FROM THE CRITICAL EDITION.

A History of the Remarkable Voyage Lately Undertaken On Board the Celebrated Leviathan.

Written by Sir John ——,[1] from his own journals.

The First Day: Our Departure, and My First Encounter with the Duke.

We set sail from the greenish[2] coasts of home on the last day of spring in the year ——, and I do truthfully believe the whole country had turned out to see our departure;—though whether in delight at the new thing we were attempting or in eagerness to be rid of us I cannot say.[3] There was certainly feasting and drunkenness enough on both sides of the affair, among those of us who went and those who stayed. I myself refused most of the wine[4] that flowed so prodigiously, so that I might retain enough of my senses to enjoy the sight of our mighty Leviathan[5] drifting away from the shore for the first time.

That nothing like our expedition has ever been attempted, and that nothing like it will ever be attempted again: of these two things I am equally sure.[6] For the common sense[7] of the scribblers and the talkers at court is that we failed. Yet of that I am not entirely certain. I suppose the memory of our ignominious return is fresher in most minds than the memory of our departure. But our departure was glorious. In all our thousands of years of history, no human eye[8] had ever beheld such a spectacle. We were doing a thing that our wisest heads had told us could never be done; and if we did not make it to the end of our journey, remember that it was the beginning that was said to be impossible.

When at last the gigantic signal flags unfurled and gave the command, and two thousand giant oars, worked in perfect unison by the most ingenious contrivance, began to beat the water with a mighty roar, the cheer that erupted from six thousand throats on our floating city was nearly deafening.[9] Yet it was not so loud that we could not hear the even greater cheer from the land. And when, after perhaps a quarter-hour of rowing, the great sails began to billow, we could still hear the cheering from the coast. Bank after bank of sails unfurled, all brilliantly colored according to their functions, so that the hardy[10] seamen charged with maintaining them could find their way in the forest of canvas.[11] There were red[12] sails, yellow sails, blue sails, and white sails, thousands of them, and as they caught the wind our Leviathan surged forward with a majestic deliberateness that well became her. The cheering on the coast continued, but from us there was only awed silence.[13]

I must have stood silently admiring the spectacle for a good half hour. I might have stood longer, but[14] a carriage arrived with a summons for me to speak with the Duke. One does not refuse the Duke’s invitation, of course, so I immediately boarded the carriage.[15]


[1] The identity of the author, though hidden behind a modest dash, is of course too well known to need any explanation.

[2] E. G. Athelstan chides the author for lack of patriotism, insisting that the coasts of home are simply green and ought straightforwardly to be called green.

[3] It is to be regretted that scientific opinion polls, which might have shed some light on this question, had not yet become as common as they are today.

[4] The fermented juice of Vitis vinifera, the common cultivated grape. Sometimes said to have an intoxicating effect when consumed in quantity.

[5] The choice of a Biblical name for the vessel appears to have aroused some controversy. See, e.g., E. G. Athelstan, Who the H— Do They Think They Are?

[6] I. E. Godwin argues persuasively that this statement is in error, citing numerous accounts of other voyages made in ships of various sorts.

[7] Meant in the Vichian meaning, rather than in any other meaning that might have occurred to you.

[8] Athelstan asks several rather sneering questions about canine, avian, and reptilian eyes, the substance of which need not be repeated here.

[9] Godwin points out that there are no medical records from the voyage indicating an unusual number of auditory complaints, and accuses Sir John of exaggeration.

[10] Meaning that they survive the winter and continue to grow for multiple seasons, as opposed to annual seamen.

[11] Godwin objects that a “forest of canvas” is a botanical impossibility. Williburton emends it to “flourish of canvas.”

[12] Another account of the voyage gives the color of these sails as carmine; research so far has not been able to reconcile the discrepancy.

[13] Williburton emends this to odd silence. Parchefleur reads pawed silence, and believes the allusion is to the silent footsteps of a cat or other feline creature.

[14] Godwin cautions against taking this conjunction too literally.

[15] This very carriage is still preserved in the Museum of Preserved Carriages in Dumpcester.