“I grew weary of the sea, and intended to stay at home with my wife and family. I removed from the Old Jewry to Fetter Lane, and from thence to Wapping, hoping to get business among the sailors; but it would not turn to account. After three years expectation that things would mend, I accepted an advantageous offer from Captain William Prichard, master of the Antelope, who was making a voyage to the South Sea. We set sail from Bristol, May 4, 1699, and our voyage was at first very prosperous.” ~ Lemuel Gulliver Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
If I am to enjoy an old story like Gullivers Travels then I must make friends with the author and his characters. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of dusty old pages held together with a couple of pieces of cardboard. Personally, I have to find ways to bring it to life. Every book is written by a living, breathing person who lived, worked, played and wrote in the context of his surroundings. Getting to know the landscape of his world brings life to his work. An old book only seems old when I forget the reality in which it is was created. Maybe Jonathan Swift had a little boat he sailed every boring after breakfast. He might have walked his dog in the evening before he sat down to work on his story. Nevertheless, he was like you and me but he lived in another time, 1667-1745. Getting to know his time is helpful.
During Swift’s lifetime Bach writes his first cantata (1704), The Kingdom of Great Brittain is formed (1707), and Benjamin Franklin begins publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac.
You might find these facts interesting and helpful before you read Gulliver’s Travels.
In 1701 the War of the Spanish Succession begins which is the the last of Louis XIV’s wars for domination of the continent.
In 1704, the Deerfield (Massachuette’s) Massacre of English colonists by French and Indians takes place and Jonathan Swift’s publishes Tale of a Tub and the Boston News Letter is launched marking the arrival of the first newspaper in America.
In 1735, freedom of the press is established when John Peter Zenger is acquitted of libel in New York.
A Treasury of History Tidbits
English Food in the early 1700s
A Slideshow of Eighteenth Century European Fashions
Photos courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art