A number of persons have posted comments on this blog that call for responses from me, which I hope to provide today or tomorrow. John S. Wilkins suggests that I try my hand at a satire, but I must confess that re-reading Gulliver’s Travels does not encourage me in that direction, any more than listening to Itzhak Perlman inspires in me a desire to play the violin! If there are any among you who have not read Gulliver’s Travels, or perhaps have forgotten much of the detail, as I had, let me remind you of the central conceit in the first two books. Swift very carefully works out the contrast between Gulliver and the Lilliputians on the one hand and the Brobdingagians on the other. Lemuel Gulliver is twelve times as large as a man of Lilliput, and one-twelfth the size of a man of Brobdingnag. Thus, the Lilliputians appear tiny, precious, lovely, and exquisite to Gulliver, but also small and petty. The Brobdingnagians appear large and gross and ugly to him – the pores of their skin are so large that they seem like great holes – but also as generous, great-hearted, and large-spirited. The Lilliputians, recall, are torn by a religious dispute, as violent and irreconcilable as that between Catholics and Protestants in
“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:”
There is one odd error in Swift’s text, which could be deliberate, but perhaps not. The Lilliputians are ordered by the king to provide Gulliver with 1724 times as much food each day as one of their number would consume, and Gulliver, the narrator, explains to the reader that this reflects the precision and advanced state of Lilliputian mathematics. But twelve cubed is of course 1728, not 1724. Is there a scholar of eighteenth century English literatgure out there with some wisdom on this minor matter?
Well, if I were to reproduce all of the deliciously funny satirical passages in which Swift ridicules the English monarchy, I would, I fear, be reduced to copying out the entirety of Book One.