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| Home | Reading Room Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

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[The emperor of Lilliput, attended by several of the nobility,
comes to see the author in his confinement. The emperor's person
and habit described. Learned men appointed to teach the author
their language. He gains favour by his mild disposition. His
pockets are searched, and his sword and pistols taken from him.]

When I found myself on my feet, I looked about me, and must
confess I never beheld a more entertaining prospect. The country
around appeared like a continued garden, and the enclosed fields,
which were generally forty feet square, resembled so many beds of
flowers. These fields were intermingled with woods of half a
stang, [1] and the tallest trees, as I could judge, appeared to
be seven feet high. I viewed the town on my left hand, which
looked like the painted scene of a city in a theatre.

[1] A stang is a pole or perch; sixteen feet and a half.

I had been for some hours extremely pressed by the necessities of
nature; which was no wonder, it being almost two days since I had
last disburdened myself. I was under great difficulties between
urgency and shame. The best expedient I could think of, was to
creep into my house, which I accordingly did; and shutting the
gate after me, I went as far as the length of my chain would
suffer, and discharged my body of that uneasy load. But this was
the only time I was ever guilty of so uncleanly an action; for
which I cannot but hope the candid reader will give some
allowance, after he has maturely and impartially considered my
case, and the distress I was in. From this time my constant
practice was, as soon as I rose, to perform that business in open
air, at the full extent of my chain; and due care was taken every
morning before company came, that the offensive matter should be
carried off in wheel-barrows, by two servants appointed for that
purpose. I would not have dwelt so long upon a circumstance
that, perhaps, at first sight, may appear not very momentous, if
I had not thought it necessary to justify my character, in point
of cleanliness, to the world; which, I am told, some of my
maligners have been pleased, upon this and other occasions, to
call in question.

When this adventure was at an end, I came back out of my house,
having occasion for fresh air. The emperor was already descended
from the tower, and advancing on horse-back towards me, which had
like to have cost him dear; for the beast, though very well
trained, yet wholly unused to such a sight, which appeared as if
a mountain moved before him, reared up on its hinder feet: but
that prince, who is an excellent horseman, kept his seat, till
his attendants ran in, and held the bridle, while his majesty had
time to dismount. When he alighted, he surveyed me round with
great admiration; but kept beyond the length of my chain. He
ordered his cooks and butlers, who were already prepared, to give
me victuals and drink, which they pushed forward in a sort of
vehicles upon wheels, till I could reach them. I took these
vehicles and soon emptied them all; twenty of them were filled
with meat, and ten with liquor; each of the former afforded me
two or three good mouthfuls; and I emptied the liquor of ten
vessels, which was contained in earthen vials, into one vehicle,
drinking it off at a draught; and so I did with the rest. The
empress, and young princes of the blood of both sexes, attended
by many ladies, sat at some distance in their chairs; but upon
the accident that happened to the emperor's horse, they alighted,
and came near his person, which I am now going to describe. He
is taller by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his
court; which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders.

His features are strong and masculine, with an Austrian lip and
arched nose, his complexion olive, his countenance erect, his
body and limbs well proportioned, all his motions graceful, and
his deportment majestic. He was then past his prime, being
twenty-eight years and three quarters old, of which he had
reigned about seven in great felicity, and generally victorious.
For the better convenience of beholding him, I lay on my side, so
that my face was parallel to his, and he stood but three yards
off: however, I have had him since many times in my hand, and
therefore cannot be deceived in the description. His dress was
very plain and simple, and the fashion of it between the Asiatic
and the European; but he had on his head a light helmet of gold,
adorned with jewels, and a plume on the crest. He held his sword
drawn in his hand to defend himself, if I should happen to break
loose; it was almost three inches long; the hilt and scabbard
were gold enriched with diamonds. His voice was shrill, but very
clear and articulate; and I could distinctly hear it when I stood
up. The ladies and courtiers were all most magnificently clad;
so that the spot they stood upon seemed to resemble a petticoat
spread upon the ground, embroidered with figures of gold and
silver. His imperial majesty spoke often to me, and I returned
answers: but neither of us could understand a syllable. There
were several of his priests and lawyers present (as I conjectured
by their habits), who were commanded to address themselves to me;
and I spoke to them in as many languages as I had the least
smattering of, which were High and Low Dutch, Latin, French,
Spanish, Italian, and Lingua Franca, but all to no purpose.
After about two hours the court retired, and I was left with a
strong guard, to prevent the impertinence, and probably the
malice of the rabble, who were very impatient to crowd about me
as near as they durst; and some of them had the impudence to
shoot their arrows at me, as I sat on the ground by the door of
my house, whereof one very narrowly missed my left eye. But the
colonel ordered six of the ringleaders to be seized, and thought
no punishment so proper as to deliver them bound into my hands;
which some of his soldiers accordingly did, pushing them forward
with the butt-ends of their pikes into my reach. I took them all
in my right hand, put five of them into my coat-pocket; and as to
the sixth, I made a countenance as if I would eat him alive. The
poor man squalled terribly, and the colonel and his officers were
in much pain, especially when they saw me take out my penknife:
but I soon put them out of fear; for, looking mildly, and
immediately cutting the strings he was bound with, I set him
gently on the ground, and away he ran. I treated the rest in the
same manner, taking them one by one out of my pocket; and I
observed both the soldiers and people were highly delighted at
this mark of my clemency, which was represented very much to my
advantage at court.

Towards night I got with some difficulty into my house, where I
lay on the ground, and continued to do so about a fortnight;
during which time, the emperor gave orders to have a bed prepared
for me. Six hundred beds of the common measure were brought in
carriages, and worked up in my house; a hundred and fifty of
their beds, sewn together, made up the breadth and length; and
these were four double: which, however, kept me but very
indifferently from the hardness of the floor, that was of smooth
stone. By the same computation, they provided me with sheets,
blankets, and coverlets, tolerable enough for one who had been so
long inured to hardships.

As the news of my arrival spread through the kingdom, it brought
prodigious numbers of rich, idle, and curious people to see me;
so that the villages were almost emptied; and great neglect of
tillage and household affairs must have ensued, if his imperial
majesty had not provided, by several proclamations and orders of
state, against this inconveniency. He directed that those who
had already beheld me should return home, and not presume to come
within fifty yards of my house, without license from the court;
whereby the secretaries of state got considerable fees.

In the mean time the emperor held frequent councils, to debate
what course should be taken with me; and I was afterwards assured
by a particular friend, a person of great quality, who was as
much in the secret as any, that the court was under many
difficulties concerning me. They apprehended my breaking loose;
that my diet would be very expensive, and might cause a famine.
Sometimes they determined to starve me; or at least to shoot me
in the face and hands with poisoned arrows, which would soon
despatch me; but again they considered, that the stench of so
large a carcass might produce a plague in the metropolis, and
probably spread through the whole kingdom. In the midst of these
consultations, several officers of the army went to the door of
the great council-chamber, and two of them being admitted, gave
an account of my behaviour to the six criminals above-mentioned;
which made so favourable an impression in the breast of his
majesty and the whole board, in my behalf, that an imperial
commission was issued out, obliging all the villages, nine
hundred yards round the city, to deliver in every morning six
beeves, forty sheep, and other victuals for my sustenance;
together with a proportionable quantity of bread, and wine, and
other liquors; for the due payment of which, his majesty gave
assignments upon his treasury:--for this prince lives chiefly
upon his own demesnes; seldom, except upon great occasions,
raising any subsidies upon his subjects, who are bound to attend
him in his wars at their own expense. An establishment was also
made of six hundred persons to be my domestics, who had
board-wages allowed for their maintenance, and tents built for
them very conveniently on each side of my door. It was likewise
ordered, that three hundred tailors should make me a suit of
clothes, after the fashion of the country; that six of his
majesty's greatest scholars should be employed to instruct me in
their language; and lastly, that the emperor's horses, and those
of the nobility and troops of guards, should be frequently
exercised in my sight, to accustom themselves to me. All these
orders were duly put in execution; and in about three weeks I
made a great progress in learning their language; during which
time the emperor frequently honoured me with his visits, and was
pleased to assist my masters in teaching me. We began already to
converse together in some sort; and the first words I learnt,
were to express my desire "that he would please give me my
liberty;" which I every day repeated on my knees. His answer, as
I could comprehend it, was, "that this must be a work of time,
not to be thought on without the advice of his council, and that
swear a peace with him and his kingdom. However, that I should
be used with all kindness. And he advised me to "acquire, by my
patience and discreet behaviour, the good opinion of himself and
his subjects." He desired "I would not take it ill, if he gave
orders to certain proper officers to search me; for probably I
might carry about me several weapons, which must needs be
dangerous things, if they answered the bulk of so prodigious a
person." I said, "His majesty should be satisfied; for I was
ready to strip myself, and turn up my pockets before him." This
I delivered part in words, and part in signs. He replied, "that,
by the laws of the kingdom, I must be searched by two of his
officers; that he knew this could not be done without my consent
and assistance; and he had so good an opinion of my generosity
and justice, as to trust their persons in my hands; that whatever
they took from me, should be returned when I left the country, or
paid for at the rate which I would set upon them." I took up the
two officers in my hands, put them first into my coat-pockets,
and then into every other pocket about me, except my two fobs,
and another secret pocket, which I had no mind should be
searched, wherein I had some little necessaries that were of no
consequence to any but myself. In one of my fobs there was a
silver watch, and in the other a small quantity of gold in a
purse. These gentlemen, having pen, ink, and paper, about them,
made an exact inventory of every thing they saw; and when they
had done, desired I would set them down, that they might deliver
it to the emperor. This inventory I afterwards translated into
English, and is, word for word, as follows:

"IMPRIMIS, In the right coat-pocket of the great man-mountain"
(for so I interpret the words QUINBUS FLESTRIN,) "after the
strictest search, we found only one great piece of coarse-cloth,
large enough to be a foot-cloth for your majesty's chief room of
state. In the left pocket we saw a huge silver chest, with a
cover of the same metal, which we, the searchers, were not able
to lift. We desired it should be opened, and one of us stepping
into it, found himself up to the mid leg in a sort of dust, some
part whereof flying up to our faces set us both a sneezing for
several times together. In his right waistcoat-pocket we found a
prodigious bundle of white thin substances, folded one over
another, about the bigness of three men, tied with a strong
cable, and marked with black figures; which we humbly conceive to
be writings, every letter almost half as large as the palm of our
hands. In the left there was a sort of engine, from the back of
which were extended twenty long poles, resembling the pallisados
before your majesty's court: wherewith we conjecture the
man-mountain combs his head; for we did not always trouble him
with questions, because we found it a great difficulty to make
him understand us. In the large pocket, on the right side of his
middle cover" (so I translate the word RANFULO, by which they
meant my breeches,) "we saw a hollow pillar of iron, about the
length of a man, fastened to a strong piece of timber larger than
the pillar; and upon one side of the pillar, were huge pieces of
iron sticking out, cut into strange figures, which we know not
what to make of. In the left pocket, another engine of the same
kind. In the smaller pocket on the right side, were several
round flat pieces of white and red metal, of different bulk; some
of the white, which seemed to be silver, were so large and heavy,
that my comrade and I could hardly lift them. In the left pocket
were two black pillars irregularly shaped: we could not, without
difficulty, reach the top of them, as we stood at the bottom of
his pocket. One of them was covered, and seemed all of a piece:
but at the upper end of the other there appeared a white round
substance, about twice the bigness of our heads. Within each of
these was enclosed a prodigious plate of steel; which, by our
orders, we obliged him to show us, because we apprehended they
might be dangerous engines. He took them out of their cases, and
told us, that in his own country his practice was to shave his
beard with one of these, and cut his meat with the other. There
were two pockets which we could not enter: these he called his
fobs; they were two large slits cut into the top of his middle
cover, but squeezed close by the pressure of his belly. Out of
the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of
engine at the bottom. We directed him to draw out whatever was
at the end of that chain; which appeared to be a globe, half
silver, and half of some transparent metal; for, on the
transparent side, we saw certain strange figures circularly
drawn, and though we could touch them, till we found our fingers
stopped by the lucid substance. He put this engine into our
ears, which made an incessant noise, like that of a water-mill:
and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god
that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion,
because he assured us, (if we understood him right, for he
expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any thing
without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said, it
pointed out the time for every action of his life. From the left
fob he took out a net almost large enough for a fisherman, but
contrived to open and shut like a purse, and served him for the
same use: we found therein several massy pieces of yellow metal,
which, if they be real gold, must be of immense value.

"Having thus, in obedience to your majesty's commands, diligently
searched all his pockets, we observed a girdle about his waist
made of the hide of some prodigious animal, from which, on the
left side, hung a sword of the length of five men; and on the
right, a bag or pouch divided into two cells, each cell capable
of holding three of your majesty's subjects. In one of these
cells were several globes, or balls, of a most ponderous metal,
about the bigness of our heads, and requiring a strong hand to
lift them: the other cell contained a heap of certain black
grains, but of no great bulk or weight, for we could hold above
fifty of them in the palms of our hands.

"This is an exact inventory of what we found about the body of
the man-mountain, who used us with great civility, and due
respect to your majesty's commission. Signed and sealed on the
fourth day of the eighty-ninth moon of your majesty's auspicious


When this inventory was read over to the emperor, he directed me,
although in very gentle terms, to deliver up the several
particulars. He first called for my scimitar, which I took out,
scabbard and all. In the mean time he ordered three thousand of
his choicest troops (who then attended him) to surround me at a
distance, with their bows and arrows just ready to discharge; but
I did not observe it, for mine eyes were wholly fixed upon his
majesty. He then desired me to draw my scimitar, which, although
it had got some rust by the sea water, was, in most parts,
exceeding bright. I did so, and immediately all the troops gave
a shout between terror and surprise; for the sun shone clear, and
the reflection dazzled their eyes, as I waved the scimitar to and
fro in my hand. His majesty, who is a most magnanimous prince,
was less daunted than I could expect: he ordered me to return it
into the scabbard, and cast it on the ground as gently as I
could, about six feet from the end of my chain. The next thing
he demanded was one of the hollow iron pillars; by which he meant
my pocket pistols. I drew it out, and at his desire, as well as
I could, expressed to him the use of it; and charging it only
with powder, which, by the closeness of my pouch, happened to
escape wetting in the sea (an inconvenience against which all
prudent mariners take special care to provide,) I first cautioned
the emperor not to be afraid, and then I let it off in the air.
The astonishment here was much greater than at the sight of my
scimitar. Hundreds fell down as if they had been struck dead;
and even the emperor, although he stood his ground, could not
recover himself for some time. I delivered up both my pistols in
the same manner as I had done my scimitar, and then my pouch of
powder and bullets; begging him that the former might be kept
from fire, for it would kindle with the smallest spark, and blow
up his imperial palace into the air. I likewise delivered up my
watch, which the emperor was very curious to see, and commanded
two of his tallest yeomen of the guards to bear it on a pole upon
their shoulders, as draymen in England do a barrel of ale. He
was amazed at the continual noise it made, and the motion of the
minute-hand, which he could easily discern; for their sight is
much more acute than ours: he asked the opinions of his learned
men about it, which were various and remote, as the reader may
well imagine without my repeating; although indeed I could not
very perfectly understand them. I then gave up my silver and
copper money, my purse, with nine large pieces of gold, and some
smaller ones; my knife and razor, my comb and silver snuff-box,
my handkerchief and journal-book. My scimitar, pistols, and
pouch, were conveyed in carriages to his majesty's stores; but
the rest of my goods were returned me.

I had as I before observed, one private pocket, which escaped
their search, wherein there was a pair of spectacles (which I
sometimes use for the weakness of mine eyes,) a pocket
perspective, and some other little conveniences; which, being of
no consequence to the emperor, I did not think myself bound in
honour to discover, and I apprehended they might be lost or
spoiled if I ventured them out of my possession.



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