my condition. I had indeed
heard and read enough of the dispositions of great princes and
ministers, but never expected to have found such terrible effects
of them, in so remote a country, governed, as I thought, by very
different maxims from those in Europe.
When I was just preparing to pay my attendance on the emperor of
Blefuscu, a considerable person at court (to whom I had been very
serviceable, at a time when he lay under the highest displeasure
of his imperial majesty) came to my house very privately at
night, in a close chair, and, without sending his name, desired
admittance. The chairmen were dismissed; I put the chair, with
his lordship in it, into my coat-pocket: and, giving orders to a
trusty servant, to say I was indisposed and gone to sleep, I
fastened the door of my house, placed the chair on the table,
according to my usual custom, and sat down by it. After the
common salutations were over, observing his lordship's
countenance full of concern, and inquiring into the reason, he
desired "I would hear him with patience, in a matter that highly
concerned my honour and my life." His speech was to the following
effect, for I took notes of it as soon as he left me:-
"You are to know," said he, "that several committees of council
have been lately called, in the most private manner, on your
account; and it is but two days since his majesty came to a full
"You are very sensible that Skyresh Bolgolam" (GALBET, or
high-admiral) "has been your mortal enemy, almost ever since your
arrival. His original reasons I know not; but his hatred is
increased since your great success against Blefuscu, by which his
glory as admiral is much obscured. This lord, in conjunction
with Flimnap the high-treasurer, whose enmity against you is
notorious on account of his lady, Limtoc the general, Lalcon the
chamberlain, and Balmuff the grand justiciary, have prepared
articles of impeachment against you, for treason and other
capital crimes."
This preface made me so impatient, being conscious of my own
merits and innocence, that I was going to interrupt him; when he
entreated me to be silent, and thus proceeded:--
"Out of gratitude for the favours you have done me, I procured
information of the whole proceedings, and a copy of the articles;
wherein I venture my head for your service.
"'Articles of Impeachment against QUINBUS FLESTRIN, (the
"'Whereas, by a statute made in the reign of his imperial majesty
Calin Deffar Plune, it is enacted, that, whoever shall make water
within the precincts of the royal palace, shall be liable to the
pains and penalties of high-treason; notwithstanding, the said
Quinbus Flestrin, in open breach of the said law, under colour of
extinguishing the fire kindled in the apartment of his majesty's
most dear imperial consort, did maliciously, traitorously, and
devilishly, by discharge of his urine, put out the said fire
kindled in the said apartment, lying and being within the
precincts of the said royal palace, against the statute in that
case provided, etc. against the duty, etc.
"'That the said Quinbus Flestrin, having brought the imperial
fleet of Blefuscu into the royal port, and being afterwards
commanded by his imperial majesty to seize all the other ships of
the said empire of Blefuscu, and reduce that empire to a
province, to be governed by a viceroy from hence, and to destroy
and put to death, not only all the Big-endian exiles, but
likewise all the people of that empire who would not immediately
forsake the Big-endian heresy, he, the said Flestrin, like a
false traitor against his most auspicious, serene, imperial
majesty, did petition to be excused from the said service, upon
pretence of unwillingness to force the consciences, or destroy
the liberties and lives of an innocent people.
"'That, whereas certain ambassadors arrived from the Court of
Blefuscu, to sue for peace in his majesty's court, he, the said
Flestrin, did, like a false traitor, aid, abet, comfort, and
divert, the said ambassadors, although he knew them to be
servants to a prince who was lately an open enemy to his imperial
majesty, and in an open war against his said majesty.
"'That the said Quinbus Flestrin, contrary to the duty of a
faithful subject, is now preparing to make a voyage to the court
and empire of Blefuscu, for which he has received only verbal
license from his imperial majesty; and, under colour of the said
license, does falsely and traitorously intend to take the said
voyage, and thereby to aid, comfort, and abet the emperor of
Blefuscu, so lately an enemy, and in open war with his imperial
majesty aforesaid.'
"There are some other articles; but these are the most important,
of which I have read you an abstract.
"In the several debates upon this impeachment, it must be
confessed that his majesty gave many marks of his great lenity;
often urging the services you had done him, and endeavouring to
extenuate your crimes. The treasurer and admiral insisted that
you should be put to the most painful and ignominious death, by
setting fire to your house at night, and the general was to
attend with twenty thousand men, armed with poisoned arrows, to
shoot you on the face and hands. Some of your servants were to
have private orders to strew a poisonous juice on your shirts and
sheets, which would soon make you tear your own flesh, and die in
the utmost torture. The general came into the same opinion; so
that for a long time there was a majority against you; but his
majesty resolving, if possible, to spare your life, at last
brought off the chamberlain.
"Upon this incident, Reldresal, principal secretary for private
affairs, who always approved himself your true friend, was
commanded by the emperor to deliver his opinion, which he
accordingly did; and therein justified the good thoughts you have
of him. He allowed your crimes to be great, but that still there
was room for mercy, the most commendable virtue in a prince, and
for which his majesty was so justly celebrated. He said, the
friendship between you and him was so well known to the world,
that perhaps the most honourable board might think him partial;
however, in obedience to the command he had received, he would
freely offer his sentiments. That if his majesty, in
consideration of your services, and pursuant to his own merciful
disposition, would please to spare your life, and only give
orders to put out both your eyes, he humbly conceived, that by
this expedient justice might in some measure be satisfied, and
all the world would applaud the lenity of the emperor, as well as
the fair and generous proceedings of those who have the honour to
be his counsellors. That the loss of your eyes would be no
impediment to your bodily strength, by which you might still be
useful to his majesty; that blindness is an addition to courage,
by concealing dangers from us; that the fear you had for your
eyes, was the greatest difficulty in bringing over the enemy's
fleet, and it would be sufficient for you to see by the eyes of
the ministers, since the greatest princes do no more.
"This proposal was received with the utmost disapprobation by the
whole board. Bolgolam, the admiral, could not preserve his
temper, but, rising up in fury, said, he wondered how the
secretary durst presume to give his opinion for preserving the
life of a traitor; that the services you had performed were, by
all true reasons of state, the great aggravation of your crimes;
that you, who were able to extinguish the fire by discharge of
urine in her majesty's apartment (which he mentioned with
horror), might, at another time, raise an inundation by the same
means, to drown the whole palace; and the same strength which
enabled you to bring over the enemy's fleet, might serve, upon
the first discontent, to carry it back; that he had good reasons
to think you were a Big-endian in your heart; and, as treason
begins in the heart, before it appears in overt-acts, so he
accused you as a traitor on that account, and therefore insisted
you should be put to death.
"The treasurer was of the same opinion: he showed to what
straits his majesty's revenue was reduced, by the charge of
maintaining you, which would soon grow insupportable; that the
secretary's expedient of putting out your eyes, was so far from
being a remedy against this evil, that it would probably increase
it, as is manifest from the common practice of blinding some kind
of fowls, after which they fed the faster, and grew sooner fat;
that his sacred majesty and the council, who are your judges,
were, in their own consciences, fully convinced of your guilt,
which was a sufficient argument to condemn you to death, without
the formal proofs required by the strict letter of the law.
"But his imperial majesty, fully determined against capital
punishment, was graciously pleased to say, that since the council
thought the loss of your eyes too easy a censure, some other way
may be inflicted hereafter. And your friend the secretary,
humbly desiring to be heard again, in answer to what the
treasurer had objected, concerning the great charge his majesty
was at in maintaining you, said, that his excellency, who had the
sole disposal of the emperor's revenue, might easily provide
against that evil, by gradually lessening your establishment; by
which, for want of sufficient for you would grow weak and faint,
and lose your appetite, and consequently, decay, and consume in a
few months; neither would the stench of your carcass be then so
dangerous, when it should become more than half diminished; and
immediately upon your death five or six thousand of his majesty's
subjects might, in two or three days, cut your flesh from your
bones, take it away by cart-loads, and bury it in distant parts,
to prevent infection, leaving the skeleton as a monument of
admiration to posterity.
"Thus, by the great friendship of the secretary, the whole affair
was compromised. It was strictly enjoined, that the project of
starving you by degrees should be kept a secret; but the sentence
of putting out your eyes was entered on the books; none
dissenting, except Bolgolam the admiral, who, being a creature of
the empress, was perpetually instigated by her majesty to insist
upon your death, she having borne perpetual malice against you,
on account of that infamous and illegal method you took to
extinguish the fire in her apartment.
"In three days your friend the secretary will be directed to come
to your house, and read before you the articles of impeachment;
and then to signify the great lenity and favour of his majesty
and council, whereby you are only condemned to the loss of your
eyes, which his majesty does not question you will gratefully and
humbly submit to; and twenty of his majesty's surgeons will
attend, in order to see the operation well performed, by
discharging very sharp-pointed arrows into the balls of your
eyes, as you lie on the ground.
"I leave to your prudence what measures you will take; and to
avoid suspicion, I must immediately return in as private a manner
as I came."
His lordship did so; and I remained alone, under many doubts and
perplexities of mind.
It was a custom introduced by this prince and his ministry (very
different, as I have been assured, from the practice of former
times,) that after the court had decreed any cruel execution,
either to gratify the monarch's resentment, or the malice of a
favourite, the emperor always made a speech to his whole council,
expressing his great lenity and tenderness, as qualities known
and confessed by all the world. This speech was immediately
published throughout the kingdom; nor did any thing terrify the
people so much as those encomiums on his majesty's mercy; because
it was observed, that the more these praises were enlarged and
insisted on, the more inhuman was the punishment, and the
sufferer more innocent. Yet, as to myself, I must confess,
having never been designed for a courtier, either by my birth or
education, I was so ill a judge of things, that I could not
discover the lenity and favour of this sentence, but conceived it
(perhaps erroneously) rather to be rigorous than gentle. I
sometimes thought of standing my trial, for, although I could not
deny the facts alleged in the several articles, yet I hoped they
would admit of some extenuation. But having in my life perused
many state-trials, which I ever observed to terminate as the
judges thought fit to direct, I durst not rely on so dangerous a
decision, in so critical a juncture, and against such powerful
enemies. Once I was strongly bent upon resistance, for, while I
had liberty the whole strength of that empire could hardly subdue
me, and I might easily with stones pelt the metropolis to pieces;
but I soon rejected that project with horror, by remembering the
oath I had made to the emperor, the favours I received from him,
and the high title of NARDAC he conferred upon me. Neither had I
so soon learned the gratitude of courtiers, to persuade myself,
that his majesty's present seventies acquitted me of all past
At last, I fixed upon a resolution, for which it is probable I
may incur some censure, and not unjustly; for I confess I owe the
preserving of mine eyes, and consequently my liberty, to my own
great rashness and want of experience; because, if I had then
known the nature of princes and ministers, which I have since
observed in many other courts, and their methods of treating
criminals less obnoxious than myself, I should, with great
alacrity and readiness, have submitted to so easy a punishment.
But hurried on by the precipitancy of youth, and having his
imperial majesty's license to pay my attendance upon the emperor
of Blefuscu, I took this opportunity, before the three days were
elapsed, to send a letter to my friend the secretary, signifying
my resolution of setting out that morning for Blefuscu, pursuant
to the leave I had got; and, without waiting for an answer, I
went to that side of the island where our fleet lay. I seized a
large man of war, tied a cable to the prow, and, lifting up the
anchors, I stripped myself, put my clothes (together with my
coverlet, which I carried under my arm) into the vessel, and,
drawing it after me, between wading and swimming arrived at the
royal port of Blefuscu, where the people had long expected me:
they lent me two guides to direct me to the capital city, which
is of the same name. I held them in my hands, till I came within
two hundred yards of the gate, and desired them "to signify my
arrival to one of the secretaries, and let him know, I there
waited his majesty's command." I had an answer in about an hour,
"that his majesty, attended by the royal family, and great
officers of the court, was coming out to receive me." I advanced
a hundred yards. The emperor and his train alighted from their
horses, the empress and ladies from their coaches, and I did not
perceive they were in any fright or concern. I lay on the ground
to kiss his majesty's and the empress's hands. I told his
majesty, "that I was come according to my promise, and with the
license of the emperor my master, to have the honour of seeing so
mighty a monarch, and to offer him any service in my power,
consistent with my duty to my own prince;" not mentioning a word
of my disgrace, because I had hitherto no regular information of
it, and might suppose myself wholly ignorant of any such design;
neither could I reasonably conceive that the emperor would
discover the secret, while I was out of his power; wherein,
however, it soon appeared I was deceived.
I shall not trouble the reader with the particular account of my
reception at this court, which was suitable to the generosity of
so great a prince; nor of the difficulties I was in for want of a
house and bed, being forced to lie on the ground, wrapped up in
my coverlet.
[The author, by a lucky accident, finds means to leave Blefuscu;
and, after some difficulties, returns safe to his native
Three days after my arrival, walking out of curiosity to the
north-east coast of the island, I observed, about half a league
off in the sea, somewhat that looked like a boat overturned. I
pulled off my shoes and stockings, and, wailing two or three
hundred yards, I found the object to approach nearer by force of
the tide; and then plainly saw it to be a real boat, which I
supposed might by some tempest have been driven from a ship.
Whereupon, I returned immediately towards the city, and desired
his imperial majesty to lend me twenty of the tallest vessels he
had left, after the loss of his fleet, and three thousand seamen,
under the command of his vice-admiral. This fleet sailed round,
while I went back the shortest way to the coast, where I first
discovered the boat. I found the tide had driven it still
nearer. The seamen were all provided with cordage, which I had
beforehand twisted to a sufficient strength. When the ships came
up, I stripped myself, and waded till I came within a hundred
yards off the boat, after which I was forced to swim till I got
up to it. The seamen threw me the end of the cord, which I
fastened to a hole in the fore-part of the boat, and the other
end to a man of war; but I found all my labour to little purpose;
for, being out of my depth, I was not able to work. In this
necessity I was forced to swim behind, and push the boat forward,
as often as I could, with one of my hands; and the tide favouring
me, I advanced so far that I could just hold up my chin and feel
the ground. I rested two or three minutes, and then gave the
boat another shove, and so on, till the sea was no higher than my
arm-pits; and now, the most laborious part being over, I took out
my other cables, which were stowed in one of the ships, and
fastened them first to the boat, and then to nine of the vessels
which attended me; the wind being favourable, the seamen towed,
and I shoved, until we arrived within forty yards of the shore;
and, waiting till the tide was out, I got dry to the boat, and by
the assistance of two thousand men, with ropes and engines, I
made a shift to turn it on its bottom, and found it was but
little damaged.
I shall not trouble the reader with the difficulties I was under,
by the help of certain paddles, which cost me ten days making, to
get my boat to the royal port of Blefuscu, where a mighty
concourse of people appeared upon my arrival, full of wonder at
the sight of so prodigious a vessel. I told the emperor "that my
good fortune had thrown this boat in my way, to carry me to some
place whence I might return into my native country; and begged
his majesty's orders for getting materials to fit it up, together
with his license to depart;" which, after some kind
expostulations, he was pleased to grant.
I did very much wonder, in all this time, not to have heard of
any express relating to me from our emperor to the court of
Blefuscu. But I was afterward given privately to understand, that
his imperial majesty, never imagining I had the least notice of
his designs, believed I was only gone to Blefuscu in performance
of my promise, according to the license he had given me, which
was well known at our court, and would return in a few days, when
the ceremony was ended. But he was at last in pain at my long
absence; and after consulting with the treasurer and the rest of
that cabal, a person of quality was dispatched with the copy of
the articles against me. This envoy had instructions to
represent to the monarch of Blefuscu, "the great lenity of his
master, who was content to punish me no farther than with the
loss of mine eyes; that I had fled from justice; and if I did not
return in two hours, I should be deprived of my title of NARDAC,
and declared a traitor." The envoy further added, "that in order
to maintain the peace and amity between both empires, his master
expected that his brother of Blefuscu would give orders to have
me sent back to Lilliput, bound hand and foot, to be punished as
a traitor."
The emperor of Blefuscu, having taken three days to consult,
returned an answer consisting of many civilities and excuses. He
said, "that as for sending me bound, his brother knew it was
impossible; that, although I had deprived him of his fleet, yet
he owed great obligations to me for many good offices I had done
him in making the peace. That, however, both their majesties
would soon be made easy; for I had found a prodigious vessel on
the shore, able to carry me on the sea, which he had given orders
to fit up, with my own assistance and direction; and he hoped, in
a few weeks, both empires would be freed from so insupportable an
With this answer the envoy returned to Lilliput; and the monarch
of Blefuscu related to me all that had passed; offering me at the
same time (but under the strictest confidence) his gracious
protection, if I would continue in his service; wherein, although
I believed him sincere, yet I resolved never more to put any
confidence in princes or ministers, where I could possibly avoid
it; and therefore, with all due acknowledgments for his
favourable intentions, I humbly begged to be excused. I told
him, "that since fortune, whether good or evil, had thrown a
vessel in my way, I was resolved to venture myself on the ocean,
rather than be an occasion of difference between two such mighty
monarchs." Neither did I find the emperor at all displeased; and
I discovered, by a certain accident, that he was very glad of my
resolution, and so were most of his ministers.
These considerations moved me to hasten my departure somewhat
sooner than I intended; to which the court, impatient to have me
gone, very readily contributed. Five hundred workmen were
employed to make two sails to my boat, according to my
directions, by quilting thirteen folds of their strongest linen
together. I was at the pains of making ropes and cables, by
twisting ten, twenty, or thirty of the thickest and strongest of
theirs. A great stone that I happened to find, after a long
search, by the sea-shore, served me for an anchor. I had the
tallow of three hundred cows, for greasing my boat, and other
uses. I was at incredible pains in cutting down some of the
largest timber-trees, for oars and masts, wherein I was, however,
much assisted by his majesty's ship-carpenters, who helped me in
smoothing them, after I had done the rough work.
In about a month, when all was prepared, I sent to receive his
majesty's commands, and to take my leave. The emperor and royal
family came out of the palace; I lay down on my face to kiss his
hand, which he very graciously gave me: so did the empress and
young princes of the blood. His majesty presented me with fifty
purses of two hundred SPRUGS a-piece, together with his picture
at full length, which I put immediately into one of my gloves, to
keep it from being hurt. The ceremonies at my departure were too
many to trouble the reader with at this time.
I stored the boat with the carcases of a hundred oxen, and three
hundred sheep, with bread and drink proportionable, and as much
meat ready dressed as four hundred cooks could provide. I took
with me six cows and two bulls alive, with as many ewes and rams,
intending to carry them into my own country, and propagate the
breed. And to feed them on board, I had a good bundle of hay,
and a bag of corn. I would gladly have taken a dozen of the
natives, but this was a thing the emperor would by no means
permit; and, besides a diligent search into my pockets, his
majesty engaged my honour "not to carry away any of his subjects,
although with their own consent and desire."
Having thus prepared all things as well as I was able, I set sail
on the twenty-fourth day of September 1701, at six in the
morning; and when I had gone about four-leagues to the northward,
the wind being at south-east, at six in the evening I descried a
small island, about half a league to the north-west. I advanced
forward, and cast anchor on the lee-side of the island, which
seemed to be uninhabited. I then took some refreshment, and went
to my rest. I slept well, and as I conjectured at least six
hours, for I found the day broke in two hours after I awaked. It
was a clear night. I ate my breakfast before the sun was up; and
heaving anchor, the wind being favourable, I steered the same
course that I had done the day before, wherein I was directed by
my pocket compass. My intention was to reach, if possible, one
of those islands. which I had reason to believe lay to the
north-east of Van Diemen's Land. I discovered nothing all that
day; but upon the next, about three in the afternoon, when I had
by my computation made twenty-four leagues from Blefuscu, I
descried a sail steering to the south-east; my course was due
east. I hailed her, but could get no answer; yet I found I
gained upon her, for the wind slackened. I made all the sail I
could, and in half an hour she spied me, then hung out her
ancient, and discharged a gun. It is not easy to express the joy
I was in, upon the unexpected hope of once more seeing my beloved
country, and the dear pledges I left in it. The ship slackened
her sails, and I came up with her between five and six in the
evening, September 26th; but my heart leaped within me to see her
English colours. I put my cows and sheep into my coat-pockets,
and got on board with all my little cargo of provisions. The
vessel was an English merchantman, returning from Japan by the
North and South seas; the captain, Mr. John Biddel, of Deptford,
a very civil man, and an excellent sailor.
We were now in the latitude of 30 degrees south; there were about
fifty men in the ship; and here I met an old comrade of mine, one
Peter Williams, who gave me a good character to the captain.
This gentleman treated me with kindness, and desired I would let
him know what place I came from last, and whither I was bound;
which I did in a few words, but he thought I was raving, and that
the dangers I underwent had disturbed my head; whereupon I took
my black cattle and sheep out of my pocket, which, after great
astonishment, clearly convinced him of my veracity. I then
showed him the gold given me by the emperor of Blefuscu, together
with his majesty's picture at full length, and some other
rarities of that country. I gave him two purses of two hundreds
SPRUGS each, and promised, when we arrived in England, to make
him a present of a cow and a sheep big with young.
I shall not trouble the reader with a particular account of this
voyage, which was very prosperous for the most part. We arrived
in the Downs on the 13th of April, 1702. I had only one
misfortune, that the rats on board carried away one of my sheep;
I found her bones in a hole, picked clean from the flesh. The
rest of my cattle I got safe ashore, and set them a-grazing in a
bowling-green at Greenwich, where the fineness of the grass made
them feed very heartily, though I had always feared the contrary:
neither could I possibly have preserved them in so long a voyage,
if the captain had not allowed me some of his best biscuit,
which, rubbed to powder, and mingled with water, was their
constant food. The short time I continued in England, I made a
considerable profit by showing my cattle to many persons of
quality and others: and before I began my second voyage, I sold
them for six hundred pounds. Since my last return I find the
breed is considerably increased, especially the sheep, which I
hope will prove much to the advantage of the woollen manufacture,
by the fineness of the fleeces.
I stayed but two months with my wife and family, for my
insatiable desire of seeing foreign countries, would suffer me to
continue no longer. I left fifteen hundred pounds with my wife,
and fixed her in a good house at Redriff. My remaining stock I
carried with me, part in money and part in goods, in hopes to
improve my fortunes. My eldest uncle John had left me an estate
in land, near Epping, of about thirty pounds a year; and I had a
long lease of the Black Bull in Fetter-Lane, which yielded me as
much more; so that I was not in any danger of leaving my family
upon the parish. My son Johnny, named so after his uncle, was at
the grammar-school, and a towardly child. My daughter Betty (who
is now well married, and has children) was then at her
needle-work. I took leave of my wife, and boy and girl, with
tears on both sides, and went on board the Adventure, a merchant
ship of three hundred tons, bound for Surat, captain John
Nicholas, of Liverpool, commander. But my account of this voyage
must be referred to the Second Part of my Travels.
[A great storm described; the long boat sent to fetch water; the
author goes with it to discover the country. He is left on
shore, is seized by one of the natives, and carried to a farmer's
house. His reception, with several accidents that happened there.
A description of the inhabitants.]
Having been condemned, by nature and fortune, to active and
restless life, in two months after my return, I again left my
native country, and took shipping in the Downs, on the 20th day
of June, 1702, in the Adventure, Captain John Nicholas, a Cornish
man, commander, bound for Surat. We had a very prosperous gale,
till we arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, where we landed for
fresh water; but discovering a leak, we unshipped our goods and
wintered there; for the captain falling sick of an ague, we could
not leave the Cape till the end of March. We then set sail, and
had a good voyage till we passed the Straits of Madagascar; but
having got northward of that island, and to about five degrees
south latitude, the winds, which in those seas are observed to
blow a constant equal gale between the north and west, from the
beginning of December to the beginning of May, on the 19th of
April began to blow with much greater violence, and more westerly
than usual, continuing so for twenty days together: during which
time, we were driven a little to the east of the Molucca Islands,
and about three degrees northward of the line, as our captain
found by an observation he took the 2nd of May, at which time the
wind ceased, and it was a perfect calm, whereat I was not a
little rejoiced. But he, being a man well experienced in the
navigation of those seas, bid us all prepare against a storm,
which accordingly happened the day following: for the southern
wind, called the southern monsoon, began to set in.
Finding it was likely to overblow, we took in our sprit-sail, and
stood by to hand the fore-sail; but making foul weather, we
looked the guns were all fast, and handed the mizen. The ship
lay very broad off, so we thought it better spooning before the
sea, than trying or hulling. We reefed the fore-sail and set
him, and hauled aft the fore-sheet; the helm was hard a-weather.
The ship wore bravely. We belayed the fore down-haul; but the
sail was split, and we hauled down the yard, and got the sail
into the ship, and unbound all the things clear of it. It was a
very fierce storm; the sea broke strange and dangerous. We
hauled off upon the laniard of the whip-staff, and helped the man
at the helm. We would not get down our topmast, but let all
stand, because she scudded before the sea very well, and we knew
that the top-mast being aloft, the ship was the wholesomer, and
made better way through the sea, seeing we had sea-room. When
the storm was over, we set fore-sail and main-sail, and brought
the ship to. Then we set the mizen, main-top-sail, and the
fore-top-sail. Our course was east-north-east, the wind was at
south-west. We got the starboard tacks aboard, we cast off our
weather-braces and lifts; we set in the lee-braces, and hauled
forward by the weather-bowlings, and hauled them tight, and
belayed them, and hauled over the mizen tack to windward, and
kept her full and by as near as she would lie.
During this storm, which was followed by a strong wind
west-south-west, we were carried, by my computation, about five
hundred leagues to the east, so that the oldest sailor on board
could not tell in what part of the world we were. Our provisions
held out well, our ship was staunch, and our crew all in good
health; but we lay in the utmost distress for water. We thought
it best to hold on the same course, rather than turn more
northerly, which might have brought us to the north-west part of
Great Tartary, and into the Frozen Sea.
On the 16th day of June, 1703, a boy on the top-mast discovered
land. On the 17th, we came in full view of a great island, or
continent (for we knew not whether;) on the south side whereof
was a small neck of land jutting out into the sea, and a creek
too shallow to hold a ship of above one hundred tons. We cast
anchor within a league of this creek, and our captain sent a
dozen of his men well armed in the long-boat, with vessels for
water, if any could be found. I desired his leave to go with
them, that I might see the country, and make what discoveries I
could. When we came to land we saw no river or spring, nor any
sign of inhabitants. Our men therefore wandered on the shore to
find out some fresh water near the sea, and I walked alone about
a mile on the other side, where I observed the country all barren
and rocky. I now began to be weary, and seeing nothing to
entertain my curiosity, I returned gently down towards the creek;
and the sea being full in my view, I saw our men already got into
the boat, and rowing for life to the ship. I was going to halloo
after them, although it had been to little purpose, when I
observed a huge creature walking after them in the sea, as fast
as he could: he waded not much deeper than his knees, and took
prodigious strides: but our men had the start of him half a
league, and, the sea thereabouts being full of sharp-pointed
rocks, the monster was not able to overtake the boat. This I was
afterwards told, for I durst not stay to see the issue of the
adventure; but ran as fast as I could the way I first went, and
then climbed up a steep hill, which gave me some prospect of the
country. I found it fully cultivated; but that which first
surprised me was the length of the grass, which, in those grounds
that seemed to be kept for hay, was about twenty feet high.
I fell into a high road, for so I took it to be, though it served
to the inhabitants only as a foot-path through a field of barley.
Here I walked on for some time, but could see little on either
side, it being now near harvest, and the corn rising at least
forty feet. I was an hour walking to the end of this field,
which was fenced in with a hedge of at least one hundred and
twenty feet high, and the trees so lofty that I could make no
computation of their altitude. There was a stile to pass from
this field into the next. It had four steps, and a stone to
cross over when you came to the uppermost. It was impossible for
me to climb this stile, because every step was six-feet high, and
the upper stone about twenty. I was endeavouring to find some
gap in the hedge, when I discovered one of the inhabitants in the
next field, advancing towards the stile, of the same size with
him whom I saw in the sea pursuing our boat. He appeared as tall
as an ordinary spire steeple, and took about ten yards at every
stride, as near as I could guess. I was struck with the utmost
fear and astonishment, and ran to hide myself in the corn, whence
I saw him at the top of the stile looking back into the next
field on the right hand, and heard him call in a voice many
degrees louder than a speaking-trumpet: but the noise was so
high in the air, that at first I certainly thought it was
thunder. Whereupon seven monsters, like himself, came towards
him with reaping-hooks in their hands, each hook about the
largeness of six scythes. These people were not so well clad as
the first, whose servants or labourers they seemed to be; for,
upon some words he spoke, they went to reap the corn in the field
where I lay. I kept from them at as great a distance as I could,
but was forced to move with extreme difficulty, for the stalks of
the corn were sometimes not above a foot distant, so that I could
hardly squeeze my body betwixt them. However, I made a shift to
go forward, till I came to a part of the field where the corn had
been laid by the rain and wind. Here it was impossible for me to
advance a step; for the stalks were so interwoven, that I could
not creep through, and the beards of the fallen ears so strong
and pointed, that they pierced through my clothes into my flesh.
At the same time I heard the reapers not a hundred yards behind
me. Being quite dispirited with toil, and wholly overcome by
grief and dispair, I lay down between two ridges, and heartily
wished I might there end my days. I bemoaned my desolate widow
and fatherless children. I lamented my own folly and wilfulness,
in attempting a second voyage, against the advice of all my
friends and relations. In this terrible agitation of mind, I
could not forbear thinking of Lilliput, whose inhabitants looked
upon me as the greatest prodigy that ever appeared in the world;
where I was able to draw an imperial fleet in my hand, and
perform those other actions, which will be recorded for ever in
the chronicles of that empire, while posterity shall hardly
believe them, although attested by millions. I reflected what a
mortification it must prove to me, to appear as inconsiderable in
this nation, as one single Lilliputian would be among us. But
this I conceived was to be the least of my misfortunes; for, as
human creatures are observed to be more savage and cruel in
proportion to their bulk, what could I expect but to be a morsel
in the mouth of the first among these enormous barbarians that
should happen to seize me? Undoubtedly philosophers are in the
right, when they tell us that nothing is great or little
otherwise than by comparison. It might have pleased fortune, to
have let the Lilliputians find some nation, where the people were
as diminutive with respect to them, as they were to me. And who
knows but that even this prodigious race of mortals might be
equally overmatched in some distant part of the world, whereof we
have yet no discovery.
Scared and confounded as I was, I could not forbear going on with
these reflections, when one of the reapers, approaching within
ten yards of the ridge where I lay, made me apprehend that with
the next step I should be squashed to death under his foot, or
cut in two with his reaping-hook. And therefore, when he was
again about to move, I screamed as loud as fear could make me:
whereupon the huge creature trod short, and, looking round about
under him for some time, at last espied me as I lay on the
ground. He considered awhile, with the caution of one who
endeavours to lay hold on a small dangerous animal in such a
manner that it shall not be able either to scratch or bite him,
as I myself have sometimes done with a weasel in England. At
length he ventured to take me behind, by the middle, between his
fore-finger and thumb, and brought me within three yards of his
eyes, that he might behold my shape more perfectly. I guessed
his meaning, and my good fortune gave me so much presence of
mind, that I resolved not to struggle in the least as he held me
in the air above sixty feet from the ground, although he
grievously pinched my sides, for fear I should slip through his
fingers. All I ventured was to raise mine eyes towards the sun,
and place my hands together in a supplicating posture, and to
speak some words in a humble melancholy tone, suitable to the
condition I then was in: for I apprehended every moment that he
would dash me against the ground, as we usually do any little
hateful animal, which we have a mind to destroy. But my good
star would have it, that he appeared pleased with my voice and
gestures, and began to look upon me as a curiosity, much
wondering to hear me pronounce articulate words, although he
could not understand them. In the mean time I was not able to
forbear groaning and shedding tears, and turning my head towards
my sides; letting him know, as well as I could, how cruelly I was
hurt by the pressure of his thumb and finger. He seemed to
apprehend my meaning; for, lifting up the lappet of his coat, he
put me gently into it, and immediately ran along with me to his
master, who was a substantial farmer, and the same person I had
first seen in the field.
The farmer having (as I suppose by their talk) received such an
account of me as his servant could give him, took a piece of a
small straw, about the size of a walking-staff, and therewith
lifted up the lappets of my coat; which it seems he thought to be
some kind of covering that nature had given me. He blew my hairs
aside to take a better view of my face. He called his hinds
about him, and asked them, as I afterwards learned, whether they
had ever seen in the fields any little creature that resembled
me. He then placed me softly on the ground upon all fours, but I
got immediately up, and walked slowly backward and forward, to
let those people see I had no intent to run away. They all sat
down in a circle about me, the better to observe my motions. I
pulled off my hat, and made a low bow towards the farmer. I fell
on my knees, and lifted up my hands and eyes, and spoke several
words as loud as I could: I took a purse of gold out of my
pocket, and humbly presented it to him. He received it on the
palm of his hand, then applied it close to his eye to see what it
was, and afterwards turned it several times with the point of a
pin (which he took out of his sleeve,) but could make nothing of
it. Whereupon I made a sign that he should place his hand on the
ground. I then took the purse, and, opening it, poured all the
gold into his palm. There were six Spanish pieces of four
pistoles each, beside twenty or thirty smaller coins. I saw him
wet the tip of his little finger upon his tongue, and take up one
of my largest pieces, and then another; but he seemed to be
wholly ignorant what they were. He made me a sign to put them
again into my purse, and the purse again into my pocket, which,
after offering it to him several times, I thought it best to do.
The farmer, by this time, was convinced I must be a rational
creature. He spoke often to me; but the sound of his voice
pierced my ears like that of a water-mill, yet his words were
articulate enough. I answered as loud as I could in several
languages, and he often laid his ear within two yards of me: but
all in vain, for we were wholly unintelligible to each other. He
then sent his servants to their work, and taking his handkerchief
out of his pocket, he doubled and spread it on his left hand,
which he placed flat on the ground with the palm upward, making
me a sign to step into it, as I could easily do, for it was not
above a foot in thickness. I thought it my part to obey, and,
for fear of falling, laid myself at full length upon the
handkerchief, with the remainder of which he lapped me up to the
head for further security, and in this manner carried me home to
his house. There he called his wife, and showed me to her; but
she screamed and ran back, as women in England do at the sight of
a toad or a spider. However, when she had a while seen my
behaviour, and how well I observed the signs her husband made,
she was soon reconciled, and by degrees grew extremely tender of
It was about twelve at noon, and a servant brought in dinner. It
was only one substantial dish of meat (fit for the plain
condition of a husbandman,) in a dish of about four-and-twenty
feet diameter. The company were, the farmer and his wife, three
children, and an old grandmother. When they were sat down, the
farmer placed me at some distance from him on the table, which
was thirty feet high from the floor. I was in a terrible fright,
and kept as far as I could from the edge, for fear of falling.
The wife minced a bit of meat, then crumbled some bread on a
trencher, and placed it before me. I made her a low bow, took
out my knife and fork, and fell to eat, which gave them exceeding
delight. The mistress sent her maid for a small dram cup, which
held about two gallons, and filled it with drink; I took up the
vessel with much difficulty in both hands, and in a most
respectful manner drank to her ladyship's health, expressing the
words as loud as I could in English, which made the company laugh
so heartily, that I was almost deafened with the noise. This
liquor tasted like a small cider, and was not unpleasant. Then
the master made me a sign to come to his trencher side; but as I
walked on the table, being in great surprise all the time, as the
indulgent reader will easily conceive and excuse, I happened to
stumble against a crust, and fell flat on my face, but received
no hurt. I got up immediately, and observing the good people to
be in much concern, I took my hat (which I held under my arm out
of good manners,) and waving it over my head, made three huzzas,
to show I had got no mischief by my fall. But advancing forward
towards my master (as I shall henceforth call him,) his youngest
son, who sat next to him, an arch boy of about ten years old,
took me up by the legs, and held me so high in the air, that I
trembled every limb: but his father snatched me from him, and at
the same time gave him such a box on the left ear, as would have
felled an European troop of horse to the earth, ordering him to
be taken from the table. But being afraid the boy might owe me a
spite, and well remembering how mischievous all children among us
naturally are to sparrows, rabbits, young kittens, and puppy
dogs, I fell on my knees, and pointing to the boy, made my master
to understand, as well as I could, that I desired his son might
be pardoned. The father complied, and the lad took his seat
again, whereupon I went to him, and kissed his hand, which my
master took, and made him stroke me gently with it.
In the midst of dinner, my mistress's favourite cat leaped into
her lap. I heard a noise behind me like that of a dozen
stocking-weavers at work; and turning my head, I found it
proceeded from the purring of that animal, who seemed to be three
times larger than an ox, as I computed by the view of her head,
and one of her paws, while her mistress was feeding and stroking
her. The fierceness of this creature's countenance altogether
discomposed me; though I stood at the farther end of the table,
above fifty feet off; and although my mistress held her fast, for
fear she might give a spring, and seize me in her talons. But it
happened there was no danger, for the cat took not the least
notice of me when my master placed me within three yards of her.
And as I have been always told, and found true by experience in
my travels, that flying or discovering fear before a fierce
animal, is a certain way to make it pursue or attack you, so I
resolved, in this dangerous juncture, to show no manner of
concern. I walked with intrepidity five or six times before the
very head of the cat, and came within half a yard of her;
whereupon she drew herself back, as if she were more afraid of
me: I had less apprehension concerning the dogs, whereof three
or four came into the room, as it is usual in farmers' houses;
one of which was a mastiff, equal in bulk to four elephants, and
another a greyhound, somewhat taller than the mastiff, but not so
When dinner was almost done, the nurse came in with a child of a
year old in her arms, who immediately spied me, and began a
squall that you might have heard from London-Bridge to Chelsea,
after the usual oratory of infants, to get me for a plaything.
The mother, out of pure indulgence, took me up, and put me
towards the child, who presently seized me by the middle, and got
my head into his mouth, where I roared so loud that the urchin
was frighted, and let me drop, and I should infallibly have broke
my neck, if the mother had not held her apron under me. The
nurse, to quiet her babe, made use of a rattle which was a kind
of hollow vessel filled with great stones, and fastened by a
cable to the child's waist: but all in vain; so that she was
forced to apply the last remedy by giving it suck. I must
confess no object ever disgusted me so much as the sight of her
monstrous breast, which I cannot tell what to compare with, so as
to give the curious reader an idea of its bulk, shape, and
colour. It stood prominent six feet, and could not be less than
sixteen in circumference. The nipple was about half the bigness
of my head, and the hue both of that and the dug, so varied with
spots, pimples, and freckles, that nothing could appear more
nauseous: for I had a near sight of her, she sitting down, the
more conveniently to give suck, and I standing on the table.
This made me reflect upon the fair skins of our English ladies,
who appear so beautiful to us, only because they are of our own
size, and their defects not to be seen but through a magnifying
glass; where we find by experiment that the smoothest and whitest
skins look rough, and coarse, and ill-coloured.
I remember when I was at Lilliput, the complexion of those
diminutive people appeared to me the fairest in the world; and
talking upon this subject with a person of learning there, who
was an intimate friend of mine, he said that my face appeared
much fairer and smoother when he looked on me from the ground,
than it did upon a nearer view, when I took him up in my hand,
and brought him close, which he confessed was at first a very
shocking sight. He said, "he could discover great holes in my
skin; that the stumps of my beard were ten times stronger than
the bristles of a boar, and my complexion made up of several
colours altogether disagreeable:" although I must beg leave to
say for myself, that I am as fair as most of my sex and country,
and very little sunburnt by all my travels. On the other side,
discoursing of the ladies in that emperor's court, he used to
tell me, "one had freckles; another too wide a mouth; a third too
large a nose;" nothing of which I was able to distinguish. I
confess this reflection was obvious enough; which, however, I
could not forbear, lest the reader might think those vast
creatures were actually deformed: for I must do them the justice
to say, they are a comely race of people, and particularly the
features of my master's countenance, although he was but a
farmer, when I beheld him from the height of sixty feet, appeared
very well proportioned.
When dinner was done, my master went out to his labourers, and,
as I could discover by his voice and gesture, gave his wife
strict charge to take care of me. I was very much tired, and
disposed to sleep, which my mistress perceiving, she put me on
her own bed, and covered me with a clean white handkerchief, but
larger and coarser than the mainsail of a man-of-war.
I slept about two hours, and dreamt I was at home with my wife
and children, which aggravated my sorrows when I awaked, and
found myself alone in a vast room, between two and three hundred
feet wide, and above two hundred high, lying in a bed twenty
yards wide. My mistress was gone about her household affairs, and
had locked me in. The bed was eight yards from the floor. Some
natural necessities required me to get down; I durst not presume
to call; and if I had, it would have been in vain, with such a
voice as mine, at so great a distance from the room where I lay
to the kitchen where the family kept. While I was under these
circumstances, two rats crept up the curtains, and ran smelling
back-wards and forwards on the bed. One of them came up almost
to my face, whereupon I rose in a fright, and drew out my hanger
to defend myself. These horrible animals had the boldness to
attack me on both sides, and one of them held his fore-feet at my
collar; but I had the good fortune to rip up his belly before he
could do me any mischief. He fell down at my feet; and the
other, seeing the fate of his comrade, made his escape, but not
without one good wound on the back, which I gave him as he fled,
and made the blood run trickling from him. After this exploit, I
walked gently to and fro on the bed, to recover my breath and
loss of spirits. These creatures were of the size of a large
mastiff, but infinitely more nimble and fierce; so that if I had
taken off my belt before I went to sleep, I must have infallibly
been torn to pieces and devoured. I measured the tail of the dead
rat, and found it to be two yards long, wanting an inch; but it
went against my stomach to drag the carcass off the bed, where it
lay still bleeding; I observed it had yet some life, but with a
strong slash across the neck, I thoroughly despatched it.
Soon after my mistress came into the room, who seeing me all
bloody, ran and took me up in her hand. I pointed to the dead
rat, smiling, and making other signs to show I was not hurt;
whereat she was extremely rejoiced, calling the maid to take up
the dead rat with a pair of tongs, and throw it out of the
window. Then she set me on a table, where I showed her my hanger
all bloody, and wiping it on the lappet of my coat, returned it
to the scabbard. I was pressed to do more than one thing which
another could not do for me, and therefore endeavoured to make my
mistress understand, that I desired to be set down on the floor;
which after she had done, my bashfulness would not suffer me to
express myself farther, than by pointing to the door, and bowing
several times. The good woman, with much difficulty, at last
perceived what I would be at, and taking me up again in her hand,
walked into the garden, where she set me down. I went on one
side about two hundred yards, and beckoning to her not to look or
to follow me, I hid myself between two leaves of sorrel, and
there discharged the necessities of nature.
I hope the gentle reader will excuse me for dwelling on these and
the like particulars, which, however insignificant they may
appear to groveling vulgar minds, yet will certainly help a
philosopher to enlarge his thoughts and imagination, and apply
them to the benefit of public as well as private life, which was
my sole design in presenting this and other accounts of my
travels to the world; wherein I have been chiefly studious of
truth, without affecting any ornaments of learning or of style.
But the whole scene of this voyage made so strong an impression
on my mind, and is so deeply fixed in my memory, that, in
committing it to paper I did not omit one material circumstance:
however, upon a strict review, I blotted out several passages.
Of less moment which were in my first copy, for fear of being
censured as tedious and trifling, whereof travellers are often,
perhaps not without justice, accused.
[A description of the farmer's daughter. The author carried to a
market-town, and then to the metropolis. The particulars of his
My mistress had a daughter of nine years old, a child of towardly
parts for her age, very dexterous at her needle, and skilful in
dressing her baby. Her mother and she contrived to fit up the
baby's cradle for me against night: the cradle was put into a
small drawer of a cabinet, and the drawer placed upon a hanging
shelf for fear of the rats. This was my bed all the time I staid
with those people, though made more convenient by degrees, as I
began to learn their language and make my wants known. This
young girl was so handy, that after I had once or twice pulled
off my clothes before her, she was able to dress and undress me,
though I never gave her that trouble when she would let me do
either myself. She made me seven shirts, and some other linen, of
as fine cloth as could be got, which indeed was coarser than
sackcloth; and these she constantly washed for me with her own
hands. She was likewise my school-mistress, to teach me the
language: when I pointed to any thing, she told me the name of
it in her own tongue, so that in a few days I was able to call
for whatever I had a mind to. She was very good-natured, and not
above forty feet high, being little for her age. She gave me the
name of GRILDRIG, which the family took up, and afterwards the
whole kingdom. The word imports what the Latins call NANUNCULUS,
the Italians HOMUNCELETINO, and the English MANNIKIN. To her I
chiefly owe my preservation in that country: we never parted
while I was there; I called her my GLUMDALCLITCH, or little
nurse; and should be guilty of great ingratitude, if I omitted
this honourable mention of her care and affection towards me,
which I heartily wish it lay in my power to requite as she
deserves, instead of being the innocent, but unhappy instrument
of her disgrace, as I have too much reason to fear.
It now began to be known and talked of in the neighbourhood, that
my master had found a strange animal in the field, about the
bigness of a SPLACNUCK, but exactly shaped in every part like a
human creature; which it likewise imitated in all its actions;
seemed to speak in a little language of its own, had already
learned several words of theirs, went erect upon two legs, was
tame and gentle, would come when it was called, do whatever it
was bid, had the finest limbs in the world, and a complexion
fairer than a nobleman's daughter of three years old. Another
farmer, who lived hard by, and was a particular friend of my
master, came on a visit on purpose to inquire into the truth of
this story. I was immediately produced, and placed upon a table,
where I walked as I was commanded, drew my hanger, put it up
again, made my reverence to my master's guest, asked him in his
own language how he did, and told him HE WAS WELCOME, just as my
little nurse had instructed me. This man, who was old and
dim-sighted, put on his spectacles to behold me better; at which
I could not forbear laughing very heartily, for his eyes appeared
like the full moon shining into a chamber at two windows. Our
people, who discovered the cause of my mirth, bore me company in
laughing, at which the old fellow was fool enough to be angry and
out of countenance. He had the character of a great miser; and,
to my misfortune, he well deserved it, by the cursed advice he
gave my master, to show me as a sight upon a market-day in the
next town, which was half an hour's riding, about two-and-twenty
miles from our house. I guessed there was some mischief when I
observed my master and his friend whispering together, sometimes
pointing at me; and my fears made me fancy that I overheard and
understood some of their words. But the next morning
Glumdalclitch, my little nurse, told me the whole matter, which
she had cunningly picked out from her mother. The poor girl laid
me on her bosom, and fell a weeping with shame and grief. She
apprehended some mischief would happen to me from rude vulgar
folks, who might squeeze me to death, or break one of my limbs by
taking me in their hands. She had also observed how modest I was
in my nature, how nicely I regarded my honour, and what an
indignity I should conceive it, to be exposed for money as a
public spectacle, to the meanest of the people. She said, her
papa and mamma had promised that Grildrig should be hers; but now
she found they meant to serve her as they did last year, when
they pretended to give her a lamb, and yet, as soon as it was
fat, sold it to a butcher. For my own part, I may truly affirm,
that I was less concerned than my nurse. I had a strong hope,
which never left me, that I should one day recover my liberty:
and as to the ignominy of being carried about for a monster, I
considered myself to be a perfect stranger in the country, and
that such a misfortune could never be charged upon me as a
reproach, if ever I should return to England, since the king of
Great Britain himself, in my condition, must have undergone the
same distress.
My master, pursuant to the advice of his friend, carried me in a
box the next market-day to the neighbouring town, and took along
with him his little daughter, my nurse, upon a pillion behind
him. The box was close on every side, with a little door for me
to go in and out, and a few gimlet holes to let in air. The girl
had been so careful as to put the quilt of her baby's bed into
it, for me to lie down on. However, I was terribly shaken and
discomposed in this journey, though it was but of half an hour:
for the horse went about forty feet at every step and trotted so
high, that the agitation was equal to the rising and falling of a
ship in a great storm, but much more frequent. Our journey was
somewhat farther than from London to St. Alban's. My master
alighted at an inn which he used to frequent; and after
consulting awhile with the inn-keeper, and making some necessary
preparations, he hired the GRULTRUD, or crier, to give notice
through the town of a strange creature to be seen at the sign of
the Green Eagle, not so big as a SPLACNUCK (an animal in that
country very finely shaped, about six feet long,) and in every
part of the body resembling a human creature, could speak several
words, and perform a hundred diverting tricks.
I was placed upon a table in the largest room of the inn, which
might be near three hundred feet square. My little nurse stood
on a low stool close to the table, to take care of me, and direct
what I should do. My master, to avoid a crowd, would suffer only
thirty people at a time to see me. I walked about on the table
as the girl commanded; she asked me questions, as far as she knew
my understanding of the language reached, and I answered them as
loud as I could. I turned about several times to the company,
paid my humble respects, said THEY WERE WELCOME, and used some
other speeches I had been taught. I took up a thimble filled
with liquor, which Glumdalclitch had given me for a cup, and
drank their health, I drew out my hanger, and flourished with it
after the manner of fencers in England. My nurse gave me a part
of a straw, which I exercised as a pike, having learnt the art in
my youth. I was that day shown to twelve sets of company, and as
often forced to act over again the same fopperies, till I was
half dead with weariness and vexation; for those who had seen me
made such wonderful reports, that the people were ready to break
down the doors to come in. My master, for his own interest,
would not suffer any one to touch me except my nurse; and to
prevent danger, benches were set round the table at such a
distance as to put me out of every body's reach. However, an
unlucky school-boy aimed a hazel nut directly at my head, which
very narrowly missed me; otherwise it came with so much violence,
that it would have infallibly knocked out my brains, for it was
almost as large as a small pumpkin, but I had the satisfaction to
see the young rogue well beaten, and turned out of the room.
My master gave public notice that he would show me again the next
market-day; and in the meantime he prepared a convenient vehicle
for me, which he had reason enough to do; for I was so tired with
my first journey, and with entertaining company for eight hours
together, that I could hardly stand upon my legs, or speak a
word. It was at least three days before I recovered my strength;
and that I might have no rest at home, all the neighbouring
gentlemen from a hundred miles round, hearing of my fame, came to
see me at my master's own house. There could not be fewer than
thirty persons with their wives and children (for the country is
very populous;) and my master demanded the rate of a full room
whenever he showed me at home, although it were only to a single
family; so that for some time I had but little ease every day of
the week (except Wednesday, which is their Sabbath,) although I
were not carried to the town.
My master, finding how profitable I was likely to be, resolved to
carry me to the most considerable cities of the kingdom. Having
therefore provided himself with all things necessary for a long
journey, and settled his affairs at home, he took leave of his
wife, and upon the 17th of August, 1703, about two months after
my arrival, we set out for the metropolis, situate near the
middle of that empire, and about three thousand miles distance
from our house. My master made his daughter Glumdalclitch ride
behind him. She carried me on her lap, in a box tied about her
waist. The girl had lined it on all sides with the softest cloth
she could get, well quilted underneath, furnished it with her
baby's bed, provided me with linen and other necessaries, and
made everything as convenient as she could. We had no other
company but a boy of the house, who rode after us with the
My master's design was to show me in all the towns by the way,
and to step out of the road for fifty or a hundred miles, to any
village, or person of quality's house, where he might expect
custom. We made easy journeys, of not above seven or eight score
miles a-day; for Glumdalclitch, on purpose to spare me,
complained she was tired with the trotting of the horse. She
often took me out of my box, at my own desire, to give me air,
and show me the country, but always held me fast by a
leading-string. We passed over five or six rivers, many degrees
broader and deeper than the Nile or the Ganges: and there was
hardly a rivulet so small as the Thames at London-bridge. We
were ten weeks in our journey, and I was shown in eighteen large
towns, besides many villages, and private families.
On the 26th day of October we arrived at the metropolis, called
in their language LORBRULGRUD, or Pride of the Universe. My
master took a lodging in the principal street of the city, not
far from the royal palace, and put out bills in the usual form,
containing an exact description of my person and parts. He hired
a large room between three and four hundred feet wide. He
provided a table sixty feet in diameter, upon which I was to act
my part, and pallisadoed it round three feet from the edge, and
as many high, to prevent my falling over. I was shown ten times
a-day, to the wonder and satisfaction of all people. I could now
speak the language tolerably well, and perfectly understood every
word, that was spoken to me. Besides, I had learnt their
alphabet, and could make a shift to explain a sentence here and
there; for Glumdalclitch had been my instructor while we were at
home, and at leisure hours during our journey. She carried a
little book in her pocket, not much larger than a Sanson's Atlas;
it was a common treatise for the use of young girls, giving a
short account of their religion: out of this she taught me my
letters, and interpreted the words.
[The author sent for to court. The queen buys him of his master
the farmer, and presents him to the king. He disputes with his
majesty's great scholars. An apartment at court provided for the
author. He is in high favour with the queen. He stands up for
the honour of his own country. His quarrels with the queen's
The frequent labours I underwent every day, made, in a few weeks,
a very considerable change in my health: the more my master got
by me, the more insatiable he grew. I had quite lost my stomach,
and was almost reduced to a skeleton. The farmer observed it,
and concluding I must soon die, resolved to make as good a hand
of me as he could. While he was thus reasoning and resolving
with himself, a SARDRAL, or gentleman-usher, came from court,
commanding my master to carry me immediately thither for the
diversion of the queen and her ladies. Some of the latter had
already been to see me, and reported strange things of my beauty,
behaviour, and good sense. Her majesty, and those who attended
her, were beyond measure delighted with my demeanour. I fell on
my knees, and begged the honour of kissing her imperial foot; but
this gracious princess held out her little finger towards me,
after I was set on the table, which I embraced in both my arms,
and put the tip of it with the utmost respect to my lip. She
made me some general questions about my country and my travels,
which I answered as distinctly, and in as few words as I could.
She asked, "whether I could be content to live at court?" I
bowed down to the board of the table, and humbly answered "that I
was my master's slave: but, if I were at my own disposal, I
should be proud to devote my life to her majesty's service." She
then asked my master, "whether he was willing to sell me at a
good price?" He, who apprehended I could not live a month, was
ready enough to part with me, and demanded a thousand pieces of
gold, which were ordered him on the spot, each piece being about
the bigness of eight hundred moidores; but allowing for the
proportion of all things between that country and Europe, and the
high price of gold among them, was hardly so great a sum as a
thousand guineas would be in England. I then said to the queen,
"since I was now her majesty's most humble creature and vassal, I
must beg the favour, that Glumdalclitch, who had always tended me
with so much care and kindness, and understood to do it so well,
might be admitted into her service, and continue to be my nurse
and instructor."
Her majesty agreed to my petition, and easily got the farmer's
consent, who was glad enough to have his daughter preferred at
court, and the poor girl herself was not able to hide her joy.
My late master withdrew, bidding me farewell, and saying he had
left me in a good service; to which I replied not a word, only
making him a slight bow.
The queen observed my coldness; and, when the farmer was gone out
of the apartment, asked me the reason. I made bold to tell her
majesty, "that I owed no other obligation to my late master, than
his not dashing out the brains of a poor harmless creature, found
by chance in his fields: which obligation was amply recompensed,
by the gain he had made in showing me through half the kingdom,
and the price he had now sold me for. That the life I had since
led was laborious enough to kill an animal of ten times my
strength. That my health was much impaired, by the continual
drudgery of entertaining the rabble every hour of the day; and
that, if my master had not thought my life in danger, her majesty
would not have got so cheap a bargain. But as I was out of all
fear of being ill-treated under the protection of so great and
good an empress, the ornament of nature, the darling of the
world, the delight of her subjects, the phoenix of the creation,
so I hoped my late master's apprehensions would appear to be
groundless; for I already found my spirits revive, by the
influence of her most august presence."
This was the sum of my speech, delivered with great improprieties
and hesitation. The latter part was altogether framed in the
style peculiar to that people, whereof I learned some phrases
from Glumdalclitch, while she was carrying me to court.
The queen, giving great allowance for my defectiveness in
speaking, was, however, surprised at so much wit and good sense
in so diminutive an animal. She took me in her own hand, and
carried me to the king, who was then retired to his cabinet. His
majesty, a prince of much gravity and austere countenance, not
well observing my shape at first view, asked the queen after a
cold manner "how long it was since she grew fond of a SPLACNUCK?"
for such it seems he took me to be, as I lay upon my breast in
her majesty's right hand. But this princess, who has an infinite
deal of wit and humour, set me gently on my feet upon the
scrutoire, and commanded me to give his majesty an account of
myself, which I did in a very few words: and Glumdalclitch who
attended at the cabinet door, and could not endure I should be
out of her sight, being admitted, confirmed all that had passed
from my arrival at her father's house.
The king, although he be as learned a person as any in his
dominions, had been educated in the study of philosophy, and
particularly mathematics; yet when he observed my shape exactly,
and saw me walk erect, before I began to speak, conceived I might
be a piece of clock-work (which is in that country arrived to a
very great perfection) contrived by some ingenious artist. But
when he heard my voice, and found what I delivered to be regular
and rational, he could not conceal his astonishment. He was by
no means satisfied with the relation I gave him of the manner I
came into his kingdom, but thought it a story concerted between
Glumdalclitch and her father, who had taught me a set of words to
make me sell at a better price. Upon this imagination, he put
several other questions to me, and still received rational
answers: no otherwise defective than by a foreign accent, and an
imperfect knowledge in the language, with some rustic phrases
which I had learned at the farmer's house, and did not suit the
polite style of a court.
His majesty sent for three great scholars, who were then in their
weekly waiting, according to the custom in that country. These
gentlemen, after they had a while examined my shape with much
nicety, were of different opinions concerning me. They all
agreed that I could not be produced according to the regular laws
of nature, because I was not framed with a capacity of preserving
my life, either by swiftness, or climbing of trees, or digging
holes in the earth. They observed by my teeth, which they viewed
with great exactness, that I was a carnivorous animal; yet most
quadrupeds being an overmatch for me, and field mice, with some
others, too nimble, they could not imagine how I should be able
to support myself, unless I fed upon snails and other insects,
which they offered, by many learned arguments, to evince that I
could not possibly do. One of these virtuosi seemed to think
that I might be an embryo, or abortive birth. But this opinion
was rejected by the other two, who observed my limbs to be
perfect and finished; and that I had lived several years, as it
was manifest from my beard, the stumps whereof they plainly
discovered through a magnifying glass. They would not allow me
to be a dwarf, because my littleness was beyond all degrees of
comparison; for the queen's favourite dwarf, the smallest ever
known in that kingdom, was near thirty feet high. After much
debate, they concluded unanimously, that I was only RELPLUM
SCALCATH, which is interpreted literally LUSUS NATURAE; a
determination exactly agreeable to the modern philosophy of
Europe, whose professors, disdaining the old evasion of occult
causes, whereby the followers of Aristotle endeavoured in vain to
disguise their ignorance, have invented this wonderful solution
of all difficulties, to the unspeakable advancement of human
After this decisive conclusion, I entreated to be heard a word or
two. I applied myself to the king, and assured his majesty,
"that I came from a country which abounded with several millions
of both sexes, and of my own stature; where the animals, trees,
and houses, were all in proportion, and where, by consequence, I
might be as able to defend myself, and to find sustenance, as any
of his majesty's subjects could do here; which I took for a full
answer to those gentlemen's arguments." To this they only
replied with a smile of contempt, saying, "that the farmer had
instructed me very well in my lesson." The king, who had a much
better understanding, dismissing his learned men, sent for the
farmer, who by good fortune was not yet gone out of town. Having
therefore first examined him privately, and then confronted him
with me and the young girl, his majesty began to think that what
we told him might possibly be true. He desired the queen to order
that a particular care should be taken of me; and was of opinion
that Glumdalclitch should still continue in her office of tending
me, because he observed we had a great affection for each other.
A convenient apartment was provided for her at court: she had a
sort of governess appointed to take care of her education, a maid
to dress her, and two other servants for menial offices; but the
care of me was wholly appropriated to herself. The queen
commanded her own cabinet-maker to contrive a box, that might
serve me for a bedchamber, after the model that Glumdalclitch and
I should agree upon. This man was a most ingenious artist, and
according to my direction, in three weeks finished for me a
wooden chamber of sixteen feet square, and twelve high, with
sash-windows, a door, and two closets, like a London bed-chamber.
The board, that made the ceiling, was to be lifted up and down by
two hinges, to put in a bed ready furnished by her majesty's
upholsterer, which Glumdalclitch took out every day to air, made
it with her own hands, and letting it down at night, locked up
the roof over me. A nice workman, who was famous for little
curiosities, undertook to make me two chairs, with backs and
frames, of a substance not unlike ivory, and two tables, with a
cabinet to put my things in. The room was quilted on all sides,
as well as the floor and the ceiling, to prevent any accident
from the carelessness of those who carried me, and to break the
force of a jolt, when I went in a coach. I desired a lock for my
door, to prevent rats and mice from coming in. The smith, after
several attempts, made the smallest that ever was seen among
them, for I have known a larger at the gate of a gentleman's
house in England. I made a shift to keep the key in a pocket of
my own, fearing Glumdalclitch might lose it. The queen likewise
ordered the thinnest silks that could be gotten, to make me
clothes, not much thicker than an English blanket, very
cumbersome till I was accustomed to them. They were after the
fashion of the kingdom, partly resembling the Persian, and partly
the Chinese, and are a very grave and decent habit.
The queen became so fond of my company, that she could not dine
without me. I had a table placed upon the same at which her
majesty ate, just at her left elbow, and a chair to sit on.
Glumdalclitch stood on a stool on the floor near my table, to
assist and take care of me. I had an entire set of silver dishes
and plates, and other necessaries, which, in proportion to those
of the queen, were not much bigger than what I have seen in a
London toy-shop for the furniture of a baby-house: these my
little nurse kept in her pocket in a silver box, and gave me at
meals as I wanted them, always cleaning them herself. No person
dined with the queen but the two princesses royal, the eldest
sixteen years old, and the younger at that time thirteen and a
month. Her majesty used to put a bit of meat upon one of my
dishes, out of which I carved for myself, and her diversion was
to see me eat in miniature: for the queen (who had indeed but a
weak stomach) took up, at one mouthful, as much as a dozen
English farmers could eat at a meal, which to me was for some
time a very nauseous sight. She would craunch the wing of a lark,
bones and all, between her teeth, although it were nine times as
large as that of a full-grown turkey; and put a bit of bread into
her mouth as big as two twelve-penny loaves. She drank out of a
golden cup, above a hogshead at a draught. Her knives were twice
as long as a scythe, set straight upon the handle. The spoons,
forks, and other instruments, were all in the same proportion. I
remember when Glumdalclitch carried me, out of curiosity, to see
some of the tables at court, where ten or a dozen of those
enormous knives and forks were lifted up together, I thought I
had never till then beheld so terrible a sight.
It is the custom, that every Wednesday (which, as I have
observed, is their Sabbath) the king and queen, with the royal
issue of both sexes, dine together in the apartment of his
majesty, to whom I was now become a great favourite; and at these
times, my little chair and table were placed at his left hand,
before one of the salt-cellars. This prince took a pleasure in
conversing with me, inquiring into the manners, religion, laws,
government, and learning of Europe; wherein I gave him the best
account I was able. His apprehension was so clear, and his
judgment so exact, that he made very wise reflections and
observations upon all I said. But I confess, that, after I had
been a little too copious in talking of my own beloved country,
of our trade and wars by sea and land, of our schisms in
religion, and parties in the state; the prejudices of his
education prevailed so far, that he could not forbear taking me
up in his right hand, and stroking me gently with the other,
after a hearty fit of laughing, asked me, "whether I was a whig
or tory?" Then turning to his first minister, who waited behind
him with a white staff, near as tall as the mainmast of the Royal
Sovereign, he observed "how contemptible a thing was human
grandeur, which could be mimicked by such diminutive insects as
I: and yet," says he, "I dare engage these creatures have their
titles and distinctions of honour; they contrive little nests and
burrows, that they call houses and cities; they make a figure in
dress and equipage; they love, they fight, they dispute, they
cheat, they betray!" And thus he continued on, while my colour
came and went several times, with indignation, to hear our noble
country, the mistress of arts and arms, the scourge of France,
the arbitress of Europe, the seat of virtue, piety, honour, and
truth, the pride and envy of the world, so contemptuously
But as I was not in a condition to resent injuries, so upon
mature thoughts I began to doubt whether I was injured or no.
For, after having been accustomed several months to the sight and
converse of this people, and observed every object upon which I
cast mine eyes to be of proportionable magnitude, the horror I
had at first conceived from their bulk and aspect was so far worn
off, that if I had then beheld a company of English lords and
ladies in their finery and birth-day clothes, acting their
several parts in the most courtly manner of strutting, and
bowing, and prating, to say the truth, I should have been
strongly tempted to laugh as much at them as the king and his
grandees did at me. Neither, indeed, could I forbear smiling at
myself, when the queen used to place me upon her hand towards a
looking-glass, by which both our persons appeared before me in
full view together; and there could be nothing more ridiculous
than the comparison; so that I really began to imagine myself
dwindled many degrees below my usual size.
Nothing angered and mortified me so much as the queen's dwarf;
who being of the lowest stature that was ever in that country
(for I verily think he was not full thirty feet high), became so
insolent at seeing a creature so much beneath him, that he would
always affect to swagger and look big as he passed by me in the
queen's antechamber, while I was standing on some table talking
with the lords or ladies of the court, and he seldom failed of a
smart word or two upon my littleness; against which I could only
revenge myself by calling him brother, challenging him to
wrestle, and such repartees as are usually in the mouths of court
pages. One day, at dinner, this malicious little cub was so
nettled with something I had said to him, that, raising himself
upon the frame of her majesty's chair, he took me up by the
middle, as I was sitting down, not thinking any harm, and let me
drop into a large silver bowl of cream, and then ran away as fast
as he could. I fell over head and ears, and, if I had not been a
good swimmer, it might have gone very hard with me; for
Glumdalclitch in that instant happened to be at the other end of
the room, and the queen was in such a fright, that she wanted
presence of mind to assist me. But my little nurse ran to my
relief, and took me out, after I had swallowed above a quart of
cream. I was put to bed: however, I received no other damage
than the loss of a suit of clothes, which was utterly spoiled.
The dwarf was soundly whipt, and as a farther punishment, forced
to drink up the bowl of cream into which he had thrown me:
neither was he ever restored to favour; for soon after the queen
bestowed him on a lady of high quality, so that I saw him no
more, to my very great satisfaction; for I could not tell to what
extremities such a malicious urchin might have carried his
He had before served me a scurvy trick, which set the queen
a-laughing, although at the same time she was heartily vexed, and
would have immediately cashiered him, if I had not been so
generous as to intercede. Her majesty had taken a marrow-bone
upon her plate, and, after knocking out the marrow, placed the
bone again in the dish erect, as it stood before; the dwarf,
watching his opportunity, while Glumdalclitch was gone to the
side-board, mounted the stool that she stood on to take care of
me at meals, took me up in both hands, and squeezing my legs
together, wedged them into the marrow bone above my waist, where
I stuck for some time, and made a very ridiculous figure. I
believe it was near a minute before any one knew what was become
of me; for I thought it below me to cry out. But, as princes
seldom get their meat hot, my legs were not scalded, only my
stockings and breeches in a sad condition. The dwarf, at my
entreaty, had no other punishment than a sound whipping.
I was frequently rallied by the queen upon account of my
fearfulness; and she used to ask me whether the people of my
country were as great cowards as myself? The occasion was this:
the kingdom is much pestered with flies in summer; and these
odious insects, each of them as big as a Dunstable lark, hardly
gave me any rest while I sat at dinner, with their continual
humming and buzzing about mine ears. They would sometimes alight
upon my victuals, and leave their loathsome excrement, or spawn
behind, which to me was very visible, though not to the natives
of that country, whose large optics were not so acute as mine, in
viewing smaller objects. Sometimes they would fix upon my nose,
or forehead, where they stung me to the quick, smelling very
offensively; and I could easily trace that viscous matter, which,
our naturalists tell us, enables those creatures to walk with
their feet upwards upon a ceiling. I had much ado to defend
myself against these detestable animals, and could not forbear
starting when they came on my face. It was the common practice
of the dwarf, to catch a number of these insects in his hand, as
schoolboys do among us, and let them out suddenly under my nose,
on purpose to frighten me, and divert the queen. My remedy was
to cut them in pieces with my knife, as they flew in the air,
wherein my dexterity was much admired.
I remember, one morning, when Glumdalclitch had set me in a box
upon a window, as she usually did in fair days to give me air
(for I durst not venture to let the box be hung on a nail out of
the window, as we do with cages in England), after I had lifted
up one of my sashes, and sat down at my table to eat a piece of
sweet cake for my breakfast, above twenty wasps, allured by the
smell, came flying into the room, humming louder than the drones
of as many bagpipes. Some of them seized my cake, and carried it
piecemeal away; others flew about my head and face, confounding
me with the noise, and putting me in the utmost terror of their
stings. However, I had the courage to rise and draw my hanger,
and attack them in the air. I dispatched four of them, but the
rest got away, and I presently shut my window. These insects
were as large as partridges: I took out their stings, found them
an inch and a half long, and as sharp as needles. I carefully
preserved them all; and having since shown them, with some other
curiosities, in several parts of Europe, upon my return to
England I gave three of them to Gresham College, and kept the
fourth for myself.
[The country described. A proposal for correcting modern maps.
The king's palace; and some account of the metropolis. The
author's way of travelling. The chief temple described.]
I now intend to give the reader a short description of this
country, as far as I travelled in it, which was not above two
thousand miles round Lorbrulgrud, the metropolis. For the queen,
whom I always attended, never went farther when she accompanied
the king in his progresses, and there staid till his majesty
returned from viewing his frontiers. The whole extent of this
prince's dominions reaches about six thousand miles in length,
and from three to five in breadth: whence I cannot but conclude,
that our geographers of Europe are in a great error, by supposing
nothing but sea between Japan and California; for it was ever my
opinion, that there must be a balance of earth to counterpoise
the great continent of Tartary; and therefore they ought to
correct their maps and charts, by joining this vast tract of land
to the north-west parts of America, wherein I shall be ready to
lend them my assistance.
The kingdom is a peninsula, terminated to the north-east by a
ridge of mountains thirty miles high, which are altogether
impassable, by reason of the volcanoes upon the tops: neither do
the most learned know what sort of mortals inhabit beyond those
mountains, or whether they be inhabited at all. On the three
other sides, it is bounded by the ocean. There is not one
sea-port in the whole kingdom: and those parts of the coasts
into which the rivers issue, are so full of pointed rocks, and
the sea generally so rough, that there is no venturing with the
smallest of their boats; so that these people are wholly excluded
from any commerce with the rest of the world. But the large
rivers are full of vessels, and abound with excellent fish; for
they seldom get any from the sea, because the sea fish are of the
same size with those in Europe, and consequently not worth
catching; whereby it is manifest, that nature, in the production
of plants and animals of so extraordinary a bulk, is wholly
confined to this continent, of which I leave the reasons to be
determined by philosophers. However, now and then they take a
whale that happens to be dashed against the rocks, which the
common people feed on heartily. These whales I have known so
large, that a man could hardly carry one upon his shoulders; and
sometimes, for curiosity, they are brought in hampers to
Lorbrulgrud; I saw one of them in a dish at the king's table,
which passed for a rarity, but I did not observe he was fond of
it; for I think, indeed, the bigness disgusted him, although I
have seen one somewhat larger in Greenland.
The country is well inhabited, for it contains fifty-one cities,
near a hundred walled towns, and a great number of villages. To
satisfy my curious reader, it may be sufficient to describe
Lorbrulgrud. This city stands upon almost two equal parts, on
each side the river that passes through. It contains above
eighty thousand houses, and about six hundred thousand
inhabitants. It is in length three GLOMGLUNGS (which make about
fifty-four English miles,) and two and a half in breadth; as I
measured it myself in the royal map made by the king's order,
which was laid on the ground on purpose for me, and extended a
hundred feet: I paced the diameter and circumference several
times barefoot, and, computing by the scale, measured it pretty
The king's palace is no regular edifice, but a heap of buildings,
about seven miles round: the chief rooms are generally two
hundred and forty feet high, and broad and long in proportion. A
coach was allowed to Glumdalclitch and me, wherein her governess
frequently took her out to see the town, or go among the shops;
and I was always of the party, carried in my box; although the
girl, at my own desire, would often take me out, and hold me in
her hand, that I might more conveniently view the houses and the
people, as we passed along the streets. I reckoned our coach to
be about a square of Westminster-hall, but not altogether so
high: however, I cannot be very exact. One day the governess
ordered our coachman to stop at several shops, where the beggars,
watching their opportunity, crowded to the sides of the coach,
and gave me the most horrible spectacle that ever a European eye
beheld. There was a woman with a cancer in her breast, swelled
to a monstrous size, full of holes, in two or three of which I
could have easily crept, and covered my whole body. There was a
fellow with a wen in his neck, larger than five wool-packs; and
another, with a couple of wooden legs, each about twenty feet
high. But the most hateful sight of all, was the lice crawling
on their clothes. I could see distinctly the limbs of these
vermin with my naked eye, much better than those of a European
louse through a microscope, and their snouts with which they
rooted like swine. They were the first I had ever beheld, and I
should have been curious enough to dissect one of them, if I had
had proper instruments, which I unluckily left behind me in the
ship, although, indeed, the sight was so nauseous, that it
perfectly turned my stomach.
Besides the large box in which I was usually carried, the queen
ordered a smaller one to be made for me, of about twelve feet
square, and ten high, for the convenience of travelling; because
the other was somewhat too large for Glumdalclitch's lap, and
cumbersome in the coach; it was made by the same artist, whom I
directed in the whole contrivance. This travelling-closet was an
exact square, with a window in the middle of three of the
squares, and each window was latticed with iron wire on the
outside, to prevent accidents in long journeys. On the fourth
side, which had no window, two strong staples were fixed, through
which the person that carried me, when I had a mind to be on
horseback, put a leathern belt, and buckled it about his waist.
This was always the office of some grave trusty servant, in whom
I could confide, whether I attended the king and queen in their
progresses, or were disposed to see the gardens, or pay a visit
to some great lady or minister of state in the court, when
Glumdalclitch happened to be out of order; for I soon began to be
known and esteemed among the greatest officers, I suppose more
upon account of their majesties' favour, than any merit of my
own. In journeys, when I was weary of the coach, a servant on
horseback would buckle on my box, and place it upon a cushion
before him; and there I had a full prospect of the country on
three sides, from my three windows. I had, in this closet, a
field-bed and a hammock, hung from the ceiling, two chairs and a
table, neatly screwed to the floor, to prevent being tossed about
by the agitation of the horse or the coach. And having been long
used to sea-voyages, those motions, although sometimes very
violent, did not much discompose me.
Whenever I had a mind to see the town, it was always in my
travelling-closet; which Glumdalclitch held in her lap in a kind
of open sedan, after the fashion of the country, borne by four
men, and attended by two others in the queen's livery. The
people, who had often heard of me, were very curious to crowd
about the sedan, and the girl was complaisant enough to make the
bearers stop, and to take me in her hand, that I might be more
conveniently seen.
I was very desirous to see the chief temple, and particularly the
tower belonging to it, which is reckoned the highest in the
kingdom. Accordingly one day my nurse carried me thither, but I
may truly say I came back disappointed; for the height is not
above three thousand feet, reckoning from the ground to the
highest pinnacle top; which, allowing for the difference between
the size of those people and us in Europe, is no great matter for
admiration, nor at all equal in proportion (if I rightly
remember) to Salisbury steeple. But, not to detract from a
nation, to which, during my life, I shall acknowledge myself
extremely obliged, it must be allowed, that whatever this famous
tower wants in height, is amply made up in beauty and strength:
for the walls are near a hundred feet thick, built of hewn stone,
whereof each is about forty feet square, and adorned on all sides
with statues of gods and emperors, cut in marble, larger than the
life, placed in their several niches. I measured a little finger
which had fallen down from one of these statues, and lay
unperceived among some rubbish, and found it exactly four feet
and an inch in length. Glumdalclitch wrapped it up in her
handkerchief, and carried it home in her pocket, to keep among
other trinkets, of which the girl was very fond, as children at
her age usually are.
The king's kitchen is indeed a noble building, vaulted at top,
and about six hundred feet high. The great oven is not so wide,
by ten paces, as the cupola at St. Paul's: for I measured the
latter on purpose, after my return. But if I should describe the
kitchen grate, the prodigious pots and kettles, the joints of
meat turning on the spits, with many other particulars, perhaps I
should be hardly believed; at least a severe critic would be apt
to think I enlarged a little, as travellers are often suspected
to do. To avoid which censure I fear I have run too much into
the other extreme; and that if this treatise should happen to be
translated into the language of Brobdingnag (which is the general
name of that kingdom,) and transmitted thither, the king and his
people would have reason to complain that I had done them an
injury, by a false and diminutive representation.
His majesty seldom keeps above six hundred horses in his stables:
they are generally from fifty-four to sixty feet high. But, when
he goes abroad on solemn days, he is attended, for state, by a
military guard of five hundred horse, which, indeed, I thought
was the most splendid sight that could be ever beheld, till I saw
part of his army in battalia, whereof I shall find another
occasion to speak.
[Several adventurers that happened to the author. The execution
of a criminal. The author shows his skill in navigation.]
I should have lived happy enough in that country, if my
littleness had not exposed me to several ridiculous and
troublesome accidents; some of which I shall venture to relate.
Glumdalclitch often carried me into the gardens of the court in
my smaller box, and would sometimes take me out of it, and hold
me in her hand, or set me down to walk. I remember, before the
dwarf left the queen, he followed us one day into those gardens,
and my nurse having set me down, he and I being close together,
near some dwarf apple trees, I must needs show my wit, by a silly
allusion between him and the trees, which happens to hold in
their language as it does in ours. Whereupon, the malicious
rogue, watching his opportunity, when I was walking under one of
them, shook it directly over my head, by which a dozen apples,
each of them near as large as a Bristol barrel, came tumbling
about my ears; one of them hit me on the back as I chanced to
stoop, and knocked me down flat on my face; but I received no
other hurt, and the dwarf was pardoned at my desire, because I
had given the provocation.
Another day, Glumdalclitch left me on a smooth grass-plot to
divert myself, while she walked at some distance with her
governess. In the meantime, there suddenly fell such a violent
shower of hail, that I was immediately by the force of it, struck
to the ground: and when I was down, the hailstones gave me such
cruel bangs all over the body, as if I had been pelted with
tennis-balls; however, I made a shift to creep on all fours, and
shelter myself, by lying flat on my face, on the lee-side of a
border of lemon-thyme, but so bruised from head to foot, that I
could not go abroad in ten days. Neither is this at all to be
wondered at, because nature, in that country, observing the same
proportion through all her operations, a hailstone is near
eighteen hundred times as large as one in Europe; which I can
assert upon experience, having been so curious as to weigh and
measure them.
But a more dangerous accident happened to me in the same garden,
when my little nurse, believing she had put me in a secure place
(which I often entreated her to do, that I might enjoy my own
thoughts,) and having left my box at home, to avoid the trouble
of carrying it, went to another part of the garden with her
governess and some ladies of her acquaintance. While she was
absent, and out of hearing, a small white spaniel that belonged
to one of the chief gardeners, having got by accident into the
garden, happened to range near the place where I lay: the dog,
following the scent, came directly up, and taking me in his
mouth, ran straight to his master wagging his tail, and set me
gently on the ground. By good fortune he had been so well
taught, that I was carried between his teeth without the least
hurt, or even tearing my clothes. But the poor gardener, who
knew me well, and had a great kindness for me, was in a terrible
fright: he gently took me up in both his hands, and asked me how
I did? but I was so amazed and out of breath, that I could not
speak a word. In a few minutes I came to myself, and he carried
me safe to my little nurse, who, by this time, had returned to
the place where she left me, and was in cruel agonies when I did
not appear, nor answer when she called. She severely reprimanded
the gardener on account of his dog. But the thing was hushed up,
and never known at court, for the girl was afraid of the queen's
anger; and truly, as to myself, I thought it would not be for my
reputation, that such a story should go about.
This accident absolutely determined Glumdalclitch never to trust
me abroad for the future out of her sight. I had been long
afraid of this resolution, and therefore concealed from her some
little unlucky adventures, that happened in those times when I
was left by myself. Once a kite, hovering over the garden, made
a stoop at me, and if I had not resolutely drawn my hanger, and
run under a thick espalier, he would have certainly carried me
away in his talons. Another time, walking to the top of a fresh
mole-hill, I fell to my neck in the hole, through which that
animal had cast up the earth, and coined some lie, not worth
remembering, to excuse myself for spoiling my clothes. I
likewise broke my right shin against the shell of a snail, which
I happened to stumble over, as I was walking alone and thinking
on poor England.
I cannot tell whether I were more pleased or mortified to
observe, in those solitary walks, that the smaller birds did not
appear to be at all afraid of me, but would hop about within a
yard's distance, looking for worms and other food, with as much
indifference and security as if no creature at all were near
them. I remember, a thrush had the confidence to snatch out of my
hand, with his bill, a of cake that Glumdalclitch had just given
me for my breakfast. When I attempted to catch any of these
birds, they would boldly turn against me, endeavouring to peck my
fingers, which I durst not venture within their reach; and then
they would hop back unconcerned, to hunt for worms or snails, as
they did before. But one day, I took a thick cudgel, and threw
it with all my strength so luckily, at a linnet, that I knocked
him down, and seizing him by the neck with both my hands, ran
with him in triumph to my nurse. However, the bird, who had only
been stunned, recovering himself gave me so many boxes with his
wings, on both sides of my head and body, though I held him at
arm's-length, and was out of the reach of his claws, that I was
twenty times thinking to let him go. But I was soon relieved by
one of our servants, who wrung off the bird's neck, and I had him
next day for dinner, by the queen's command. This linnet, as
near as I can remember, seemed to be somewhat larger than an
English swan.
The maids of honour often invited Glumdalclitch to their
apartments, and desired she would bring me along with her, on
purpose to have the pleasure of seeing and touching me. They
would often strip me naked from top to toe, and lay me at full
length in their bosoms; wherewith I was much disgusted because,
to say the truth, a very offensive smell came from their skins;
which I do not mention, or intend, to the disadvantage of those
excellent ladies, for whom I have all manner of respect; but I
conceive that my sense was more acute in proportion to my
littleness, and that those illustrious persons were no more
disagreeable to their lovers, or to each other, than people of
the same quality are with us in England. And, after all, I found
their natural smell was much more supportable, than when they
used perfumes, under which I immediately swooned away. I cannot
forget, that an intimate friend of mine in Lilliput, took the
freedom in a warm day, when I had used a good deal of exercise,
to complain of a strong smell about me, although I am as little
faulty that way, as most of my sex: but I suppose his faculty of
smelling was as nice with regard to me, as mine was to that of
this people. Upon this point, I cannot forbear doing justice to
the queen my mistress, and Glumdalclitch my nurse, whose persons
were as sweet as those of any lady in England.
That which gave me most uneasiness among these maids of honour
(when my nurse carried me to visit then) was, to see them use me
without any manner of ceremony, like a creature who had no sort
of consequence: for they would strip themselves to the skin, and
put on their smocks in my presence, while I was placed on their
toilet, directly before their naked bodies, which I am sure to me
was very far from being a tempting sight, or from giving me any
other emotions than those of horror and disgust: their skins
appeared so coarse and uneven, so variously coloured, when I saw
them near, with a mole here and there as broad as a trencher, and
hairs hanging from it thicker than packthreads, to say nothing
farther concerning the rest of their persons. Neither did they
at all scruple, while I was by, to discharge what they had drank,
to the quantity of at least two hogsheads, in a vessel that held
above three tuns. The handsomest among these maids of honour, a
pleasant, frolicsome girl of sixteen, would sometimes set me
astride upon one of her nipples, with many other tricks, wherein
the reader will excuse me for not being over particular. But I
was so much displeased, that I entreated Glumdalclitch to
contrive some excuse for not seeing that young lady any more.
One day, a young gentleman, who was nephew to my nurse's
governess, came and pressed them both to see an execution. It
was of a man, who had murdered one of that gentleman's intimate
acquaintance. Glumdalclitch was prevailed on to be of the
company, very much against her inclination, for she was naturally
tender-hearted: and, as for myself, although I abhorred such kind
of spectacles, yet my curiosity tempted me to see something that
I thought must be extraordinary. The malefactor was fixed in a
chair upon a scaffold erected for that purpose, and his head cut
off at one blow, with a sword of about forty feet long. The
veins and arteries spouted up such a prodigious quantity of
blood, and so high in the air, that the great JET D'EAU at
Versailles was not equal to it for the time it lasted: and the
head, when it fell on the scaffold floor, gave such a bounce as
made me start, although I was at least half an English mile
The queen, who often used to hear me talk of my sea-voyages, and
took all occasions to divert me when I was melancholy, asked me
whether I understood how to handle a sail or an oar, and whether
a little exercise of rowing might not be convenient for my
health? I answered, that I understood both very well: for
although my proper employment had been to be surgeon or doctor to
the ship, yet often, upon a pinch, I was forced to work like a
common mariner. But I could not see how this could be done in
their country, where the smallest wherry was equal to a
first-rate man of war among us; and such a boat as I could manage
would never live in any of their rivers. Her majesty said, if I
would contrive a boat, her own joiner should make it, and she
would provide a place for me to sail in. The fellow was an
ingenious workman, and by my instructions, in ten days, finished
a pleasure-boat with all its tackling, able conveniently to hold
eight Europeans. When it was finished, the queen was so
delighted, that she ran with it in her lap to the king, who
ordered it to be put into a cistern full of water, with me in it,
by way of trial, where I could not manage my two sculls, or
little oars, for want of room. But the queen had before
contrived another project. She ordered the joiner to make a
wooden trough of three hundred feet long, fifty broad, and eight
deep; which, being well pitched, to prevent leaking, was placed
on the floor, along the wall, in an outer room of the palace. It
had a cock near the bottom to let out the water, when it began to
grow stale; and two servants could easily fill it in half an
hour. Here I often used to row for my own diversion, as well as
that of the queen and her ladies, who thought themselves well
entertained with my skill and agility. Sometimes I would put up
my sail, and then my business was only to steer, while the ladies
gave me a gale with their fans; and, when they were weary, some
of their pages would blow my sail forward with their breath,
while I showed my art by steering starboard or larboard as I
pleased. When I had done, Glumdalclitch always carried back my
boat into her closet, and hung it on a nail to dry.
In this exercise I once met an accident, which had like to have
cost me my life; for, one of the pages having put my boat into
the trough, the governess who attended Glumdalclitch very
officiously lifted me up, to place me in the boat: but I
happened to slip through her fingers, and should infallibly have
fallen down forty feet upon the floor, if, by the luckiest chance
in the world, I had not been stopped by a corking-pin that stuck
in the good gentlewoman's stomacher; the head of the pin passing
between my shirt and the waistband of my breeches, and thus I was
held by the middle in the air, till Glumdalclitch ran to my
Another time, one of the servants, whose office it was to fill my
trough every third day with fresh water, was so careless as to
let a huge frog (not perceiving it) slip out of his pail. The
frog lay concealed till I was put into my boat, but then, seeing
a resting-place, climbed up, and made it lean so much on one
side, that I was forced to balance it with all my weight on the
other, to prevent overturning. When the frog was got in, it
hopped at once half the length of the boat, and then over my
head, backward and forward, daubing my face and clothes with its
odious slime. The largeness of its features made it appear the
most deformed animal that can be conceived. However, I desired
Glumdalclitch to let me deal with it alone. I banged it a good
while with one of my sculls, and at last forced it to leap out of
the boat.
But the greatest danger I ever underwent in that kingdom, was
from a monkey, who belonged to one of the clerks of the kitchen.
Glumdalclitch had locked me up in her closet, while she went
somewhere upon business, or a visit. The weather being very
warm, the closet-window was left open, as well as the windows and
the door of my bigger box, in which I usually lived, because of
its largeness and conveniency. As I sat quietly meditating at my
table, I heard something bounce in at the closet-window, and skip
about from one side to the other: whereat, although I was much
alarmed, yet I ventured to look out, but not stirring from my
seat; and then I saw this frolicsome animal frisking and leaping
up and down, till at last he came to my box, which he seemed to
view with great pleasure and curiosity, peeping in at the door
and every window. I retreated to the farther corner of my room;
or box; but the monkey looking in at every side, put me in such a
fright, that I wanted presence of mind to conceal myself under
the bed, as I might easily have done. After some time spent in
peeping, grinning, and chattering, he at last espied me; and
reaching one of his paws in at the door, as a cat does when she
plays with a mouse, although I often shifted place to avoid him,
he at length seized the lappet of my coat (which being made of
that country silk, was very thick and strong), and dragged me
out. He took me up in his right fore-foot and held me as a nurse
does a child she is going to suckle, just as I have seen the same
sort of creature do with a kitten in Europe; and when I offered
to struggle he squeezed me so hard, that I thought it more
prudent to submit. I have good reason to believe, that he took
me for a young one of his own species, by his often stroking my
face very gently with his other paw. In these diversions he was
interrupted by a noise at the closet door, as if somebody were
opening it: whereupon he suddenly leaped up to the window at
which he had come in, and thence upon the leads and gutters,
walking upon three legs, and holding me in the fourth, till he
clambered up to a roof that was next to ours. I heard
Glumdalclitch give a shriek at the moment he was carrying me out.
The poor girl was almost distracted: that quarter of the palace
was all in an uproar; the servants ran for ladders; the monkey
was seen by hundreds in the court, sitting upon the ridge of a
building, holding me like a baby in one of his forepaws, and
feeding me with the other, by cramming into my mouth some
victuals he had squeezed out of the bag on one side of his chaps,
and patting me when I would not eat; whereat many of the rabble
below could not forbear laughing; neither do I think they justly
ought to be blamed, for, without question, the sight was
ridiculous enough to every body but myself. Some of the people
threw up stones, hoping to drive the monkey down; but this was
strictly forbidden, or else, very probably, my brains had been
dashed out.
The ladders were now applied, and mounted by several men; which
the monkey observing, and finding himself almost encompassed, not
being able to make speed enough with his three legs, let me drop
on a ridge tile, and made his escape. Here I sat for some time,
five hundred yards from the ground, expecting every moment to be
blown down by the wind, or to fall by my own giddiness, and come
tumbling over and over from the ridge to the eaves; but an honest
lad, one of my nurse's footmen, climbed up, and putting me into
his breeches pocket, brought me down safe.
I was almost choked with the filthy stuff the monkey had crammed
down my throat: but my dear little nurse picked it out of my
mouth with a small needle, and then I fell a-vomiting, which gave
me great relief. Yet I was so weak and bruised in the sides with
the squeezes given me by this odious animal, that I was forced to
keep my bed a fortnight. The king, queen, and all the court,
sent every day to inquire after my health; and her majesty made
me several visits during my sickness. The monkey was killed, and
an order made, that no such animal should be kept about the
When I attended the king after my recovery, to return him thanks
for his favours, he was pleased to rally me a good deal upon this
adventure. He asked me, "what my thoughts and speculations were,
while I lay in the monkey's paw; how I liked the victuals he gave
me; his manner of feeding; and whether the fresh air on the roof
had sharpened my stomach." He desired to know, "what I would
have done upon such an occasion in my own country." I told his
majesty, "that in Europe we had no monkeys, except such as were
brought for curiosity from other places, and so small, that I
could deal with a dozen of them together, if they presumed to
attack me. And as for that monstrous animal with whom I was so
lately engaged (it was indeed as large as an elephant), if my
fears had suffered me to think so far as to make use of my
hanger," (looking fiercely, and clapping my hand on the hilt, as
I spoke) "when he poked his paw into my chamber, perhaps I should
have given him such a wound, as would have made him glad to
withdraw it with more haste than he put it in." This I delivered
in a firm tone, like a person who was jealous lest his courage
should be called in question. However, my speech produced
nothing else beside a laud laughter, which all the respect due to
his majesty from those about him could not make them contain.
This made me reflect, how vain an attempt it is for a man to
endeavour to do himself honour among those who are out of all
degree of equality or comparison with him. And yet I have seen
the moral of my own behaviour very frequent in England since my
return; where a little contemptible varlet, without the least
title to birth, person, wit, or common sense, shall presume to
look with importance, and put himself upon a foot with the
greatest persons of the kingdom.
I was every day furnishing the court with some ridiculous story:
and Glumdalclitch, although she loved me to excess, yet was arch
enough to inform the queen, whenever I committed any folly that
she thought would be diverting to her majesty. The girl, who had
been out of order, was carried by her governess to take the air
about an hour's distance, or thirty miles from town. They
alighted out of the coach near a small foot-path in a field, and
Glumdalclitch setting down my travelling box, I went out of it to
walk. There was a cow-dung in the path, and I must need try my
activity by attempting to leap over it. I took a run, but
unfortunately jumped short, and found myself just in the middle
up to my knees. I waded through with some difficulty, and one of
the footmen wiped me as clean as he could with his handkerchief,
for I was filthily bemired; and my nurse confined me to my box,
till we returned home; where the queen was soon informed of what
had passed, and the footmen spread it about the court: so that
all the mirth for some days was at my expense.
[Several contrivances of the author to please the king and queen.
He shows his skill in music. The king inquires into the state of
England, which the author relates to him. The king's
observations thereon.]
I used to attend the king's levee once or twice a week, and had
often seen him under the barber's hand, which indeed was at first
very terrible to behold; for the razor was almost twice as long
as an ordinary scythe. His majesty, according to the custom of
the country, was only shaved twice a-week. I once prevailed on
the barber to give me some of the suds or lather, out of which I
picked forty or fifty of the strongest stumps of hair. I then
took a piece of fine wood, and cut it like the back of a comb,
making several holes in it at equal distances with as small a
needle as I could get from Glumdalclitch. I fixed in the stumps
so artificially, scraping and sloping them with my knife toward
the points, that I made a very tolerable comb; which was a
seasonable supply, my own being so much broken in the teeth, that
it was almost useless: neither did I know any artist in that
country so nice and exact, as would undertake to make me another.
And this puts me in mind of an amusement, wherein I spent many of
my leisure hours. I desired the queen's woman to save for me the
combings of her majesty's hair, whereof in time I got a good
quantity; and consulting with my friend the cabinet-maker, who
had received general orders to do little jobs for me, I directed
him to make two chair-frames, no larger than those I had in my
box, and to bore little holes with a fine awl, round those parts
where I designed the backs and seats; through these holes I wove
the strongest hairs I could pick out, just after the manner of
cane chairs in England. When they were finished, I made a
present of them to her majesty; who kept them in her cabinet, and
used to show them for curiosities, as indeed they were the wonder
of every one that beheld them. The queen would have me sit upon
one of these chairs, but I absolutely refused to obey her,
protesting I would rather die than place a dishonourable part of
my body on those precious hairs, that once adorned her majesty's
head. Of these hairs (as I had always a mechanical genius) I
likewise made a neat little purse, about five feet long, with her
majesty's name deciphered in gold letters, which I gave to
Glumdalclitch, by the queen's consent. To say the truth, it was
more for show than use, being not of strength to bear the weight
of the larger coins, and therefore she kept nothing in it but
some little toys that girls are fond of.
The king, who delighted in music, had frequent concerts at court,
to which I was sometimes carried, and set in my box on a table to
hear them: but the noise was so great that I could hardly
distinguish the tunes. I am confident that all the drums and
trumpets of a royal army, beating and sounding together just at
your ears, could not equal it. My practice was to have my box
removed from the place where the performers sat, as far as I
could, then to shut the doors and windows of it, and draw the
window curtains; after which I found their music not
I had learned in my youth to play a little upon the spinet.
Glumdalclitch kept one in her chamber, and a master attended
twice a-week to teach her: I called it a spinet, because it
somewhat resembled that instrument, and was played upon in the
same manner. A fancy came into my head, that I would entertain
the king and queen with an English tune upon this instrument.
But this appeared extremely difficult: for the spinet was near
sixty feet long, each key being almost a foot wide, so that with
my arms extended I could not reach to above five keys, and to
press them down required a good smart stroke with my fist, which
would be too great a labour, and to no purpose. The method I
contrived was this: I prepared two round sticks, about the
bigness of common cudgels; they were thicker at one end than the
other, and I covered the thicker ends with pieces of a mouse's
skin, that by rapping on them I might neither damage the tops of
the keys nor interrupt the sound. Before the spinet a bench was
placed, about four feet below the keys, and I was put upon the
bench. I ran sideling upon it, that way and this, as fast as I
could, banging the proper keys with my two sticks, and made a
shift to play a jig, to the great satisfaction of both their
majesties; but it was the most violent exercise I ever underwent;
and yet I could not strike above sixteen keys, nor consequently
play the bass and treble together, as other artists do; which was
a great disadvantage to my performance.
The king, who, as I before observed, was a prince of excellent
understanding, would frequently order that I should be brought in
my box, and set upon the table in his closet: he would then
command me to bring one of my chairs out of the box, and sit down
within three yards distance upon the top of the cabinet, which
brought me almost to a level with his face. In this manner I had
several conversations with him. I one day took the freedom to
tell his majesty, "that the contempt he discovered towards
Europe, and the rest of the world, did not seem answerable to
those excellent qualities of mind that he was master of; that
reason did not extend itself with the bulk of the body; on the
contrary, we observed in our country, that the tallest persons
were usually the least provided with it; that among other
animals, bees and ants had the reputation of more industry, art,
and sagacity, than many of the larger kinds; and that, as
inconsiderable as he took me to be, I hoped I might live to do
his majesty some signal service." The king heard me with
attention, and began to conceive a much better opinion of me than
he had ever before. He desired "I would give him as exact an
account of the government of England as I possibly could;
because, as fond as princes commonly are of their own customs
(for so he conjectured of other monarchs, by my former
discourses), he should be glad to hear of any thing that might
deserve imitation."
Imagine with thyself, courteous reader, how often I then wished
for the tongue of Demosthenes or Cicero, that might have enabled
me to celebrate the praise of my own dear native country in a
style equal to its merits and felicity.
I began my discourse by informing his majesty, that our dominions
consisted of two islands, which composed three mighty kingdoms,
under one sovereign, beside our plantations in America. I dwelt
long upon the fertility of our soil, and the temperature of our
climate. I then spoke at large upon the constitution of an
English parliament; partly made up of an illustrious body called
the House of Peers; persons of the noblest blood, and of the most
ancient and ample patrimonies. I described that extraordinary
care always taken of their education in arts and arms, to qualify
them for being counsellors both to the king and kingdom; to have
a share in the legislature; to be members of the highest court of
judicature, whence there can be no appeal; and to be champions
always ready for the defence of their prince and country, by
their valour, conduct, and fidelity. That these were the
ornament and bulwark of the kingdom, worthy followers of their
most renowned ancestors, whose honour had been the reward of
their virtue, from which their posterity were never once known to
degenerate. To these were joined several holy persons, as part
of that assembly, under the title of bishops, whose peculiar
business is to take care of religion, and of those who instruct
the people therein. These were searched and sought out through
the whole nation, by the prince and his wisest counsellors, among
such of the priesthood as were most deservedly distinguished by
the sanctity of their lives, and the depth of their erudition;
who were indeed the spiritual fathers of the clergy and the
That the other part of the parliament consisted of an assembly
called the House of Commons, who were all principal gentlemen,
freely picked and culled out by the people themselves, for their
great abilities and love of their country, to represent the
wisdom of the whole nation. And that these two bodies made up
the most august assembly in Europe; to whom, in conjunction with
the prince, the whole legislature is committed.
I then descended to the courts of justice; over which the judges,
those venerable sages and interpreters of the law, presided, for
determining the disputed rights and properties of men, as well as
for the punishment of vice and protection of innocence. I
mentioned the prudent management of our treasury; the valour and
achievements of our forces, by sea and land. I computed the
number of our people, by reckoning how many millions there might
be of each religious sect, or political party among us. I did
not omit even our sports and pastimes, or any other particular
which I thought might redound to the honour of my country. And I
finished all with a brief historical account of affairs and
events in England for about a hundred years past.
This conversation was not ended under five audiences, each of
several hours; and the king heard the whole with great attention,
frequently taking notes of what I spoke, as well as memorandums
of what questions he intended to ask me.
When I had put an end to these long discources, his majesty, in a
sixth audience, consulting his notes, proposed many doubts,
queries, and objections, upon every article. He asked, "What
methods were used to cultivate the minds and bodies of our young
nobility, and in what kind of business they commonly spent the
first and teachable parts of their lives? What course was taken
to supply that assembly, when any noble family became extinct?
What qualifications were necessary in those who are to be created
new lords: whether the humour of the prince, a sum of money to a
court lady, or a design of strengthening a party opposite to the
public interest, ever happened to be the motive in those
advancements? What share of knowledge these lords had in the laws
of their country, and how they came by it, so as to enable them
to decide the properties of their fellow-subjects in the last
resort? Whether they were always so free from avarice,
partialities, or want, that a bribe, or some other sinister view,
could have no place among them? Whether those holy lords I spoke
of were always promoted to that rank upon account of their
knowledge in religious matters, and the sanctity of their lives;
had never been compliers with the times, while they were common
priests; or slavish prostitute chaplains to some nobleman, whose
opinions they continued servilely to follow, after they were
admitted into that assembly?"
He then desired to know, "What arts were practised in electing
those whom I called commoners: whether a stranger, with a strong
purse, might not influence the vulgar voters to choose him before
their own landlord, or the most considerable gentleman in the
neighbourhood? How it came to pass, that people were so
violently bent upon getting into this assembly, which I allowed
to be a great trouble and expense, often to the ruin of their
families, without any salary or pension? because this appeared
such an exalted strain of virtue and public spirit, that his
majesty seemed to doubt it might possibly not be always sincere."
And he desired to know, "Whether such zealous gentlemen could
have any views of refunding themselves for the charges and
trouble they were at by sacrificing the public good to the
designs of a weak and vicious prince, in conjunction with a
corrupted ministry?" He multiplied his questions, and sifted me
thoroughly upon every part of this head, proposing numberless
inquiries and objections, which I think it not prudent or
convenient to repeat.
Upon what I said in relation to our courts of justice, his
majesty desired to be satisfied in several points: and this I
was the better able to do, having been formerly almost ruined by
a long suit in chancery, which was decreed for me with costs. He
asked, "What time was usually spent in determining between right
and wrong, and what degree of expense? Whether advocates and
orators had liberty to plead in causes manifestly known to be
unjust, vexatious, or oppressive? Whether party, in religion or
politics, were observed to be of any weight in the scale of
justice? Whether those pleading orators were persons educated in
the general knowledge of equity, or only in provincial, national,
and other local customs? Whether they or their judges had any
part in penning those laws, which they assumed the liberty of
interpreting, and glossing upon at their pleasure? Whether they
had ever, at different times, pleaded for and against the same
cause, and cited precedents to prove contrary opinions? Whether
they were a rich or a poor corporation? Whether they received
any pecuniary reward for pleading, or delivering their opinions?
And particularly, whether they were ever admitted as members in
the lower senate?"
He fell next upon the management of our treasury; and said, "he
thought my memory had failed me, because I computed our taxes at
about five or six millions a-year, and when I came to mention the
issues, he found they sometimes amounted to more than double; for
the notes he had taken were very particular in this point,
because he hoped, as he told me, that the knowledge of our
conduct might be useful to him, and he could not be deceived in
his calculations. But, if what I told him were true, he was still
at a loss how a kingdom could run out of its estate, like a
private person." He asked me, "who were our creditors; and where
we found money to pay them?" He wondered to hear me talk of such
chargeable and expensive wars; "that certainly we must be a
quarrelsome people, or live among very bad neighbours, and that
our generals must needs be richer than our kings." He asked,
what business we had out of our own islands, unless upon the
score of trade, or treaty, or to defend the coasts with our
fleet?" Above all, he was amazed to hear me talk of a mercenary
standing army, in the midst of peace, and among a free people.
He said, "if we were governed by our own consent, in the persons
of our representatives, he could not imagine of whom we were
afraid, or against whom we were to fight; and would hear my
opinion, whether a private man's house might not be better
defended by himself, his children, and family, than by
half-a-dozen rascals, picked up at a venture in the streets for
small wages, who might get a hundred times more by cutting their
He laughed at my "odd kind of arithmetic," as he was pleased to
call it, "in reckoning the numbers of our people, by a
computation drawn from the several sects among us, in religion
and politics." He said, "he knew no reason why those, who
entertain opinions prejudicial to the public, should be obliged
to change, or should not be obliged to conceal them. And as it
was tyranny in any government to require the first, so it was
weakness not to enforce the second: for a man may be allowed to
keep poisons in his closet, but not to vend them about for
He observed, "that among the diversions of our nobility and
gentry, I had mentioned gaming: he desired to know at what age
this entertainment was usually taken up, and when it was laid
down; how much of their time it employed; whether it ever went so
high as to affect their fortunes; whether mean, vicious people,
by their dexterity in that art, might not arrive at great riches,
and sometimes keep our very nobles in dependence, as well as
habituate them to vile companions, wholly take them from the
improvement of their minds, and force them, by the losses they
received, to learn and practise that infamous dexterity upon
He was perfectly astonished with the historical account gave him
of our affairs during the last century; protesting "it was only a
heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres,
revolutions, banishments, the very worst effects that avarice,
faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness,
hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition, could produce."
His majesty, in another audience, was at the pains to
recapitulate the sum of all I had spoken; compared the questions
he made with the answers I had given; then taking me into his
hands, and stroking me gently, delivered himself in these words,
which I shall never forget, nor the manner he spoke them in: "My
little friend Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyric
upon your country; you have clearly proved, that ignorance,
idleness, and vice, are the proper ingredients for qualifying a
legislator; that laws are best explained, interpreted, and
applied, by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting,
confounding, and eluding them. I observe among you some lines of
an institution, which, in its original, might have been
tolerable, but these half erased, and the rest wholly blurred and
blotted by corruptions. It does not appear, from all you have
said, how any one perfection is required toward the procurement
of any one station among you; much less, that men are ennobled on
account of their virtue; that priests are advanced for their
piety or learning; soldiers, for their conduct or valour; judges,
for their integrity; senators, for the love of their country; or
counsellors for their wisdom. As for yourself," continued the
king, "who have spent the greatest part of your life in
travelling, I am well disposed to hope you may hitherto have
escaped many vices of your country. But by what I have gathered
from your own relation, and the answers I have with much pains
wrung and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of
your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious
vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the
[The author's love of his country. He makes a proposal of much
advantage to the king, which is rejected. The king's great
ignorance in politics. The learning of that country very
imperfect and confined. The laws, and military affairs, and
parties in the state.]
Nothing but an extreme love of truth could have hindered me from
concealing this part of my story. It was in vain to discover my
resentments, which were always turned into ridicule; and I was
forced to rest with patience, while my noble and beloved country
was so injuriously treated. I am as heartily sorry as any of my
readers can possibly be, that such an occasion was given: but
this prince happened to be so curious and inquisitive upon every
particular, that it could not consist either with gratitude or
good manners, to refuse giving him what satisfaction I was able.
Yet thus much I may be allowed to say in my own vindication, that
I artfully eluded many of his questions, and gave to every point
a more favourable turn, by many degrees, than the strictness of
truth would allow. For I have always borne that laudable
partiality to my own country, which Dionysius Halicarnassensis,
with so much justice, recommends to an historian: I would hide
the frailties and deformities of my political mother, and place
her virtues and beauties in the most advantageous light. This
was my sincere endeavour in those many discourses I had with that
monarch, although it unfortunately failed of success.
But great allowances should be given to a king, who lives wholly
secluded from the rest of the world, and must therefore be
altogether unacquainted with the manners and customs that most
prevail in other nations: the want of which knowledge will ever
produce many prejudices, and a certain narrowness of thinking,
from which we, and the politer countries of Europe, are wholly
exempted. And it would be hard indeed, if so remote a prince's
notions of virtue and vice were to be offered as a standard for
all mankind.
To confirm what I have now said, and further to show the
miserable effects of a confined education, I shall here insert a
passage, which will hardly obtain belief. In hopes to ingratiate
myself further into his majesty's favour, I told him of "an
invention, discovered between three and four hundred years ago,
to make a certain powder, into a heap of which, the smallest
spark of fire falling, would kindle the whole in a moment,
although it were as big as a mountain, and make it all fly up in
the air together, with a noise and agitation greater than
thunder. That a proper quantity of this powder rammed into a
hollow tube of brass or iron, according to its bigness, would
drive a ball of iron or lead, with such violence and speed, as
nothing was able to sustain its force. That the largest balls
thus discharged, would not only destroy whole ranks of an army at
once, but batter the strongest walls to the ground, sink down
ships, with a thousand men in each, to the bottom of the sea, and
when linked together by a chain, would cut through masts and
rigging, divide hundreds of bodies in the middle, and lay all
waste before them. That we often put this powder into large
hollow balls of iron, and discharged them by an engine into some
city we were besieging, which would rip up the pavements, tear
the houses to pieces, burst and throw splinters on every side,
dashing out the brains of all who came near. That I knew the
ingredients very well, which were cheap and common; I understood
the manner of compounding them, and could direct his workmen how
to make those tubes, of a size proportionable to all other things
in his majesty's kingdom, and the largest need not be above a
hundred feet long; twenty or thirty of which tubes, charged with
the proper quantity of powder and balls, would batter down the
walls of the strongest town in his dominions in a few hours, or
destroy the whole metropolis, if ever it should pretend to
dispute his absolute commands." This I humbly offered to his
majesty, as a small tribute of acknowledgment, in turn for so
many marks that I had received, of his royal favour and
The king was struck with horror at the description I had given of
those terrible engines, and the proposal I had made. "He was
amazed, how so impotent and grovelling an insect as I" (these
were his expressions) "could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in
so familiar a manner, as to appear wholly unmoved at all the
scenes of blood and desolation which I had painted as the common
effects of those destructive machines; whereof," he said, "some
evil genius, enemy to mankind, must have been the first
contriver. As for himself, he protested, that although few
things delighted him so much as new discoveries in art or in
nature, yet he would rather lose half his kingdom, than be privy
to such a secret; which he commanded me, as I valued any life,
never to mention any more."
A strange effect of narrow principles and views! that a prince
possessed of every quality which procures veneration, love, and
esteem; of strong parts, great wisdom, and profound learning,
endowed with admirable talents, and almost adored by his
subjects, should, from a nice, unnecessary scruple, whereof in
Europe we can have no conception, let slip an opportunity put
into his hands that would have made him absolute master of the
lives, the liberties, and the fortunes of his people! Neither do
I say this, with the least intention to detract from the many
virtues of that excellent king, whose character, I am sensible,
will, on this account, be very much lessened in the opinion of an
English reader: but I take this defect among them to have risen
from their ignorance, by not having hitherto reduced politics
into a science, as the more acute wits of Europe have done. For,
I remember very well, in a discourse one day with the king, when
I happened to say, "there were several thousand books among us
written upon the art of government," it gave him (directly
contrary to my intention) a very mean opinion of our
understandings. He professed both to abominate and despise all
mystery, refinement, and intrigue, either in a prince or a
minister. He could not tell what I meant by secrets of state,
where an enemy, or some rival nation, were not in the case. He
confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds, to
common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy
determination of civil and criminal causes; with some other
obvious topics, which are not worth considering. And he gave it
for his opinion, "that whoever could make two ears of corn, or
two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one
grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more
essential service to his country, than the whole race of
politicians put together."
The learning of this people is very defective, consisting only in
morality, history, poetry, and mathematics, wherein they must be
allowed to excel. But the last of these is wholly applied to
what may be useful in life, to the improvement of agriculture,
and all mechanical arts; so that among us, it would be little
esteemed. And as to ideas, entities, abstractions, and
transcendentals, I could never drive the least conception into
their heads.
No law in that country must exceed in words the number of letters
in their alphabet, which consists only of two and twenty. But
indeed few of them extend even to that length. They are
expressed in the most plain and simple terms, wherein those
people are not mercurial enough to discover above one
interpretation: and to write a comment upon any law, is a
capital crime. As to the decision of civil causes, or
proceedings against criminals, their precedents are so few, that
they have little reason to boast of any extraordinary skill in
They have had the art of printing, as well as the Chinese, time
out of mind: but their libraries are not very large; for that of
the king, which is reckoned the largest, does not amount to above
a thousand volumes, placed in a gallery of twelve hundred feet
long, whence I had liberty to borrow what books I pleased. The
queen's joiner had contrived in one of Glumdalclitch's rooms, a
kind of wooden machine five-and-twenty feet high, formed like a
standing ladder; the steps were each fifty feet long. It was
indeed a moveable pair of stairs, the lowest end placed at ten
feet distance from the wall of the chamber. The book I had a
mind to read, was put up leaning against the wall: I first
mounted to the upper step of the ladder, and turning my face
towards the book, began at the top of the page, and so walking to
the right and left about eight or ten paces, according to the
length of the lines, till I had gotten a little below the level
of mine eyes, and then descending gradually till I came to the
bottom: after which I mounted again, and began the other page in
the same manner, and so turned over the leaf, which I could
easily do with both my hands, for it was as thick and stiff as a
pasteboard, and in the largest folios not above eighteen or
twenty feet long.
Their style is clear, masculine, and smooth, but not florid; for
they avoid nothing more than multiplying unnecessary words, or
using various expressions. I have perused many of their books,
especially those in history and morality. Among the rest, I was
much diverted with a little old treatise, which always lay in
Glumdalclitch's bed chamber, and belonged to her governess, a
grave elderly gentlewoman, who dealt in writings of morality and
devotion. The book treats of the weakness of human kind, and is
in little esteem, except among the women and the vulgar.
However, I was curious to see what an author of that country
could say upon such a subject. This writer went through all the
usual topics of European moralists, showing "how diminutive,
contemptible, and helpless an animal was man in his own nature;
how unable to defend himself from inclemencies of the air, or the
fury of wild beasts: how much he was excelled by one creature in
strength, by another in speed, by a third in foresight, by a
fourth in industry." He added, "that nature was degenerated in
these latter declining ages of the world, and could now produce
only small abortive births, in comparison of those in ancient
times." He said "it was very reasonable to think, not only that
the species of men were originally much larger, but also that
there must have been giants in former ages; which, as it is
asserted by history and tradition, so it has been confirmed by
huge bones and skulls, casually dug up in several parts of the
kingdom, far exceeding the common dwindled race of men in our
days." He argued, "that the very laws of nature absolutely
required we should have been made, in the beginning of a size
more large and robust; not so liable to destruction from every
little accident, of a tile falling from a house, or a stone cast
from the hand of a boy, or being drowned in a little brook."
From this way of reasoning, the author drew several moral
applications, useful in the conduct of life, but needless here to
repeat. For my own part, I could not avoid reflecting how
universally this talent was spread, of drawing lectures in
morality, or indeed rather matter of discontent and repining,
from the quarrels we raise with nature. And I believe, upon a
strict inquiry, those quarrels might be shown as ill-grounded
among us as they are among that people.
As to their military affairs, they boast that the king's army
consists of a hundred and seventy-six thousand foot, and
thirty-two thousand horse: if that may be called an army, which
is made up of tradesmen in the several cities, and farmers in the
country, whose commanders are only the nobility and gentry,
without pay or reward. They are indeed perfect enough in their
exercises, and under very good discipline, wherein I saw no great
merit; for how should it be otherwise, where every farmer is
under the command of his own landlord, and every citizen under
that of the principal men in his own city, chosen after the
manner of Venice, by ballot?
I have often seen the militia of Lorbrulgrud drawn out to
exercise, in a great field near the city of twenty miles square.
They were in all not above twenty-five thousand foot, and six
thousand horse; but it was impossible for me to compute their
number, considering the space of ground they took up. A
cavalier, mounted on a large steed, might be about ninety feet
high. I have seen this whole body of horse, upon a word of
command, draw their swords at once, and brandish them in the air.
Imagination can figure nothing so grand, so surprising, and so
astonishing! it looked as if ten thousand flashes of lightning
were darting at the same time from every quarter of the sky.
I was curious to know how this prince, to whose dominions there
is no access from any other country, came to think of armies, or
to teach his people the practice of military discipline. But I
was soon informed, both by conversation and reading their
histories; for, in the course of many ages, they have been
troubled with the same disease to which the whole race of mankind
is subject; the nobility often contending for power, the people
for liberty, and the king for absolute dominion. All which,
however happily tempered by the laws of that kingdom, have been
sometimes violated by each of the three parties, and have more
than once occasioned civil wars; the last whereof was happily put
an end to by this prince's grand-father, in a general
composition; and the militia, then settled with common consent,
has been ever since kept in the strictest duty.
[The king and queen make a progress to the frontiers. The author
attends them. The manner in which he leaves the country very
particularly related. He returns to England.]
I had always a strong impulse that I should some time recover my
liberty, though it was impossible to conjecture by what means, or
to form any project with the least hope of succeeding. The ship
in which I sailed, was the first ever known to be driven within
sight of that coast, and the king had given strict orders, that
if at any time another appeared, it should be taken ashore, and
with all its crew and passengers brought in a tumbril to
Lorbrulgrud. He was strongly bent to get me a woman of my own
size, by whom I might propagate the breed: but I think I should
rather have died than undergone the disgrace of leaving a
posterity to be kept in cages, like tame canary-birds, and
perhaps, in time, sold about the kingdom, to persons of quality,
for curiosities. I was indeed treated with much kindness: I was
the favourite of a great king and queen, and the delight of the
whole court; but it was upon such a foot as ill became the
dignity of humankind. I could never forget those domestic
pledges I had left behind me. I wanted to be among people, with
whom I could converse upon even terms, and walk about the streets
and fields without being afraid of being trod to death like a
frog or a young puppy. But my deliverance came sooner than I
expected, and in a manner not very common; the whole story and
circumstances of which I shall faithfully relate.
I had now been two years in this country; and about the beginning
of the third, Glumdalclitch and I attended the king and queen, in
a progress to the south coast of the kingdom. I was carried, as
usual, in my travelling-box, which as I have already described,
was a very convenient closet, of twelve feet wide. And I had
ordered a hammock to be fixed, by silken ropes from the four
corners at the top, to break the jolts, when a servant carried me
before him on horseback, as I sometimes desired; and would often
sleep in my hammock, while we were upon the road. On the roof of
my closet, not directly over the middle of the hammock, I ordered
the joiner to cut out a hole of a foot square, to give me air in
hot weather, as I slept; which hole I shut at pleasure with a
board that drew backward and forward through a groove.
When we came to our journey's end, the king thought proper to
pass a few days at a palace he has near Flanflasnic, a city
within eighteen English miles of the seaside. Glumdalclitch and
I were much fatigued: I had gotten a small cold, but the poor
girl was so ill as to be confined to her chamber. I longed to
see the ocean, which must be the only scene of my escape, if ever
it should happen. I pretended to be worse than I really was, and
desired leave to take the fresh air of the sea, with a page, whom
I was very fond of, and who had sometimes been trusted with me.
I shall never forget with what unwillingness Glumdalclitch
consented, nor the strict charge she gave the page to be careful
of me, bursting at the same time into a flood of tears, as if she
had some forboding of what was to happen. The boy took me out in
my box, about half an hours walk from the palace, towards the
rocks on the seashore. I ordered him to set me down, and lifting
up one of my sashes, cast many a wistful melancholy look towards
the sea. I found myself not very well, and told the page that I
had a mind to take a nap in my hammock, which I hoped would do me
good. I got in, and the boy shut the window close down, to keep
out the cold. I soon fell asleep, and all I can conjecture is,
while I slept, the page, thinking no danger could happen, went
among the rocks to look for birds' eggs, having before observed
him from my window searching about, and picking up one or two in
the clefts. Be that as it will, I found myself suddenly awaked
with a violent pull upon the ring, which was fastened at the top
of my box for the conveniency of carriage. I felt my box raised
very high in the air, and then borne forward with prodigious
speed. The first jolt had like to have shaken me out of my
hammock, but afterward the motion was easy enough. I called out
several times, as loud as I could raise my voice, but all to no
purpose. I looked towards my windows, and could see nothing but
the clouds and sky. I heard a noise just over my head, like the
clapping of wings, and then began to perceive the woful condition
I was in; that some eagle had got the ring of my box in his beak,
with an intent to let it fall on a rock, like a tortoise in a
shell, and then pick out my body, and devour it: for the
sagacity and smell of this bird enables him to discover his
quarry at a great distance, though better concealed than I could
be within a two-inch board.
In a little time, I observed the noise and flutter of wings to
increase very fast, and my box was tossed up and down, like a
sign in a windy day. I heard several bangs or buffets, as I
thought given to the eagle (for such I am certain it must have
been that held the ring of my box in his beak), and then, all on
a sudden, felt myself falling perpendicularly down, for above a
minute, but with such incredible swiftness, that I almost lost my
breath. My fall was stopped by a terrible squash, that sounded
louder to my ears than the cataract of Niagara; after which, I
was quite in the dark for another minute, and then my box began
to rise so high, that I could see light from the tops of the
windows. I now perceived I was fallen into the sea. My box, by
the weight of my body, the goods that were in, and the broad
plates of iron fixed for strength at the four corners of the top
and bottom, floated about five feet deep in water. I did then,
and do now suppose, that the eagle which flew away with my box
was pursued by two or three others, and forced to let me drop,
while he defended himself against the rest, who hoped to share in
the prey. The plates of iron fastened at the bottom of the box
(for those were the strongest) preserved the balance while it
fell, and hindered it from being broken on the surface of the
water. Every joint of it was well grooved; and the door did not
move on hinges, but up and down like a sash, which kept my closet
so tight that very little water came in. I got with much
difficulty out of my hammock, having first ventured to draw back
the slip-board on the roof already mentioned, contrived on
purpose to let in air, for want of which I found myself almost
How often did I then wish myself with my dear Glumdalclitch, from
whom one single hour had so far divided me! And I may say with
truth, that in the midst of my own misfortunes I could not
forbear lamenting my poor nurse, the grief she would suffer for
my loss, the displeasure of the queen, and the ruin of her
fortune. Perhaps many travellers have not been under greater
difficulties and distress than I was at this juncture, expecting
every moment to see my box dashed to pieces, or at least overset
by the first violent blast, or rising wave. A breach in one
single pane of glass would have been immediate death: nor could
any thing have preserved the windows, but the strong lattice
wires placed on the outside, against accidents in travelling. I
saw the water ooze in at several crannies, although the leaks
were not considerable, and I endeavoured to stop them as well as
I could. I was not able to lift up the roof of my closet, which
otherwise I certainly should have done, and sat on the top of it;
where I might at least preserve myself some hours longer, than by
being shut up (as I may call it) in the hold. Or if I escaped
these dangers for a day or two, what could I expect but a
miserable death of cold and hunger? I was four hours under these
circumstances, expecting, and indeed wishing, every moment to be
my last.
I have already told the reader that there were two strong staples
fixed upon that side of my box which had no window, and into
which the servant, who used to carry me on horseback, would put a
leathern belt, and buckle it about his waist. Being in this
disconsolate state, I heard, or at least thought I heard, some
kind of grating noise on that side of my box where the staples
were fixed; and soon after I began to fancy that the box was
pulled or towed along the sea; for I now and then felt a sort of
tugging, which made the waves rise near the tops of my windows,
leaving me almost in the dark. This gave me some faint hopes of
relief, although I was not able to imagine how it could be
brought about. I ventured to unscrew one of my chairs, which were
always fastened to the floor; and having made a hard shift to
screw it down again, directly under the slipping-board that I had
lately opened, I mounted on the chair, and putting my mouth as
near as I could to the hole, I called for help in a loud voice,
and in all the languages I understood. I then fastened my
handkerchief to a stick I usually carried, and thrusting it up
the hole, waved it several times in the air, that if any boat or
ship were near, the seamen might conjecture some unhappy mortal
to be shut up in the box.
I found no effect from all I could do, but plainly perceived my
closet to be moved along; and in the space of an hour, or better,
that side of the box where the staples were, and had no windows,
struck against something that was hard. I apprehended it to be a
rock, and found myself tossed more than ever. I plainly heard a
noise upon the cover of my closet, like that of a cable, and the
grating of it as it passed through the ring. I then found myself
hoisted up, by degrees, at least three feet higher than I was
before. Whereupon I again thrust up my stick and handkerchief,
calling for help till I was almost hoarse. In return to which, I
heard a great shout repeated three times, giving me such
transports of joy as are not to be conceived but by those who
feel them. I now heard a trampling over my head, and somebody
calling through the hole with a loud voice, in the English
tongue, "If there be any body below, let them speak." I
answered, "I was an Englishman, drawn by ill fortune into the
greatest calamity that ever any creature underwent, and begged,
by all that was moving, to be delivered out of the dungeon I was
in." The voice replied, "I was safe, for my box was fastened to
their ship; and the carpenter should immediately come and saw a
hole in the cover, large enough to pull me out." I answered,
"that was needless, and would take up too much time; for there
was no more to be done, but let one of the crew put his finger
into the ring, and take the box out of the sea into the ship, and
so into the captain's cabin." Some of them, upon hearing me talk
so wildly, thought I was mad: others laughed; for indeed it
never came into my head, that I was now got among people of my
own stature and strength. The carpenter came, and in a few
minutes sawed a passage about four feet square, then let down a
small ladder, upon which I mounted, and thence was taken into the
ship in a very weak condition.
The sailors were all in amazement, and asked me a thousand
questions, which I had no inclination to answer. I was equally
confounded at the sight of so many pigmies, for such I took them
to be, after having so long accustomed mine eyes to the monstrous
objects I had left. But the captain, Mr. Thomas Wilcocks, an
honest worthy Shropshire man, observing I was ready to faint,
took me into his cabin, gave me a cordial to comfort me, and made
me turn in upon his own bed, advising me to take a little rest,
of which I had great need. Before I went to sleep, I gave him to
understand that I had some valuable furniture in my box, too good
to be lost: a fine hammock, a handsome field-bed, two chairs, a
table, and a cabinet; that my closet was hung on all sides, or
rather quilted, with silk and cotton; that if he would let one of
the crew bring my closet into his cabin, I would open it there
before him, and show him my goods. The captain, hearing me utter
these absurdities, concluded I was raving; however (I suppose to
pacify me) he promised to give order as I desired, and going upon
deck, sent some of his men down into my closet, whence (as I
afterwards found) they drew up all my goods, and stripped off the
quilting; but the chairs, cabinet, and bedstead, being screwed to
the floor, were much damaged by the ignorance of the seamen, who
tore them up by force. Then they knocked off some of the boards
for the use of the ship, and when they had got all they had a
mind for, let the hull drop into the sea, which by reason of many
breaches made in the bottom and sides, sunk to rights. And,
indeed, I was glad not to have been a spectator of the havoc they
made, because I am confident it would have sensibly touched me,
by bringing former passages into my mind, which I would rather
have forgot.
I slept some hours, but perpetually disturbed with dreams of the
place I had left, and the dangers I had escaped. However, upon
waking, I found myself much recovered. It was now about eight
o'clock at night, and the captain ordered supper immediately,
thinking I had already fasted too long. He entertained me with
great kindness, observing me not to look wildly, or talk
inconsistently: and, when we were left alone, desired I would
give him a relation of my travels, and by what accident I came to
be set adrift, in that monstrous wooden chest. He said "that
about twelve o'clock at noon, as he was looking through his
glass, he spied it at a distance, and thought it was a sail,
which he had a mind to make, being not much out of his course, in
hopes of buying some biscuit, his own beginning to fall short.
That upon coming nearer, and finding his error, he sent out his
long-boat to discover what it was; that his men came back in a
fright, swearing they had seen a swimming house. That he laughed
at their folly, and went himself in the boat, ordering his men to
take a strong cable along with them. That the weather being
calm, he rowed round me several times, observed my windows and
wire lattices that defended them. That he discovered two staples
upon one side, which was all of boards, without any passage for
light. He then commanded his men to row up to that side, and
fastening a cable to one of the staples, ordered them to tow my
chest, as they called it, toward the ship. When it was there, he
gave directions to fasten another cable to the ring fixed in the
cover, and to raise up my chest with pulleys, which all the
sailors were not able to do above two or three feet." He said,
"they saw my stick and handkerchief thrust out of the hole, and
concluded that some unhappy man must be shut up in the cavity."
I asked, "whether he or the crew had seen any prodigious birds in
the air, about the time he first discovered me." To which he
answered, that discoursing this matter with the sailors while I
was asleep, one of them said, he had observed three eagles flying
towards the north, but remarked nothing of their being larger
than the usual size:" which I suppose must be imputed to the
great height they were at; and he could not guess the reason of
my question. I then asked the captain, "how far he reckoned we
might be from land?" He said, "by the best computation he could
make, we were at least a hundred leagues." I assured him, "that
he must be mistaken by almost half, for I had not left the
country whence I came above two hours before I dropped into the
sea." Whereupon he began again to think that my brain was
disturbed, of which he gave me a hint, and advised me to go to
bed in a cabin he had provided. I assured him, "I was well
refreshed with his good entertainment and company, and as much in
my senses as ever I was in my life." He then grew serious, and
desired to ask me freely, "whether I were not troubled in my mind
by the consciousness of some enormous crime, for which I was
punished, at the command of some prince, by exposing me in that
chest; as great criminals, in other countries, have been forced
to sea in a leaky vessel, without provisions: for although he
should be sorry to have taken so ill a man into his ship, yet he
would engage his word to set me safe ashore, in the first port
where we arrived." He added, "that his suspicions were much
increased by some very absurd speeches I had delivered at first
to his sailors, and afterwards to himself, in relation to my
closet or chest, as well as by my odd looks and behaviour while I
was at supper."
I begged his patience to hear me tell my story, which I
faithfully did, from the last time I left England, to the moment
he first discovered me. And, as truth always forces its way into
rational minds, so this honest worthy gentleman, who had some
tincture of learning, and very good sense, was immediately
convinced of my candour and veracity. But further to confirm all
I had said, I entreated him to give order that my cabinet should
be brought, of which I had the key in my pocket; for he had
already informed me how the seamen disposed of my closet. I
opened it in his own presence, and showed him the small
collection of rarities I made in the country from which I had
been so strangely delivered. There was the comb I had contrived
out of the stumps of the king's beard, and another of the same
materials, but fixed into a paring of her majesty's thumb-nail,
which served for the back. There was a collection of needles and
pins, from a foot to half a yard long; four wasp stings, like
joiner's tacks; some combings of the queen's hair; a gold ring,
which one day she made me a present of, in a most obliging
manner, taking it from her little finger, and throwing it over my
head like a collar. I desired the captain would please to accept
this ring in return for his civilities; which he absolutely
refused. I showed him a corn that I had cut off with my own
hand, from a maid of honour's toe; it was about the bigness of
Kentish pippin, and grown so hard, that when I returned England,
I got it hollowed into a cup, and set in silver. Lastly, I
desired him to see the breeches I had then on, which were made of
a mouse's skin.
I could force nothing on him but a footman's tooth, which I
observed him to examine with great curiosity, and found he had a
fancy for it. He received it with abundance of thanks, more than
such a trifle could deserve. It was drawn by an unskilful
surgeon, in a mistake, from one of Glumdalclitch's men, who was
afflicted with the tooth-ache, but it was as sound as any in his
head. I got it cleaned, and put it into my cabinet. It was
about a foot long, and four inches in diameter.
The captain was very well satisfied with this plain relation I
had given him, and said, "he hoped, when we returned to England,
I would oblige the world by putting it on paper, and making it
public." My answer was, "that we were overstocked with books of
travels: that nothing could now pass which was not
extraordinary; wherein I doubted some authors less consulted
truth, than their own vanity, or interest, or the diversion of
ignorant readers; that my story could contain little beside
common events, without those ornamental descriptions of strange
plants, trees, birds, and other animals; or of the barbarous
customs and idolatry of savage people, with which most writers
abound. However, I thanked him for his good opinion, and
promised to take the matter into my thoughts."
He said "he wondered at one thing very much, which was, to hear
me speak so loud;" asking me "whether the king or queen of that
country were thick of hearing?" I told him, "it was what I had
been used to for above two years past, and that I admired as much
at the voices of him and his men, who seemed to me only to
whisper, and yet I could hear them well enough. But, when I
spoke in that country, it was like a man talking in the streets,
to another looking out from the top of a steeple, unless when I
was placed on a table, or held in any person's hand." I told
him, "I had likewise observed another thing, that, when I first
got into the ship, and the sailors stood all about me, I thought
they were the most little contemptible creatures I had ever
beheld." For indeed, while I was in that prince's country, I
could never endure to look in a glass, after mine eyes had been
accustomed to such prodigious objects, because the comparison
gave me so despicable a conceit of myself. The captain said,
"that while we were at supper, he observed me to look at every
thing with a sort of wonder, and that I often seemed hardly able
to contain my laughter, which he knew not well how to take, but
imputed it to some disorder in my brain." I answered, "it was
very true; and I wondered how I could forbear, when I saw his
dishes of the size of a silver three-pence, a leg of pork hardly
a mouthful, a cup not so big as a nut-shell;" and so I went on,
describing the rest of his household-stuff and provisions, after
the same manner. For, although he queen had ordered a little
equipage of all things necessary for me, while I was in her
service, yet my ideas were wholly taken up with what I saw on
every side of me, and I winked at my own littleness, as people do
at their own faults. The captain understood my raillery very
well, and merrily replied with the old English proverb, "that he
doubted mine eyes were bigger than my belly, for he did not
observe my stomach so good, although I had fasted all day;" and,
continuing in his mirth, protested "he would have gladly given a
hundred pounds, to have seen my closet in the eagle's bill, and
afterwards in its fall from so great a height into the sea; which
would certainly have been a most astonishing object, worthy to
have the description of it transmitted to future ages:" and the
comparison of Phaeton was so obvious, that he could not forbear
applying it, although I did not much admire the conceit.
The captain having been at Tonquin, was, in his return to
England, driven north-eastward to the latitude of 44 degrees, and
longitude of 143. But meeting a trade-wind two days after I came
on board him, we sailed southward a long time, and coasting New
Holland, kept our course west-south-west, and then
south-south-west, till we doubled the Cape of Good Hope. Our
voyage was very prosperous, but I shall not trouble the reader
with a journal of it. The captain called in at one or two ports,
and sent in his long-boat for provisions and fresh water; but I
never went out of the ship till we came into the Downs, which was
on the third day of June, 1706, about nine months after my
escape. I offered to leave my goods in security for payment of
my freight: but the captain protested he would not receive one
farthing. We took a kind leave of each other, and I made him
promise he would come to see me at my house in Redriff. I hired
a horse and guide for five shillings, which I borrowed of the
As I was on the road, observing the littleness of the houses, the
trees, the cattle, and the people, I began to think myself in
Lilliput. I was afraid of trampling on every traveller I met,
and often called aloud to have them stand out of the way, so that
I had like to have gotten one or two broken heads for my
When I came to my own house, for which I was forced to inquire,
one of the servants opening the door, I bent down to go in, (like
a goose under a gate,) for fear of striking my head. My wife run
out to embrace me, but I stooped lower than her knees, thinking
she could otherwise never be able to reach my mouth. My daughter
kneeled to ask my blessing, but I could not see her till she
arose, having been so long used to stand with my head and eyes
erect to above sixty feet; and then I went to take her up with
one hand by the waist. I looked down upon the servants, and one
or two friends who were in the house, as if they had been pigmies
and I a giant. I told my wife, "she had been too thrifty, for I
found she had starved herself and her daughter to nothing." In
short, I behaved myself so unaccountably, that they were all of
the captain's opinion when he first saw me, and concluded I had
lost my wits. This I mention as an instance of the great power of
habit and prejudice.
In a little time, I and my family and friends came to a right
understanding: but my wife protested "I should never go to sea
any more;" although my evil destiny so ordered, that she had not
power to hinder me, as the reader may know hereafter. In the
mean time, I here conclude the second part of my unfortunate
[The author sets out on his third voyage. Is taken by pirates.
The malice of a Dutchman. His arrival at an island. He is
received into Laputa.]
I had not been at home above ten days, when Captain William
Robinson, a Cornish man, commander of the Hopewell, a stout ship
of three hundred tons, came to my house. I had formerly been
surgeon of another ship where he was master, and a fourth part
owner, in a voyage to the Levant. He had always treated me more
like a brother, than an inferior officer; and, hearing of my
arrival, made me a visit, as I apprehended only out of
friendship, for nothing passed more than what is usual after long
absences. But repeating his visits often, expressing his joy to
find I me in good health, asking, "whether I were now settled for
life?" adding, "that he intended a voyage to the East Indies in
two months," at last he plainly invited me, though with some
apologies, to be surgeon of the ship; "that I should have another
surgeon under me, beside our two mates; that my salary should be
double to the usual pay; and that having experienced my knowledge
in sea-affairs to be at least equal to his, he would enter into
any engagement to follow my advice, as much as if I had shared in
the command."
He said so many other obliging things, and I knew him to be so
honest a man, that I could not reject this proposal; the thirst I
had of seeing the world, notwithstanding my past misfortunes,
continuing as violent as ever. The only difficulty that
remained, was to persuade my wife, whose consent however I at
last obtained, by the prospect of advantage she proposed to her
We set out the 5th day of August, 1706, and arrived at Fort St.
George the 11th of April, 1707. We staid there three weeks to
refresh our crew, many of whom were sick. From thence we went to
Tonquin, where the captain resolved to continue some time,
because many of the goods he intended to buy were not ready, nor
could he expect to be dispatched in several months. Therefore,
in hopes to defray some of the charges he must be at, he bought a
sloop, loaded it with several sorts of goods, wherewith the
Tonquinese usually trade to the neighbouring islands, and putting
fourteen men on board, whereof three were of the country, he
appointed me master of the sloop, and gave me power to traffic,
while he transacted his affairs at Tonquin.
We had not sailed above three days, when a great storm arising,
we were driven five days to the north-north-east, and then to the
east: after which we had fair weather, but still with a pretty
strong gale from the west. Upon the tenth day we were chased by
two pirates, who soon overtook us; for my sloop was so deep
laden, that she sailed very slow, neither were we in a condition
to defend ourselves.
We were boarded about the same time by both the pirates, who
entered furiously at the head of their men; but finding us all
prostrate upon our faces (for so I gave order), they pinioned us
with strong ropes, and setting guard upon us, went to search the
I observed among them a Dutchman, who seemed to be of some
authority, though he was not commander of either ship. He knew
us by our countenances to be Englishmen, and jabbering to us in
his own language, swore we should be tied back to back and thrown
into the sea. I spoken Dutch tolerably well; I told him who we
were, and begged him, in consideration of our being Christians
and Protestants, of neighbouring countries in strict alliance,
that he would move the captains to take some pity on us. This
inflamed his rage; he repeated his threatenings, and turning to
his companions, spoke with great vehemence in the Japanese
language, as I suppose, often using the word CHRISTIANOS.
The largest of the two pirate ships was commanded by a Japanese
captain, who spoke a little Dutch, but very imperfectly. He came
up to me, and after several questions, which I answered in great
humility, he said, "we should not die." I made the captain a
very low bow, and then, turning to the Dutchman, said, "I was
sorry to find more mercy in a heathen, than in a brother
christian." But I had soon reason to repent those foolish words:
for that malicious reprobate, having often endeavoured in vain to
persuade both the captains that I might be thrown into the sea
(which they would not yield to, after the promise made me that I
should not die), however, prevailed so far, as to have a
punishment inflicted on me, worse, in all human appearance, than
death itself. My men were sent by an equal division into both
the pirate ships, and my sloop new manned. As to myself, it was
determined that I should be set adrift in a small canoe, with
paddles and a sail, and four days' provisions; which last, the
Japanese captain was so kind to double out of his own stores, and
would permit no man to search me. I got down into the canoe,
while the Dutchman, standing upon the deck, loaded me with all
the curses and injurious terms his language could afford.
About an hour before we saw the pirates I had taken an
observation, and found we were in the latitude of 46 N. and
longitude of 183. When I was at some distance from the pirates, I
discovered, by my pocket-glass, several islands to the
south-east. I set up my sail, the wind being fair, with a design
to reach the nearest of those islands, which I made a shift to
do, in about three hours. It was all rocky: however I got many
birds' eggs; and, striking fire, I kindled some heath and dry
sea-weed, by which I roasted my eggs. I ate no other supper,
being resolved to spare my provisions as much as I could. I
passed the night under the shelter of a rock, strewing some heath
under me, and slept pretty well.
The next day I sailed to another island, and thence to a third
and fourth, sometimes using my sail, and sometimes my paddles.
But, not to trouble the reader with a particular account of my
distresses, let it suffice, that on the fifth day I arrived at
the last island in my sight, which lay south-south-east to the
This island was at a greater distance than I expected, and I did
not reach it in less than five hours. I encompassed it almost
round, before I could find a convenient place to land in; which
was a small creek, about three times the wideness of my canoe. I
found the island to be all rocky, only a little intermingled with
tufts of grass, and sweet-smelling herbs. I took out my small
provisions and after having refreshed myself, I secured the
remainder in a cave, whereof there were great numbers; I gathered
plenty of eggs upon the rocks, and got a quantity of dry
sea-weed, and parched grass, which I designed to kindle the next
day, and roast my eggs as well as I could, for I had about me my
flint, steel, match, and burning-glass. I lay all night in the
cave where I had lodged my provisions. My bed was the same dry
grass and sea-weed which I intended for fuel. I slept very
little, for the disquiets of my mind prevailed over my weariness,
and kept me awake. I considered how impossible it was to
preserve my life in so desolate a place, and how miserable my end
must be: yet found myself so listless and desponding, that I had
not the heart to rise; and before I could get spirits enough to
creep out of my cave, the day was far advanced. I walked awhile
among the rocks: the sky was perfectly clear, and the sun so
hot, that I was forced to turn my face from it: when all on a
sudden it became obscure, as I thought, in a manner very
different from what happens by the interposition of a cloud. I
turned back, and perceived a vast opaque body between me and the
sun moving forwards towards the island: it seemed to be about
two miles high, and hid the sun six or seven minutes; but I did
not observe the air to be much colder, or the sky more darkened,
than if I had stood under the shade of a mountain. As it
approached nearer over the place where I was, it appeared to be a
firm substance, the bottom flat, smooth, and shining very bright,
from the reflection of the sea below. I stood upon a height
about two hundred yards from the shore, and saw this vast body
descending almost to a parallel with me, at less than an English
mile distance. I took out my pocket perspective, and could
plainly discover numbers of people moving up and down the sides
of it, which appeared to be sloping; but what those people where
doing I was not able to distinguish.
The natural love of life gave me some inward motion of joy, and I
was ready to entertain a hope that this adventure might, some way
or other, help to deliver me from the desolate place and
condition I was in. But at the same time the reader can hardly
conceive my astonishment, to behold an island in the air,
inhabited by men, who were able (as it should seem) to raise or
sink, or put it into progressive motion, as they pleased. But
not being at that time in a disposition to philosophise upon this
phenomenon, I rather chose to observe what course the island
would take, because it seemed for awhile to stand still. Yet
soon after, it advanced nearer, and I could see the sides of it
encompassed with several gradations of galleries, and stairs, at
certain intervals, to descend from one to the other. In the
lowest gallery, I beheld some people fishing with long angling
rods, and others looking on. I waved my cap (for my hat was long
since worn out) and my handkerchief toward the island; and upon
its nearer approach, I called and shouted with the utmost
strength of my voice; and then looking circumspectly, I beheld a
crowd gather to that side which was most in my view. I found by
their pointing towards me and to each other, that they plainly
discovered me, although they made no return to my shouting. But I
could see four or five men running in great haste, up the stairs,
to the top of the island, who then disappeared. I happened
rightly to conjecture, that these were sent for orders to some
person in authority upon this occasion.
The number of people increased, and, in less than half all hour,
the island was moved and raised in such a manner, that the lowest
gallery appeared in a parallel of less then a hundred yards
distance from the height where I stood. I then put myself in the
most supplicating posture, and spoke in the humblest accent, but
received no answer. Those who stood nearest over against me,
seemed to be persons of distinction, as I supposed by their
habit. They conferred earnestly with each other, looking often
upon me. At length one of them called out in a clear, polite,
smooth dialect, not unlike in sound to the Italian: and
therefore I returned an answer in that language, hoping at least
that the cadence might be more agreeable to his ears. Although
neither of us understood the other, yet my meaning was easily
known, for the people saw the distress I was in.
They made signs for me to come down from the rock, and go towards
the shore, which I accordingly did; and the flying island being
raised to a convenient height, the verge directly over me, a
chain was let down from the lowest gallery, with a seat fastened
to the bottom, to which I fixed myself, and was drawn up by
[The humours and dispositions of the Laputians described. An
account of their learning. Of the king and his court. The
author's reception there. The inhabitants subject to fear and
disquietudes. An account of the women.]
Ay my alighting, I was surrounded with a crowd of people, but
those who stood nearest seemed to be of better quality. They
beheld me with all the marks and circumstances of wonder; neither
indeed was I much in their debt, having never till then seen a
race of mortals so singular in their shapes, habits, and
countenances. Their heads were all reclined, either to the
right, or the left; one of their eyes turned inward, and the
other directly up to the zenith. Their outward garments were
adorned with the figures of suns, moons, and stars; interwoven
with those of fiddles, flutes, harps, trumpets, guitars,
harpsichords, and many other instruments of music, unknown to us
in Europe. I observed, here and there, many in the habit of
servants, with a blown bladder, fastened like a flail to the end
of a stick, which they carried in their hands. In each bladder
was a small quantity of dried peas, or little pebbles, as I was
afterwards informed. With these bladders, they now and then
flapped the mouths and ears of those who stood near them, of
which practice I could not then conceive the meaning. It seems
the minds of these people are so taken up with intense
speculations, that they neither can speak, nor attend to the
discourses of others, without being roused by some external
taction upon the organs of speech and hearing; for which reason,
those persons who are able to afford it always keep a flapper
(the original is CLIMENOLE) in their family, as one of their
domestics; nor ever walk abroad, or make visits, without him.
And the business of this officer is, when two, three, or more
persons are in company, gently to strike with his bladder the
mouth of him who is to speak, and the right ear of him or them to
whom the speaker addresses himself. This flapper is likewise
employed diligently to attend his master in his walks, and upon
occasion to give him a soft flap on his eyes; because he is
always so wrapped up in cogitation, that he is in manifest danger
of falling down every precipice, and bouncing his head against
every post; and in the streets, of justling others, or being
justled himself into the kennel.
It was necessary to give the reader this information, without
which he would be at the same loss with me to understand the
proceedings of these people, as they conducted me up the stairs
to the top of the island, and from thence to the royal palace.
While we were ascending, they forgot several times what they were
about, and left me to myself, till their memories were again
roused by their flappers; for they appeared altogether unmoved by
the sight of my foreign habit and countenance, and by the shouts
of the vulgar, whose thoughts and minds were more disengaged.
At last we entered the palace, and proceeded into the chamber of
presence, where I saw the king seated on his throne, attended on
each side by persons of prime quality. Before the throne, was a
large table filled with globes and spheres, and mathematical
instruments of all kinds. His majesty took not the least notice
of us, although our entrance was not without sufficient noise, by
the concourse of all persons belonging to the court. But he was
then deep in a problem; and we attended at least an hour, before
he could solve it. There stood by him, on each side, a young
page with flaps in their hands, and when they saw he was at
leisure, one of them gently struck his mouth, and the other his
right ear; at which he startled like one awaked on the sudden,
and looking towards me and the company I was in, recollected the
occasion of our coming, whereof he had been informed before. He
spoke some words, whereupon immediately a young man with a flap
came up to my side, and flapped me gently on the right ear; but I
made signs, as well as I could, that I had no occasion for such
an instrument; which, as I afterwards found, gave his majesty,
and the whole court, a very mean opinion of my understanding.
The king, as far as I could conjecture, asked me several
questions, and I addressed myself to him in all the languages I
had. When it was found I could neither understand nor be
understood, I was conducted by his order to an apartment in his
palace (this prince being distinguished above all his
predecessors for his hospitality to strangers), where two
servants were appointed to attend me. My dinner was brought, and
four persons of quality, whom I remembered to have seen very near
the king's person, did me the honour to dine with me. We had two
courses, of three dishes each. In the first course, there was a
shoulder of mutton cut into an equilateral triangle, a piece of
beef into a rhomboides, and a pudding into a cycloid. The second
course was two ducks trussed up in the form of fiddles; sausages
and puddings resembling flutes and hautboys, and a breast of veal
in the shape of a harp. The servants cut our bread into cones,
cylinders, parallelograms, and several other mathematical
While we were at dinner, I made bold to ask the names of several
things in their language, and those noble persons, by the
assistance of their flappers, delighted to give me answers,
hoping to raise my admiration of their great abilities if I could
be brought to converse with them. I was soon able to call for
bread and drink, or whatever else I wanted.
After dinner my company withdrew, and a person was sent to me by
the king's order, attended by a flapper. He brought with him
pen, ink, and paper, and three or four books, giving me to
understand by signs, that he was sent to teach me the language.
We sat together four hours, in which time I wrote down a great
number of words in columns, with the translations over against
them; I likewise made a shift to learn several short sentences;
for my tutor would order one of my servants to fetch something,
to turn about, to make a bow, to sit, or to stand, or walk, and
the like. Then I took down the sentence in writing. He showed
me also, in one of his books, the figures of the sun, moon, and
stars, the zodiac, the tropics, and polar circles, together with
the denominations of many plains and solids. He gave me the
names and descriptions of all the musical instruments, and the
general terms of art in playing on each of them. After he had
left me, I placed all my words, with their interpretations, in
alphabetical order. And thus, in a few days, by the help of a
very faithful memory, I got some insight into their language.
The word, which I interpret the flying or floating island, is in
the original LAPUTA, whereof I could never learn the true
etymology. LAP, in the old obsolete language, signifies high;
and UNTUH, a governor; from which they say, by corruption, was
derived LAPUTA, from LAPUNTUH. But I do not approve of this
derivation, which seems to be a little strained. I ventured to
offer to the learned among them a conjecture of my own, that
Laputa was QUASI LAP OUTED; LAP, signifying properly, the dancing
of the sunbeams in the sea, and OUTED, a wing; which, however, I
shall not obtrude, but submit to the judicious reader.
Those to whom the king had entrusted me, observing how ill I was
clad, ordered a tailor to come next morning, and take measure for
a suit of clothes. This operator did his office after a
different manner from those of his trade in Europe. He first
took my altitude by a quadrant, and then, with a rule and
compasses, described the dimensions and outlines of my whole
body, all which he entered upon paper; and in six days brought my
clothes very ill made, and quite out of shape, by happening to
mistake a figure in the calculation. But my comfort was, that I
observed such accidents very frequent, and little regarded.
During my confinement for want of clothes, and by an
indisposition that held me some days longer, I much enlarged my
dictionary; and when I went next to court, was able to understand
many things the king spoke, and to return him some kind of
answers. His majesty had given orders, that the island should
move north-east and by east, to the vertical point over Lagado,
the metropolis of the whole kingdom below, upon the firm earth.
It was about ninety leagues distant, and our voyage lasted four
days and a half. I was not in the least sensible of the
progressive motion made in the air by the island. On the second
morning, about eleven o'clock, the king himself in person,
attended by his nobility, courtiers, and officers, having
prepared all their musical instruments, played on them for three
hours without intermission, so that I was quite stunned with the
noise; neither could I possibly guess the meaning, till my tutor
informed me. He said that, the people of their island had their
ears adapted to hear "the music of the spheres, which always
played at certain periods, and the court was now prepared to bear
their part, in whatever instrument they most excelled."
In our journey towards Lagado, the capital city, his majesty
ordered that the island should stop over certain towns and
villages, from whence he might receive the petitions of his
subjects. And to this purpose, several packthreads were let
down, with small weights at the bottom. On these packthreads the
people strung their petitions, which mounted up directly, like
the scraps of paper fastened by school boys at the end of the
string that holds their kite. Sometimes we received wine and
victuals from below, which were drawn up by pulleys.
The knowledge I had in mathematics, gave me great assistance in
acquiring their phraseology, which depended much upon that
science, and music; and in the latter I was not unskilled. Their
ideas are perpetually conversant in lines and figures. If they
would, for example, praise the beauty of a woman, or any other
animal, they describe it by rhombs, circles, parallelograms,
ellipses, and other geometrical terms, or by words of art drawn
from music, needless here to repeat. I observed in the king's
kitchen all sorts of mathematical and musical instruments, after
the figures of which they cut up the joints that were served to
his majesty's table.
Their houses are very ill built, the walls bevil, without one
right angle in any apartment; and this defect arises from the
contempt they bear to practical geometry, which they despise as
vulgar and mechanic; those instructions they give being too
refined for the intellects of their workmen, which occasions
perpetual mistakes. And although they are dexterous enough upon a
piece of paper, in the management of the rule, the pencil, and
the divider, yet in the common actions and behaviour of life, I
have not seen a more clumsy, awkward, and unhandy people, nor so
slow and perplexed in their conceptions upon all other subjects,
except those of mathematics and music. They are very bad
reasoners, and vehemently given to opposition, unless when they
happen to be of the right opinion, which is seldom their case.
Imagination, fancy, and invention, they are wholly strangers to,
nor have any words in their language, by which those ideas can be
expressed; the whole compass of their thoughts and mind being
shut up within the two forementioned sciences.
Most of them, and especially those who deal in the astronomical
part, have great faith in judicial astrology, although they are
ashamed to own it publicly. But what I chiefly admired, and
thought altogether unaccountable, was the strong disposition I
observed in them towards news and politics, perpetually inquiring
into public affairs, giving their judgments in matters of state,
and passionately disputing every inch of a party opinion. I have
indeed observed the same disposition among most of the
mathematicians I have known in Europe, although I could never
discover the least analogy between the two sciences; unless those
people suppose, that because the smallest circle has as many
degrees as the largest, therefore the regulation and management
of the world require no more abilities than the handling and
turning of a globe; but I rather take this quality to spring from
a very common infirmity of human nature, inclining us to be most
curious and conceited in matters where we have least concern, and
for which we are least adapted by study or nature.
These people are under continual disquietudes, never enjoying a
minutes peace of mind; and their disturbances proceed from causes
which very little affect the rest of mortals. Their
apprehensions arise from several changes they dread in the
celestial bodies: for instance, that the earth, by the continual
approaches of the sun towards it, must, in course of time, be
absorbed, or swallowed up; that the face of the sun, will, by
degrees, be encrusted with its own effluvia, and give no more
light to the world; that the earth very narrowly escaped a brush
from the tail of the last comet, which would have infallibly
reduced it to ashes; and that the next, which they have
calculated for one-and-thirty years hence, will probably destroy
us. For if, in its perihelion, it should approach within a
certain degree of the sun (as by their calculations they have
reason to dread) it will receive a degree of heat ten thousand
times more intense than that of red hot glowing iron, and in its
absence from the sun, carry a blazing tail ten hundred thousand
and fourteen miles long, through which, if the earth should pass
at the distance of one hundred thousand miles from the nucleus,
or main body of the comet, it must in its passage be set on fire,
and reduced to ashes: that the sun, daily spending its rays
without any nutriment to supply them, will at last be wholly
consumed and annihilated; which must be attended with the
destruction of this earth, and of all the planets that receive
their light from it.
They are so perpetually alarmed with the apprehensions of these,
and the like impending dangers, that they can neither sleep
quietly in their beds, nor have any relish for the common
pleasures and amusements of life. When they meet an acquaintance
in the morning, the first question is about the sun's health, how
he looked at his setting and rising, and what hopes they have to
avoid the stroke of the approaching comet. This conversation
they are apt to run into with the same temper that boys discover
in delighting to hear terrible stories of spirits and hobgoblins,
which they greedily listen to, and dare not go to bed for fear.
The women of the island have abundance of vivacity: they,
contemn their husbands, and are exceedingly fond of strangers,
whereof there is always a considerable number from the continent
below, attending at court, either upon affairs of the several
towns and corporations, or their own particular occasions, but
are much despised, because they want the same endowments. Among
these the ladies choose their gallants: but the vexation is,
that they act with too much ease and security; for the husband is
always so rapt in speculation, that the mistress and lover may
proceed to the greatest familiarities before his face, if he be
but provided with paper and implements, and without his flapper
at his side.
The wives and daughters lament their confinement to the island,
although I think it the most delicious spot of ground in the
world; and although they live here in the greatest plenty and
magnificence, and are allowed to do whatever they please, they
long to see the world, and take the diversions of the metropolis,
which they are not allowed to do without a particular license
from the king; and this is not easy to be obtained, because the
people of quality have found, by frequent experience, how hard it
is to persuade their women to return from below. I was told that
a great court lady, who had several children,--is married to the
prime minister, the richest subject in the kingdom, a very
graceful person, extremely fond of her, and lives in the finest
palace of the island,--went down to Lagado on the pretence of
health, there hid herself for several months, till the king sent
a warrant to search for her; and she was found in an obscure
eating-house all in rags, having pawned her clothes to maintain
an old deformed footman, who beat her every day, and in whose
company she was taken, much against her will. And although her
husband received her with all possible kindness, and without the
least reproach, she soon after contrived to steal down again,
with all her jewels, to the same gallant, and has not been heard
of since.
This may perhaps pass with the reader rather for an European or
English story, than for one of a country so remote. But he may
please to consider, that the caprices of womankind are not
limited by any climate or nation, and that they are much more
uniform, than can be easily imagined.
In about a month's time, I had made a tolerable proficiency in
their language, and was able to answer most of the king's
questions, when I had the honour to attend him. His majesty
discovered not the least curiosity to inquire into the laws,
government, history, religion, or manners of the countries where
I had been; but confined his questions to the state of
mathematics, and received the account I gave him with great
contempt and indifference, though often roused by his flapper on
each side.
[A phenomenon solved by modern philosophy and astronomy. The
Laputians' great improvements in the latter. The king's method
of suppressing insurrections.]
I desired leave of this prince to see the curiosities of the
island, which he was graciously pleased to grant, and ordered my
tutor to attend me. I chiefly wanted to know, to what cause, in
art or in nature, it owed its several motions, whereof I will now
give a philosophical account to the reader.
The flying or floating island is exactly circular, its diameter
7837 yards, or about four miles and a half, and consequently
contains ten thousand acres. It is three hundred yards thick.
The bottom, or under surface, which appears to those who view it
below, is one even regular plate of adamant, shooting up to the
height of about two hundred yards. Above it lie the several
minerals in their usual order, and over all is a coat of rich
mould, ten or twelve feet deep. The declivity of the upper
surface, from the circumference to the centre, is the natural
cause why all the dews and rains, which fall upon the island, are
conveyed in small rivulets toward the middle, where they are
emptied into four large basins, each of about half a mile in
circuit, and two hundred yards distant from the centre. From
these basins the water is continually exhaled by the sun in the
daytime, which effectually prevents their overflowing. Besides,
as it is in the power of the monarch to raise the island above
the region of clouds and vapours, he can prevent the falling of
dews and rain whenever he pleases. For the highest clouds cannot
rise above two miles, as naturalists agree, at least they were
never known to do so in that country.
At the centre of the island there is a chasm about fifty yards in
diameter, whence the astronomers descend into a large dome, which
is therefore called FLANDONA GAGNOLE, or the astronomer's cave,
situated at the depth of a hundred yards beneath the upper
surface of the adamant. In this cave are twenty lamps
continually burning, which, from the reflection of the adamant,
cast a strong light into every part. The place is stored with
great variety of sextants, quadrants, telescopes, astrolabes, and
other astronomical instruments. But the greatest curiosity, upon
which the fate of the island depends, is a loadstone of a
prodigious size, in shape resembling a weaver's shuttle. It is
in length six yards, and in the thickest part at least three
yards over. This magnet is sustained by a very strong axle of
adamant passing through its middle, upon which it plays, and is
poised so exactly that the weakest hand can turn it. It is
hooped round with a hollow cylinder of adamant, four feet yards
in diameter, placed horizontally, and supported by eight
adamantine feet, each six yards high. In the middle of the
concave side, there is a groove twelve inches deep, in which the
extremities of the axle are lodged, and turned round as there is
The stone cannot be removed from its place by any force, because
the hoop and its feet are one continued piece with that body of
adamant which constitutes the bottom of the island.
By means of this loadstone, the island is made to rise and fall,
and move from one place to another. For, with respect to that
part of the earth over which the monarch presides, the stone is
endued at one of its sides with an attractive power, and at the
other with a repulsive. Upon placing the magnet erect, with its
attracting end towards the earth, the island descends; but when
the repelling extremity points downwards, the island mounts
directly upwards. When the position of the stone is oblique, the
motion of the island is so too: for in this magnet, the forces
always act in lines parallel to its direction.
By this oblique motion, the island is conveyed to different parts
of the monarch's dominions. To explain the manner of its
progress, let A B represent a line drawn across the dominions of
Balnibarbi, let the line C D represent the loadstone, of which
let D be the repelling end, and C the attracting end, the island
being over C: let the stone be placed in position C D, with its
repelling end downwards; then the island will be driven upwards
obliquely towards D. When it is arrived at D, let the stone be
turned upon its axle, till its attracting end points towards E,
and then the island will be carried obliquely towards E; where,
if the stone be again turned upon its axle till it stands in the
position E F, with its repelling point downwards, the island will
rise obliquely towards F, where, by directing the attracting end
towards G, the island may be carried to G, and from G to H, by
turning the stone, so as to make its repelling extremity to point
directly downward. And thus, by changing the situation of the
stone, as often as there is occasion, the island is made to rise
and fall by turns in an oblique direction, and by those alternate
risings and fallings (the obliquity being not considerable) is
conveyed from one part of the dominions to the other.
But it must be observed, that this island cannot move beyond the
extent of the dominions below, nor can it rise above the height
of four miles. For which the astronomers (who have written large
systems concerning the stone) assign the following reason: that
the magnetic virtue does not extend beyond the distance of four
miles, and that the mineral, which acts upon the stone in the
bowels of the earth, and in the sea about six leagues distant
from the shore, is not diffused through the whole globe, but
terminated with the limits of the king's dominions; and it was
easy, from the great advantage of such a superior situation, for
a prince to bring under his obedience whatever country lay within
the attraction of that magnet.
When the stone is put parallel to the plane of the horizon, the
island stands still; for in that case the extremities of it,
being at equal distance from the earth, act with equal force, the
one in drawing downwards, the other in pushing upwards, and
consequently no motion can ensue.
This loadstone is under the care of certain astronomers, who,
from time to time, give it such positions as the monarch directs.
They spend the greatest part of their lives in observing the
celestial bodies, which they do by the assistance of glasses, far
excelling ours in goodness. For, although their largest
telescopes do not exceed three feet, they magnify much more than
those of a hundred with us, and show the stars with greater
clearness. This advantage has enabled them to extend their
discoveries much further than our astronomers in Europe; for they
have made a catalogue of ten thousand fixed stars, whereas the
largest of ours do not contain above one third part of that
number. They have likewise discovered two lesser stars, or
satellites, which revolve about Mars; whereof the innermost is
distant from the centre of the primary planet exactly three of
his diameters, and the outermost, five; the former revolves in
the space of ten hours, and the latter in twenty-one and a half;
so that the squares of their periodical times are very near in
the same proportion with the cubes of their distance from the
centre of Mars; which evidently shows them to be governed by the
same law of gravitation that influences the other heavenly
They have observed ninety-three different comets, and settled
their periods with great exactness. If this be true (and they
affirm it with great confidence) it is much to be wished, that
their observations were made public, whereby the theory of
comets, which at present is very lame and defective, might be
brought to the same perfection with other arts of astronomy.
The king would be the most absolute prince in the universe, if he
could but prevail on a ministry to join with him; but these
having their estates below on the continent, and considering that
the office of a favourite has a very uncertain tenure, would
never consent to the enslaving of their country.
If any town should engage in rebellion or mutiny, fall into
violent factions, or refuse to pay the usual tribute, the king
has two methods of reducing them to obedience. The first and the
mildest course is, by keeping the island hovering over such a
town, and the lands about it, whereby he can deprive them of the
benefit of the sun and the rain, and consequently afflict the
inhabitants with dearth and diseases: and if the crime deserve
it, they are at the same time pelted from above with great
stones, against which they have no defence but by creeping into
cellars or caves, while the roofs of their houses are beaten to
pieces. But if they still continue obstinate, or offer to raise
insurrections, he proceeds to the last remedy, by letting the
island drop directly upon their heads, which makes a universal
destruction both of houses and men. However, this is an extremity
to which the prince is seldom driven, neither indeed is he
willing to put it in execution; nor dare his ministers advise him
to an action, which, as it would render them odious to the
people, so it would be a great damage to their own estates, which
all lie below; for the island is the king's demesne.
But there is still indeed a more weighty reason, why the kings of
this country have been always averse from executing so terrible
an action, unless upon the utmost necessity. For, if the town
intended to be destroyed should have in it any tall rocks, as it
generally falls out in the larger cities, a situation probably
chosen at first with a view to prevent such a catastrophe; or if
it abound in high spires, or pillars of stone, a sudden fall
might endanger the bottom or under surface of the island, which,
although it consist, as I have said, of one entire adamant, two
hundred yards thick, might happen to crack by too great a shock,
or burst by approaching too near the fires from the houses below,
as the backs, both of iron and stone, will often do in our
chimneys. Of all this the people are well apprised, and
understand how far to carry their obstinacy, where their liberty
or property is concerned. And the king, when he is highest
provoked, and most determined to press a city to rubbish, orders
the island to descend with great gentleness, out of a pretence of
tenderness to his people, but, indeed, for fear of breaking the
adamantine bottom; in which case, it is the opinion of all their
philosophers, that the loadstone could no longer hold it up, and
the whole mass would fall to the ground.
By a fundamental law of this realm, neither the king, nor either
of his two eldest sons, are permitted to leave the island; nor
the queen, till she is past child-bearing.
[The author leaves Laputa; is conveyed to Balnibarbi; arrives at
the metropolis. A description of the metropolis, and the country
adjoining. The author hospitably received by a great lord. His
conversation with that lord.]
Although I cannot say that I was ill treated in this island, yet
I must confess I thought myself too much neglected, not without
some degree of contempt; for neither prince nor people appeared
to be curious in any part of knowledge, except mathematics and
music, wherein I was far their inferior, and upon that account
very little regarded.
On the other side, after having seen all the curiosities of the
island, I was very desirous to leave it, being heartily weary of
those people. They were indeed excellent in two sciences for
which I have great esteem, and wherein I am not unversed; but, at
the same time, so abstracted and involved in speculation, that I
never met with such disagreeable companions. I conversed only
with women, tradesmen, flappers, and court-pages, during two
months of my abode there; by which, at last, I rendered myself
extremely contemptible; yet these were the only people from whom
I could ever receive a reasonable answer.
I had obtained, by hard study, a good degree of knowledge in
their language: I was weary of being confined to an island where
I received so little countenance, and resolved to leave it with
the first opportunity.
There was a great lord at court, nearly related to the king, and
for that reason alone used with respect. He was universally
reckoned the most ignorant and stupid person among them. He had
performed many eminent services for the crown, had great natural
and acquired parts, adorned with integrity and honour; but so ill
an ear for music, that his detractors reported, "he had been
often known to beat time in the wrong place;" neither could his
tutors, without extreme difficulty, teach him to demonstrate the
most easy proposition in the mathematics. He was pleased to show
me many marks of favour, often did me the honour of a visit,
desired to be informed in the affairs of Europe, the laws and
customs, the manners and learning of the several countries where
I had travelled. He listened to me with great attention, and
made very wise observations on all I spoke. He had two flappers
attending him for state, but never made use of them, except at
court and in visits of ceremony, and would always command them to
withdraw, when we were alone together.
I entreated this illustrious person, to intercede in my behalf
with his majesty, for leave to depart; which he accordingly did,
as he was pleased to tell me, with regret: for indeed he had
made me several offers very advantageous, which, however, I
refused, with expressions of the highest acknowledgment.
On the 16th of February I took leave of his majesty and the
court. The king made me a present to the value of about two
hundred pounds English, and my protector, his kinsman, as much
more, together with a letter of recommendation to a friend of his
in Lagado, the metropolis. The island being then hovering over a
mountain about two miles from it, I was let down from the lowest
gallery, in the same manner as I had been taken up.
The continent, as far as it is subject to the monarch of the
flying island, passes under the general name of BALNIBARBI; and
the metropolis, as I said before, is called LAGADO. I felt some
little satisfaction in finding myself on firm ground. I walked
to the city without any concern, being clad like one of the
natives, and sufficiently instructed to converse with them. I
soon found out the person's house to whom I was recommended,
presented my letter from his friend the grandee in the island,
and was received with much kindness. This great lord, whose name
was Munodi, ordered me an apartment in his own house, where I
continued during my stay, and was entertained in a most
hospitable manner.
The next morning after my arrival, he took me in his chariot to
see the town, which is about half the bigness of London; but the
houses very strangely built, and most of them out of repair. The
people in the streets walked fast, looked wild, their eyes fixed,
and were generally in rags. We passed through one of the town
gates, and went about three miles into the country, where I saw
many labourers working with several sorts of tools in the ground,
but was not able to conjecture what they were about: neither did
observe any expectation either of corn or grass, although the
soil appeared to be excellent. I could not forbear admiring at
these odd appearances, both in town and country; and I made bold
to desire my conductor, that he would be pleased to explain to
me, what could be meant by so many busy heads, hands, and faces,
both in the streets and the fields, because I did not discover
any good effects they produced; but, on the contrary, I never
knew a soil so unhappily cultivated, houses so ill contrived and
so ruinous, or a people whose countenances and habit expressed so
much misery and want.
This lord Munodi was a person of the first rank, and had been
some years governor of Lagado; but, by a cabal of ministers, was
discharged for insufficiency. However, the king treated him with
tenderness, as a well-meaning man, but of a low contemptible
When I gave that free censure of the country and its inhabitants,
he made no further answer than by telling me, "that I had not
been long enough among them to form a judgment; and that the
different nations of the world had different customs;" with other
common topics to the same purpose. But, when we returned to his
palace, he asked me "how I liked the building, what absurdities I
observed, and what quarrel I had with the dress or looks of his
domestics?" This he might safely do; because every thing about
him was magnificent, regular, and polite. I answered, "that his
excellency's prudence, quality, and fortune, had exempted him
from those defects, which folly and beggary had produced in
others." He said, "if I would go with him to his country-house,
about twenty miles distant, where his estate lay, there would be
more leisure for this kind of conversation." I told his
excellency "that I was entirely at his disposal;" and accordingly
we set out next morning.
During our journey he made me observe the several methods used by
farmers in managing their lands, which to me were wholly
unaccountable; for, except in some very few places, I could not
discover one ear of corn or blade of grass. But, in three hours
travelling, the scene was wholly altered; we came into a most
beautiful country; farmers' houses, at small distances, neatly
built; the fields enclosed, containing vineyards, corn-grounds,
and meadows. Neither do I remember to have seen a more
delightful prospect. His excellency observed my countenance to
clear up; he told me, with a sigh, "that there his estate began,
and would continue the same, till we should come to his house:
that his countrymen ridiculed and despised him, for managing his
affairs no better, and for setting so ill an example to the
kingdom; which, however, was followed by very few, such as were
old, and wilful, and weak like himself."
We came at length to the house, which was indeed a noble
structure, built according to the best rules of ancient
architecture. The fountains, gardens, walks, avenues, and
groves, were all disposed with exact judgment and taste. I gave
due praises to every thing I saw, whereof his excellency took not
the least notice till after supper; when, there being no third
companion, he told me with a very melancholy air "that he doubted
he must throw down his houses in town and country, to rebuild
them after the present mode; destroy all his plantations, and
cast others into such a form as modern usage required, and give
the same directions to all his tenants, unless he would submit to
incur the censure of pride, singularity, affectation, ignorance,
caprice, and perhaps increase his majesty's displeasure; that the
admiration I appeared to be under would cease or diminish, when
he had informed me of some particulars which, probably, I never
heard of at court, the people there being too much taken up in
their own speculations, to have regard to what passed here
The sum of his discourse was to this effect: "That about forty
years ago, certain persons went up to Laputa, either upon
business or diversion, and, after five months continuance, came
back with a very little smattering in mathematics, but full of
volatile spirits acquired in that airy region: that these
persons, upon their return, began to dislike the management of
every thing below, and fell into schemes of putting all arts,
sciences, languages, and mechanics, upon a new foot. To this
end, they procured a royal patent for erecting an academy of
projectors in Lagado; and the humour prevailed so strongly among
the people, that there is not a town of any consequence in the
kingdom without such an academy. In these colleges the
professors contrive new rules and methods of agriculture and
building, and new instruments, and tools for all trades and
manufactures; whereby, as they undertake, one man shall do the
work of ten; a palace may be built in a week, of materials so
durable as to last for ever without repairing. All the fruits of
the earth shall come to maturity at whatever season we think fit
to choose, and increase a hundred fold more than they do at
present; with innumerable other happy proposals. The only
inconvenience is, that none of these projects are yet brought to
perfection; and in the mean time, the whole country lies
miserably waste, the houses in ruins, and the people without food
or clothes. By all which, instead of being discouraged, they are
fifty times more violently bent upon prosecuting their schemes,
driven equally on by hope and despair: that as for himself,
being not of an enterprising spirit, he was content to go on in
the old forms, to live in the houses his ancestors had built, and
act as they did, in every part of life, without innovation: that
some few other persons of quality and gentry had done the same,
but were looked on with an eye of contempt and ill-will, as
enemies to art, ignorant, and ill common-wealth's men, preferring
their own ease and sloth before the general improvement of their
His lordship added, "That he would not, by any further
particulars, prevent the pleasure I should certainly take in
viewing the grand academy, whither he was resolved I should go."
He only desired me to observe a ruined building, upon the side of
a mountain about three miles distant, of which he gave me this
account: "That he had a very convenient mill within half a mile
of his house, turned by a current from a large river, and
sufficient for his own family, as well as a great number of his
tenants; that about seven years ago, a club of those projectors
came to him with proposals to destroy this mill, and build
another on the side of that mountain, on the long ridge whereof a
long canal must be cut, for a repository of water, to be conveyed
up by pipes and engines to supply the mill, because the wind and
air upon a height agitated the water, and thereby made it fitter
for motion, and because the water, descending down a declivity,
would turn the mill with half the current of a river whose course
is more upon a level." He said, "that being then not very well
with the court, and pressed by many of his friends, he complied
with the proposal; and after employing a hundred men for two
years, the work miscarried, the projectors went off, laying the
blame entirely upon him, railing at him ever since, and putting
others upon the same experiment, with equal assurance of success,
as well as equal disappointment."
In a few days we came back to town; and his excellency,
considering the bad character he had in the academy, would not go
with me himself, but recommended me to a friend of his, to bear
me company thither. My lord was pleased to represent me as a
great admirer of projects, and a person of much curiosity and
easy belief; which, indeed, was not without truth; for I had
myself been a sort of projector in my younger days.
[The author permitted to see the grand academy of Lagado. The
academy largely described. The arts wherein the professors
employ themselves.]
This academy is not an entire single building, but a continuation
of several houses on both sides of a street, which growing waste,
was purchased and applied to that use.
I was received very kindly by the warden, and went for many days
to the academy. Every room has in it one or more projectors; and
I believe I could not be in fewer than five hundred rooms.
The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and
face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several
places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same
colour. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting
sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials
hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement
summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years
more, he should be able to supply the governor's gardens with
sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock
was low, and entreated me "to give him something as an
encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very
dear season for cucumbers." I made him a small present, for my
lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew
their practice of begging from all who go to see them.
I went into another chamber, but was ready to hasten back, being
almost overcome with a horrible stink. My conductor pressed me
forward, conjuring me in a whisper "to give no offence, which
would be highly resented;" and therefore I durst not so much as
stop my nose. The projector of this cell was the most ancient
student of the academy; his face and beard were of a pale yellow;
his hands and clothes daubed over with filth. When I was
presented to him, he gave me a close embrace, a compliment I
could well have excused. His employment, from his first coming
into the academy, was an operation to reduce human excrement to
its original food, by separating the several parts, removing the
tincture which it receives from the gall, making the odour
exhale, and scumming off the saliva. He had a weekly allowance,
from the society, of a vessel filled with human ordure, about the
bigness of a Bristol barrel.
I saw another at work to calcine ice into gunpowder; who likewise
showed me a treatise he had written concerning the malleability
of fire, which he intended to publish.
There was a most ingenious architect, who had contrived a new
method for building houses, by beginning at the roof, and working
downward to the foundation; which he justified to me, by the like
practice of those two prudent insects, the bee and the spider.
There was a man born blind, who had several apprentices in his
own condition: their employment was to mix colours for painters,
which their master taught them to distinguish by feeling and
smelling. It was indeed my misfortune to find them at that time
not very perfect in their lessons, and the professor himself
happened to be generally mistaken. This artist is much
encouraged and esteemed by the whole fraternity.
In another apartment I was highly pleased with a projector who
had found a device of ploughing the ground with hogs, to save the
charges of ploughs, cattle, and labour. The method is this: in
an acre of ground you bury, at six inches distance and eight
deep, a quantity of acorns, dates, chestnuts, and other mast or
vegetables, whereof these animals are fondest; then you drive six
hundred or more of them into the field, where, in a few days,
they will root up the whole ground in search of their food, and
make it fit for sowing, at the same time manuring it with their
dung: it is true, upon experiment, they found the charge and
trouble very great, and they had little or no crop. However it
is not doubted, that this invention may be capable of great
I went into another room, where the walls and ceiling were all
hung round with cobwebs, except a narrow passage for the artist
to go in and out. At my entrance, he called aloud to me, "not to
disturb his webs." He lamented "the fatal mistake the world had
been so long in, of using silkworms, while we had such plenty of
domestic insects who infinitely excelled the former, because they
understood how to weave, as well as spin." And he proposed
further, "that by employing spiders, the charge of dyeing silks
should be wholly saved;" whereof I was fully convinced, when he
showed me a vast number of flies most beautifully coloured,
wherewith he fed his spiders, assuring us "that the webs would
take a tincture from them; and as he had them of all hues, he
hoped to fit everybody's fancy, as soon as he could find proper
food for the flies, of certain gums, oils, and other glutinous
matter, to give a strength and consistence to the threads."
There was an astronomer, who had undertaken to place a sun-dial
upon the great weathercock on the town-house, by adjusting the
annual and diurnal motions of the earth and sun, so as to answer
and coincide with all accidental turnings of the wind.
I was complaining of a small fit of the colic, upon which my
conductor led me into a room where a great physician resided, who
was famous for curing that disease, by contrary operations from
the same instrument. He had a large pair of bellows, with a long
slender muzzle of ivory: this he conveyed eight inches up the
anus, and drawing in the wind, he affirmed he could make the guts
as lank as a dried bladder. But when the disease was more
stubborn and violent, he let in the muzzle while the bellows were
full of wind, which he discharged into the body of the patient;
then withdrew the instrument to replenish it, clapping his thumb
strongly against the orifice of then fundament; and this being
repeated three or four times, the adventitious wind would rush
out, bringing the noxious along with it, (like water put into a
pump), and the patient recovered. I saw him try both experiments
upon a dog, but could not discern any effect from the former.
After the latter the animal was ready to burst, and made so
violent a discharge as was very offensive to me and my companion.
The dog died on the spot, and we left the doctor endeavouring to
recover him, by the same operation.
I visited many other apartments, but shall not trouble my reader
with all the curiosities I observed, being studious of brevity.
I had hitherto seen only one side of the academy, the other being
appropriated to the advancers of speculative learning, of whom I
shall say something, when I have mentioned one illustrious person
more, who is called among them "the universal artist." He told
us "he had been thirty years employing his thoughts for the
improvement of human life." He had two large rooms full of
wonderful curiosities, and fifty men at work. Some were
condensing air into a dry tangible substance, by extracting the
nitre, and letting the aqueous or fluid particles percolate;
others softening marble, for pillows and pin-cushions; others
petrifying the hoofs of a living horse, to preserve them from
foundering. The artist himself was at that time busy upon two
great designs; the first, to sow land with chaff, wherein he
affirmed the true seminal virtue to be contained, as he
demonstrated by several experiments, which I was not skilful
enough to comprehend. The other was, by a certain composition of
gums, minerals, and vegetables, outwardly applied, to prevent the
growth of wool upon two young lambs; and he hoped, in a
reasonable time to propagate the breed of naked sheep, all over
the kingdom.
We crossed a walk to the other part of the academy, where, as I
have already said, the projectors in speculative learning
The first professor I saw, was in a very large room, with forty
pupils about him. After salutation, observing me to look
earnestly upon a frame, which took up the greatest part of both
the length and breadth of the room, he said, "Perhaps I might
wonder to see him employed in a project for improving speculative
knowledge, by practical and mechanical operations. But the world
would soon be sensible of its usefulness; and he flattered
himself, that a more noble, exalted thought never sprang in any
other man's head. Every one knew how laborious the usual method
is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas, by his
contrivance, the most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge,
and with a little bodily labour, might write books in philosophy,
poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, and theology, without the
least assistance from genius or study." He then led me to the
frame, about the sides, whereof all his pupils stood in ranks.
It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room. The
superfices was composed of several bits of wood, about the
bigness of a die, but some larger than others. They were all
linked together by slender wires. These bits of wood were
covered, on every square, with paper pasted on them; and on these
papers were written all the words of their language, in their
several moods, tenses, and declensions; but without any order.
The professor then desired me "to observe; for he was going to
set his engine at work." The pupils, at his command, took each
of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed
round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the
whole disposition of the words was entirely changed. He then
commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines
softly, as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found
three or four words together that might make part of a sentence,
they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes. This
work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the
engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places,
as the square bits of wood moved upside down.
Six hours a day the young students were employed in this labour;
and the professor showed me several volumes in large folio,
already collected, of broken sentences, which he intended to
piece together, and out of those rich materials, to give the
world a complete body of all arts and sciences; which, however,
might be still improved, and much expedited, if the public would
raise a fund for making and employing five hundred such frames in
Lagado, and oblige the managers to contribute in common their
several collections.
He assured me "that this invention had employed all his thoughts
from his youth; that he had emptied the whole vocabulary into his
frame, and made the strictest computation of the general
proportion there is in books between the numbers of particles,
nouns, and verbs, and other parts of speech."
I made my humblest acknowledgment to this illustrious person, for
his great communicativeness; and promised, "if ever I had the
good fortune to return to my native country, that I would do him
justice, as the sole inventor of this wonderful machine;" the
form and contrivance of which I desired leave to delineate on
paper, as in the figure here annexed. I told him, "although it
were the custom of our learned in Europe to steal inventions from
each other, who had thereby at least this advantage, that it
became a controversy which was the right owner; yet I would take
such caution, that he should have the honour entire, without a
We next went to the school of languages, where three professors
sat in consultation upon improving that of their own country.
The first project was, to shorten discourse, by cutting
polysyllables into one, and leaving out verbs and participles,
because, in reality, all things imaginable are but norms.
The other project was, a scheme for entirely abolishing all words
whatsoever; and this was urged as a great advantage in point of
health, as well as brevity. For it is plain, that every word we
speak is, in some degree, a diminution of our lunge by corrosion,
and, consequently, contributes to the shortening of our lives.
An expedient was therefore offered, "that since words are only
names for things, it would be more convenient for all men to
carry about them such things as were necessary to express a
particular business they are to discourse on." And this
invention would certainly have taken place, to the great ease as
well as health of the subject, if the women, in conjunction with
the vulgar and illiterate, had not threatened to raise a
rebellion unless they might be allowed the liberty to speak with
their tongues, after the manner of their forefathers; such
constant irreconcilable enemies to science are the common people.
However, many of the most learned and wise adhere to the new
scheme of expressing themselves by things; which has only this
inconvenience attending it, that if a man's business be very
great, and of various kinds, he must be obliged, in proportion,
to carry a greater bundle of things upon his back, unless he can
afford one or two strong servants to attend him. I have often
beheld two of those sages almost sinking under the weight of
their packs, like pedlars among us, who, when they met in the
street, would lay down their loads, open their sacks, and hold
conversation for an hour together; then put up their implements,
help each other to resume their burdens, and take their leave.
But for short conversations, a man may carry implements in his
pockets, and under his arms, enough to supply him; and in his
house, he cannot be at a loss. Therefore the room where company
meet who practise this art, is full of all things, ready at hand,
requisite to furnish matter for this kind of artificial converse.
Another great advantage proposed by this invention was, that it
would serve as a universal language, to be understood in all
civilised nations, whose goods and utensils are generally of the
same kind, or nearly resembling, so that their uses might easily
be comprehended. And thus ambassadors would be qualified to
treat with foreign princes, or ministers of state, to whose
tongues they were utter strangers.
I was at the mathematical school, where the master taught his
pupils after a method scarce imaginable to us in Europe. The
proposition, and demonstration, were fairly written on a thin
wafer, with ink composed of a cephalic tincture. This, the
student was to swallow upon a fasting stomach, and for three days
following, eat nothing but bread and water. As the wafer
digested, the tincture mounted to his brain, bearing the
proposition along with it. But the success has not hitherto been
answerable, partly by some error in the QUANTUM or composition,
and partly by the perverseness of lads, to whom this bolus is so
nauseous, that they generally steal aside, and discharge it
upwards, before it can operate; neither have they been yet
persuaded to use so long an abstinence, as the prescription
[A further account of the academy. The author proposes some
improvements, which are honourably received.]
In the school of political projectors, I was but ill entertained;
the professors appearing, in my judgment, wholly out of their
senses, which is a scene that never fails to make me melancholy.
These unhappy people were proposing schemes for persuading
monarchs to choose favourites upon the score of their wisdom,
capacity, and virtue; of teaching ministers to consult the public
good; of rewarding merit, great abilities, eminent services; of
instructing princes to know their true interest, by placing it on
the same foundation with that of their people; of choosing for
employments persons qualified to exercise them, with many other
wild, impossible chimeras, that never entered before into the
heart of man to conceive; and confirmed in me the old
observation, "that there is nothing so extravagant and
irrational, which some philosophers have not maintained for
But, however, I shall so far do justice to this part of the
Academy, as to acknowledge that all of them were not so
visionary. There was a most ingenious doctor, who seemed to be
perfectly versed in the whole nature and system of government.
This illustrious person had very usefully employed his studies,
in finding out effectual remedies for all diseases and
corruptions to which the several kinds of public administration
are subject, by the vices or infirmities of those who govern, as
well as by the licentiousness of those who are to obey. For
instance: whereas all writers and reasoners have agreed, that
there is a strict universal resemblance between the natural and
the political body; can there be any thing more evident, than
that the health of both must be preserved, and the diseases
cured, by the same prescriptions? It is allowed, that senates
and great councils are often troubled with redundant, ebullient,
and other peccant humours; with many diseases of the head, and
more of the heart; with strong convulsions, with grievous
contractions of the nerves and sinews in both hands, but
especially the right; with spleen, flatus, vertigos, and
deliriums; with scrofulous tumours, full of fetid purulent
matter; with sour frothy ructations: with canine appetites, and
crudeness of digestion, besides many others, needless to mention.
This doctor therefore proposed, "that upon the meeting of the
senate, certain physicians should attend it the three first days
of their sitting, and at the close of each day's debate feel the
pulses of every senator; after which, having maturely considered
and consulted upon the nature of the several maladies, and the
methods of cure, they should on the fourth day return to the
senate house, attended by their apothecaries stored with proper
medicines; and before the members sat, administer to each of them
lenitives, aperitives, abstersives, corrosives, restringents,
palliatives, laxatives, cephalalgics, icterics, apophlegmatics,
acoustics, as their several cases required; and, according as
these medicines should operate, repeat, alter, or omit them, at
the next meeting."
This project could not be of any great expense to the public; and
might in my poor opinion, be of much use for the despatch of
business, in those countries where senates have any share in the
legislative power; beget unanimity, shorten debates, open a few
mouths which are now closed, and close many more which are now
open; curb the petulancy of the young, and correct the
positiveness of the old; rouse the stupid, and damp the pert.
Again: because it is a general complaint, that the favourites of
princes are troubled with short and weak memories; the same
doctor proposed, "that whoever attended a first minister, after
having told his business, with the utmost brevity and in the
plainest words, should, at his departure, give the said minister
a tweak by the nose, or a kick in the belly, or tread on his
corns, or lug him thrice by both ears, or run a pin into his
breech; or pinch his arm black and blue, to prevent
forgetfulness; and at every levee day, repeat the same operation,
till the business were done, or absolutely refused."
He likewise directed, "that every senator in the great council of
a nation, after he had delivered his opinion, and argued in the
defence of it, should be obliged to give his vote directly
contrary; because if that were done, the result would infallibly
terminate in the good of the public."
When parties in a state are violent, he offered a wonderful
contrivance to reconcile them. The method is this: You take a
hundred leaders of each party; you dispose them into couples of
such whose heads are nearest of a size; then let two nice
operators saw off the occiput of each couple at the same time, in
such a manner that the brain may be equally divided. Let the
occiputs, thus cut off, be interchanged, applying each to the
head of his opposite party-man. It seems indeed to be a work
that requires some exactness, but the professor assured us, "that
if it were dexterously performed, the cure would be infallible."
For he argued thus: "that the two half brains being left to
debate the matter between themselves within the space of one
skull, would soon come to a good understanding, and produce that
moderation, as well as regularity of thinking, so much to be
wished for in the heads of those, who imagine they come into the
world only to watch and govern its motion: and as to the
difference of brains, in quantity or quality, among those who are
directors in faction, the doctor assured us, from his own
knowledge, that "it was a perfect trifle."
I heard a very warm debate between two professors, about the most
commodious and effectual ways and means of raising money, without
grieving the subject. The first affirmed, "the justest method
would be, to lay a certain tax upon vices and folly; and the sum
fixed upon every man to be rated, after the fairest manner, by a
jury of his neighbours." The second was of an opinion directly
contrary; "to tax those qualities of body and mind, for which men
chiefly value themselves; the rate to be more or less, according
to the degrees of excelling; the decision whereof should be left
entirely to their own breast." The highest tax was upon men who
are the greatest favourites of the other sex, and the
assessments, according to the number and nature of the favours
they have received; for which, they are allowed to be their own
vouchers. Wit, valour, and politeness, were likewise proposed to
be largely taxed, and collected in the same manner, by every
person's giving his own word for the quantum of what he
possessed. But as to honour, justice, wisdom, and learning, they
should not be taxed at all; because they are qualifications of so
singular a kind, that no man will either allow them in his
neighbour or value them in himself.
The women were proposed to be taxed according to their beauty and
skill in dressing, wherein they had the same privilege with the
men, to be determined by their own judgment. But constancy,
chastity, good sense, and good nature, were not rated, because
they would not bear the charge of collecting.
To keep senators in the interest of the crown, it was proposed
that the members should raffle for employment; every man first
taking an oath, and giving security, that he would vote for the
court, whether he won or not; after which, the losers had, in
their turn, the liberty of raffling upon the next vacancy. Thus,
hope and expectation would be kept alive; none would complain of
broken promises, but impute their disappointments wholly to
fortune, whose shoulders are broader and stronger than those of a
Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for
discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He
advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected
persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed;
with which hand they wipe their posteriors; take a strict view of
their excrements, and, from the colour, the odour, the taste, the
consistence, the crudeness or maturity of digestion, form a
judgment of their thoughts and designs; because men are never so
serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which
he found by frequent experiment; for, in such conjunctures, when
he used, merely as a trial, to consider which was the best way of
murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green;
but quite different, when he thought only of raising an
insurrection, or burning the metropolis.
The whole discourse was written with great acuteness, containing
many observations, both curious and useful for politicians; but,
as I conceived, not altogether complete. This I ventured to tell
the author, and offered, if he pleased, to supply him with some
additions. He received my proposition with more compliance than
is usual among writers, especially those of the projecting
species, professing "he would be glad to receive further
I told him, "that in the kingdom of Tribnia, (3) by the natives
called Langdon, (4) where I had sojourned some time in my
travels, the bulk of the people consist in a manner wholly of
discoverers, witnesses, informers, accusers, prosecutors,
evidences, swearers, together with their several subservient and
subaltern instruments, all under the colours, the conduct, and
the pay of ministers of state, and their deputies. The plots, in
that kingdom, are usually the workmanship of those persons who
desire to raise their own characters of profound politicians; to
restore new vigour to a crazy administration; to stifle or divert
general discontents; to fill their coffers with forfeitures; and
raise, or sink the opinion of public credit, as either shall best
answer their private advantage. It is first agreed and settled
among them, what suspected persons shall be accused of a plot;
then, effectual care is taken to secure all their letters and
papers, and put the owners in chains. These papers are delivered
to a set of artists, very dexterous in finding out the mysterious
meanings of words, syllables, and letters: for instance, they
can discover a close stool, to signify a privy council; a flock
of geese, a senate; a lame dog, an invader; the plague, a
standing army; a buzzard, a prime minister; the gout, a high
priest; a gibbet, a secretary of state; a chamber pot, a
committee of grandees; a sieve, a court lady; a broom, a
revolution; a mouse-trap, an employment; a bottomless pit, a
treasury; a sink, a court; a cap and bells, a favourite; a broken
reed, a court of justice; an empty tun, a general; a running
sore, the administration. (5)
"When this method fails, they have two others more effectual,
which the learned among them call acrostics and anagrams. First,
they can decipher all initial letters into political meanings.
Thus N, shall signify a plot; B, a regiment of horse; L, a fleet
at sea; or, secondly, by transposing the letters of the alphabet
in any suspected paper, they can lay open the deepest designs of
a discontented party. So, for example, if I should say, in a
letter to a friend, 'Our brother Tom has just got the piles,' a
skilful decipherer would discover, that the same letters which
compose that sentence, may be analysed into the following words,
'Resist--, a plot is brought home--The tour.' And this is the
anagrammatic method."
The professor made me great acknowledgments for communicating
these observations, and promised to make honourable mention of me
in his treatise.
I saw nothing in this country that could invite me to a longer
continuance, and began to think of returning home to England.
[The author leaves Lagado: arrives at Maldonada. No ship ready.
He takes a short voyage to Glubbdubdrib. His reception by the
The continent, of which this kingdom is apart, extends itself, as
I have reason to believe, eastward, to that unknown tract of
America westward of California; and north, to the Pacific Ocean,
which is not above a hundred and fifty miles from Lagado; where
there is a good port, and much commerce with the great island of
Luggnagg, situated to the north-west about 29 degrees north
latitude, and 140 longitude. This island of Luggnagg stands
south-eastward of Japan, about a hundred leagues distant. There
is a strict alliance between the Japanese emperor and the king of
Luggnagg; which affords frequent opportunities of sailing from
one island to the other. I determined therefore to direct my
course this way, in order to my return to Europe. I hired two
mules, with a guide, to show me the way, and carry my small
baggage. I took leave of my noble protector, who had shown me so
much favour, and made me a generous present at my departure.
My journey was without any accident or adventure worth relating.
When I arrived at the port of Maldonada (for so it is called)
there was no ship in the harbour bound for Luggnagg, nor likely
to be in some time. The town is about as large as Portsmouth. I
soon fell into some acquaintance, and was very hospitably
received. A gentleman of distinction said to me, "that since the
ships bound for Luggnagg could not be ready in less than a month,
it might be no disagreeable amusement for me to take a trip to
the little island of Glubbdubdrib, about five leagues off to the
south-west." He offered himself and a friend to accompany me, and
that I should be provided with a small convenient bark for the
Glubbdubdrib, as nearly as I can interpret the word, signifies
the island of sorcerers or magicians. It is about one third as
large as the Isle of Wight, and extremely fruitful: it is
governed by the head of a certain tribe, who are all magicians.
This tribe marries only among each other, and the eldest in
succession is prince or governor. He has a noble palace, and a
park of about three thousand acres, surrounded by a wall of hewn
stone twenty feet high. In this park are several small
enclosures for cattle, corn, and gardening.
The governor and his family are served and attended by domestics
of a kind somewhat unusual. By his skill in necromancy he has a
power of calling whom he pleases from the dead, and commanding
their service for twenty-four hours, but no longer; nor can he
call the same persons up again in less than three months, except
upon very extraordinary occasions.
When we arrived at the island, which was about eleven in the
morning, one of the gentlemen who accompanied me went to the
governor, and desired admittance for a stranger, who came on
purpose to have the honour of attending on his highness. This
was immediately granted, and we all three entered the gate of the
palace between two rows of guards, armed and dressed after a very
antic manner, and with something in their countenances that made
my flesh creep with a horror I cannot express. We passed through
several apartments, between servants of the same sort, ranked on
each side as before, till we came to the chamber of presence;
where, after three profound obeisances, and a few general
questions, we were permitted to sit on three stools, near the
lowest step of his highness's throne. He understood the language
of Balnibarbi, although it was different from that of this
island. He desired me to give him some account of my travels;
and, to let me see that I should be treated without ceremony, he
dismissed all his attendants with a turn of his finger; at which,
to my great astonishment, they vanished in an instant, like
visions in a dream when we awake on a sudden. I could not
recover myself in some time, till the governor assured me, "that
I should receive no hurt:" and observing my two companions to be
under no concern, who had been often entertained in the same
manner, I began to take courage, and related to his highness a
short history of my several adventures; yet not without some
hesitation, and frequently looking behind me to the place where I
had seen those domestic spectres. I had the honour to dine with
the governor, where a new set of ghosts served up the meat, and
waited at table. I now observed myself to be less terrified than
I had been in the morning. I stayed till sunset, but humbly
desired his highness to excuse me for not accepting his
invitation of lodging in the palace. My two friends and I lay at
a private house in the town adjoining, which is the capital of
this little island; and the next morning we returned to pay our
duty to the governor, as he was pleased to command us.
After this manner we continued in the island for ten days, most
part of every day with the governor, and at night in our lodging.
I soon grew so familiarized to the sight of spirits, that after
the third or fourth time they gave me no emotion at all: or, if
I had any apprehensions left, my curiosity prevailed over them.
For his highness the governor ordered me "to call up whatever
persons I would choose to name, and in whatever numbers, among
all the dead from the beginning of the world to the present time,
and command them to answer any questions I should think fit to
ask; with this condition, that my questions must be confined
within the compass of the times they lived in. And one thing I
might depend upon, that they would certainly tell me the truth,
for lying was a talent of no use in the lower world."
I made my humble acknowledgments to his highness for so great a
favour. We were in a chamber, from whence there was a fair
prospect into the park. And because my first inclination was to
be entertained with scenes of pomp and magnificence, I desired to
see Alexander the Great at the head of his army, just after the
battle of Arbela: which, upon a motion of the governor's finger,
immediately appeared in a large field, under the window where we
stood. Alexander was called up into the room: it was with great
difficulty that I understood his Greek, and had but little of my
own. He assured me upon his honour "that he was not poisoned,
but died of a bad fever by excessive drinking."
Next, I saw Hannibal passing the Alps, who told me "he had not a
drop of vinegar in his camp."
I saw Caesar and Pompey at the head of their troops, just ready
to engage. I saw the former, in his last great triumph. I
desired that the senate of Rome might appear before me, in one
large chamber, and an assembly of somewhat a later age in
counterview, in another. The first seemed to be an assembly of
heroes and demigods; the other, a knot of pedlars, pick-pockets,
highwayman, and bullies.
The governor, at my request, gave the sign for Caesar and Brutus
to advance towards us. I was struck with a profound veneration
at the sight of Brutus, and could easily discover the most
consummate virtue, the greatest intrepidity and firmness of mind,
the truest love of his country, and general benevolence for
mankind, in every lineament of his countenance. I observed, with
much pleasure, that these two persons were in good intelligence
with each other; and Caesar freely confessed to me, "that the
greatest actions of his own life were not equal, by many degrees,
to the glory of taking it away." I had the honour to have much
conversation with Brutus; and was told, "that his ancestor
Junius, Socrates, Epaminondas, Cato the younger, Sir Thomas More,
and himself were perpetually together:" a sextumvirate, to which
all the ages of the world cannot add a seventh.
It would be tedious to trouble the reader with relating what vast
numbers of illustrious persons were called up to gratify that
insatiable desire I had to see the world in every period of
antiquity placed before me. I chiefly fed mine eyes with
beholding the destroyers of tyrants and usurpers, and the
restorers of liberty to oppressed and injured nations. But it is
impossible to express the satisfaction I received in my own mind,
after such a manner as to make it a suitable entertainment to the
[A further account of Glubbdubdrib. Ancient and modern history
Having a desire to see those ancients who were most renowned for
wit and learning, I set apart one day on purpose. I proposed
that Homer and Aristotle might appear at the head of all their
commentators; but these were so numerous, that some hundreds were
forced to attend in the court, and outward rooms of the palace.
I knew, and could distinguish those two heroes, at first sight,
not only from the crowd, but from each other. Homer was the
taller and comelier person of the two, walked very erect for one
of his age, and his eyes were the most quick and piercing I ever
beheld. Aristotle stooped much, and made use of a staff. His
visage was meagre, his hair lank and thin, and his voice hollow.
I soon discovered that both of them were perfect strangers to the
rest of the company, and had never seen or heard of them before;
and I had a whisper from a ghost who shall be nameless, "that
these commentators always kept in the most distant quarters from
their principals, in the lower world, through a consciousness of
shame and guilt, because they had so horribly misrepresented the
meaning of those authors to posterity." I introduced Didymus and
Eustathius to Homer, and prevailed on him to treat them better
than perhaps they deserved, for he soon found they wanted a
genius to enter into the spirit of a poet. But Aristotle was out
of all patience with the account I gave him of Scotus and Ramus,
as I presented them to him; and he asked them, "whether the rest
of the tribe were as great dunces as themselves?"
I then desired the governor to call up Descartes and Gassendi,
with whom I prevailed to explain their systems to Aristotle.
This great philosopher freely acknowledged his own mistakes in
natural philosophy, because he proceeded in many things upon
conjecture, as all men must do; and he found that Gassendi, who
had made the doctrine of Epicurus as palatable as he could, and
the vortices of Descartes, were equally to be exploded. He
predicted the same fate to ATTRACTION, whereof the present
learned are such zealous asserters. He said, "that new systems
of nature were but new fashions, which would vary in every age;
and even those, who pretend to demonstrate them from mathematical
principles, would flourish but a short period of time, and be out
of vogue when that was determined."
I spent five days in conversing with many others of the ancient
learned. I saw most of the first Roman emperors. I prevailed on
the governor to call up Heliogabalus's cooks to dress us a
dinner, but they could not show us much of their skill, for want
of materials. A helot of Agesilaus made us a dish of Spartan
broth, but I was not able to get down a second spoonful.
The two gentlemen, who conducted me to the island, were pressed
by their private affairs to return in three days, which I
employed in seeing some of the modern dead, who had made the
greatest figure, for two or three hundred years past, in our own
and other countries of Europe; and having been always a great
admirer of old illustrious families, I desired the governor would
call up a dozen or two of kings, with their ancestors in order
for eight or nine generations. But my disappointment was
grievous and unexpected. For, instead of a long train with royal
diadems, I saw in one family two fiddlers, three spruce
courtiers, and an Italian prelate. In another, a barber, an
abbot, and two cardinals. I have too great a veneration for
crowned heads, to dwell any longer on so nice a subject. But as
to counts, marquises, dukes, earls, and the like, I was not so
scrupulous. And I confess, it was not without some pleasure,
that I found myself able to trace the particular features, by
which certain families are distinguished, up to their originals.
I could plainly discover whence one family derives a long chin;
why a second has abounded with knaves for two generations, and
fools for two more; why a third happened to be crack-brained, and
a fourth to be sharpers; whence it came, what Polydore Virgil
says of a certain great house, NEC VIR FORTIS, NEC FOEMINA CASTA;
how cruelty, falsehood, and cowardice, grew to be characteristics
by which certain families are distinguished as much as by their
coats of arms; who first brought the pox into a noble house,
which has lineally descended scrofulous tumours to their
posterity. Neither could I wonder at all this, when I saw such
an interruption of lineages, by pages, lackeys, valets, coachmen,
gamesters, fiddlers, players, captains, and pickpockets.
I was chiefly disgusted with modern history. For having strictly
examined all the persons of greatest name in the courts of
princes, for a hundred years past, I found how the world had been
misled by prostitute writers, to ascribe the greatest exploits in
war, to cowards; the wisest counsel, to fools; sincerity, to
flatterers; Roman virtue, to betrayers of their country; piety,
to atheists; chastity, to sodomites; truth, to informers: how
many innocent and excellent persons had been condemned to death
or banishment by the practising of great ministers upon the
corruption of judges, and the malice of factions: how many
villains had been exalted to the highest places of trust, power,
dignity, and profit: how great a share in the motions and events
of courts, councils, and senates might be challenged by bawds,
whores, pimps, parasites, and buffoons. How low an opinion I had
of human wisdom and integrity, when I was truly informed of the
springs and motives of great enterprises and revolutions in the
world, and of the contemptible accidents to which they owed their
Here I discovered the roguery and ignorance of those who pretend
to write anecdotes, or secret history; who send so many kings to
their graves with a cup of poison; will repeat the discourse
between a prince and chief minister, where no witness was by;
unlock the thoughts and cabinets of ambassadors and secretaries
of state; and have the perpetual misfortune to be mistaken. Here
I discovered the true causes of many great events that have
surprised the world; how a whore can govern the back-stairs, the
back-stairs a council, and the council a senate. A general
confessed, in my presence, "that he got a victory purely by the
force of cowardice and ill conduct;" and an admiral, "that, for
want of proper intelligence, he beat the enemy, to whom he
intended to betray the fleet." Three kings protested to me,
"that in their whole reigns they never did once prefer any person
of merit, unless by mistake, or treachery of some minister in
whom they confided; neither would they do it if they were to live
again:" and they showed, with great strength of reason, "that the
royal throne could not be supported without corruption, because
that positive, confident, restiff temper, which virtue infused
into a man, was a perpetual clog to public business."
I had the curiosity to inquire in a particular manner, by what
methods great numbers had procured to themselves high titles of
honour, and prodigious estates; and I confined my inquiry to a
very modern period: however, without grating upon present times,
because I would be sure to give no offence even to foreigners
(for I hope the reader need not be told, that I do not in the
least intend my own country, in what I say upon this occasion,) a
great number of persons concerned were called up; and, upon a
very slight examination, discovered such a scene of infamy, that
I cannot reflect upon it without some seriousness. Perjury,
oppression, subornation, fraud, pandarism, and the like
infirmities, were among the most excusable arts they had to
mention; and for these I gave, as it was reasonable, great
allowance. But when some confessed they owed their greatness and
wealth to sodomy, or incest; others, to the prostituting of their
own wives and daughters; others, to the betraying of their
country or their prince; some, to poisoning; more to the
perverting of justice, in order to destroy the innocent, I hope I
may be pardoned, if these discoveries inclined me a little to
abate of that profound veneration, which I am naturally apt to
pay to persons of high rank, who ought to be treated with the
utmost respect due to their sublime dignity, by us their
I had often read of some great services done to princes and
states, and desired to see the persons by whom those services
were performed. Upon inquiry I was told, "that their names were
to be found on no record, except a few of them, whom history has
represented as the vilest of rogues and traitors." As to the
rest, I had never once heard of them. They all appeared with
dejected looks, and in the meanest habit; most of them telling
me, "they died in poverty and disgrace, and the rest on a
scaffold or a gibbet."
Among others, there was one person, whose case appeared a little
singular. He had a youth about eighteen years old standing by
his side. He told me, "he had for many years been commander of a
ship; and in the sea fight at Actium had the good fortune to
break through the enemy's great line of battle, sink three of
their capital ships, and take a fourth, which was the sole cause
of Antony's flight, and of the victory that ensued; that the
youth standing by him, his only son, was killed in the action."
He added, "that upon the confidence of some merit, the war being
at an end, he went to Rome, and solicited at the court of
Augustus to be preferred to a greater ship, whose commander had
been killed; but, without any regard to his pretensions, it was
given to a boy who had never seen the sea, the son of Libertina,
who waited on one of the emperor's mistresses. Returning back to
his own vessel, he was charged with neglect of duty, and the ship
given to a favourite page of Publicola, the vice-admiral;
whereupon he retired to a poor farm at a great distance from
Rome, and there ended his life." I was so curious to know the
truth of this story, that I desired Agrippa might be called, who
was admiral in that fight. He appeared, and confirmed the whole
account: but with much more advantage to the captain, whose
modesty had extenuated or concealed a great part of his merit.
I was surprised to find corruption grown so high and so quick in
that empire, by the force of luxury so lately introduced; which
made me less wonder at many parallel cases in other countries,
where vices of all kinds have reigned so much longer, and where
the whole praise, as well as pillage, has been engrossed by the
chief commander, who perhaps had the least title to either.
As every person called up made exactly the same appearance he had
done in the world, it gave me melancholy reflections to observe
how much the race of human kind was degenerated among us within
these hundred years past; how the pox, under all its consequences
and denominations had altered every lineament of an English
countenance; shortened the size of bodies, unbraced the nerves,
relaxed the sinews and muscles, introduced a sallow complexion,
and rendered the flesh loose and rancid.
I descended so low, as to desire some English yeoman of the old
stamp might be summoned to appear; once so famous for the
simplicity of their manners, diet, and dress; for justice in
their dealings; for their true spirit of liberty; for their
valour, and love of their country. Neither could I be wholly
unmoved, after comparing the living with the dead, when I
considered how all these pure native virtues were prostituted for
a piece of money by their grand-children; who, in selling their
votes and managing at elections, have acquired every vice and
corruption that can possibly be learned in a court.
[The author returns to Maldonada. Sails to the kingdom of
Luggnagg. The author confined. He is sent for to court. The
manner of his admittance. The king's great lenity to his
The day of our departure being come, I took leave of his
highness, the Governor of Glubbdubdrib, and returned with my two
companions to Maldonada, where, after a fortnight's waiting, a
ship was ready to sail for Luggnagg. The two gentlemen, and some
others, were so generous and kind as to furnish me with
provisions, and see me on board. I was a month in this voyage.
We had one violent storm, and were under a necessity of steering
westward to get into the trade wind, which holds for above sixty
leagues. On the 21st of April, 1708, we sailed into the river of
Clumegnig, which is a seaport town, at the south-east point of
Luggnagg. We cast anchor within a league of the town, and made a
signal for a pilot. Two of them came on board in less than half
an hour, by whom we were guided between certain shoals and rocks,
which are very dangerous in the passage, to a large basin, where
a fleet may ride in safety within a cable's length of the
Some of our sailors, whether out of treachery or inadvertence,
had informed the pilots "that I was a stranger, and great
traveller;" whereof these gave notice to a custom-house officer,
by whom I was examined very strictly upon my landing. This
officer spoke to me in the language of Balnibarbi, which, by the
force of much commerce, is generally understood in that town,
especially by seamen and those employed in the customs. I gave
him a short account of some particulars, and made my story as
plausible and consistent as I could; but I thought it necessary
to disguise my country, and call myself a Hollander; because my
intentions were for Japan, and I knew the Dutch were the only
Europeans permitted to enter into that kingdom. I therefore told
the officer, "that having been shipwrecked on the coast of
Balnibarbi, and cast on a rock, I was received up into Laputa, or
the flying island (of which he had often heard), and was now
endeavouring to get to Japan, whence I might find a convenience
of returning to my own country." The officer said, "I must be
confined till he could receive orders from court, for which he
would write immediately, and hoped to receive an answer in a
fortnight." I was carried to a convenient lodging with a sentry
placed at the door; however, I had the liberty of a large garden,
and was treated with humanity enough, being maintained all the
time at the king's charge. I was invited by several persons,
chiefly out of curiosity, because it was reported that I came
from countries very remote, of which they had never heard.
I hired a young man, who came in the same ship, to be an
interpreter; he was a native of Luggnagg, but had lived some
years at Maldonada, and was a perfect master of both languages.
By his assistance, I was able to hold a conversation with those
who came to visit me; but this consisted only of their questions,
and my answers.
The despatch came from court about the time we expected. It
contained a warrant for conducting me and my retinue to
TRALDRAGDUBH, or TRILDROGDRIB (for it is pronounced both ways as
near as I can remember), by a party of ten horse. All my retinue
was that poor lad for an interpreter, whom I persuaded into my
service, and, at my humble request, we had each of us a mule to
ride on. A messenger was despatched half a day's journey before
us, to give the king notice of my approach, and to desire, "that
his majesty would please to appoint a day and hour, when it would
by his gracious pleasure that I might have the honour to lick the
dust before his footstool." This is the court style, and I found
it to be more than matter of form: for, upon my admittance two
days after my arrival, I was commanded to crawl upon my belly,
and lick the floor as I advanced; but, on account of my being a
stranger, care was taken to have it made so clean, that the dust
was not offensive. However, this was a peculiar grace, not
allowed to any but persons of the highest rank, when they desire
an admittance. Nay, sometimes the floor is strewed with dust on
purpose, when the person to be admitted happens to have powerful
enemies at court; and I have seen a great lord with his mouth so
crammed, that when he had crept to the proper distance from the
throne; he was not able to speak a word. Neither is there any
remedy; because it is capital for those, who receive an audience
to spit or wipe their mouths in his majesty's presence. There is
indeed another custom, which I cannot altogether approve of:
when the king has a mind to put any of his nobles to death in a
gentle indulgent manner, he commands the floor to be strewed with
a certain brown powder of a deadly composition, which being
licked up, infallibly kills him in twenty-four hours. But in
justice to this prince's great clemency, and the care he has of
his subjects' lives (wherein it were much to be wished that the
Monarchs of Europe would imitate him), it must be mentioned for
his honour, that strict orders are given to have the infected
parts of the floor well washed after every such execution, which,
if his domestics neglect, they are in danger of incurring his
royal displeasure. I myself heard him give directions, that one
of his pages should be whipped, whose turn it was to give notice
about washing the floor after an execution, but maliciously had
omitted it; by which neglect a young lord of great hopes, coming
to an audience, was unfortunately poisoned, although the king at
that time had no design against his life. But this good prince
was so gracious as to forgive the poor page his whipping, upon
promise that he would do so no more, without special orders.
To return from this digression. When I had crept within four
yards of the throne, I raised myself gently upon my knees, and
then striking my forehead seven times against the ground, I
pronounced the following words, as they had been taught me the
compliment, established by the laws of the land, for all persons
admitted to the king's presence. It may be rendered into English
thus: "May your celestial majesty outlive the sun, eleven moons
and a half!" To this the king returned some answer, which,
although I could not understand, yet I replied as I had been
properly signifies, "My tongue is in the mouth of my friend;" and
by this expression was meant, that I desired leave to bring my
interpreter; whereupon the young man already mentioned was
accordingly introduced, by whose intervention I answered as many
questions as his majesty could put in above an hour. I spoke in
the Balnibarbian tongue, and my interpreter delivered my meaning
in that of Luggnagg.
The king was much delighted with my company, and ordered his
BLIFFMARKLUB, or high-chamberlain, to appoint a lodging in the
court for me and my interpreter; with a daily allowance for my
table, and a large purse of gold for my common expenses.
I staid three months in this country, out of perfect obedience to
his majesty; who was pleased highly to favour me, and made me
very honourable offers. But I thought it more consistent with
prudence and justice to pass the remainder of my days with my
wife and family.
[The Luggnaggians commended. A particular description of the
Struldbrugs, with many conversations between the author and some
eminent persons upon that subject.]
The Luggnaggians are a polite and generous people; and although
they are not without some share of that pride which is peculiar
to all Eastern countries, yet they show themselves courteous to
strangers, especially such who are countenanced by the court. I
had many acquaintance, and among persons of the best fashion; and
being always attended by my interpreter, the conversation we had
was not disagreeable.
One day, in much good company, I was asked by a person of
quality, "whether I had seen any of their STRULDBRUGS, or
immortals?" I said, "I had not;" and desired he would explain to
me "what he meant by such an appellation, applied to a mortal
creature." He told me "that sometimes, though very rarely, a
child happened to be born in a family, with a red circular spot
in the forehead, directly over the left eyebrow, which was an
infallible mark that it should never die." The spot, as he
described it, "was about the compass of a silver threepence, but
in the course of time grew larger, and changed its colour; for at
twelve years old it became green, so continued till five and
twenty, then turned to a deep blue: at five and forty it grew
coal black, and as large as an English shilling; but never
admitted any further alteration." He said, "these births were so
rare, that he did not believe there could be above eleven hundred
struldbrugs, of both sexes, in the whole kingdom; of which he
computed about fifty in the metropolis, and, among the rest, a
young girl born; about three years ago: that these productions
were not peculiar to any family, but a mere effect of chance; and
the children of the STRULDBRUGS themselves were equally mortal
with the rest of the people."
I freely own myself to have been struck with inexpressible
delight, upon hearing this account: and the person who gave it
me happening to understand the Balnibarbian language, which I
spoke very well, I could not forbear breaking out into
expressions, perhaps a little too extravagant. I cried out, as
in a rapture, "Happy nation, where every child hath at least a
chance for being immortal! Happy people, who enjoy so many
living examples of ancient virtue, and have masters ready to
instruct them in the wisdom of all former ages! but happiest,
beyond all comparison, are those excellent STRULDBRUGS, who,
being born exempt from that universal calamity of human nature,
have their minds free and disengaged, without the weight and
depression of spirits caused by the continual apprehensions of
death!" I discovered my admiration that I had not observed any
of these illustrious persons at court; the black spot on the
forehead being so remarkable a distinction, that I could not have
easily overlooked it: and it was impossible that his majesty, a
most judicious prince, should not provide himself with a good
number of such wise and able counsellors. Yet perhaps the virtue
of those reverend sages was too strict for the corrupt and
libertine manners of a court: and we often find by experience,
that young men are too opinionated and volatile to be guided by
the sober dictates of their seniors. However, since the king was
pleased to allow me access to his royal person, I was resolved,
upon the very first occasion, to deliver my opinion to him on
this matter freely and at large, by the help of my interpreter;
and whether he would please to take my advice or not, yet in one
thing I was determined, that his majesty having frequently
offered me an establishment in this country, I would, with great
thankfulness, accept the favour, and pass my life here in the
conversation of those superior beings the STRULDBRUGS, if they
would please to admit me."
The gentleman to whom I addressed my discourse, because (as I
have already observed) he spoke the language of Balnibarbi, said
to me, with a sort of a smile which usually arises from pity to
the ignorant, "that he was glad of any occasion to keep me among
them, and desired my permission to explain to the company what I
had spoke." He did so, and they talked together for some time in
their own language, whereof I understood not a syllable, neither
could I observe by their countenances, what impression my
discourse had made on them. After a short silence, the same
person told me, "that his friends and mine (so he thought fit to
express himself) were very much pleased with the judicious
remarks I had made on the great happiness and advantages of
immortal life, and they were desirous to know, in a particular
manner, what scheme of living I should have formed to myself, if
it had fallen to my lot to have been born a STRULDBRUG."
I answered, "it was easy to be eloquent on so copious and
delightful a subject, especially to me, who had been often apt to
amuse myself with visions of what I should do, if I were a king,
a general, or a great lord: and upon this very case, I had
frequently run over the whole system how I should employ myself,
and pass the time, if I were sure to live for ever.
"That, if it had been my good fortune to come into the world a
STRULDBRUG, as soon as I could discover my own happiness, by
understanding the difference between life and death, I would
first resolve, by all arts and methods, whatsoever, to procure
myself riches. In the pursuit of which, by thrift and
management, I might reasonably expect, in about two hundred
years, to be the wealthiest man in the kingdom. In the second
place, I would, from my earliest youth, apply myself to the study
of arts and sciences, by which I should arrive in time to excel
all others in learning. Lastly, I would carefully record every
action and event of consequence, that happened in the public,
impartially draw the characters of the several successions of
princes and great ministers of state, with my own observations on
every point. I would exactly set down the several changes in
customs, language, fashions of dress, diet, and diversions. By
all which acquirements, I should be a living treasure of
knowledge and wisdom, and certainly become the oracle of the
"I would never marry after threescore, but live in a hospitable
manner, yet still on the saving side. I would entertain myself
in forming and directing the minds of hopeful young men, by
convincing them, from my own remembrance, experience, and
observation, fortified by numerous examples, of the usefulness of
virtue in public and private life. But my choice and constant
companions should be a set of my own immortal brotherhood; among
whom, I would elect a dozen from the most ancient, down to my own
contemporaries. Where any of these wanted fortunes, I would
provide them with convenient lodges round my own estate, and have
some of them always at my table; only mingling a few of the most
valuable among you mortals, whom length of time would harden me
to lose with little or no reluctance, and treat your posterity
after the same manner; just as a man diverts himself with the
annual succession of pinks and tulips in his garden, without
regretting the loss of those which withered the preceding year.
"These STRULDBRUGS and I would mutually communicate our
observations and memorials, through the course of time; remark
the several gradations by which corruption steals into the world,
and oppose it in every step, by giving perpetual warning and
instruction to mankind; which, added to the strong influence of
our own example, would probably prevent that continual degeneracy
of human nature so justly complained of in all ages.
"Add to this, the pleasure of seeing the various revolutions of
states and empires; the changes in the lower and upper world;
ancient cities in ruins, and obscure villages become the seats of
kings; famous rivers lessening into shallow brooks; the ocean
leaving one coast dry, and overwhelming another; the discovery of
many countries yet unknown; barbarity overrunning the politest
nations, and the most barbarous become civilized. I should then
see the discovery of the longitude, the perpetual motion, the
universal medicine, and many other great inventions, brought to
the utmost perfection.
"What wonderful discoveries should we make in astronomy, by
outliving and confirming our own predictions; by observing the
progress and return of comets, with the changes of motion in the
sun, moon, and stars!"
I enlarged upon many other topics, which the natural desire of
endless life, and sublunary happiness, could easily furnish me
with. When I had ended, and the sum of my discourse had been
interpreted, as before, to the rest of the company, there was a
good deal of talk among them in the language of the country, not
without some laughter at my expense. At last, the same gentleman
who had been my interpreter, said, "he was desired by the rest to
set me right in a few mistakes, which I had fallen into through
the common imbecility of human nature, and upon that allowance
was less answerable for them. That this breed of STRULDBRUGS was
peculiar to their country, for there were no such people either
in Balnibarbi or Japan, where he had the honour to be ambassador
from his majesty, and found the natives in both those kingdoms
very hard to believe that the fact was possible: and it appeared
from my astonishment when he first mentioned the matter to me,
that I received it as a thing wholly new, and scarcely to be
credited. That in the two kingdoms above mentioned, where, during
his residence, he had conversed very much, he observed long life
to be the universal desire and wish of mankind. That whoever had
one foot in the grave was sure to hold back the other as strongly
as he could. That the oldest had still hopes of living one day
longer, and looked on death as the greatest evil, from which
nature always prompted him to retreat. Only in this island of
Luggnagg the appetite for living was not so eager, from the
continual example of the STRULDBRUGS before their eyes.
"That the system of living contrived by me, was unreasonable and
unjust; because it supposed a perpetuity of youth, health, and
vigour, which no man could be so foolish to hope, however
extravagant he may be in his wishes. That the question therefore
was not, whether a man would choose to be always in the prime of
youth, attended with prosperity and health; but how he would pass
a perpetual life under all the usual disadvantages which old age
brings along with it. For although few men will avow their
desires of being immortal, upon such hard conditions, yet in the
two kingdoms before mentioned, of Balnibarbi and Japan, he
observed that every man desired to put off death some time
longer, let it approach ever so late: and he rarely heard of any
man who died willingly, except he were incited by the extremity
of grief or torture. And he appealed to me, whether in those
countries I had travelled, as well as my own, I had not observed
the same general disposition."
After this preface, he gave me a particular account of the
STRULDBRUGS among them. He said, "they commonly acted like
mortals till about thirty years old; after which, by degrees,
they grew melancholy and dejected, increasing in both till they
came to fourscore. This he learned from their own confession:
for otherwise, there not being above two or three of that species
born in an age, they were too few to form a general observation
by. When they came to fourscore years, which is reckoned the
extremity of living in this country, they had not only all the
follies and infirmities of other old men, but many more which
arose from the dreadful prospect of never dying. They were not
only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative,
but incapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection,
which never descended below their grandchildren. Envy and
impotent desires are their prevailing passions. But those
objects against which their envy seems principally directed, are
the vices of the younger sort and the deaths of the old. By
reflecting on the former, they find themselves cut off from all
possibility of pleasure; and whenever they see a funeral, they
lament and repine that others have gone to a harbour of rest to
which they themselves never can hope to arrive. They have no
remembrance of anything but what they learned and observed in
their youth and middle-age, and even that is very imperfect; and
for the truth or particulars of any fact, it is safer to depend
on common tradition, than upon their best recollections. The
least miserable among them appear to be those who turn to dotage,
and entirely lose their memories; these meet with more pity and
assistance, because they want many bad qualities which abound in
"If a STRULDBRUG happen to marry one of his own kind, the
marriage is dissolved of course, by the courtesy of the kingdom,
as soon as the younger of the two comes to be fourscore; for the
law thinks it a reasonable indulgence, that those who are
condemned, without any fault of their own, to a perpetual
continuance in the world, should not have their misery doubled by
the load of a wife.
"As soon as they have completed the term of eighty years, they
are looked on as dead in law; their heirs immediately succeed to
their estates; only a small pittance is reserved for their
support; and the poor ones are maintained at the public charge.
After that period, they are held incapable of any employment of
trust or profit; they cannot purchase lands, or take leases;
neither are they allowed to be witnesses in any cause, either
civil or criminal, not even for the decision of meers and bounds.
"At ninety, they lose their teeth and hair; they have at that age
no distinction of taste, but eat and drink whatever they can get,
without relish or appetite. The diseases they were subject to
still continue, without increasing or diminishing. In talking,
they forget the common appellation of things, and the names of
persons, even of those who are their nearest friends and
relations. For the same reason, they never can amuse themselves
with reading, because their memory will not serve to carry them
from the beginning of a sentence to the end; and by this defect,
they are deprived of the only entertainment whereof they might
otherwise be capable.
The language of this country being always upon the flux, the
STRULDBRUGS of one age do not understand those of another;
neither are they able, after two hundred years, to hold any
conversation (farther than by a few general words) with their
neighbours the mortals; and thus they lie under the disadvantage
of living like foreigners in their own country."
This was the account given me of the STRULDBRUGS, as near as I
can remember. I afterwards saw five or six of different ages,
the youngest not above two hundred years old, who were brought to
me at several times by some of my friends; but although they were
told, "that I was a great traveller, and had seen all the world,"
they had not the least curiosity to ask me a question; only
desired "I would give them SLUMSKUDASK," or a token of
remembrance; which is a modest way of begging, to avoid the law,
that strictly forbids it, because they are provided for by the
public, although indeed with a very scanty allowance.
They are despised and hated by all sorts of people. When one of
them is born, it is reckoned ominous, and their birth is recorded
very particularly so that you may know their age by consulting
the register, which, however, has not been kept above a thousand
years past, or at least has been destroyed by time or public
disturbances. But the usual way of computing how old they are,
is by asking them what kings or great persons they can remember,
and then consulting history; for infallibly the last prince in
their mind did not begin his reign after they were four-score
years old.
They were the most mortifying sight I ever beheld; and the women
more horrible than the men. Besides the usual deformities in
extreme old age, they acquired an additional ghastliness, in
proportion to their number of years, which is not to be
described; and among half a dozen, I soon distinguished which was
the eldest, although there was not above a century or two between
The reader will easily believe, that from what I had hear and
seen, my keen appetite for perpetuity of life was much abated. I
grew heartily ashamed of the pleasing visions I had formed; and
thought no tyrant could invent a death into which I would not run
with pleasure, from such a life. The king heard of all that had
passed between me and my friends upon this occasion, and rallied
me very pleasantly; wishing I could send a couple of STRULDBRUGS
to my own country, to arm our people against the fear of death;
but this, it seems, is forbidden by the fundamental laws of the
kingdom, or else I should have been well content with the trouble
and expense of transporting them.
I could not but agree, that the laws of this kingdom relative to
the STRULDBRUGS were founded upon the strongest reasons, and such
as any other country would be under the necessity of enacting, in
the like circumstances. Otherwise, as avarice is the necessary
consequence of old age, those immortals would in time become
proprietors of the whole nation, and engross the civil power,
which, for want of abilities to manage, must end in the ruin of
the public.
[The author leaves Luggnagg, and sails to Japan. From thence he
returns in a Dutch ship to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to
I thought this account of the STRULDBRUGS might be some
entertainment to the reader, because it seems to be a little out
of the common way; at least I do not remember to have met the
like in any book of travels that has come to my hands: and if I
am deceived, my excuse must be, that it is necessary for
travellers who describe the same country, very often to agree in
dwelling on the same particulars, without deserving the censure
of having borrowed or transcribed from those who wrote before
There is indeed a perpetual commerce between this kingdom and the
great empire of Japan; and it is very probable, that the Japanese
authors may have given some account of the STRULDBRUGS; but my
stay in Japan was so short, and I was so entirely a stranger to
the language, that I was not qualified to make any inquiries.
But I hope the Dutch, upon this notice, will be curious and able
enough to supply my defects.
His majesty having often pressed me to accept some employment in
his court, and finding me absolutely determined to return to my
native country, was pleased to give me his license to depart; and
honoured me with a letter of recommendation, under his own hand,
to the Emperor of Japan. He likewise presented me with four
hundred and forty-four large pieces of gold (this nation
delighting in even numbers), and a red diamond, which I sold in
England for eleven hundred pounds.
On the 6th of May, 1709, I took a solemn leave of his majesty,
and all my friends. This prince was so gracious as to order a
guard to conduct me to Glanguenstald, which is a royal port to
the south-west part of the island. In six days I found a vessel
ready to carry me to Japan, and spent fifteen days in the voyage.
We landed at a small port-town called Xamoschi, situated on the
south-east part of Japan; the town lies on the western point,
where there is a narrow strait leading northward into along arm
of the sea, upon the north-west part of which, Yedo, the
metropolis, stands. At landing, I showed the custom-house
officers my letter from the king of Luggnagg to his imperial
majesty. They knew the seal perfectly well; it was as broad as
the palm of my hand. The impression was, A KING LIFTING UP A
LAME BEGGAR FROM THE EARTH. The magistrates of the town, hearing
of my letter, received me as a public minister. They provided me
with carriages and servants, and bore my charges to Yedo; where I
was admitted to an audience, and delivered my letter, which was
opened with great ceremony, and explained to the Emperor by an
interpreter, who then gave me notice, by his majesty's order,
"that I should signify my request, and, whatever it were, it
should be granted, for the sake of his royal brother of
Luggnagg." This interpreter was a person employed to transact
affairs with the Hollanders. He soon conjectured, by my
countenance, that I was a European, and therefore repeated his
majesty's commands in Low Dutch, which he spoke perfectly well.
I answered, as I had before determined, "that I was a Dutch
merchant, shipwrecked in a very remote country, whence I had
travelled by sea and land to Luggnagg, and then took shipping for
Japan; where I knew my countrymen often traded, and with some of
these I hoped to get an opportunity of returning into Europe: I
therefore most humbly entreated his royal favour, to give order
that I should be conducted in safety to Nangasac." To this I
added another petition, "that for the sake of my patron the king
of Luggnagg, his majesty would condescend to excuse my performing
the ceremony imposed on my countrymen, of trampling upon the
crucifix: because I had been thrown into his kingdom by my
misfortunes, without any intention of trading." When this latter
petition was interpreted to the Emperor, he seemed a little
surprised; and said, "he believed I was the first of my
countrymen who ever made any scruple in this point; and that he
began to doubt, whether I was a real Hollander, or not; but
rather suspected I must be a Christian. However, for the reasons
I had offered, but chiefly to gratify the king of Luggnagg by an
uncommon mark of his favour, he would comply with the singularity
of my humour; but the affair must be managed with dexterity, and
his officers should be commanded to let me pass, as it were by
forgetfulness. For he assured me, that if the secret should be
discovered by my countrymen the Dutch, they would cut my throat
in the voyage." I returned my thanks, by the interpreter, for so
unusual a favour; and some troops being at that time on their
march to Nangasac, the commanding officer had orders to convey me
safe thither, with particular instructions about the business of
the crucifix.
On the 9th day of June, 1709, I arrived at Nangasac, after a very
long and troublesome journey. I soon fell into the company of
some Dutch sailors belonging to the Amboyna, of Amsterdam, a
stout ship of 450 tons. I had lived long in Holland, pursuing my
studies at Leyden, and I spoke Dutch well. The seamen soon knew
whence I came last: they were curious to inquire into my voyages
and course of life. I made up a story as short and probable as I
could, but concealed the greatest part. I knew many persons in
Holland. I was able to invent names for my parents, whom I
pretended to be obscure people in the province of Gelderland. I
would have given the captain (one Theodorus Vangrult) what he
pleased to ask for my voyage to Holland; but understanding I was
a surgeon, he was contented to take half the usual rate, on
condition that I would serve him in the way of my calling.
Before we took shipping, I was often asked by some of the crew,
whether I had performed the ceremony above mentioned? I evaded
the question by general answers; "that I had satisfied the
Emperor and court in all particulars." However, a malicious
rogue of a skipper went to an officer, and pointing to me, told
him, "I had not yet trampled on the crucifix;" but the other, who
had received instructions to let me pass, gave the rascal twenty
strokes on the shoulders with a bamboo; after which I was no more
troubled with such questions.
Nothing happened worth mentioning in this voyage. We sailed with
a fair wind to the Cape of Good Hope, where we staid only to take
in fresh water. On the 10th of April, 1710, we arrived safe at
Amsterdam, having lost only three men by sickness in the voyage,
and a fourth, who fell from the foremast into the sea, not far
from the coast of Guinea. From Amsterdam I soon after set sail
for England, in a small vessel belonging to that city.
On the 16th of April we put in at the Downs. I landed next
morning, and saw once more my native country, after an absence of
five years and six months complete. I went straight to Redriff,
where I arrived the same day at two in the afternoon, and found
my wife and family in good health.
[The author sets out as captain of a ship. His men conspire
against him, confine him a long time to his cabin, and set him on
shore in an unknown land. He travels up into the country. The
Yahoos, a strange sort of animal, described. The author meets
two Houyhnhnms.]
I continued at home with my wife and children about five months,
in a very happy condition, if I could have learned the lesson of
knowing when I was well. I left my poor wife big with child, and
accepted an advantageous offer made me to be captain of the
Adventurer, a stout merchantman of 350 tons: for I understood
navigation well, and being grown weary of a surgeon's employment
at sea, which, however, I could exercise upon occasion, I took a
skilful young man of that calling, one Robert Purefoy, into my
ship. We set sail from Portsmouth upon the 7th day of September,
1710; on the 14th we met with Captain Pocock, of Bristol, at
Teneriffe, who was going to the bay of Campechy to cut logwood.
On the 16th, he was parted from us by a storm; I heard since my
return, that his ship foundered, and none escaped but one cabin
boy. He was an honest man, and a good sailor, but a little too
positive in his own opinions, which was the cause of his
destruction, as it has been with several others; for if he had
followed my advice, he might have been safe at home with his
family at this time, as well as myself.
I had several men who died in my ship of calentures, so that I
was forced to get recruits out of Barbadoes and the Leeward
Islands, where I touched, by the direction of the merchants who
employed me; which I had soon too much cause to repent: for I
found afterwards, that most of them had been buccaneers. I had
fifty hands onboard; and my orders were, that I should trade with
the Indians in the South-Sea, and make what discoveries I could.
These rogues, whom I had picked up, debauched my other men, and
they all formed a conspiracy to seize the ship, and secure me;
which they did one morning, rushing into my cabin, and binding me
hand and foot, threatening to throw me overboard, if I offered to
stir. I told them, "I was their prisoner, and would submit."
This they made me swear to do, and then they unbound me, only
fastening one of my legs with a chain, near my bed, and placed a
sentry at my door with his piece charged, who was commanded to
shoot me dead if I attempted my liberty. They sent me own
victuals and drink, and took the government of the ship to
themselves. Their design was to turn pirates and, plunder the
Spaniards, which they could not do till they got more men. But
first they resolved to sell the goods the ship, and then go to
Madagascar for recruits, several among them having died since my
confinement. They sailed many weeks, and traded with the
Indians; but I knew not what course they took, being kept a close
prisoner in my cabin, and expecting nothing less than to be
murdered, as they often threatened me.
Upon the 9th day of May, 1711, one James Welch came down to my
cabin, and said, "he had orders from the captain to set me
ashore." I expostulated with him, but in vain; neither would he
so much as tell me who their new captain was. They forced me
into the long-boat, letting me put on my best suit of clothes,
which were as good as new, and take a small bundle of linen, but
no arms, except my hanger; and they were so civil as not to
search my pockets, into which I conveyed what money I had, with
some other little necessaries. They rowed about a league, and
then set me down on a strand. I desired them to tell me what
country it was. They all swore, "they knew no more than myself;"
but said, "that the captain" (as they called him) "was resolved,
after they had sold the lading, to get rid of me in the first
place where they could discover land." They pushed off
immediately, advising me to make haste for fear of being
overtaken by the tide, and so bade me farewell.
In this desolate condition I advanced forward, and soon got upon
firm ground, where I sat down on a bank to rest myself, and
consider what I had best do. When I was a little refreshed, I
went up into the country, resolving to deliver myself to the
first savages I should meet, and purchase my life from them by
some bracelets, glass rings, and other toys, which sailors
usually provide themselves with in those voyages, and whereof I
had some about me. The land was divided by long rows of trees,
not regularly planted, but naturally growing; there was great
plenty of grass, and several fields of oats. I walked very
circumspectly, for fear of being surprised, or suddenly shot with
an arrow from behind, or on either side. I fell into a beaten
road, where I saw many tracts of human feet, and some of cows,
but most of horses. At last I beheld several animals in a field,
and one or two of the same kind sitting in trees. Their shape
was very singular and deformed, which a little discomposed me, so
that I lay down behind a thicket to observe them better. Some of
them coming forward near the place where I lay, gave me an
opportunity of distinctly marking their form. Their heads and
breasts were covered with a thick hair, some frizzled, and others
lank; they had beards like goats, and a long ridge of hair down
their backs, and the fore parts of their legs and feet; but the
rest of their bodies was bare, so that I might see their skins,
which were of a brown buff colour. They had no tails, nor any
hair at all on their buttocks, except about the anus, which, I
presume, nature had placed there to defend them as they sat on
the ground, for this posture they used, as well as lying down,
and often stood on their hind feet. They climbed high trees as
nimbly as a squirrel, for they had strong extended claws before
and behind, terminating in sharp points, and hooked. They would
often spring, and bound, and leap, with prodigious agility. The
females were not so large as the males; they had long lank hair
on their heads, but none on their faces, nor any thing more than
a sort of down on the rest of their bodies, except about the anus
and pudenda. The dugs hung between their fore feet, and often
reached almost to the ground as they walked. The hair of both
sexes was of several colours, brown, red, black, and yellow.
Upon the whole, I never beheld, in all my travels, so
disagreeable an animal, or one against which I naturally
conceived so strong an antipathy. So that, thinking I had seen
enough, full of contempt and aversion, I got up, and pursued the
beaten road, hoping it might direct me to the cabin of some
Indian. I had not got far, when I met one of these creatures
full in my way, and coming up directly to me. The ugly monster,
when he saw me, distorted several ways, every feature of his
visage, and stared, as at an object he had never seen before;
then approaching nearer, lifted up his fore-paw, whether out of
curiosity or mischief I could not tell; but I drew my hanger, and
gave him a good blow with the flat side of it, for I durst not
strike with the edge, fearing the inhabitants might be provoked
against me, if they should come to know that I had killed or
maimed any of their cattle. When the beast felt the smart, he
drew back, and roared so loud, that a herd of at least forty came
flocking about me from the next field, howling and making odious
faces; but I ran to the body of a tree, and leaning my back
against it, kept them off by waving my hanger. Several of this
cursed brood, getting hold of the branches behind, leaped up into
the tree, whence they began to discharge their excrements on my
head; however, I escaped pretty well by sticking close to the
stem of the tree, but was almost stifled with the filth, which
fell about me on every side.
In the midst of this distress, I observed them all to run away on
a sudden as fast as they could; at which I ventured to leave the
tree and pursue the road, wondering what it was that could put
them into this fright. But looking on my left hand, I saw a
horse walking softly in the field; which my persecutors having
sooner discovered, was the cause of their flight. The horse
started a little, when he came near me, but soon recovering
himself, looked full in my face with manifest tokens of wonder;
he viewed my hands and feet, walking round me several times. I
would have pursued my journey, but he placed himself directly in
the way, yet looking with a very mild aspect, never offering the
least violence. We stood gazing at each other for some time; at
last I took the boldness to reach my hand towards his neck with a
design to stroke it, using the common style and whistle of
jockeys, when they are going to handle a strange horse. But this
animal seemed to receive my civilities with disdain, shook his
head, and bent his brows, softly raising up his right fore-foot
to remove my hand. Then he neighed three or four times, but in
so different a cadence, that I almost began to think he was
speaking to himself, in some language of his own.
While he and I were thus employed, another horse came up; who
applying himself to the first in a very formal manner, they
gently struck each other's right hoof before, neighing several
times by turns, and varying the sound, which seemed to be almost
articulate. They went some paces off, as if it were to confer
together, walking side by side, backward and forward, like
persons deliberating upon some affair of weight, but often
turning their eyes towards me, as it were to watch that I might
not escape. I was amazed to see such actions and behaviour in
brute beasts; and concluded with myself, that if the inhabitants
of this country were endued with a proportionable degree of
reason, they must needs be the wisest people upon earth. This
thought gave me so much comfort, that I resolved to go forward,
until I could discover some house or village, or meet with any of
the natives, leaving the two horses to discourse together as they
pleased. But the first, who was a dapple gray, observing me to
steal off, neighed after me in so expressive a tone, that I
fancied myself to understand what he meant; whereupon I turned
back, and came near to him to expect his farther commands: but
concealing my fear as much as I could, for I began to be in some
pain how this adventure might terminate; and the reader will
easily believe I did not much like my present situation.
The two horses came up close to me, looking with great
earnestness upon my face and hands. The gray steed rubbed my hat
all round with his right fore-hoof, and discomposed it so much
that I was forced to adjust it better by taking it off and
settling it again; whereat, both he and his companion (who was a
brown bay) appeared to be much surprised: the latter felt the
lappet of my coat, and finding it to hang loose about me, they
both looked with new signs of wonder. He stroked my right hand,
seeming to admire the softness and colour; but he squeezed it so
hard between his hoof and his pastern, that I was forced to roar;
after which they both touched me with all possible tenderness.
They were under great perplexity about my shoes and stockings,
which they felt very often, neighing to each other, and using
various gestures, not unlike those of a philosopher, when he
would attempt to solve some new and difficult phenomenon.
Upon the whole, the behaviour of these animals was so orderly and
rational, so acute and judicious, that I at last concluded they
must needs be magicians, who had thus metamorphosed themselves
upon some design, and seeing a stranger in the way, resolved to
divert themselves with him; or, perhaps, were really amazed at
the sight of a man so very different in habit, feature, and
complexion, from those who might probably live in so remote a
climate. Upon the strength of this reasoning, I ventured to
address them in the following manner: "Gentlemen, if you be
conjurers, as I have good cause to believe, you can understand my
language; therefore I make bold to let your worships know that I
am a poor distressed Englishman, driven by his misfortunes upon
your coast; and I entreat one of you to let me ride upon his
back, as if he were a real horse, to some house or village where
I can be relieved. In return of which favour, I will make you a
present of this knife and bracelet," taking them out of my
pocket. The two creatures stood silent while I spoke, seeming to
listen with great attention, and when I had ended, they neighed
frequently towards each other, as if they were engaged in serious
conversation. I plainly observed that their language expressed
the passions very well, and the words might, with little pains,
be resolved into an alphabet more easily than the Chinese.
I could frequently distinguish the word YAHOO, which was repeated
by each of them several times: and although it was impossible
for me to conjecture what it meant, yet while the two horses were
busy in conversation, I endeavoured to practise this word upon my
tongue; and as soon as they were silent, I boldly pronounced
YAHOO in a loud voice, imitating at the same time, as near as I
could, the neighing of a horse; at which they were both visibly
surprised; and the gray repeated the same word twice, as if he
meant to teach me the right accent; wherein I spoke after him as
well as I could, and found myself perceivably to improve every
time, though very far from any degree of perfection. Then the
bay tried me with a second word, much harder to be pronounced;
but reducing it to the English orthography, may be spelt thus,
HOUYHNHNM. I did not succeed in this so well as in the former;
but after two or three farther trials, I had better fortune; and
they both appeared amazed at my capacity.
After some further discourse, which I then conjectured might
relate to me, the two friends took their leaves, with the same
compliment of striking each other's hoof; and the gray made me
signs that I should walk before him; wherein I thought it prudent
to comply, till I could find a better director. When I offered
to slacken my pace, he would cry HHUUN HHUUN: I guessed his
meaning, and gave him to understand, as well as I could, "that I
was weary, and not able to walk faster;" upon which he would
stand awhile to let me rest.
[The author conducted by a Houyhnhnm to his house. The house
described. The author's reception. The food of the Houyhnhnms.
The author in distress for want of meat. Is at last relieved.
His manner of feeding in this country.]
Having travelled about three miles, we came to a long kind of
building, made of timber stuck in the ground, and wattled across;
the roof was low and covered with straw. I now began to be a
little comforted; and took out some toys, which travellers
usually carry for presents to the savage Indians of America, and
other parts, in hopes the people of the house would be thereby
encouraged to receive me kindly. The horse made me a sign to go
in first; it was a large room with a smooth clay floor, and a
rack and manger, extending the whole length on one side. There
were three nags and two mares, not eating, but some of them
sitting down upon their hams, which I very much wondered at; but
wondered more to see the rest employed in domestic business;
these seemed but ordinary cattle. However, this confirmed my
first opinion, that a people who could so far civilise brute
animals, must needs excel in wisdom all the nations of the world.
The gray came in just after, and thereby prevented any ill
treatment which the others might have given me. He neighed to
them several times in a style of authority, and received answers.
Beyond this room there were three others, reaching the length of
the house, to which you passed through three doors, opposite to
each other, in the manner of a vista. We went through the second
room towards the third. Here the gray walked in first, beckoning
me to attend: I waited in the second room, and got ready my
presents for the master and mistress of the house; they were two
knives, three bracelets of false pearls, a small looking-glass,
and a bead necklace. The horse neighed three or four times, and
I waited to hear some answers in a human voice, but I heard no
other returns than in the same dialect, only one or two a little
shriller than his. I began to think that this house must belong
to some person of great note among them, because there appeared
so much ceremony before I could gain admittance. But, that a man
of quality should be served all by horses, was beyond my
comprehension. I feared my brain was disturbed by my sufferings
and misfortunes. I roused myself, and looked about me in the
room where I was left alone: this was furnished like the first,
only after a more elegant manner. I rubbed my eyes often, but
the same objects still occurred. I pinched my arms and sides to
awake myself, hoping I might be in a dream. I then absolutely
concluded, that all these appearances could be nothing else but
necromancy and magic. But I had no time to pursue these
reflections; for the gray horse came to the door, and made me a
sign to follow him into the third room where I saw a very comely
mare, together with a colt and foal, sitting on their haunches
upon mats of straw, not unartfully made, and perfectly neat and
The mare soon after my entrance rose from her mat, and coming up
close, after having nicely observed my hands and face, gave me a
most contemptuous look; and turning to the horse, I heard the
word YAHOO often repeated betwixt them; the meaning of which word
I could not then comprehend, although it was the first I had
learned to pronounce. But I was soon better informed, to my
everlasting mortification; for the horse, beckoning to me with
his head, and repeating the HHUUN, HHUUN, as he did upon the
road, which I understood was to attend him, led me out into a
kind of court, where was another building, at some distance from
the house. Here we entered, and I saw three of those detestable
creatures, which I first met after my landing, feeding upon
roots, and the flesh of some animals, which I afterwards found to
be that of asses and dogs, and now and then a cow, dead by
accident or disease. They were all tied by the neck with strong
withes fastened to a beam; they held their food between the claws
of their fore feet, and tore it with their teeth.
The master horse ordered a sorrel nag, one of his servants, to
untie the largest of these animals, and take him into the yard.
The beast and I were brought close together, and by our
countenances diligently compared both by master and servant, who
thereupon repeated several times the word YAHOO. My horror and
astonishment are not to be described, when I observed in this
abominable animal, a perfect human figure: the face of it indeed
was flat and broad, the nose depressed, the lips large, and the
mouth wide; but these differences are common to all savage
nations, where the lineaments of the countenance are distorted,
by the natives suffering their infants to lie grovelling on the
earth, or by carrying them on their backs, nuzzling with their
face against the mothers' shoulders. The fore-feet of the YAHOO
differed from my hands in nothing else but the length of the
nails, the coarseness and brownness of the palms, and the
hairiness on the backs. There was the same resemblance between
our feet, with the same differences; which I knew very well,
though the horses did not, because of my shoes and stockings; the
same in every part of our bodies except as to hairiness and
colour, which I have already described.
The great difficulty that seemed to stick with the two horses,
was to see the rest of my body so very different from that of a
YAHOO, for which I was obliged to my clothes, whereof they had no
conception. The sorrel nag offered me a root, which he held
(after their manner, as we shall describe in its proper place)
between his hoof and pastern; I took it in my hand, and, having
smelt it, returned it to him again as civilly as I could. He
brought out of the YAHOOS' kennel a piece of ass's flesh; but it
smelt so offensively that I turned from it with loathing: he
then threw it to the YAHOO, by whom it was greedily devoured. He
afterwards showed me a wisp of hay, and a fetlock full of oats;
but I shook my head, to signify that neither of these were food
for me. And indeed I now apprehended that I must absolutely
starve, if I did not get to some of my own species; for as to
those filthy YAHOOS, although there were few greater lovers of
mankind at that time than myself, yet I confess I never saw any
sensitive being so detestable on all accounts; and the more I
came near them the more hateful they grew, while I stayed in that
country. This the master horse observed by my behaviour, and
therefore sent the YAHOO back to his kennel. He then put his
fore-hoof to his mouth, at which I was much surprised, although
he did it with ease, and with a motion that appeared perfectly
natural, and made other signs, to know what I would eat; but I
could not return him such an answer as he was able to apprehend;
and if he had understood me, I did not see how it was possible to
contrive any way for finding myself nourishment. While we were
thus engaged, I observed a cow passing by, whereupon I pointed to
her, and expressed a desire to go and milk her. This had its
effect; for he led me back into the house, and ordered a
mare-servant to open a room, where a good store of milk lay in
earthen and wooden vessels, after a very orderly and cleanly
manner. She gave me a large bowlful, of which I drank very
heartily, and found myself well refreshed.
About noon, I saw coming towards the house a kind of vehicle
drawn like a sledge by four YAHOOS. There was in it an old
steed, who seemed to be of quality; he alighted with his
hind-feet forward, having by accident got a hurt in his left
fore-foot. He came to dine with our horse, who received him with
great civility. They dined in the best room, and had oats boiled
in milk for the second course, which the old horse ate warm, but
the rest cold. Their mangers were placed circular in the middle
of the room, and divided into several partitions, round which
they sat on their haunches, upon bosses of straw. In the middle
was a large rack, with angles answering to every partition of the
manger; so that each horse and mare ate their own hay, and their
own mash of oats and milk, with much decency and regularity. The
behaviour of the young colt and foal appeared very modest, and
that of the master and mistress extremely cheerful and
complaisant to their guest. The gray ordered me to stand by him;
and much discourse passed between him and his friend concerning
me, as I found by the stranger's often looking on me, and the
frequent repetition of the word YAHOO.
I happened to wear my gloves, which the master gray observing,
seemed perplexed, discovering signs of wonder what I had done to
my fore-feet. He put his hoof three or four times to them, as if
he would signify, that I should reduce them to their former
shape, which I presently did, pulling off both my gloves, and
putting them into my pocket. This occasioned farther talk; and I
saw the company was pleased with my behaviour, whereof I soon
found the good effects. I was ordered to speak the few words I
understood; and while they were at dinner, the master taught me
the names for oats, milk, fire, water, and some others, which I
could readily pronounce after him, having from my youth a great
facility in learning languages.
When dinner was done, the master horse took me aside, and by
signs and words made me understand the concern he was in that I
had nothing to eat. Oats in their tongue are called HLUNNH.
This word I pronounced two or three times; for although I had
refused them at first, yet, upon second thoughts, I considered
that I could contrive to make of them a kind of bread, which
might be sufficient, with milk, to keep me alive, till I could
make my escape to some other country, and to creatures of my own
species. The horse immediately ordered a white mare servant of
his family to bring me a good quantity of oats in a sort of
wooden tray. These I heated before the fire, as well as I could,
and rubbed them till the husks came off, which I made a shift to
winnow from the grain. I ground and beat them between two stones;
then took water, and made them into a paste or cake, which I
toasted at the fire and eat warm with milk. It was at first a
very insipid diet, though common enough in many parts of Europe,
but grew tolerable by time; and having been often reduced to hard
fare in my life, this was not the first experiment I had made how
easily nature is satisfied. And I cannot but observe, that I
never had one hours sickness while I stayed in this island. It
is true, I sometimes made a shift to catch a rabbit, or bird, by
springs made of YAHOO'S hairs; and I often gathered wholesome
herbs, which I boiled, and ate as salads with my bread; and now
and then, for a rarity, I made a little butter, and drank the
whey. I was at first at a great loss for salt, but custom soon
reconciled me to the want of it; and I am confident that the
frequent use of salt among us is an effect of luxury, and was
first introduced only as a provocative to drink, except where it
is necessary for preserving flesh in long voyages, or in places
remote from great markets; for we observe no animal to be fond of
it but man, and as to myself, when I left this country, it was a
great while before I could endure the taste of it in anything
that I ate.
This is enough to say upon the subject of my diet, wherewith
other travellers fill their books, as if the readers were
personally concerned whether we fare well or ill. However, it
was necessary to mention this matter, lest the world should think
it impossible that I could find sustenance for three years in
such a country, and among such inhabitants.
When it grew towards evening, the master horse ordered a place
for me to lodge in; it was but six yards from the house and
separated from the stable of the YAHOOS. Here I got some straw,
and covering myself with my own clothes, slept very sound. But I
was in a short time better accommodated, as the reader shall know
hereafter, when I come to treat more particularly about my way of
[The author studies to learn the language. The Houyhnhnm, his
master, assists in teaching him. The language described.
Several Houyhnhnms of quality come out of curiosity to see the
author. He gives his master a short account of his voyage.]
My principal endeavour was to learn the language, which my master
(for so I shall henceforth call him), and his children, and every
servant of his house, were desirous to teach me; for they looked
upon it as a prodigy, that a brute animal should discover such
marks of a rational creature. I pointed to every thing, and
inquired the name of it, which I wrote down in my journal-book
when I was alone, and corrected my bad accent by desiring those
of the family to pronounce it often. In this employment, a
sorrel nag, one of the under-servants, was very ready to assist
In speaking, they pronounced through the nose and throat, and
their language approaches nearest to the High-Dutch, or German,
of any I know in Europe; but is much more graceful and
significant. The emperor Charles V. made almost the same
observation, when he said "that if he were to speak to his horse,
it should be in High-Dutch."
The curiosity and impatience of my master were so great, that he
spent many hours of his leisure to instruct me. He was convinced
(as he afterwards told me) that I must be a YAHOO; but my
teachableness, civility, and cleanliness, astonished him; which
were qualities altogether opposite to those animals. He was most
perplexed about my clothes, reasoning sometimes with himself,
whether they were a part of my body: for I never pulled them off
till the family were asleep, and got them on before they waked in
the morning. My master was eager to learn "whence I came; how I
acquired those appearances of reason, which I discovered in all
my actions; and to know my story from my own mouth, which he
hoped he should soon do by the great proficiency I made in
learning and pronouncing their words and sentences." To help my
memory, I formed all I learned into the English alphabet, and
writ the words down, with the translations. This last, after
some time, I ventured to do in my master's presence. It cost me
much trouble to explain to him what I was doing; for the
inhabitants have not the least idea of books or literature.
In about ten weeks time, I was able to understand most of his
questions; and in three months, could give him some tolerable
answers. He was extremely curious to know "from what part of the
country I came, and how I was taught to imitate a rational
creature; because the YAHOOS (whom he saw I exactly resembled in
my head, hands, and face, that were only visible), with some
appearance of cunning, and the strongest disposition to mischief,
were observed to be the most unteachable of all brutes." I
answered, "that I came over the sea, from a far place, with many
others of my own kind, in a great hollow vessel made of the
bodies of trees: that my companions forced me to land on this
coast, and then left me to shift for myself." It was with some
difficulty, and by the help of many signs, that I brought him to
understand me. He replied, "that I must needs be mistaken, or
that I said the thing which was not;" for they have no word in
their language to express lying or falsehood. "He knew it was
impossible that there could be a country beyond the sea, or that
a parcel of brutes could move a wooden vessel whither they
pleased upon water. He was sure no HOUYHNHNM alive could make
such a vessel, nor would trust YAHOOS to manage it."
The word HOUYHNHNM, in their tongue, signifies a HORSE, and, in
its etymology, the PERFECTION OF NATURE. I told my master, "that
I was at a loss for expression, but would improve as fast as I
could; and hoped, in a short time, I should be able to tell him
wonders." He was pleased to direct his own mare, his colt, and
foal, and the servants of the family, to take all opportunities
of instructing me; and every day, for two or three hours, he was
at the same pains himself. Several horses and mares of quality
in the neighbourhood came often to our house, upon the report
spread of "a wonderful YAHOO, that could speak like a HOUYHNHNM,
and seemed, in his words and actions, to discover some
glimmerings of reason." These delighted to converse with me:
they put many questions, and received such answers as I was able
to return. By all these advantages I made so great a progress,
that, in five months from my arrival I understood whatever was
spoken, and could express myself tolerably well.
The HOUYHNHNMS, who came to visit my master out of a design of
seeing and talking with me, could hardly believe me to be a right
YAHOO, because my body had a different covering from others of my
kind. They were astonished to observe me without the usual hair
or skin, except on my head, face, and hands; but I discovered
that secret to my master upon an accident which happened about a
fortnight before.
I have already told the reader, that every night, when the family
were gone to bed, it was my custom to strip, and cover myself
with my clothes. It happened, one morning early, that my master
sent for me by the sorrel nag, who was his valet. When he came I
was fast asleep, my clothes fallen off on one side, and my shirt
above my waist. I awaked at the noise he made, and observed him
to deliver his message in some disorder; after which he went to
my master, and in a great fright gave him a very confused account
of what he had seen. This I presently discovered, for, going as
soon as I was dressed to pay my attendance upon his honour, he
asked me "the meaning of what his servant had reported, that I
was not the same thing when I slept, as I appeared to be at other
times; that his vale assured him, some part of me was white, some
yellow, at least not so white, and some brown."
I had hitherto concealed the secret of my dress, in order to
distinguish myself, as much as possible, from that cursed race of
YAHOOS; but now I found it in vain to do so any longer. Besides,
I considered that my clothes and shoes would soon wear out, which
already were in a declining condition, and must be supplied by
some contrivance from the hides of YAHOOS, or other brutes;
whereby the whole secret would be known. I therefore told my
master, "that in the country whence I came, those of my kind
always covered their bodies with the hairs of certain animals
prepared by art, as well for decency as to avoid the inclemencies
of air, both hot and cold; of which, as to my own person, I would
give him immediate conviction, if he pleased to command me: only
desiring his excuse, if I did not expose those parts that nature
taught us to conceal." He said, "my discourse was all very
strange, but especially the last part; for he could not
understand, why nature should teach us to conceal what nature had
given; that neither himself nor family were ashamed of any parts
of their bodies; but, however, I might do as I pleased."
Whereupon I first unbuttoned my coat, and pulled it off. I did
the same with my waistcoat. I drew off my shoes, stockings, and
breeches. I let my shirt down to my waist, and drew up the
bottom; fastening it like a girdle about my middle, to hide my
My master observed the whole performance with great signs of
curiosity and admiration. He took up all my clothes in his
pastern, one piece after another, and examined them diligently;
he then stroked my body very gently, and looked round me several
times; after which, he said, it was plain I must be a perfect
YAHOO; but that I differed very much from the rest of my species
in the softness, whiteness, and smoothness of my skin; my want of
hair in several parts of my body; the shape and shortness of my
claws behind and before; and my affectation of walking
continually on my two hinder feet. He desired to see no more;
and gave me leave to put on my clothes again, for I was
shuddering with cold.
I expressed my uneasiness at his giving me so often the
appellation of YAHOO, an odious animal, for which I had so utter
a hatred and contempt: I begged he would forbear applying that
word to me, and make the same order in his family and among his
friends whom he suffered to see me. I requested likewise, "that
the secret of my having a false covering to my body, might be
known to none but himself, at least as long as my present
clothing should last; for as to what the sorrel nag, his valet,
had observed, his honour might command him to conceal it."
All this my master very graciously consented to; and thus the
secret was kept till my clothes began to wear out, which I was
forced to supply by several contrivances that shall hereafter be
mentioned. In the meantime, he desired "I would go on with my
utmost diligence to learn their language, because he was more
astonished at my capacity for speech and reason, than at the
figure of my body, whether it were covered or not;" adding, "that
he waited with some impatience to hear the wonders which I
promised to tell him."
Thenceforward he doubled the pains he had been at to instruct me:
he brought me into all company, and made them treat me with
civility; "because," as he told them, privately, "this would put
me into good humour, and make me more diverting."
Every day, when I waited on him, beside the trouble he was at in
teaching, he would ask me several questions concerning myself,
which I answered as well as I could, and by these means he had
already received some general ideas, though very imperfect. It
would be tedious to relate the several steps by which I advanced
to a more regular conversation; but the first account I gave of
myself in any order and length was to this purpose:
"That I came from a very far country, as I already had attempted
to tell him, with about fifty more of my own species; that we
travelled upon the seas in a great hollow vessel made of wood,
and larger than his honour's house. I described the ship to him
in the best terms I could, and explained, by the help of my
handkerchief displayed, how it was driven forward by the wind.
That upon a quarrel among us, I was set on shore on this coast,
where I walked forward, without knowing whither, till he
delivered me from the persecution of those execrable YAHOOS." He
asked me, "who made the ship, and how it was possible that the
HOUYHNHNMS of my country would leave it to the management of
brutes?" My answer was, "that I durst proceed no further in my
relation, unless he would give me his word and honour that he
would not be offended, and then I would tell him the wonders I
had so often promised." He agreed; and I went on by assuring
him, that the ship was made by creatures like myself; who, in all
the countries I had travelled, as well as in my own, were the
only governing rational animals; and that upon my arrival hither,
I was as much astonished to see the HOUYHNHNMS act like rational
beings, as he, or his friends, could be, in finding some marks of
reason in a creature he was pleased to call a YAHOO; to which I
owned my resemblance in every part, but could not account for
their degenerate and brutal nature. I said farther, "that if
good fortune ever restored me to my native country, to relate my
travels hither, as I resolved to do, everybody would believe,
that I said the thing that was not, that I invented the story out
of my own head; and (with all possible respect to himself, his
family, and friends, and under his promise of not being offended)
our countrymen would hardly think it probable that a HOUYHNHNM
should be the presiding creature of a nation, and a YAHOO the
[The Houyhnhnm's notion of truth and falsehood. The author's
discourse disapproved by his master. The author gives a more
particular account of himself, and the accidents of his voyage.]
My master heard me with great appearances of uneasiness in his
countenance; because doubting, or not believing, are so little
known in this country, that the inhabitants cannot tell how to
behave themselves under such circumstances. And I remember, in
frequent discourses with my master concerning the nature of
manhood in other parts of the world, having occasion to talk of
lying and false representation, it was with much difficulty that
he comprehended what I meant, although he had otherwise a most
acute judgment. For he argued thus: "that the use of speech was
to make us understand one another, and to receive information of
facts; now, if any one said the thing which was not, these ends
were defeated, because I cannot properly be said to understand
him; and I am so far from receiving information, that he leaves
me worse than in ignorance; for I am led to believe a thing
black, when it is white, and short, when it is long." And these
were all the notions he had concerning that faculty of lying, so
perfectly well understood, and so universally practised, among
human creatures.
To return from this digression. When I asserted that the YAHOOS
were the only governing animals in my country, which my master
said was altogether past his conception, he desired to know,
"whether we had HOUYHNHNMS among us, and what was their
employment?" I told him, "we had great numbers; that in summer
they grazed in the fields, and in winter were kept in houses with
hay and oats, where YAHOO servants were employed to rub their
skins smooth, comb their manes, pick their feet, serve them with
food, and make their beds." "I understand you well," said my
master: "it is now very plain, from all you have spoken, that
whatever share of reason the YAHOOS pretend to, the HOUYHNHNMS
are your masters; I heartily wish our YAHOOS would be so
tractable." I begged "his honour would please to excuse me from
proceeding any further, because I was very certain that the
account he expected from me would be highly displeasing." But he
insisted in commanding me to let him know the best and the worst.
I told him "he should be obeyed." I owned "that the HOUYHNHNMS
among us, whom we called horses, were the most generous and
comely animals we had; that they excelled in strength and
swiftness; and when they belonged to persons of quality, were
employed in travelling, racing, or drawing chariots; they were
treated with much kindness and care, till they fell into
diseases, or became foundered in the feet; but then they were
sold, and used to all kind of drudgery till they died; after
which their skins were stripped, and sold for what they were
worth, and their bodies left to be devoured by dogs and birds of
prey. But the common race of horses had not so good fortune,
being kept by farmers and carriers, and other mean people, who
put them to greater labour, and fed them worse." I described, as
well as I could, our way of riding; the shape and use of a
bridle, a saddle, a spur, and a whip; of harness and wheels. I
added, "that we fastened plates of a certain hard substance,
called iron, at the bottom of their feet, to preserve their hoofs
from being broken by the stony ways, on which we often
My master, after some expressions of great indignation, wondered
"how we dared to venture upon a HOUYHNHNM'S back; for he was
sure, that the weakest servant in his house would be able to
shake off the strongest YAHOO; or by lying down and rolling on
his back, squeeze the brute to death." I answered "that our
horses were trained up, from three or four years old, to the
several uses we intended them for; that if any of them proved
intolerably vicious, they were employed for carriages; that they
were severely beaten, while they were young, for any mischievous
tricks; that the males, designed for the common use of riding or
draught, were generally castrated about two years after their
birth, to take down their spirits, and make them more tame and
gentle; that they were indeed sensible of rewards and
punishments; but his honour would please to consider, that they
had not the least tincture of reason, any more than the YAHOOS in
this country."
It put me to the pains of many circumlocutions, to give my master
a right idea of what I spoke; for their language does not abound
in variety of words, because their wants and passions are fewer
than among us. But it is impossible to express his noble
resentment at our savage treatment of the HOUYHNHNM race;
particularly after I had explained the manner and use of
castrating horses among us, to hinder them from propagating their
kind, and to render them more servile. He said, "if it were
possible there could be any country where YAHOOS alone were
endued with reason, they certainly must be the governing animal;
because reason in time will always prevail against brutal
strength. But, considering the frame of our bodies, and
especially of mine, he thought no creature of equal bulk was so
ill-contrived for employing that reason in the common offices of
life;" whereupon he desired to know whether those among whom I
lived resembled me, or the YAHOOS of his country?" I assured
him, "that I was as well shaped as most of my age; but the
younger, and the females, were much more soft and tender, and the
skins of the latter generally as white as milk." He said, "I
differed indeed from other YAHOOS, being much more cleanly, and
not altogether so deformed; but, in point of real advantage, he
thought I differed for the worse: that my nails were of no use
either to my fore or hinder feet; as to my fore feet, he could
not properly call them by that name, for he never observed me to
walk upon them; that they were too soft to bear the ground; that
I generally went with them uncovered; neither was the covering I
sometimes wore on them of the same shape, or so strong as that on
my feet behind: that I could not walk with any security, for if
either of my hinder feet slipped, I must inevitably fail." He
then began to find fault with other parts of my body: "the
flatness of my face, the prominence of my nose, mine eyes placed
directly in front, so that I could not look on either side
without turning my head: that I was not able to feed myself,
without lifting one of my fore-feet to my mouth: and therefore
nature had placed those joints to answer that necessity. He knew
not what could be the use of those several clefts and divisions
in my feet behind; that these were too soft to bear the hardness
and sharpness of stones, without a covering made from the skin of
some other brute; that my whole body wanted a fence against heat
and cold, which I was forced to put on and off every day, with
tediousness and trouble: and lastly, that he observed every
animal in this country naturally to abhor the YAHOOS, whom the
weaker avoided, and the stronger drove from them. So that,
supposing us to have the gift of reason, he could not see how it
were possible to cure that natural antipathy, which every
creature discovered against us; nor consequently how we could
tame and render them serviceable. However, he would," as he
said, "debate the matter no farther, because he was more desirous
to know my own story, the country where I was born, and the
several actions and events of my life, before I came hither."
I assured him, "how extremely desirous I was that he should be
satisfied on every point; but I doubted much, whether it would be
possible for me to explain myself on several subjects, whereof
his honour could have no conception; because I saw nothing in his
country to which I could resemble them; that, however, I would do
my best, and strive to express myself by similitudes, humbly
desiring his assistance when I wanted proper words;" which he was
pleased to promise me.
I said, "my birth was of honest parents, in an island called
England; which was remote from his country, as many days' journey
as the strongest of his honour's servants could travel in the
annual course of the sun; that I was bred a surgeon, whose trade
it is to cure wounds and hurts in the body, gotten by accident or
violence; that my country was governed by a female man, whom we
called queen; that I left it to get riches, whereby I might
maintain myself and family, when I should return; that, in my
last voyage, I was commander of the ship, and had about fifty
YAHOOS under me, many of which died at sea, and I was forced to
supply them by others picked out from several nations; that our
ship was twice in danger of being sunk, the first time by a great
storm, and the second by striking against a rock." Here my
master interposed, by asking me, "how I could persuade strangers,
out of different countries, to venture with me, after the losses
I had sustained, and the hazards I had run?" I said, "they were
fellows of desperate fortunes, forced to fly from the places of
their birth on account of their poverty or their crimes. Some
were undone by lawsuits; others spent all they had in drinking,
whoring, and gaming; others fled for treason; many for murder,
theft, poisoning, robbery, perjury, forgery, coining false money,
for committing rapes, or sodomy; for flying from their colours,
or deserting to the enemy; and most of them had broken prison;
none of these durst return to their native countries, for fear of
being hanged, or of starving in a jail; and therefore they were
under the necessity of seeking a livelihood in other places."
During this discourse, my master was pleased to interrupt me
several times. I had made use of many circumlocutions in
describing to him the nature of the several crimes for which most
of our crew had been forced to fly their country. This labour
took up several days' conversation, before he was able to
comprehend me. He was wholly at a loss to know what could be the
use or necessity of practising those vices. To clear up which, I
endeavoured to give some ideas of the desire of power and riches;
of the terrible effects of lust, intemperance, malice, and envy.
All this I was forced to define and describe by putting cases and
making suppositions. After which, like one whose imagination was
struck with something never seen or heard of before, he would
lift up his eyes with amazement and indignation. Power,
government, war, law, punishment, and a thousand other things,
had no terms wherein that language could express them, which made
the difficulty almost insuperable, to give my master any
conception of what I meant. But being of an excellent
understanding, much improved by contemplation and converse, he at
last arrived at a competent knowledge of what human nature, in
our parts of the world, is capable to perform, and desired I
would give him some particular account of that land which we call
Europe, but especially of my own country.
[The author at his master's command, informs him of the state of
England. The causes of war among the princes of Europe. The
author begins to explain the English constitution.]
The reader may please to observe, that the following extract of
many conversations I had with my master, contains a summary of
the most material points which were discoursed at several times
for above two years; his honour often desiring fuller
satisfaction, as I farther improved in the HOUYHNHNM tongue. I
laid before him, as well as I could, the whole state of Europe; I
discoursed of trade and manufactures, of arts and sciences; and
the answers I gave to all the questions he made, as they arose
upon several subjects, were a fund of conversation not to be
exhausted. But I shall here only set down the substance of what
passed between us concerning my own country, reducing it in order
as well as I can, without any regard to time or other
circumstances, while I strictly adhere to truth. My only concern
is, that I shall hardly be able to do justice to my master's
arguments and expressions, which must needs suffer by my want of
capacity, as well as by a translation into our barbarous English.
In obedience, therefore, to his honour's commands, I related to
him the Revolution under the Prince of Orange; the long war with
France, entered into by the said prince, and renewed by his
successor, the present queen, wherein the greatest powers of
Christendom were engaged, and which still continued: I computed,
at his request, "that about a million of YAHOOS might have been
killed in the whole progress of it; and perhaps a hundred or more
cities taken, and five times as many ships burnt or sunk."
He asked me, "what were the usual causes or motives that made one
country go to war with another?" I answered "they were
innumerable; but I should only mention a few of the chief.
Sometimes the ambition of princes, who never think they have land
or people enough to govern; sometimes the corruption of
ministers, who engage their master in a war, in order to stifle
or divert the clamour of the subjects against their evil
administration. Difference in opinions has cost many millions of
lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh;
whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine; whether
whistling be a vice or a virtue; whether it be better to kiss a
post, or throw it into the fire; what is the best colour for a
coat, whether black, white, red, or gray; and whether it should
be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean; with many more.
Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a
continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion,
especially if it be in things indifferent.
"Sometimes the quarrel between two princes is to decide which of
them shall dispossess a third of his dominions, where neither of
them pretend to any right. Sometimes one prince quarrels with
another for fear the other should quarrel with him. Sometimes a
war is entered upon, because the enemy is too strong; and
sometimes, because he is too weak. Sometimes our neighbours want
the things which we have, or have the things which we want, and
we both fight, till they take ours, or give us theirs. It is a
very justifiable cause of a war, to invade a country after the
people have been wasted by famine, destroyed by pestilence, or
embroiled by factions among themselves. It is justifiable to
enter into war against our nearest ally, when one of his towns
lies convenient for us, or a territory of land, that would render
our dominions round and complete. If a prince sends forces into
a nation, where the people are poor and ignorant, he may lawfully
put half of them to death, and make slaves of the rest, in order
to civilize and reduce them from their barbarous way of living.
It is a very kingly, honourable, and frequent practice, when one
prince desires the assistance of another, to secure him against
an invasion, that the assistant, when he has driven out the
invader, should seize on the dominions himself, and kill,
imprison, or banish, the prince he came to relieve. Alliance by
blood, or marriage, is a frequent cause of war between princes;
and the nearer the kindred is, the greater their disposition to
quarrel; poor nations are hungry, and rich nations are proud; and
pride and hunger will ever be at variance. For these reasons,
the trade of a soldier is held the most honourable of all others;
because a soldier is a YAHOO hired to kill, in cold blood, as
many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly
he can.
"There is likewise a kind of beggarly princes in Europe, not able
to make war by themselves, who hire out their troops to richer
nations, for so much a day to each man; of which they keep
three-fourths to themselves, and it is the best part of their
maintenance: such are those in many northern parts of Europe."
"What you have told me," said my master, "upon the subject of
war, does indeed discover most admirably the effects of that
reason you pretend to: however, it is happy that the shame is
greater than the danger; and that nature has left you utterly
incapable of doing much mischief. For, your mouths lying flat
with your faces, you can hardly bite each other to any purpose,
unless by consent. Then as to the claws upon your feet before
and behind, they are so short and tender, that one of our YAHOOS
would drive a dozen of yours before him. And therefore, in
recounting the numbers of those who have been killed in battle, I
cannot but think you have said the thing which is not."
I could not forbear shaking my head, and smiling a little at his
ignorance. And being no stranger to the art of war, I gave him a
description of cannons, culverins, muskets, carabines, pistols,
bullets, powder, swords, bayonets, battles, sieges, retreats,
attacks, undermines, countermines, bombardments, sea fights,
ships sunk with a thousand men, twenty thousand killed on each
side, dying groans, limbs flying in the air, smoke, noise,
confusion, trampling to death under horses' feet, flight,
pursuit, victory; fields strewed with carcases, left for food to
dogs and wolves and birds of prey; plundering, stripping,
ravishing, burning, and destroying. And to set forth the valour
of my own dear countrymen, I assured him, "that I had seen them
blow up a hundred enemies at once in a siege, and as many in a
ship, and beheld the dead bodies drop down in pieces from the
clouds, to the great diversion of the spectators."
I was going on to more particulars, when my master commanded me
silence. He said, "whoever understood the nature of YAHOOS,
might easily believe it possible for so vile an animal to be
capable of every action I had named, if their strength and
cunning equalled their malice. But as my discourse had increased
his abhorrence of the whole species, so he found it gave him a
disturbance in his mind to which he was wholly a stranger before.
He thought his ears, being used to such abominable words, might,
by degrees, admit them with less detestation: that although he
hated the YAHOOS of this country, yet he no more blamed them for
their odious qualities, than he did a GNNAYH (a bird of prey) for
its cruelty, or a sharp stone for cutting his hoof. But when a
creature pretending to reason could be capable of such
enormities, he dreaded lest the corruption of that faculty might
be worse than brutality itself. He seemed therefore confident,
that, instead of reason we were only possessed of some quality
fitted to increase our natural vices; as the reflection from a
troubled stream returns the image of an ill shapen body, not only
larger but more distorted."
He added, "that he had heard too much upon the subject of war,
both in this and some former discourses. There was another
point, which a little perplexed him at present. I had informed
him, that some of our crew left their country on account of being
ruined by law; that I had already explained the meaning of the
word; but he was at a loss how it should come to pass, that the
law, which was intended for every man's preservation, should be
any man's ruin. Therefore he desired to be further satisfied
what I meant by law, and the dispensers thereof, according to the
present practice in my own country; because he thought nature and
reason were sufficient guides for a reasonable animal, as we
pretended to be, in showing us what he ought to do, and what to
I assured his honour, "that the law was a science in which I had
not much conversed, further than by employing advocates, in vain,
upon some injustices that had been done me: however, I would
give him all the satisfaction I was able."
I said, "there was a society of men among us, bred up from their
youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose,
that white is black, and black is white, according as they are
paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.
For example, if my neighbour has a mind to my cow, he has a
lawyer to prove that he ought to have my cow from me. I must
then hire another to defend my right, it being against all rules
of law that any man should be allowed to speak for himself. Now,
in this case, I, who am the right owner, lie under two great
disadvantages: first, my lawyer, being practised almost from his
cradle in defending falsehood, is quite out of his element when
he would be an advocate for justice, which is an unnatural office
he always attempts with great awkwardness, if not with ill-will.
The second disadvantage is, that my lawyer must proceed with
great caution, or else he will be reprimanded by the judges, and
abhorred by his brethren, as one that would lessen the practice
of the law. And therefore I have but two methods to preserve my
cow. The first is, to gain over my adversary's lawyer with a
double fee, who will then betray his client by insinuating that
he hath justice on his side. The second way is for my lawyer to
make my cause appear as unjust as he can, by allowing the cow to
belong to my adversary: and this, if it be skilfully done, will
certainly bespeak the favour of the bench. Now your honour is to
know, that these judges are persons appointed to decide all
controversies of property, as well as for the trial of criminals,
and picked out from the most dexterous lawyers, who are grown old
or lazy; and having been biassed all their lives against truth
and equity, lie under such a fatal necessity of favouring fraud,
perjury, and oppression, that I have known some of them refuse a
large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather than injure
the faculty, by doing any thing unbecoming their nature or their
"It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever has been done
before, may legally be done again: and therefore they take
special care to record all the decisions formerly made against
common justice, and the general reason of mankind. These, under
the name of precedents, they produce as authorities to justify
the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of
directing accordingly.
"In pleading, they studiously avoid entering into the merits of
the cause; but are loud, violent, and tedious, in dwelling upon
all circumstances which are not to the purpose. For instance, in
the case already mentioned; they never desire to know what claim
or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether the said cow
were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I
graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home
or abroad; what diseases she is subject to, and the like; after
which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to
time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue.
"It is likewise to be observed, that this society has a peculiar
cant and jargon of their own, that no other mortal can
understand, and wherein all their laws are written, which they
take special care to multiply; whereby they have wholly
confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood, of right and
wrong; so that it will take thirty years to decide, whether the
field left me by my ancestors for six generations belongs to me,
or to a stranger three hundred miles off.
"In the trial of persons accused for crimes against the state,
the method is much more short and commendable: the judge first
sends to sound the disposition of those in power, after which he
can easily hang or save a criminal, strictly preserving all due
forms of law."
Here my master interposing, said, "it was a pity, that creatures
endowed with such prodigious abilities of mind, as these lawyers,
by the description I gave of them, must certainly be, were not
rather encouraged to be instructors of others in wisdom and
knowledge." In answer to which I assured his honour, "that in
all points out of their own trade, they were usually the most
ignorant and stupid generation among us, the most despicable in
common conversation, avowed enemies to all knowledge and
learning, and equally disposed to pervert the general reason of
mankind in every other subject of discourse as in that of their
own profession."
[A continuation of the state of England under Queen Anne. The
character of a first minister of state in European courts.]
My master was yet wholly at a loss to understand what motives
could incite this race of lawyers to perplex, disquiet, and weary
themselves, and engage in a confederacy of injustice, merely for
the sake of injuring their fellow-animals; neither could he
comprehend what I meant in saying, they did it for hire.
Whereupon I was at much pains to describe to him the use of
money, the materials it was made of, and the value of the metals;
"that when a YAHOO had got a great store of this precious
substance, he was able to purchase whatever he had a mind to; the
finest clothing, the noblest houses, great tracts of land, the
most costly meats and drinks, and have his choice of the most
beautiful females. Therefore since money alone was able to
perform all these feats, our YAHOOS thought they could never have
enough of it to spend, or to save, as they found themselves
inclined, from their natural bent either to profusion or avarice;
that the rich man enjoyed the fruit of the poor man's labour, and
the latter were a thousand to one in proportion to the former;
that the bulk of our people were forced to live miserably, by
labouring every day for small wages, to make a few live
I enlarged myself much on these, and many other particulars to
the same purpose; but his honour was still to seek; for he went
upon a supposition, that all animals had a title to their share
in the productions of the earth, and especially those who
presided over the rest. Therefore he desired I would let him
know, "what these costly meats were, and how any of us happened
to want them?" Whereupon I enumerated as many sorts as came into
my head, with the various methods of dressing them, which could
not be done without sending vessels by sea to every part of the
world, as well for liquors to drink as for sauces and innumerable
other conveniences. I assured him "that this whole globe of earth
must be at least three times gone round before one of our better
female YAHOOS could get her breakfast, or a cup to put it in."
He said "that must needs be a miserable country which cannot
furnish food for its own inhabitants. But what he chiefly
wondered at was, how such vast tracts of ground as I described
should be wholly without fresh water, and the people put to the
necessity of sending over the sea for drink." I replied "that
England (the dear place of my nativity) was computed to produce
three times the quantity of food more than its inhabitants are
able to consume, as well as liquors extracted from grain, or
pressed out of the fruit of certain trees, which made excellent
drink, and the same proportion in every other convenience of
life. But, in order to feed the luxury and intemperance of the
males, and the vanity of the females, we sent away the greatest
part of our necessary things to other countries, whence, in
return, we brought the materials of diseases, folly, and vice, to
spend among ourselves. Hence it follows of necessity, that vast
numbers of our people are compelled to seek their livelihood by
begging, robbing, stealing, cheating, pimping, flattering,
suborning, forswearing, forging, gaming, lying, fawning,
hectoring, voting, scribbling, star-gazing, poisoning, whoring,
canting, libelling, freethinking, and the like occupations:"
every one of which terms I was at much pains to make him
"That wine was not imported among us from foreign countries to
supply the want of water or other drinks, but because it was a
sort of liquid which made us merry by putting us out of our
senses, diverted all melancholy thoughts, begat wild extravagant
imaginations in the brain, raised our hopes and banished our
fears, suspended every office of reason for a time, and deprived
us of the use of our limbs, till we fell into a profound sleep;
although it must be confessed, that we always awaked sick and
dispirited; and that the use of this liquor filled us with
diseases which made our lives uncomfortable and short.
"But beside all this, the bulk of our people supported themselves
by furnishing the necessities or conveniences of life to the rich
and to each other. For instance, when I am at home, and dressed
as I ought to be, I carry on my body the workmanship of a hundred
tradesmen; the building and furniture of my house employ as many
more, and five times the number to adorn my wife."
I was going on to tell him of another sort of people, who get
their livelihood by attending the sick, having, upon some
occasions, informed his honour that many of my crew had died of
diseases. But here it was with the utmost difficulty that I
brought him to apprehend what I meant. "He could easily
conceive, that a HOUYHNHNM, grew weak and heavy a few days before
his death, or by some accident might hurt a limb; but that
nature, who works all things to perfection, should suffer any
pains to breed in our bodies, he thought impossible, and desired
to know the reason of so unaccountable an evil."
I told him "we fed on a thousand things which operated contrary
to each other; that we ate when we were not hungry, and drank
without the provocation of thirst; that we sat whole nights
drinking strong liquors, without eating a bit, which disposed us
to sloth, inflamed our bodies, and precipitated or prevented
digestion; that prostitute female YAHOOS acquired a certain
malady, which bred rottenness in the bones of those who fell into
their embraces; that this, and many other diseases, were
propagated from father to son; so that great numbers came into
the world with complicated maladies upon them; that it would be
endless to give him a catalogue of all diseases incident to human
bodies, for they would not be fewer than five or six hundred,
spread over every limb and joint -in short, every part, external
and intestine, having diseases appropriated to itself. To remedy
which, there was a sort of people bred up among us in the
profession, or pretence, of curing the sick. And because I had
some skill in the faculty, I would, in gratitude to his honour,
let him know the whole mystery and method by which they proceed.
"Their fundamental is, that all diseases arise from repletion;
whence they conclude, that a great evacuation of the body is
necessary, either through the natural passage or upwards at the
mouth. Their next business is from herbs, minerals, gums, oils,
shells, salts, juices, seaweed, excrements, barks of trees,
serpents, toads, frogs, spiders, dead men's flesh and bones,
birds, beasts, and fishes, to form a composition, for smell and
taste, the most abominable, nauseous, and detestable, they can
possibly contrive, which the stomach immediately rejects with
loathing, and this they call a vomit; or else, from the same
store-house, with some other poisonous additions, they command us
to take in at the orifice above or below (just as the physician
then happens to be disposed) a medicine equally annoying and
disgustful to the bowels; which, relaxing the belly, drives down
all before it; and this they call a purge, or a clyster. For
nature (as the physicians allege) having intended the superior
anterior orifice only for the intromission of solids and liquids,
and the inferior posterior for ejection, these artists
ingeniously considering that in all diseases nature is forced out
of her seat, therefore, to replace her in it, the body must be
treated in a manner directly contrary, by interchanging the use
of each orifice; forcing solids and liquids in at the anus, and
making evacuations at the mouth.
"But, besides real diseases, we are subject to many that are only
imaginary, for which the physicians have invented imaginary
cures; these have their several names, and so have the drugs that
are proper for them; and with these our female YAHOOS are always
"One great excellency in this tribe, is their skill at
prognostics, wherein they seldom fail; their predictions in real
diseases, when they rise to any degree of malignity, generally
portending death, which is always in their power, when recovery
is not: and therefore, upon any unexpected signs of amendment,
after they have pronounced their sentence, rather than be accused
as false prophets, they know how to approve their sagacity to the
world, by a seasonable dose.
"They are likewise of special use to husbands and wives who are
grown weary of their mates; to eldest sons, to great ministers of
state, and often to princes."
I had formerly, upon occasion, discoursed with my master upon the
nature of government in general, and particularly of our own
excellent constitution, deservedly the wonder and envy of the
whole world. But having here accidentally mentioned a minister
of state, he commanded me, some time after, to inform him, "what
species of YAHOO I particularly meant by that appellation."
I told him, "that a first or chief minister of state, who was the
person I intended to describe, was the creature wholly exempt
from joy and grief, love and hatred, pity and anger; at least,
makes use of no other passions, but a violent desire of wealth,
power, and titles; that he applies his words to all uses, except
to the indication of his mind; that he never tells a truth but
with an intent that you should take it for a lie; nor a lie, but
with a design that you should take it for a truth; that those he
speaks worst of behind their backs are in the surest way of
preferment; and whenever he begins to praise you to others, or to
yourself, you are from that day forlorn. The worst mark you can
receive is a promise, especially when it is confirmed with an
oath; after which, every wise man retires, and gives over all
"There are three methods, by which a man may rise to be chief
minister. The first is, by knowing how, with prudence, to
dispose of a wife, a daughter, or a sister; the second, by
betraying or undermining his predecessor; and the third is, by a
furious zeal, in public assemblies, against the corruption's of
the court. But a wise prince would rather choose to employ those
who practise the last of these methods; because such zealots
prove always the most obsequious and subservient to the will and
passions of their master. That these ministers, having all
employments at their disposal, preserve themselves in power, by
bribing the majority of a senate or great council; and at last,
by an expedient, called an act of indemnity" (whereof I described
the nature to him), "they secure themselves from
after-reckonings, and retire from the public laden with the
spoils of the nation.
"The palace of a chief minister is a seminary to breed up others
in his own trade: the pages, lackeys, and porters, by imitating
their master, become ministers of state in their several
districts, and learn to excel in the three principal ingredients,
of insolence, lying, and bribery. Accordingly, they have a
subaltern court paid to them by persons of the best rank; and
sometimes by the force of dexterity and impudence, arrive,
through several gradations, to be successors to their lord.
"He is usually governed by a decayed wench, or favourite footman,
who are the tunnels through which all graces are conveyed, and
may properly be called, in the last resort, the governors of the
One day, in discourse, my master, having heard me mention the
nobility of my country, was pleased to make me a compliment which
I could not pretend to deserve: "that he was sure I must have
been born of some noble family, because I far exceeded in shape,
colour, and cleanliness, all the YAHOOS of his nation, although I
seemed to fail in strength and agility, which must be imputed to
my different way of living from those other brutes; and besides I
was not only endowed with the faculty of speech, but likewise
with some rudiments of reason, to a degree that, with all his
acquaintance, I passed for a prodigy."
He made me observe, "that among the HOUYHNHNMS, the white, the
sorrel, and the iron-gray, were not so exactly shaped as the bay,
the dapple-gray, and the black; nor born with equal talents of
mind, or a capacity to improve them; and therefore continued
always in the condition of servants, without ever aspiring to
match out of their own race, which in that country would be
reckoned monstrous and unnatural."
I made his honour my most humble acknowledgments for the good
opinion he was pleased to conceive of me, but assured him at the
same time, "that my birth was of the lower sort, having been born
of plain honest parents, who were just able to give me a
tolerable education; that nobility, among us, was altogether a
different thing from the idea he had of it; that our young
noblemen are bred from their childhood in idleness and luxury;
that, as soon as years will permit, they consume their vigour,
and contract odious diseases among lewd females; and when their
fortunes are almost ruined, they marry some woman of mean birth,
disagreeable person, and unsound constitution (merely for the
sake of money), whom they hate and despise. That the productions
of such marriages are generally scrofulous, rickety, or deformed
children; by which means the family seldom continues above three
generations, unless the wife takes care to provide a healthy
father, among her neighbours or domestics, in order to improve
and continue the breed. That a weak diseased body, a meagre
countenance, and sallow complexion, are the true marks of noble
blood; and a healthy robust appearance is so disgraceful in a man
of quality, that the world concludes his real father to have been
a groom or a coachman. The imperfections of his mind run
parallel with those of his body, being a composition of spleen,
dullness, ignorance, caprice, sensuality, and pride.
"Without the consent of this illustrious body, no law can be
enacted, repealed, or altered: and these nobles have likewise
the decision of all our possessions, without appeal." (6)
[The author's great love of his native country. His master's
observations upon the constitution and administration of England,
as described by the author, with parallel cases and comparisons.
His master's observations upon human nature.]
The reader may be disposed to wonder how I could prevail on
myself to give so free a representation of my own species, among
a race of mortals who are already too apt to conceive the vilest
opinion of humankind, from that entire congruity between me and
their YAHOOS. But I must freely confess, that the many virtues of
those excellent quadrupeds, placed in opposite view to human
corruptions, had so far opened my eyes and enlarged my
understanding, that I began to view the actions and passions of
man in a very different light, and to think the honour of my own
kind not worth managing; which, besides, it was impossible for me
to do, before a person of so acute a judgment as my master, who
daily convinced me of a thousand faults in myself, whereof I had
not the least perception before, and which, with us, would never
be numbered even among human infirmities. I had likewise
learned, from his example, an utter detestation of all falsehood
or disguise; and truth appeared so amiable to me, that I
determined upon sacrificing every thing to it.
Let me deal so candidly with the reader as to confess that there
was yet a much stronger motive for the freedom I took in my
representation of things. I had not yet been a year in this
country before I contracted such a love and veneration for the
inhabitants, that I entered on a firm resolution never to return
to humankind, but to pass the rest of my life among these
admirable HOUYHNHNMS, in the contemplation and practice of every
virtue, where I could have no example or incitement to vice. But
it was decreed by fortune, my perpetual enemy, that so great a
felicity should not fall to my share. However, it is now some
comfort to reflect, that in what I said of my countrymen, I
extenuated their faults as much as I durst before so strict an
examiner; and upon every article gave as favourable a turn as the
matter would bear. For, indeed, who is there alive that will not
be swayed by his bias and partiality to the place of his birth?
I have related the substance of several conversations I had with
my master during the greatest part of the time I had the honour
to be in his service; but have, indeed, for brevity sake, omitted
much more than is here set down.
When I had answered all his questions, and his curiosity seemed
to be fully satisfied, he sent for me one morning early, and
commanded me to sit down at some distance (an honour which he had
never before conferred upon me). He said, "he had been very
seriously considering my whole story, as far as it related both
to myself and my country; that he looked upon us as a sort of
animals, to whose share, by what accident he could not
conjecture, some small pittance of reason had fallen, whereof we
made no other use, than by its assistance, to aggravate our
natural corruptions, and to acquire new ones, which nature had
not given us; that we disarmed ourselves of the few abilities she
had bestowed; had been very successful in multiplying our
original wants, and seemed to spend our whole lives in vain
endeavours to supply them by our own inventions; that, as to
myself, it was manifest I had neither the strength nor agility of
a common YAHOO; that I walked infirmly on my hinder feet; had
found out a contrivance to make my claws of no use or defence,
and to remove the hair from my chin, which was intended as a
shelter from the sun and the weather: lastly, that I could
neither run with speed, nor climb trees like my brethren," as he
called them, "the YAHOOS in his country.
"That our institutions of government and law were plainly owing
to our gross defects in reason, and by consequence in virtue;
because reason alone is sufficient to govern a rational creature;
which was, therefore, a character we had no pretence to
challenge, even from the account I had given of my own people;
although he manifestly perceived, that, in order to favour them,
I had concealed many particulars, and often said the thing which
was not.
"He was the more confirmed in this opinion, because, he observed,
that as I agreed in every feature of my body with other YAHOOS,
except where it was to my real disadvantage in point of strength,
speed, and activity, the shortness of my claws, and some other
particulars where nature had no part; so from the representation
I had given him of our lives, our manners, and our actions, he
found as near a resemblance in the disposition of our minds." He
said, "the YAHOOS were known to hate one another, more than they
did any different species of animals; and the reason usually
assigned was, the odiousness of their own shapes, which all could
see in the rest, but not in themselves. He had therefore begun
to think it not unwise in us to cover our bodies, and by that
invention conceal many of our deformities from each other, which
would else be hardly supportable. But he now found he had been
mistaken, and that the dissensions of those brutes in his country
were owing to the same cause with ours, as I had described them.
For if," said he, "you throw among five YAHOOS as much food as
would be sufficient for fifty, they will, instead of eating
peaceably, fall together by the ears, each single one impatient
to have all to itself; and therefore a servant was usually
employed to stand by while they were feeding abroad, and those
kept at home were tied at a distance from each other: that if a
cow died of age or accident, before a HOUYHNHNM could secure it
for his own YAHOOS, those in the neighbourhood would come in
herds to seize it, and then would ensue such a battle as I had
described, with terrible wounds made by their claws on both
sides, although they seldom were able to kill one another, for
want of such convenient instruments of death as we had invented.
At other times, the like battles have been fought between the
YAHOOS of several neighbourhoods, without any visible cause;
those of one district watching all opportunities to surprise the
next, before they are prepared. But if they find their project
has miscarried, they return home, and, for want of enemies,
engage in what I call a civil war among themselves.
"That in some fields of his country there are certain shining
stones of several colours, whereof the YAHOOS are violently fond:
and when part of these stones is fixed in the earth, as it
sometimes happens, they will dig with their claws for whole days
to get them out; then carry them away, and hide them by heaps in
their kennels; but still looking round with great caution, for
fear their comrades should find out their treasure." My master
said, "he could never discover the reason of this unnatural
appetite, or how these stones could be of any use to a YAHOO; but
now he believed it might proceed from the same principle of
avarice which I had ascribed to mankind. That he had once, by
way of experiment, privately removed a heap of these stones from
the place where one of his YAHOOS had buried it; whereupon the
sordid animal, missing his treasure, by his loud lamenting
brought the whole herd to the place, there miserably howled, then
fell to biting and tearing the rest, began to pine away, would
neither eat, nor sleep, nor work, till he ordered a servant
privately to convey the stones into the same hole, and hide them
as before; which, when his YAHOO had found, he presently
recovered his spirits and good humour, but took good care to
remove them to a better hiding place, and has ever since been a
very serviceable brute."
My master further assured me, which I also observed myself, "that
in the fields where the shining stones abound, the fiercest and
most frequent battles are fought, occasioned by perpetual inroads
of the neighbouring YAHOOS."
He said, "it was common, when two YAHOOS discovered such a stone
in a field, and were contending which of them should be the
proprietor, a third would take the advantage, and carry it away
from them both;" which my master would needs contend to have some
kind of resemblance with our suits at law; wherein I thought it
for our credit not to undeceive him; since the decision he
mentioned was much more equitable than many decrees among us;
because the plaintiff and defendant there lost nothing beside the
stone they contended for: whereas our courts of equity would
never have dismissed the cause, while either of them had any
thing left.
My master, continuing his discourse, said, "there was nothing
that rendered the YAHOOS more odious, than their undistinguishing
appetite to devour every thing that came in their way, whether
herbs, roots, berries, the corrupted flesh of animals, or all
mingled together: and it was peculiar in their temper, that they
were fonder of what they could get by rapine or stealth, at a
greater distance, than much better food provided for them at
home. If their prey held out, they would eat till they were ready
to burst; after which, nature had pointed out to them a certain
root that gave them a general evacuation.
"There was also another kind of root, very juicy, but somewhat
rare and difficult to be found, which the YAHOOS sought for with
much eagerness, and would suck it with great delight; it produced
in them the same effects that wine has upon us. It would make
them sometimes hug, and sometimes tear one another; they would
howl, and grin, and chatter, and reel, and tumble, and then fall
asleep in the mud."
I did indeed observe that the YAHOOS were the only animals in
this country subject to any diseases; which, however, were much
fewer than horses have among us, and contracted, not by any
ill-treatment they meet with, but by the nastiness and greediness
of that sordid brute. Neither has their language any more than a
general appellation for those maladies, which is borrowed from
the name of the beast, and called HNEA-YAHOO, or YAHOO'S EVIL;
and the cure prescribed is a mixture of their own dung and urine,
forcibly put down the YAHOO'S throat. This I have since often
known to have been taken with success, and do here freely
recommend it to my countrymen for the public good, as an
admirable specific against all diseases produced by repletion.
"As to learning, government, arts, manufactures, and the like,"
my master confessed, "he could find little or no resemblance
between the YAHOOS of that country and those in ours; for he only
meant to observe what parity there was in our natures. He had
heard, indeed, some curious HOUYHNHNMS observe, that in most
herds there was a sort of ruling YAHOO (as among us there is
generally some leading or principal stag in a park), who was
always more deformed in body, and mischievous in disposition,
than any of the rest; that this leader had usually a favourite as
like himself as he could get, whose employment was to lick his
master's feet and posteriors, and drive the female YAHOOS to his
kennel; for which he was now and then rewarded with a piece of
ass's flesh. This favourite is hated by the whole herd, and
therefore, to protect himself, keeps always near the person of
his leader. He usually continues in office till a worse can be
found; but the very moment he is discarded, his successor, at the
head of all the YAHOOS in that district, young and old, male and
female, come in a body, and discharge their excrements upon him
from head to foot. But how far this might be applicable to our
courts, and favourites, and ministers of state, my master said I
could best determine."
I durst make no return to this malicious insinuation, which
debased human understanding below the sagacity of a common hound,
who has judgment enough to distinguish and follow the cry of the
ablest dog in the pack, without being ever mistaken.
My master told me, "there were some qualities remarkable in the
YAHOOS, which he had not observed me to mention, or at least very
slightly, in the accounts I had given of humankind." He said,
"those animals, like other brutes, had their females in common;
but in this they differed, that the she YAHOO would admit the
males while she was pregnant; and that the hes would quarrel and
fight with the females, as fiercely as with each other; both
which practices were such degrees of infamous brutality, as no
other sensitive creature ever arrived at.
"Another thing he wondered at in the YAHOOS, was their strange
disposition to nastiness and dirt; whereas there appears to be a
natural love of cleanliness in all other animals." As to the two
former accusations, I was glad to let them pass without any
reply, because I had not a word to offer upon them in defence of
my species, which otherwise I certainly had done from my own
inclinations. But I could have easily vindicated humankind from
the imputation of singularity upon the last article, if there had
been any swine in that country (as unluckily for me there were
not), which, although it may be a sweeter quadruped than a YAHOO,
cannot, I humbly conceive, in justice, pretend to more
cleanliness; and so his honour himself must have owned, if he had
seen their filthy way of feeding, and their custom of wallowing
and sleeping in the mud.
My master likewise mentioned another quality which his servants
had discovered in several Yahoos, and to him was wholly
unaccountable. He said, "a fancy would sometimes take a YAHOO to
retire into a corner, to lie down, and howl, and groan, and spurn
away all that came near him, although he were young and fat,
wanted neither food nor water, nor did the servant imagine what
could possibly ail him. And the only remedy they found was, to
set him to hard work, after which he would infallibly come to
himself." To this I was silent out of partiality to my own kind;
yet here I could plainly discover the true seeds of spleen, which
only seizes on the lazy, the luxurious, and the rich; who, if
they were forced to undergo the same regimen, I would undertake
for the cure.
His honour had further observed, "that a female YAHOO would often
stand behind a bank or a bush, to gaze on the young males passing
by, and then appear, and hide, using many antic gestures and
grimaces, at which time it was observed that she had a most
offensive smell; and when any of the males advanced, would slowly
retire, looking often back, and with a counterfeit show of fear,
run off into some convenient place, where she knew the male would
follow her.
"At other times, if a female stranger came among them, three or
four of her own sex would get about her, and stare, and chatter,
and grin, and smell her all over; and then turn off with
gestures, that seemed to express contempt and disdain."
Perhaps my master might refine a little in these speculations,
which he had drawn from what he observed himself, or had been
told him by others; however, I could not reflect without some
amazement, and much sorrow, that the rudiments of lewdness,
coquetry, censure, and scandal, should have place by instinct in
I expected every moment that my master would accuse the YAHOOS of
those unnatural appetites in both sexes, so common among us. But
nature, it seems, has not been so expert a school-mistress; and
these politer pleasures are entirely the productions of art and
reason on our side of the globe.
[The author relates several particulars of the YAHOOS. The great
virtues of the HOUYHNHNMS. The education and exercise of their
youth. Their general assembly.]
As I ought to have understood human nature much better than I
supposed it possible for my master to do, so it was easy to apply
the character he gave of the YAHOOS to myself and my countrymen;
and I believed I could yet make further discoveries, from my own
observation. I therefore often begged his honour to let me go
among the herds of YAHOOS in the neighbourhood; to which he
always very graciously consented, being perfectly convinced that
the hatred I bore these brutes would never suffer me to be
corrupted by them; and his honour ordered one of his servants, a
strong sorrel nag, very honest and good-natured, to be my guard;
without whose protection I durst not undertake such adventures.
For I have already told the reader how much I was pestered by
these odious animals, upon my first arrival; and I afterwards
failed very narrowly, three or four times, of falling into their
clutches, when I happened to stray at any distance without my
hanger. And I have reason to believe they had some imagination
that I was of their own species, which I often assisted myself by
stripping up my sleeves, and showing my naked arms and breasts in
their sight, when my protector was with me. At which times they
would approach as near as they durst, and imitate my actions
after the manner of monkeys, but ever with great signs of hatred;
as a tame jackdaw with cap and stockings is always persecuted by
the wild ones, when he happens to be got among them.
They are prodigiously nimble from their infancy. However, I once
caught a young male of three years old, and endeavoured, by all
marks of tenderness, to make it quiet; but the little imp fell a
squalling, and scratching, and biting with such violence, that I
was forced to let it go; and it was high time, for a whole troop
of old ones came about us at the noise, but finding the cub was
safe (for away it ran), and my sorrel nag being by, they durst
not venture near us. I observed the young animal's flesh to
smell very rank, and the stink was somewhat between a weasel and
a fox, but much more disagreeable. I forgot another circumstance
(and perhaps I might have the reader's pardon if it were wholly
omitted), that while I held the odious vermin in my hands, it
voided its filthy excrements of a yellow liquid substance all
over my clothes; but by good fortune there was a small brook hard
by, where I washed myself as clean as I could; although I durst
not come into my master's presence until I were sufficiently
By what I could discover, the YAHOOS appear to be the most
unteachable of all animals: their capacity never reaching higher
than to draw or carry burdens. Yet I am of opinion, this defect
arises chiefly from a perverse, restive disposition; for they are
cunning, malicious, treacherous, and revengeful. They are strong
and hardy, but of a cowardly spirit, and, by consequence,
insolent, abject, and cruel. It is observed, that the red haired
of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest,
whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity.
The HOUYHNHNMS keep the YAHOOS for present use in huts not far
from the house; but the rest are sent abroad to certain fields,
where they dig up roots, eat several kinds of herbs, and search
about for carrion, or sometimes catch weasels and LUHIMUHS (a
sort of wild rat), which they greedily devour. Nature has taught
them to dig deep holes with their nails on the side of a rising
ground, wherein they lie by themselves; only the kennels of the
females are larger, sufficient to hold two or three cubs.
They swim from their infancy like frogs, and are able to continue
long under water, where they often take fish, which the females
carry home to their young. And, upon this occasion, I hope the
reader will pardon my relating an odd adventure.
Being one day abroad with my protector the sorrel nag, and the
weather exceeding hot, I entreated him to let me bathe in a river
that was near. He consented, and I immediately stripped myself
stark naked, and went down softly into the stream. It happened
that a young female YAHOO, standing behind a bank, saw the whole
proceeding, and inflamed by desire, as the nag and I conjectured,
came running with all speed, and leaped into the water, within
five yards of the place where I bathed. I was never in my life
so terribly frightened. The nag was grazing at some distance,
not suspecting any harm. She embraced me after a most fulsome
manner. I roared as loud as I could, and the nag came galloping
towards me, whereupon she quitted her grasp, with the utmost
reluctancy, and leaped upon the opposite bank, where she stood
gazing and howling all the time I was putting on my clothes.
This was a matter of diversion to my master and his family, as
well as of mortification to myself. For now I could no longer
deny that I was a real YAHOO in every limb and feature, since the
females had a natural propensity to me, as one of their own
species. Neither was the hair of this brute of a red colour
(which might have been some excuse for an appetite a little
irregular), but black as a sloe, and her countenance did not make
an appearance altogether so hideous as the rest of her kind; for
I think she could not be above eleven years old.
Having lived three years in this country, the reader, I suppose,
will expect that I should, like other travellers, give him some
account of the manners and customs of its inhabitants, which it
was indeed my principal study to learn.
As these noble HOUYHNHNMS are endowed by nature with a general
disposition to all virtues, and have no conceptions or ideas of
what is evil in a rational creature, so their grand maxim is, to
cultivate reason, and to be wholly governed by it. Neither is
reason among them a point problematical, as with us, where men
can argue with plausibility on both sides of the question, but
strikes you with immediate conviction; as it must needs do, where
it is not mingled, obscured, or discoloured, by passion and
interest. I remember it was with extreme difficulty that I could
bring my master to understand the meaning of the word opinion, or
how a point could be disputable; because reason taught us to
affirm or deny only where we are certain; and beyond our
knowledge we cannot do either. So that controversies,
wranglings, disputes, and positiveness, in false or dubious
propositions, are evils unknown among the HOUYHNHNMS. In the
like manner, when I used to explain to him our several systems of
natural philosophy, he would laugh, "that a creature pretending
to reason, should value itself upon the knowledge of other
people's conjectures, and in things where that knowledge, if it
were certain, could be of no use." Wherein he agreed entirely
with the sentiments of Socrates, as Plato delivers them; which I
mention as the highest honour I can do that prince of
philosophers -I have often since reflected, what destruction such
doctrine would make in the libraries of Europe; and how many
paths of fame would be then shut up in the learned world.
Friendship and benevolence are the two principal virtues among
the HOUYHNHNMS; and these not confined to particular objects, but
universal to the whole race; for a stranger from the remotest
part is equally treated with the nearest neighbour, and wherever
he goes, looks upon himself as at home. They preserve decency
and civility in the highest degrees, but are altogether ignorant
of ceremony. They have no fondness for their colts or foals, but
the care they take in educating them proceeds entirely from the
dictates of reason. And I observed my master to show the same
affection to his neighbour's issue, that he had for his own.
They will have it that nature teaches them to love the whole
species, and it is reason only that makes a distinction of
persons, where there is a superior degree of virtue.
When the matron HOUYHNHNMS have produced one of each sex, they no
longer accompany with their consorts, except they lose one of
their issue by some casualty, which very seldom happens; but in
such a case they meet again; or when the like accident befalls a
person whose wife is past bearing, some other couple bestow on
him one of their own colts, and then go together again until the
mother is pregnant. This caution is necessary, to prevent the
country from being overburdened with numbers. But the race of
inferior HOUYHNHNMS, bred up to be servants, is not so strictly
limited upon this article: these are allowed to produce three of
each sex, to be domestics in the noble families.
In their marriages, they are exactly careful to choose such
colours as will not make any disagreeable mixture in the breed.
Strength is chiefly valued in the male, and comeliness in the
female; not upon the account of love, but to preserve the race
from degenerating; for where a female happens to excel in
strength, a consort is chosen, with regard to comeliness.
Courtship, love, presents, jointures, settlements have no place
in their thoughts, or terms whereby to express them in their
language. The young couple meet, and are joined, merely because
it is the determination of their parents and friends; it is what
they see done every day, and they look upon it as one of the
necessary actions of a reasonable being. But the violation of
marriage, or any other unchastity, was never heard of; and the
married pair pass their lives with the same friendship and mutual
benevolence, that they bear to all others of the same species who
come in their way, without jealousy, fondness, quarrelling, or
In educating the youth of both sexes, their method is admirable,
and highly deserves our imitation. These are not suffered to
taste a grain of oats, except upon certain days, till eighteen
years old; nor milk, but very rarely; and in summer they graze
two hours in the morning, and as many in the evening, which their
parents likewise observe; but the servants are not allowed above
half that time, and a great part of their grass is brought home,
which they eat at the most convenient hours, when they can be
best spared from work.
Temperance, industry, exercise, and cleanliness, are the lessons
equally enjoined to the young ones of both sexes: and my master
thought it monstrous in us, to give the females a different kind
of education from the males, except in some articles of domestic
management; whereby, as he truly observed, one half of our
natives were good for nothing but bringing children into the
world; and to trust the care of our children to such useless
animals, he said, was yet a greater instance of brutality.
But the HOUYHNHNMS train up their youth to strength, speed, and
hardiness, by exercising them in running races up and down steep
hills, and over hard stony grounds; and when they are all in a
sweat, they are ordered to leap over head and ears into a pond or
river. Four times a year the youth of a certain district meet to
show their proficiency in running and leaping, and other feats of
strength and agility; where the victor is rewarded with a song in
his or her praise. On this festival, the servants drive a herd
of YAHOOS into the field, laden with hay, and oats, and milk, for
a repast to the HOUYHNHNMS; after which, these brutes are
immediately driven back again, for fear of being noisome to the
Every fourth year, at the vernal equinox, there is a
representative council of the whole nation, which meets in a
plain about twenty miles from our house, and continues about five
or six days. Here they inquire into the state and condition of
the several districts; whether they abound or be deficient in hay
or oats, or cows, or YAHOOS; and wherever there is any want
(which is but seldom) it is immediately supplied by unanimous
consent and contribution. Here likewise the regulation of
children is settled: as for instance, if a HOUYHNHNM has two
males, he changes one of them with another that has two females;
and when a child has been lost by any casualty, where the mother
is past breeding, it is determined what family in the district
shall breed another to supply the loss.
[A grand debate at the general assembly of the HOUYHNHNMS, and
how it was determined. The learning of the HOUYHNHNMS. Their
buildings. Their manner of burials. The defectiveness of their
One of these grand assemblies was held in my time, about three
months before my departure, whither my master went as the
representative of our district. In this council was resumed
their old debate, and indeed the only debate that ever happened
in their country; whereof my master, after his return, give me a
very particular account.
The question to be debated was, "whether the YAHOOS should be
exterminated from the face of the earth?" One of the members for
the affirmative offered several arguments of great strength and
weight, alleging, "that as the YAHOOS were the most filthy,
noisome, and deformed animals which nature ever produced, so they
were the most restive and indocible, mischievous and malicious;
they would privately suck the teats of the HOUYHNHNMS' cows, kill
and devour their cats, trample down their oats and grass, if they
were not continually watched, and commit a thousand other
extravagancies." He took notice of a general tradition, "that
YAHOOS had not been always in their country; but that many ages
ago, two of these brutes appeared together upon a mountain;
whether produced by the heat of the sun upon corrupted mud and
slime, or from the ooze and froth of the sea, was never known;
that these YAHOOS engendered, and their brood, in a short time,
grew so numerous as to overrun and infest the whole nation; that
the HOUYHNHNMS, to get rid of this evil, made a general hunting,
and at last enclosed the whole herd; and destroying the elder,
every HOUYHNHNM kept two young ones in a kennel, and brought them
to such a degree of tameness, as an animal, so savage by nature,
can be capable of acquiring, using them for draught and carriage;
that there seemed to be much truth in this tradition, and that
those creatures could not be YINHNIAMSHY (or ABORIGINES of the
land), because of the violent hatred the HOUYHNHNMS, as well as
all other animals, bore them, which, although their evil
disposition sufficiently deserved, could never have arrived at so
high a degree if they had been ABORIGINES, or else they would
have long since been rooted out; that the inhabitants, taking a
fancy to use the service of the YAHOOS, had, very imprudently,
neglected to cultivate the breed of asses, which are a comely
animal, easily kept, more tame and orderly, without any offensive
smell, strong enough for labour, although they yield to the other
in agility of body, and if their braying be no agreeable sound,
it is far preferable to the horrible howlings of the YAHOOS."
Several others declared their sentiments to the same purpose,
when my master proposed an expedient to the assembly, whereof he
had indeed borrowed the hint from me. "He approved of the
tradition mentioned by the honourable member who spoke before,
and affirmed, that the two YAHOOS said to be seen first among
them, had been driven thither over the sea; that coming to land,
and being forsaken by their companions, they retired to the
mountains, and degenerating by degrees, became in process of time
much more savage than those of their own species in the country
whence these two originals came. The reason of this assertion
was, that he had now in his possession a certain wonderful YAHOO
(meaning myself) which most of them had heard of, and many of
them had seen. He then related to them how he first found me;
that my body was all covered with an artificial composure of the
skins and hairs of other animals; that I spoke in a language of
my own, and had thoroughly learned theirs; that I had related to
him the accidents which brought me thither; that when he saw me
without my covering, I was an exact YAHOO in every part, only of
a whiter colour, less hairy, and with shorter claws. He added,
how I had endeavoured to persuade him, that in my own and other
countries, the YAHOOS acted as the governing, rational animal,
and held the HOUYHNHNMS in servitude; that he observed in me all
the qualities of a YAHOO, only a little more civilized by some
tincture of reason, which, however, was in a degree as far
inferior to the HOUYHNHNM race, as the YAHOOS of their country
were to me; that, among other things, I mentioned a custom we had
of castrating HOUYHNHNMS when they were young, in order to render
them tame; that the operation was easy and safe; that it was no
shame to learn wisdom from brutes, as industry is taught by the
ant, and building by the swallow (for so I translate the word
LYHANNH, although it be a much larger fowl); that this invention
might be practised upon the younger YAHOOS here, which besides
rendering them tractable and fitter for use, would in an age put
an end to the whole species, without destroying life; that in the
mean time the HOUYHNHNMS should be exhorted to cultivate the
breed of asses, which, as they are in all respects more valuable
brutes, so they have this advantage, to be fit for service at
five years old, which the others are not till twelve."
This was all my master thought fit to tell me, at that time, of
what passed in the grand council. But he was pleased to conceal
one particular, which related personally to myself, whereof I
soon felt the unhappy effect, as the reader will know in its
proper place, and whence I date all the succeeding misfortunes of
my life.
The HOUYHNHNMS have no letters, and consequently their knowledge
is all traditional. But there happening few events of any moment
among a people so well united, naturally disposed to every
virtue, wholly governed by reason, and cut off from all commerce
with other nations, the historical part is easily preserved
without burdening their memories. I have already observed that
they are subject to no diseases, and therefore can have no need
of physicians. However, they have excellent medicines, composed
of herbs, to cure accidental bruises and cuts in the pastern or
frog of the foot, by sharp stones, as well as other maims and
hurts in the several parts of the body.
They calculate the year by the revolution of the sun and moon,
but use no subdivisions into weeks. They are well enough
acquainted with the motions of those two luminaries, and
understand the nature of eclipses; and this is the utmost
progress of their astronomy.
In poetry, they must be allowed to excel all other mortals;
wherein the justness of their similes, and the minuteness as well
as exactness of their descriptions, are indeed inimitable. Their
verses abound very much in both of these, and usually contain
either some exalted notions of friendship and benevolence or the
praises of those who were victors in races and other bodily
exercises. Their buildings, although very rude and simple, are
not inconvenient, but well contrived to defend them from all
injuries of and heat. They have a kind of tree, which at forty
years old loosens in the root, and falls with the first storm:
it grows very straight, and being pointed like stakes with a
sharp stone (for the HOUYHNHNMS know not the use of iron), they
stick them erect in the ground, about ten inches asunder, and
then weave in oat straw, or sometimes wattles, between them. The
roof is made after the same manner, and so are the doors.
The HOUYHNHNMS use the hollow part, between the pastern and the
hoof of their fore-foot, as we do our hands, and this with
greater dexterity than I could at first imagine. I have seen a
white mare of our family thread a needle (which I lent her on
purpose) with that joint. They milk their cows, reap their oats,
and do all the work which requires hands, in the same manner.
They have a kind of hard flints, which, by grinding against other
stones, they form into instruments, that serve instead of wedges,
axes, and hammers. With tools made of these flints, they likewise
cut their hay, and reap their oats, which there grow naturally in
several fields; the YAHOOS draw home the sheaves in carriages,
and the servants tread them in certain covered huts to get out
the grain, which is kept in stores. They make a rude kind of
earthen and wooden vessels, and bake the former in the sun.
If they can avoid casualties, they die only of old age, and are
buried in the obscurest places that can be found, their friends
and relations expressing neither joy nor grief at their
departure; nor does the dying person discover the least regret
that he is leaving the world, any more than if he were upon
returning home from a visit to one of his neighbours. I remember
my master having once made an appointment with a friend and his
family to come to his house, upon some affair of importance: on
the day fixed, the mistress and her two children came very late;
she made two excuses, first for her husband, who, as she said,
happened that very morning to SHNUWNH. The word is strongly
expressive in their language, but not easily rendered into
English; it signifies, "to retire to his first mother." Her
excuse for not coming sooner, was, that her husband dying late in
the morning, she was a good while consulting her servants about a
convenient place where his body should be laid; and I observed,
she behaved herself at our house as cheerfully as the rest. She
died about three months after.
They live generally to seventy, or seventy-five years, very
seldom to fourscore. Some weeks before their death, they feel a
gradual decay; but without pain. During this time they are much
visited by their friends, because they cannot go abroad with
their usual ease and satisfaction. However, about ten days
before their death, which they seldom fail in computing, they
return the visits that have been made them by those who are
nearest in the neighbourhood, being carried in a convenient
sledge drawn by YAHOOS; which vehicle they use, not only upon
this occasion, but when they grow old, upon long journeys, or
when they are lamed by any accident: and therefore when the
dying HOUYHNHNMS return those visits, they take a solemn leave of
their friends, as if they were going to some remote part of the
country, where they designed to pass the rest of their lives.
I know not whether it may be worth observing, that the HOUYHNHNMS
have no word in their language to express any thing that is evil,
except what they borrow from the deformities or ill qualities of
the YAHOOS. Thus they denote the folly of a servant, an omission
of a child, a stone that cuts their feet, a continuance of foul
or unseasonable weather, and the like, by adding to each the
epithet of YAHOO. For instance, HHNM YAHOO; WHNAHOLM YAHOO,
I could, with great pleasure, enlarge further upon the manners
and virtues of this excellent people; but intending in a short
time to publish a volume by itself, expressly upon that subject,
I refer the reader thither; and, in the mean time, proceed to
relate my own sad catastrophe.
[The author's economy, and happy life, among the Houyhnhnms. His
great improvement in virtue by conversing with them. Their
conversations. The author has notice given him by his master,
that he must depart from the country. He falls into a swoon for
grief; but submits. He contrives and finishes a canoe by the
help of a fellow-servant, and puts to sea at a venture.]
I had settled my little economy to my own heart's content. My
master had ordered a room to be made for me, after their manner,
about six yards from the house: the sides and floors of which I
plastered with clay, and covered with rush-mats of my own
contriving. I had beaten hemp, which there grows wild, and made
of it a sort of ticking; this I filled with the feathers of
several birds I had taken with springes made of YAHOOS' hairs,
and were excellent food. I had worked two chairs with my knife,
the sorrel nag helping me in the grosser and more laborious part.
When my clothes were worn to rags, I made myself others with the
skins of rabbits, and of a certain beautiful animal, about the
same size, called NNUHNOH, the skin of which is covered with a
fine down. Of these I also made very tolerable stockings. I
soled my shoes with wood, which I cut from a tree, and fitted to
the upper-leather; and when this was worn out, I supplied it with
the skins of YAHOOS dried in the sun. I often got honey out of
hollow trees, which I mingled with water, or ate with my bread.
No man could more verify the truth of these two maxims, "That
nature is very easily satisfied;" and, "That necessity is the
mother of invention." I enjoyed perfect health of body, and
tranquillity of mind; I did not feel the treachery or inconstancy
of a friend, nor the injuries of a secret or open enemy. I had
no occasion of bribing, flattering, or pimping, to procure the
favour of any great man, or of his minion; I wanted no fence
against fraud or oppression: here was neither physician to
destroy my body, nor lawyer to ruin my fortune; no informer to
watch my words and actions, or forge accusations against me for
hire: here were no gibers, censurers, backbiters, pickpockets,
highwaymen, housebreakers, attorneys, bawds, buffoons, gamesters,
politicians, wits, splenetics, tedious talkers, controvertists,
ravishers, murderers, robbers, virtuosos; no leaders, or
followers, of party and faction; no encouragers to vice, by
seducement or examples; no dungeon, axes, gibbets,
whipping-posts, or pillories; no cheating shopkeepers or
mechanics; no pride, vanity, or affectation; no fops, bullies,
drunkards, strolling whores, or poxes; no ranting, lewd,
expensive wives; no stupid, proud pedants; no importunate,
overbearing, quarrelsome, noisy, roaring, empty, conceited,
swearing companions; no scoundrels raised from the dust upon the
merit of their vices, or nobility thrown into it on account of
their virtues; no lords, fiddlers, judges, or dancing-masters.
I had the favour of being admitted to several HOUYHNHNMS, who
came to visit or dine with my master; where his honour graciously
suffered me to wait in the room, and listen to their discourse.
Both he and his company would often descend to ask me questions,
and receive my answers. I had also sometimes the honour of
attending my master in his visits to others. I never presumed to
speak, except in answer to a question; and then I did it with
inward regret, because it was a loss of so much time for
improving myself; but I was infinitely delighted with the station
of an humble auditor in such conversations, where nothing passed
but what was useful, expressed in the fewest and most significant
words; where, as I have already said, the greatest decency was
observed, without the least degree of ceremony; where no person
spoke without being pleased himself, and pleasing his companions;
where there was no interruption, tediousness, heat, or difference
of sentiments. They have a notion, that when people are met
together, a short silence does much improve conversation: this I
found to be true; for during those little intermissions of talk,
new ideas would arise in their minds, which very much enlivened
the discourse. Their subjects are, generally on friendship and
benevolence, on order and economy; sometimes upon the visible
operations of nature, or ancient traditions; upon the bounds and
limits of virtue; upon the unerring rules of reason, or upon some
determinations to be taken at the next great assembly: and often
upon the various excellences of poetry. I may add, without
vanity, that my presence often gave them sufficient matter for
discourse, because it afforded my master an occasion of letting
his friends into the history of me and my country, upon which
they were all pleased to descant, in a manner not very
advantageous to humankind: and for that reason I shall not
repeat what they said; only I may be allowed to observe, that his
honour, to my great admiration, appeared to understand the nature
of YAHOOS much better than myself. He went through all our vices
and follies, and discovered many, which I had never mentioned to
him, by only supposing what qualities a YAHOO of their country,
with a small proportion of reason, might be capable of exerting;
and concluded, with too much probability, "how vile, as well as
miserable, such a creature must be."
I freely confess, that all the little knowledge I have of any
value, was acquired by the lectures I received from my master,
and from hearing the discourses of him and his friends; to which
I should be prouder to listen, than to dictate to the greatest
and wisest assembly in Europe. I admired the strength,
comeliness, and speed of the inhabitants; and such a
constellation of virtues, in such amiable persons, produced in me
the highest veneration. At first, indeed, I did not feel that
natural awe, which the YAHOOS and all other animals bear toward
them; but it grew upon me by decrees, much sooner than I
imagined, and was mingled with a respectful love and gratitude,
that they would condescend to distinguish me from the rest of my
When I thought of my family, my friends, my countrymen, or the
human race in general, I considered them, as they really were,
YAHOOS in shape and disposition, perhaps a little more civilized,
and qualified with the gift of speech; but making no other use of
reason, than to improve and multiply those vices whereof their
brethren in this country had only the share that nature allotted
them. When I happened to behold the reflection of my own form in
a lake or fountain, I turned away my face in horror and
detestation of myself, and could better endure the sight of a
common YAHOO than of my own person. By conversing with the
HOUYHNHNMS, and looking upon them with delight, I fell to imitate
their gait and gesture, which is now grown into a habit; and my
friends often tell me, in a blunt way, "that I trot like a
horse;" which, however, I take for a great compliment. Neither
shall I disown, that in speaking I am apt to fall into the voice
and manner of the HOUYHNHNMS, and hear myself ridiculed on that
account, without the least mortification.
In the midst of all this happiness, and when I looked upon myself
to be fully settled for life, my master sent for me one morning a
little earlier than his usual hour. I observed by his
countenance that he was in some perplexity, and at a loss how to
begin what he had to speak. After a short silence, he told me,
"he did not know how I would take what he was going to say: that
in the last general assembly, when the affair of the YAHOOS was
entered upon, the representatives had taken offence at his
keeping a YAHOO (meaning myself) in his family, more like a
HOUYHNHNM than a brute animal; that he was known frequently to
converse with me, as if he could receive some advantage or
pleasure in my company; that such a practice was not agreeable to
reason or nature, or a thing ever heard of before among them; the
assembly did therefore exhort him either to employ me like the
rest of my species, or command me to swim back to the place
whence I came: that the first of these expedients was utterly
rejected by all the HOUYHNHNMS who had ever seen me at his house
or their own; for they alleged, that because I had some rudiments
of reason, added to the natural pravity of those animals, it was
to be feared I might be able to seduce them into the woody and
mountainous parts of the country, and bring them in troops by
night to destroy the HOUYHNHNMS' cattle, as being naturally of
the ravenous kind, and averse from labour."
My master added, "that he was daily pressed by the HOUYHNHNMS of
the neighbourhood to have the assembly's exhortation executed,
which he could not put off much longer. He doubted it would be
impossible for me to swim to another country; and therefore
wished I would contrive some sort of vehicle, resembling those I
had described to him, that might carry me on the sea; in which
work I should have the assistance of his own servants, as well as
those of his neighbours." He concluded, "that for his own part,
he could have been content to keep me in his service as long as I
lived; because he found I had cured myself of some bad habits and
dispositions, by endeavouring, as far as my inferior nature was
capable, to imitate the HOUYHNHNMS."
I should here observe to the reader, that a decree of the general
assembly in this country is expressed by the word HNHLOAYN, which
signifies an exhortation, as near as I can render it; for they
have no conception how a rational creature can be compelled, but
only advised, or exhorted; because no person can disobey reason,
without giving up his claim to be a rational creature.
I was struck with the utmost grief and despair at my master's
discourse; and being unable to support the agonies I was under, I
fell into a swoon at his feet. When I came to myself, he told me
"that he concluded I had been dead;" for these people are subject
to no such imbecilities of nature. I answered in a faint voice,
"that death would have been too great a happiness; that although
I could not blame the assembly's exhortation, or the urgency of
his friends; yet, in my weak and corrupt judgment, I thought it
might consist with reason to have been less rigorous; that I
could not swim a league, and probably the nearest land to theirs
might be distant above a hundred: that many materials, necessary
for making a small vessel to carry me off, were wholly wanting in
this country; which, however, I would attempt, in obedience and
gratitude to his honour, although I concluded the thing to be
impossible, and therefore looked on myself as already devoted to
destruction; that the certain prospect of an unnatural death was
the least of my evils; for, supposing I should escape with life
by some strange adventure, how could I think with temper of
passing my days among YAHOOS, and relapsing into my old
corruptions, for want of examples to lead and keep me within the
paths of virtue? that I knew too well upon what solid reasons all
the determinations of the wise HOUYHNHNMS were founded, not to be
shaken by arguments of mine, a miserable YAHOO; and therefore,
after presenting him with my humble thanks for the offer of his
servants' assistance in making a vessel, and desiring a
reasonable time for so difficult a work, I told him I would
endeavour to preserve a wretched being; and if ever I returned to
England, was not without hopes of being useful to my own species,
by celebrating the praises of the renowned HOUYHNHNMS, and
proposing their virtues to the imitation of mankind."
My master, in a few words, made me a very gracious reply; allowed
me the space of two months to finish my boat; and ordered the
sorrel nag, my fellow-servant (for so, at this distance, I may
presume to call him), to follow my instruction; because I told my
master, "that his help would be sufficient, and I knew he had a
tenderness for me."
In his company, my first business was to go to that part of the
coast where my rebellious crew had ordered me to be set on shore.
I got upon a height, and looking on every side into the sea;
fancied I saw a small island toward the north-east. I took out
my pocket glass, and could then clearly distinguish it above five
leagues off, as I computed; but it appeared to the sorrel nag to
be only a blue cloud: for as he had no conception of any country
beside his own, so he could not be as expert in distinguishing
remote objects at sea, as we who so much converse in that
After I had discovered this island, I considered no further; but
resolved it should if possible, be the first place of my
banishment, leaving the consequence to fortune.
I returned home, and consulting with the sorrel nag, we went into
a copse at some distance, where I with my knife, and he with a
sharp flint, fastened very artificially after their manner, to a
wooden handle, cut down several oak wattles, about the thickness
of a walking-staff, and some larger pieces. But I shall not
trouble the reader with a particular description of my own
mechanics; let it suffice to say, that in six weeks time with the
help of the sorrel nag, who performed the parts that required
most labour, I finished a sort of Indian canoe, but much larger,
covering it with the skins of YAHOOS, well stitched together with
hempen threads of my own making. My sail was likewise composed
of the skins of the same animal; but I made use of the youngest I
could get, the older being too tough and thick; and I likewise
provided myself with four paddles. I laid in a stock of boiled
flesh, of rabbits and fowls, and took with me two vessels, one
filled with milk and the other with water.
I tried my canoe in a large pond, near my master's house, and
then corrected in it what was amiss; stopping all the chinks with
YAHOOS' tallow, till I found it staunch, and able to bear me and
my freight; and, when it was as complete as I could possibly make
it, I had it drawn on a carriage very gently by YAHOOS to the
sea-side, under the conduct of the sorrel nag and another
When all was ready, and the day came for my departure, I took
leave of my master and lady and the whole family, my eyes flowing
with tears, and my heart quite sunk with grief. But his honour,
out of curiosity, and, perhaps, (if I may speak without vanity,)
partly out of kindness, was determined to see me in my canoe, and
got several of his neighbouring friends to accompany him. I was
forced to wait above an hour for the tide; and then observing the
wind very fortunately bearing toward the island to which I
intended to steer my course, I took a second leave of my master:
but as I was going to prostrate myself to kiss his hoof, he did
me the honour to raise it gently to my mouth. I am not ignorant
how much I have been censured for mentioning this last
particular. Detractors are pleased to think it improbable, that
so illustrious a person should descend to give so great a mark of
distinction to a creature so inferior as I. Neither have I
forgotten how apt some travellers are to boast of extraordinary
favours they have received. But, if these censurers were better
acquainted with the noble and courteous disposition of the
HOUYHNHNMS, they would soon change their opinion.
I paid my respects to the rest of the HOUYHNHNMS in his honour's
company; then getting into my canoe, I pushed off from shore.
[The author's dangerous voyage. He arrives at New Holland,
hoping to settle there. Is wounded with an arrow by one of the
natives. Is seized and carried by force into a Portuguese ship.
The great civilities of the captain. The author arrives at
I began this desperate voyage on February 15, 1714-15, at nine
o'clock in the morning. The wind was very favourable; however, I
made use at first only of my paddles; but considering I should
soon be weary, and that the wind might chop about, I ventured to
set up my little sail; and thus, with the help of the tide, I
went at the rate of a league and a half an hour, as near as I
could guess. My master and his friends continued on the shore
till I was almost out of sight; and I often heard the sorrel nag
(who always loved me) crying out, "HNUY ILLA NYHA, MAJAH YAHOO;"
"Take care of thyself, gentle YAHOO."
My design was, if possible, to discover some small island
uninhabited, yet sufficient, by my labour, to furnish me with the
necessaries of life, which I would have thought a greater
happiness, than to be first minister in the politest court of
Europe; so horrible was the idea I conceived of returning to live
in the society, and under the government of YAHOOS. For in such
a solitude as I desired, I could at least enjoy my own thoughts,
and reflect with delight on the virtues of those inimitable
HOUYHNHNMS, without an opportunity of degenerating into the vices
and corruptions of my own species.
The reader may remember what I related, when my crew conspired
against me, and confined me to my cabin; how I continued there
several weeks without knowing what course we took; and when I was
put ashore in the long-boat, how the sailors told me, with oaths,
whether true or false, "that they knew not in what part of the
world we were." However, I did then believe us to be about 10
degrees southward of the Cape of Good Hope, or about 45 degrees
southern latitude, as I gathered from some general words I
overheard among them, being I supposed to the south-east in their
intended voyage to Madagascar. And although this were little
better than conjecture, yet I resolved to steer my course
eastward, hoping to reach the south-west coast of New Holland,
and perhaps some such island as I desired lying westward of it.
The wind was full west, and by six in the evening I computed I
had gone eastward at least eighteen leagues; when I spied a very
small island about half a league off, which I soon reached. It
was nothing but a rock, with one creek naturally arched by the
force of tempests. Here I put in my canoe, and climbing a part of
the rock, I could plainly discover land to the east, extending
from south to north. I lay all night in my canoe; and repeating
my voyage early in the morning, I arrived in seven hours to the
south-east point of New Holland. This confirmed me in the
opinion I have long entertained, that the maps and charts place
this country at least three degrees more to the east than it
really is; which thought I communicated many years ago to my
worthy friend, Mr. Herman Moll, and gave him my reasons for it,
although he has rather chosen to follow other authors.
I saw no inhabitants in the place where I landed, and being
unarmed, I was afraid of venturing far into the country. I found
some shellfish on the shore, and ate them raw, not daring to
kindle a fire, for fear of being discovered by the natives. I
continued three days feeding on oysters and limpets, to save my
own provisions; and I fortunately found a brook of excellent
water, which gave me great relief.
On the fourth day, venturing out early a little too far, I saw
twenty or thirty natives upon a height not above five hundred
yards from me. They were stark naked, men, women, and children,
round a fire, as I could discover by the smoke. One of them
spied me, and gave notice to the rest; five of them advanced
toward me, leaving the women and children at the fire. I made
what haste I could to the shore, and, getting into my canoe,
shoved off: the savages, observing me retreat, ran after me:
and before I could get far enough into the sea, discharged an
arrow which wounded me deeply on the inside of my left knee: I
shall carry the mark to my grave. I apprehended the arrow might
be poisoned, and paddling out of the reach of their darts (being
a calm day), I made a shift to suck the wound, and dress it as
well as I could.
I was at a loss what to do, for I durst not return to the same
landing-place, but stood to the north, and was forced to paddle,
for the wind, though very gentle, was against me, blowing
north-west. As I was looking about for a secure landing-place, I
saw a sail to the north-north-east, which appearing every minute
more visible, I was in some doubt whether I should wait for them
or not; but at last my detestation of the YAHOO race prevailed:
and turning my canoe, I sailed and paddled together to the south,
and got into the same creek whence I set out in the morning,
choosing rather to trust myself among these barbarians, than live
with European YAHOOS. I drew up my canoe as close as I could to
the shore, and hid myself behind a stone by the little brook,
which, as I have already said, was excellent water.
The ship came within half a league of this creek, and sent her
long boat with vessels to take in fresh water (for the place, it
seems, was very well known); but I did not observe it, till the
boat was almost on shore; and it was too late to seek another
hiding-place. The seamen at their landing observed my canoe, and
rummaging it all over, easily conjectured that the owner could
not be far off. Four of them, well armed, searched every cranny
and lurking-hole, till at last they found me flat on my face
behind the stone. They gazed awhile in admiration at my strange
uncouth dress; my coat made of skins, my wooden-soled shoes, and
my furred stockings; whence, however, they concluded, I was not a
native of the place, who all go naked. One of the seamen, in
Portuguese, bid me rise, and asked who I was. I understood that
language very well, and getting upon my feet, said, "I was a poor
YAHOO banished from the HOUYHNHNMS, and desired they would please
to let me depart." They admired to hear me answer them in their
own tongue, and saw by my complexion I must be a European; but
were at a loss to know what I meant by YAHOOS and HOUYHNHNMS; and
at the same time fell a-laughing at my strange tone in speaking,
which resembled the neighing of a horse. I trembled all the while
betwixt fear and hatred. I again desired leave to depart, and
was gently moving to my canoe; but they laid hold of me, desiring
to know, "what country I was of? whence I came?" with many other
questions. I told them "I was born in England, whence I came
about five years ago, and then their country and ours were at
peace. I therefore hoped they would not treat me as an enemy,
since I meant them no harm, but was a poor YAHOO seeking some
desolate place where to pass the remainder of his unfortunate
When they began to talk, I thought I never heard or saw any thing
more unnatural; for it appeared to me as monstrous as if a dog or
a cow should speak in England, or a YAHOO in HOUYHNHNMLAND. The
honest Portuguese were equally amazed at my strange dress, and
the odd manner of delivering my words, which, however, they
understood very well. They spoke to me with great humanity, and
said, "they were sure the captain would carry me GRATIS to
Lisbon, whence I might return to my own country; that two of the
seamen would go back to the ship, inform the captain of what they
had seen, and receive his orders; in the mean time, unless I
would give my solemn oath not to fly, they would secure me by
force. I thought it best to comply with their proposal. They
were very curious to know my story, but I gave them very little
satisfaction, and they all conjectured that my misfortunes had
impaired my reason. In two hours the boat, which went laden with
vessels of water, returned, with the captain's command to fetch
me on board. I fell on my knees to preserve my liberty; but all
was in vain; and the men, having tied me with cords, heaved me
into the boat, whence I was taken into the ship, and thence into
the captain's cabin.
His name was Pedro de Mendez; he was a very courteous and
generous person. He entreated me to give some account of myself,
and desired to know what I would eat or drink; said, "I should be
used as well as himself;" and spoke so many obliging things, that
I wondered to find such civilities from a YAHOO. However, I
remained silent and sullen; I was ready to faint at the very
smell of him and his men. At last I desired something to eat out
of my own canoe; but he ordered me a chicken, and some excellent
wine, and then directed that I should be put to bed in a very
clean cabin. I would not undress myself, but lay on the
bed-clothes, and in half an hour stole out, when I thought the
crew was at dinner, and getting to the side of the ship, was
going to leap into the sea, and swim for my life, rather than
continue among YAHOOS. But one of the seamen prevented me, and
having informed the captain, I was chained to my cabin.
After dinner, Don Pedro came to me, and desired to know my reason
for so desperate an attempt; assured me, "he only meant to do me
all the service he was able;" and spoke so very movingly, that at
last I descended to treat him like an animal which had some
little portion of reason. I gave him a very short relation of my
voyage; of the conspiracy against me by my own men; of the
country where they set me on shore, and of my five years
residence there. All which he looked upon as if it were a dream
or a vision; whereat I took great offence; for I had quite forgot
the faculty of lying, so peculiar to YAHOOS, in all countries
where they preside, and, consequently, their disposition of
suspecting truth in others of their own species. I asked him,
"whether it were the custom in his country to say the thing which
was not?" I assured him, "I had almost forgot what he meant by
falsehood, and if I had lived a thousand years in HOUYHNHNMLAND,
I should never have heard a lie from the meanest servant; that I
was altogether indifferent whether he believed me or not; but,
however, in return for his favours, I would give so much
allowance to the corruption of his nature, as to answer any
objection he would please to make, and then he might easily
discover the truth."
The captain, a wise man, after many endeavours to catch me
tripping in some part of my story, at last began to have a better
opinion of my veracity. But he added, "that since I professed so
inviolable an attachment to truth, I must give him my word and
honour to bear him company in this voyage, without attempting any
thing against my life; or else he would continue me a prisoner
till we arrived at Lisbon." I gave him the promise he required;
but at the same time protested, "that I would suffer the greatest
hardships, rather than return to live among YAHOOS."
Our voyage passed without any considerable accident. In
gratitude to the captain, I sometimes sat with him, at his
earnest request, and strove to conceal my antipathy against human
kind, although it often broke out; which he suffered to pass
without observation. But the greatest part of the day I confined
myself to my cabin, to avoid seeing any of the crew. The captain
had often entreated me to strip myself of my savage dress, and
offered to lend me the best suit of clothes he had. This I would
not be prevailed on to accept, abhorring to cover myself with any
thing that had been on the back of a YAHOO. I only desired he
would lend me two clean shirts, which, having been washed since
he wore them, I believed would not so much defile me. These I
changed every second day, and washed them myself.
We arrived at Lisbon, Nov. 5, 1715. At our landing, the captain
forced me to cover myself with his cloak, to prevent the rabble
from crowding about me. I was conveyed to his own house; and at
my earnest request he led me up to the highest room backwards. I
conjured him "to conceal from all persons what I had told him of
the HOUYHNHNMS; because the least hint of such a story would not
only draw numbers of people to see me, but probably put me in
danger of being imprisoned, or burnt by the Inquisition." The
captain persuaded me to accept a suit of clothes newly made; but
I would not suffer the tailor to take my measure; however, Don
Pedro being almost of my size, they fitted me well enough. He
accoutred me with other necessaries, all new, which I aired for
twenty-four hours before I would use them.
The captain had no wife, nor above three servants, none of which
were suffered to attend at meals; and his whole deportment was so
obliging, added to very good human understanding, that I really
began to tolerate his company. He gained so far upon me, that I
ventured to look out of the back window. By degrees I was
brought into another room, whence I peeped into the street, but
drew my head back in a fright. In a week's time he seduced me
down to the door. I found my terror gradually lessened, but my
hatred and contempt seemed to increase. I was at last bold
enough to walk the street in his company, but kept my nose well
stopped with rue, or sometimes with tobacco.
In ten days, Don Pedro, to whom I had given some account of my
domestic affairs, put it upon me, as a matter of honour and
conscience, "that I ought to return to my native country, and
live at home with my wife and children." He told me, "there was
an English ship in the port just ready to sail, and he would
furnish me with all things necessary." It would be tedious to
repeat his arguments, and my contradictions. He said, "it was
altogether impossible to find such a solitary island as I desired
to live in; but I might command in my own house, and pass my time
in a manner as recluse as I pleased."
I complied at last, finding I could not do better. I left Lisbon
the 24th day of November, in an English merchantman, but who was
the master I never inquired. Don Pedro accompanied me to the
ship, and lent me twenty pounds. He took kind leave of me, and
embraced me at parting, which I bore as well as I could. During
this last voyage I had no commerce with the master or any of his
men; but, pretending I was sick, kept close in my cabin. On the
fifth of December, 1715, we cast anchor in the Downs, about nine
in the morning, and at three in the afternoon I got safe to my
house at Rotherhith. (7)
My wife and family received me with great surprise and joy,
because they concluded me certainly dead; but I must freely
confess the sight of them filled me only with hatred, disgust,
and contempt; and the more, by reflecting on the near alliance I
had to them. For although, since my unfortunate exile from the
HOUYHNHNM country, I had compelled myself to tolerate the sight
of YAHOOS, and to converse with Don Pedro de Mendez, yet my
memory and imagination were perpetually filled with the virtues
and ideas of those exalted HOUYHNHNMS. And when I began to
consider that, by copulating with one of the YAHOO species I had
become a parent of more, it struck me with the utmost shame,
confusion, and horror.
As soon as I entered the house, my wife took me in her arms, and
kissed me; at which, having not been used to the touch of that
odious animal for so many years, I fell into a swoon for almost
an hour. At the time I am writing, it is five years since my
last return to England. During the first year, I could not
endure my wife or children in my presence; the very smell of them
was intolerable; much less could I suffer them to eat in the same
room. To this hour they dare not presume to touch my bread, or
drink out of the same cup, neither was I ever able to let one of
them take me by the hand. The first money I laid out was to buy
two young stone-horses, which I keep in a good stable; and next
to them, the groom is my greatest favourite, for I feel my
spirits revived by the smell he contracts in the stable. My
horses understand me tolerably well; I converse with them at
least four hours every day. They are strangers to bridle or
saddle; they live in great amity with me and friendship to each
[The author's veracity. His design in publishing this work. His
censure of those travellers who swerve from the truth. The
author clears himself from any sinister ends in writing. An
objection answered. The method of planting colonies. His native
country commended. The right of the crown to those countries
described by the author is justified. The difficulty of
conquering them. The author takes his last leave of the reader;
proposes his manner of living for the future; gives good advice,
and concludes.]
Thus, gentle reader, I have given thee a faithful history of my
travels for sixteen years and above seven months: wherein I have
not been so studious of ornament as of truth. I could, perhaps,
like others, have astonished thee with strange improbable tales;
but I rather chose to relate plain matter of fact, in the
simplest manner and style; because my principal design was to
inform, and not to amuse thee.
It is easy for us who travel into remote countries, which are
seldom visited by Englishmen or other Europeans, to form
descriptions of wonderful animals both at sea and land. Whereas
a traveller's chief aim should be to make men wiser and better,
and to improve their minds by the bad, as well as good, example
of what they deliver concerning foreign places.
I could heartily wish a law was enacted, that every traveller,
before he were permitted to publish his voyages, should be
obliged to make oath before the Lord High Chancellor, that all he
intended to print was absolutely true to the best of his
knowledge; for then the world would no longer be deceived, as it
usually is, while some writers, to make their works pass the
better upon the public, impose the grossest falsities on the
unwary reader. I have perused several books of travels with
great delight in my younger days; but having since gone over most
parts of the globe, and been able to contradict many fabulous
accounts from my own observation, it has given me a great disgust
against this part of reading, and some indignation to see the
credulity of mankind so impudently abused. Therefore, since my
acquaintance were pleased to think my poor endeavours might not
be unacceptable to my country, I imposed on myself, as a maxim
never to be swerved from, that I would strictly adhere to truth;
neither indeed can I be ever under the least temptation to vary
from it, while I retain in my mind the lectures and example of my
noble master and the other illustrious HOUYHNHNMS of whom I had
so long the honour to be an humble hearer.
I know very well, how little reputation is to be got by writings
which require neither genius nor learning, nor indeed any other
talent, except a good memory, or an exact journal. I know
likewise, that writers of travels, like dictionary-makers, are
sunk into oblivion by the weight and bulk of those who come last,
and therefore lie uppermost. And it is highly probable, that
such travellers, who shall hereafter visit the countries
described in this work of mine, may, by detecting my errors (if
there be any), and adding many new discoveries of their own,
justle me out of vogue, and stand in my place, making the world
forget that ever I was an author. This indeed would be too great
a mortification, if I wrote for fame: but as my sole intention
was the public good, I cannot be altogether disappointed. For
who can read of the virtues I have mentioned in the glorious
HOUYHNHNMS, without being ashamed of his own vices, when he
considers himself as the reasoning, governing animal of his
country? I shall say nothing of those remote nations where
YAHOOS preside; among which the least corrupted are the
BROBDINGNAGIANS; whose wise maxims in morality and government it
would be our happiness to observe. But I forbear descanting
further, and rather leave the judicious reader to his own remarks
and application.
I am not a little pleased that this work of mine can possibly
meet with no censurers: for what objections can be made against
a writer, who relates only plain facts, that happened in such
distant countries, where we have not the least interest, with
respect either to trade or negotiations? I have carefully
avoided every fault with which common writers of travels are
often too justly charged. Besides, I meddle not the least with
any party, but write without passion, prejudice, or ill-will
against any man, or number of men, whatsoever. I write for the
noblest end, to inform and instruct mankind; over whom I may,
without breach of modesty, pretend to some superiority, from the
advantages I received by conversing so long among the most
accomplished HOUYHNHNMS. I write without any view to profit or
praise. I never suffer a word to pass that may look like
reflection, or possibly give the least offence, even to those who
are most ready to take it. So that I hope I may with justice
pronounce myself an author perfectly blameless; against whom the
tribes of Answerers, Considerers, Observers, Reflectors,
Detectors, Remarkers, will never be able to find matter for
exercising their talents.
I confess, it was whispered to me, "that I was bound in duty, as
a subject of England, to have given in a memorial to a secretary
of state at my first coming over; because, whatever lands are
discovered by a subject belong to the crown." But I doubt
whether our conquests in the countries I treat of would be as
easy as those of Ferdinando Cortez over the naked Americans. The
LILLIPUTIANS, I think, are hardly worth the charge of a fleet and
army to reduce them; and I question whether it might be prudent
or safe to attempt the BROBDINGNAGIANS; or whether an English
army would be much at their ease with the Flying Island over
their heads. The HOUYHNHNMS indeed appear not to be so well
prepared for war, a science to which they are perfect strangers,
and especially against missive weapons. However, supposing
myself to be a minister of state, I could never give my advice
for invading them. Their prudence, unanimity, unacquaintedness
with fear, and their love of their country, would amply supply
all defects in the military art. Imagine twenty thousand of them
breaking into the midst of an European army, confounding the
ranks, overturning the carriages, battering the warriors' faces
into mummy by terrible yerks from their hinder hoofs; for they
would well deserve the character given to Augustus, RECALCITRAT
UNDIQUE TUTUS. But, instead of proposals for conquering that
magnanimous nation, I rather wish they were in a capacity, or
disposition, to send a sufficient number of their inhabitants for
civilizing Europe, by teaching us the first principles of honour,
justice, truth, temperance, public spirit, fortitude, chastity,
friendship, benevolence, and fidelity. The names of all which
virtues are still retained among us in most languages, and are to
be met with in modern, as well as ancient authors; which I am
able to assert from my own small reading.
But I had another reason, which made me less forward to enlarge
his majesty's dominions by my discoveries. To say the truth, I
had conceived a few scruples with relation to the distributive
justice of princes upon those occasions. For instance, a crew of
pirates are driven by a storm they know not whither; at length a
boy discovers land from the topmast; they go on shore to rob and
plunder, they see a harmless people, are entertained with
kindness; they give the country a new name; they take formal
possession of it for their king; they set up a rotten plank, or a
stone, for a memorial; they murder two or three dozen of the
natives, bring away a couple more, by force, for a sample; return
home, and get their pardon. Here commences a new dominion
acquired with a title by divine right. Ships are sent with the
first opportunity; the natives driven out or destroyed; their
princes tortured to discover their gold; a free license given to
all acts of inhumanity and lust, the earth reeking with the blood
of its inhabitants: and this execrable crew of butchers,
employed in so pious an expedition, is a modern colony, sent to
convert and civilize an idolatrous and barbarous people!
But this description, I confess, does by no means affect the
British nation, who may be an example to the whole world for
their wisdom, care, and justice in planting colonies; their
liberal endowments for the advancement of religion and learning;
their choice of devout and able pastors to propagate
Christianity; their caution in stocking their provinces with
people of sober lives and conversations from this the mother
kingdom; their strict regard to the distribution of justice, in
supplying the civil administration through all their colonies
with officers of the greatest abilities, utter strangers to
corruption; and, to crown all, by sending the most vigilant and
virtuous governors, who have no other views than the happiness of
the people over whom they preside, and the honour of the king
their master.
But as those countries which I have described do not appear to
have any desire of being conquered and enslaved, murdered or
driven out by colonies, nor abound either in gold, silver, sugar,
or tobacco, I did humbly conceive, they were by no means proper
objects of our zeal, our valour, or our interest. However, if
those whom it more concerns think fit to be of another opinion, I
am ready to depose, when I shall be lawfully called, that no
European did ever visit those countries before me. I mean, if
the inhabitants ought to be believed, unless a dispute may arise
concerning the two YAHOOS, said to have been seen many years ago
upon a mountain in HOUYHNHNMLAND.
But, as to the formality of taking possession in my sovereign's
name, it never came once into my thoughts; and if it had, yet, as
my affairs then stood, I should perhaps, in point of prudence and
self-preservation, have put it off to a better opportunity.
Having thus answered the only objection that can ever be raised
against me as a traveller, I here take a final leave of all my
courteous readers, and return to enjoy my own speculations in my
little garden at Redriff; to apply those excellent lessons of
virtue which I learned among the HOUYHNHNMS; to instruct the
YAHOOS of my own family, is far as I shall find them docible
animals; to behold my figure often in a glass, and thus, if
possible, habituate myself by time to tolerate the sight of a
human creature; to lament the brutality to HOUYHNHNMS in my own
country, but always treat their persons with respect, for the
sake of my noble master, his family, his friends, and the whole
HOUYHNHNM race, whom these of ours have the honour to resemble in
all their lineaments, however their intellectuals came to
I began last week to permit my wife to sit at dinner with me, at
the farthest end of a long table; and to answer (but with the
utmost brevity) the few questions I asked her. Yet, the smell of
a YAHOO continuing very offensive, I always keep my nose well
stopped with rue, lavender, or tobacco leaves. And, although it
be hard for a man late in life to remove old habits, I am not
altogether out of hopes, in some time, to suffer a neighbour
YAHOO in my company, without the apprehensions I am yet under of
his teeth or his claws.
My reconcilement to the YAHOO kind in general might not be so
difficult, if they would be content with those vices and follies
only which nature has entitled them to. I am not in the least
provoked at the sight of a lawyer, a pickpocket, a colonel, a
fool, a lord, a gamester, a politician, a whoremonger, a
physician, an evidence, a suborner, an attorney, a traitor, or
the like; this is all according to the due course of things: but
when I behold a lump of deformity and diseases, both in body and
mind, smitten with pride, it immediately breaks all the measures
of my patience; neither shall I be ever able to comprehend how
such an animal, and such a vice, could tally together. The wise
and virtuous HOUYHNHNMS, who abound in all excellences that can
adorn a rational creature, have no name for this vice in their
language, which has no terms to express any thing that is evil,
except those whereby they describe the detestable qualities of
their YAHOOS, among which they were not able to distinguish this
of pride, for want of thoroughly understanding human nature, as
it shows itself in other countries where that animal presides.
But I, who had more experience, could plainly observe some
rudiments of it among the wild YAHOOS.
But the HOUYHNHNMS, who live under the government of reason, are
no more proud of the good qualities they possess, than I should
be for not wanting a leg or an arm; which no man in his wits
would boast of, although he must be miserable without them. I
dwell the longer upon this subject from the desire I have to make
the society of an English YAHOO by any means not insupportable;
and therefore I here entreat those who have any tincture of this
absurd vice, that they will not presume to come in my sight.
(1) A stang is a pole or perch; sixteen feet and a half.
(2) An act of parliament has been since passed by which some
breaches of trust have been made capital.
(3) Britannia. -SIR W. SCOTT.
(4) London. -SIR W. SCOTT.
(5) This is the revised text adopted by Dr. Hawksworth (1766).
The above paragraph in the original editions (1726) takes another
form, commencing:-"I told him that should I happen to live in a
kingdom where lots were in vogue," &c. The names Tribnia and
Langdon an not mentioned, and the "close stool" and its
signification do not occur.
(6) This paragraph is not in the original editions.
(7) The original editions and Hawksworth's have Rotherhith here,
though earlier in the work, Redriff is said to have been
Gulliver's home in England.

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