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Gulliver's Travels by  John Lang

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GULLIVER'S BIRTH AND EARLY VOYAGES

[1] 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 [2] 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, [3] 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 [4] 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.


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