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Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

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[The Luggnaggians commended. A particular description of the
Struldbrugs, with many conversations between the author and
some eminent persons upon that subject.]

The Luggnaggians are a polite and generous people; and although
they are not without some share of that pride which is peculiar
to all Eastern countries, yet they show themselves courteous to
strangers, especially such who are countenanced by the court. I
had many acquaintance, and among persons of the best fashion; and
being always attended by my interpreter, the conversation we had
was not disagreeable.

One day, in much good company, I was asked by a person of
quality, "whether I had seen any of their STRULDBRUGS, or
immortals?" I said, "I had not;" and desired he would explain to
me "what he meant by such an appellation, applied to a mortal
creature." He told me "that sometimes, though very rarely, a
child happened to be born in a family, with a red circular spot
in the forehead, directly over the left eyebrow, which was an
infallible mark that it should never die." The spot, as he
described it, "was about the compass of a silver threepence, but
in the course of time grew larger, and changed its colour; for at
twelve years old it became green, so continued till five and
twenty, then turned to a deep blue: at five and forty it grew
coal black, and as large as an English shilling; but never
admitted any further alteration." He said, "these births were so
rare, that he did not believe there could be above eleven hundred
struldbrugs, of both sexes, in the whole kingdom; of which he
computed about fifty in the metropolis, and, among the rest, a
young girl born; about three years ago: that these productions
were not peculiar to any family, but a mere effect of chance; and
the children of the STRULDBRUGS themselves were equally mortal
with the rest of the people."

I freely own myself to have been struck with inexpressible
delight, upon hearing this account: and the person who gave it
me happening to understand the Balnibarbian language, which I
spoke very well, I could not forbear breaking out into
expressions, perhaps a little too extravagant. I cried out, as
in a rapture, "Happy nation, where every child hath at least a
chance for being immortal! Happy people, who enjoy so many
living examples of ancient virtue, and have masters ready to
instruct them in the wisdom of all former ages! but happiest,
beyond all comparison, are those excellent STRULDBRUGS, who,
being born exempt from that universal calamity of human nature,
have their minds free and disengaged, without the weight and
depression of spirits caused by the continual apprehensions of
death!" I discovered my admiration that I had not observed any
of these illustrious persons at court; the black spot on the
forehead being so remarkable a distinction, that I could not have
easily overlooked it: and it was impossible that his majesty, a
most judicious prince, should not provide himself with a good
number of such wise and able counsellors. Yet perhaps the virtue
of those reverend sages was too strict for the corrupt and
libertine manners of a court: and we often find by experience,
that young men are too opinionated and volatile to be guided by
the sober dictates of their seniors. However, since the king was
pleased to allow me access to his royal person, I was resolved,
upon the very first occasion, to deliver my opinion to him on
this matter freely and at large, by the help of my interpreter;
and whether he would please to take my advice or not, yet in one
thing I was determined, that his majesty having frequently
offered me an establishment in this country, I would, with great
thankfulness, accept the favour, and pass my life here in the
conversation of those superior beings the STRULDBRUGS, if they
would please to admit me."

The gentleman to whom I addressed my discourse, because (as I
have already observed) he spoke the language of Balnibarbi, said
to me, with a sort of a smile which usually arises from pity to
the ignorant, "that he was glad of any occasion to keep me among
them, and desired my permission to explain to the company what I
had spoke." He did so, and they talked together for some time in
their own language, whereof I understood not a syllable, neither
could I observe by their countenances, what impression my
discourse had made on them. After a short silence, the same
person told me, "that his friends and mine (so he thought fit to
express himself) were very much pleased with the judicious
remarks I had made on the great happiness and advantages of
immortal life, and they were desirous to know, in a particular
manner, what scheme of living I should have formed to myself, if
it had fallen to my lot to have been born a STRULDBRUG."

I answered, "it was easy to be eloquent on so copious and
delightful a subject, especially to me, who had been often apt to
amuse myself with visions of what I should do, if I were a king,
a general, or a great lord: and upon this very case, I had
frequently run over the whole system how I should employ myself,
and pass the time, if I were sure to live for ever.

"That, if it had been my good fortune to come into the world a
STRULDBRUG, as soon as I could discover my own happiness, by
understanding the difference between life and death, I would
first resolve, by all arts and methods, whatsoever, to procure
myself riches. In the pursuit of which, by thrift and
management, I might reasonably expect, in about two hundred
years, to be the wealthiest man in the kingdom. In the second
place, I would, from my earliest youth, apply myself to the study
of arts and sciences, by which I should arrive in time to excel
all others in learning. Lastly, I would carefully record every
action and event of consequence, that happened in the public,
impartially draw the characters of the several successions of
princes and great ministers of state, with my own observations on
every point. I would exactly set down the several changes in
customs, language, fashions of dress, diet, and diversions. By
all which acquirements, I should be a living treasure of knowledge
and wisdom, and certainly become the oracle of the nation.

"I would never marry after threescore, but live in a hospitable
manner, yet still on the saving side. I would entertain myself
in forming and directing the minds of hopeful young men, by
convincing them, from my own remembrance, experience, and
observation, fortified by numerous examples, of the usefulness of
virtue in public and private life. But my choice and constant
companions should be a set of my own immortal brotherhood; among
whom, I would elect a dozen from the most ancient, down to my own
contemporaries. Where any of these wanted fortunes, I would
provide them with convenient lodges round my own estate, and have
some of them always at my table; only mingling a few of the most
valuable among you mortals, whom length of time would harden me
to lose with little or no reluctance, and treat your posterity
after the same manner; just as a man diverts himself with the
annual succession of pinks and tulips in his garden, without
regretting the loss of those which withered the preceding year.

"These STRULDBRUGS and I would mutually communicate our
observations and memorials, through the course of time; remark
the several gradations by which corruption steals into the world,
and oppose it in every step, by giving perpetual warning and
instruction to mankind; which, added to the strong influence of
our own example, would probably prevent that continual degeneracy
of human nature so justly complained of in all ages.

"Add to this, the pleasure of seeing the various revolutions of
states and empires; the changes in the lower and upper world;
ancient cities in ruins, and obscure villages become the seats of
kings; famous rivers lessening into shallow brooks; the ocean
leaving one coast dry, and overwhelming another; the discovery of
many countries yet unknown; barbarity overrunning the politest
nations, and the most barbarous become civilized. I should then
see the discovery of the longitude, the perpetual motion, the
universal medicine, and many other great inventions, brought to
the utmost perfection.

"What wonderful discoveries should we make in astronomy, by
outliving and confirming our own predictions; by observing the
progress and return of comets, with the changes of motion in the
sun, moon, and stars!"

I enlarged upon many other topics, which the natural desire of
endless life, and sublunary happiness, could easily furnish me
with. When I had ended, and the sum of my discourse had been
interpreted, as before, to the rest of the company, there was a
good deal of talk among them in the language of the country, not
without some laughter at my expense. At last, the same gentleman
who had been my interpreter, said, "he was desired by the rest to
set me right in a few mistakes, which I had fallen into through
the common imbecility of human nature, and upon that allowance
was less answerable for them. That this breed of STRULDBRUGS was
peculiar to their country, for there were no such people either
in Balnibarbi or Japan, where he had the honour to be ambassador
from his majesty, and found the natives in both those kingdoms
very hard to believe that the fact was possible: and it appeared
from my astonishment when he first mentioned the matter to me,
that I received it as a thing wholly new, and scarcely to be
credited. That in the two kingdoms above mentioned, where, during
his residence, he had conversed very much, he observed long life
to be the universal desire and wish of mankind. That whoever had
one foot in the grave was sure to hold back the other as strongly
as he could. That the oldest had still hopes of living one day
longer, and looked on death as the greatest evil, from which
nature always prompted him to retreat. Only in this island of
Luggnagg the appetite for living was not so eager, from the
continual example of the STRULDBRUGS before their eyes.

"That the system of living contrived by me, was unreasonable and
unjust; because it supposed a perpetuity of youth, health, and
vigour, which no man could be so foolish to hope, however
extravagant he may be in his wishes. That the question therefore
was not, whether a man would choose to be always in the prime of
youth, attended with prosperity and health; but how he would pass
a perpetual life under all the usual disadvantages which old age
brings along with it. For although few men will avow their
desires of being immortal, upon such hard conditions, yet in the
two kingdoms before mentioned, of Balnibarbi and Japan, he
observed that every man desired to put off death some time
longer, let it approach ever so late: and he rarely heard of any
man who died willingly, except he were incited by the extremity
of grief or torture. And he appealed to me, whether in those
countries I had travelled, as well as my own, I had not observed
the same general disposition."

After this preface, he gave me a particular account of the
STRULDBRUGS among them. He said, "they commonly acted like
mortals till about thirty years old; after which, by degrees,
they grew melancholy and dejected, increasing in both till they
came to fourscore. This he learned from their own confession:
for otherwise, there not being above two or three of that species
born in an age, they were too few to form a general observation
by. When they came to fourscore years, which is reckoned the
extremity of living in this country, they had not only all the
follies and infirmities of other old men, but many more which
arose from the dreadful prospect of never dying. They were not
only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative,
but incapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection,
which never descended below their grandchildren. Envy and
impotent desires are their prevailing passions. But those
objects against which their envy seems principally directed, are
the vices of the younger sort and the deaths of the old. By
reflecting on the former, they find themselves cut off from all
possibility of pleasure; and whenever they see a funeral, they
lament and repine that others have gone to a harbour of rest to
which they themselves never can hope to arrive. They have no
remembrance of anything but what they learned and observed in
their youth and middle-age, and even that is very imperfect; and
for the truth or particulars of any fact, it is safer to depend
on common tradition, than upon their best recollections. The
least miserable among them appear to be those who turn to dotage,
and entirely lose their memories; these meet with more pity and
assistance, because they want many bad qualities which abound in

"If a STRULDBRUG happen to marry one of his own kind, the
marriage is dissolved of course, by the courtesy of the kingdom,
as soon as the younger of the two comes to be fourscore; for the
law thinks it a reasonable indulgence, that those who are
condemned, without any fault of their own, to a perpetual
continuance in the world, should not have their misery doubled by
the load of a wife.

"As soon as they have completed the term of eighty years, they
are looked on as dead in law; their heirs immediately succeed to
their estates; only a small pittance is reserved for their
support; and the poor ones are maintained at the public charge.
After that period, they are held incapable of any employment of
trust or profit; they cannot purchase lands, or take leases;
neither are they allowed to be witnesses in any cause, either
civil or criminal, not even for the decision of meers and bounds.

"At ninety, they lose their teeth and hair; they have at that age
no distinction of taste, but eat and drink whatever they can get,
without relish or appetite. The diseases they were subject to
still continue, without increasing or diminishing. In talking,
they forget the common appellation of things, and the names of
persons, even of those who are their nearest friends and
relations. For the same reason, they never can amuse themselves
with reading, because their memory will not serve to carry them
from the beginning of a sentence to the end; and by this defect,
they are deprived of the only entertainment whereof they might
otherwise be capable.

The language of this country being always upon the flux, the
STRULDBRUGS of one age do not understand those of another;
neither are they able, after two hundred years, to hold any
conversation (farther than by a few general words) with their
neighbours the mortals; and thus they lie under the disadvantage
of living like foreigners in their own country."

This was the account given me of the STRULDBRUGS, as near as I
can remember. I afterwards saw five or six of different ages,
the youngest not above two hundred years old, who were brought to
me at several times by some of my friends; but although they were
told, "that I was a great traveller, and had seen all the world,"
they had not the least curiosity to ask me a question; only
desired "I would give them SLUMSKUDASK," or a token of
remembrance; which is a modest way of begging, to avoid the law,
that strictly forbids it, because they are provided for by the
public, although indeed with a very scanty allowance.

They are despised and hated by all sorts of people. When one of
them is born, it is reckoned ominous, and their birth is recorded
very particularly so that you may know their age by consulting
the register, which, however, has not been kept above a thousand
years past, or at least has been destroyed by time or public
disturbances. But the usual way of computing how old they are,
is by asking them what kings or great persons they can remember,
and then consulting history; for infallibly the last prince in their mind
did not begin his reign after they were four-score years old.

They were the most mortifying sight I ever beheld; and the women
more horrible than the men. Besides the usual deformities in
extreme old age, they acquired an additional ghastliness, in
proportion to their number of years, which is not to be described;
and among half a dozen, I soon distinguished which was the eldest,
although there was not above a century or two between them.

The reader will easily believe, that from what I had hear and
seen, my keen appetite for perpetuity of life was much abated. I
grew heartily ashamed of the pleasing visions I had formed; and
thought no tyrant could invent a death into which I would not run
with pleasure, from such a life. The king heard of all that had
passed between me and my friends upon this occasion, and rallied
me very pleasantly; wishing I could send a couple of STRULDBRUGS
to my own country, to arm our people against the fear of death;
but this, it seems, is forbidden by the fundamental laws of the
kingdom, or else I should have been well content with the trouble
and expense of transporting them.

I could not but agree, that the laws of this kingdom relative to
the STRULDBRUGS were founded upon the strongest reasons, and such
as any other country would be under the necessity of enacting, in
the like circumstances. Otherwise, as avarice is the necessary
consequence of old age, those immortals would in time become
proprietors of the whole nation, and engross the civil power,
which, for want of abilities to manage, must end in the ruin of
the public.



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