Page 152. " extracting Sun-Beams out of Cucumbers "
GNU Free Documentation LicenseCucumbers - Credit: Piotrus
This phrase has come to symbolize the epitome of useless projects, thanks to this mention in Gulliver's Travels.

In Princess Ida, a century and a half later, William Schwenck Gilbert (1836 - 1911)satirized women's education, he can think of nothing better to symbolize the folly of women trying to use their brains. He says:

"And weasels at their slumbers

                                                      They treplan--they treplan

                                                      To get sunbeams from cucumbers

                                                      They've a plan -- they've a plan"

However, the last laugh is on Swift and on Gilbert. In the modern world, energy is derived from plant life in an ever-increasing level. And women have proven themselves more than capable of using their brains.



Page 157. " Computation of the general Proportion there is in Books between the Numbers of Particles, Nouns, and Verbs, and other Parts of Speech "
Laptop Computer
GNU Free Documentation LicenseLaptop Computer - Credit: Georgy90


In The Annotated Gulliver's Travels, Isaac Asimov speaks to this passage.

"This is one of the best-known bits of scientific satire in this section of the book, and yet Swift, without knowing it, had something there.

As given here it sounds very much like that old bromide that if a thousand monkeys are set to tapping the keys of a typewriter at random, they owuld, given enough time, turn out all the books in the British Museum (or in the Library of Congress).

The catch is, of course, "given enough time." The entire lifetime of the universe would probably not be enough for a significant chance of turning out a page of significant prose.

However, that bit about making the strictest computation of the various components of the language puts Swift on the right track (and is another example of his astonishing, if accidental, prescience).

We no longer have to have long rows and tiers of blocks to be turned by hand, as shown in the illustration. We have computers now which can work their way through random combinations millions of times faster than human beings can.

Furthermore, if the complete works of certain writers are analyzed, and if, instead of counting the frequency of individual words, we work out the frequency of two word, three word, and four

word combinations, a computer could turn out prose which, while still meaningless, begins to sound more and more like Shakespeare, or the Bible, or Dickens, or whatever author is being considered."

Isaac Asimov (January 2, 1920 -April 6, 1992) annotated Gulliver's Travels in 1980. He completed his comment on this passage with

"While the computerized production of books is not yet on the horizon, it is by no means totally inconceivable."

We may not have computers that totally write the books, but we now have computerized books. They are called E-books. I think Mr. Asimov would have approved.

Page 158. " the Custom of our Learned in Europe to steal Inventions "

About fifty years before Gulliver's Travels was published, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both worked out the principles of the calculus independently at about the same time. Questions arose about who was first and who deserved to get the credit. The controversy degenerated into vicious infighting and accusations of plagiarism filled the air. Swift alluded to that tumultuous controversy in this passage.

Page 163. " Because Men are never so serious, thoughful, and intent, as when they are at Stool "

Chamber pots
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeChamber pots - Credit: Ceridwen
This is generally assumed to be a sarcastic reference to the trial of Bishop Atterbury for his part in a Jacobite conspiracy. Some of the evidence against him was supposed to have been obtained from papers found in his chamber pot.

Page 165. " Trip to the little Island of Glubbdubdrib "

Glubbdubdrib with island marked
Public DomainGlubbdubdrib with island marked

Page 167. " Alexander the Great "
Alexander III of Macedon (20/21 July 356 – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great
Page 167. " Hannibal "


Hannibal Barca, son of Hamilcar Barca (247–183 or 182 BC) was a Carthaginian military commander and tactician who is popularly credited as one of the most talented commanders in history.


Page 167. " Caesar "
Gaius Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general and statesman.


Page 167. " Pompey "

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey  or Pompey the Great(September 29, 106 BC – September 29, 48 BC), was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic

Page 167. " Brutus "

Marcus Junius Brutus (early June 85 BC – late October 42 BC), often referred to simply as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. 

Page 167. " Junius "

Lucius Junius Brutus was the founder of the Roman Republic and traditionally one of the first consuls in 509 BC.

Page 167. " Socrates "

Socrates  c. 469 BC–399 BC, was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher.

Page 167. " Epaminondas "

Epaminondas  (ca. 418 BC – 362 BC) or Epameinondas was a Theban general and statesman of the 4th century BC.

Page 167. " Cato the Younger "

Cato the Younger
GNU Free Documentation LicenseCato the Younger - Credit: M.Romero Schmidkte
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (95 BC, Rome – April 46 BC, Utica), commonly known as Cato the Younger (Cato Minor) to distinguish him from his great-grandfather (Cato the Elder), was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy.

Page 167. " Sir Thomas More "

Sir Thomas More  February 7, 1478[1] – July 6, 1535), also known by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist.

Page 168. " Homer "

Homer is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet.

Page 168. " Aristotle "


Aristotle  (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.
Page 169. " Scotus "

John (Johannes) Duns Scotus, O.F.M. (c. 1265 – 8 November 1308) was one of the more important theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages.

Page 169. " Ramus "

Petrus Ramus (or Pierre de la Ramée) (Anglicized to Peter Ramus) (1515 – 26 August 1572) was an influential French humanist, logician, and educational reformer.

Page 169. " Eliogabalus's Cooks "

Elagabalus (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; ca. 203 – March 11, 222), also known as Heliogabalus, was Roman Emperor from 218 to 222.

Page 169. " Descartes "

René Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic.

Page 169. " Gassendi "

Pierre Gassendi (January 22, 1592 – October 24, 1655) was a French philosopher, priest, scientist, astronomer, and mathematician.

Page 169. " Epicurus "

Epicurus ( 341 BC – 270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism.

Page 170. " Polydore Virgil "

Polydore Vergil (or Virgil) (c. 1470 – 18 April 1555) was an Italian historian, otherwise known as PV Castellensis. He is better known as the contemporary historian during the early Tudor dynasty.

Page 172. " Augustus "

Augustus, Latin: Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus; 23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14 is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.

Page 172. " Agrippa "

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (c. 63 BC – 12 BC) was a Roman statesman and general.