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Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

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[A continuation of the state of England under Queen Anne.
The character of a first minister of state in European courts.]

My master was yet wholly at a loss to understand what motives
could incite this race of lawyers to perplex, disquiet, and weary
themselves, and engage in a confederacy of injustice, merely for
the sake of injuring their fellow-animals; neither could he
comprehend what I meant in saying, they did it for hire.
Whereupon I was at much pains to describe to him the use of
money, the materials it was made of, and the value of the metals;
"that when a YAHOO had got a great store of this precious
substance, he was able to purchase whatever he had a mind to; the
finest clothing, the noblest houses, great tracts of land, the
most costly meats and drinks, and have his choice of the most
beautiful females. Therefore since money alone was able to
perform all these feats, our YAHOOS thought they could never have
enough of it to spend, or to save, as they found themselves
inclined, from their natural bent either to profusion or avarice;
that the rich man enjoyed the fruit of the poor man's labour, and
the latter were a thousand to one in proportion to the former;
that the bulk of our people were forced to live miserably, by
labouring every day for small wages, to make a few live

I enlarged myself much on these, and many other particulars to
the same purpose; but his honour was still to seek; for he went
upon a supposition, that all animals had a title to their share
in the productions of the earth, and especially those who
presided over the rest. Therefore he desired I would let him
know, "what these costly meats were, and how any of us happened
to want them?" Whereupon I enumerated as many sorts as came into
my head, with the various methods of dressing them, which could
not be done without sending vessels by sea to every part of the
world, as well for liquors to drink as for sauces and innumerable
other conveniences. I assured him "that this whole globe of earth
must be at least three times gone round before one of our better
female YAHOOS could get her breakfast, or a cup to put it in."
He said "that must needs be a miserable country which cannot
furnish food for its own inhabitants. But what he chiefly
wondered at was, how such vast tracts of ground as I described
should be wholly without fresh water, and the people put to the
necessity of sending over the sea for drink." I replied "that
England (the dear place of my nativity) was computed to produce
three times the quantity of food more than its inhabitants are
able to consume, as well as liquors extracted from grain, or
pressed out of the fruit of certain trees, which made excellent
drink, and the same proportion in every other convenience of
life. But, in order to feed the luxury and intemperance of the
males, and the vanity of the females, we sent away the greatest
part of our necessary things to other countries, whence, in
return, we brought the materials of diseases, folly, and vice, to
spend among ourselves. Hence it follows of necessity, that vast
numbers of our people are compelled to seek their livelihood by
begging, robbing, stealing, cheating, pimping, flattering,
suborning, forswearing, forging, gaming, lying, fawning,
hectoring, voting, scribbling, star-gazing, poisoning, whoring,
canting, libelling, freethinking, and the like occupations:"
every one of which terms I was at much pains to make him

"That wine was not imported among us from foreign countries to
supply the want of water or other drinks, but because it was a
sort of liquid which made us merry by putting us out of our
senses, diverted all melancholy thoughts, begat wild extravagant
imaginations in the brain, raised our hopes and banished our
fears, suspended every office of reason for a time, and deprived
us of the use of our limbs, till we fell into a profound sleep;
although it must be confessed, that we always awaked sick and
dispirited; and that the use of this liquor filled us with
diseases which made our lives uncomfortable and short.

"But beside all this, the bulk of our people supported themselves
by furnishing the necessities or conveniences of life to the rich
and to each other. For instance, when I am at home, and dressed
as I ought to be, I carry on my body the workmanship of a hundred
tradesmen; the building and furniture of my house employ as many
more, and five times the number to adorn my wife."

I was going on to tell him of another sort of people, who get
their livelihood by attending the sick, having, upon some
occasions, informed his honour that many of my crew had died of
diseases. But here it was with the utmost difficulty that I
brought him to apprehend what I meant. "He could easily
conceive, that a HOUYHNHNM, grew weak and heavy a few days before
his death, or by some accident might hurt a limb; but that
nature, who works all things to perfection, should suffer any
pains to breed in our bodies, he thought impossible, and desired
to know the reason of so unaccountable an evil."

I told him "we fed on a thousand things which operated contrary
to each other; that we ate when we were not hungry, and drank
without the provocation of thirst; that we sat whole nights
drinking strong liquors, without eating a bit, which disposed us
to sloth, inflamed our bodies, and precipitated or prevented
digestion; that prostitute female YAHOOS acquired a certain
malady, which bred rottenness in the bones of those who fell into
their embraces; that this, and many other diseases, were
propagated from father to son; so that great numbers came into
the world with complicated maladies upon them; that it would be
endless to give him a catalogue of all diseases incident to human
bodies, for they would not be fewer than five or six hundred,
spread over every limb and joint -in short, every part, external
and intestine, having diseases appropriated to itself. To remedy
which, there was a sort of people bred up among us in the
profession, or pretence, of curing the sick. And because I had
some skill in the faculty, I would, in gratitude to his honour,
let him know the whole mystery and method by which they proceed.

"Their fundamental is, that all diseases arise from repletion;
whence they conclude, that a great evacuation of the body is
necessary, either through the natural passage or upwards at the
mouth. Their next business is from herbs, minerals, gums, oils,
shells, salts, juices, seaweed, excrements, barks of trees,
serpents, toads, frogs, spiders, dead men's flesh and bones,
birds, beasts, and fishes, to form a composition, for smell and
taste, the most abominable, nauseous, and detestable, they can
possibly contrive, which the stomach immediately rejects with
loathing, and this they call a vomit; or else, from the same
store-house, with some other poisonous additions, they command us
to take in at the orifice above or below (just as the physician
then happens to be disposed) a medicine equally annoying and
disgustful to the bowels; which, relaxing the belly, drives down
all before it; and this they call a purge, or a clyster. For
nature (as the physicians allege) having intended the superior
anterior orifice only for the intromission of solids and liquids,
and the inferior posterior for ejection, these artists
ingeniously considering that in all diseases nature is forced out
of her seat, therefore, to replace her in it, the body must be
treated in a manner directly contrary, by interchanging the use
of each orifice; forcing solids and liquids in at the anus, and
making evacuations at the mouth.

"But, besides real diseases, we are subject to many that are only
imaginary, for which the physicians have invented imaginary
cures; these have their several names, and so have the drugs that
are proper for them; and with these our female YAHOOS are always

"One great excellency in this tribe, is their skill at
prognostics, wherein they seldom fail; their predictions in real
diseases, when they rise to any degree of malignity, generally
portending death, which is always in their power, when recovery
is not: and therefore, upon any unexpected signs of amendment,
after they have pronounced their sentence, rather than be accused
as false prophets, they know how to approve their sagacity to the
world, by a seasonable dose.

"They are likewise of special use to husbands and wives who are
grown weary of their mates; to eldest sons, to great ministers of
state, and often to princes."

I had formerly, upon occasion, discoursed with my master upon the
nature of government in general, and particularly of our own
excellent constitution, deservedly the wonder and envy of the
whole world. But having here accidentally mentioned a minister
of state, he commanded me, some time after, to inform him, "what
species of YAHOO I particularly meant by that appellation."

I told him, "that a first or chief minister of state, who was the
person I intended to describe, was the creature wholly exempt
from joy and grief, love and hatred, pity and anger; at least,
makes use of no other passions, but a violent desire of wealth,
power, and titles; that he applies his words to all uses, except
to the indication of his mind; that he never tells a truth but
with an intent that you should take it for a lie; nor a lie, but
with a design that you should take it for a truth; that those he
speaks worst of behind their backs are in the surest way of
preferment; and whenever he begins to praise you to others, or to
yourself, you are from that day forlorn. The worst mark you can
receive is a promise, especially when it is confirmed with an oath;
after which, every wise man retires, and gives over all hopes.

"There are three methods, by which a man may rise to be chief
minister. The first is, by knowing how, with prudence, to
dispose of a wife, a daughter, or a sister; the second, by
betraying or undermining his predecessor; and the third is, by a
furious zeal, in public assemblies, against the corruption's of
the court. But a wise prince would rather choose to employ those
who practise the last of these methods; because such zealots
prove always the most obsequious and subservient to the will and
passions of their master. That these ministers, having all
employments at their disposal, preserve themselves in power, by
bribing the majority of a senate or great council; and at last,
by an expedient, called an act of indemnity" (whereof I described
the nature to him), "they secure themselves from
after-reckonings, and retire from the public laden with the
spoils of the nation.

"The palace of a chief minister is a seminary to breed up others
in his own trade: the pages, lackeys, and porters, by imitating
their master, become ministers of state in their several
districts, and learn to excel in the three principal ingredients,
of insolence, lying, and bribery. Accordingly, they have a
subaltern court paid to them by persons of the best rank; and
sometimes by the force of dexterity and impudence, arrive,
through several gradations, to be successors to their lord.

"He is usually governed by a decayed wench, or favourite footman,
who are the tunnels through which all graces are conveyed, and
may properly be called, in the last resort, the governors of the

One day, in discourse, my master, having heard me mention the
nobility of my country, was pleased to make me a compliment which
I could not pretend to deserve: "that he was sure I must have
been born of some noble family, because I far exceeded in shape,
colour, and cleanliness, all the YAHOOS of his nation, although I
seemed to fail in strength and agility, which must be imputed to
my different way of living from those other brutes; and besides I
was not only endowed with the faculty of speech, but likewise
with some rudiments of reason, to a degree that, with all his
acquaintance, I passed for a prodigy."

He made me observe, "that among the HOUYHNHNMS, the white, the
sorrel, and the iron-gray, were not so exactly shaped as the bay,
the dapple-gray, and the black; nor born with equal talents of
mind, or a capacity to improve them; and therefore continued
always in the condition of servants, without ever aspiring to
match out of their own race, which in that country would be
reckoned monstrous and unnatural."

I made his honour my most humble acknowledgments for the good
opinion he was pleased to conceive of me, but assured him at the
same time, "that my birth was of the lower sort, having been born
of plain honest parents, who were just able to give me a
tolerable education; that nobility, among us, was altogether a
different thing from the idea he had of it; that our young
noblemen are bred from their childhood in idleness and luxury;
that, as soon as years will permit, they consume their vigour,
and contract odious diseases among lewd females; and when their
fortunes are almost ruined, they marry some woman of mean birth,
disagreeable person, and unsound constitution (merely for the
sake of money), whom they hate and despise. That the productions
of such marriages are generally scrofulous, rickety, or deformed
children; by which means the family seldom continues above three
generations, unless the wife takes care to provide a healthy
father, among her neighbours or domestics, in order to improve
and continue the breed. That a weak diseased body, a meagre
countenance, and sallow complexion, are the true marks of noble
blood; and a healthy robust appearance is so disgraceful in a man
of quality, that the world concludes his real father to have been
a groom or a coachman. The imperfections of his mind run
parallel with those of his body, being a composition of spleen,
dullness, ignorance, caprice, sensuality, and pride.

"Without the consent of this illustrious body, no law can be
enacted, repealed, or altered: and these nobles have likewise
the decision of all our possessions, without appeal."

[6] This paragraph is not in the original editions.



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