Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

Gulliver's Travels


Lilliputians search Gulliver

Where Young must torture his invention
To flatter knaves, or lose his pension.

Poetry, a Rhapsody.

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite em;
And so proceed ad infinitum.

Poetry, a Rhapsody.

Studying Gulliver's Travels

The first thing I did after reading the novel was to write a short biographical overview for Lemuel Gulliver. The precise dates, times, names of ships etc. contribute to Swift's "veracity". You can download this fiche biographique (in French) either as a PDF file (9KB) or as an MS Word 97 file (34 KB).

Compiling a collection of quotations, not only from the novel alone, helps to clarify some of Gulliver's Travels' themes.

Links – primary sources

There must be hundreds of copies of Swift's novel online. Recommended: The pleasant-to-use Literature Network site, which offers a search feature.

A beautiful page featuring A Tale of a Tub, another important satirical text concerning, among other things, Christianity.

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout." Read A Modest Proposal ... online, or, alternatively, download a local PDF version I compiled.

UPenn offers other Swift texts on a gopher site. Elsewhere, there's the text of A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet.

Links – secondary literature

Finding high quality Swift resources on the web is not easy because the search engines turn up just too many hits. (The novel must be on every English curriculum between middle school and college.) A good general site is this Gulliver's Travels page, esp. for the timeline and the GT dictionary.

The essay on Swift from Johnson's Live of the Poets: "Johnson extends his informal attacks on Swift with this essay, originally published in 1779, 34 years after Swift's death. He puts Swift's life and work in the worst light possible, while posturing as a generous and understanding critic," says the site's compiler.

The almost a hundred year old Cambridge History of English and American Literature is on Here's the link to Volume IX: From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift. Of particular interest: the biographical information and His chief Satires: A Tale of a Tub; The Battle of the Books; Gullivers Travels.

The central topic of Satire is not an easy one to master. For a brief historical overview see the Columbia Encyclopedia entry. And satire as opposed to other literary terms is explained in an excerpt from A Handbook to Literature.

More on Horatian vs Juvenalian satire on a page that discusses A Modest Proposal.

Oh, and then there's Augustan satire, which can be Horatian or Juvenalian. Here's more on the Augustan Age; and on Jack Lynch's site a huge annotated bibliography on Augustan satire.

A paper on Swift's Satire of Dissent inA Tale of a Tub by Elio Di Piazza (there's a nasty advertisement on the page, which disappears after a few seconds).

And a comparative study on satire: On the Road to Canterbury, Lilliput and Elphinstone - The Rough Guide: Satiric Travel Narratives in Chaucer, Swift and Nabokov by Sam Schuman.

The Basics on Big and Smallendians, Tramecksans and Smalecksans in an essay by Jiang-Ping Fan on The Political Allegories & Allusions in The Voyage to Lilliput.

How to find the meaning behind the words? See Russell A. Hunt's paper Modes of Reading, and Modes of Reading Swift.

From the Victorian Web: A short article on Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, and Anglicanism and another one dealing with Jonathan Swift's Religious Beliefs.

Gulliver's Historico-Tropological Journey, or Measurement, Irony and the Grotesque in Gulliver's Travels, a paper by Matthew Levy.


Pierre Morère (dir.): Gulliver's Travels. Paris, Ellipses, 2001. – One chapter in English, all the rest in French. I used the book for the 2002 CAPES and found it a bit hard going for a neophyte. A year later, I start liking it.

Georges Lamoine (dir.): Gulliver's Travels, de Jonathan Swift. Paris, Editions du temps, 2001 – an overview and the chapter Aspects d'alt�it�dans Gulliver's Travels by Jan Borm (PDF file) are available on the publisher's site.


Map of Laputa and Balnibarbi


Map of Laputa and Balnibarbi


Yahoos & Houyhnhnms



© 2002 Chris Waigl. Last modified 17th July, 2002.