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Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

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[Of the inhabitants of Lilliput; their learning, laws, and
customs; the manner of educating their children. The author's
way of living in that country. His vindication of a great lady.]

Although I intend to leave the description of this empire to a
particular treatise, yet, in the mean time, I am content to
gratify the curious reader with some general ideas. As the
common size of the natives is somewhat under six inches high, so
there is an exact proportion in all other animals, as well as
plants and trees: for instance, the tallest horses and oxen are
between four and five inches in height, the sheep an inch and
half, more or less: their geese about the bigness of a sparrow,
and so the several gradations downwards till you come to the
smallest, which to my sight, were almost invisible; but nature
has adapted the eyes of the Lilliputians to all objects proper
for their view: they see with great exactness, but at no great
distance. And, to show the sharpness of their sight towards
objects that are near, I have been much pleased with observing a
cook pulling a lark, which was not so large as a common fly; and
a young girl threading an invisible needle with invisible silk.
Their tallest trees are about seven feet high: I mean some of
those in the great royal park, the tops whereof I could but just
reach with my fist clenched. The other vegetables are in the
same proportion; but this I leave to the reader's imagination.

I shall say but little at present of their learning, which, for
many ages, has flourished in all its branches among them: but
their manner of writing is very peculiar, being neither from the
left to the right, like the Europeans, nor from the right to the
left, like the Arabians, nor from up to down, like the Chinese,
but aslant, from one corner of the paper to the other, like
ladies in England.

They bury their dead with their heads directly downward, because
they hold an opinion, that in eleven thousand moons they are all
to rise again; in which period the earth (which they conceive to
be flat) will turn upside down, and by this means they shall, at
their resurrection, be found ready standing on their feet. The
learned among them confess the absurdity of this doctrine; but
the practice still continues, in compliance to the vulgar.

There are some laws and customs in this empire very peculiar; and
if they were not so directly contrary to those of my own dear
country, I should be tempted to say a little in their
justification. It is only to be wished they were as well
executed. The first I shall mention, relates to informers. All
crimes against the state, are punished here with the utmost
severity; but, if the person accused makes his innocence plainly
to appear upon his trial, the accuser is immediately put to an
ignominious death; and out of his goods or lands the innocent
person is quadruply recompensed for the loss of his time, for the
danger he underwent, for the hardship of his imprisonment, and
for all the charges he has been at in making his defence; or, if
that fund be deficient, it is largely supplied by the crown. The
emperor also confers on him some public mark of his favour, and
proclamation is made of his innocence through the whole city.

They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore
seldom fail to punish it with death; for they allege, that care
and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may preserve a
man's goods from thieves, but honesty has no defence against
superior cunning; and, since it is necessary that there should be
a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon
credit, where fraud is permitted and connived at, or has no law
to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave
gets the advantage. I remember, when I was once interceding with
the emperor for a criminal who had wronged his master of a great
sum of money, which he had received by order and ran away with;
and happening to tell his majesty, by way of extenuation, that it
was only a breach of trust, the emperor thought it monstrous in
me to offer as a defence the greatest aggravation of the crime;
and truly I had little to say in return, farther than the common
answer, that different nations had different customs; for, I
confess, I was heartily ashamed.

[2] An act of parliament has been since passed by which some
breaches of trust have been made capital.

Although we usually call reward and punishment the two hinges
upon which all government turns, yet I could never observe this
maxim to be put in practice by any nation except that of
Lilliput. Whoever can there bring sufficient proof, that he has
strictly observed the laws of his country for seventy-three
moons, has a claim to certain privileges, according to his
quality or condition of life, with a proportionable sum of money
out of a fund appropriated for that use: he likewise acquires
the title of SNILPALL, or legal, which is added to his name, but
does not descend to his posterity. And these people thought it a
prodigious defect of policy among us, when I told them that our
laws were enforced only by penalties, without any mention of
reward. It is upon this account that the image of Justice, in
their courts of judicature, is formed with six eyes, two before,
as many behind, and on each side one, to signify circumspection;
with a bag of gold open in her right hand, and a sword sheathed
in her left, to show she is more disposed to reward than to

In choosing persons for all employments, they have more regard to
good morals than to great abilities; for, since government is
necessary to mankind, they believe, that the common size of human
understanding is fitted to some station or other; and that
Providence never intended to make the management of public
affairs a mystery to be comprehended only by a few persons of
sublime genius, of which there seldom are three born in an age:
but they suppose truth, justice, temperance, and the like, to be
in every man's power; the practice of which virtues, assisted by
experience and a good intention, would qualify any man for the
service of his country, except where a course of study is
required. But they thought the want of moral virtues was so far
from being supplied by superior endowments of the mind, that
employments could never be put into such dangerous hands as those
of persons so qualified; and, at least, that the mistakes
committed by ignorance, in a virtuous disposition, would never be
of such fatal consequence to the public weal, as the practices of
a man, whose inclinations led him to be corrupt, and who had
great abilities to manage, to multiply, and defend his

In like manner, the disbelief of a Divine Providence renders a
man incapable of holding any public station; for, since kings
avow themselves to be the deputies of Providence, the
Lilliputians think nothing can be more absurd than for a prince
to employ such men as disown the authority under which he acts.

In relating these and the following laws, I would only be
understood to mean the original institutions, and not the most
scandalous corruptions, into which these people are fallen by the
degenerate nature of man. For, as to that infamous practice of
acquiring great employments by dancing on the ropes, or badges of
favour and distinction by leaping over sticks and creeping under
them, the reader is to observe, that they were first introduced
by the grandfather of the emperor now reigning, and grew to the
present height by the gradual increase of party and faction.

Ingratitude is among them a capital crime, as we read it to have
been in some other countries: for they reason thus; that whoever
makes ill returns to his benefactor, must needs be a common enemy
to the rest of mankind, from whom he has received no obligation,
and therefore such a man is not fit to live.

Their notions relating to the duties of parents and children
differ extremely from ours. For, since the conjunction of male
and female is founded upon the great law of nature, in order to
propagate and continue the species, the Lilliputians will needs
have it, that men and women are joined together, like other
animals, by the motives of concupiscence; and that their
tenderness towards their young proceeds from the like natural
principle: for which reason they will never allow that a child
is under any obligation to his father for begetting him, or to
his mother for bringing him into the world; which, considering
the miseries of human life, was neither a benefit in itself, nor
intended so by his parents, whose thoughts, in their love
encounters, were otherwise employed. Upon these, and the like
reasonings, their opinion is, that parents are the last of all
others to be trusted with the education of their own children;
and therefore they have in every town public nurseries, where all
parents, except cottagers and labourers, are obliged to send
their infants of both sexes to be reared and educated, when they
come to the age of twenty moons, at which time they are supposed
to have some rudiments of docility. These schools are of several
kinds, suited to different qualities, and both sexes. They have
certain professors well skilled in preparing children for such a
condition of life as befits the rank of their parents, and their
own capacities, as well as inclinations. I shall first say
something of the male nurseries, and then of the female.

The nurseries for males of noble or eminent birth, are provided
with grave and learned professors, and their several deputies.
The clothes and food of the children are plain and simple. They
are bred up in the principles of honour, justice, courage,
modesty, clemency, religion, and love of their country; they are
always employed in some business, except in the times of eating
and sleeping, which are very short, and two hours for diversions
consisting of bodily exercises. They are dressed by men till
four years of age, and then are obliged to dress themselves,
although their quality be ever so great; and the women attendant,
who are aged proportionably to ours at fifty, perform only the
most menial offices. They are never suffered to converse with
servants, but go together in smaller or greater numbers to take
their diversions, and always in the presence of a professor, or
one of his deputies; whereby they avoid those early bad
impressions of folly and vice, to which our children are subject.

Their parents are suffered to see them only twice a year; the
visit is to last but an hour; they are allowed to kiss the child
at meeting and parting; but a professor, who always stands by on
those occasions, will not suffer them to whisper, or use any
fondling expressions, or bring any presents of toys, sweetmeats,
and the like.

The pension from each family for the education and entertainment
of a child, upon failure of due payment, is levied by the
emperor's officers.

The nurseries for children of ordinary gentlemen, merchants,
traders, and handicrafts, are managed proportionably after the
same manner; only those designed for trades are put out
apprentices at eleven years old, whereas those of persons of
quality continue in their exercises till fifteen, which answers
to twenty-one with us: but the confinement is gradually lessened
for the last three years.

In the female nurseries, the young girls of quality are educated
much like the males, only they are dressed by orderly servants of
their own sex; but always in the presence of a professor or
deputy, till they come to dress themselves, which is at five
years old. And if it be found that these nurses ever presume to
entertain the girls with frightful or foolish stories, or the
common follies practised by chambermaids among us, they are
publicly whipped thrice about the city, imprisoned for a year,
and banished for life to the most desolate part of the country.
Thus the young ladies are as much ashamed of being cowards and
fools as the men, and despise all personal ornaments, beyond
decency and cleanliness: neither did I perceive any difference in
their education made by their difference of sex, only that the
exercises of the females were not altogether so robust; and that
some rules were given them relating to domestic life, and a
smaller compass of learning was enjoined them: for their maxim
is, that among peoples of quality, a wife should be always a
reasonable and agreeable companion, because she cannot always be
young. When the girls are twelve years old, which among them is
the marriageable age, their parents or guardians take them home,
with great expressions of gratitude to the professors, and seldom
without tears of the young lady and her companions.

In the nurseries of females of the meaner sort, the children are
instructed in all kinds of works proper for their sex, and their
several degrees: those intended for apprentices are dismissed at
seven years old, the rest are kept to eleven.

The meaner families who have children at these nurseries, are
obliged, besides their annual pension, which is as low as
possible, to return to the steward of the nursery a small monthly
share of their gettings, to be a portion for the child; and
therefore all parents are limited in their expenses by the law.
For the Lilliputians think nothing can be more unjust, than for
people, in subservience to their own appetites, to bring children
into the world, and leave the burthen of supporting them on the
public. As to persons of quality, they give security to
appropriate a certain sum for each child, suitable to their
condition; and these funds are always managed with good husbandry
and the most exact justice.

The cottagers and labourers keep their children at home, their
business being only to till and cultivate the earth, and
therefore their education is of little consequence to the public:

but the old and diseased among them, are supported by hospitals;
for begging is a trade unknown in this empire.

And here it may, perhaps, divert the curious reader, to give some
account of my domestics, and my manner of living in this country,
during a residence of nine months, and thirteen days. Having a
head mechanically turned, and being likewise forced by necessity,
I had made for myself a table and chair convenient enough, out of
the largest trees in the royal park. Two hundred sempstresses
were employed to make me shirts, and linen for my bed and table,
all of the strongest and coarsest kind they could get; which,
however, they were forced to quilt together in several folds, for
the thickest was some degrees finer than lawn. Their linen is
usually three inches wide, and three feet make a piece. The
sempstresses took my measure as I lay on the ground, one standing
at my neck, and another at my mid-leg, with a strong cord
extended, that each held by the end, while a third measured the
length of the cord with a rule of an inch long. Then they
measured my right thumb, and desired no more; for by a
mathematical computation, that twice round the thumb is once
round the wrist, and so on to the neck and the waist, and by the
help of my old shirt, which I displayed on the ground before them
for a pattern, they fitted me exactly. Three hundred tailors were
employed in the same manner to make me clothes; but they had
another contrivance for taking my measure. I kneeled down, and
they raised a ladder from the ground to my neck; upon this ladder
one of them mounted, and let fall a plumb-line from my collar to
the floor, which just answered the length of my coat: but my
waist and arms I measured myself. When my clothes were finished,
which was done in my house (for the largest of theirs would not
have been able to hold them), they looked like the patch-work
made by the ladies in England, only that mine were all of a

I had three hundred cooks to dress my victuals, in little
convenient huts built about my house, where they and their
families lived, and prepared me two dishes a-piece. I took up
twenty waiters in my hand, and placed them on the table: a
hundred more attended below on the ground, some with dishes of
meat, and some with barrels of wine and other liquors slung on
their shoulders; all which the waiters above drew up, as I
wanted, in a very ingenious manner, by certain cords, as we draw
the bucket up a well in Europe. A dish of their meat was a good
mouthful, and a barrel of their liquor a reasonable draught.
Their mutton yields to ours, but their beef is excellent. I have
had a sirloin so large, that I have been forced to make three
bites of it; but this is rare. My servants were astonished to
see me eat it, bones and all, as in our country we do the leg of
a lark. Their geese and turkeys I usually ate at a mouthful, and
I confess they far exceed ours. Of their smaller fowl I could
take up twenty or thirty at the end of my knife.

One day his imperial majesty, being informed of my way of living,
desired "that himself and his royal consort, with the young
princes of the blood of both sexes, might have the happiness," as
he was pleased to call it, "of dining with me." They came
accordingly, and I placed them in chairs of state, upon my table,
just over against me, with their guards about them. Flimnap, the
lord high treasurer, attended there likewise with his white
staff; and I observed he often looked on me with a sour
countenance, which I would not seem to regard, but ate more than
usual, in honour to my dear country, as well as to fill the court
with admiration. I have some private reasons to believe, that
this visit from his majesty gave Flimnap an opportunity of doing
me ill offices to his master. That minister had always been my
secret enemy, though he outwardly caressed me more than was usual
to the moroseness of his nature. He represented to the emperor
"the low condition of his treasury; that he was forced to take up
money at a great discount; that exchequer bills would not
circulate under nine per cent. below par; that I had cost his
majesty above a million and a half of SPRUGS" (their greatest
gold coin, about the bigness of a spangle) "and, upon the whole,
that it would be advisable in the emperor to take the first fair
occasion of dismissing me."

I am here obliged to vindicate the reputation of an excellent
lady, who was an innocent sufferer upon my account. The
treasurer took a fancy to be jealous of his wife, from the malice
of some evil tongues, who informed him that her grace had taken a
violent affection for my person; and the court scandal ran for
some time, that she once came privately to my lodging. This I
solemnly declare to be a most infamous falsehood, without any
grounds, further than that her grace was pleased to treat me with
all innocent marks of freedom and friendship. I own she came
often to my house, but always publicly, nor ever without three
more in the coach, who were usually her sister and young
daughter, and some particular acquaintance; but this was common
to many other ladies of the court. And I still appeal to my
servants round, whether they at any time saw a coach at my door,
without knowing what persons were in it. On those occasions,
when a servant had given me notice, my custom was to go
immediately to the door, and, after paying my respects, to take
up the coach and two horses very carefully in my hands (for, if
there were six horses, the postillion always unharnessed four,)
and place them on a table, where I had fixed a movable rim quite
round, of five inches high, to prevent accidents. And I have
often had four coaches and horses at once on my table, full of
company, while I sat in my chair, leaning my face towards them;
and when I was engaged with one set, the coachmen would gently
drive the others round my table. I have passed many an afternoon
very agreeably in these conversations. But I defy the treasurer,
or his two informers (I will name them, and let them make the
best of it) Clustril and Drunlo, to prove that any person ever
came to me INCOGNITO, except the secretary Reldresal, who was
sent by express command of his imperial majesty, as I have before
related. I should not have dwelt so long upon this particular,
if it had not been a point wherein the reputation of a great lady
is so nearly concerned, to say nothing of my own; though I then
had the honour to be a NARDAC, which the treasurer himself is
not; for all the world knows, that he is only a GLUMGLUM, a title
inferior by one degree, as that of a marquis is to a duke in
England; yet I allow he preceded me in right of his post. These
false informations, which I afterwards came to the knowledge of
by an accident not proper to mention, made the treasurer show his
lady for some time an ill countenance, and me a worse; and
although he was at last undeceived and reconciled to her, yet I
lost all credit with him, and found my interest decline very fast
with the emperor himself, who was, indeed, too much governed by
that favourite.



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