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Les voyages de Gulliver

François Boulaire
Daniel Carey

The texts of Gulliver’s Travels

Stephen Karian

Texte intégral

  • 1 The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, Harold Williams (ed.), revised by David Woolley, 5 vols, Oxf (...)

1“Gulliver vexeth me more than any.”1 When Jonathan Swift wrote this sentence, he was referring not to his narrator, but to the problems that beset his efforts to publish a new edition of Gulliver’s Travels. The sentence occurs in a letter dated seven years after Swift’s work first appeared, and at the time he felt frustrated in his attempts to gather the necessary materials for his bookseller. (In the 18th century, a “bookseller” usually refers to one who both publishes and sells books.) Upset with the unauthorized changes to the early editions, Swift wanted to correct and perhaps revise his work, but to do so he needed to track down various manuscripts and printed copies. Swift’s predicament in locating and sorting these materials parallels that of modern-day scholars trying to edit Gulliver’s Travels. Scholars, of course, cannot ask Swift about his work – unless they could travel to Glubbdubdrib and summon Swift’s ghost – and thus have to sort through and interpret the various surviving sources. Not surprisingly, then, Gulliver continues to vex.

  • 2 At the outset, I want to acknowledge that my discussion of the textual history of Gulliver’s Trave (...)

2Recent discoveries have made the editor’s task a bit easier, for we are now in a better position to reconstruct the textual history of Swift’s work.2

3This story is fascinating on its own terms and for what it reveals about Swift’s clever strategies in publishing his work and some of the earliest reactions to it. Further, the textual history of this individual work sheds light on broader issues involving political censorship and the nature of publishing in eighteenth-century England. While satirists such as Swift wanted to publish correct and complete versions of their works, booksellers faced intense pressures from the authorities. To avoid prosecution, some kind of compromise was often necessary, whether on the part of the author, the bookseller, or both.

4Knowledge acquired from the work’s textual history can then inform how one edits or evaluates a particular edition. We can better attempt to distinguish between those words that Swift wrote and alterations that others caused, whether approved by Swift or not. Doing so involves comparing multiple printed and manuscript sources. What an editor does with this information is a further issue, for editing is neither a mechanical nor a monolithic activity, but as varied and dependent on judgment and insight as literary criticism. An edition of Gulliver’s Travels – or of any written work, for that matter – depends to a great extent on the goals and principles that the editor employs. Therefore, there can be no single, definitive version of Gulliver’s Travels, though this pluralism does not entail a kind of editorial anarchy in which any version is as good as another. Again, our position parallels that of Swift himself, though we need not be as vexed as he was by the textual multiplicity involved. In more than one sense, then, it seems appropriate to speak not of the text of Gulliver’s Travels, but of the texts.


  • 3 Corr., vol. 3, p. 153.

5Late at night on 8 August 1726, someone from a hackney-coach dropped a mysterious packet at the home of the London bookseller Benjamin Motte. The packet contained a manuscript and a curious letter from a stranger named Richard Sympson. Sympson stated that his cousin, Lemuel Gulliver, had written an account of travels that Sympson had edited and was offering to Motte for publication. Though admitting that the enclosed manuscript “may be thought in one or two places to be a little Satyrical”, Sympson hoped Motte would agree to publish it.3 The letter specified strict conditions about how to proceed. Motte was not to let the manuscript out of his sight and he had only three days to respond to the offer. If Motte wished to publish it, he would pay two hundred pounds up front, after which he would receive the subsequent parts of Gulliver’s narrative. Otherwise, Motte must return the manuscript; no counter-proposals would be considered.

  • 4 Corr., vol. 3, p. 155.

6After reading this incomplete manuscript, Motte wanted to publish it, but could not pay the fee right away. He therefore returned the packet to Sympson three days later via an unknown intermediary and offered to pay the fee after publication. On 13 August, Sympson replied with a one-sentence letter: “I would have both Volumes come out together and published by Christmas at furthest.”4 This terse response suggests at least two things: first, that Sympson enclosed not only the original manuscript that Motte had read but a second volume as well, so that the bookseller now had the complete work and could proceed; and second, that Sympson felt he had reached an agreement with Motte such that negotiations were over. With no opportunity to make further inquiries, Motte began to arrange for publication.

7This peculiar negotiation – if “negotiation” is even the appropriate term – was in fact an elaborate ruse concocted by Jonathan Swift with a little help from his friends. Swift wrote under the name “Sympson” to keep his authorship a secret and to maintain that Gulliver’s narrative was a true account. To accomplish these goals, he included a preface by “Sympson” stating that

  • 5 Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Paul Turner (ed.), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. x (...)

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 Neighbours at Redriff, when any one affirmed a Thing, to say, it was as true as if Mr Gulliver had spoke it.5

  • 6 Corr., vol. 3, p. 180 (5 November 1726, John Arbuthnot to Swift).

8Swift’s simultaneous invocation and subversion of truthfulness may have influenced two of his most gullible readers: a shipmaster who claimed to know Gulliver and an old gentleman who searched in vain for a map of Lilliput.6

9Swift’s stratagems went beyond the pseudonyms of Gulliver and Sympson, for neither the enclosed manuscript nor the letters to Motte were in his handwriting. Swift’s friend and fellow author John Gay served as Swift’s scribe for the letters; as for the manuscript, we do not know whose hand it was in, except that it was not Swift’s. In addition, Swift’s delivery of the manuscript was especially crafty, since he initially sent Motte only Parts One and Two, the less politically controversial half of the book. Thus Swift tricked Motte into agreeing to publish the book before he had the chance to read the most scandalous parts. And by the time Motte could have read these, he could not contact “Sympson” again since Swift had already left for Ireland. Swift planned the whole thing beautifully, or so he thought.

  • 7 Corr., vol. 3, p. 102 (29 September 1725, Swift to Alexander Pope).
  • 8 Corr., vol. 4, p. 212 (20 November 1733, Swift to Ford).

10After reading the second volume containing Parts Three and Four, Motte felt that he had to take appropriate precautions to protect himself and his business. During this period in England, booksellers, more often than authors, faced various penalties for publishing politically dangerous material, ranging from harassment, confiscation or destruction of equipment, fines, imprisonment, physical mutilation, and, in extreme cases, execution. Swift himself recognized the controversy his work might arouse; he was only partly joking when he wrote that it could be published “when a Printer shall be found brave enough to venture his Eares.”7 Some booksellers chose to take risks and hoped to profit from selling potentially scandalous material, but Motte was not among them. In addition, he had no solid evidence regarding the real author – though he may have had suspicions – and so no one else would be forced to suffer the political or legal punishments. Fortunately for Motte, his partner Andrew Tooke had extensive experience in “correcting” or editing works for publication. Focusing on some of the most biting passages in Swift’s satire, Tooke rewrote at least four passages such that “the Style is debased, the humor quite lost, and the matter insipid”, as Swift angrily put it seven years later.8

11We get a sense of Tooke’s changes from the famous passage on the law in Part Four, chapter five. In Gulliver’s conversations with his master Houyhnhnm, Swift bluntly and categorically denounces lawyers:

I said there was a Society of Men among us, bred up from their Youth in the Art of proving by Words multiplied for the Purpose, that White is Black, and Black is White, according as they are paid. To this Society all the rest of the People are Slaves. (241)

12Tooke deflates Swift’s satire by limiting it only to a “Species of the Profession” and by mitigating the corruptions that have occurred:

  • 9 For Tooke’s alterations, see Herbert Davis (ed.), Gulliver’s Travels, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 196 (...)

The Numerousness of those that dedicated themselves to this Profession were such that the fair and justifiable Advantage and Income of the Profession was not sufficient for the decent and handsome Maintenance of Multitudes of those who followed it. Hence it came to pass that it was found needful to supply that by Artifice and Cunning, which could not be procured by just and honest Methods.9

  • 10 Ibid.

13In this verbose justification, Tooke converts an attack on lawyers themselves into a situation in which no one is really to blame; note the impersonal construction “it came to pass”. He also directly elevates lawyers in general, who have “dedicated themselves to this Profession” and earn a “fair and justifiable … Income.” As for Swift’s comment that lawyers have enslaved everyone else, Tooke softens it so that some lawyers have “in a Manner … made Slaves of … the Vulgar.”10 (“Vulgar” derives from the Latin vulgus, meaning the common people.)

14In Part Three, chapter six, Tooke similarly reduces the satire associated with plots and conspiracies. And in Part Four, chapter six, he omits the final, devastating paragraph on the nobility. Tooke includes much of Swift’s description of noblemen as idle, diseased, deformed, ignorant and proud, but deletes Swift’s conclusion as to how such depravities affect the House of Lords and the country in general:

  • 11 I quote from Ford’s interleaved Gulliver, which slightly differs from the printed version used in (...)

Without the consent of this illustrious Body no Law can be made, repealed, or altered; and these have the Decision of all our Possessions without Appeal. (249)11

15Motte took further precautions by dividing the edited manuscript and sending separate sections to five different printers. This division of labor both saved time and reduced the political risk. Motte probably wanted to rush this book through the publication process before any rumors arose that might have caused the authorities to interfere. By assigning sections to different printers, he ensured that only he and Tooke would know the entire work.

16On 28 October, about two and a half months after receiving the manuscript, Motte published in two volumes Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships. Only much later and long after Swift’s death did the title become Gulliver’s Travels. The book was an instant success, apparently selling out in a week and forcing Motte to reprint it twice by December. In Dublin, Swift received early copies, and though he was delighted with his book’s popularity, he was bothered by the changes inflicted by Motte and Tooke. Writing to Alexander Pope and barely maintaining his anonymity, Swift notes that

  • 12 Corr., vol. 3, p. 190 (17 November 1726). Williams dates the letter 7 November, but Woolley correc (...)

if I were Gulliver’s friend, I would desire all my acquaintance to give out that his copy was basely mangled, and abused, and added to, and blotted out by the printer; for so to me it seems, in the second volume particularly.12

17Swift immediately began to correct his own copy, and supplied some minor alterations to John Hyde, a Dublin bookseller hurrying an edition through the press. Swift recorded these minor corrections and others in what is known as the “Armagh Gulliver”, which resides at the Armagh Public Library in Northern Ireland. Swift, concerned more about the London edition, asked his friend Charles Ford to help him compile a list of over 100 corrections, mostly minor. With the more substantive changes, Swift via Ford directed Motte to restore the text to the manuscript version. It seems that neither Swift nor Ford had access to the original manuscript at this time, which remained in London. Consequently, they could not supply the full details for the restored passages, though by directing Motte to fix them, they seemed to assume that he had kept his manuscript copy – not a reliable assumption since manuscripts were often destroyed after a book’s publication. Ford sent the list to Motte on 3 January 1727.

18Motte had no objections to the minor corrections, but he balked at the more substantive ones, for they had troubled him in the first place. Thus Motte had no intention of restoring the scandalous passages, and sought a way to avoid doing so without angering Swift. He probably replied to Swift – though the evidence for such a reply is circumstantial – defending the changes by saying that he wanted to avoid offending the authorities. Caught between his obligations to Swift’s wishes and his legitimate concern for himself, Motte decided to publish a second edition that would incorporate the minor changes listed by Ford but not the more extensive ones only cited by him. Even though sales of Motte’s previous reprint had fallen off, he rushed this edition through the press before Swift could do anything to change his plans.

19Back in Dublin, Swift realized that a fully restored Gulliver’s Travels was out of the question, and so he began to draft brief passages to replace Tooke’s extensive alterations. He also started writing the famous “Letter from Capt. Gulliver, to his Cousin Sympson”, which appears before most modern editions. The letter is dated 2 April 1727, most likely the date Swift finished it. Though much of the letter functions within the fictional and satirical world of the rest of the book, it also refers to the book’s by-now complicated textual history. In the letter, “Gulliver” complains about some of the alterations, pointing specifically to Parts Three and Four, and suggests that Motte was

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 called it). (xxxiii)

20Noting that “I have sent you some Corrections [those in Ford’s list], which you may insert, if ever there should be a second Edition” (xxxv), Swift seems to be unaware that Motte was almost ready to publish his second edition.

21Indeed, “Gulliver’s Letter” arrived too late to be included and had to wait almost eight years to be printed. Motte’s second edition – boasting “Second Edition, Corrected” on the title-page of volume two – appeared on 4 May 1727. It contained Ford’s “corrections” but left the rest as is. On the day of publication, Motte finalized his agreement with “Richard Sympson” by paying the fee originally agreed upon. One might assume that this was also the end of Motte’s relationship with Swift, but in later years the two men had cordial relations, and so it seems probable that Swift understood the pressures Motte faced. With this second edition, Motte’s involvement with the text of Gulliver’s Travels comes to a close. For Swift, however, further complications arose.


22Swift’s next opportunity to publish another edition of Gulliver began in late 1732 or early 1733. George Faulkner, a Dublin bookseller, had befriended Swift a few years earlier, and later conceived of a major, four-volume edition of his collected works. Faulkner saw this as a chance to make his mark, and Swift saw this as an opportunity to correct and even revise some of his writings, most especially Gulliver. To do so, however, he needed a number of materials no longer in his possession. At this time Faulkner claimed to have Swift’s original manuscript, but this was not the most important item that Swift sought, probably because he had since made revisions. Anticipating a later edition, Swift had Charles Ford bind a copy of Motte’s edition with some blank leaves, upon which Ford wrote some passages. This important book, known as the “interleaved Gulliver”, today resides in the Forster Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and contains a mixture of restored readings and revisions. How to distinguish between the two is no easy matter, and can never be settled with certainty, since Swift’s original manuscript has not survived.

23Swift felt he needed Ford’s interleaved Gulliver to help prepare Faulkner’s edition. A letter of 9 October 1733 to Ford reveals Swift’s sense of desperation:

  • 13 Corr., vol. 4, p. 198.

I wish you would please to let me know, whether You have such an interleaved Gulliver; and where and how I could get it; For to say the truth, I cannot with patience endure that mingld and mangled manner, as it came from Mottes hands.13

24The difficulty Swift experienced in locating this copy prompted the quotation that opens this essay: “Gulliver vexeth me more than any.” But the copy was found in time to be used for Faulkner’s edition, primarily owing to the industry of Faulkner himself, who sailed to England and transcribed the changes from Ford’s copy.

25Thus when Faulkner printed his edition of Gulliver, he seemed to have had access to Swift’s original manuscript, the changes in Ford’s interleaved copy (containing corrections and revisions, some of which may derive from Ford rather than Swift) and probably some changes from Swift’s “loose papers” kept to correct his work. Also, unlike Motte, Faulkner was working closely with Swift, and so he could readily consult the author himself. Swift no doubt took advantage of the opportunity to make further changes, and stylistic changes may even derive from Faulkner. The text of this edition, published in January 1735, thus derives from multiple sources, the involvement of at least three people, and a healthy mixture of Swift’s original, intermediate, and final intentions concerning his work. Faulkner’s brief “advertisement” or preface only hints at this process, for though he mentions the interleaved copy, he refers to his own edition as containing “corrections”, with no suggestion of revisions.

26One might assume from this account that Faulkner’s edition is as complete and accurate as possible. Indeed, most modern editors prefer Faulkner’s edition as the basis for their own, with occasional emendations from other sources. From what we know about the relationship between Swift and Faulkner, this preference seems reasonable. Faulkner does print what seem to be Swift’s versions of the controversial passages instead of Tooke’s alterations. Of course, Faulkner had the benefit of time; over seven years had lapsed without the authorities applying any pressure on the printers and booksellers of Gulliver.

27But not even Faulkner was willing to print a shocking passage recorded in Ford’s interleaved copy toward the end of Part Three, chapter three. This passage describes the rebellion in Lindalino (or “double lin”, meaning Dublin), a thinly disguised allegory of the Irish resistance to the importation of William Wood’s halfpence in the mid-1720s. Swift believed Wood’s copper coins would seriously weaken the Irish economy, and wrote his famous Drapier’s Letters to arouse the public’s anger. The campaign worked, for Wood’s project was abandoned. Swift completed Part Three – the last of the four to be finished – shortly after his Drapier campaign, and so this particular controversy, as well as the broader history of England’s oppression of Ireland, was foremost in his mind.

28When Swift originally wrote Part Three, chapter three, he discussed the possibility of rebellion, but emphasized those quashing the rebellion rather than those raising it. This chapter describes the flying island of Laputa, which literally reigns above the island Balnibari. Through the manipulation of a large magnet, Laputa can roam across Balnibari as well as descend and ascend. Should the inhabitants below engage in mutiny, the King of Laputa has various methods of responding:

The first and the mildest Course is by keeping the Island hovering over such a Town … whereby he can deprive them of the Benefit of the Sun and the Rain, and consequently afflict the Inhabitants with Dearth and Diseases. And if the Crime deserve it, they are at the same time pelted from above with great Stones … But if they still continue obstinate … he proceeds to the last Remedy, by letting the Island drop directly on their Heads, which makes a universal Destruction of Houses and Men. (161-62)

29The king, however, avoids this last punishment, since many towns have tall rocks or high towers, which would pierce the bottom of Laputa and “the whole Mass would fall to the Ground” (162). Swift’s larger point here is that the English must beware how far they go in depriving the Irish of their liberties, else they risk destroying themselves.

  • 14 See the five paragraphs in brackets on pages 162-64 of Paul Turner’s edition.

30The above description of suppressing mutiny almost certainly captures Swift’s original version, since neither Swift nor Ford ever suggested that Tooke revised this section. At some point after the first edition appeared, Swift wrote five paragraphs describing a successful resistance by the Lindalinians, who are nowhere else mentioned in Gulliver’s Travels.14 The passage is preserved in Ford’s interleaved copy, so Faulkner must have known about it, though he did not print it; in fact, it never appeared in print until 1896. The Lindalinians conceived a brilliant plan to extract concessions from the King of Laputa. They quickly built four large towers at each corner of the city, placing on top of each a magnet, so that should the island descend, the magnets on the towers would pull the island downward and pierce its bottom. Once the King realized this plan, he granted them their demands. That the mutiny succeeds was probably reason enough for Faulkner to omit this passage from his edition. But of course, Swift goes further, describing a potential outcome of the rebellion:

I was assured by a great Minister, that if the Island had descended so near the Town, as not to be able to raise it self, the Citizens were determined to fix it for ever, to kill the King and all his Servants, and entirely change the Government. (164)

31Like Motte, Faulkner understood the risks involved with publishing politically subversive satire, and he probably asked to omit this passage, with its clear implications of an Irish revolution extending to regicide. In eighteenth-century Ireland, publishing something as bold as these paragraphs would have invited considerable punishment.

32One final comment about Faulkner’s edition concerns Swift’s original manuscript of Gulliver. To announce the forthcoming edition of Swift’s works, Faulkner included an advertisement in his newspaper The Dublin Journal dated 9 February 1733, which mentions that “the true Original, in the Author’s own Hand [was] communicated to us.” Faulkner’s next reference to owning this manuscript appears in his 1756 edition of Gulliver, in which he claims that Swift himself gave Faulkner the manuscript, a claim repeated in his 1768 edition of Swift’s Letters. Faulkner died in 1775, and no further information about Swift’s original manuscript exists. It most likely will never be recovered.


  • 15 For useful overviews of modern approaches to editing, see David C. Greetham, Textual Scholarship: (...)

33The previous paragraphs relate the history of Swift’s text based on the surviving evidence, reasonable inference, and some speculation. Confronted with this discussion, one might reasonably ask what is the authoritative version of Gulliver’s Travels? How can we distinguish with certainty between those portions written by Swift and those by Tooke, Ford, Faulkner, or someone else? Such questions are not easily answered, and I would begin by challenging the assumptions implied by the phrase “the authoritative version”. As the essays in this volume show, one can interpret Gulliver’s Travels from a variety of perspectives. Such a pluralistic framework, widely accepted in literary criticism, also applies to editing. That is, one can edit a work from a variety of perspectives, creating multiple editions with each one meriting the label “authoritative”.15

34The concept of multiple authoritative editions is not contradictory, for the term “authoritative” does not necessarily entail singularity. Rather, it refers to an edition that has been edited according to specified principles applied as consistently and accurately as possible. One should allow for the appropriate use of judgment and insight as well, for editing is no less an imaginative task than other forms of reading or interpretation. Faced with various documents – letters, manuscripts, printed books – editors interpret the circumstances of their production, ask who wrote them, when, and for what purposes. Editors then examine the aggregate of the evidence, placing greater emphasis on some documents over others in an attempt to shape an edition. Since all these activities involve judgment, equally competent editors might form different conclusions. And from the outset, different editors might select different aims for their editions.

35If such general observations suggest the plurality of possible editions, specific concerns multiply that number further. The particularities involved in any individual work affect the ways in which it can or should be edited. This situation should not be surprising, since textual histories are so variable and the survival rate of sources is so unpredictable. Thus, given the particular textual history of Gulliver’s Travels, what are the various ways in which it could be edited in a consistent and responsible manner? How would an editor attempt such editions? Lastly, how would these various possibilities affect modern readers’ responses to the editions?

36One option that immediately comes to mind is the facsimile edition, which photographically reproduces a particular text of a work. Facsimile editions have certain advantages, for they allow modern readers an almost immediate access to the ways in which a particular work appeared. I say “almost” since we cannot fully reconstruct the social and cultural circumstances in which previous works appeared to their publics. Also, facsimile editions cannot reproduce all the physical features of the original books, such as the paper or the binding. But many eighteenth-century books, especially Gulliver’s Travels, are quite rare and expensive, so facsimile editions offer a useful alternative.

  • 16 See J.C. Ross, “The Framing and Printing of the Motte Editions of Gulliver’s Travels”, Bibliograph (...)

37Facsimile editions reproduce aesthetic aspects otherwise absent from most modern editions, such as original title-pages, typography, and layout. The effects of these aspects are sometimes difficult to determine, but they certainly point to the historical distance that separates us from earlier periods. Eighteenth-century books look “strange” to us, and this strangeness can be a source of insight into how contemporary readers responded to them. In the case of Gulliver, a facsimile edition would accomplish a variety of purposes, reminding us that the work was originally published as a travel narrative purportedly authored by Lemuel Gulliver, and with no mention of Swift. One scholar argues that Motte’s edition employs typographical devices conventional to the travel narratives of Swift’s day, and so reproducing these might evoke this context.16 Indeed, Motte’s editions contain frontispiece portraits of Gulliver, a practice continued by Faulkner. Faulkner, however, published his edition of Gulliver as volume three of Swift’s collected Works, which places the work in an entirely different context. Reproducing Faulkner’s edition would emphasize Gulliver’s important position in Swift’s oeuvre and the various ways Swift employed pseudonyms. Put simply, Motte’s text highlights the generic context, Faulkner’s the biographical.

38Although one might assume that creating a facsimile edition is a mechanical activity, critical judgment is required. The editor selects not only a specific edition to reproduce, but also a specific copy of that edition. In the period of the hand-press – from the mid 15th century to the early 19th century – editions were rarely uniform, and copies of the same edition often reveal widespread variation. Accordingly, the editor might even have to combine different pages from different copies in order to approximate the ideal text that the bookseller intended to publish. Aside from this kind of editorial intervention, however, a facsimile edition strives to reproduce a particular text and to preserve its qualities as a document. Thus a facsimile edition of Motte’s first edition would include all of Tooke’s alterations, and would consequently provide us with the censored text that Swift’s earliest readers knew.

39A more common approach to editing involves conflating material from multiple texts to produce an eclectic edition. A guiding principle for many eclectic editions is the distinction between “accidentals” such as spelling, capitalization, and punctuation, and “substantives”, or the words themselves. This distinction is often necessary when no authorial manuscript survives, since printers often altered the accidentals when setting type. Consequently, editors generally prefer the accidentals of the first printed edition. This preference derives not from a misplaced faith that the first printers accurately reproduced minor details of the author’s manuscript, but from the reasoned argument that later printers probably altered them even further. Although commas, italics, and similar material might seem trivial, they can – however subtly – affect how we respond to a text.

40Eclectic editions vary widely in terms of the assumptions and goals that underlie them. Creators of eclectic editions strive to shape a text that best represents the intentions of the author as distinct from those of editors, booksellers, or others. In this approach, the editor would attempt to identify and remove “corruptions” to the text imposed by those other than the author. Thus this kind of editor would want to incorporate the accidentals that seem to be closest to the author’s preferences. In the case of Gulliver, the primary corruptions involve Tooke’s alterations, which were clearly done without Swift’s approval. Ford’s list – certainly prepared under Swift’s guidance – helps us identify where Tooke changed Swift’s text.

41But any consideration of the author’s intentions must address two complicated theoretical and practical questions: (1) which intentions – the author’s original, intermediate, or final intentions – are to be followed? And (2) are the author’s intentions to be viewed as completely distinct from those working with him, such as in this case Ford or Faulkner? How an editor chooses to answer each question will greatly affect how the edition appears, and indeed, each question complicates the other. If one wants an edition that represents Swift’s final intentions for Gulliver, then Faulkner’s text would seem to be most preferable, since we know that to some extent Swift oversaw its production. We also know that Faulkner first printed some revisions that Swift wanted. Thus the editorial problems seem to be easily resolved in this case.

42My second question, however, forces one to reconsider such a seemingly obvious resolution. The Lindalino episode does not appear in Faulkner’s text, though as far as we know, Swift wrote it to be included. And once we include this episode, we have selected a strict authorial standard that excludes the intentions or involvement of Ford and Faulkner. The editor should then attempt to remove changes – stylistic or otherwise – introduced by Ford or Faulkner, even if Swift seemed to accept them. A more liberal approach to authorial intention would allow those changes that Swift accepted or to which he acquiesced. An editor adopting this approach would exclude the Lindalino episode from the main text and might include it in a separate appendix. The editor’s task is even more complicated since the readings in Ford’s interleaved copy and Faulkner’s edition do not always agree, and such discrepancies force an editor to judge each variant in terms of final authorial intention and non-authorial intervention.

43If an editor prefers Swift’s original intentions, then he or she would return to Motte’s edition, remove Tooke’s alterations, and attempt to distinguish between Swift’s restorations and his revisions. This last effort is no easy matter given the nature of Ford’s interleaved copy and the uncertain dating of its contents. Ford’s list also poses problems, because it was compiled without access to Swift’s manuscript, hence it too might involve more than mere restoration.

44This discussion of editorial questions and problems further reveals that the publication process involves a number of agents in addition to the author. Consequently, some editorial theorists emphasize the collaborative nature of publishing, and accept or at least consider textual material deriving from editors and booksellers in addition to authors. This approach is more broadly “social” than “authorial”, and in the case of Gulliver’s Travels would guide an editor to incorporate readings believed to derive from Ford or Faulkner, especially since Swift seemed to have accepted or at least invited their participation. A more complicated question concerns Tooke’s alterations. We might be inclined to object to these as strenuously as Swift did, but they do form part of the work’s textual history and reveal the public nature of literary production. As we have seen, even Faulkner did not publish Swift’s “complete” text, though of course Faulkner did not seem to have altered it as extensively as Tooke did. In addition, we have no evidence to suggest that Swift found Faulkner’s edition to be “mingld and mangled”. Including Tooke’s changes would preserve the documentary value of Motte’s edition, though as I have already discussed, such a goal might be better achieved via a facsimile edition.

45These eclectic editions – whether focused on authorial or collaborative ends – often involve a “clear text”, such that any variants appear at the bottom of the page or in an appendix. Readers can examine and compare such variants (if included) if they wish to do so, though this kind of format encourages readers to perceive the edited text as a stable product. The “genetic” approach to editing emphasizes process over product by incorporating the variants into the main text, so that readers directly experience the growth of the text in all its additions and deletions. Most genetic editions consider this growth from the author’s perspective. Thus a genetic editor might attempt to recreate the various alterations to Swift’s original manuscript as it was altered by Tooke, Ford, Faulkner, and Swift himself. Again, distinguishing between the sources of these changes is quite difficult, and it seems unlikely that Swift’s work passed through a neat, linear process of alterations. Nonetheless, a genetic edition could helpfully reveal the text’s history.

46A different kind of genetic edition might approach the work not from the perspective of the author, but from that of his contemporary audience. In this case, the editor would begin with Motte’s first edition and then incorporate the changes as they appeared in Motte’s second edition and Faulkner’s edition. I am not aware of editors who have pursued this possibility, though it would place us in a useful position from which to track the progressive stages of the work’s public existence.

47Finally, an editor of any non-facsimile edition needs to decide what to do with those textual pieces outside the main narrative of the work. These include Sympson’s “Publisher to the Reader”, Gulliver’s letter to Sympson, Faulkner’s advertisement, and even Pope’s five Gulliverian poems that appeared in Motte’s second edition. In modern editions, Sympson’s “Publisher to the Reader” almost always precedes the main narrative, just as it did in Motte’s and Faulkner’s editions. The second item, Gulliver’s letter to Sympson, poses interesting problems since Swift intended it for Motte’s second edition though it was not published until Faulkner’s edition. Faulkner placed it after his own advertisement and before Sympson’s “Publisher to the Reader”. In contrast to Sympson’s statement, Gulliver’s letter presents a bitter, ranting narrator strikingly at odds with the calm and genial character in the opening pages of the main text, though similar to the Gulliver we encounter at the end of the work. Its placement, whether as a prefatory comment or an appendix, affects how readers first encounter and react to Gulliver. Since Faulkner’s advertisement serves to buttress some of Gulliver’s claims about textual corruption, its absence, a common feature of many modern editions, might encourage readers to doubt Gulliver’s – or Swift’s – complaints. In addition, an editor might consider what to do with Pope’s poems, which sometimes reduce Swift’s satire to mere comedy, as well as Gulliver’s portrait or the title itself, which is almost never rendered as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World.


48In this essay I have been less interested in solving editorial problems than in raising them. By doing so, I have tried to show that the question “what is the text of Gulliver’s Travels?” cannot be answered in a straightforward manner. Gulliver, like many other works, literary or otherwise, exists in plural textual forms, hence my title “The Texts of Gulliver’s Travels”. Therefore, I believe that plural modern editions would appropriately represent the diversity of legitimate editorial approaches to this work. They would also foster an atmosphere in which these kinds of textual matters are not reserved for specialists and not considered ancillary to the broader endeavors of literary criticism and scholarship. For any kind of edition, editors make tough decisions, choosing to emphasize certain aspects of the textual history of Gulliver’s Travels over others. Such a situation is inevitable, especially given this work’s complicated textual lineage. Studying such matters puts us more in touch with all those involved with the texts of Gulliver, including Swift himself, his authorized and unauthorized editors, his booksellers, as well as the larger political forces that impinged on the dissemination of his work. In considering the broader textual issues I have raised, we should bear in mind the ways in which texts come down to us and how every modern edition embodies a particular interpretation of a work’s textual history.


1 The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, Harold Williams (ed.), revised by David Woolley, 5 vols, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1963-72, vol. 4, p. 211 (20 November 1733, Swift to Charles Ford), hereafter abbreviated as Corr.

2 At the outset, I want to acknowledge that my discussion of the textual history of Gulliver’s Travels greatly depends on the research of many Swift scholars, most notably Michael Treadwell and David Woolley. I am alone responsible for any errors or misinterpretations. For more detailed discussion, see the following articles by Treadwell: “Benjamin Motte, Andrew Tooke, and Gulliver’s Travels”, in Proceedings of the First Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift, Hermann J. Real and Heinz J. Vienken (eds), München, Wilhelm Fink, 1985, pp. 287-304; “The Text of Gulliver’s Travels, Again”, Swift Studies, 10, 1995, pp. 62-79; “Observations on the Printing of Motte’s Octavo Editions of Gulliver’s Travels”, in Reading Swift: Papers from the Third Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift, Hermann J. Real and Helgard Stöver-Leidig (eds), München, Wilhelm Fink, 1998, pp. 157-77. See also the following by Woolley: “Swift’s Copy of Gulliver’s Travels: The Armagh Gulliver, Hyde’s Edition, and Swift’s Earliest Corrections”, in The Art of Jonathan Swift, Clive T. Probyn (ed.), London, Vision Press, 1978, pp. 131-78; “The Stemma of Gulliver’s Travels: A First Note”, Swift Studies, 1, 1986, pp. 51-54; “‘About ten days ago…’”, in Swift, the Enigmatic Dean: Festschrift for Hermann Josef Real, Rudolf Freiburg, Arno Löffler, and Wolfgang Zach (eds), with the assistance of Jan Schnitker, Tübingen, Stauffenburg, 1998, pp. 291-302. Those interested in pursuing this subject should begin with these articles and read the sources cited by Treadwell and Woolley.

3 Corr., vol. 3, p. 153.

4 Corr., vol. 3, p. 155.

5 Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Paul Turner (ed.), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. xxxvii. Subsequent references are given in the text.

6 Corr., vol. 3, p. 180 (5 November 1726, John Arbuthnot to Swift).

7 Corr., vol. 3, p. 102 (29 September 1725, Swift to Alexander Pope).

8 Corr., vol. 4, p. 212 (20 November 1733, Swift to Ford).

9 For Tooke’s alterations, see Herbert Davis (ed.), Gulliver’s Travels, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1965, pp. 315-16.

10 Ibid.

11 I quote from Ford’s interleaved Gulliver, which slightly differs from the printed version used in Paul Turner’s edition. See Herbert Davis (ed.), Gulliver’s Travels…, p. 319.

12 Corr., vol. 3, p. 190 (17 November 1726). Williams dates the letter 7 November, but Woolley corrects it to 17; see David Woolley, “‘About ten days ago…,’” p. 300.

13 Corr., vol. 4, p. 198.

14 See the five paragraphs in brackets on pages 162-64 of Paul Turner’s edition.

15 For useful overviews of modern approaches to editing, see David C. Greetham, Textual Scholarship: An Introduction, New York, Garland, 1994, pp. 323-72; and G. Thomas Tanselle, “The Varieties of Scholarly Editing”, in Scholarly Editing: A Guide to Research, David C. Greetham (ed.), New York, The Modern Language Association of America, 1995, pp. 9-32.

16 See J.C. Ross, “The Framing and Printing of the Motte Editions of Gulliver’s Travels”, Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 20, 1996, pp. 5-9.


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