Swift. "Erotic adventures of Gulliver"
In September 2004, the Institute of Soitology received an e-mail from London. The writer informed us that he had an “interesting offer.” We agreed to meet the following month, at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
On 7 October 2004, a young man approached our stand and introduced himself in heavily accented Russian, suggesting that he had been born or lived a long time abroad. It was the man from London. Before introducing himself, he had spent several minutes perusing the publications on display at our stand. Our produce ranged from the Kama Sutra and erotic sonnets of Pietro Aretino with the equally erotic illustrations of Giulio Romano and the Carracci brothers to the works of the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.
Although our visitor had some difficulty speaking in Russian, he politely declined our offer to speak in English, saying: “My grandmother and grandfather were Russian. I love the Russian language.” He then solemnly announced that he had an unpublished manuscript by Jonathan Swift. After saying this, he paused and looked at us. If he was hoping for a reaction, he was clearly disappointed. Swift, or at least Gulliver's Travels , has already been published in Russia. As far as his other works are concerned, there would be little point in publishing even such a well-known title as A Tale of a Tub in Russia today. With the possible exception of Harry Potter , the Russian book market is dominated by the detective genre. Even classical Russian literature has a hard time competing. We explained all this to the man from London. After politely hearing us out, he said: “You misunderstand me. I am offering you the unpublished Gulliver's Travels .”
This was how we made the acquaintance of a member of a distinguished Russian family, who had given the country two famous people -- Yerofei and Fyodor Karzhavin. Fyodor Vasilyevich Karzhavin (1745–1812) was a leading writer on architecture, artist, naturalist and traveller, who knew two dozen languages and had crossed Europe and America. The secret agent of Catherine the Great, there is a large article on him in the Brockhaus & Efron encyclopaedia. Fyodor's uncle, Yerofei Karzhavin, was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and was the first person to translate Gulliver's Travels into Russian (published in 1772 and 1773). Although Karzhavin translated Swift into Russian from the French, his translation is closer to the original English version of 1726 than the somewhat free French translation.
His descendant told us that the 1917 revolution had scattered the Karzhavin family across the entire globe. When fleeing the country, they had taken with them the archives of Fyodor Karzhavin, including several unpublished chapters of Gulliver's Travels . Fyodor Karzhavin had bought the manuscript from the Ford family (Charles Ford had been a close friend and owner of the archives of Jonathan Swift).
When we asked why the manuscript had not been published before, the young man simply smiled and suggested we read the photocopied pages he had brought with him. After reading them, we understood why a descendant of the Karzhavins had chosen a publishing house specialising in erotic literature…
We were stunned by the audacious, Rabelaisian style of the manuscript. Few authors wrote like this in Swift's days, with the possible exception of such odious figures as John Cleveland, who penned the erotic novel Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure -- and had been put on trial for writing an “immoral composition.” The ban on Cleveland's novel was only lifted two hundred years later, in the mid-twentieth century. A similar fate had clearly awaited Gulliver's Travels back in the eighteenth century, unless the editors could find a way to bring out the manuscript in a more acceptable form. Otherwise, they risked incurring the wrath of the authorities, at a time when people had their ears cut off for printing anti-religious and anti-government literature in Britain.
One and a half centuries later, during the reign of Queen Victoria, Gulliver's Travels was still considered a pernicious and lewd work. Swift's work was mercilessly pruned and transformed into an innocent fairytale. It is hard to imagine the reaction of the church to the original passage about “ upon which side they lay in bed ” from A Voyage to Lilliput . The prebendary of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Jonathan Swift appears to have held liberal views on the relations between the sexes.
Parallels can be drawn with another great English writer and a contemporary of Jonathan Swift – Daniel Defoe, who published Moll Flanders in 1722. Like Robinson Crusoe , it is written in the form of the autobiography of a fictional heroine. Moll Flanders would also be considered an erotic novel, had the erotic parts not been heavily edited by the author, obliged to keep within the bounds of what was permissible at that time: “All attempts were made not to let any indecency, immorality or a single rude expression by the heroine into the tale. With this aim in mind, some details of the darker side of her life, which could not be conveyed in a decent form, were omitted altogether. Other parts have been greatly reduced.”
This approach to writing in the early eighteenth century was extremely interesting. It would seem to be much easier to simply write virtuous works and not worry about the official reaction. This fails, however, to take into account the great demand at that time for erotic and sensual literature. Daniel Defoe understood the marketing potential of Eros. There has never been a time when there was no demand for open or veiled sexuality in art and literature. The eighteenth century inherited from the seventeenth century the model of poesie courtoise and the love of carnal pleasures pursued by the absolute monarchs. The only difference was that it was now put on a commercial footing.
Despite the position of the Church, the “low” continued to enjoy great popularity over the “high”. All classes of European society indulged in hedonism and sensuality. While this phenomenon is particularly evident in the fine art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, literature was not far behind. The specific nature of the printed word, however, meant that it was obliged to pay lip service to the nominal system of bans and prohibitions, reflecting the ultimately hypocritical relationship between the state and its citizens. Literary “confessions” of fallen women, for example, were supposed to follow the biblical example of Mary Magdalene, ending in genuine redemption. The unwritten laws of literature stated that any hero falling to the temptations of the “low” was obliged to relate how he or she had managed to overcome temptation and return to the path of high morality. This was the distorted and hypocritical face of literature when Gulliver's Travels appeared in 1726.
The published version of Gulliver's Travels contains the following excerpts: “ The maids of honour … would often strip me naked from top to toe, and lay me at full length in their bosoms; wherewith I was much disgusted … for they would strip themselves to the skin, and put on their smocks in my presence, while I was placed on their toilet, directly before their naked bodies, which I am sure to me was very far from being a tempting sight, or from giving me any other emotions than those of horror and disgust … The handsomest among these maids of honour, a pleasant, frolicsome girl of sixteen, would sometimes set me astride upon one of her nipples, with many other tricks, wherein the reader will excuse me for not being over particular. But I was so much displeased, that I entreated Glumdalclitch to contrive some excuse for not seeing that young lady any more ” (italicised by the author of the article). It is hard to believe that this was the real reaction of Gulliver, an inquisitive young man seeking new adventures, who describes the giants as a “comely race of people.” Swift appears to have deliberately inserted these notes of disapproval, in an attempt to save fragments of his original work, which might otherwise have met with official disapproval. After reading the unpublished manuscript, however, one soon realises that such passages are merely loose threads remaining behind after the merciless work of the editor's scissors.
A representative of the age of enlightenment who regarded man as a natural part of the world, Swift placed the “unmentionables” on the same par as the other parts of the human body. He even wrote a composition called Human Ordure , describing, with clear knowledge of the subject, the contents of cesspits frequented by various classes of Dubliners.
The unpublished chapters were clearly later worked by Jonathan Swift after his unsuccessful attempts to publish Gulliver's Travels in its unedited form. These new materials cast doubt on the theory of English literary historian Henry Morley regarding the origin of the word “Lilliput”. Morley claims that it is a combination of “little” and a root from the Roman group of languages meaning “depraved” or “dirty” ( put, putta, pute ). Yet Lilliput is not a country of depraved sinners; everything is much more complex than that, as one might expect from a writer who upheld the naturalness of every living creature. Jonathan Swift is no moralist foisting clear-cut evaluations on the reader.
Neither does the etymology of “Brobdingnag” withstand criticism. The word is traditionally believed to be an anagram of the words “grand”, “big” and “noble” (Alexander Anikst). Following our discovery, experts on Jonathan Swift may find themselves wearing the same clothes as the scholars mocked by the writer himself in Gulliver's Travels . We suggest that readers find their own keys of meaning to the names of the other countries visited by the indefatigable explorer – Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubdubdribb and Luggnagg. It seems more likely that Swift was simply interested in evoking a humorous effect by the exotic-sounding names. And, as well all know, the secret of humour will probably never be known.
Jonathan Swift is known to have been extremely unhappy with the book published by Benjamin Motte in 1726. Although he gave the publisher a list of misprints and omissions, the distorted or omitted sections were not corrected in subsequent editions. While some mistakes were corrected in the four-volume edition of Gulliver's Travels published by George Faulkner in 1735, several important omissions were not reinstated.
The chapters removed by Benjamin Motte and later reworked by Swift were kept in the archives of Charles Ford, who was personally acquainted with Swift's publishers. Ford only published A Voyage to Laputa , the section containing the strongest satire on contemporary Britain, after the author's death -- and even then with considerable omissions and rewritten sections.
Jonathan Swift died in 1745. The unpublished manuscript appears to have been sold to Fyodor Karzhavin in the late 1770s. After the successful publication of his uncle's translation of Gulliver's Travels in Russia, he possibly planned to bring out a new, fuller version -- plans never destined to become reality.
When Gulliver's Travels were published in 1726, they were an instant success. Swift's work was quickly translated into French and German (Mikhail Lomonosov is known to have possessed a copy of the German translation). The success of the book led to many imitations. In 1727, a book entitled A Voyage to Cacklogallinia was published in England. This forgery was translated and published in Russia in 1770 – before Gulliver's Travels . The full title of the Russian version was The Travels of Samuel Brunt to Cacklogallinia or the Land of the Cockerels and the author was given as Jonathan Swift.
A relatively correct version of Gulliver's Travels was only published in London in 1922. The editors used the first edition of the book, which had previously belonged to Charles Ford and contained Swift's handwritten notes and corrections (this book is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London). The publishers appear to have been unaware that this was not the complete version of the manuscript. The reasons why the Fords choose not to reveal the existence of another part of the manuscript remain unknown.
Our visitor approached us in accordance with the will of Fyodor Karzhavin, who dreamt of a day when there would no longer be any censorship in Russia and the composition of the great English writer could finally be published. The attitude towards the verbal expression of sexuality is the true test of the freedom of expression.
Our main concern was proving that the manuscript was genuine. Swift's name is not written on it, as he is known to have not even signed Gulliver's Travels , fearing possible problems with the authorities (the manuscript contains the name of the fictitious narrator of the tales of Gulliver -- his “old friend” Richard Sympson). Owing to incorrect storage, a large part of the original draft was lost. The entire text only survives because it was copied word for word by one of Fyodor Karzhavin's descendants in the first half of the nineteenth century. Although only forty-nine pages remain from Swift's original handwritten chapters, they coincide exactly with the copy made in the first half of the nineteenth century.
We decided to purchase the manuscript after expertise showed that it was genuine. The manuscript now belongs to the Institute of Soitology and is kept in a place of special storage in Switzerland.
Working on the Russian translation of the unknown pages of Gulliver's Travels , we decided not to combine the published text with these new excerpts. Swift clearly intended the manuscript now in our possession for publication as an independent appendix commentating the existing work.
When translating the new pages, we studied the traditional Russian translations. The A. A. Frankovsky version is based on the translation brought out in the late nineteenth century by P. P. Konchalovsky and V. I. Yakovenko. The B. M. Engelhardt translation was clearly intended for young readers and suffers from the attempt to simplify the meaning of the original work. In the episode from the fifth chapter of A Voyage to Brobdingnag , for example, when Gulliver makes a chair from the queen's hair, the hero states: “I would rather die a thousand deaths than place a dishonourable part of my body on those precious hairs.” The translation, however, reads quite differently: “I would rather die than sit on the precious hairs once adorning the head of her majesty.”
The intonation and lexicon is more acute in the original version of Gulliver's Travels . One of the classics of twentieth-century English literature, William Somerset Maugham, believed that Swift's prose was the “ideal which the modern English writer might imitate in search his own style.”
The canonic version of Gulliver's Travels is well known and has been widely commentated in various languages, including Russian. Literary experts suggest various books as having provided the inspiration for Swift's satirical fantasy. These include Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac's Voyages to the Moon and the Sun (1657–1662) and Francois Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel (16th century). The previously unknown chapters of Gulliver's Travels , published here for the first time, suggest other parallels – Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron and several works of ancient literature, reflecting the free morals of that time, even by today's standards. While many readers are familiar with such names as Apuleius, Aristophanes, Catullus , Martialis, Lucian and Petronius with his Satyricon , not everyone knows that the ancient writers are sometimes completely unrecognisable in the translation. Only now, thanks to a new generation of translators, are their works being brought closer to their original. We believe that ancient literature was an important influence on Swift's candid panorama of human relationships.
In the twenty-first century, Gulliver's Travels has lost much of its political relevance. The long discussions on various forms of government make difficult reading, while the majority of critical and satirical points are no longer valid. On the other hand, much of Swift's immortal novel is fresh and topical. This is particularly clear now, following the discovery of these unknown pages.
The unpublished chapters of Gulliver's Travels add considerably to the traditional version, which has, somewhat incorrectly, long been regarded as a classic of children's literature. We have therefore entitled our publication Gulliver's Erotic Adventures , in order to warn the reader that this is a book for adults only.
The reader is invited to make the acquaintance of an entirely different and unknown Swift. In a letter written to the poet Alexander Pope on 29 September 1725, Swift writes that Gulliver's Travels “will appear in print when humanity deserves them.” Two hundred and eighty years have passed since he wrote those words. Two hundred and sixty years have passed since the death of the great writer. This has probably been Gulliver's longest journey. We hope that humanity deserves him.
Head of the Department of Linguistic Soitology
Institute of Soitology