( Originally Published 1877 )
Some Queer Little People.
A HUNDRED and fifty years ago, or thereabout, while George the First was King of Great Britain, there was a story of some voyages printed in England, which everybody read with a great deal of wonder.
There never had been such voyages made before ; there never had been such people seen as this voyager had seen.
A man who said his name was Richard Sympson sent the story of these voyages to the printer or publisher, and told him, and told the public, that he knew the man who wrote the story, and that he was living in Nottinghamshire in England, and that he was a friend of his, and connected with him on the mother's side. And, besides this, he said that he was a truthful man, and that his neighbors believed what he said. He knew the house in which he had lived, too, and knew who his father was — which was not very strange, since he was connected with him, as I said, on the mother's side.
The name of this voyager was Lemuel Gulliver ; and he was so much thought of among his neighbors (Mr. Sympson said), that it came to be a proverb among them, when any one told a thing that was very, very true, to add, — " It's as true as if Mr. Gulliver had said it."
Well, this Mr. Gulliver said he studied physic in Leyden, and married Mary Burton, who lived in Newgate Street, and that he got four hundred pounds in money by his wife. I don't see any reason to doubt this. He went as surgeon on a good many ships ; but nothing happened to him very extraordinary, until he sailed in May, 1699, in the " Antelope," for the South Seas. (I knew a ship, once, called the "Antelope.") This "Antelope" was commanded by Capt. William Prichard ; but that doesn't matter much, since Mr. Gulliver doesn't refer to Capt. Prichard once again.
They had a very hard time of it, — a good many of the sailors dying off ; and on the 5th of November —a little while before Thanksgiving Day in New England — the ship drove on a rock, and split.
Ships do so very often when they drive on rocks.
Six of the men got clear, with Gulliver, and rowed until the wind upset the boat. The six men were drowned ; but Gulliver touched bottom, and walked a mile through the water till he reached land. Then being very tired, and, as he says, "having taken half a pint of brandy aboard ship," he was very sleepy, and lay down to doze. This about the brandy is, I dare say, not more than half true.
He says he must have slept about nine hours, and when he waked he felt stiff, and couldn't turn over. He tried to lift his arm, but he couldn't. Presently he found out that there was a cord across his breast, and another across the middle of his body; and then he found that his legs were tied, and his arms ; and it seemed to him—though, he couldn't tell certainly — that his hair was fastened to the ground. This was all strange enough ; but it was stranger yet when he felt something walk up over his left leg, and come on across his body, almost to his chin, so that by turning his eyes down, he could see a little fellow, about six inches high, formed just like a man, with a bow and arrows in his hand. One would have been enough ; but when he felt forty more walking over his legs and arms, and pulling themselves up by his hair, he roared out, — as I think you and I would have done.
At this they all scampered ; and some of them hurt themselves badly by tumbling off his body, though this Mr. Gulliver did not know until some time afterward. The poor voyager, who was thus lying on his back, struggled a little, and so he came to get his left arm loose ; which was very lucky for him, because these little people, who were much frightened, began to shoot arrows at him, and would most certainly have put out his eyes if he had not covered them with his hand.
But, by little and little, he was able to look about him, and saw there thousands and thousands of these queer small people in the fields around.
Afterward, when he had made signs that he was hungry and thirsty, they brought him food, a wagon-load at a time, which he took up between his thumb and finger ; and their casks of wine, — no bigger than a tea-cup, —he emptied in a way that made them wonder. (Of course, if these people were only six inches high, their wine-casks must have been small in proportion ; every one must see the truth of that.) But these little people had put drugs in the wine, so that Mr. Gulliver slept very soundly after it, — so soundly that he didn't know at all when they brought an immense cart or truck (which they used for dragging vessels), and slung him upon it ; and with fifteen hundred of the king's horses drew him to town. There they chained him by one leg, near to the entrance of an immense temple, with a door four feet high—so that he was able to crawl under cover when he awoke.
Of course all the little people round about came to see Mr. Gulliver, whom they called "The Man-Mountain and the king, who had a majestic figure, since he was taller by half an inch than any of his subjects, appointed officers to show the Man-Mountain, and the officers in this way made a great deal of money out of Mr. Gulliver. Officers almost always make money out of somebody.
He caught their language, after a time ; though they couldn't have spoken louder than our crickets — if as loud. The name of this strange country was Liliput ; and Mr. Gulliver was introduced to all the distinguished people there, — at least he says so, — and has a good deal to say about the queen and the princesses, and how he amused them. Travellers are apt to. He helped them, too, very much ; and when a people living upon a neighboring island called Blefuscu threatened war, and collected a great fleet of vessels to attack the Liliputians, Mr. Gulliver kindly waded over one morning, and, tying a cord to all the ships' bows, drew them along after him, and gave them up to his imperial majesty of Liliput. He had to put on his spectacles, however, while he was in the water, to keep the Blefuscan soldiers—who were collected on the shores by thousands—from shooting out his eyes.
The King of Liliput was, of course, delighted with this service of Mr. Gulliver, and made him a prince on the spot. He also thought it would be a good thing if Mr. Gulliver should, some day, wade across again, and drag over the rest of the enemy's ships ; but the Englishman did not think very well of this, and I suspect this difference led to a little coolness between him and the king. It is certain that a good many of the high officers took up a dislike of Mr. Gulliver, as well as some of the ladies of the court. The long and the short of it was, that he found himself out of place among the Liliputians, and so went over afoot to the island of Blefuscu, where he soon was on very good terms with the emperor of that empire, though he had drawn away his ships.
One day, however, Mr. Gulliver espied in the offing an English boat bottom side up, and by dint of wading and tugging, with the aid of several Blefuscan men-of-war, he brought it to land. There he repaired the boat, — the emperor kindly consenting, and furnishing a few hundred mechanics to aid him. Then he stocked the boat with provisions, taking some live sheep and cattle, and set off homeward. He ran great danger of being wrecked ; but, finally fell in with an English merchant vessel,—Capt. John Biddel, commander,—who kindly took him on board, and asked him how he happened to be at sea in a yawl ?
Mr. Gulliver told him, and described the people he had been with. Capt. Biddel didn't believe him, and thought him crazy. Whereupon Mr. Gulliver pulled some of the Blefuscan sheep and cattle out of his pocket, and showed them to him.
Capt. Biddel couldn't say any thing more. Mr. Gulliver arrived home safely ; found his wife well, and his boy Johnny (named after his uncle, who had left him some land at Epping) at the grammar school.
Some Monstrous People
This same Mr. Gulliver made three or four more voyages, and always had the luck to fall in with most extraordinary people, —some of them being ninety feet high ; and he was for a considerable time in the waist-coat pocket of a farmer.
Only imagine what the wheat must have been, and the pumpkins, and the green corn—where a farmer could quietly put a great traveller like Mr. Gulliver in his vest-pocket ! People get into farmers' pockets in this country, —but not in that way.
The potatoes in that land of Brobdingnag (for so the country was called) must have come up to Mr. Gulliver's waistband; and as for the potato plants, they would have made a great craggy forest over his head; and the Colorado beetles (which probably did not live in that time) would have been huge creatures, upon whose back a man might ride.
Think, too, of what the trees must have been in such a region : the great California Red-woods would have been mere walking-sticks ; and the mountains would have risen up at least some sixty or seventy miles in the air, and of course would have been seen a very long distance away. Just what that distance might be, looking over the sea, it will be easy for you to calculate.
It seems very strange that a land with such huge mountains upon it should never have been discovered until Mr. Lemuel Gulliver passed that way ; and yet this is hardly more strange than the other things he tells.
One would have thought that such monstrous people with their monstrous tools of all kinds—a sickle was larger than our scythes—should have had great telescopes too, so that wonderful sights would be opened to them in the skies ; but if it were so, he tells us nothing of it. On another of his voyages, however, to a land called Laputa, — which was a land that floated about in the air and was directed by a huge magnet, — he does tell us of strange things discovered in the sky. Among the rest, he assures us that these Laputans had found out that the planet Mars had two moons or satellites revolving about it, — whereof one revolves in the space of ten hours, and the other in twenty-one and a half.
You may be sure that the British astronomers had no faith in this when Gulliver reported it ; certainly no one except these Laputans had ever seen such moons : and now, in this year 1877, it proves that the report is quite true, and that there are such moons, — though their times of revolution may be a little different, — and they have been discovered through the great telescope in Washington.
What if the other reports which Gulliver made should some day prove to be true! What if we should find somewhere in the interior of Africa queer little people like Liliputians, or great monsters of men like those of Brobdingnag !
Though these last were monstrous in size, they were excellent, quiet people. Gulliver had a great many long talks with their King, who had a strong liking for this little traveller, and led him on to tell all about the government and usages of the country from which he had sailed. He thought Mr. Gulliver did a wise thing in sailing away from it. For when he heard of the hick( ring, and wars, and bribery, and cheating, and prisons, which were common in England, he thought the people must be "contemptible little vermin," and said so plainly to Mr. Gulliver.
Mr. Gulliver does not seem to have been offended, or at least he did not resent this plain talking ; and when he told the King further, that in his country men were used to making great tubes of metal (as large as his majesty's tooth-pick), and filled them with a black powder and hot shot, and then fired them off with a terrible explosion, so as to kill and maim as many men as possible at one blast — the big King was horrified. And, when one thinks of it closely, it does seem horrible.
Gulliver told the King, one day, in the course of a conversation, which he held by sitting upon a chair placed on a cabinet, and the cabinet on a table, — all which brought Mr. Gulliver about on a level with the King's ear, who kindly took a low seat, — I say Gulliver told the King that in his country —meaning England — there were a thousand works published on the art of government. The big King said only, "Pooh ! pooh!" but afterward gave it as 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 service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together."
A good many orators have said the same thing since ; but the King of Brobdingnag said it first.
Of course Mr. Gulliver must have found it very awkward in getting about in houses where the steps were all five feet high, and where the level of the seats was six-teen feet above the floor. The flies, too, were as large as robins, and came buzzing frightfully about his ears. He had a very narrow escape, also, from a couple of rats ; when his great presence of mind alone saved him from death.
It happened in this wise. He had been left asleep on a bedstead twenty feet from the floor, ,in a chamber which was about three hundred feet wide by five hundred feet long, and high in proportion. Waking up suddenly, he saw two enormous beasts, as large as large mastiffs, but with the whiskers and tails of rats, tramping toward him. One seized him by the collar, arid had nearly throttled him, when he managed to draw out the short sword which he always wore, and with it he pierced the monster rat through the body. The other ran away frightened, but not until the traveller had given him two or three good thwacks with his weapon.
He was, however, very limp and exhausted after this battle — as you observe in this picture of him. Fortunately, Mr. Gulliver kept a journal, or else wrote out the account of his travels and of his adventures when they were fresh in his mind. But his friend Mr. Sympson, of whom I spoke in the beginning, did not cause his travels to be printed until a good many years after. Why, I'm sure I don't know. When they were printed, people in England were very much astonished ; and some curious ones went so far as to go down into Nottinghamshire to have an interview with Mr. Gulliver. But, bless you, he wasn't there. He was not anywhere, the Nottingham people said. And some went so far as to say there was no Mr. Sympson.
Who then ?
Who was Gulliver ?
There can't be travels unless there's a traveller, — that's certain. If Mr. Gulliver didn't bring away those small cattle in his pocket from Blefuscu, — which Capt. Biddel saw, and Capt. Biddel's mate saw, —where did he bring them from ? or if Mr. Gulliver didn't fetch them himself, who did ?
Everybody asked, and for a good while nobody knew. At last it all came out. There was no Gulliver, and there was no Sympson, — only Dean Swift, a queer sort of Irish clergyman, who saw in his own library every thing that Gulliver professed to have seen. And this Dean Swift was as strange a creature as any that Mr. Gulliver saw.
He was a child of English parents, though he was born in Ireland, and lived most of his life in Ireland.
Sir William Temple had married a relative of Swift's mother, and therefore he was befriended by Sir William Temple, and through him came to know a great many distinguished people of England, — the King among the rest. He had a university education, and a powerful and acute mind, and enormous ambition. These things would have made him a distinguished man, even if he had never known Sir William Temple and never known the King.
But he was an utterly selfish man ; and though he was admired by thousands, he was loved by very few.
That queer story of Gulliver, I have told you of, was written by him, — not so much to amuse his readers as to ridicule the people he had met about the court of England. He loved dearly to ridicule people whom he disliked ; and I think he disliked nearly the whole human race.
He wanted to be a Bishop ; but Archbishop Sharp told the Queen that he was unfit to be a Bishop ; and I think Sharp was right. A man who is doing his best only when he is saying (or writing) harsh, witty things of other people, is not the man for Bishop, or clergyman either.
And yet — so strange a creature was this Dean Swift — he did, at one time, make himself respected and held in good esteem as a parish priest. Not such a man, we may be sure, as the excellent Dr. Primrose ; but he filled up the measure of his duties with a sturdy zeal, and for the poor or those who were beneath him in position, he never had bitter words. He gave in charity too, but often with such look of scorn as made it hard to accept his gifts. At the last, too, — to do him justice, — he left a large sum to endow a hospital for lunatics ; and if he could have had his way, and had possessed money enough, I think he would have clapped half the world into such an asylum. A very great man, to be sure — as his writings and his influence show; but a soured man ; with good instincts sometimes struggling up to light ; and sometimes amazing people by sudden explosions of generosity ; but yet — all through his life, making ten men hate and fear him, where he made one love him.
It must be said that his boyhood was a hard one: he had no father to direct or win him; he was poor ; he only gained his éducation by the charity of an uncle whom he never loved, and of whom, in his savage way, he always spoke scornfully ; he quarrelled with his teachers. His only sister married badly, and he never forgave her for it ; and, though he came afterward to give support to her family, he did it grudgingly. He quarrelled with Sir William Temple, who was one of the gentlest and most amiable of men ; and when he. came, by his splendid talents, to be associated with the first men in England, — there were few of them in political life with whom he did not sooner or later find himself at war.
He lived when Pope lived, and Gay and Bolingbroke and Steele and Defoe, the author of "Robinson Crusoe." But I think he never knew this last, and I dare say thought of him as a tile-maker and a quack. Yet there can be no doubt that he read " Robinson Crusoe," which was published only five or six years before Gulliver's travels ; and the minute careful descriptions in this last remind one very much of the pains-taking descriptions in the voyages of Crusoe.
Dean Swift's Love
Of domestic comforts Swift knew very little, and perhaps cared little. In his early life he had met Esther Johnson, a charming young person, who was living under the guardianship of Sir William Temple. Under his direction he became her tutor; he admired her quickness; perhaps he admired her beauty : certain it is that he so won upon her that she gave her heart and faith to him wholly. She was that " Stella " whom all the world came to know through his poems.
When he went to take a parish in Ireland, she followed with an elderly lady friend, and took a cottage near to his parsonage. There she lived for years—people wondering at this strange friendship ; she, poor girl, believing her idol, the great Dean, could do nothing wrong. In later life he did indeed marry her privately, but she never came to make glad any home of his ; nor would he though she entreated it again and again — ever publicly acknowledge the marriage. Beside her death-bed he did relent ; but poor Esther Johnson said it was too late ; and she died with a blighted name, and heart-broken.
This was bad enough : but more remains to be told. At the very time when "Stella" was receiving fond letters from this strange Dean — when he never went to England without declaring to her how hard it was to be away—when he was writing fierce political pamphlets, and pushing intrigues at Court ; he was writing letters — quite as fond as those to " Stella " — to a wealthy and beautiful Miss Van-homrig, who is known as the "Vanessa" of some of his best verses. She was highly educated ; she admired the Dean ; they read together : their intimacy was such that all who knew of it believed that he wished and intended to make her his wife. She was led to believe this too : she never doubted Dr. Swift — not even when rumors came to her ear of the true story of "Stella." But, finding out with her woman's wit the real name of " Stella," she wrote to her a letter, asking what claim she had to the protection and love of Dean Swift.
It was after the private marriage; and "Stella" told all, and sent " Vanessa's " letter to the Dean. Fast as horses would carry him the Dean rode away to that beautiful home of Miss Van-homrig, where he had met such kindly greetings—where over and over they two had read poetry together under the shade of the laurel boughs, — laurels of " Vanessa's " own planting, and all planted in honor of the Dean — he did not now slacken pace until he was at the door ; he passed into the room where the poor, shrinking, frightened Vanessa waited her fate. He threw her letter wide open upon the table, and with an oath of defiance turned upon his heel, and strode out of the house, — never to enter it again.
She, poor woman, whose heart had gone out to his, bowed underneath this blast of his fury. Three weeks after this, they buried her — the victim of Dean Swift's rage and double dealing.
Do you think this was the sort of a man to make a clergyman of ? And yet he could so impose on men of eminence, that the great Addison wrote on the fly-leaf of a little book which he gave him, To Dr. Jonathan Swift ; the most agreeable companion, the truest friend, and the greatest genius of his age."
Certainly he was a rare genius. No other English writer has ever put words together in a way which shows more surely and more sharply his real meaning ; and none ever put more meaning into his words. If he were only less coarse and less indecent, — for he is often both, — no better model for strong, clear writing could be given you. As it is, I would advise only the reading of the Liliput voyage of Gulliver.
And what old age do you think befell this great man ? No calm, —no peace in it ; no quietude of home ; no children ever fondled him. He grew so petulant and irritable, that no one wanted to live in the same house with him. Then came moodiness and melancholy. For a year he said never a word to any one. At last that great mind of his —which was joined to no heart at all —broke down, and went out. Yet still he lingered; he ate ; he slept ; he paced his chamber — knowing nothing — saying nothing that was worth saying ; and only hired keepers were with him at his death.
If he were alive today, and at his best, we might like to have him make our dictionaries for us, or go to Washington for us ; but of a certainty—knowing him as we do— we should never want him to preach Christianity for us, or to sit down with us at our firesides.