A Critical History of Gulliver’s Travels

  • Jonathan Swift
Part of the Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism book series (CSICC)


Soon after the publication of Gulliver’s Travels in 1726, John Gay invited Swift to return to London, “where you will have the pleasure of a variety of commentators, to explain the difficult passages to you” (Corresp. 3: 184). Since that time, commentary on Swift’s book has not been lacking. Even the most hostile contemporary critics acknowledged the work’s popularity. “Here is a book come out,” wrote Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, “that all our people of taste run mad about.” “Great Eloquence” has been employed, she wrote, to prove that human beings are “Beasts” (Williams, Critical Heritage 65). Samuel Johnson, otherwise no fan of Gulliver, found it “a production so new and strange that it filled the reader with a mingled emotion of merriment and amazement” (2: 203). The European Magazine later reported that the book had “a liveliness of description and a simplicity of narrative” that made it “equally interesting to persons of both sexes, and of all ages. It instantly became the only subject of conversation; everybody wondered, everybody admired, and everybody sought for meanings that were never intended” (“Character of Swift” 331).


Human Nature Eighteenth Century Early Reader Critical History Travel Book 
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© Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press 1995

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  • Jonathan Swift

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