CELT document E700001-026

The Blunderful Blunder of Blunders

Jonathan Swift

Whole text


The Blunderful Blunder of Blunders

Having lately perused a paper call'd the Wonderful Wonder of Wonders, I could not but with the highest Resentment animadvert upon its Author, who at this time of Day, when all Heads are at Work about Affairs of the greatest Consequence, should be so cruel as to write upon a plain Subject with so much Obscurity, whereas the Naked Truth always appears best in a Simplicity of Language.


'Tis true indeed, that in the early Ages of Learning, Scholars through an affected Vanity of appearing Wiser than the rest of Mankind, disguised their Knowledge under the Cover of Hieroglyphicks, but as Philosophy acquired more Heat and Luster, these Clouds began to vanish, and the Rays of Truth more universally diffused themselves to all such as was earnest to search and pry into the Secrets of Nature. So were the Oracles of old, by direction of their Father the Devil, wrapt up in the utmost Darkness, for he would have them carry his own black Stamp; 'till Men of Penetration and Judgment discovered their Fallacy, and rescued the deluded Reason of their Admirers from its greatest enemy, Ambiguity.

Now I appeal to all Men of Reading or Experience, whether it has not been  p.7 the constant practice of Impostors, the better to carry on their Cheats, ever to amuse the World with Riddles. Which puts me in Mind of a Story that will not be amiss in this place. A certain cunning Fellow who had been reduced to his last Shifts, and knowing the World to be very fond of Wonders, gave out that he had found a terrible Monster in a Wood, which he took Care to chain up in a dark Corner of his Room; People flocked in abundance, and the Man made a very great Advantage of his Show; for he managed it so dexterously, by the dreadful Accounts which he gave of its Fierceness, that no Body durst approach near enough to see what it was, till one Day a Pot valiant Fellow, who knew how to value his Six Pence, rushes upon the Monster, swore he would see what he was to have for his Money, and in short, drags out a Dog in a Doublet.  p.8 The Reader may expect I should say something here, but I ask his Pardon if I refer him to the Conclusion for an Application.

I would willingly expostulate with my Friend, and ask him, what would he think if Nature, in her Works, should proceed in a Method Ænigmatical; That every Species of Fruit should have a dark Skin drawn over it, insomuch that we should not be able to distinguish between an Apple and a Peach, between a Pear and a Nectarine, without stripping them of their Cloaths, would not a vast Number of Inconveniencies ensue? Or should she thro' Whim and Frolick, affect Eclypses in Sun, Moon and Stars, the World would have a fine time on't. Should every Lady run into the Frolick of glewing their Masks to their Faces, there would be an end  p.9 of Beauty. In short the Evils of disguise are without Number, for which Reason, Truth is dignified with the Epithet of NAKED, and our Author, without Ceremony, should have uncovered his Subject to the World; it was not of so little Importance to Mankind as to be concelaed from them.

When a Man writes, either for the Information or Improvement of the World, let him write to be understood by the World. The Reason I insist upon this so much is — I was in Company the other Night with six Gentlemen of as good Understanding as any in Ireland, and without Vanity I may say, as any in England, where this same Paper of Wonderful Wonders was introduced, ay, and read over three times, before any one durst venture, even at a Conjecture. At last we began to  p.10 debate it; says one, I fancy this musst be a kind of Satyr upon Jo. D——r because he is described as a Close, Gripping, Squeezing Fellow, no Sir, that cannot be, said another, for you know he is made to say, as fast as he gets he lets fly, besides, the Man is dead. Said a third, I have it, depend upon this, That it is meant of a Judge, because he is a great Oppressor of all below him, and you know how he is given to frequent Murmers; not at all said I, that cannot be, for there is no Judge in Town observed to lean either to the Right or Left. Indeed were it not for that, I should be inclinable to think so, because this Person is described to peruse Pamphlets on both sides, with great Impartiality. Upon this Conviction I acquiesced, and a Friend next me rises with some appearance of Reason, and said, the Presumption was strong of his side, That it  p.11 must be a B-----p, because his Studies were confined to Schoolmen, Commentators, and German Divines. But this was soon overthrown, because no B-----p has any civil Employment, and the Person here mentioned, is made Receiver General.

A certain Grey-headed Reverend Divine in Town, said he was sure it was meant of the Wooden Man in Essex Street. Now I humbly beg leave to start these Queries to him.

Query Whether the Wooden Man in Essex Street ever goes to Bed.

Query Whether he ever leaves any thing at any Gentleman's House.

Query Whether he be lately arrived to this City; it is well known that he  p.12 is an old Stander, and one of the ancient Inhabitants of it.

Query Whether he was never seen before by any Mortal.

Query Whether he frequents Unclean Houses, at least in the Plural Number.

Query Whether People trust him with their ready Money.

Query Whether his Grand-father was a Member of the Rump Parliament.

Query Whether he ever sheds Tears of Blood.

Now, Quere Whether the Wooden Man would not have guessed as well.


One held it to be a Jacobite Paper, and that he saw the Pretender at the Bottom, under the Name of Jacobus de Voragine.

But to be short, after many long Arguments and Debates, One in Company (non quia nasus caeteris nullus erat) started up, and said, Gentlemen, I smell a Rat, it is my Arse all over, and we all applauded his Penetration.


If the Gentleman, thro' Consideration of the Losses sustained by the South Sea, has, out of a Design to encourage Trade and Commerce, sold the Publick a bargain, I heartily ask  p.14 his Pardon for these Animadversions. But if not, he may expect much severer in my next, together with an ample Dedication to the Gold-finders of the City of Dublin.

N.B. The Author of this Answer intends very soon to oblige the World with an Historical Account of Bargains.

Document details

The TEI Header

File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): The Blunderful Blunder of Blunders

Author: Jonathan Swift

Funded by: University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft

Responsibility statement

Proof corrections by: Beatrix Färber

Extent: 2805 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College Cork.

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2020

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E700001-026

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Notes statement

This text has sometimes been ascribed to Thomas Sheridan.

Source description

Editions and secondary literature

  1. An excellent bibliography covering many aspects of Jonathan Swift's Life, his writings, and criticism, compiled by Lee Jaffe, is available at http://www.jaffebros.com/lee/gulliver/bib/index.html.
  2. J. Bowles Daly (ed.), Ireland in the days of Dean Swift, Irish tracts 1720–1734. (London 1887).
  3. Frederick Ryland (ed.), Swift's Journal to Stella, A.D. 1710–1713. (London 1897).
  4. Temple Scott (ed.), A tale of a tub, and other early works. (London 1897).
  5. Frederick Falkiner, Essays on the portraits of Swift: Swift and Stella. (London 1908).
  6. C. M. Webster, Swift's Tale of a Tub compared with Earlier Satires of the Puritans. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 47/1 (March 1932) 171–178.
  7. Basil Williams, Stanhope. A Study in Eighteenth-Century War and Diplomacy. (Oxford 1932).
  8. Stephen L. Gwynn, The life and friendships of Dean Swift. (London 1933).
  9. Stanley Lane-Poole (ed.), Selections from the prose writings of Jonathan Swift with a preface and notes. (London 1933).
  10. Ricardo Quintana, The mind and art of Jonathan Swift. (Oxford 1936).
  11. Louis A. Landa, Swift's Economic Views and Mercantilism, English Literary History 10/4 (December 1943) 310–335.
  12. R. Wyse Jackson, Swift and his circle. (Dublin 1945).
  13. Herbert Davis, The Satire of Jonathan Swift (New York 1947).
  14. Martin Price, Swift's rhetorical art. (New York 1953).
  15. Colin J. Horne (ed), Swift on his Age. Selected Prose and Verse (London 1953).
  16. Robert C. Elliott, Swift and Dr Eachard. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 69/5 (December 1954) 1250–1257.
  17. John Middleton Murry, Jonathan Swift: A Critical Biography. (London 1954).
  18. John Middleton Murry, Swift. (London: Published for the British Council and the National Book League 1955).
  19. Kathleen Williams, Swift and the age of compromise. (London 1959).
  20. John M. Bullitt, Jonathan Swift and the anatomy of satire: a study of satiric technique. (Harvard 1961).
  21. Charles Allen Beaumont, Swift's Classical Devices (Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1961).
  22. Philip Harth, Swift and Anglican Rationalism: The Religious Background of 'A Tale of a Tub' (Chicago, University of Chicago Press 1961).
  23. Sybil Le Brocquy, Cadenus: a reassessment in the light of new evidence of the relationship between Swift, Stella and Vanessa (Dublin 1962).
  24. Harold Williams (ed.), The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift. (Oxford 1963–65).
  25. Milton Voigt, Swift and the Twentieth Century (Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1964).
  26. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Jonathan Swift: essays on his satire and other studies. (New York 1964).
  27. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Gulliver's Travels. [based on the Faulkner edition, Dublin 1735] (Oxford 1965).
  28. Herbert J. Davis (ed.), Swift: poetical works. (New York 1967).
  29. R. B. McDowell, 'Swift as a political thinker'. In: Roger Joseph McHugh and Philip Edwards, Jonathan Swift: 1667–1967, a Dublin tercentenary tribute (Dublin 1967). 176–186.
  30. Brian Vickers (ed.), The world of Jonathan Swift: essays for the tercentenary. (Oxford 1968).
  31. Kathleen Williams, Jonathan Swift. (London 1968).
  32. Morris Golden, The self observed: Swift, Johnson, Wordsworth. (Baltimore 1972.)
  33. Jane M. Snyder, The meaning of 'Musaeo contingens cuncta lepore', Lucretius 1.934, Classical World 66 (1973) 330–334.
  34. Claude Julien Rawson, Gulliver and the gentle reader: studies in Swift and our time. (London and Boston 1973).
  35. A. L. Rowse, Jonathan Swift, major prophet. (London 1975).
  36. Alexander Norman Jeffares, Jonathan Swift. (London 1976).
  37. Clive T. Probyn, Jonathan Swift: the contemporary background. (Manchester 1978).
  38. Clive T. Probyn (ed.), The art of Jonathan Swift. (London 1978).
  39. Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The man, his works, and the age (three volumes). (London 1962–83).
  40. David M. Vieth (ed.), Essential articles for the study of Jonathan Swift's poetry. (Hamden 1984).
  41. James A. Downie, Jonathan Swift, political writer. (London 1985).
  42. Frederik N. Smith (ed.), The genres of Gulliver's travels. (London 1990).
  43. James Kelly, 'Jonathan Swift and the Irish Economy in the 1720s', Eighteenth-century Ireland: Iris an dá chultúr 6 (1991) 7–36.
  44. Joseph McMinn (ed.), Swift's Irish pamphlets. (Gerrards Cross 1991).
  45. Kenneth Craven, Jonathan Swift and the Millennium of Madness (Leyden/New York/Cologne 1992).
  46. Richard H. Rodino, Hermann J. Real (eds), Reading Swift: Papers from the Second Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift (Munich: Fink 1993).
  47. Robert Mahony, Jonathan Swift: the Irish identity. (Yale 1995).
  48. Christopher Fox, Walking Naboth's vineyards: new studies of Swift (University of Notre Dame Ward-Philips lectures in English language and literature, Vol. 13). (Notre Dame/Indiana 1995).
  49. Claude Rawson (ed.), Jonathan Swift: a collection of critical essays. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jeresey, 1995).
  50. Michael Stanley, Famous Dubliners: W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone, Oscar Wilde, Edward Carson. (Dublin 1996).
  51. Daniel Carey, 'Swift among the freethinkers'. Eighteenth-century Ireland: Iris an dá chultúr, 12 (1997) 89–99.
  52. Victoria Glendinning, Jonathan Swift. (London 1998).
  53. Aileen Douglas; Patrick Kelly; Ian Campbell Ross, (eds.). Locating Swift: essays from Dublin on the 250th anniversary of the death of Jonathan Swift, 1667–1745. (Dublin 1998).
  54. Bruce Arnold, Swift: an illustrated life. (Dublin 1999).
  55. Nigel Wood (ed.), Jonathan Swift. (London and New York 1999).
  56. Christopher J. Fauske, Jonathan Swift and the Church of Ireland, 1710–24 (Portland/Oregon 2001).
  57. David George Boyce; Robert Eccleshall; Vincent Geoghegan (eds.), Political discourse in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Ireland. (Basingstoke and New York 2001).
  58. Ann Cline Kelly, Jonathan Swift and popular culture: myth, media and the man. (Basingstoke 2002).
  59. Dirk F. Passmann and Heinz J. Vienken, The library and reading of Jonathan Swift: a bio-bibliographical handbook. 4 vols. (Frankfurt 2003).
  60. Mark McDayter, 'The haunting of St James's Library: librarians, literature, and The Battle of the Books'. Huntington Library Quarterly, 66:1–2 (2003) 1–26.
  61. Frank T. Boyle, 'Jonathan Swift' [A companion to satire]. In: Ruben Quintero (ed.), A companion to satire (Oxford 2007) 196–211.
  62. Harry Whitaker, C. U. M. Smith and Stanley Finger (eds.), Explorations of the Brain, Mind and Medicine in the Writings of Jonathan Swift. Springer (US) 2007.
  63. David Oakleaf, A political biography of Jonathan Swift (London 2008).
  64. John Martin, The man himself: a life of Jonathan Swift, with an introduction and occasional commentary by John Partridge. (United Kingdom: Authors On Line for Anglia Publishing, 2009).
  65. Wayne Hudson, The English deists: studies in early Enlightenment (London 2009).
  66. Claude Rawson and Ian Higgins (eds), The essential writings of Jonathan Swift: authoritative texts, contexts, criticism (New York/London: Norton, 2010).
  67. Brean Hammond, Jonathan Swift (Dublin/Portland, Oregon: Irish Academic Press, 2010).
  68. Joseph McMinn, Jonathan Swift and the arts (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2010).
  69. Stephen Karian, Jonathan Swift in print and manuscript (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
  70. Ruben Quintero (ed), A companion to satire: ancient and modern (Malden, Mass. 2011).
  71. Pat Rogers, Documenting eighteenth century satire: Pope, Swift, Gay, and Arbuthnot in historical context (Newcastle 2011).
  72. Denis Donoghue, Irish Essays (Cambridge 2011).
  73. Daniel Cook (ed), The lives of Jonathan Swift. 3 vols. (London 2011).
  74. Christopher Fauske, A Political Biography of William King (London 2011).
  75. Barry Markovsky, 'Jonathan Swift: political satire and the public sphere', in: Christofer Edling and Jens Rydgren (eds), Sociological insights of great thinkers: sociology through literature, philosophy, and science (Santa Barbara, Calif. 2011).
  76. Samuel Johnson, Selected poetry and prose. Edited with an introduction and notes by Frank Brady and W. K. Wimsatt. (Berkeley 1977), 450–51.

The edition used in the digital edition

Swift, Jonathan (1721). An unpublished astronomical treatise by the Irish monk Dicuil‍. 2nd ed. 14 pages. London: sold by T. Bickerton.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  title 	 = {An unpublished astronomical treatise by the Irish monk Dicuil},
  author 	 = {Jonathan Swift},
  edition 	 = {2},
  note 	 = {14 pages},
  publisher 	 = {sold by T. Bickerton},
  address 	 = {London },
  date 	 = {1721}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The text covers pages 5–14.

Editorial declarations

Correction: The text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text, with its original spelling.

Quotation: Direct speech is rendered q.

Hyphenation: When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a line break, the break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word.

Segmentation: div0=the satire. Paragraphs are marked; page-breaks are marked pb n="".

Interpretation: Names of persons and titles of works are not tagged.

Profile description

Creation: By Jonathan Swift

Date: 1721

Language usage

  • The whole text is in English. (en)
  • A quote is in Latin. (la)

Keywords: satire; prose; 18c

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2020-02-16: File parsed and validated; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2020-01-21: File proofed (2), more markup applied. File parsed and validated; HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2020-01-20: Header created with biographical details; file proofed (1), structural and light content markup applied. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2007-07-10: Text typed in. (text capture Beatrix Färber)

Index to all documents

CELT Project Contacts



For details of the markup, see the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)

page of the print edition

folio of the manuscript

numbered division

 999 line number of the print edition (in grey: interpolated)

underlining: text supplied, added, or expanded editorially

italics: foreign words; corrections (hover to view); document titles

bold: lemmata (hover for readings)

wavy underlining: scribal additions in another hand; hand shifts flagged with (hover to view)

TEI markup for which a representation has not yet been decided is shown in red: comments and suggestions are welcome.

Source document


Search CELT


    2 Carrigside, College Road, Cork