A Letter



To His


I HOPE YOU will be ready to own publicly, whenever you shall be called to it, that by your great and frequent urgency you prevailed on me to publish a very loose and uncorrect account of my travels; with direction to hire some young gentlemen of either university to put them in order, and correct the style, as my cousin, Dampier did by my advice, in his book called, A Voyage round the World. But I do not remember I gave you power to consent, that any thing should be omitted, and much less that any thing should be inserted: therefore, as to the latter, I do here renounce every thing of that kind; particularly a paragraph about her Majesty the late Queen Anne, of most pious and glorious memory; although I did reverence and esteem her more than any of human species. But you, or your interpolator, ought to have considered, that it was not my inclination, so was it not decent to praise any animal of our composition before my master Houyhnhnm: and, besides, the fact was altogether false; for to my knowledge, being in England during some part of her Majesty's reign, she did govern by a chief minister; nay even by two successively; the first whereof was the Lord of Godolphin, and the second the Lord of Oxford; so that you have made me say the thing that was not. Likewise, in the account of the academy of projectors, and several passages of my discourse to my Master Houyhnhnm, you have either omitted some material circumstances, or minced or changed them in such a manner, that I do hardly know my own work. When I formerly hinted to you something of this in a letter, you were pleased to answer, that you were afraid of giving offence; that people in power were very watchful over the press; and apt not only to interpret, but to punish every thing which looked like an inuendo (as I think you call it). But pray, how could that which I spoke so many years ago, and at about five thousand leagues distance, in another reign, be applied to any of the Yahoos, who now are said to govern the herd; especially, at a time when I little thought on or feared the unhappiness of living under them. Have not I the most reason to complain, when I see these very Yahoos carried by Houyhnhnms in a vehicle, as if these were brutes, and those the rational creatures? And, indeed, to avoid so monstrous and detestable a sight, was one principal motive of my retirement hither.

Thus much I thought proper to tell you in relation to your self, and to the trust I reposed in you.

I do in the next place complain of my own great want of judgment, in being prevailed upon by the intreaties and false reasonings of you and some others, very much against mine own opinion, to suffer my travels to be published. Pray bring to your mind how often I desired you to consider, when you insisted on the motive of public good; that the Yahoos were a species of animals utterly incapable of amendment by precepts or examples: and so it hath proved; for instead of seeing a full stop put to all abuses and corruptions, at least in this little island, as I had reason to expect: behold, after above six months warning, I cannot learn that my book hath produced one single effect according to mine intentions: I desired you would let me know by a letter, when party and faction were extinguished; judges learned and upright; pleaders honest and modest, with some tincture of common sense, and Smithfield blazing with pyramids of law books; the young nobility's education entirely changed; the physicians banished; the female Yahoos abounding in virtue, honor, truth, and good sense: courts and levees of great ministers thoroughly weeded and swept; wit, merit, and learning rewarded; all disgracers of the press in prose and verse, condemned to eat nothing but their own cotton, and quench their thirst with their own ink. These, and a thousand other reformations, I firmly counted upon by your encouragement; as indeed they were plainly deducible from the precepts delivered in my book. And, it must be owned, that seven months were a sufficient time to correct every vice and folly to which Yahoos are subject; if their Natures had been capable of the least disposition to virtue or wisdom: yet so far have you been from answering mine expectation in any of your letters; that on the contrary, you are loading our carrier every week with libels, and keys, and reflections, and memoirs, and second parts; wherein I see myself accused of reflecting upon great states folk; of degrading human Nature, (for so they have still the confidence to stile it) and of abusing the female sex. I find likewise, that the writers of those bundles are not agreed among themselves; for some of them will not allow me to be Author of mine own travels; and others make me Author of books to which I am wholly a stranger.

I find likewise, that your printer has been so careless as to confound the times, and mistake the dates, of my several voyages and returns; neither assigning the true year, or the true month, or day of the month: and, I hear the original manuscript is all destroyed, since the publication of my book. Neither have I any copy left; however, I have sent you some corrections, which you may insert, if ever there should be a second edition: And yet I cannot stand to them, but shall leave that matter to my judicious and candid readers, to adjust it as they please.

I hear some of our Sea-Yahoos find fault with my sea-language, as not proper in many parts, nor now in use. I cannot help it. In my first voyages, while I was young, I was instructed by the oldest mariners, and learned to speak as they did. But I have since found that the Sea-Yahoos are apt, like the land ones, to become new fangled in their words; which the latter change every year; insomuch, as I remember upon each return to my own country, their old dialect was so altered, that I could hardly understand the new. And I observe, when any Yahoo comes from London out of curiosity to visit me at mine own house, we neither of us are able to deliver our conceptions in a manner intelligible to the other.

If the censure of Yahoos could any way affect me, I should have great reason to complain, that some of them are so bold as to think my book of travels a mere fiction out of mine own brain; and have gone so far as to drop hints, that the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos have no more existence than the inhabitants of utopia.

Indeed I must confess, that as to the people of Lilliput, Brobdingnag, (for so the word should have been spelt, and not erroneously Brobdingnag) and Laputa; I have never yet heard of any Yahoo so presumptuous as to dispute their being, or the facts I have related concerning them; because the truth immediately strikes every reader with conviction. And, is there less probability in my account of the Houyhnhnms or Yahoos, when it is manifest as to the latter, there are so many thousands in this city, who only differ from their brother brutes in Houyhnhnmland, because they use a sort of Jabber, and do not go naked. I wrote for their amendment, and not their approbation. The united praise of the whole race would be of less consequence to me, than the neighing of those two degenerate Houyhnhnms I keep in my stable; because, from these, degenerate as they are, I still improve in some virtues without any mixture of vice.

Do these miserable animals presume to think that I am so degenerated as to defend my veracity; Yahoo as I am, it is well known through all Houyhnhnmland, that by the instructions and example of my illustrious master, I was able in the compass of two years (although I confess with the utmost difficulty) to remove that infernal habit of lying, shuffling, deceiving, and equivocating, so deeply rooted in the very souls of all my species; especially the Europeans.

I have other complaints to make upon this vexatious occasion; but I forbear troubling myself or you any further. I must freely confess, that since my last return, some corruptions of my Yahoo Nature have revived in me by conversing with a few of your species, and particularly those of mine own family, by an unavoidable necessity; else I should never have attempted so absurd a project as that of reforming the Yahoo race in this kingdom; but, I have now done with all such visionary schemes forever.

April 2, 1727.


  1. Gulliver’s Travels continually explores the ways in which truth, knowledge, and meaning are constructed or altered by various cultures and individuals. In addition to reality being subjective, here Swift introduces the theme that facts can be revised or erased, thereby amending history if the original account is destroyed. Human knowledge and understanding is conditional and, therefore, limited.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. An “innuendo” is an allusive remark or an insinuation. During Swift’s time, authors could be punished if their work engaged with beliefs that contradicted the ideals or objectives of those in power. So, writers would include innuendos pushing back against elitist beliefs rather than outright stating opinions that might yield backlash. The genre of satire is an example of this: it pokes fun at and critiques the political or social power but via characters or settings that merely resemble these powers, thereby evading penalty (though not always successfully.)

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. To “interpolate” is to alter an existing text by inserting new words or tampering with the phrasing. An “interpolator” is a person who does the altering. In this context, the term has a negative connotation, as it suggests that the editor’s insertions have corrupted the original meaning of the text, rather than simply enhanced its clarification for readers.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. By illustrating two conflicting perspectives on one “true” story, Swift calls attention to a theme that will be explored throughout the novel: that reality is relative to and determined by each individual’s cultural, social, and political environment. The line between fact and fiction is blurred, as we are unsure whose account is the most accurate and objective.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. This is a reference to William Dampier, a British explorer and seaman who documented his travels and became one of the most popular authors in travel literature during his time. The book that Swift mentions here, A New Voyage Around the World, has influenced many writers, most notably, Swift and Daniel Defoe.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. *Gulliver's Travels *was an instant success upon publication, spawning many imitators. None of those sequels were penned by Swift 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  7. It is thought that Swift based the character of Gulliver on the explorer William Dampier (1652-1715) who wrote many widely-read travelogues, very popular in Swift's time and it is likely that he was familiar with the works. 

    — Jamie Wheeler