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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels


by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels Literature and Writing Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

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. (2.1.16)

"These and the like particulars" are the details of how Gulliver arranges his bathroom breaks when he first arrives to Brobdingnag. Everything is so large there that he has trouble, getting off the bed so he can go off and pee. Gulliver says that he wants to explain these vulgar details "to the benefit of public as well as private life." We find Gulliver's doody jokes pretty funny, but can you imagine any "public" benefit that the world might get from these details? Why might Gulliver use these details of his bowel movements as proof that he has been "chiefly studious of truth" in writing these Travels?

Quote #2

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. (2.6.6)

Basically, in describing England to the Brobdingnagian King, Gulliver wishes he were more eloquent so that he could make England look good despite its actual shortcomings. Is the effort to embroider or persuade through artful language a kind of lying, then? How does Gulliver's wish to be more stylish in his writing in Part 2 compare with his later discussions of England in Houyhnhnm Land in Part 4?

Quote #3

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. (2.7.1)

This reference to Dionysius Halicarnassensis (a.k.a. Dionysius of Halicarnassus) is a joke at Gulliver's expense. Dionysius was a Greek author who spent a lot of time praising the Romans and researching their history after they had conquered Greece. So, Gulliver's plan to "hide the frailties [...] of [his] political mother," England, shows the kind of hypocrisy Swift finds in Dionysius.

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