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["A Tale of a Tub," first published in 1704, had been written at least seven years before. In the Preface, Swift explains the whimsical title by referring to the seamen's custom, “when they meet a whale, to fling him out an empty tub by way of amusement, to divert him from laying violent hands upon the ship.” He proposes to give the enemies of Religion and Government some harmless employment by tossing to them his treatise. The passage presented here is Section II., which gives the famous parable of “Peter, Martin, and Jack.”]
Once upon a time, there was a man who had three sons by one wife,* and all at a birth, neither could the midwife tell certainly, which was the eldest. Their father died while they were young; and upon his death-bed, calling the lads to him, spoke thus:
“Sons; because I have purchased no estate, nor was born to any, I have long considered of some good legacies to bequeath you; and at last, with much care, as well as expense,
* By these three sons, Peter, Martin, and Jack, Popery, the Church of England, and our Prot. estant dissenters, are designed.—W. Wotton.
have provided each of you (here they are) a new coat. Now, you are to understand, that these coats have two virtues contained in them; one is, that with good wearing, they will last you fresh and sound as long as you live: the other is, that they will grow in the same proportion with your bodies, lengthening and widening of themselves, so
as to be always fit. Here; let me see them on you before I die. So; very well; pray, children, wear them clean, and brush them often. You will find in my will* (here it is) full instructions in every particular concerning the wearing and management of your coats; wherein you must be very exact, to avoid the penalties I have appointed for every transgression or neglect, upon which your future fortunes will entirely depend. I have also commanded in my will, that you should live together in one house like brethren and friends, for then you will be sure to thrive, and not otherwise.”
Here the story says, this good father died, and the three sons went all together to seek their fortunes.
I shall not trouble you with recounting what adventures they met for the first seven years; any farther than by taking notice, that they carefully observed their father's will, and kept their coats in very good order: that they travelled through several countries, * The New Testament.
encountered a reasonable quantity of giants, and slew certain dragons.
Being now arrived at the proper age for producing themselves, they came up to town, and fell in love with the ladies, but especially three, who about that time were in chief
reputation; the Duchess d'Argent, Madame de Grands Titres, and the Countess d'Orgueil.* On their first appearance, our three adventurers met with a very bad reception; and soon with great sagacity guessing out the reason, they quickly began to improve in the good qualities of the town: they writ, and rallied, and rhymed, and sung, and said, and said nothing: they drank, and fought, and whored, and slept, and swore, and took snuff: they went to new plays on the first night, haunted the chocolate houses, beat the watch, lay on bulks, and got claps: they bilked hackney-coachmen, ran in debt with shopkeepers, and lay with their wives: they killed bailiffs, kicked fiddlers down-stairs, eat at Locket's, loitered at Will's: they talked of the drawing-room, and never came there: dined with lords they never saw: whispered a duchess, and spoke never a word: exposed the scrawls of their laundress for billetdoux of quality: came ever just from court, and were never seen in it: attended the Levee sub dio: got a list of peers by heart in one company, and with great familiarity retailed them in another. Above all, they constantly attended those Committees of Senators, who are silent in the House, and loud in the coffee-house; where they nightly adjourn to chew the cud of politics, and are encompassed with a ring of disciples, who lie in wait to catch up their droppings. The three brothers had acquired forty other qualifications of the like stamp, too tedious to recount, and by consequence, were justly reckoned the most accomplished persons in the town: but all would not suffice, and the ladies aforesaid continued still inflexible. To clear
* Their mistresses are the Duchess d'Argent, Mademoiselle de Grands Titres, and the Countess d'Orgueil, i.e., covetousness, ambition, and pride; which were the three great vices that the ancient fathers inveighed against, as the first corruptions of Christianity.-W. Wotton.
which difficulty I must, with the reader's good leave and patience, have recourse to some points of weight, which the authors of that age have not sufficiently illustrated.
For, about this time it happened a sect arose, whose tenets obtained and spread very far, especially in the grande monde, and among everybody of good fashion. They worshipped a sort of idol, who, as their doctrine delivered, did daily create men by a kind of manufactory operation. This idol they placed in the highest parts of the house, on an altar erected about three foot: he was shown in the posture of a Persian emperor, sitting on a superficies, with his legs interwoven under him. This god had a goose for his ensign: whence it is that some learned men pretend to deduce his original from Jupiter Capitolinus. At his left hand, beneath the altar, Hell seemed to open, and catch at the animals the idol was creating; to prevent which, certain of his priests hourly flung in pieces of the uninformed mass, or substance, and sometimes whole limbs already enlivened, which that horrid gulf insatiably swallowed, terrible to behold. The goose was also held a subaltern divinity or deus minorum gentium, before whose shrine was sacrificed that creature, whose hourly food is human gore, and who is in so great renown abroad, for being the delight and favourite of the Ægyptian Cercopithecus. Millions of these animals were cruelly slaughtered every day, to appease the hunger of that consuming deity. The chief idol was also worshipped as the inventor of the yard and needle; whether as the god of seamen, or on account of certain other mystical attributes, has not been sufficiently cleared.
The worshippers of this deity had also a system of their belief, which seemed to turn upon the following fundamentals. They held the universe to be a large suit of clothes, which invests everything that the earth is invested by the air; the air is invested by the stars; and the stars are invested by the primum mobile. Look on this globe of earth,