Page 177. " whether I had seen any of their Struldbruggs or Immortals "

Public DomainStruldbruggs
The concept and consequences of immortality are taken up, now and then, by science fiction writers today. Swift was the first to do so, with an attempt at realism, and he did well as, if not better than, any authors since.

Page 184. " Avarice is the necessary Consequent of old Age "

What makes vices attractive is the pleasure they give the senses. In old age, however, the senses become dull. There is nothing left but the joy of material possession. The connection of age and avarice was mentioned as long ago as 160 B.C. by the Roman playwright, Terence (190? - 159 B.C.). In Don Juan, Lord Byron (1788 - 1824) said sardonically, "So for a good old-gentlemanly vice/ I think I must take up with avarice."

Avarice, Print, Engraving, 21.59 x 14.29 cm. Plate 6 from Matham's series The Vices. In the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Public DomainAvarice, Print, Engraving, 21.59 x 14.29 cm. Plate 6 from Matham's series The Vices. In the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.



Map of the Houyhnhnms
Public DomainMap of the Houyhnhnms

Page 193. " I never beheld in all my Travels so disagreeable an Animal "

Neanderthal as Yahoo
GNU Free Documentation LicenseNeanderthal as Yahoo - Credit: Christophe cagé
In The Annotated Gulliver's Travels Isaac Asimov remarks about the first Yahoo's Gulliver meets:

With his typical unimaginative accuracy, Gulliver is describing, point by point, a very primitive form of human being.

Where did Swift get the notion of a debased humanlike organism? Throughout ancient and medieval times, Europeans remained unaware of any organisms that resembled human beings. The closest were the monkeys (such as the one that plays a rold in Gulliver's trip to Brobdingnag), but these were thought of as, at best, small and amusing caricatures of humanity. There was also the Barbary ape, found in North Africa Ihence "Barbary") and at Gilbraltar, which differed from other monkeys in being tailless.

In the seventeeth century, however, creatures who were "apes" (since they were tailless) but who were much more humanlike (anthropoid) than any monkeys were discovered by Europeans. In 1641 a description was published of an animal brought from Africa and kept in the Netherlands in a menagerie belonging to the prince of Orange. From the description, it seems to have been a chimpanzee. There were also repots of a large humanlike animal in Borneo, one we now call the orangutan. It may well be that Swift, in describing the creatures on this island, was thinking of the vague descriptions of the orangutan.

Oddly enough, Swift was, in a way, well ahead of his time. There was no hint as yet that in the past humanoid beings had existed that were not quite modern humans but were closer in resemblance to us than to any anthropoid ape. Neanderthal man were not discovered for a century and a quarter after the publication of Gulliver's Travels, but the creatures here described by Gulliver might well have been Neanderthals - at least as popular fancy would have had them . "

It seems Jonathan Swift's ability to see into the future held true regarding anthropology as well.

Page 195. " he squeezed it so hard between his Hoof and his Pastern "

GNU Free Documentation LicensePastern - Credit: BS Thurner Hof
The rear of a horse's foot just above the hoof is the pastern. The Houyhnhnms have apparently a much more maneuverable hoof than ordinary horses do. They can so bend them that they can grip something between the hoof and pastern.

Page 195. " the Behaviour of these Animals was so orderly and rational "
Gulliver with Horses
Public DomainGulliver with Horses

Gulliver begins to suspect the horses are intelligent and unable to conceive of intelligent horses, prefers the theory that they are human beings who have taken on the shape of horses through magical arts.

Swift describes the horses physically as simply horses. Science Fiction writers of modern day might try to describe the horse with an enlarged head to account for a larger brain and the intelligence the Houyhnhnms.

If Swift ignored the matter of the equine brain in postulating an intelligent horse, his comtemporaries would not have seen anything wrong.

Public DomainAndreas_Vesalius

Andreas Vesalius

(1514 - 1564) the father of anatomy, had maintained that the brain was the seat of the intelligence,


 but this remained little more than a suggestion until the work of

Public DomainFranz_Joseph_Gall
Franz Joseph Gall

(1758 - 1828) some seven decades after the publication of Gulliver's