“A publisher brave enough to venture his Eares”

As publishers, we always enjoy reading correspondence between great authors and their publishers, and, happily, many of our editions include such correspondence in the appendices. In our new edition of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, edited by Allan Ingram, letters between Swift and his publisher, Benjamin Motte, Jr., appear in an appendix on the novel’s contemporary reception. Swift wrote to Alexander Pope that the manuscript would need a publisher “brave enough to venture his Eares,” as the cutting off of ears was a common punishment for publishing offensive material, and the novel contained satirical references to British policies in Ireland.

Motte kept his ears, but made some prudent changes to the original manuscript to minimize the chance of reprisals. In a later letter to Motte about a new printing, Swift suggests illustrations (keeping costs in mind), and supposes that the novel’s popularity might last a bit longer:

… As to having Cuts [woodcut illustrations] in Gullivers travels; you will consider how much it will raise the price of the Book: The world glutted it self with that book at first, and now it will go off but soberly, but I suppose will not be soon worn out. The Part of the little men will bear cuts much better than that of the great. I have not the Book by me, but will speak by memory. Gulliver in his carriage to the Metropolis. his extinguishing [the fire]. The Ladyes in their Coaches driving about his Table. His rising up out of his Carriage when he is fastned to his House. His drawing the Fleet. The Troop upon his Hankerchief. The Army marching between his Legs. His Hat drawn by 8 horses. Some of these seem the fittest to be represented, and perhaps two adventures may be sometimes put in one Print.



Posted on February 28, 2012