The Publisher to the Reader

THE AUTHOR OF THESE travels, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, is my ancient and intimate friend; there is likewise some relation between by the mother's side. About three years ago, Mr. Gulliver growing weary of the concourse of curious people coming to him at his house in Redriff, made a small purchase of land, with a convenient house, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire, his native country; where he now lives retired, yet in good esteem among his neighbors.

Although Mr. Gulliver were born in Nottinghamshire, where his father dwelt, yet I have heard him say, his family came from Oxfordshire; to confirm which, I have observed in the churchyard at Banbury, in that county, several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers.

Before he quitted Redriff, he left the custody of the following papers in my hands, with the liberty to dispose of them as I should think fit. I have carefully perused them three times: the style is very plain and simple; and the only fault I find is that the Author, after the manner of travelers, is a little too circumstantial. There is an air of truth apparent through the whole; and, indeed, the Author was so distinguished for his veracity, that it became a sort of proverb among his neighbors at Redriff, when any one affirmed a thing, to say, it was as true as if Mr. Gulliver had spoken it.

By the advice of several worthy persons, to whom, with the Author's permission, I communicated these papers, I now venture to send them into the world; hoping they may be, at least for some time, a better entertainment to our young noblemen, than the common scribbles of politics and party.

This volume would have been at least twice as large, if I had not made bold to strike out innumerable passages relating to the winds and tides, as well as to the variations and bearings in the several voyages; together with the minute descriptions of the management of the ship in storms, in the style of sailors: likewise the account of longitudes and latitudes; wherein I have reason to apprehend that Mr. Gulliver may be a little dissatisfied: but I was resolved to fit the work as much as possible to the general capacity of readers. However, if my own ignorance in sea affairs shall have led me to commit some mistakes, I alone am answerable for them: and, if any traveler hath a curiosity to see the whole work at large, as it came from the hand of the Author, I will be ready to gratify him.

As for any further particulars relating to the Author, the reader will receive satisfaction from the first pages of the book.

Richard Sympson.


  1. This is Swift’s way of poking fun at popular travel narratives of the time, which were often lengthy in their descriptions of arguably “minute” details. It also attempts to assure the reader that there is a rational explanation for all events that occur in the tale. The publisher suggests that if an explanation has been omitted, it is simply a way to prevent the reader’s boredom—rather than an indication of the story’s fabrication.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Swift uses the publisher to emphasize that the events in the novel are true and to characterize Gulliver as a reliable narrator. The publisher states that even Gulliver’s neighbors can vouch for his “veracity,” which further leads the reader to feel that the following story will be “true,” no matter how far-fetched it may seem.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Here, the publisher means that Gulliver is a cousin by his mother’s side of the family. By having the publisher related to the protagonist (who’s narrating the story), Swift creates a tale that feels less imaginary and more like an actual travel narrative. As Swift sets out to parody a travel narrative, creating such a character helps him better satirize the genre.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Though many of Jonathan Swift’s books, including Gulliver’s Travels, are now printed under his real name, he often initially published books under pseudonyms. Gulliver’s Travels was originally published in 1726 under the pseudonym Lemuel Gulliver, which is the name of the protagonist of the novel. The name may be an allusion to King Lemuel, a king who is featured in Proverbs 31 of the Bible.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Swift may have chosen this name based on the biblical character of King Lemuel in Proverbs 31: 

    It is not for kings, Lemuel—
        it is not for kings to drink wine,
        not for rulers to crave beer,
    5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
        and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
    6 Let beer be for those who are perishing,
        wine for those who are in anguish!
    7 Let them drink and forget their poverty
        and remember their misery no more.

    — Jamie Wheeler