Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
GULLIVER'S BIRTH AND EARLY VOYAGES
 TWO hundred years ago, a great deal of the world as we now know it was still undiscovered; there were
yet very many islands, small and great, on which the eyes of white men had never looked, seas in
which nothing bigger than an Indian canoe had ever sailed.
A voyage in those days was not often a pleasant thing, for ships then were very bluff-bowed and
slow-sailing, and, for a long voyage, very ill-provided with food. There were no tinned meats two
hundred years ago, no luxuries for use even in the cabin. Sailors lived chiefly on salt junk, as
hard as leather, on biscuit that was generally as
 much weevil as biscuit, and the water that they drank was evil-smelling and bad when it had been
long in the ship's casks.
So, when a man said good-bye to his friends and sailed away into the unknown, generally very many
years passed before he came back,—if ever he came back at all. For the dangers of the seas
were then far greater than they now are, and if a ship was not wrecked some dark night on an unknown
island or uncharted reef, there was always the probability of meeting a pirate vessel and of having
to fight for life and liberty. Steam has nowadays nearly done away with pirates, except on the China
coast and in a few other out of the way places. But things were different long ago, before steamers
were, invented; and sailors then, when they came home, had many very surprising things to tell their
friends, many astonishing adventures to speak of, amongst the strange peoples that they said they
had met in far-off lands. One man, who saw more wonderful things than any one else,
 was named Lemuel Gulliver, and I will try to tell you a little about two of his voyages.
Gulliver was born in Nottinghamshire, and when he was only fourteen years old he was sent to Emanuel
College, Cambridge. There he remained till he was seventeen, but his father had not money enough to
keep him any longer at the University. So, as was then the custom for those who meant to become
doctors, he was bound apprentice to a surgeon in London, under whom he studied for four years. But
all the time, as often as his father sent him money, he spent some of it in learning navigation
(which means the art of finding your way across the sea, far from land). He had always had a great
longing to travel, and he thought that a knowledge of navigation would be of use to him if he should
happen to go a voyage.
After leaving London, he went to Germany, and there studied medicine for some years, with the view
of being appointed surgeon of a ship. And by the help of his late master in London, such a post he
did get on board the
 Swallow, on which vessel he made several voyages. But tiring of this, he settled in London,
and, having married, began practice as a doctor.
He did not, however, make much money at that, and so for six years he again went to sea as a
surgeon, sailing both to the East and to the West Indies.
Again tiring of the sea, he once more settled on shore, this time at Wapping, because in that place
there are always many sailors, and he hoped to make money by doctoring them.
But this turned out badly, and on May 4, 1699, he sailed from Bristol for the South Seas as surgeon
of a ship named the Antelope.