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father of the gods.

It is to be wondered at, indeed, that Caligula profited so
little by those instructive conferences which he held so often
with that wdse ambassador ; but we all experimentally know
that nothing is so difficult as to mend a bad nature ; and it is
demonstrated in the conduct of Nero, who imbibed but little
morality and virtue from the wisdom of his preceptor Seneca.

The same historian'^, whose writings are of unquestionable
authority among the learned, tells us further, that Caligula
assumed the title of High Priest ^ of Jupiter, and having chose
some of the wealthiest families in his kingdom to officiate at
the altar, he constituted a Houyhnhnm to be his colleague in the
jjriesthood, as well to assist him in that station, as to excite
a greater degree of veneration to the office, by the known merit
and excellence of this partner.

In imitation of this memorable action, it hath been attempted
in some nations to introduce asses into offices of a like nature ;
and, indeed, wdth tolerable success and advantage to those
worthless animals ; although not extremely to the reputation
of the conti'ivers. But it is the peculiar felicity of this nation
that such an experunent was never known to be made among
us by the directors of the priesthood.

* "lirnov tv 'lyKiTarov uvofta^e, kol ^ D. Cassius, in Vit. Calig.

enl SeTiTvov (KaKei, xpf"'^^ '''* avrai '' AidXiuv re avruv ovo/xacras, dWovs

KpiOas napi^aWe, Kal oivov iv xp^coTs re roiis nXovatajTarovs 'Itptas irpocrf-

eiciTwixaffi Trpovnivf. Xepli. D. Cass. 6fT0, nal avros tavToi Updro, Toy re

edit, a R. Steph. p. 126. 'iiriTov awiepia airUpaLve. D. Cass.

Coenaret in stabulo assidue, et edit, a R. Stoph. p. 133.
inaneret. Sueton.



Our next testimonies are from the writings of the divine

That celebrated poet having beautifully described the funeral
pomp which attended the body of Pallas, the son of Evander,
who was killed by Turnus, introduces a Houyhnhnm as chief
mourner ' ; and to raise the character of this generous creature,
who, it may be supposed, was the favourite companion of the
deceased hero, the behaviour of Acoetes is painted by way
of contrast.

The man is represented as led'^ forcibly along, but the
Houyhnhnm walks lonely and disconsolate, with a gait express-
ing a solemn, but a noble concern : 'positis insignilms, it lachry-
mans. The man by turns beats his breast, disfigures his face
with his nails, and prostrates his body on the earth ; pectora
nunc foedans pugnis, &c. ; while the Houyhnhnm preserves a
becoming dignity and majesty in grief. The large drops roll
silently down his cheeks, but he is guilty of no extravagant
signs of sorrow, knowing them to be as unprofitable to the
dead, as unworthy of the living.

The learned Sei-vius, on this passage, observes the judicious
conduct of the poet in this particular, who, by applying the
word ducere =* to Acoetes, and ire to the Houyhnhnm, manifestly
exalts the character of the horse, at the expense of that of the
old warrior.

This inimitable author ^ in the sixth Aeneid, gives us still a
stronger evidence of the vii'tue and piety of the Houyhnhnms,
by alloAving them a place even in Elysium ^ among the souls of
illustrious men. Nay, he seems to hint that the most perfect
degree of happiness, and the most honourable employment of
the heroes in Elysium was the being a kind of attendants or
grooms ' to the nobler Houyhnhnms. Isocrates asserts, that to

1 Post, Bellator Equus, positis sequebatur cadaver : et bene, cum

insignibus, Aethon, hominis sit Ire, equi duci Poeta ele-

It lachrymans, guttisque hu- gantissime hominem duci ait, de

mectat grandibus ora. equo, it lachrymans.

Virg. Aen. xi. lin. 89. Serv. ad lin. 85.

' Ducitur infelix, aevo confectus * Virgil.

Acoetes, s Passimque soluti

Pectora nunc foedans pugnis, Per campos pascuntur equi.

nunc unguibus ora : X,in. gcs.

Sternitur, et toto projectus cor- * Cura, nitentes

pore teiTae. Pascere eqiios, eadem sequitur

Virg. Aen. xi. lin. 85. tellure repostos.

' Equus lachrymabut, et spunte Aen. vi. lin. 654.


serve ' and wait on the Houyhnhnms is the most pleasing office
in this world ; no wonder therefore that the poet should
describe it as the supremest felicity in others.

Nor was this a singular opinion of that author ; for Ausonius
the poet, preceptor to the Emperor Gratian, affirms it to be an
universal belief that the souls of Houyhnhnms were never
denied admittance into Elysium among the heroes and philoso-
phers ; which was much more than they believed, or had
reason to believe of their own species. And this is manifest
from an epitaph '^j wrote by this great poet, on a Houyhnhnm ;
who, while he lived, presei-ved the highest place in the esteem
of the Emperor ; and it is placed by Ausonius among his
epitai:)hs of the heroes.

Go, and be blessed where endless rapture reigns,
With steeds immortal on Elysian Plains.

It is no easy matter to discover whence the Houyhnhnm
nation derive their original.

Statins, in his Thehals^, seems to be in some difficulty how
to detemiine it. He mentions two of eminent birth : Arion *,
whom he calls the son of Neptune ; and Chromis ^, who is
distinguished as the son of Hercules, and acknowledged to
possess the whole strength, viriue, and courage ® of his father.
However, in my opinion, he seems to give the preference to
the first, although without the least appearance of being
positive. Nor can I find that even Captain Gulliver himself,
who had certainly the best opportunity to make the enquiry,
hath furnished us with any authority to ascertain it. A loss
that can never be sufficiently lamented !

Lucretius, an ancient poet of great fame, represents the
Houyhnhnms of so excellent a nature, as to be inspired with
the most tender passions, and wounded with the same ii -
resistible darts '' of Cupid as ourselves, which description would

* 'IinTorpo<pfTv tSjv ilSatfjLovfaTaTaiv ^ Chromis, satus Hercule magno.

ipfcuv (hai. Stat. Tlieb. lib. vi.

Isoc. nfpl iv-^ov. * Viribus Herculeis, et toto ro-

^ solatia sume sepulchri, bore patris.

Et gradere Elysios, praepes ad Stat. Tlieb. lib. vi.

Alipedes. ^ Equus florenti aetate jxi-

' Lib. vi. vencus

* Neptunus equo (si certa priorum Pinnigeri saevit calcaribus ic-

Fama) pater. tus amoris.

Stat. T](eb. lib. vi. Lucr. lib. v. liu. 1073.

K k 3


appear absurd and unapplicable, if those creatures were not
as admirably qualified as the modern traveller affirms them
to be.

Besides, he compliments them for their understanding, and
honours a colt, which I suppose he familiarly conversed with,
and found of a promising genius, with the title of learned ^
The beauty of this author's epithets are what distinguish and
recommend his compositions ; nor can we justly imagine him
capable of so great an indiscretion as to ascribe learning to
creatures who had not the least pretension to it ; although that
may be a prevailing custom with modern authors, of all other
European kingdoms, as well as our own.

Yet, lest anything should be wanting to justify the poet's
expression, or sti*engthen his authority, Solinus Polyhistor^
declares, that the Houyhnhnms have both discretion and judg-
ment. And with this the testimony of Pliny '^ agrees ; that
the wisdom and art of hvmian creatures are far surpassed by
the inexpressible * capacity of the Houyhnhnms.

I have reason to imagine, that they were not only qualified
to excel, but that they actually excelled in all arts and
sciences. For what can seem so entirely unadapted for dancing
as the Houyhnhnms' natural form, and the disposition of their
limbs? And yet Angelus Politianus^ cites a passage from
Africanus®, which intimates that they were absolute masters
of that art. The Sybarites (saith he) used to introduce Hou-
yhnhnms at their most splendid entertainments, who, to the
sound of an instiaiment, would raise themselves erect, and dance
in a most graceful manner, moving their forefeet with the
politest gesture, observing exactly the time of the music, and
suiting the motions of their body to all the variety of the

France, having little else to boast of, may glory in the activity
of her natives ; yet, even in that particular, we see, hoi'ses have
arrived at as great a perfection.

^ Doctus eqnae Pullus. ^ In Lib. Miscellan.

Lucr. lib. iii. lin. 763. * Sybaritae equos in convivia

' Equis inesse discretionem et intvoduxere, qui, audito tibiae

judicium constat. cantu, statim se tollerent arrectos,

Cap. 47. edit. H. Steph. in Not. et pedibus ipsis prioribus, vice nia-

' Artes hominum ab er/Mjs victas. nuum,gestusquosdamChironomiae,

Plin. lib. viii. Cap. 42. niotusque ederent ad numeium sal-

* Equorum inenarrabilia ingenia. tatorios. — Aphr. in Cestis.

Plin. lib. viii. C. 42.


It must have been for some very extraordinary merit that
the Houyhnhnms were treated with such remarkable honours
by all the monarehs of the known world. Atheas, a king of
Scythia, contracted so mtimate a fiiendship with one, that he
permitted no hand ^ but his own to dress and adorn him. A
noble Houyhnhnm, who lived in the couii of the Emperor
Verus, (but in what station indeed I cannot positively affirm ^)
was fed with raisins dried in the sun, instead of oats ; and
happening to die in Eome, he was interred m the Vatican with
great solemnity. To another, Adrian erected a monument in
form of a pillar ^, on which he caused an inscription and epitaph
to be engraved.

Another was resident in Kome in the time of Julius Caesar,
whose hoofs were of a veiy uncommon form *, resembling the
toes of a human foot. He was thought to be of so much
consequence at that time, that the empii'e of the whole world
depended upon him.

Universal dominion being promised to him who should be
master of that Houj^hnhnm's person, Caesar took care never to
part from him, and the success answered the prediction.

It may be objected, perhaps, that he acted unworthily when
he permitted Caesar to ride him : I A\all not pretend entii'ely to
justify his conduct ; but what he did was no more than what
Eome herself, and all the world beside, submitted to, as well as
the Houyhnhnm.

I cannot leave this subject without taking notice of a stoiy
related by Aulus Gellius ; because I think it both veiy pertinent
to our present subject, and worthy of the obsei'vation of the

Bucephalus, who was certainly a captive Houyhnhnm^, brought
into Macedon, would permit no person to mount him but

^ Atheas, Eex Scytharum, equum Adriani. Et Alex, ab Alex,

ipse pexuit, et manibus suis ornavit. * Utebatiir equo insigni, pedibus

— Alex, ab Alex. lib. vi. Cap. 8. props humanis, et in morein digi-

* Equo passas uvas, et nucleos, in torum fissis ungiilis. Cum Harii-

vicem hordei, in praesepe ponebat, spices Imperium Orbis terrae Do-

cui mortuo sepulchrum in Vaticano mino pronuntiassent, magna cvira

fecit. — Jul. Capit. in -Vit. Veri. aluit, nee patientem Sessoris al-

' 'AiToOavovTi yap avTq> ical racpov terius primus ascendit. — Suet, in

KarfCTKevaae, Kal arriXriv iarrjai, Koi Jul. Sec. 61.

kiTiypnuixara (niypaipev. — D. Cass. * By Philonicus a Thessalian, and

J^iph. edit, a R. Steph. p. 247. sold for thirteen talents.— Plut in

Vide etiam, Aelius Spai-t. in Vit. Vit. Alex.


Alexander, whom however he condescended to carry more
as his companion than his master. His martial spirit and
generous friendship were shewn upon many occasions, but they
were signalised in this one.

When Alexander was engaged against Porus, and too wanii
in the pursuit of victoiy, the noble Houyhnhnm, conscious of
the danger of his friend (for I could not with any classical
propriety, call him his master) and half ^ expiring with the
wounds he had received, rushed impetuously through the
thickest ranks of the enemy, conveyed his friend beyond the
reach of the arrows, and then expu-ed with all the pleasure and
constancy of a hero. In honour of which generous behaviour,
and to perpetuate the memory of it, we are told by Strabo, and
Ptolemy, that Alexander having obtained a complete victory,
built a city, and called it Bucephale ^

Agreeable to this notion of the disinterested friendship of the
Houyhnhnms is a passage in Oppian ^, where, enumerating their
various virtues, he says,

True to their friend, by love of virtue led,
Alive, they guard him, and lament him, dead.

And also in another * place,

Unerring nature on the Houyhnhnm kind
Conferred a human heart, and reasoning mind.

Which, to me, seem a sufficient acknowledgment of the high
opinion which the ancient Greeks conceived of the vu'tue and
wisdom of the whole Houyhnhnm race.

Captain Gulliver mentions the exalted chastity of both sexes
■with high encomiums. The violation of marriage (saith he) or
any unchastity was never heard of \ This singular perfection
sufficiently distinguishes thera from human creatures ; and
plainly evinces that the descriptions given of this nation in the

* Moribundus tamen, ac prope ^ Kat -aoKkixoiai ireaoyra f^tya are-
jam, exsanguis equus, e mediis vaxovav eraipov.
hostibus regem vivacissimo cursu Oppian. de Yen. lib. i. ver. 225.
retulit, atque ubi eum extra tela * "Ittnois ^tv irepiaWa cpvais nope
extulerat, illico eoncidit ; et domini rex^ ^tcffa,

superstitis securus, cum sensus hu- 'Hfjiepiwy KpaUrjv, Kat ar-qOeaiv

mani solatio, animam expiravit. — aluXov ^rop, &c.

A. Gellius, lib. v. Cap. 2. Ibid. ver. 221.

* By some geographers, it is called * Chap. viii. p. 350, Dub. Edit.
Bucephalon, and by others Bu- 1735.



ancient autliors cannot possibly be applied, with the least shew
of justice, to any other people whatsoever.

I might produce many passages from the wisest Greeks and
Latins, to confirm the traveller's testimony, and to prove that
it was the received opinion of the world, many ages before he
happened to live among that chaste and virtuous people. But
I shall only refer to one writer, whose authority is unquestion-
able, and whose judgment must be of great weight with my
learned readers.

This excellent author is Oppian, who celebrates the Hou-
yhnhnm's chastity wdth as much zeal as Gulliver himself. And
in his first ^ book, speaking of their manners, he hath these
remarkable lines ^, thus almost Hterally translated :

Pure from the vice of every human brute.
Their guide is nature ; virtue, their pursuit ;
Those lewd delights, by men so highly prized,
To them disgustful, are by them despised ;
To Hymen's rites none faithless, or unjust,
None pine diseased by Luxury, or Lust ;
Pure are their pleasures, as their passions chaste,
Their study, health ; and temperance, their feast.

Clemens Alexandrinus contributes greatly to confirm this
description of the poet ; for, he says, the Egyptians ^ express
generosity of mind, chastity, and the spirit of honour, by the
hieroglyphic of an horse.

The last authority I shall produce, to support my opinion, is
Homer, who introduces a Houyhnhnm sharing * the affliction of
Achilles for his friend's misfoi'tune, and wdth a spuit of divina-
tion presaging the death of the Grecian hero.

Meantime, at distance from the scene of blood,
The pensive steeds of great Achilles stood.
Their godlike master slain before their eyes,
They wept, and shared in human miseries.

Along their face,

The big round drop coursed down with silent pace.

' Be Venatione. pr]aiai avu^oXov, 6 'imroi.

^ "E^oxa 5' av riovai <pvaiv, rb 5^ CI. Alex. Strom. 1. 5.
waixwav airvarov * "lirnoi 5' Ala.viSao, /^ax'?^ dvdvev-

*Er (piKoTTjTa fxoXfiv, TTjf ov Of/xi^, Oev kuvTt^,

aWd /xfvovaiv KXatov, &c. . . .

Axpo-VTOt nvawv, KaOapfjs t' kpd- ZciKpva 5i cripiv

ovai KvOfiprji, &c. Qipfxd Kara. PKupapcvv x'^A'"^'*

Oppian. lib. i. ver. 236. pee, &e.

^ Ai-fvnTtois dvSpiiai re kuI -nap- Horn. II. XAni. liu. 437'


And as to theii- prophetic ^ capacity, he says,

The generous Xanthus first

Seemed sensible of woe, and drooped his head ;
Then, thus he spake. 'The fates thy death demand,
Due to a mortal, and immortal hand.' — Pope's Homer.

Besides these convincing authorities from Homer, Calaher
Quintus ^ draws so lively a picture of the tenderness and friend-
ship of the Houyhnhnms, as entirely determines the argument
in their favour.

I think Homer too wise an author to write anything absurd
or ridiculous ; and therefore, if he had not known it agreeable
to reason, and experience, that a Houyhnhnm should have more
discretion and inspu-ation than the hero of his poem, he
certidnly would not have left us such a description of the
precipitate fury of the one, and the generous son-ow and
sagacity of the other.

Besides, what can be more e\ndent, than that the Houyhnhnm
language was perfectly understood by the ancient Greeks, as the
Irish (which hath the neai-est similitude of sound and pronuncia-
tion to that language) is intelligible to many curious persons at
present. And, if Achilles had not been intimately acquainted
with the Houyhnhnm dialect from his education, under Chiron
the Centaur, I am confident he would have found much more
difficulty to mterpret the courser's prophecy, than the celebrated
poet seems to allow.

And this I think a new discover}^, which the learned world,
at least, should gratefully acknowledge. For even the best
commentators upon Homer, Eustathius, Pope, Didymus, and
Spondanus, have never been able to assign a proper reason for
the education of Achilles under Chhon ; but, like all other
illustrators, they diligently avoided what requu'ed great labour
and learning to explain.

Whereas, it is now demonstrable, that, as our English nobihty
intmst the education of their sons to French preceptors, who
are capable of instilling no other sori of knowledge into their
pupils, but that of a foreign language ; so the only design of
antiquity, in having Achilles educated by a centaur, was to
make him a master of the Houyhnhnm language, in which his

' ' hXXa aoi avrw ^ OvSt /xh' d/J-Pporoi Xttttoi drap-

iHupcjinov tan, 6fai t( koi avipi jSeoy AiaKidao

I(pi Safifji'ai. Mifivov dbaKpvTOi irapd vrjecri.

Horn. 77. xix. lin. 417. lib. iii.


death was to be foretold to him ; and, without this precaution,
the courage of the hero in despising the danger which impended ;
the strength of the Plouyhnhnm's prediction ; and the poet's
beautiful description of both, had been considerably dmiinished
and impaired.

It may be objected to the generous notions of those creatures,
that they dishonourably submitted to be harnessed to a chariot.

To which I shall only answer, that unjust or tyrannic
usage is a much greater reproach to those who offer, than to
those who endure it. And, as we have reason to conclude
those Houyhnhnms to be captives, we cannot wonder they were
put to the most slavish employments.

The ancients were expert at contrivmg disagreeable offices for
their captives : some ^ were condemned to draw chariots, and
some^ to attend, while their masters rej^eated dull verses,
and other execrable compositions. So that probably those
Houyhnhnms of Achilles had their choice of both punishments,
and with great wisdom endured bodily fatigue, rather than the
torment of disgusting their understanding and taste. And it
may still lessen their dishonour, if we recollect that Sesostris ^
had even kings, who were his triljutaries, annually harnessed to
his chariot ; and a monarch ^ of our own nation employed kings
as watermen to row his state-barge.

Thus have I, by the best classical authority, demonstrated my
assertion, that the nation of Houyhnhnms was well known to
the ancients of Greece, Italy, and England ; that their virtues
were universally known and admired ; and that the most
potent princes of the earth have been proud of their friendship.
So that the great modern traveller need be under no manner
of uneasiness at the censures of the world ; since the learned
part of mankind must, from these authorities, be effectually
convinced that he might have been actually an eye-witness of
all he hath attested.

I know many who beheved his account of the Houyhnhnms
to be merely fabulous, and who extolled his invention, as
supposing such a nation to exist only in his own brain. And
how far he might be pleased to have his imagmation commended
at the expense of his veracity, I will not determine. But, I

' Captivus ut duceret currus. I. lib. vi.

^ Porrecto jugulo, historias cap- * Edgar tho Peaceable. Vide

tivus Tit audit. — Hor. Sat. III. Malmsbur. S. Diuielm. Randiilphus,

^ Alex, ab Alexandro Dier. Gen. Hoved., and Eapin, F. Ed. 106.


think, in justice to the world, as well as himself, he ought to
have prevented this criticism, and frankly acknowledged the
truth of his narration, although it might have somewhat lessened
his reputation as an author.

I do not doubt, but this will clear Gulliver from another
severe imputation which he lay under, for debasing human
nature, by making men inferior to horses. Because, in the
treatise, it is so plain that antiquity professed to be of a very
different opinion, and it is so manifest that the whole history
is a fact and not a fiction, that if we think mankind disgraced
by the comparison, it is to their own vices, and not to the
traveller's relation we ought to impute it.

I hope, and expect, that all future commentators will copy
the example I have given them in this critical essay ; and that
hereafter they will be at least as studious to shew their own
learning, as to illustrate their author.

I am pretty well assured that the judicious will readily join
with me in opinion ; and, I must own, that I account it the
highest honour to the critic, and the surest test of his genius,
to demonstrate the truth and existence of those things which
the whole world beside determine to be false and fictitious.

Cambridge, Jan. 26, 1734-5.



Aberdeen, University of, 4, 162.
Account of (he Sickness and Death of

Dr. W-dw-d, An, 95, 464-470.
Account of the State of Learning in the

Empire ofLilliput, An, 124, 483-490.
Addison, Joseph, 11, 85, 86, 161,

166, 167.
Aldrich, Henry, Dean of Christ

Church, 12, 13, 15, 17, 24, 32, 33.
Allardyce, Colonel and the Misses,

ix, 171.
Allen, Ralph, 160.
Allen, Rev. W., 15.
Alsop, Anthony, 23.
Anne, Queen, 26, 33, 34, 38, 39, 41,

42, 46, 49 note, 50, 51, 60 note,

67, 68, 70, 73, 74, 75-8, 81, 122,

143, 151, 155, 159-

Antidote, The, 95.

A2}pendix to John Bull still in his
Senses, An, 47, 257-268.

Arbuthnott, Rev. Alexander, Prin-
cipal of King's College, Aberdeen,

Rev. Alexander, Dr. Arbuth-

not's father. Author of an account
of the noble family of Arbuthnot,
I ; Incumbent at Arbuthnott, 2,
172 ; marriage, 3 ; children, 3,
171 ; deprived of living at the
Revolution, 5 ; retirement to
Kinghornie, 5 ; death, 6 ; burial,
and question as to monument, 7.

Arbuthnot, Alexander, Dr. Arbuth-
not's brother, 3, 171.

Alexander, another brother,

3, 171-

Alexander, Dr. Arbuthnot's

nephew, 161.

Anne, Dr. Arbuthnot's daugh-

ter, 30 note, 91, 92, 112, 114, 120
note, 151, 157, 160, 161.

— Anne, Dr. Arbuthnot's sister,

3, 159, 171-

— Mrs. Anne, of Peterhead, 174.

— Charles, Dr. Arbuthnot's son,
51, 116, 136, 137, 142, 167.

Arbuthnot, Elizabeth, Di*. Arbuth-
not's sister, 159.

Elizabeth, Dr. Arbuthnot's

grand-niece, 161.

Esther, Dr. Arbuthnot's grand-

niece, 161, 162.
— Mr. F. R, ix, i6a.

George, Dr. Arbuthnot's

brother; birth, 3, 171; ensign
and lieutenant, 40 ; participation
in the rising of 17 15, 84 ; mar-
riage, 104 note, 120 ; wife's death,
128 ; Swift's wine, 129 ; in China,
134 note, 144 ; date of death un-
certain, 159 7wte, 172.

George, Dr. Arbuthnot's son ;

Repudiation of the Miscellaneous
Works, 8 ; birth, 26 ; Miscellanies
of 1742, 30 note ; 120 note ; letter
from Pope on his father's death,
157, 158 ; executor, 158 in the
King's Remembrancer's Office,
159 ; friendship with Pope, 160,
i6r ; death, i6r.

Arbuthnott, James, of Lentischie, 2.

Arbuthnot, Mrs. James, ix, 162,

Janet, 171.

Joan, Dr. Arbuthnot's sister,

3, 171-

Arbuthnott, John, Notary Public,
Dr. Arbuthnot's great - grand-
father, 2, 172.

Arbuthnot, John, Dr. Arbuthnot's
nephew, 140, 161, 172.

Arbuthnott, John, Dr. Arbuthnot's
uncle, 2.

Arbuthnot, John, M.D., birth and

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 45 of 47)