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When parties in a state are violent, he offered a wonderful contrivance to reconcile them. The method is this : you take a hundred leaders of each party ; you dispose them into couples of such whose heads are nearest of a size ; then let two nice operators saw off the occiput of each couple at the same time, in such a manner that the brain may be equally divided. Let the occiputs thus cut off be interchanged, applying each to the head of his opposite party-man. It seems, indeed, to be a work that requires some exactness ; but the professor assured us “ That if it were dexterously performed, the cure would be infallible." For he argued thus : “That the two half brains, being left to debate the matter between themselves within the space of one skull, would soon come to a good understanding, and produce that moderation, as well as regu. larity of thinking, so much to be wished for in the heads of those who imagine they come into the world only to watch and govern its motion : and as to the difference of brains, in quantity or quality, among those who are directors in faction,” the doctor assured us, from his own knowledge, “that it was a perfect trifle.”
I heard a very warm debate between two professors, about the most commodious and effectual ways and means of raising money without grieving the subject. The first affirmed “The justest method would be, to lay a certain tax upon vices and folly ; and the sum fixed upon every man to be rated, after the fairest manner, by a jury of his neighbours.” The second was of an opinion directly contrary : "to tax those qualities of body and mind for which men chiefly value themselves ; the rate to be more or less according to the
degrees of excelling ; the decision whereof should be left entirely to their own breast.” The highest tax was upon men who are the greatest favourites of the other sex, and the assessments according to the number and nature of the favours they have received ; for which they are allowed to be their own vouchers. Wit, valour, and politeness, were likewise proposed to be largely taxed, and collected in the same manner, by every person's giving his own word for the quantum of what he possessed. But as to honour, justice, wisdom and learning, they should not be taxed at all ; because they are qualifications of so singular kind, that no man will either allow them in his neighbour, or value them in himself.
The women were proposed to be taxed according to their beauty and skill in dressing ; wherein they had the same privilege with the men, to be determined by their own judgment. But constancy, good sense, and good nature, were not rated, because they would not bear the charge of collecting.
To keep senators in the interest of the crown, it was proposed that the members should raffle for employments; every man first taking an oath and giving security that he would vote for the court, whether he won or not; after which, the losers had, in their turn, the liberty of raffling upon the next vacancy. Thus hope and expectation would be kept alive ; none would complain of broken promises, but impute their disappointments wholly to fortune, whose shoulders are broader and stronger than those of a ministry.
A PARTICULAR ACCOUNT OF THE
ONE day, in much good company, I was asked by a person of quality
“Whether I had seen any of their struldbrugs, or immortals.” I said “I had not;" and desired he would explain to me “what he meant by such an appellation applied to a mortal creature." He told me “ That sometimes, though very rarely, a child happened to be born in a family with a red circular spot in the forehead, directly over the left eyebrow, which was an infallible mark that it should never die. The spot,” as he described it, "o,
was about the compass of a silver threepence, but in the course of time grew larger, and changed its colour; for at twelve years old it became green, so continued till five-and-twenty, then turning to a deep blue; at five-and-forty it grew coal-black, and as large as an English shilling, but never admitted any farther alteration." He said “These births were so rare, that he did not believe that there could be above eleven hundred struldbrugs, of both sexes, in the whole kingdom, of which he computed above fifty in the metropolis, and among the rest a young girl born about three years ago ; that these productions were not peculiar to any family, but a
mere effect of chance; and the children of the struld. brugs themselves were equally mortal with the rest of the people.”
He said “They commonly acted like mortals, till about thirty years old, after which by degrees they grew melancholy and dejected, increasing in both till they came to fourscore. This he learned from their own confession : for otherwise, there not being above two or three of that species born in an age, they were too few to form a general observation by. When they came to fourscore years, which is reckoned the extremity of living in this country, they had not only all the follies and infirmities of other old men, but many more which arose from the dreadful prospect of never dying. They were not only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative, but incapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection, which never descended below their grandchildren. Envy and impotent desires are their prevailing passions. But those objects against which their envy seems principally directed, are the vices of the younger sort, and the deaths of the old. By reflecting on the former, they find themselves cut off from all possibility of pleasure ; and whenever they see a funeral, they lament and repine that others are gone to a harbour of rest to which they themselves never can hope to arrive. They have no remembrance of anything but what they learned and observed in their youth and middle age ; and even that is very imperfect. And for the truth or particulars of any fact, it is safer to depend on common tradition, than upon their best recollections. The least miserable among them appear to be those who turn to dotage and entirely lose their
memories; these meet with more pity and assistance, because they want many bad qualities which abound in others.
“ If a struldbrug happen to marry one of his own kind, the marriage is dissolved of course, by the courtesy of the kingdom, as soon as the younger of the two comes to be fourscore. For the law thinks it a reasonable indulgence that those who are condemned, without any fault of their own, to a perpetual continuance in the world, should not have their misery doubled by the load of a wise.
“ As soon as they have completed the term of eighty years, they are looked on as dead in law; their heirs immediately succeed to their estates; only a small pittance is reserved for their support ; and the poor ones are maintained at the public charge. After that period they are held incapable of any employ of trust or profit; they cannot purchase lands or take leases ; neither are they allowed to be witnesses in any cause either civil or criminal, not even for the decision of meers and bounds.
"At ninety they lose their teeth and hair ; they have at that age no distinction of taste, but eat and drink whatever they can get, without relish or appetite. The diseases they were subject to still continue, without increasing or diminishing. In talking they forget the common appellation of things, and the names of persons, even of those who are their nearest friends and relations. For the same reason they never can amuse themselves with reading, because their memory will not serve to carry them from the beginning of a sentence to the end; and by this defect they are deprived of the only entertainment whereof they might otherwise be capable.