I feel cheated. I finally read 'Gulliver's Travels', as printed in the set of Windermere Readers my father had saved from childhood, and I discover that despite it not being marked as such in any way, its abridged! Damn you Eisenhower America! Oh well, if I missed a giant penis joke and a slur against Catholicism here and there I suppose I'll survive. At least I can be assured that the majority of the racism was kept intact.
Lemuel Gulliver sure was a sucker for punishment. Each voyage takes him farther from home and robs him of more of his sanity. By the end of his fourth voyage he is a recluse who, after some years, is finally allowing his wife to be in his presence. This is fierce satire. The small-minded pettiness of the Liliputians, the broad simplicity of the Brobdingnagians, the fruitless academic efforts of Laputa and the wise condescension of the Houyhnhnms sheds an unflattering light on the folly of humanity in the early 18th century - - and can still draw blood today. Don't even get him started on all of those other travel writers. Pure rubbish, only here are you going to get real, honest depictions of life elsewhere.
Even with the abridgement cutting out, at the very least, the physical comedy of the novel, I was still entertained by the first two parts. I don't know if anything could save the third part with its scattered focus and long-winded examples of misplaced scholarly effort, immortality, classical heroes, etc. I liked how Swift kept Gulliver as a fallible human. There wasn't a pitfall he missed - he couldn't help himself. The Houyhnhnms were a little insufferable but that's the problem of perfection, or perhaps the point, after the essential fact of the perfection there's nothing left worth remarking about.