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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Literature and Writing Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

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 [...] 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 success. (3.8.5)

Gulliver's visit to Glubbdubdrib convinces him that "prostitute writers," writers who use their talents for money, have altered history to suit the wishes of the highest bidder. They make good men seem bad, and bad men, good. But Swift presumably wrote Gulliver's Travels at least in part for money – he didn't, like, reject the royalties when it became a bestseller. So, isn't this a little hypocritical? Isn't Swift also a "prostitute writer?" If not, why not?

Quote #8

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." (3.8.8)

The lesson of the Glubbdubdrib chapters seems to be that good men get punished for doing good things, while bad men with the money to pay for good advertisers get to make history.

Quote #9

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. (4.9.5)

Because the Houyhnhnms have no written language, they share all of their knowledge by word of mouth. But why should an oral tradition be any more truthful than the written one Gulliver learns to hate in Glubbdubdrib?

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