Children's illustrated edition of Gulliver's Travels, 1864


First written in 1726, and altered in 1735, Gulliver’s Travels is a classic of social satire. Using the format of the set of traveller’s tales, Jonathan Swift creates in each scenario a single abnormal condition, which allows him to examine the weaknesses of contemporary British society. The book was instantly popular, and Swift’s friend John Gay wrote to him that it was ‘universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery’. Many nineteenth-century versions for children omitted the passage where Gulliver extinguishes the palace fire at Lilliput by urinating on it. 

How do themes in Gulliver’s Travels connect to H G Wells's The Island of Dr Moreau?  

As a political and scientific thinker H G Wells looked forward to humanity being able to break away from prejudice and oppression in favour of embracing its potential; Brian Aldiss proposes that this is why Wells admired Swift (Wells read Gulliver’s Travels as a teenager). By means of satire, Swift creates a clear view of the absurdity of human social structures, and shows the connection between people and animals. 

There are close links between The Island of Dr Moreau and the island of the Houyhnhnms in Gulliver’s Travels. There is a two-layer society, where like the beast folk, the Yahoos are part animal part human; and like Gulliver, Prendick leaves the island under a cloud of failure.

Full title:
Gulliver's Travels ... With a memoir of the author. Illustrated from designs by J. G. Thomson, etc.
1864, London
Book / Illustration / Image
Jonathan Swift, J G Thompson [illustrator]
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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Related articles

An introduction to Gulliver’s Travels

Article by:
John Mullan
Travel, colonialism and slavery, Satire and humour, Politics and religion, Rise of the novel

Jonathan Swift initially did his best to conceal the fact that he was the author of Gulliver's Travels. John Mullan explores how Swift constructed the work to operate as an elaborate game, parodying travel literature, pretending to be an autobiography and containing obviously false facts presented by a deeply unreliable narrator.

Travel, trade and the expansion of the British Empire

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In the 17th century, London was at the centre of global trade, with goods and individuals arriving in the capital from all over the world. Jim Watt looks at how travel, trade and empire shaped the works of Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope, Josiah Wedgwood, Oliver Goldsmith and Ignatius Sancho.

Class in The Time Machine

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