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1. Letters to Swift
II/ Letters to Swift

A Letter from Daniel DE FOE to the Author of Gulliver’s Travels

Emanuelle PERALDO

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1Sir,

2I Dayly hear Myths and Rumours circulating among the high Spheres in London and I thought it my Duty to inform you: They insult you in a most Scandalous and Criminal Way, claiming that your imaginary Account of Lemuel Gulliver’s Travels -- it is now universally known that you are the Author of that Fiction -- might be a plagiarized Copy of the real History of Robinson Crusoe which I edited seven Years ago. Yes, I own this Work now. I did not sign it because I was afraid it might be assimilated to all the Novels and Romances that were flourishing, whereas it was really a private History.

  • 1 Cf. “one of these Authors (the Fellow that was pilloryed, I have forgot his Name) is indeed so grav (...)

3Your humble Servant, without Vanity or Affectation, seriously declares himself offended by these Accusations, for himself as well as for your own Sake. These People are such grave, sententious, dogmatical Rogues, that there is no enduring them.1 How can they lay such Charges against the Dean of St Patrick’s? How can they presume to compare two entirely different Works? How could Imagination and Fantasy plunder from History and Truth? Their Accusations are not only false and unsubstantiated but also ridiculous and laughable.

4I do not disagree with everything I have heard though. I find Truth in what an Irish Bishop (I have forgot his Name) said, viz. that your Book was full of improbable Lies. It is. You will not deny that it is full of Lies. If your Readers may, for one Second, be taken in by your Claims of Authenticity, I say, it cannot be doubted, but that no one will learn anything useful from your pseudo-geographical Indications that lose your Readers more than they orient them, or from your gross Tampering with Herman Moll’s Maps that you took from A New and Correct Map of the Whole World and falsified in the vilest and most ignorant Manner. Who will believe that the greatest Cartographer of all Times mapped … a flying Island?

  • 2 Cf. Daniel Defoe, The Consolidator Or, Memoirs of Sundry Transactions from the World in the Moon, 1 (...)
  • 3 Cf. Daniel Defoe, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (1722), edited by Edward (...)
  • 4 Cf. “I did not do it without a particular sence upon me of the proper Duty of an Historian, and the (...)

5Consequently, I am writing to tell you that I intend to write a Pamphlet in your Defense, to tell the World that you did not steal my Work, as I am convinced there is no Proximity whatsoever between what is most probably a Novel, as they call it today, and my History of Robinson Crusoe that is anchored in Truth of Fact. If you had indeed pillag’d my History of this poor forlorn Sailor-- which I believe you have not -- I wou’d then have accus’d you of a bigger Crime than that of stealing a Story; I wou’d have accused you of making a Mockery, with your Impertinence, of the noble Enterprise of History Writing; a Mockery of the Instructions and Rules given by the Royal Society in the Philosophical Transactions to Travellers and Travel Writers, whose Aims are meerly to acquire Knowledge by experimental Investigations; a Mockery of this Man, this Hero I should say, who managed to survive for twenty-eight Years on a Desert Island. Your Hero is either tiny or vile and does not manage to stay for four days on a desert Island in Book IV! In the mean Time, everybody knows that there is no such Thing as a flying Island -- I will look out for Laputa next time I take a lunar Voyage2 -- and no Reader will ever believe it possible that Gulliver swam with all the Objects listed in his pockets, viz. a Pair of Glasses, a Telescope etc. I must desire you to take Notice that not only do you make a Mockery of the Sciences of Geography and History by your many Inconsistencies and Mistakes, or when you propose to correct modern maps, because you think “Geographers of Europe are in a great Error,” thereby insulting my dearest Friend Herman Moll, but you do not obey the most basic Rules of Verisimilitude. The Reason why I mention this is that I think your imaginary Story is not even what they call a Novel, viz. a fictional Narrative that pretends to be real and that is grounded in everyday Life; I believe it is a Romance. And as you may know, the World is so taken up of late with Novels and Romances, that it is already very hard for a History to be taken for Genuine,3 so I will not bear the Comparison of my Private History of Robinson Crusoe to your Inventions. For God’s Sake, let us not enter that Battle of the Books! Let us not be Victims of these slanderous Rumours which make you a Thief and I an even greater Criminal, viz. a Novelist! If my Stories seem incredible to some Readers, if I understand that Readers might now and then question my Sincerity, I must desire them to know that I do not write without a particular Sence upon me of the proper Duty of an Historian,4 and I must repeat what I have already said, that the History of Robinson Crusoe has nothing to do with the imaginary Tale of Lemuel Gulliver.

  • 5 Cf. The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, D.D. edited by D. Woolley, Peter Lang, 1999-2007, II. p.6 (...)
  • 6 Cf. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Introduction by Claude Rawson, notes Ian Higgins, Ox (...)

6I now come to the second Part of my Letter, wherein I will dispute some of your Ideas about Mankind. I cannot tell you how surprised I am that a respectable Solunarian like you may have a Heart burning with Hatred against the whole human Race. I heard a certain A_____ P____5 report a Letter of yours in which you said that the chief End you proposed to yourself in all your Labours was to vex the World. Why is it so? Why is it that you only talk about the monstrous Behaviour of Man in Society? Why is it that you are only concerned with Wars, Corruption and Self-Love? And why is it that you hate the Fair Sex so much? You conceive of Women as disagreeable, deceitful, disreputable Creatures and you talk about the “Caprices of Womankind”6 that, according to you, are not limited by any Climate or Nation. The gross and nauseating Descriptions you make of grotesque and disfigured female Bodies is most unfair to the Sex and your defining Women by physiognomy shows that you cannot begin to imagine Women from the Inside. My late Lord Oxford once told me, as he let you out at the front Door in York Buildings, and ushered me in at the Backstairs, that you perpetually reproach the Sex with Folly and Impertinence, while I am confident that if Women received the same Education as ours, they wou’d not only be equal to us, but better. May I recommend that you read my Essay upon Projects -- much as I know you loathe all Projects and Projectors -- and more particularly the passage on an Academy for Women? Even if it was written thirty Years ago, I think it might still be useful today, in an Age that still wants to control and domesticate Women: Let me repeat here, that the Justification for denying Women Education -- their supposed intellectual Inferiority -- is truly a Result of denying Women Education. I have often thought that Men who want to exile Women from School are meerly afraid of being surpassed, but I am sure it is not the Case for you, Honour’d Dean of St Patrick’s: I know that you too are a Supporter of Women’s Education; I know that you are not the Misogynist that you advertise to the World; I know that beneath this apparent Satyr on Women, you firmly believe Women are Stellar.

7Your humble Servant,

8The Fellow that was pilloried for following the Dictates of Truth and of his own Conscience.

9London,

10Nov. 27, 1727

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Notes

1 Cf. “one of these Authors (the Fellow that was pilloryed, I have forgot his Name) is indeed so grave, sententious, dogmatical a Rogue, that there is no enduring him," Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, II, edited by Herbert Davis, The Shakespeare Head Press, 1939-1968, p.113.

2 Cf. Daniel Defoe, The Consolidator Or, Memoirs of Sundry Transactions from the World in the Moon, 1705. 1st World Library – Literary Society, 2004.

3 Cf. Daniel Defoe, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (1722), edited by Edward Kelly, Norton, 1973, p.3.

4 Cf. “I did not do it without a particular sence upon me of the proper Duty of an Historian, and the abundant Duty laid on him to be very wary what he conveys to Posterity”, Daniel Defoe, The Storm (1704), edited by Richard Hamblyn, Penguin Classics, 2003, p.4.

5 Cf. The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, D.D. edited by D. Woolley, Peter Lang, 1999-2007, II. p.606.

6 Cf. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Introduction by Claude Rawson, notes Ian Higgins, Oxford World’s Classics, 2008, p.152.

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Référence électronique

Emanuelle PERALDO, « A Letter from Daniel DE FOE to the Author of Gulliver’s Travels »E-rea [En ligne], 18.2 | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2021, consulté le 05 août 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/erea/12429 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/erea.12429

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Auteur

Emanuelle PERALDO

Université Côte d’Azur, Nice, France
Emmanuelle.Peraldo@univ-cotedazur.fr
Emmanuelle Peraldo is Professor of English literature at Université Côte d’Azur. Her publications mainly focus on Daniel Defoe, on whom she has written several articles and a monograph (Defoe et l’écriture de l’Histoire, Champion, 2010). She has recently published a book on Gulliver’s Travels (Atlande, 2020).

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