A Year: Day to Day Men: 28th of October, Solar Year 2018

The Wayfarer

October 28, 1726 was the publishing date of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”.

“Gulliver’s Travels” is a prose satire written by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, who later became Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The book, a satire on the human nature, is Swift’s best known full-length work, written in the style of a traveler’s tale.

In 1713, Jonathan Swift joined with writers, Gay, Pope, Arbuthnot and others, to form the Scriblerus Club, an organization of writers interested in using satire in the popular genres of literature. Swift was assigned to satirize the ‘travelers’ tales’ literary genre and to write the memoirs of the club. From Swift’s correspondence, it is known that he started writing Part One and Part Two of “Gulliver’s Travels” in 1720; Part Four was written in 1723 and Part Three was written in 1724. After making amendments to the existing writing, the book was completed by August, 1725.

“Gulliver’s Travels” was an obvious satire of the Whig party, the political faction that was in control of the government at that time. It is likely that Jonathan Swift had his manuscript recopied so that his handwriting could not be used as evidence against him if the authorities wished to prosecute. This had happened to him earlier when some of his Irish pamphlets criticizing the government were seized.

In March of 1726 Jonathan Swift traveled to London and delivered his manuscript secretly to publisher Benjamin Motte, who used five printing houses to speed the printing. Motte, recognizing a best seller but fearing prosecution, cut passages and altered the worst offending ones, such as court contests and the citizen rebellion in part three. The first edition was published anonymously and released in two volumes on October 28, 1726 at the price of eight shillings.

The Irish publisher George Faulkner printed a set of Jonathan Swift’s works, which included “Gulliver’s Travels”, in 1735. The new printing of the story was done by using the manuscript given to Benjamin Motte, but without Motte’s annotations and amendments. This printing is regarded as the ‘editio princeps’ of “Gulliver’s Travels”, the first printed edition that previously existed only in manuscript form which could be circulated only after being copied by hand. The only exception to this publication of the work was an added piece by Swift, complaining of the changes done by Motte.

The book was very popular upon release and was commonly discussed within social circles. Public reception widely varied, with the book receiving an initially enthusiastic reaction with readers praising its satire, and some reporting that the satire’s cleverness sounded like a realistic account of a man’s travels. As popularity increased, critics came to appreciate the deeper aspects of “Gulliver’s Travels”. It became known for its insightful take on morality, expanding its reputation beyond just humorous satire. It was, however, sharply criticized by the Whig party.

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