Gullivers travels into s.., p.19
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       Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Regions of the World, p.19

           Jonathan Swift
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  I used to attend the king's levee[73] once or twice a week, and hadoften seen him under the barber's hand, which indeed was at first veryterrible to behold; for the razor was almost twice as long as anordinary scythe. His majesty, according to the custom of the country,was only shaved twice a week. I once prevailed on the barber to give mesome of the suds or lather, out of which I picked forty or fifty of thestrongest stumps of hair, I then took a piece of fine wood and cut itlike the back of a comb, making several holes in it at equal distancewith as small a needle as I could get from Glumdalclitch. I fixed in thestumps so artificially, scraping and sloping them with my knife towardsthe points, that I made a very tolerable comb; which was a seasonablesupply, my own being so much broken in the teeth that it was almostuseless: neither did I know any artist in that country so nice and exactas would undertake to make me another.

  And this puts me in mind of an amusement wherein I spent many of myleisure hours. I desired the queen's woman to save for me the combingsof her majesty's hair, whereof in time I got a good quantity; andconsulting with my friend the cabinet-maker, who had received generalorders to do little jobs for me, I directed him to make twochair-frames, no larger than those I had in my box, and then to borelittle holes with a fine awl round those parts where I designed thebacks and seats; through these holes I wove the strongest hairs I couldpick out, just after the manner of cane chairs in England. When theywere finished I made a present of them to her majesty, who kept them inher cabinet, and used to shew them for curiosities, as indeed they werethe wonder of every one that beheld them. Of these hairs (as I hadalways a mechanical genius) I likewise made a neat little purse, aboutfive feet long, with her majesty's name deciphered in gold letters,which I gave to Glumdalclitch, by the queen's consent. To say the truth,it was more for show than use, being not of strength to bear the weightof the larger coins, and therefore she kept nothing in it, but somelittle coins that girls are fond of.

  The king, who delighted in music, had frequent concerts at court, towhich I was sometimes carried, and set in my box on a table to hearthem; but the noise was so great that I could hardly distinguish thetunes. I am confident that all the drums and trumpets of a royal armybeating and sounding together just at your ears, could not equal it. Mypractice was to have my box removed from the place where the performerssat, as far as I could, then to shut the doors and windows of it, anddraw the window-curtains, after which I found their music notdisagreeable.

  I had learnt in my youth to play a little upon the spinet.[74]Glumdalclitch kept one in her chamber, and a master attended twice aweek to teach her. I called it a spinet, because it somewhat resembledthat instrument, and was played upon in the same manner.

  A fancy came into my head that I would entertain the king and queenwith an English tune upon this instrument. But this appeared extremelydifficult; for the spinet was nearly sixty feet long, each key beingalmost a foot wide, so that with my arms extended I could not reach toabove five keys, and to press them down required a good smart strokewith my fist, which would be too great a labor, and to no purpose. Themethod I contrived was this: I prepared two round sticks, about thebigness of common cudgels; they were thicker at one end than the other,and I covered the thicker ends with a piece of mouse's skin, that byrapping on them I might neither damage the tops of the keys norinterrupt the sound. Before the spinet a bench was placed about fourfeet below the keys, and I was put upon the bench. I ran sideling uponit that way and this as fast as I could, banging the proper keys with mytwo sticks, and made a shift to play a jig to the great satisfaction ofboth their majesties; but it was the most violent exercise I everunderwent, and yet I could not strike above sixteen keys, norconsequently play the bass and treble together as other artists do,which was a great disadvantage to my performance.

  The king, who, as I before observed, was a prince of excellentunderstanding, would frequently order that I should be brought in mybox, and set upon the table in his closet.[75] He would then command meto bring one of my chairs out of the box, and sit down within threeyards distance upon the top of the cabinet, which brought me almost to alevel with his face. In this manner I had several conversations withhim. I one day took the freedom to tell his majesty that the contempthe discovered towards Europe and the rest of the world did not seemanswerable to those excellent qualities of mind that he was master of;that reason did not extend itself with the bulk of the body; on thecontrary, we observed in our country that the tallest persons wereusually least provided with it. That, among other animals, bees and antshad the reputation of more industry, art, and sagacity than many of thelarger kinds; and that, as inconsiderable as he took me to be, I hoped Imight live to do his majesty some signal[76] service. The king heard mewith attention, and began to conceive a much better opinion of me thanhe had ever before. He desired I would give him as exact an account ofthe government of England as I possibly could because, as fond asprinces commonly are of their own customs (for he conjectured of othermonarchs by my former discourses), he should be glad to hear of anythingthat might deserve imitation.

  Imagine with thyself, courteous reader, how often I then wished for thetongue of Demosthenes or Cicero, that might have enabled me to celebratethe praise of my own dear native country, in a style equal to its meritsand felicity.


  I began my discourse by informing his majesty that our dominionsconsisted of two islands, which composed three mighty kingdoms, underone sovereign, besides our plantations in America. I dwelt long upon thefertility of our soil and the temperature of our climate. I then spokeat large upon the constitution of an English parliament, partly made upof an illustrious body, called the House of Peers, persons of thenoblest blood and of the most ancient and ample patrimonies. Idescribed that extraordinary care always taken of their education inarts and arms, to qualify them for being counsellors both to the kingand kingdom; to have a share in the legislature; to be members of thehighest court of judicature, from whence there could be no appeal; andto be champions always ready for the defence of their prince andcountry, by their valor, conduct, and fidelity. That these were theornament and bulwark of the kingdom, worthy followers of their mostrenowned ancestors, whose honor had been the reward of their virtue,from which their posterity were never once known to degenerate. To thesewere joined several holy persons, as part of that assembly, under thetitle of bishops, whose peculiar business it is to take care ofreligion, and those who instruct the people therein. These were searchedand sought out through the whole nation, by the prince and his wisestcounsellors, among such of the priesthood as were most deservedlydistinguished by the sanctity of their lives and the depth of theirerudition, who were indeed the spiritual fathers of the clergy and thepeople.

  That the other part of the parliament consisted of an assembly, calledthe House of Commons, who were all principal gentlemen, _freely_ pickedand culled out by the people themselves, for their great abilities andlove of their country, to represent the wisdom of the whole nation. Andthat these two bodies made up the most august assembly in Europe, towhom, in conjunction with the prince, the whole legislature iscommitted.

  I then descended to the courts of justice, over which the judges, thosevenerable sages and interpreters of the law, presided, for determiningthe disputed rights and properties of men, as well as for the punishmentof vice and protection of innocence. I mentioned the prudent managementof our treasury, the valor and achievements of our forces by sea andland. I computed the number of our people, by reckoning how manymillions there might be of each religious sect or political party amongus. I did not omit even our sports and pastimes, or any otherparticular, which I thought might redound to the honor of my country.And I finished all with a brief historical account of aff
airs and eventsin England for about a hundred years past.

  This conversation was not ended under five audiences, each of severalhours; and the king heard the whole with great attention, frequentlytaking notes of what I spoke, as well as memorandums of what questionshe intended to ask me.

  When I had put an end to these long discourses, his majesty, in a sixthaudience, consulting his notes, proposed many doubts, queries, andobjections, upon every article. He asked what methods were used tocultivate the minds and bodies of our young nobility, and in what kindof business they commonly spent the first and teachable part of theirlives? What course was taken to supply that assembly when any noblefamily became extinct? What qualifications were necessary in those whoare to be created new lords; whether the humor of the prince, a sum ofmoney to a court lady as a prime minister, or a design of strengtheninga party opposite to the public interest, ever happened to be motives inthose advancements? What share of knowledge these lords had in the lawsof their country, and how they came by it, so as to enable them todecide the properties of their fellow-subjects in the last resort?Whether they were always so free from avarice, partialities, or want,that a bribe or some other sinister view could have no place among them?Whether those holy lords I spoke of were always promoted to that rankupon account of their knowledge in religious matters and the sanctity oftheir lives; had never been compilers with the times while they werecommon priests, or slavish prostitute chaplains to some noblemen, whoseopinions they continued servilely to follow, after they were admittedinto that assembly?

  He then desired to know what arts were practised in electing those whomI called commoners; whether a stranger, with a strong purse, might notinfluence the vulgar voters to choose him before their own landlord, orthe most considerable gentleman in the neighborhood? How it came to passthat people were so violently bent upon getting into this assembly,which I allowed to be a great trouble and expense, often to the ruin oftheir families, without any salary or pension: because this appearedsuch an exalted strain of virtue and public spirit, that his majestyseemed to doubt it might possibly not be always sincere; and he desiredto know whether such zealous gentlemen could have any views of refundingthemselves for the charges and trouble they were at, by sacrificing thepublic good to the designs of a weak and vicious prince, in conjunctionwith a corrupted ministry? He multiplied his questions, and sifted methoroughly upon every part of this head, proposing numberless inquiriesand objections, which I think it not prudent or convenient to repeat.

  Upon what I said in relation to our courts of justice, his majestydesired to be satisfied in several points; and this I was the betterable to do, having been formerly almost ruined by a long suit inchancery,[77] which was decreed for me with costs. He asked what timewas usually spent in determining between right and wrong, and whatdegree of expense? Whether advocates and orators had liberty to plead incauses, manifestly known to be unjust, vexatious, or oppressive? Whetherparty in religion or politics was observed to be of any weight in thescale of justice? Whether those pleading orators were persons educatedin the general knowledge of equity, or only in provincial, national, andother local customs? Whether they, or their judges, had any part inpenning those laws which they assumed the liberty of interpreting andglossing[78] upon at their pleasure? Whether they had ever, at differenttimes, pleaded for or against the same cause, and cited precedents toprove contrary opinions? Whether they were a rich or a poor corporation?Whether they received any pecuniary reward for pleading or deliveringtheir opinions? And, particularly, whether they were admitted as membersin the lower senate?

  He fell next upon the management of our treasury, and said he thought mymemory had failed me, because I computed our taxes at about five or sixmillions a year, and, when I came to mention the issues, he found theysometimes amounted to more than double; for the notes he had taken werevery particular in this point, because he hoped, as he told me, that theknowledge of our conduct might be useful to him, and he could not bedeceived in his calculations. But if what I told him were true, he wasstill at a loss how a kingdom could run out of its estate like a privateperson. He asked me who were our creditors, and where we found to paythem. He wondered to hear me talk of such chargeable and expensive wars;that certainly we must be a quarrelsome people, or live among very badneighbors and that our generals must needs be richer than our kings. Heasked what business we had out of our own islands, unless upon the scoreof trade or treaty, or to defend the coasts with our fleet. Above all,he was amazed to hear me talk of a mercenary standing army in the midstof peace and among a free people. He said if we were governed by our ownconsent, in the persons of our representatives, he could not imagine ofwhom we were afraid, or against whom we were to fight; and would hear myopinion, whether a private man's house might not better be defended byhimself, his children, and family, than by half-a-dozen rascals, pickedup at a venture in the streets for small wages, who might get a hundredtimes more by cutting their throats?

  He laughed at my odd kind of arithmetic (as he was pleased to call it),in reckoning the numbers of our people by a computation drawn from theseveral sects among us, in religion and politics. He said, he knew noreason why those who entertain opinions prejudicial to the public shouldbe obliged to change, or should not be obliged to conceal them. And asit was tyranny in any government to require the first, so it wasweakness not to enforce the second: for a man may be allowed to keeppoisons in his closet, but not to vend them about for cordials.

  He observed, that among the diversions of our nobility and gentry, I hadmentioned gaming: he desired to know at what age this entertainment wasusually taken up, and when it was laid down; how much of their time itemployed: whether it ever went so high as to affect their fortunes:whether mean, vicious people, by their dexterity in that art, might notarrive at great riches, and sometimes keep our very nobles independence, as well as habituate them to vile companions, wholly takethem from the improvement of their minds, and force them, by the lossesthey received, to learn and practise that infamous dexterity uponothers?

  He was perfectly astonished with the historical account I gave him ofour affairs during the last century, protesting it was only a heap ofconspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments,the very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness,cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition, couldproduce.

  His majesty, in another audience, was at the pains to recapitulate thesum of all I had spoken; compared the questions he made with the answersI had given; then taking me into his hands, and stroking me gently,delivered himself in these words which I shall never forget, nor themanner he spoke them in: "My little friend Grildrig, you have made amost admirable panegyric upon your country; you have clearly proved thatignorance, idleness, and vice are the proper ingredients for qualifyinga legislator; that laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied bythose whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, andeluding them. I observe among you some lines of an institution, which inits original might have been tolerable, but these half erased, and therest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions. It doth not appear, fromall you have said, how any one perfection is required towards theprocurement of any one station among you; much less that men areennobled on account of their virtue, that priests are advanced for theirpiety or learning, soldiers for their conduct or valor, judges for theirintegrity, senators for the love of their country, or counsellors fortheir wisdom. As for yourself, continued the king, who have spent thegreatest part of your life in travelling, I am well disposed to hope youmay hitherto have escaped many vices of your country. But by what I havegathered from your own relation, and the answers I have with much painswrung and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of yournatives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin thatnature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth."


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