Posted by: Democratic Thinker | September 28, 2009

Pretentiousness: Island in The Sky

Things Every Literate Person Knows

An early Eighteenth Century world traveler observes the superior inhabitants of a remote island nation and their superior ways and their superior learning and their general superiority, much akin to the academia of his own country.



The Island in the Sky.


The author sets out on his third voyage. He is taken by pirates and set adrift in a small canoe. He then arrives at an island, where he beholds an island in the air. He is received into Laputa, where he discribes the humours and dispositions of the Laputian.

AT my alighting, I was surrounded by a crowd of people, but those who stood nearest seemed to be of better quality. They beheld me with all the marks and circumstances of wonder: neither, indeed, was I much in their debt, having never till then seen a race of mortals so singular in their shapes, habits, and countenances. Their heads were all reclined, either to the right or the left; one of their eyes turned inward, and the other directly up to the zenith. Their outward garments were adorned with the figures of suns, moons, and stars; interwoven with those of fiddles, flutes, harps, trumpets, guitars, harpsichords, and many other instruments of music, unknown to us in Europe.

I observed, here and there, many in the habit of servants, with blown bladders, fastened like a flail to the end of a stick, which they carried in their hands. In each bladder was a small quantity of dried peas, or little pebbles, as I was afterwards informed. With these bladders they now and then flapped the mouths and ears of those who stood near them, of which practice I could not then conceive the meaning. It seems the minds of these people are so taken up with intense speculations, that they can neither speak, nor attend to the discourses of others, without being roused by some external action upon the organs of speech and hearing; for which reason, those persons who are able to afford it always keeps a flapper (the original is climenole) in their family, as one of their domestics; nor ever walk abroad or make visits without him. And the business of this officer is, when two, three, or more persons are in company, gently to strike with his bladder the mouth of him who is to speak, and the right ear of him or them to whom the speaker addresses himself. This flapper is likewise employed diligently to attend his master in his walks, and upon occasion to give him a soft flap on his eyes; because he is always so wrapped up in cogitation, that lie is in manifest danger of falling down every precipice, and bouncing his head against every post; and in the streets, of jostling others, or being jostled himself into the kennel.

—Lemuel Gulliver, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, 1726.