Jonathan Swift – “Gulliver’s Travels” Part 2 (ctd.)

Gulliver wants very much to see the main temple and its tower, which is the tallest building in the kingdom, but returns disappointed. Even though the tower is 3,000 foot high (so taller than in our world Burj Khalifa), when he compares it with the average height of its constructors, it’s relatively shorter than the steeple of the Salisbury Cathedral, the tallest church steeple in England. But it’s impressive in its beauty and strength, and richly decorated with statues of gods and emperors. Gulliver finds in the rubble a finger of one of these statues, over four foot long, and gives it to Glumdalclitch, who adds it to her collection of trinkets. The kitchen in the King’s palace is appropriately huge, with the oven only slightly smaller than the dome of St Paul’s, but here Gulliver breaks off, saying that he could be accused of exaggerating, and if his narrative were translated in the language of Brobdignag (this is the first time he mentions their name), these people could take offence at diminishing them. The chapter ends with admiring remark about what a fine sight is to see the King on special occasions attended by a militia guard of five hundred horses, the view which was only surpassed when Gulliver had a chance to see a part of the King’s army in battle array.

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Jonathan Swift – “Gulliver’s Travels” Part 2 (ctd.)

Gulliver describes the country, which is appropriately large, located on a peninsula attached (judging by his description) to America somewhere in the neighbourhood of north-western Canada. This side of country is protected by huge mountains with volcanos, and on all three others it is surrounded by very rocky waters and rough sea, which explains why nobody in Europe knows about it, although Gulliver has always believed that there must be a huge landmass in the Pacific to counterbalance “the great continent of Tartary”. If he means Russia or Asia, then he didn’t look at the globe very carefully, because it’s actually Europe that is on the other side of the globe from the Pacific Ocean. The sea travel is for these reasons impossible, but there is a lot of traffic on the rivers. They also don’t eat sea fish, not only because it’s too dangerous to sail around their peninsula, but also because the sea fish in the surrounding waters are regular size, so too small to bother. Sometimes they eat a beached whale, which an adult man can carry on its shoulder, although with difficulty. Gulliver describes the capital and we get a bit of body horror when he describes how, when once they stopped by a shop, they were accosted by some beggars, all with disgusting and appropriately large wounds and tumours, and ridden with huge lice. Gulliver wishes he could dissect one of these insects, but unfortunately he left his medical tools on his ship. At this point I remembered with a jolt that Gulliver is supposedly a surgeon and for a surgeon, especially an 18-th c. one, he is surprisingly squeamish.

Gulliver travelled a lot with the Queen and he had a special box made for these occasions, smaller than his regular one, with staples on one of its walls, so that a servant can put his belt through them and carry him on horseback, if Glumdalclitch is not around or if Gulliver wants to have some fresh air. When visiting towns, Glumdalclitch carries his box on her lap and she herself is carried in turn in an open sedan chair, where Gulliver often attracts people’s attention.

Jonathan Swift – “Gulliver’s Travels” Part 2 (ctd.)

After a moment of reflection, Gulliver realizes he should not take offence about the King’s remarks. He himself, once he got accustomed to it, started to perceive the giants as normal and himself as diminutive, especially when the Queen stood with him on her hand in front of a mirror. If he now saw English courtiers in their finery, bowing and scraping, he would probably laugh as heartily as the king. During his stay in the palace he came in conflict with the Queen’s dwars, who at thirty foot high was up to this point the smallest human in the kingdom. The dwarf found strange satisfaction in the fact that Gulliver is even smaller than him and they often teased each other. Once during dinner he stuck Gulliver in a hollow marrow bone, and it took some time before anyone noticed, because Gulliver was too proud to cry out for help. But, as Gulliver observes, since princes rarely get their meals hot (because they have to travel such a long way from the kitchen?), it didn’t hurt him, just ruined his trousers. Another time, being made angry by something Gulliver said, he threw him in a bowl of cream. Fortunately Gulliver was a good swimmer, because Glumdalclitch was then at the other end of the room, and the Queen too frightened to be of use. Glumdalclitch came running and rescued Gulliver, so there was no harm done except for his ruined clothes. The dwarf was made to drink the whole bowl of cream into which he threw Gulliver and then he was whipped. Soon after that the Queen gave him to another lady. Another trick he liked to play on Gulliver before he was dismissed was to catch a number of flies and then release him just in front of his face. The Queen likes to make fun of Gulliver and ask him whether everyone in his country is such a coward, but of course like everything else, the flies are proportionately larger, and Gulliver hates it when they leave their excrement and eggs on his food, which he can see. He defends himself by cutting them in half with his knife in the air (not veyr hygienic), for which he is much admired. Once when Gludalclitch left his box on the window to give him some fresh air and Gulliver was enjoying his cake for breakfast, he was attacked by some wasps as big as partridges. They stole his cake and would attack him, but he managed to defend himself with his sword. He took out the stings of the killed ones, each an inch and a half long. He brought them with him to England and after exhibiting them, he gifted three of them to the Gresham College (the original meeting place of the Royal Society), leaving one for himself.

Jonathan Swift – “Gulliver’s Travels” Part 2 (ctd.)

Gulliver tries to explain that he comes from a country where there are several million people like him and everything is scaled down to his size, but the scientists don’t believe him and think it’s just something the farmer taught him to say. The Kind calls the farmer, who hasn’t left the town yet, and after examining him he thinks Gulliver may be telling the truth. From then on Gulliver’s life is very comfortable, bar the inconveniences which are caused by living as a tiny man in the land of giants. They order for him a box, which serves him as an apartment, with the upper lid on hinges so that the bed can be taken out to air. Gulliver asks for and gets a lock on the door, the tiniest that was ever made in this country, but as huge as a lock on the gate door in English houses. The Queen orders for him clothes made of their finest silks, which are for Gulliver like blankets. Glumdalclitch is his personal caretaker, and she in turn is given a governess, a lady’s maid and two servants. Gulliver eats all his dinners with the Queen, on his own miniature set of plates, and he likes them, although at the beginning it made him a bit nauseous to see the Queen devour what seemed to him huge amounts of food and drink. On Wednesdays, which are in this country Sundays, the whole royal family has dinner together and the King likes to talk with Gulliver and hear about his country. He finds it very amusing to hear about party politics, asks Gulliver whether he is a Tory or a Whig (Swift wisely doesn’t provide an answer) and addressing his courtier, says it’s so funny to hear about the tiny creatures thinking that their issues are so great and important, which hurts Gulliver, who thinks his country is the greatest and the best.

Jonathan Swift – “Gulliver’s Travels” Part 2 (ctd.)

Gulliver grows very thin, being overworked, and his master thinks he won’t live long. Then he gets an invitation to the court. At the court, the Queen (whom Gulliver flatters shamelessly) is very much taken with Gulliver and asks whether he would like to stay with her. He says he would, but he is his master’s property. The Queen asks the price and pays him without haggling one thousand pieces of gold. Gulliver then asks humbly if she could give Glumdalclitch a job as his caretaker. The girl’s father has no problem agreeing to that, seeing it as a big social step up for his daughter. When he leaves, Gulliver only bows coldly to him. The Queen asks him for the reasons and Gulliver tells her how exploited he was, but he is already feeling better just by being in her presence. The Queen carries him in her hand to her husband’s apartments. Her husband first takes him for a “splacknuck”, a local small animal Gulliver is often compared to, then when he gets up and starts to talk, he thinks he is a tiny automaton. Finally, when Gulliver answers coherently all of his questions, he has to admit it’s a live being. Three scholars who were then at the court examine Gulliver. They can’t agree what Gulliver is, because judging by his teeth, he’s a carnivore, but he’s too small and weak to hunt any creature they know. One of them propose that he might be an embryo, but the others refute him, pointing to Gulliver’s fully formed limbs and also the hair in his beard, which they see under a magnifying glass. Finally the only explanation they are able to offer is that he is a “lusus naturae”, a freak of nature.

Jonathan Swift – “Gulliver’s Travels” Part 2 (ctd.)

After eight hours of performing and the arduous journey home, it takes Gulliver three days to recover, and even at his master’s home he doesn’t have peace to do that because all the neighbours come to see him. His master then comes up with the idea of going with him on a tour, as it were. They travel, like before, on horseback, with one servant boy following them with their luggage. Gulliver is in a box, which Glumdalclitch tried to make as comfortable as possible. They stop in every larger town on the way and often make detours to nearby villages or bigger manors. Finally after over two months they reach the capital. They set up their shop in an inn in the usual manner. By this time Gulliver can already speak the giants’ language quite well, he understands everything and Glumdalclitch even started to teach him their alphabet from a small book, an equivalent of a European catechism for girls. Of course since everything in this country is larger and even small rivulets seem to Gulliver as huge as the Thames in London, Glumdalclitch’s tiny pocket book is as large as a huge atlas.

Jonathan Swift – “Gulliver’s Travels” Part 2 (ctd.)

Gulliver’s primary caretaker his master’s nine-year-old daughter, of whom he grows very fond. She makes him a bed out of a small cabinet drawer, which is put on a hanging shelf so that he doesn’t have any dangerous encounters with rats any more. She also sews clothes for him, being very good at sewing clothes for her dolls and teaches him her language. When the news about Gulliver spread in the neighbourhood, a local farmer comes to see him. Being old and weak of sight, he puts his glasses on and Gulliver can’t stop himself from laughing at seeing his big eyes through the glasses, at which the farmer takes offence. Being a miser, he also gives Gulliver’s master the idea to exhibit him for money. The girl (whom Gulliver calls “Glumdalclitch”, which means “little nurse” in her language) is heartbroken because she was promised to have Gulliver to herself and she is afraid he is going to be hurt, and certainly humiliated. She says it’s like when her parents “gave” her a lamb, and then when the lamb grew up, they sold it to a butcher anyway, the experience which I am sure many farm children could identify with. Gulliver is not that concerned, because he thinks nobody can reproach him as being the cause of his own humiliation, and even the King of England, were he in his place, couldn’t help it. The next day the farmer takes the girl and Gulliver with him to the nearest market town. Even though the box in which Gulliver is carried is lined with the quilt from the bed of Glumdalclitch’s doll, it’s still very tiresome for Guliver – they travel on horseback, and each jump of the giant horse is like a sea wave during a storm. Finally they arrive to the town, where his master sets himself up in an inn and hires a crier to announce what curious animal he has to show. It’s not as dangerous as Glumdaclitch feared: she is put in charge of Gulliver, he is put on a table, nobody may touch him and in order to ensure that, people are seated on benches a good distance from the table. Still, Gulliver almost loses his life when a boy throws a hazelnut at him, and it’s also very tiring for him, because he proves to be a big success and he has to go through his performance (including simple conversations, showing off his swordsmanship etc.) twelve times during the day.