An immaculate success on its publication in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels has since had an odd double life as both a classic traveller’s tale for children and a scathing satire of the human condition. Lemuel Gulliver’s adventures in a series of fantastical lands – where he meets the tiny people of Lilliput, the giants of Brobdingnag, the excessively rational equine Houyhnhnms, the wild and brutish Yahoos, and the philosophical Laputans – leave him with a deeply pessimistic perspective on his own kind. But Swift’s misanthropic vision clothes itself in such an exuberant outpouring of comic energy and creative high spirits – encompassing such wonders as a flying island, talking horses, and an early prototype of the computer – that it has entertained generations of readers of all ages, ‘from the cabinet council to the nursery’, as John Gay put it. Printed here in its unexpurgated entirety, Gulliver’s Travels demonstrates the power and originality of Swift’s satiric genius and the enduring appeal of his sense of the absurd.
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