1726: Gulliver’s Travels and Jonathan Swift

Letter #1
Dear Mother,

Although I miss you dearly, I must say London has been wonderful so far. I’ve been reading a new book called Gulliver’s Travels. It is a travel narrative about a man named Lemuel Gulliver and his adventures are rather shocking. I’ve read the first part so far and he is stranded on an island filled with tiny people only 6 inches high! He is their prisoner at first, which is funny since he is so much bigger than they are, but he ends up being appointed the title of Nardac; he holds this as a special honor and does whatever the Lilliputians say so that he can continue to have this title. I won’t spoil anymore for you, but I highly recommend you read this! It is a surprising adventure and I am loving it so far.

Hope to hear from you soon

Yours truly,
K—

Letter #2

Mother,

Remember that book I was telling you about, Gulliver’s Travels? Well I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Jonathan Swift, at a coffee house the other day. His life was actually quite interesting. I learned that his father died just after he was born and before he was even one year old, his nursemaid took him to Whitehaven, Cumberland without even telling his mother. Swift did not see his mother again for almost 20 years! His nursemaid raised him for three years and taught him to read the bible by the age of three. How incredible is that?

Well later in his life he started writing a lot and the first thing he published was a poem called “Ode: to the King on his Irish Expedition,” which he published in 1691 anonymously. The next year he published “Ode to the Athenian Society” under his own name.

After these publications he spent time working in an Irish parish. He felt that he needed to settle down into a profession (don’t we all?) and was planning to be ordained. He became a deacon in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in October of 1694. And then later in January of 1695 he became a priest. He spent much of his time reading and writing.

He only just completed his novel, Gulliver’s Travels, last October 1725. Not everyone is a fan of his novel, but I really am enjoying it. Although, you know I am a huge fan of the travel narrative.

Hope I did not bore you too much with this letter. I just felt very lucky to have run into this wonderful writer and had to share with you.

Hope all is well and want to hear from you soon!

K—

Letter #3
My Dearest Mother,

I came across one of Jonathan Swift’s poems the other day and decided to share it with you. He published this a few years ago in 1722. It is titled “The Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General”

His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he’s gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He’d wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old
As by the newspapers we’re told?
Threescore, I think, is pretty high;
’Twas time in conscience he should die
This world he cumbered long enough;
He burnt his candle to the snuff;
And that’s the reason, some folks think,
He left behind so great a stink.
Behold his funeral appears,
Nor widow’s sighs, nor orphan’s tears,
Wont at such times each heart to pierce,
Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that, his friends may say,
He had those honours in his day.
True to his profit and his pride,
He made them weep before he died.

Come hither, all ye empty things,
Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings;
Who float upon the tide of state,
Come hither, and behold your fate.
Let pride be taught by this rebuke,
How very mean a thing’s a Duke;
From all his ill-got honours flung,
Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.

I find the word “late” in the title to be very ambiguous. It is unclear whether he is talking about the general becoming famous just recently, or it could be late meaning death. I really like the last stanza because it is more of a moral message to the reader. It displays what happens to shallow and uncaring people.
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

Yours truly,
K—

Letter #4
Mother,

I’ve been reading the London Gazette a lot lately and it has some very interesting articles. I think it’s the best ones because after all, it is England’s first official newspaper. Did you know it used to be called the Oxford Gazette when it first got started? However, that only lasted a few months before it was changed to the London Gazette. I found that rather interesting. I read the issue that came out November 12, 1726 and the classified ads were fascinating. Apparently, John Radford of Bloomsbury Market, in Middlesex, surrendered himself. He has to attend a commission at Guildhall, London in December in order to finish his examination. He has to be ready to prove his debts and pay the contribution money. Well I just thought I would share some of the article. I do hope the family is doing well.

I’ll write again soon.

Sincerely,
K—

Letter #5

Dear Mother,

It has been a very cold winter, but I finally got myself out of the house and went to the theatre. I saw a lovely performance of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark at the Drury Lane Theatre. It was Saturday the 1st of January. I had to tell you about it right away. The singing was in Italian by Mrs. Robinson. It was a delightful show, but you know how much I love Hamlet!! I loved this theatre and will definitely be going to see more. However, the Drury Lane Theatre and Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre are competing as usual and unfortunately, I do not think that Drury Lane will be having a summer season. Until then I will be trying to see as many performances as I can. The Royal Academy of Music is also offering many different Italian operas, which I’ve heard very good things about in the Daily Post and the Daily Courant. Well I hope you are enjoying yourself and getting out of the house enough.

Your daughter,
K—

Works Cited

Probyn, Clive. “Swift, Jonathan (1667–1745).” Clive ProbynOxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP, . 8 Dec. 2013

Scouten, Arthur H. The London Stage 1660 - 1800. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1960. Print.

Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Print.