George Atherton Aitken.

The life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians online

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^^'indow, he made his best bow, and began his speech to me,
which as I was afterwards informed, he had taken a great
deal of pains about, knowing me to be in the emperor's good
graces. Most part of what he spoke was unmtelligible to me.
by a ridiculous mixture of the old Blefuscudian language :
and what I did understand was fulsome flattery, and compli-
ments that nothing mortal could deserve.

This was very dull entertainment to a man of my modest3%
and thereupon finding his speech would be long, and that he
was forced to strain his voice to make me hear at that distance,
I thought it would be a kindness to us both to put a stop to
him, which I did, returning him thanks in few words for
his great opinion of me, and desired to see him the nest day,
that I might choose out the five hundred books which the
emperor had given me.

Bullum, as I heard afterwards, was in great wrath, and
loaded me \\'ith many opprobrious names, for refusing to hear
his speech out, and daring to treat a man of his learning with
so little respect. However, he stifled his resentment a little
for the present, and came to me at the time appointed.

I desired him to shew me a catalogue of the books, and to
give me some account of what they treated of, that I might
be able to make a choice. He replied, that he had not
troubled himself to bring a written catalogue, but that he had
one in his memory, and immediately he repeated to nie the
titles of a vast number of old Blefuscudian books, and run on
with a great fluency of speech, until he was out of breath.

It was a pain to me to forbear laughing, to hear Bullum
sputter out so much jargon ; at last I told him, that I was not
in the least wiser for what he had said, because I understand


not a syllable of the language he spoke. At that, as he stood
on the table before me, he put out his under-lip. And
staring me full in the face, said, with a great deal of contempt,
' Not understand Blefuscudian ! What do you understand ? '

I was a little discomposed at this treatment ; but not
knowing then what interest he had at court, I resolved to use
him civilly ; and replied, that I understood eight or nine
languages, if there was any merit in that ; but that none of
the books in his library would be of any use to me, that were
not written in Lilliputian. ' Lilliputian ! ' says he, ' I cannot
repeat the titles of many of them, but I will send you five
hundred in a few days ' : and thus he left me.

I was very impatient to receive this curious present ; but
Bullum broke his word ; for about this time my interest
at court began to decline. I could not prevail upon him to
deliver the books to me : at last, after much importunity, he
came to me himself, attended by a sei-vant, with only five

I was surprised at this, and asked if the rest were upon
the road : he answered, that since he had seen me last he had
spent some days in carefully perusing the emperor's orders ;
that he had discovered the word hundred to be an interpola-
tion ; and that the true reading was five books, which, in
obedience to the emperor, he had brought me.

I had indeed been put off so long, that I suspected I should
have had none, and therefore agreed to have the five books,
designing to have made my complaint afterwards, but Bullum
had another trick to play me. It was the custom, he said,
for all strangers to make him a compliment in writing, which
he desired me to comply with, and then he would deliver the
books to me. He had brought the form, which I was to tran-
scribe and sign with my own name. The words were these :

'Be it known to all men, that Bullum the great library-
keeper to the emperor of Lilliput, and mulro in the gomflastru,
is a man of vast erudition and learning ; all parts of the world
ring with his praises ; and whilst I was honoured with his
acquaintance, he used me with singular humanity.

' QuiNBUs Flestrin.'

Out of an earnest desire to get possession of the books, I
submitted even to this demand of Bullum, who then ordering
them to be flung down before me, turned nimbly upon his heel


and left me. He had picked out for me the five worst books
in the library, according to his judgment ; but when I came
to peruse them with a microscope, (the biggest being a folio
about half an inch long) I found they were curious in their
kind, but treating of subjects that Bullum was not conversant
in. There was :

1 . A collection of Poetry.

2. An Essay on Humility ; necessary for all Lilliputians,
who ai'e very much inclined to think well of themselves, and
meanly of others.

3. A dissertation upon tramecsans and slamecsans, or high-
heeled and low-heeled shoes.

4. A bundle of controversies concerning the primitive way
of breaking eggs.

5. The Blundecral, or Alcoran.

These books I brought safe with me to England, and design
either to publish them, or else to present them to the University
which I had once the honour to be a member of.

But to return to Bullum. I was amazed at his behaviour
towards me, especially considering I was a Nardac, to which
title he generally paid a profound respect. This made me
desirous of getting an account of his histoiy and character,
which having something extraordinary in them, I shall lay
before my reader.

Bullum is a tall raw-boned man, I believe near six inches
and an half high ; from his infancy he applied himself, with
great industry, to the old Blefuscudian language, in which he
made such a progress, that he almost forgot his native
Lilliputian ; and at this time he can neither write nor speak
two sentences, without a mixture of old Blefuscudian : these
qualifications, joined to an undaunted forward spirit, and a
few good friends, prevailed with the emperor's grandfather to
make him keeper of his library, and a mulro in the gomflastru ;
though most men thought him fitter to be one of the royal
guards. These places soon helped him to riches, and upon the
strength of them he soon began to despise everybody, and to
be despised by eveiybody. This engaged him in many quarrels,
which he managed in a very odd manner ; whenever he thought
himself affronted, he immediately flung a great book at his
adversary, and if he could, felled him to the earth ; but if his
adversary stood his ground and flung another book at him.


which was sometimes done with great violence, then he com-
plained to the grand justiciary that these affronts were designed
to the emperor, and that he was singled out only as heing the
emperor's servant. By this trick he got that great officer to
favour him, which made his enemies cautious, and him insolent.

Bullum attended the court some years, hut could not get
into a higher post ; for though he constantly wore the heels of
his shoes high or low, as the fashion was, yet having a long
hack and a stiff neck, he never could with any dexterity creep
under the stick which the emperor or the chief minister held.
As to his dancing on the rope, I shall speak of it presently ;
hut the greatest skill at that art will not procure a man a
place at court, without some agility at the stick.

Bullum, vexed at these disappointments, withdrew from
court, and only aj^peared there upon extraordinaiy occasions ;
at other times he retired to his post of mulro in the gomflastru ;
there he led a gloonw solitary life, heaped up wealth, and
pored upon the old Blefuscudian hooks. It might have been
expected, that from so long an acquaintance with those
admirable writers, he should have grown more polite and
humane ; but his manner was never to regard the sense or
subject of the author, but only the shape of letters, in which
he arrived to such perfection, that, as I have been assured,
he could tell, very near, in what year of the Blefuscudian
Commonwealth any book was written ; and to this, and to
restoring the old characters that were effaced, all his labour
was confined.

Upon these points he had wrote several books, some in the
Blefuscudian, and some in the mixed language ; and whenever
he had finished a book, he presented it to some great man
at court, with a panegyrical oration, so contrived that it
would fit any man in a great post ; and the highest bidder
had it.

Whilst I was in Lilliput, he proposed to pviblish a new
Blundecral or Alcoran ; and that he might do something
uncommon, he began at the end, and designed to have wrote
backwards ; but the Lilliputians, some liking the old Blundecral,
others not caring for any, gave him no encouragement ; and
therefore he desisted from that project.

As this nation was very much divided about breaking their
eggs, which they generally eat in public once a day, or at


least once in seven days, I desired to know how BuUum behaved
himself in this particular ; and was told that he was thought
to have an aversion to eggs, for he was never seen to eat any
in public, Ijut once or twice in a year, when his post obliged
hina to it : at those times he gave orders to have them served
up to him ready dressed, and the shells and whites being
carefully taken off, he gulped up the yolks in a very indecent
manner, and immediately drank a bumper of strong liquor
after them, to wash the taste out of his mouth, and promote
the digestion of them.

When anyone represented to him the ill example of this
practice, his answer was, that his modesty would not let him
devour eggs in public, when he had so many eyes upon him ;
that he was not yet detei'mined at which end he ought to
break them ; that the shells and whites were insipid, and only
fit for children : but for the eggs themselves, he was so far
from hating them, that he had a dish at his own table every
day. But whether this was truth, or, if they were at his
table, whether he eat of them or not, I could never learn.

Bullum was always of an haughty mind, and in his own
school took a great deal of pleasure in mimicking the actions
of the emperor. Thus, he got a little stick and used to divert
himself in seeing his scholars leap over, and creep under it,
as he held it between his hands. Those who performed best,
were rewarded, sometimes, with a pompous title in the old
Blefuscudian language, signifying, most learned, most famous,
most accomplished youth, or the like : sometimes with little
sugar-plums ; and sometimes only with the promise of them.

In dancing on the ropes he took great delight himself ; and
this was the only bodily exercise he used. Those who had
been eye-witnesses informed me that he could cut a caper
very high, but that he did it in a clumsy manner, and
with little delight to the spectators, who were in continual
apprehensions of his falling, which sometimes he did very

It was observed that he danced best in his own house, but
that he never danced before the gomflastru with success.
When he first came to his place of mulro, he did nothing
but dance and cut capers on the ropes, for a 5'ear together :
as this was a new sport in this part of the Island, he got a
great deal of money by it ; but striving to leap higher than


ordinary, he fell off from the rope, broke his head, and
disordered his brain so much, that most people thought it
would incajjacitate him for his post of mulro : however, at
length, he pretty well recovered ; he himself says, he is as
well, or better, than he was before his fall : but his enemies
think his brain is still affected by it.

Some years after, the present emj^eror, in a progress through
his dominions, came to the gomflastru ; and Bullum, without
being asked, was resolved to divert his Majesty with his
performance on the strait-rope ; up he mounts, and capers
bravely for some time ; at last, endeavouring to shew the
utmost of his skill, in the midst of an high caper, he reached
out his right hand too far, which gave him a terrible fall.

Most people imputed it to his over-reaching himself ; but he
laid the fault partly upon the robes he was obliged to wear
before the emperor, which, as he said, entangled his feet ; and
partly upon the maliciousness of a by-stander, whom he
accused of pulling the rope aside, as he was in the midst of his
caper : however that was, poor Bullum broke his leg, and was
carried to his own house, where he continued lame above two
years, not being able to show himself in public all that time ;
and it was thought he would never have recovered, if the
emperor at last had not taken pity on him, and sent one of
his own surgeons to him, who cured him immediately.

After all these misfoi'tunes Bullum could not forsake his
beloved diversion, but as soon as he was recovered, he forgot
all that was past, and danced again in his own school every
day ; where, by his frequent falls he so bruised himself, that
it was believed they would come to a mortification ; besides,
he dances so long upon the same rope that through age and
rottenness, and his great weight, it must break at last ; and
the emperor would scarce lend him a surgeon a second time ;
which indeed would be in vain, for he can never leave off the
sport, though he performs worse and worse every day ; so that
in all probability he will break his neck for a conclusion.




By Doctor Bantley.

Published from the author's original MSS.*

Ythalonim Vualonyth si chorathisima Comsyth,

Chym Laclichunyth mumys Thyalmictibari Imyschi. — Flaut.




honourable privy council.

My Lord,

The following short treatise is particularly designed for
those who are masters of classical learning, and pei-fectly
acquainted with the beauties of the ancient authors.

To a person thus qualified I had a desire to inscribe it ;
and, after the strictest enquiry, common fame hath directed
me to you.

I do not pretend to have the felicity of your friendship, nor
can I hope to merit it by this performance ; and contraiy to
the received maxim of all dedicators, I will freely confess, that
if any other person might be found, whose virtues were as
universally owned or esteemed, or of whose learning and
polite taste the world conceived so high an oi^inion, your
Lordship would probably have escaped this impertinent appli-
cation, from, my Lord,

Your Lordship's most obedient and most humble servant,

E. B.

^ See page 145, note 2, and page 432, note.


Whose Works are cited, and illustrated in the following Essay.

Dion Cassius.
Q. Calaber.
Clem. Alexandrinus.

Alexander ab Alex.
Gen. Dier.



A. Gellius.


Aelius Spartianus.

.Jul. Capitolinus.

Angel. Politianus.


Ptolemy Georg.

Solinus Polyhistor.




S. Dunelm.




The travels of Captain Gulliver liave been so much the
amusements of both sexes for some years past-, that I need not
acquaint the reader either with the character of the author or
his book. However, I cannot forbear giving my opinion of
that performance, and I shall endeavour to do it with all
possible candour and conciseness.

Criticism, although so much decried by the unlearned, and
so injudiciously managed by some WTiters, is an art of infinite
advantage ; because it directs the judgments of those who
might otherwise be misled, as well to disrelish compositions
which merit our esteem, as to approve of those, which are only
worthy of our contempt.

The ancients have received new beauties from their com-
mentators, as diamonds rough from the mine derive new
lustre from the polishing.

Horace among the Komans, and Milton among the poets of
our own nation, are held in just honour : but, I believe, each
of those eminent authors owes many of the beauties discernible
in the present editions of their works to the labour and
learning of their modern publishers. Those errors, which
arose either from the ignorance of copyists, or the conceit of
interpolators, or the negligence of printers, would be handed
down to posterity as a reproach to the genius of those great
men, if they had not been detected by judicious critics, and
accurately restored by their unwearied application.

This may suffice as an apology for my present undertaking.
I am far from denying Captain Gulliver his allowed merit, or
envying him that uncommon applause, which I must own he
hath deservedly obtained :


neque ego illi detrahere ausim

Haerentem capiti multa cum laude coronam. — Hot. Sat.

Nor dare I from his sacred temples tear

The laurel, which he best deserves to wear. — Roch.

Yet I think the world ought to be acquainted with some
particulars, which, as yet, have escaped the general observation,
and may be a means to instruct us how to form a more
equitable judgment of the merits and defects of that work.

I had thoughts of publishing my remarks on the beauties
and l)lemishes of it, soon after its appearance : but the town
was then so universally prejudiced in its favour, that I per-
ceived it would be impossible to prevail with the public to alter
its opinion.

An agreeable new book is received and treated like an
agreeable young bride : men are unable to discern, and even
unwilling to be told of those faults in either, which are obvious
enough after a more intimate acquaintance. So that I may at
present hope for more attention to what I shall propose, than I
could reasonably have expected in its first success.

In a late edition of Gulliver, printed by subscription in
Dublin, I observe an additional letter from the Captain to his
friend Mr. Sympson, which was never before published.

He there complains of the various censures passed upon his
Travels, and particularly of that part which treats of his voyage
to the countiy of the Houyhnhnms. That nation, which he
describes as the seat of virtue, and its inhabitants as models to
all the world for justice, truth, cleanliness, temperance, and
wisdom, are (he says) rej)uted no better than mere fictions of
his own brain ; and the Houyhnhnms or Yahoos deemed to
have no more existence than the inhabitants of Utopia.

I readily own, that if we were to judge of the manners of
remote countries by the conduct either of our neighbouring
nations or our own, it might seem somewhat incredible, that
virtue could have any kind of esteem or interest in any part of
the world. And therefore a nation wholly influenced by truth
and honour might as justly seem a prodigy to us, as the
speech and policy of the natives of Houyhnhnm land. And
so far it might appear an imaginaiy kingdom, rather than
a real one.

But as I think a good author's veracity ought not unjustly
to be questioned, which might hinder all good effect from his


writings, and as I am entirely unconcerned whether tlie
Captain's reputation might be more advanced, by its passing for
a fiction, than for a fact ; I shall undertake to convince the
learned, by sufficient evidence, that such a nation as he calls the
Houyhnhnms was jjerfectly known by the ancients ; that the
fame of their private and pul)lic virtues was spread through
Athens, Italy, and Britain ; and that the wisest poets and
historians of those nations have left us ample authorities to
support this opinion.

The first author I shall cite is Chaucer ; a poet of our own
nation, who was well read in the ancient geography, and is
allowed by all critics to have been a man of universal learning,
as well as of inimitable wit and humour.

The passage is literally thus, as I transcribed it from a very

fair ancient copy, in the Bodleian Library, and compared it with

other editions, in the libraries of St. James's, my Lord Oxford,

and Lord Sunderland.

Ccrtcs' [qti. Soljnl ll,nnt- irnjjf,
Crtjat, tourf)rutic' of tljc Strirs* countrgr,
31 rctic', as tljglkc oltic fronuhE'' srgtfjE,
?9 longc afore ' our trgstcn * srgtfjr,
S^ljcr ben', as gc sfjuU unDrrstontic,
^tt git'", grlrprlf" Coursgr's'' Ionic,
2l2Iijcr nis ", nc '* iampngncje '' rourtrsg '* ;
i^c ILftdjrrr '^ Ijottr, in <Satnctrs gist ^^ ;
^z scflg" S'quirt, Igcfjc*" brointirfti -' Spr,
Simfjo makn ©oMrs-'-' bokc'' a 3apc'';
^t ILcmman^* uglr, misijantilgngc ^outljr,
i^e toomm, brutcll irarr'-^ in sotijc^';
^t flattrcr, 0c ttnlrttrrii Clrrkc'',
S2Ef)0 ricljrn ^)in^■'^ toithoutcn fecrftc™;
jFor 5Eirc in tijougijt, nc als'' in Ocljc'^
212Bas ncbcr none in ILontic of <Stctic^\


' Certainly. - Do not. ^ Concerning. * Horses. ^ Read. ^ Chronicle. ' Long
before. * Christian. ^ There was. i" Island. " Called. '^ Horses. '^ There
is not. '* Any. ^'Damnable. ^^ Covetousness. '' Nor leud Person. ''Pre-
tending Sanctity. '"Silly. ^^ Like. 21 j;3^iji.ojj]ej.eci. ^jjakc. ^^ rpj^g
Bible. =* A Jest. ^^ Harlot, ^o Brittle ware. ^^ Truly. ^^ Illiterate Parson.
^' Enriching himself. ^" Labour. ^' Else. ^^ Deed or action. ^^ Stede Land, or
Houyhnhnm Land.

From this remarkable passage, it is evident that the nation
of the Houyhnhnms was commonly known to the ancient
inhabitants of this island, by the name of Stedlonde, or Steed-
land ; and that their manners, which are indeed more copiously


treated of by the traveller, are yet described with great strength
and beauty by the poet.

It will be urged, perhaps, that Chaucer might have intended
those lines as a description of some European nation. To which
I shall only ansAver, that history affords us too large a detail
of the vices and corruptions of other countries, to leave us the
least room to apply it to any kingdom abroad ; and, I believe,
upon enquiry, it will appear full as unapplicable to our own.

But to proceed. Among the most celebrated writers of
ancient Rome, we find that the Houyhnhnms were held in the
highest esteem and veneration, both for their wisdom and their
virtue, and of this Suetonius gives us a convincing instance.

From the time of Augustus Caesar, Eome was evidently in a
declining condition. The number of her patriots was very
small, and the wisdom of her senate extremely decreased. Her
consuls were more remarkable for intemperance, oppression, and
avarice, than for military virtue abroad, or an exact distribution
of justice at home.

In tliis critical emergency there haj^pened to be a Houyhnhnm
resident at Eome, I suppose as an ambassador ; for the historian
tells us, that he had a marble stable \ built by the Emperor,
which was elegantly furnished with an ivory manger, and
everything splendid or magnificent ; that his robes were of the
lichest purple, that he had a particular household and retinue,
maintained at the Emperors expense, as the Indian kings and
ambassadors have with us.

Out of a most unusual deference, therefore, to the superior
abihties of this noble Houyhnhnm, he was nominated to the
consulship ; because, by his conduct, advice, and example, it
was expected that the ancient glory of Eome would be revived,
and that he would make her once more the mistress of the

Nor can I discover from the annals " of those times, that even
the best Eoman Yahoos (consuls I mean) had for many genera-
tions made an equal figure in that high employment, or
discharged it with half so little imputation of avarice, injustice,

' Equile marmoreum, et praesepe acciperentur. Sueton. C«7. sec. 55, et

eburncum, et purpurea tegumenta, vide Dion Cass, in Caligula.

ac monile e geramis, domuni etiam, ^ Vide Ayxn. Hal. C«.sp. S7. Earth.

et faiiiiliani, et supellectilem dedit, cat). 17. sec 84.
quo lautius nomine ejus invitati


oppression, insolence, or tyranny. How far our modern magis-
trates and Middlesex justices might be profited by such an
example, may be a subject worthy of our speculation ; but
that being a little foreign to my jjresent pur^^ose, I must
decline it.

Caligula, as we are told by Dion Cassius, frequently invited
this consular Houyhnhnm, (whose real name was Lunhuyhnhay,
but in Latin Incitatus) to supper', and treated him with more
ceremony and veneration than he did the noblest families of
Eome. He had oats served ujd in gold plate, and wine in
golden vessels ; and the king himself swore by no greater oath
than the health and fortune of that honourable creature ; which
was as high a degree of respect as he could pay even to the

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 44 of 47)