(by the anonymous professor)
[please note that the Footnotes and illustrations
are not optimally visible on Mobile devices]
I too, come from a long tradition of dealing with problems by avoiding having to deal with them. And that is why I took up solitary hiking in Wales. It was my last attempt to save my marriage.
I always thought that a relationship, a love relationship, was a mysterious miracle when it happened, and my three years of marriage hadn’t shed any new light on this mystery. It was complicated when we tried to talk about it, and not any better when we tried to pretend we had no problems. Jealousy, impatience, vanity, vulnerability, overwhelming urges and vengeance seemed to be ruling us, as we were drifting towards and away from each other. And it all blended together when we fell to discussing politics…
So the option of going for a lonesome hike in the mountains didn’t seem to be all that bad. I hoped that the distance, the absorbing physical activity and the clear air might refresh my views on love and life. All the while, as I embarked on this journey into remote regions of my mind, I was trying hard not to contemplate what my husband might be doing and with whom, while I was up on the mountains.
It wasn’t such a bad idea after all, thanks to the wondrous chance discovery of this astonishing manuscript, which I found while I was collecting campfire wood.
It was hidden in a drawer, masterfully camouflaged at the underside of a wobbling table which I spotted near an abandoned barn. As I was hacking this table into campfire logs I discovered a concealed compartment and was startled to see that it contained hundreds of yellowed handwritten pages, dated from 1699, along with some newspaper clippings
from that period, almost crumbling, of course, and
even a few faded, crude, mind-boggling erotic drawings!
That was the end of my holiday. Instead of hiking I set my tent inside that abandoned barn and spent the rest of the summer mesmerized by those pages.
* * *
This 300 years old manuscript was a gift from heaven. Not because it so directly related to my PhD work and my professional life, but, strangely enough, because of its relevance to my private, marital life.
It took me some time to decipher what it was but when I did, I was blown off my feet. What bizarre fate brought this unique manuscript to me? How did it know that I’ve dedicated my academic life to study the issues of Gender in the 17th and 18th centuries?
These pages were a genuine 18th century diary, written between 1699 and 1748 by one Mrs. Lemuel Gulliver, nee Mary Burton. Though she lived and wrote some three hundred years ago, her impudence was as fresh as could be. I found myself blushing as I read her memoirs and, I must be frank about it: I was even occasionally aroused…
As I was reading Mary Burton-Gulliver’s memoirs I was astonished, realizing that she was intending to publish it! Not because of the incidental sexual nature of it (other ‘pornographic’ works have been published, banned and clandestinely circulated for centuries before.) No, I was surprised because, in her correspondence with the publisher, one Mr. Richard Sympson Junior, she insisted on using her own name: the name of a woman! This would have certainly been a first, since women simply didn’t do that at the time.
Well, she was a brave woman, that’s for sure. Her feats would make Lara Croft green with envy of her incredible adventures in Brobdingnag, the land of the giants. Reading in Mary’s heroic memoir about all the obstacles she had to overcome, 300 years ago, left me dumbfounded and quite often even sceptical.
But it was all there, written clearly in Old English, full of details and facts that I could easily research and check.
And it all really happened.
Remarkably, this manuscript has more than just historical significance for us: undeniably, what Mary wrote 300 years ago, seems to be ever so relevant to our world today. Not only her sly and witty observations regarding politics and society, but also her views on love and marriage.
I took the liberty to do some ‘translating’ to Mary’s text from old, to modern English. I added footnotes wherever I felt some explanation and background information about life in the late 17th, early 18th century, might be needed. (And sometimes wrote about myself, as well.) I hope the impatient reader will forgive me for this. Anyway, you can always skip these footnotes.
* * *
Of course, I was familiar with Jonathan Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ but this manuscript, written by Mr. Gulliver’s own wife, sheds new light and exposes shocking facts about the tame version which was published in England in 1726. That’s why I took it upon myself to share Mary Burton-Gulliver’s legacy with the world. It took me a number of years, a number of maceanats, and a few residencies, to work on the manuscript, and after a good number of rejections from sceptical agents I decided to complete my journey of emancipation and offer these memoirs to my readers via the Internet.
Well, here we are: today you may unlock the gates of this website, by getting your subscription. When you do, you’ll embark on the most bizarre adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, as the masterful pen of his wife, Mary Burton-Gulliver, reveals all.
I guess not many people know who these people - Lemuel and Mary Gulliver - were. Today our ‘Bread and Game’ consist of Reality Television, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the likes, so hardly anyone cares for novels; let alone novels that were written three hundred years ago.
You might recall Gulliver’s Travels as the story you read as a child, about the giant among the tiny people of Lilliput - and you would be right.
Clever publishers realised that this portion of Gulliver’s story befits toddlers’ minds. But there is more, so much more to Gulliver’s adventures. So much so that even he censored himself when he first published the memoirs of his four amazing sea-voyages.
So, if you never read the full ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ let me enlighten you:
Lemuel and Mary got married in 1688 and lived in London’s Old-Jewry until Lemuel Gulliver, a surgeon, encountered professional difficulties and therefore decided to go to sea, as a ship-surgeon.
He had some very fantastic voyages in the next twenty-five years (1690-1715), of which he wrote in his Travels book.
He tells about Lilliput - an island on which he was cast in 1699 - where everything was one-twelfth the size of our world but egos and Eros were 12 times as inflated;
Brobdingnag (1702,) where everything was twelve times as big as in our world, but vice, lust and corruption in same measures;
Laputa (1706,) a flying island, hovering over Balnibarbi, both being communities of logic-defying scientists serving under equally mad rulers. From Balnibarbi he continued to Luggnagg, where he met with celebrity ghosts and suicidal immortals;
In 1710 his travels brought him to Houyhnhnms, a land inhabited by noble horses and savage humanoids.
Against all odds (and thanks to his courageous wife) he always managed to return safely from all these dangerous voyages, and in 1726 he published his “Travels into several Remote Nations of the World, by Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, and then a captain of several ships” (completely neglecting to mention his wife’s role in his rescue. But that’s a given.) Following the commercial success of the book it was re-published 8 years later, this time using the pseudonym of Jonathan Swift.
A colleague of mine, a Professor of History from Stanford University, pointed wisely to the
syntax of Swift, who by now is considered one of the great stylists of the English language.
Gulliver - nowadays known as Swift - handles irony via syntax (said my colleague) with small inflections of the voice that carry the sense that you say X but what you do not understand is that your meaning is Y. But in his wife's writing, (noted my colleague) this irony is mostly lacking and this is once again something that puts the lady in a weak position vis-a-vis the voice of the husband. And indeed - I agree with my colleague - historically, Mary Burton-Gulliver was not the only woman to lag behind her husband.
Now that I discovered Mary’s diary, I can confirm that Lemuel omitted many, many details of his adventures and quite often he twisted the truth.
To his defence I must add that he probably thought that in doing so he was protecting himself, his wife and his children.
But I’m not sure Mary needed that protection.
According to her memoir, indeed she started out as a timid young woman (as I did too. But I was gullible as well.) but in the course of her turbulent life, she evolved to an incredibly brave and resilient woman. She even dressed as a man in order to save her husband, facing horrid dangers and overcoming them all. No wonder Lemuel loved and adored her (at least until he became mad,) and confided in her all the saucy details of his own adventures. We’re lucky today, that he told his wife so much more than what he committed to paper, and we’re so fortunate, because she was brazen enough (or licentious enough) to write it all down.
And here, fate brought me to this precious manuscript, which I saved from a horrible fate of auto-da-fé!
There were some events, which Mary was not intending to publish, being the responsible person that she was, but I think that 300 years on, there’s no danger that publishing the complete history and secrets of Mrs. Gulliver’s would harm anyone. I myself feel no scruples sharing my own story with 21st Century readers. People haven’t changed a bit – I conclude – it’s just that the ever expanding means of sharing information make us realise we’re so similar to each other.
Hopefully this realisation will sink in deep enough and will render politicians unable to divide and rule us.
Notably, Mary Burton-Gulliver had that same inkling 300 years ago. I have much admiration not only for her observations, but also for the way she weaved together her memories and diary entries. She made a clever mix of times, which allows for a clear reading of her story. She was also wise to tell her husband’s memories as he told them to her, without any interference on her part. (At first I was mind-boggled by her open-mindedness, but then it opened my mind, too. If you’re open to it, it will un-boggle you as well.)
Well, if any story is worthwhile reading in the 21st Century, it must be this revealing, candid and uncensored re-telling of Gulliver’s travels, three hundred years on.
Sit back, hold tight, and enjoy the ride!
It was a place similar to this one.
Photo: Paul White
It is a manuscript similar to this one.
Photo: Diane Shaw
Artist: Thomas Morten (1836-1866)
The front page of the first edition of 'Gulliver's Travels'
Artist: Mary Burton-Gulliver, 1726
Created by Toby Gard
Gulliver in Brobdingnag, 1702
Artist: E.J. Wheeler (1848-1933)
Gulliver in Lilliput, 1699
Artist: Thomas Morten (1836-1866)
Lemuel and Mary Gulliver sharing a tender moment.