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Jonathan Swift
Oxford University Press, Oxford 1971, 1986
The text of Gulliver's Travels given here is taken from volume XI of Herbert Davis's edition of Swift's Prose Writings (1965
reprint). It is based on volume III of George Faulkner's Dublin edition of Swift's Works (1735). For reasons summarized in the
Introduction, this text of 1735 seems to have come far closer to what Swift originally wrote than the first edition of 1726, and
also to have contained revisions representing his last ideas for the book.
Swift, Jonathan (1667-1745) - An Irish-born English satirist, known for his witty, sharp, and fun-loving prose style which has
often been called cynically deranged. Swift displayed a matchless power of feigning reality by assuming different characters
and situations in life. Gulliver’s Travels (1726) — Swift’s most famous and enduring work is a political and social satire about
man’s abuse of his greatest gift, human reasoning. It is written in the form of a travel journal.
[p. ix]
Gulliver's Travels is not one of those books which ‘the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again’. 1 It was
a bestseller when it first came out in 1726, and people have been reading it for pleasure, not merely for profit, ever since.
George Orwell read it first just before he was eight, re-read it at least half a dozen times during his short life, and found it
‘impossible to grow tired of’. ‘If I were to make a list’, he wrote, ‘of six books which were to be preserved when all others were
destroyed, I would certainly put Gulliver's Travels among them.’ 2
One thing that makes the book rather hard to lay down is the excitement of the story. Only the flying island episode is real
science fiction, but throughout the narrative Swift uses the science-fiction technique of describing fantastic events with so much
circumstantial detail that they seem perfectly credible. Thus the reader becomes seriously involved in Gulliver’s unlikely
adventures. Will he, for instance, manage to bring off his one-man commando-raid on the Blefuscudian fleet - or will he stagger
back blinded by a hail of arrows? It is quite a tense moment; but in the nick of time the resourceful hero puts on his spectacles,
and we all breathe a sigh of relief.
Another obvious attraction of Gulliver's Travels is its humour, which is often far more hilarious than one would expect from
an author of nearly sixty. As Swift’s friend Arbuthnot put it, ‘Gulliver is a happy man that at his age can write such a merry
work’. 3 Some of the jokes were too broad for Victorian taste, and as late as 1915 the Clarendon Press editor felt it necessary to
omit them; but the modern reader is likely to find their Rabelaisian character quite congenial. Equally in line with modern
trends is the occasional
[p. x]
violence of the satire. Thackeray described Part IV as ‘filthy in word, filthy in thought, furious, raging, obscene’, 4 and Edmund
Gosse thought that ‘the horrible foulness of this satire on the Yahoos ... banishes from decent households a fourth part’ 5 of the
book; but nowadays most people would agree that shock-tactics are a legitimate element in satiric technique, and that Swift’s
‘horrible foulness’ is usually justified by his moral purpose.
The story, then, the humour, and the satire have as much appeal for our period as they had for the eighteenth century; and
certain passages may have even more. The space-age reader should find a special interest in that artificial satellite, the Island of
Laputa; and all the moral issues raised by nuclear weapons are implied in Gulliver’s offer to the King of Brobdingnag of
enough destructive power to ‘destroy the whole Metropolis, if ever it should pretend to dispute his absolute Commands’. The
thinking-machine devised by the Professor at Lagado is clearly a prototype of the computer; and one of his colleagues is
equally up to date in proposing a system of reciprocal brain-transplants between political party-leaders. George Orwell saw the
Houyhnhnm community as a totalitarian state, with the Yahoos playing the role of the Jews in Nazi Germany, and found in Part
III ‘an extraordinarily clear prevision of the spy-haunted “police state”, with its endless heresy-hunts and treason-trials’. 6
Finally the episode of the Struldbrugs poses a major problem which was not at all urgent in Swift’s day, but, thanks to modern
medicine, is becoming increasingly urgent in ours: the problem whether it is right to prolong life after the capacity to enjoy life
has gone.
In these and similar passages Gulliver's Travels may well be said to have more topical interest today than when it was
originally published.
The fast hint for writing the book probably came from
[p. xi]
the Scriblerus Club, a group of friends who got together in 1713 with a plan to satirize every form of idiocy displayed by
inte³lectuals, in the person of an imaginary pedant and ‘scribbler’, Martinus Saiblerus. The Club consisted of Pope, Swift, Gay,
Arbuthnot, Parnell and the Earl of Oxford, and the idea was to ridicule the published works of their victims (e.g. Bentley’s
edition of Milton) by claiming that Scriblerus wrote them, and also to publish new satires (e.g. the Peri Bathous, 1728) under
Jonathan S WIFT : Gulliver’s Travels
the name of Scriblerus. But the main project was to publish a biography of their hero, which finally came out in 1741, as The
Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus.
In Chapter xvi of the Memoirs the travels of Martinus are briefly summarized in such terms as to identify them with the
travels of Gulliver. This chapter was probably written between 1727 and 1729; but the idea of sending Scriblerus off on a series
of imaginary journeys seems to have formed part of the Club’s original plan, and Swift, who had always been fond of reading
travel-books, was apparently given the job of writing this one. The question is how much actually got written about Martinus’s
travels, and what relation they bear to GulIiver's Travels.
According to a statement by Pope in about 1728, ‘It was from a part of these memoirs that Dr. Swift took his first hints for
Gulliver. There were pygmies in Schreibler’s 7 travels and the projects of Laputa’. 8 On the strength of this it has been suggested
that ‘A Voyage to Lilliput’ and ‘A Voyage to Laputa’ incorporate material written perhaps as early as 1714 for the travels of
Scriblerus; but there is no conclusive evidence to support such a theory, and Pope’s words appear to mean only that the basic
conception of Lilliput and of Laputa was suggested by Club discussions of the Scriblerus biography.
It is fairly clear from Swift’s correspondence that the real composition of Gulliver's Travels began around the end of 1720,
and was finished in the autumn of 1725. Parts I and II were mainly written in 1721-2, Part IV in 1723, and Part III in 1724-5.
When he started writing this ‘merry work’, he had no reason
[p. xii]
to feel particularly merry. He had failed to obtain any Church preferment in England, and had been forced to accept a mere
Deanery in Ireland, a country which he disliked. The Tory government for which he had worked had fallen, and his friends
Oxford and Bolingbroke had been impeached by the Whigs. He was suffering from a chronic disease, Ménière’s Syndrome,
which caused deafness and increasingly severe fits of giddiness. To the sense of living in exile, cut off from his friends, was
added in 1721 the news that one of his best friends, Matthew Prior, was dead; and in 1724 his ill health was intensified by ‘a
cruel Disorder that kept me in Torture for a Week ... the Learned call it the Haemorrhoides internae which with the attendance
of Strangury, loss of Blood, water-gruel and no sleep require more of the Stoick than I am Master of, to support it’. 9
He faced these troubles, however, with a more cheerful philosophy than Stoicism: ‘I give all possible way to Amusements,
because they preserve my Temper as Exercise does my Health, and without Health and good humor I had rather be a dog.’ 10
‘When you are melancholy, read diverting or amusing books; it is my Receit, and seldom fails.’ 11 ‘I always expect tomorrow
will be worse, but I enjoy to-day as well as I can. This is my philosophy ...’ 12 The rich comedy of Gulliver's Travels is doubtless
a by-product of this courageous determination to keep his spirits up, whatever happened; and while he was writing the book, his
spirits must have soared spontaneously, when he scored a resounding victory over Walpole and the Whig government, in the
matter of ‘Wood’s half-pence’. Wood had been given a patent to supply copper coins to Ireland, on a scale that would have
seriously damaged the Irish economy. Swift rallied Irish resistance to the scheme in his anonymous Drapier's Letters (1724),
which were so effective that Walpole was finally forced to recall Wood’s patent, and ‘the Drapier’ became a national hero. The
extent of his triumph is indicated by the story that when Walpole, several years later, issued an order for Swift’s arrest, he was
told that an army of at least ten thousand men would
[p. xiii]
be needed to arrest the Dean of Ireland. 13
This political success must have greatly increased Swift’s confidence in the power of his pen, and his determination to
publish Gudliver's Travels ; but the problem was first how to find a publisher prepared to risk publishing a transparently anti-
Whig satire, and secondly how to avoid prosecution himself. To solve these problems he now made a trip to England, taking his
manuscript with him, and arrived in London by the middle of March, 1726. He spent most of the next few months staying with
Pope at Twickenham, and seeing other old friends of the Scriblerus Club. No doubt he showed them his manuscript, and they
discussed plans for publishing it; perhaps he had it transcribed, so that his handwriting could not be used as evidence against
Finally, in August, secret negotiations were started with a London printer and bookseller called Benjamin Motte. ‘Motte
receiv’d the copy (he tells me)’ wrote Pope to Swift later, ‘he knew not from whence, nor from whom, dropp’d at his house in
the dark, from a Hackney-coach: by computing the time, I found it was after you left England, so for my part, I suspend
judgment’. 14 The ‘copy’ was part of the manuscript of Gulliver's Travels, accompanied by a letter, evidently composed by
Swift, but written in what looks like Gay’s hand, 15 and signed by Gulliver’s imaginary cousin, Richard Sympson. The letter
asked Motte if he would publish the book, for a fee of £200 to the author (i.e. Gulliver), who ‘intends the profit for the use of
poor Sea-men’. 16 Motte evidently recognized the market-value of the work - he may even have guessed who wrote it, since
Motte was the business successor of Swift’s old friend and publisher, Benjamin Tooke - and he agreed to publish within a
month of receiving the complete manuscript (though not to pay the £200 quite so soon). The book came out on October 28th,
By this time Swift was back in Ireland. He had not been able to correct the proofs himself, and when he saw a pub³ished
copy he found that Motte had not only allowed a large number of misprints to stand, but had deliberately
[p. xiv]
altered the text of several passages, 17 cutting out or toning down the satire which he thought too dangerously outspoken. Swift
was naturally annoyed that his work should be ‘mangled and murdered’ 18 in this way, and, presumably at his request, his friend
Charles Ford wrote to Motte pointing out the misprints and protesting at the alterations. 19 Motte corrected most of the misprints
in his next edition, but the prudential changes in the text were retained until 1735, when Gulliver's Travels was reprinted in
Dublin by George Faulkner, as volume iii of Swift’s Works.
Jonathan S WIFT : Gulliver’s Travels
Scholars have disagreed about the reliability of Faulkner’s text; but the evidence seems to suggest that this edition was
published with Swift’s permission and under his general supervision, and that its text, which incorporates most of the
corrigenda noted by Ford in Motte’s first edition, is the nearest we can get to Swift’s original manuscript, and to his final
intentions for the book. 20 The text printed here, prepared by Herbert Davis, is based on Faulkner’s 1735 edition.
Whatever the faults of his text, Motte’s 1726 edition was an enormous success. The first impression sold out in a week;
within three weeks ten thousand copies had been sold, and within two years the book had been translated twice into French,
once into Dutch, and once into German. On November 17 Gay wrote to Swift:
About ten days ago a Book was publish’d here of the Travels of one Gulliver, which hath been the conversation
of the whole town ever since ... nothing is more diverting than to hear the different opinions people give of it,
though all agree in liking it extreamly. ’Tis generally said that you are the Author, but I am told, the Bookseller
declares he knows not from what hand it came. From the highest to the lowest it is universally read, from the
Cabinet-council to the Nursery. 21
Swift’s friends shared in his triumph: for a while his correspondence was full of joking allusions to the book, and to the
[p. xv]
fiction that Swift had nothing to do with it. One such letter from Mrs. Howard provoked the reply:
When I received your Letter I thought it the most unaccountable one I ever saw in my Life, and was not able
to comprehend three words of it together. The Perverseness of your Lines astonished me, which tended
downwards to the right on one Page, and upward in the two others. This I thought impossible to be done by any
Person who did not squint with both Eyes; an Infirmity I never observed in you. However, one thing I was
pleased with, that after you had writ me down, you repented, and writ me up. But I continued four days at a loss
for your meaning, till a Bookseller sent me the Travells of one Cap tn Gulliver, who proved a very good Explainer,
although at the same time, I thought it hard to be forced to read a Book of seven hundred Pages in order to
understand a Letter of fifty lines ... 22
He was evidently in very good spirits - even when, several weeks later, one of his ‘Houyhnhnms’ bit his little finger. 23
Gulliver's Travels starts like a novel, and in relating the adventures of a realistically-conceived central character it obviously
resembles the novels of Defoe, especially Robinson Crusoe, published seven years before. The adventures, however, soon
become too fantastic for a novel, and the characterization of Gulliver is not always of central importance.
A closer definition would be to call the book a parody of a traveller’s tale. This ancient genre goes back to Lucian’s True
History (2nd century A.D.), a riotous take-off of the travellers’ tales current in classical times. Lucian goes off on a voyage of
discovery across the Atlantic, and has a series of humorously incredible experiences (such as being blown up to the moon,
[p. xvi]
and living for nearly two years inside a whale). That is the basic pattern of Gulliver’s Travels, which borrows several details
from Lucian; 24 but Swift is more concerned to parody the genuine travellers’ tales of his own period, particularly those of the
pirate and explorer, William Dampier.
The mock-traveller’s tale had been adapted by Sir Thomas More to serve as an introduction to his Utopia (1516), and
Gulliver’s Travels has clear connections with the Utopian romance. Chapter vi of Part I, for instance, describes Lilliputian
arrangements in Utopian terms, and the whole account of the Houyhnhnms seems to oscillate between a Utopia and a mock-
Since More, several works had been written in the Lucianic genre, notably by Rabelais and Cyrano de Bergerac. The fourth
and fifth books of Rabelais, written about 1547, describe the travels of Panurge and Pantagruel in search of the Oracle of the
Bottle. On their way they visit various fantastic countries which allegorically satirize contemporary clerics, politicians, and
academics. Swift uses a rather similar technique, and in particular his mockery of scientists in Laputa and Lagado corresponds
with that of Rabelais in the Kingdom of Entelechy. 25
In his Histoire Comique de la Lune (1657) Cyrano visits the moon, and finds it inhabited by giants. Like Gulliver in
Brobdingnag, Cyrano is put on show as a freak, thrown into the company of a dwarf - who turns out to be the astronaut-hero of
Bishop Godwin’s The Man in the Moon (1638) - and becomes emotionally involved with a young giantess.
In using the Lucianic mock-traveller’s tale, then, as a vehicle for Utopian speculation and contemporary satire, Swift was
doing nothing new. What made his book unique was the complexity of its texture. Gulliver's Travels is as funny as a Lucianic
parody; but it also has the excitement of a real traveller’s tale, like the Voyages of Dampier, or of a realistic novel like
Robinson Crusoe. Like Rabelais, Swift expresses through a light-hearted narrative much serious criticism of his
contemporaries; but he also expresses certain profound
[p. xvii]
thoughts about human life in general, which transcend his own age, and are still relevant in ours.
The criticism of contemporaries is chiefly related to either politics or science. To understand the political satire we must
remember that from 1710 to 1714 Swift had acted as Public Relations Officer for the Tory administration of Robert Harley
(later Earl of Oxford) and Henry St. John (later Viscount Bolingbroke). As editor of the Examiner he had written weekly
Jonathan S WIFT : Gulliver’s Travels
articles attacking Whig policies and personalities, and defending Tory ones; and in his most influential pamphlet, The Conduct
of the Allies (1711), he had argued in favour of the Tory plan to end the long War of the Spanish Succession, thus preparing his
public to welcome the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).
In 1714 Queen Anne had died, and the Tory government had fallen. Once back in power, the Whigs had started a witch-
hunt against their predecessors, setting up a Committee of Secrecy (1715) to investigate their conduct over the Peace, and
charging Oxford and Bolingbroke with high treason. Bolingbroke had avoided trial by escaping to France, Oxford had been
tried and imprisoned, and in 1722 Swift’s friend Atterbury had also been tried and imprisoned for alleged complicity in a
Jacobite plot. Meanwhile Swift himself had been living in danger of prosecution for his public contributions to the Tory cause.
All these political events are the subject of mocking allusions in Gulliver's Travels. Gulliver’s experiences in Lilliput partly
allegorize those of Bolingbroke and Oxford around 1714. Gulliver has ended the war with Blefuscu (France) by a naval victory
(the occupation of the French naval base at Dunkirk). By an irregular method (Bolingbroke’s secret negotiations with the
French) he has extinguished a dangerous fire (ended the War of the Spanish Succession), for which he deserves the
[p. xviii]
nation’s gratitude. Instead, he finds himself impeached for a technical illegality, and for allowing the Blefuscudians too easy
terms (one charge against Bolingbroke was enabling ‘the French King, so exhausted and vanquished as he had been ... to carry
his designs by a peace glorious to him’ 26 ). The search of Gulliver’s pockets obliquely ridicules the investigations of the Whig
Committee of Secrecy; and Bolingbroke’s flight to France is implicitly justified by the circumstances of Gulliver’s escape to
The anti-Gulliver cabal in Lilliput represents the Whigs. Skyresh Bolgolam is probably the Earl of Nottingham, a Tory who
supported the Whigs in 1711; Flimnap is Walpole, and the ‘King’s cushion’ that saves Flimnap’s life, when he falls from the
tight-rope, is the Duchess of Kendal, who used her influence as a mistress of George I to restore Walpole to office in 1721,
after he had been forced to resign in 1717.
King George favoured the Whigs, so he figures as the treacherous Emperor of Lilliput, the tyrannical King of Laputa, and as
the subject of several passing gibes. 27 Queen Anne had favoured the Tories, but she was also the ‘Royal Prude’ 28 who had been
shocked by Swift’s Tale of a Tub (1704), and had therefore refused to give him a bishopric. She may be the model for the
Lilliputian Empress, who at first smiles ‘very graciously’ at Gulliver through a window, but then bitterly resents his method of
saving her wing of the palace. 29
The passage in Part III, Chapter vi about methods of ‘discovering Plots and Conspiracies against the Government’ is aimed
chiefly at the trial of Atterbury; and the account (which neither Motte nor Faulkner dared to print) of the rebellion in
Lindalino 30 is a transparent allegory of Swift’s victory over Wood and Walpole. In this affair Swift had reason to disapprove
not only of the ‘King’s cushion’, who had helped Wood to get his patent, but also of Sir Isaac Newton, who, as Comptroller of
the Mint, had reported favourably on Wood’s coins, though an assay made in Ireland showed that many of them were seriously
under weight. 31 Hence several
[p. xix]
unkind references to Newton, such as Aristotle’s comment on the Principia Mathematica:
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. 32
From politically motivated satire on Newton’s theory of gravitation we may pass to other satire on contemporary science,
for which the motive is rather less obvious. One reason why Swift laughed at scientists was doubtless that he found their
activities inherently comic. For this attitude he had good literary precedents, such as the passage in the Clouds of Aristophanes,
where Socrates carefully measures the jumping-range of a flea, and discusses whether a gnat hums through its mouth or its
anus. 33 Rabelais shows much the same attitude, when he lists the projects of scientists in the Kingdom of Entelechy (e.g.
extracting farts from a dead donkey). 34 Sir Nicholas Gimcrack is a figure of fun in Shadwell’s The Virtuoso (1676), simply
because he is interested in dissecting lobsters, and studying ‘the nature of ants, flies, humble-bees, ear-wigs, millepedes, hog’s-
lice, maggots, mites in a cheese, tadpoles, worms, newts, spiders, and all the noble products of the sun ...’ 35 The moral of such
satire is suggested when another character calls Sir Nicholas ‘One who has broken his brains about the nature of maggots, who
has studied these twenty years to find out the several sorts of spiders, and never cares for understanding mankind’. 36 Swift
would probably have agreed that ‘The proper Study of Mankind is Man’, 37 and that scientific research on lower forms of life
was self-evidently silly.
Another element in Swift’s attitude to science is the demand for practical results implied by this comment on the agricultural
experiments in Balnibarbi:
I made bold to ask my Conductor, that he would be pleased
[p. xx]
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 could not discover any good Effects they produced; but on the contrary, I never knew a Soil so
unhappily cultivated, Houses so ill contrived and ruinous, or a People whose Countenances and Habit expressed
so much Misery and Want. 38
Most of the idiotic projects pursued in the Academy of Lagado were modelled on actual research carried out by members of the
Royal Society. 39 As a matter of fact, the aims of this Society, like those of its inspirer, Bacon, were eminently utilitarian: it
Jonathan S WIFT : Gulliver’s Travels
certainly envisaged the end of scientific knowledge as ‘the relief of man’s estate’, 40 and it had already made important advances
in applied science. To take only one example, Pepys was quite right in predicting (1666) that some Royal Society experiments
in blood-transfusion might ultimately prove ‘of mighty use to man's health’. 41
Here Swift, perhaps, did not look far enough into the future - or did he? Of course he could not foresee the horrors of
nuclear, chemical, or biological warfare, nor of the modern scientist’s plans for genetic engineering; but perhaps he vaguely
sensed the kind of ‘brave new world’ that science was liable to produce. A hint of such a presentiment may be found in the
ambition of the Universal Artist to propagate a ‘Breed of naked Sheep all over the Kingdom’. A clearer indication is the
immediate result of Laputian technology that the inhabitants of Balnibarbi may at any moment be deprived ‘of the Benefit of
the Sun and the Rain, and consequently’ afflicted with ‘Dearth and Diseases’. 42 If it is true that Swift made fun of scientists,
because he dimly realized the potential dangers of science, this aspect of his satire deserves to be taken very seriously.
The most valuable element, however, in the content of
[p. xxi]
Gulliver's Travels is the general comment that it makes on human life. This comment is expressed by viewing humanity from
four different standpoints. The first is that of a physically superior being, who sees mankind as ridiculously small. The second is
that of a physically inferior being, who sees mankind as grotesquely large. The third is the standpoint of common sense, from
which the vast majority of mankind appear crazy and wicked. The fourth is that of a rational animal, which sees the whole
human race as irrational and bestial.
As Gulliver progresses through this series of world-views, his own character and attitudes change. And here Swift raises the
question: how should an intelligent and sensitive individual react to increasing knowledge of human nature?
Let us take the four views, one by one, noting what judgments emerge; then examine Gulliver’s development throughout the
book, and decide what this implies.
In Part I the human race is viewed in miniature, and at first seems rather charming; but the tiny creatures soon turn out to be
treacherous and cruel. They are ready to sacrifice all humane feeling, whether towards Gulliver or the Blefuscudians, to their
own petty ambitions. The moral of Lilliput is later made explicit by the King of Brobdingnag, apropos of ordinary human
he observed, how contemptible a Thing was human Grandeur, which could be mimicked by such diminutive
Insects as I: and yet, said he, I dare engage, those 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. 43
In Part II the human race appears coarse and callous. Gulliver is revolted by the Brobdingnagians’ huge bodies, by their
smell, their table-manners, and their physical habits. He is caused great pain by the thoughtlessness of the first
[p. xxii]
man who picks him up, and worked almost to death by the farmer, whose chief interest is money. Even the King and Queen
show a certain lack of imagination in the jokes that they make about Gulliver’s experiences with the monkey, and with giant
flies. This general insensitivity extends to the Brobdingnagians’ treatment of one another. The horrifying description of the
beggars in Lorbrulgrud shows this people’s inadequate social conscience, and the account of the execution stresses the
barbarity of their penal system.
A few individuals, however, display lovable or admirable qualities. Glumdalclitch is unfailingly kind and considerate; and
the King of Brobdingnag is humane enough to be shocked by European warfare. He acts, as we have seen, as an extension of
the Part I viewpoint: he judges, as a superior being, the moral shortcomings of the ‘little odious Vermin’ 44 described to him by
In Part III Gulliver views human behaviour through the eyes of common sense, and sees the gift of reason everywhere
misused, either for playing futile intellectual games, or for unscrupulously exploiting other people. In Glubbdubdribb he reads
in human history the depressing lesson that crime does pay, and that human nature is becoming worse and worse. In Luggnagg
he finds the lesson confirmed, first by the example of a cruel tyranny, and secondly by the Struldbrugs, who illustrate not only
the general miseries of human life, but in particular the constant tendency of human beings to take advantage of one another.
The harsh legislation against these wretched Immortals is justified because ‘Otherwise, as Avarice is the necessary Consequent
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 Publick.’ 45
The last touch in this gloomy picture of human life is the contrast between the pagan Japanese and the Christian Dutch.
‘Nominal Christianity’, as Swift elsewhere calls it, 46 is accompanied by more wanton malice than nominal paganism.
In Part IV human beings, viewed by those rational animals,
[p. xxiii]
the Houyhnhnms, appear as Yahoos, dirty, greedy, vicious, lecherous, and stupid. The Europeans described by Gulliver to his
master are exactly like the Yahoos, except that they are more intelligent; but this only makes them worse, since, as his master
puts it, ‘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’. 47 As in Part III Christians behave more spitefully than pagans, so in Part IV
‘civilized’ men behave more disgustingly than animals.
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