Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels


Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels: Preface 1 Summary & Analysis

Richard Sympson introduces the book as papers left with him by his friend Lemuel Gulliver, whom Sympson thinks was originally from Oxfordshire and had later lived in Redriff, though he’s currently retired in Nottinghamshire to escape the crowds of visitors he’d gotten at Redriff. Sympson vouches for “an air of truth” about the text and attests to Gulliver’s honesty, noting that his fellow townsmen would often emphasize something’s truth by saying “it was as true as if Mr. Gulliver had spoken it.” Sympson explains he is publishing an edited version for people’s entertainment. His edits have consisted of cutting out passages about sea travel and geographical information, which he thinks would go above the head of the common reader, as they go above his.
Sympson’s prefatory letter is one of Swift’s many tactics to make the book seem like a “true” travel account rather than a piece of fiction. The letter not only refers to Gulliver as a real person, it also vouches for his honesty (and, by extension, for the truthfulness of the subsequent account). The letter also defends the book’s vagueness about geographical facts. The reader would most likely assume there aren’t any facts because the travels are just fantasies. Yet this letter claims the facts do exist and were only omitted to save the reader the boredom of reading them.
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