The Author shares her thoughts on Memory and Imagination; the Gulliver Question causes a re-shuffle of allegiances, when the Royal Court debates Lemuel’s fate.
Redriff, Monday the 11th of November, 1748
NOW I am puzzled, as I read the notes I wrote more than forty-five years ago, by the question: How could Lemuel have known exactly what had transpired in Court, while he was still chained to his Prison-Temple?
Did he tell me all this or did I invent it all? And does it really matter, either way?
Perhaps Lemuel told me so much about Lilliput that I felt as if I had been there myself. When I wrote of his first voyage I was still that naïve, simple woman, who never ventured further than fifteen miles from where she was born.
I drank thirstily his recounting until I felt as if I had been there myself.
Or is it my imagination, perhaps my longing to have been there myself?
Remembering something that has happened, or imagining something that might have happened, have the same exhilarating stimulation, so I find, on my mind and soul.
So this is exactly how I imagine what has happened in Lilliput, having heard Lemuel’s stories:
THE following day Lemuel had no official visitors. It felt strange, strolling round his Prison-Temple, hearing but the clinking of his chains and the bemused and bewildered cries of the newly arrived Lilliputians who came to gaze upon him.
The words of Bolgolam and Reldresal kept echoing in his mind, sending shivers of fear, intermingled with rays of hope, as Gulliver was contemplating his future.
It was a hot day in Lilliput, and his Prison-Temple was stuffy. He noticed that the Gazers, having paid the due fee to see him from up close (outside the Prison-Temple gates, though) were following him, as a shadow, wherever he was dejectedly pacing.
After a while he realised that they were actually following his shadow, trying to stay under it, to keep cool. Lemuel felt his heart swell with kindly feelings towards these little people, so eager to see him, braving the distance, the heat and the fee they had to pay.
And all for him!
He had never been a celebrity before. The only people that truly loved and adored him were we: his wife and children. And here he was, surrounded by hundreds of Lilliputian admirers, anxious to speak to him, to hear his broken Lilliputian, to be amused by his mistakes and to love him all the more for his genuine attempts to be one of them.
And all this while, about 500 feet away from this tranquil, friendly place, he knew that other Lilliputians were plotting his demise. Lemuel was almost sorry that Reldresal and Bolgolam confided in him so openly.
Would not a blissful obliviousness be much better than this wretched state of insistent worries?
He could only imagine what was going on at the Palace, and his imagination went wild. Under this heightened state of agitated fears and muted hopes, he could remember details very vividly, and when he finally reached our home in London and told me all he remembered, it was quite easy for me to piece together those tidbits.
Sweet Lemuel, his naiveté blinded him from deciphering what was really going on, by whom and upon whom. I guess women are indeed as cunning as foxes, and learning how to read at an early age, I soon learned to read between the lines, just as well. Yet, I think women’s greatest achievement to date is our ability to let our men believe that they are the wiser.
So here is the accurate description of what I am sure happened in Court on that fateful day, when my Lemuel’s life was spared (and not for the last time…)
ON that day the top item on the agenda read: ‘How do you solve a problem like Man-Mountain?’
It surely was an exciting day at Court: even the Empress was there!
Being the only woman ever allowed to attend Court meetings, she always waived this option and preferred to spend more quality time with her Ladies in Waiting.
But not this time.
Though she pretended otherwise, secretly, she craved my Lemuel. She could still feel the roughness of Gulliver’s finger brushing against her soft, exposed breast. Ever since their chance meeting, a yard above ground, when they exchanged hot glances and one warm caress, the Empress was burning to feel more of Lemuel’s fingers, on both her teats and to progress even further.
She hated her position, which did not allow her the freedom to sneak into Lemuel’s Prison-Temple at night (as she very well knew, any other Lilliputian woman was free to do, night in night out,) and she hated Lemuel for his mere existence, for the unfulfilled, never to be fulfilled promise of requited desire, which he embodied.
The opportunity to be near him, if only while his fate was to be discussed, was tempting. She cancelled her chocolate-tasting event in town and accompanied her husband to Court.
The Lilliputian protocol dictates, that whenever a discussion is announced, courtiers are expected to take their seats according to their expressed opinions.
This custom resulted in the T-Party members almost always and almost all, sitting on the left-hand side of the Emperor, colouring that side of the assembly Red, and the S-people sitting at the right-hand side of the Emperor, which would become, on such occasions, all green.
Therefore, when the Emperor entered Court, accompanied by his Empress, everybody, but everybody, was in shock (except for the Empress, of course, who attended such a meeting for the very first time, and therefore had no expectations.)
All the courtiers were shocked to see the Empress there, while the Emperor was baffled by the sight of the colour mix round him.
His courtiers no longer sat according to old loyalties!
He saw high heels rubbing shoulders with low heels, left and right; Red and Green mingling as coats were flapping. The Emperor scanned the Assembly, but was not relieved when he spotted the black robes of Shumclum, the High Priest.
Usually, Shumclum was a reliable indication of where the majority of opinions lay, but today he sat right at the center, across from the Emperor’s throne, with a blank look on his face.
The Emperor was glad a discussion would ensue, which would clarify for him where the winds were blowing, so that he could appear to be leading the people rather than to be drifting along.
What was made clear quite soon was that Anti-Gulliverians were all sitting at the right, with Skyresh Bolgolam, the S-Party leader, Admiral of the Realm, prominently in the lead of the opinion-pull. Pro-Gulliverians sat on the left, looking up to Reldresal, who by then was accepted as the Man-Mountain authority.
As the discussions got heated, the Emperor pretended to fall asleep, and the Empress pretended to be slightly bored.
General Reldresal, being the one Lilliputian who had seen Lemuel daily, in the role of the Man-Mountain teacher and guide, was requested to give a full account of the prisoner’s behaviour:
“As I hope you all read in my written reports, our Man-Mountain is learning fast, he is friendly to the population, and he only eats once a day.”
The blank faces round him were a clear indication that the reports were never read.
“We all saw him, of course” Said Bolgolam. “I doubt if there is a Lilliputian in His Highness’ great realm who has not taken the trip to see the Beast.”
“And more than once!” Flimnap, the Lord High Treasurer, rubbed his hands with evident glee. “At least he is useful on that account. The money keeps rolling in!”
“And he is very kind to all his visitors, no Lilliputian needs to fear him, though I concede, he is bigger than any of us!” Reldresal was eager to add. “They do not stop coming, for a second and even a third Peep!”
“Yes, and that brought about a large income, as my esteemed friend Flimnap, Lord High Treasurer justly pointed out, in the form of the newly formed Peeping-Tax!” Came a cry from Bukluk, Chief of Pleasant Scents, a pro-Gulliverian on the left.
“I admit, the Peeping-Tax was another inspired idea of our Great Emperor, but is it enough?” mused Balmuff, the Grand Judiciary, another anti-Gulliverian. “Is there anything left of it for our Great Emperor, once he is fed and clothed, and for us?!”
Flimnap conceded glum and misery to the country, admitting that the costs of keeping the Man-Mountain would eventually ruin the kingdom:
“So far it is manageable, but, holding the most important post of Your Lord High Treasurer” puffed Flimnap importantly, “I assure you, my Beloved Emperor and esteemed colleagues, that we cannot sustain the growth of this Man-Mountain.
"If we continue to fatten him, Your treasure, which I am bound by my High Post to count and re-count, will dwindle!”
Lalcon the chamberlain, also a T-Party member, but sitting on the other side of Bolgolam, stood up next:
“His Great Big Highness, I am charged with Your wellbeing and peaceful sleep, and I foresee troubled nights, if we attempt to keep Your Highness’ lifestyle at court as it is, and to feed and clothe the Man-Mountain as we do now.”
But General Reldresal was quick to jump to Gulliver’s defence:
“My Great Lord, His Royal Highness, Sunshine of Lilliput. I put it to You, that feeding our Man-Mountain is the greatest investment Your Highness could ever make! Your prisoner, Your Man-Mountain, produces the best fertiliser on a daily basis and in bottomless quantities!”
“Yes!” jumped in Crembo, the Chief of Numbers, a pro-Gulliverian, “and Your Royal Highnesses clearly see that, with these daily fertilising, our economy will be booming as the crops will be rising! There will be more than enough for feeding and clothing Your prisoner!”
“But if there will be surplus of goods, after feeding and clothing the Man-Mountain, prices would have to fall!” cried Flimnap.
“Taxes revenue will dwindle!” Mashmo (Lord of Rings and Belts,) sitting right behind Flimnap, grasped the disastrous implications of falling prices.
But Limtoc, a Knight of the Finest Arts, clearly a pro-Gulliverian and perhaps even a pro-Lilliputian, was blind to these risks:
“Your Highness might even be able to abolish some taxes, and with less taxes to pay, Your people will feel no need to work so much, they will have time on their hands to be creative, and to be ever so grateful to their Emperor!” concluded Limtoc in delight.
But many in the assembly responded in alarm to this forecast:
“Taxes can never be abolished! What will become of our respected Assembly?!”
The noise was unbearable, and the Emperor could no longer pretend to be asleep. “Speak up, Shumclum, what do Our Gods tell you We should do?"
High Priest Shumclum, sitting right at the centre and facing the Emperor, rose to his feet and confessed to being confused:
“On the one hand, there is evidence in our Blundecral that Mashmo, our esteemed Lord of His Highness’ Rings and Belts, is right, when he says that to keep Your prisoner, Our Benevolent Emperor would be required to levy new taxes, which, if I am not mistaken, people might resent.”
“And eventually might all revolt and refuse to pay!” called out Lalcon the chamberlain.
“Yea, yea” Sounded other Anti-Gulliverians.
“But on the other hand?” The Emperor prompted him on, hoping that a resolution might come out of these weighing.
“Yes. Ehm, on the other hand” Shumclum was indeed confused. “If we do not feed and clothe this Man-Mountain (whom our highly esteemed friend here, Admiral Bolgolam, so cleverly captured,) if we decide not to feed him, he might grow to be desperate and start consuming innocent Lilliputians. Some Lilliputians might resent this, too, and it would be quite difficult, even for me, to find an explanation for this in our Holy Blundecral”
“Yea, yea” agreed the Pro-Gulliverians on the left.
“I see where you are heading at” Roared Bolgolam at Shumclum “You do not like my Prisoner, do you?” and he jumped on his seat, waiving his fist: “I said it before and I will say it gain! I reiterate that I still assert that we ought to abolish religion from affairs of state! There is no place in our Esteemed Assembly for pious hubbub!” And he turned mockingly to Shumclum: “You think I should not have captured him, do you?”
Shumclum was shaking his head, alarmed, and lost for words, he could only mumble: “My Lords, this is blasphemy. Surely, you do not…”
“Well, you better think again,” Bolgolam cut him short, ”if you are at all capable of independent thinking!” And he turned to the Emperor: “Your Highness, under my loyal command, and with Your Royal blessings, our army triumphed over the greatest danger that ever faced our greatest nation!”
“True, true,” they all were eager to agree. The mighty Lilliputian army has always been above scrutiny.
“And under my command, we will annihilate him, if our benevolent Emperor so pleases!!!”
They all burst out clapping their hands enthusiastically and banging their heels – both the high and the low - on the wooden floor. The racket was shuttering and they all felt their patriotic spirits surging.
All, except for Reldresal.
He looked around in dismay, and when the noise subsided, he asked: “And how do you propose to annihilate Our Emperor’s Man-Mountain?”
“Indeed, how?” Shumclum was glad somebody seemed to share his worries.
“Leave that detail to me,” Barked Bolgolam.
“I am with Bolgolam here. In my opinion” Humbled Flimnap “The Man-Mountain’s diet would be very expensive and might cause a famine. If my esteemed colleague may indulge to make use of my advice, I am determined to starve him.”
“But I, for one, apprehend his breaking loose!” heaved Mashmo in terror “As His Highness’ Lord of Rings and Belts, I have some understanding in chains, and I do fear that those 51 chains and 36 padlocks would not restrain a desperate, hungry Man-Mountain for much long!”
“You are all amateurs!” muttered Bolgolam. “The professional course of action would be to shoot him in the face and hands with poisoned arrows, which would soon despatch him.”
A terrified silence fell on the Assembly, while all considered the audacious, yet professional move.
But Reldresal was less impressed:
“Be good to consider, my esteemed colleague, that the stench of so large a carcass might produce a plague in the metropolis, and probably spread through the whole kingdom.”
“This is no concern of mine” huffed Bolgolam. “Our good friend here, Chief of Pleasant Scents, Master Bukluk, is the one who is best equipped to deal with that. I can only assure you of a swift and definite despatch of the gobbling Man-Mountain.”
Some started clapping their hands, but seeing that many of the Assembly remained thoughtful, the clapping died out.
“There must be another way” Pleaded Bukluk “I mean, of course, I can easily deal with the stench, I too, am a professional, but what about all the useful aspects of this Man-Mountain? Are we not overlooking here something vital?”
“My dear colleague” Beamed Reldresal “Wisely spoken! We can make excellent use of his Highness’ Man-Mountain, surly, beside his fertilising talents!”
Some feeble “Yea” was heard, but very feeble.
“I do not like this Man-Mountain any better than any of you here” Bolgolam picked up on the mood “But if His Highness will order me to refrain from annihilating the Man-Mountain, I will highly recommend that we recruit him to our side, before our enemies get to know about his existence, and before they try to steal him from Your Royal Highness. When war ensues, we will need men like the Man-Mountain in our troupes.”
“Do you propose releasing him?” Asked the Emperor shrewdly.
The Assembly gasped in unison. Bolgolam was the first to recover.
“Another brilliant idea from our beloved Emperor! That will be a winning stroke!”
Murmurs were heard all over. They were quick to grasp the new possibilities.
“He will be ever indebted to His Royal Highness, and will be a perfect under-cover spy.” said Majes Nobd wistfully.
Up until that moment he kept still, so when he suddenly spoke up in a creaky, seldom-used voice, everyone turned in alarm, and the Empress dropped her fan. Nobd was there in an instance, picked it up and handed it to her gallantly.
“Who.. who are you?” Asked the Empress falteringly.
“Nobd, Majes Nobd, Mam, Head of Secret Intelligence, at your eternal service.”
Clicking his high heels together he turned to the Assembly:
“No one will ever suspect that we are using this huge Man-Mountain as an under-cover spy. And he could spot things for us, from high above.”
“No, he should be drafted to the Navy!” exclaimed Bolgolam. “Firstly, he is mine, I mean, Your Highness, that I led his capture, for You. Of course, he belongs to Your Highness, of course. But the Navy needs men like him, surely!”
“He will drown the whole fleet if he ever set foot on a ship!” roared the whole Assembly. They needed the good laugh. Tensions were mounting high.
“If I may put a word in,” said Flimnap, “Our great Emperor will make the best use of this Man-Mountain if the prisoner will be employed at the Treasury. Our Tax collectors are facing huge obstacles in their daily rounds. People seem to get smarter and smarter, hiding the fruit of their toil in the wiliest of ways. If the Man-Mountain would accompany them, people will be far too terrified to cheat us.”
“We are the luckiest Emperor in the whole Universe,” Beamed the Emperor “We have such clever and resourceful Court!”
They all lowered their eyes modestly and the Emperor announced royally:
“We give the command to release him!”
“But, His Highness,” High Priest Shumclum was jumping in agitation “His Highness surely recognises that the mere idea of a Man-Mountain in the midst of the great nation of Lilliput is demoralising to all Lilliputian men, seeing that he is that much bigger than we are!”
But Knight Limtoc, the Pro-Gulliverian, answered immediately: “I do not see it as demoralising at all. As His Highness’ Property, we could get him to supplement our matrimonial duties, in exchange for his food and board! After all, let us all face it: the mere presence of the Man-Mountain in our midst, in itself is a dangerous aphrodisiac to all Lilliputian women!”
And they all sneaked a quick glance at the Empress.
“Oh,” she said, “As far as I am concerned, he should work for Us till he drops.”
That seemed to be a good compromise, and committees were sat and budgets were allocated, to decide about the best ways of using Gulliver, and then of disposing of him.