Redriff, Tuesday the 28th of October, 1749
YOUR visit last week touched me deeply. I apologise again for refusing to see you at first, but after you saw the conditions in which I live, an old, sick and lonely woman, I hope you understood and forgave me.
I also hope you recovered from your bad fall and that you haven’t broken any limb when you slipped in my yard.
My abode was not maintained for the last 33 years, since my late husband (your father’s cousin) retired to live with his horses. Ever since Mr. Gulliver died, four years ago, his horses took to strolling dejectedly in the yard. I can see that they are inconsolable to this day. They either do not mind trotting in their own excrement, or, despite being as intelligent as Mr. Gulliver took them to be, they are still incapable of collecting their own shit.
I sure mind all this dirt, but I cannot keep up, all alone, with the pace of their metabolism.
I reassure you, good sir, that I was not offended by the smell of your clothes, after your fall, and I am glad you came with your private Landau, so you need not have suffered people’s disdain upon your return.
And finally, I am truly sorry I could not oblige your request for more of my late husbands’ memoirs. I appreciate you taking over your father’s publishing trade, and I am sure you will fare well, even without another voyage story of Gulliver’s.
* * *
Sadly, he did not travel anywhere after he moved in with his horses, and didn’t write a single word. All those years he preferred conversing with his horses and almost entirely forgot his English.
As a matter of fact, I must confess that it was I who actually wrote the last chapter of his book. Your father entreated me to do so, to enable the publication of ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’ My poor Lemuel never knew it, and probably would not have cared, as he only valued the opinion of his horses. I did make sure they would not chance to see the books. I took no risks. I had more than enough of his wrath -- and never enough of his love.
But enough about me.
I can now offer you something even better than another travel story of my husband’s. Yes. I have resolved to let you publish the whole truth about Mr. Gulliver’s voyages, including each and every intimate detail, which he only shared with me. More than that, I wish to make known the whole truth, all the facts and details concerning my own contribution to saving the Lilliputians, and Mr. Gulliver from his giant foes.
* * *
After Mr. Gulliver passed away I began collecting all my notes and diaries, which I started writing when I was 27 years of age. It was indeed a mammoth mission, reading and re-writing this profusion of pages I accumulated in 49 years… I embarked on this, to distract myself from my pains, both the physical and the emotional. Reminding myself of my youthful, brave and lustful past helped me forget my lonely, timid, repulsive present. Strange: even though I did not speak with my husband for almost 20 years, to this day I still miss his silence. I guess I always nurtured the silly hope that his love for horses would exhaust itself and he would come back to me. Being the hopeless optimist I am, I now look forward to our reunion in the Afterlife. Unlike him, I am quite confident that there will be no horses there. Perhaps Lemuel will have outgrown this strange attraction for the equine; perhaps he will find my soul appealing again…
Reading my memories diverted me from my grief. It almost felt as if I was re-living my long and adventurous life. A year ago I started toying with the idea of actually publishing this as a book, and commenced re-writing and filling-up the gaps, to make the story clear. And just as I am about done, lo and behold – you come to visit me, unexpectedly, asking for more of Gulliver’s travels.
I see it as an omen that you appear now, when I have resolved to publish the incredible tale of my life.
Mr. Gulliver started writing the memoirs of his incredible travels already in 1702, as soon as he returned from his voyage to Lilliput. Being the honest man he was, he was ready to publish the whole truth. But I urged him to omit all the details about his intimate experiences. He understood my concerns, and we swore to each other never to reveal the full nature of what happened to him in Lilliput; and later on, what has come to pass – for both of us - in subsequent travels.
But I must confess: I could not resist writing all these stories, secretly, already then…
In the long days and even longer nights, when Mr. Gulliver went back to sea, I simply could not help it. I craved him so much. Against my good judgment (as I thought then) I wrote in my diary all that which my husband told me, all that which has happened to us. It gave me solace and indeed, much pleasure, during those lonely nights. Today I am ever so pleased that I have written it all down, for now I can present all these collected tales to you.
When you will read my story of what has really happened, you will surely agree that, twenty-three years ago, when your father published Gulliver’s Travels, it was still impossible to include in it all the stories, which I now offer you to print. Back then we had our safety and reputation to consider, for the sake of our children.
But now that both Johnny and Betty have gone to the New World, this worry is gone as well. I doubt if they will ever know about it. Surely, they cannot be harmed by the publication of my book, even if my name is on it.
As I was preparing this manuscript for print, during the past year, I saw fit to add a number of chapters, in which I described the political, religious and social backgrounds of Mr. Gulliver’s intimate adventures in the various lands upon which his fate cast him. Even though these chapters are not of explicit nature, I feel that this addition is important for the modern reader of 1750, to better understand Mr. Gulliver’s predicaments and motives. My husband was one of a handful Europeans who could testify to the facts of life, 50 years ago in those remote regions. I believe no human has visited these parts of the world since. I am very much aware of the political and social implications for which I am now responsible and I can assure you, good Sir, that having committed all of Mr. Gulliver’s stories to memory, I chronicled them as accurately as humanly possible. Concerning Brobdingnag I can testify for myself, as I was fortunate enough to be there and to come back alive, with my beloved husband.
The added chapters on daily life in those remote regions might also help to get the book in its entirety past the scrutiny of the Court’s Censor. These are all respectable and acceptable tales, which I carefully inserted among stories of a more licentious nature.
Come to think of it, I do not see why we should fear the Court’s fury anymore. After all, we live in a modern world, almost half way through the 18th Century. Since the first publication of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ the world has changed completely. While back in 1702 Lemuel and I feared trial and imprisonment, lest we publish his story with all its delicious details, today books such as Girls’ School are published here in England, and Mr. John Cleland is making a fortune with his Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, while suffering no legal consequences.
You, as the publisher of my book, stand to gain a lot of money. As for me, I simply need this income. That is why I insist on an advance payment, and on having my name clearly printed on the cover of the book. I do not fear the publicity: in our parish they think my old age is the reason of my infantility. I am lucky not to be suspected of witchcraft. People cannot understand why I remained loyal to poor Mr. Gulliver all those years, when all he cared for was his two horses. After our children packed their families and disappeared on the other side of the ocean, I hardly exchanged a word with any of our neighbors. I think they were sure Mr. Gulliver’s disease was contagious and that I got it, too. I cannot blame them: nobody understood why I refused to sell the horses when Mr. Gulliver passed away. I know the vicious tongues are sure that I too have a special liaison with them. And they think I am mad! Now it is too late to sell the horses, anyway. They are too old for the butcher.
Yes, I readily admit: I do have financial considerations when I propose to you, dear Sir, to publish the full and uncensored stories of my late husband’s travels. The meagre allowance I have of Mr. Gulliver’s estate is dwindling; my children are gone and their letters (and money) are far between. I cannot deny my needs. I recognise that as a lonely, old and ailing woman, my sole protection is in Money. That is why I propose that you print on the cover of my book the following text: “I beseech you, dear Reader, to Recommend my little book to your friends and not to Lend it to them!”
You might wonder at the ease with which I break the oath, which Mr. Gulliver and I took, never to tell these intimate stories. But, as you will eventually understand and agree, I may now feel released from these solemn vows of ours.
It was not plain cowardice that dictated our secrecy. I too was gullible at youth, but Mr. Gulliver has always remained susceptible to what people might think of him (and not only here in England, but also wherever he traveled in the world: in Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, Japan and Houyhnhnms.) He always tried to do the Right Thing. He believed in Authorities; he loved both his Kings, James II and then William the III, even though they loathed each other. Everyone knew that their insurmountable differences made them mortal enemies, but Mr. Gulliver loved and respected them equally, arguing that “all Kings were appointed by our Lord, the same Lord, for Us to obey, and for His own mysterious reasons.”
I think that this was his downfall: his persistence not to learn anything from his experiences. I must admit that I found his childishness endearing, and from the vantage point of my advanced age I can share with you my observation that we, feeble women, find it safer to rely upon our own resilience, rather than to depend on our spouses’ mental prowess. No offence, dear Sir, but like all men, Mr. Gulliver was very stubborn. I cannot convey to you all the sufferings I endured while tending to him during his last years of lunacy. He was a changed man and he treated me abominably. Though he is dead for four years now, I still shudder when I remember how he abused me during the last years of his life. So I feel no moral obligation towards the creature he had become, following his last trip to Houyhnhnms.
For example, it is with horror and pain that I recall how in one of his bursts of rage against me, when his mind fell victim to hallucinations and lies, he screamed and cursed me, claiming that I too was a despicable Yahoo[14a] and that once he trusted us all. "Even good Master Bates,’ yelled my poor husband at me, “Masturbates all the people he can get his right hand on, while he uses his left hand on himself!”
I was shocked, too.
Yes, in the course of fifty-seven years of marriage, I witnessed my husband’s metamorphosis from a gentle, loving man, to a raving lunatic. I cannot help but love the good man for whom I long; but I abhor the monster he turned out to be.
Therefore, as I was collecting my diaries and assembling this book, I found it so difficult to re-write the story of my life, taking into account all the hindsight, which by now I have acquired. So, dear Sir, when you read this manuscript, you will be joining my journey of outgrowing the blind innocence I still possessed when I first applied ink to these pages, being 27 years of age. Like myself, only gradually will you learn all that which I know now.
I trust you, as perhaps the last living relative of my late husband, that you would undertake to publish my book. Your father, may he rest in peace, benefited much from publishing Gulliver’s Travels and I am confident you will gain as much, and perhaps even more, by publishing my own memoirs.
Redriff, Tuesday, October 28th, 1749
My Dear Mr. Richard Sympson Junior,
Mary (age 27) starting her memoir.
Artist: William Andrew Pogány,
(adapted by the author)
At first Mary and her son James were trying to eavesdrop on Lemuel's conversations with the horses, but the horses always told Lemuel that they're being spied upon.
Artist (from hearsay):
Rex Whistler, 1930
This is the first of a number of crude illustrations made by Mary, which I found along with the pages of her memoir.
Detail revealing the intimate friendship between Lemuel and Mary, in the first years of their marriage.
Artist: Frédéric Bouchot, 1855