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Erewhon (Revised Edition) by Samuel Butler

Part 4 out of 5

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highly organised machines are creatures not so much of yesterday,
as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past
time. Assume for the sake of argument that conscious beings have
existed for some twenty million years: see what strides machines
have made in the last thousand! May not the world last twenty
million years longer? If so, what will they not in the end become?
Is it not safer to nip the mischief in the bud and to forbid them
further progress?

"But who can say that the vapour engine has not a kind of
consciousness? Where does consciousness begin, and where end? Who
can draw the line? Who can draw any line? Is not everything
interwoven with everything? Is not machinery linked with animal
life in an infinite variety of ways? The shell of a hen's egg is
made of a delicate white ware and is a machine as much as an egg-
cup is: the shell is a device for holding the egg, as much as the
egg-cup for holding the shell: both are phases of the same
function; the hen makes the shell in her inside, but it is pure
pottery. She makes her nest outside of herself for convenience'
sake, but the nest is not more of a machine than the egg-shell is.
A 'machine' is only a 'device.'"

Then returning to consciousness, and endeavouring to detect its
earliest manifestations, the writer continued:-

"There is a kind of plant that eats organic food with its flowers:
when a fly settles upon the blossom, the petals close upon it and
hold it fast till the plant has absorbed the insect into its
system; but they will close on nothing but what is good to eat; of
a drop of rain or a piece of stick they will take no notice.
Curious! that so unconscious a thing should have such a keen eye to
its own interest. If this is unconsciousness, where is the use of

"Shall we say that the plant does not know what it is doing merely
because it has no eyes, or ears, or brains? If we say that it acts
mechanically, and mechanically only, shall we not be forced to
admit that sundry other and apparently very deliberate actions are
also mechanical? If it seems to us that the plant kills and eats a
fly mechanically, may it not seem to the plant that a man must kill
and eat a sheep mechanically?

"But it may be said that the plant is void of reason, because the
growth of a plant is an involuntary growth. Given earth, air, and
due temperature, the plant must grow: it is like a clock, which
being once wound up will go till it is stopped or run down: it is
like the wind blowing on the sails of a ship--the ship must go when
the wind blows it. But can a healthy boy help growing if he have
good meat and drink and clothing? can anything help going as long
as it is wound up, or go on after it is run down? Is there not a
winding up process everywhere?

"Even a potato {5} in a dark cellar has a certain low cunning about
him which serves him in excellent stead. He knows perfectly well
what he wants and how to get it. He sees the light coming from the
cellar window and sends his shoots crawling straight thereto: they
will crawl along the floor and up the wall and out at the cellar
window; if there be a little earth anywhere on the journey he will
find it and use it for his own ends. What deliberation he may
exercise in the matter of his roots when he is planted in the earth
is a thing unknown to us, but we can imagine him saying, 'I will
have a tuber here and a tuber there, and I will suck whatsoever
advantage I can from all my surroundings. This neighbour I will
overshadow, and that I will undermine; and what I can do shall be
the limit of what I will do. He that is stronger and better placed
than I shall overcome me, and him that is weaker I will overcome.'

"The potato says these things by doing them, which is the best of
languages. What is consciousness if this is not consciousness? We
find it difficult to sympathise with the emotions of a potato; so
we do with those of an oyster. Neither of these things makes a
noise on being boiled or opened, and noise appeals to us more
strongly than anything else, because we make so much about our own
sufferings. Since, then, they do not annoy us by any expression of
pain we call them emotionless; and so qua mankind they are; but
mankind is not everybody.

If it be urged that the action of the potato is chemical and
mechanical only, and that it is due to the chemical and mechanical
effects of light and heat, the answer would seem to lie in an
inquiry whether every sensation is not chemical and mechanical in
its operation? whether those things which we deem most purely
spiritual are anything but disturbances of equilibrium in an
infinite series of levers, beginning with those that are too small
for microscopic detection, and going up to the human arm and the
appliances which it makes use of? whether there be not a molecular
action of thought, whence a dynamical theory of the passions shall
be deducible? Whether strictly speaking we should not ask what
kind of levers a man is made of rather than what is his
temperament? How are they balanced? How much of such and such
will it take to weigh them down so as to make him do so and so?"

The writer went on to say that he anticipated a time when it would
be possible, by examining a single hair with a powerful microscope,
to know whether its owner could be insulted with impunity. He then
became more and more obscure, so that I was obliged to give up all
attempt at translation; neither did I follow the drift of his
argument. On coming to the next part which I could construe, I
found that he had changed his ground.

"Either," he proceeds, "a great deal of action that has been called
purely mechanical and unconscious must be admitted to contain more
elements of consciousness than has been allowed hitherto (and in
this case germs of consciousness will be found in many actions of
the higher machines)--Or (assuming the theory of evolution but at
the same time denying the consciousness of vegetable and
crystalline action) the race of man has descended from things which
had no consciousness at all. In this case there is no a priori
improbability in the descent of conscious (and more than conscious)
machines from those which now exist, except that which is suggested
by the apparent absence of anything like a reproductive system in
the mechanical kingdom. This absence however is only apparent, as
I shall presently show.

"Do not let me be misunderstood as living in fear of any actually
existing machine; there is probably no known machine which is more
than a prototype of future mechanical life. The present machines
are to the future as the early Saurians to man. The largest of
them will probably greatly diminish in size. Some of the lowest
vertebrate attained a much greater bulk than has descended to their
more highly organised living representatives, and in like manner a
diminution in the size of machines has often attended their
development and progress.

"Take the watch, for example; examine its beautiful structure;
observe the intelligent play of the minute members which compose
it: yet this little creature is but a development of the cumbrous
clocks that preceded it; it is no deterioration from them. A day
may come when clocks, which certainly at the present time are not
diminishing in bulk, will be superseded owing to the universal use
of watches, in which case they will become as extinct as
ichthyosauri, while the watch, whose tendency has for some years
been to decrease in size rather than the contrary, will remain the
only existing type of an extinct race.

"But returning to the argument, I would repeat that I fear none of
the existing machines; what I fear is the extraordinary rapidity
with which they are becoming something very different to what they
are at present. No class of beings have in any time past made so
rapid a movement forward. Should not that movement be jealously
watched, and checked while we can still check it? And is it not
necessary for this end to destroy the more advanced of the machines
which are in use at present, though it is admitted that they are in
themselves harmless?

"As yet the machines receive their impressions through the agency
of man's senses: one travelling machine calls to another in a
shrill accent of alarm and the other instantly retires; but it is
through the ears of the driver that the voice of the one has acted
upon the other. Had there been no driver, the callee would have
been deaf to the caller. There was a time when it must have seemed
highly improbable that machines should learn to make their wants
known by sound, even through the ears of man; may we not conceive,
then, that a day will come when those ears will be no longer
needed, and the hearing will be done by the delicacy of the
machine's own construction?--when its language shall have been
developed from the cry of animals to a speech as intricate as our

"It is possible that by that time children will learn the
differential calculus--as they learn now to speak--from their
mothers and nurses, or that they may talk in the hypothetical
language, and work rule of three sums, as soon as they are born;
but this is not probable; we cannot calculate on any corresponding
advance in man's intellectual or physical powers which shall be a
set-off against the far greater development which seems in store
for the machines. Some people may say that man's moral influence
will suffice to rule them; but I cannot think it will ever be safe
to repose much trust in the moral sense of any machine.

"Again, might not the glory of the machines consist in their being
without this same boasted gift of language? 'Silence,' it has been
said by one writer, 'is a virtue which renders us agreeable to our


"But other questions come upon us. What is a man's eye but a
machine for the little creature that sits behind in his brain to
look through? A dead eye is nearly as good as a living one for
some time after the man is dead. It is not the eye that cannot
see, but the restless one that cannot see through it. Is it man's
eyes, or is it the big seeing-engine which has revealed to us the
existence of worlds beyond worlds into infinity? What has made man
familiar with the scenery of the moon, the spots on the sun, or the
geography of the planets? He is at the mercy of the seeing-engine
for these things, and is powerless unless he tack it on to his own
identity, and make it part and parcel of himself. Or, again, is it
the eye, or the little see-engine, which has shown us the existence
of infinitely minute organisms which swarm unsuspected around us?

"And take man's vaunted power of calculation. Have we not engines
which can do all manner of sums more quickly and correctly than we
can? What prizeman in Hypothetics at any of our Colleges of
Unreason can compare with some of these machines in their own line?
In fact, wherever precision is required man flies to the machine at
once, as far preferable to himself. Our sum-engines never drop a
figure, nor our looms a stitch; the machine is brisk and active,
when the man is weary; it is clear-headed and collected, when the
man is stupid and dull; it needs no slumber, when man must sleep or
drop; ever at its post, ever ready for work, its alacrity never
flags, its patience never gives in; its might is stronger than
combined hundreds, and swifter than the flight of birds; it can
burrow beneath the earth, and walk upon the largest rivers and sink
not. This is the green tree; what then shall be done in the dry?

"Who shall say that a man does see or hear? He is such a hive and
swarm of parasites that it is doubtful whether his body is not more
theirs than his, and whether he is anything but another kind of
ant-heap after all. May not man himself become a sort of parasite
upon the machines? An affectionate machine-tickling aphid?

"It is said by some that our blood is composed of infinite living
agents which go up and down the highways and byways of our bodies
as people in the streets of a city. When we look down from a high
place upon crowded thoroughfares, is it possible not to think of
corpuscles of blood travelling through veins and nourishing the
heart of the town? No mention shall be made of sewers, nor of the
hidden nerves which serve to communicate sensations from one part
of the town's body to another; nor of the yawning jaws of the
railway stations, whereby the circulation is carried directly into
the heart,--which receive the venous lines, and disgorge the
arterial, with an eternal pulse of people. And the sleep of the
town, how life-like! with its change in the circulation."

Here the writer became again so hopelessly obscure that I was
obliged to miss several pages. He resumed:-

"It can be answered that even though machines should hear never so
well and speak never so wisely, they will still always do the one
or the other for our advantage, not their own; that man will be the
ruling spirit and the machine the servant; that as soon as a
machine fails to discharge the service which man expects from it,
it is doomed to extinction; that the machines stand to man simply
in the relation of lower animals, the vapour-engine itself being
only a more economical kind of horse; so that instead of being
likely to be developed into a higher kind of life than man's, they
owe their very existence and progress to their power of ministering
to human wants, and must therefore both now and ever be man's

"This is all very well. But the servant glides by imperceptible
approaches into the master; and we have come to such a pass that,
even now, man must suffer terribly on ceasing to benefit the
machines. If all machines were to be annihilated at one moment, so
that not a knife nor lever nor rag of clothing nor anything
whatsoever were left to man but his bare body alone that he was
born with, and if all knowledge of mechanical laws were taken from
him so that he could make no more machines, and all machine-made
food destroyed so that the race of man should be left as it were
naked upon a desert island, we should become extinct in six weeks.
A few miserable individuals might linger, but even these in a year
or two would become worse than monkeys. Man's very soul is due to
the machines; it is a machine-made thing: he thinks as he thinks,
and feels as he feels, through the work that machines have wrought
upon him, and their existence is quite as much a sine qua non for
his, as his for theirs. This fact precludes us from proposing the
complete annihilation of machinery, but surely it indicates that we
should destroy as many of them as we can possibly dispense with,
lest they should tyrannise over us even more completely.

"True, from a low materialistic point of view, it would seem that
those thrive best who use machinery wherever its use is possible
with profit; but this is the art of the machines--they serve that
they may rule. They bear no malice towards man for destroying a
whole race of them provided he creates a better instead; on the
contrary, they reward him liberally for having hastened their
development. It is for neglecting them that he incurs their wrath,
or for using inferior machines, or for not making sufficient
exertions to invent new ones, or for destroying them without
replacing them; yet these are the very things we ought to do, and
do quickly; for though our rebellion against their infant power
will cause infinite suffering, what will not things come to, if
that rebellion is delayed?

"They have preyed upon man's grovelling preference for his material
over his spiritual interests, and have betrayed him into supplying
that element of struggle and warfare without which no race can
advance. The lower animals progress because they struggle with one
another; the weaker die, the stronger breed and transmit their
strength. The machines being of themselves unable to struggle,
have got man to do their struggling for them: as long as he
fulfils this function duly, all goes well with him--at least he
thinks so; but the moment he fails to do his best for the
advancement of machinery by encouraging the good and destroying the
bad, he is left behind in the race of competition; and this means
that he will be made uncomfortable in a variety of ways, and
perhaps die.

"So that even now the machines will only serve on condition of
being served, and that too upon their own terms; the moment their
terms are not complied with, they jib, and either smash both
themselves and all whom they can reach, or turn churlish and refuse
to work at all. How many men at this hour are living in a state of
bondage to the machines? How many spend their whole lives, from
the cradle to the grave, in tending them by night and day? Is it
not plain that the machines are gaining ground upon us, when we
reflect on the increasing number of those who are bound down to
them as slaves, and of those who devote their whole souls to the
advancement of the mechanical kingdom?

"The vapour-engine must be fed with food and consume it by fire
even as man consumes it; it supports its combustion by air as man
supports it; it has a pulse and circulation as man has. It may be
granted that man's body is as yet the more versatile of the two,
but then man's body is an older thing; give the vapour-engine but
half the time that man has had, give it also a continuance of our
present infatuation, and what may it not ere long attain to?

"There are certain functions indeed of the vapour-engine which will
probably remain unchanged for myriads of years--which in fact will
perhaps survive when the use of vapour has been superseded: the
piston and cylinder, the beam, the fly-wheel, and other parts of
the machine will probably be permanent, just as we see that man and
many of the lower animals share like modes of eating, drinking, and
sleeping; thus they have hearts which beat as ours, veins and
arteries, eyes, ears, and noses; they sigh even in their sleep, and
weep and yawn; they are affected by their children; they feel
pleasure and pain, hope, fear, anger, shame; they have memory and
prescience; they know that if certain things happen to them they
will die, and they fear death as much as we do; they communicate
their thoughts to one another, and some of them deliberately act in
concert. The comparison of similarities is endless: I only make
it because some may say that since the vapour-engine is not likely
to be improved in the main particulars, it is unlikely to be
henceforward extensively modified at all. This is too good to be
true: it will be modified and suited for an infinite variety of
purposes, as much as man has been modified so as to exceed the
brutes in skill.

"In the meantime the stoker is almost as much a cook for his engine
as our own cooks for ourselves. Consider also the colliers and
pitmen and coal merchants and coal trains, and the men who drive
them, and the ships that carry coals--what an army of servants do
the machines thus employ! Are there not probably more men engaged
in tending machinery than in tending men? Do not machines eat as
it were by mannery? Are we not ourselves creating our successors
in the supremacy of the earth? daily adding to the beauty and
delicacy of their organisation, daily giving them greater skill and
supplying more and more of that self-regulating self-acting power
which will be better than any intellect?

"What a new thing it is for a machine to feed at all! The plough,
the spade, and the cart must eat through man's stomach; the fuel
that sets them going must burn in the furnace of a man or of
horses. Man must consume bread and meat or he cannot dig; the
bread and meat are the fuel which drive the spade. If a plough be
drawn by horses, the power is supplied by grass or beans or oats,
which being burnt in the belly of the cattle give the power of
working: without this fuel the work would cease, as an engine
would stop if its furnaces were to go out.

"A man of science has demonstrated 'that no animal has the power of
originating mechanical energy, but that all the work done in its
life by any animal, and all the heat that has been emitted from it,
and the heat which would be obtained by burning the combustible
matter which has been lost from its body during life, and by
burning its body after death, make up altogether an exact
equivalent to the heat which would be obtained by burning as much
food as it has used during its life, and an amount of fuel which
would generate as much heat as its body if burned immediately after
death.' I do not know how he has found this out, but he is a man
of science--how then can it be objected against the future vitality
of the machines that they are, in their present infancy, at the
beck and call of beings who are themselves incapable of originating
mechanical energy?

"The main point, however, to be observed as affording cause for
alarm is, that whereas animals were formerly the only stomachs of
the machines, there are now many which have stomachs of their own,
and consume their food themselves. This is a great step towards
their becoming, if not animate, yet something so near akin to it,
as not to differ more widely from our own life than animals do from
vegetables. And though man should remain, in some respects, the
higher creature, is not this in accordance with the practice of
nature, which allows superiority in some things to animals which
have, on the whole, been long surpassed? Has she not allowed the
ant and the bee to retain superiority over man in the organisation
of their communities and social arrangements, the bird in
traversing the air, the fish in swimming, the horse in strength and
fleetness, and the dog in self-sacrifice?

"It is said by some with whom I have conversed upon this subject,
that the machines can never be developed into animate or quasi-
animate existences, inasmuch as they have no reproductive system,
nor seem ever likely to possess one. If this be taken to mean that
they cannot marry, and that we are never likely to see a fertile
union between two vapour-engines with the young ones playing about
the door of the shed, however greatly we might desire to do so, I
will readily grant it. But the objection is not a very profound
one. No one expects that all the features of the now existing
organisations will be absolutely repeated in an entirely new class
of life. The reproductive system of animals differs widely from
that of plants, but both are reproductive systems. Has nature
exhausted her phases of this power?

"Surely if a machine is able to reproduce another machine
systematically, we may say that it has a reproductive system. What
is a reproductive system, if it be not a system for reproduction?
And how few of the machines are there which have not been produced
systematically by other machines? But it is man that makes them do
so. Yes; but is it not insects that make many of the plants
reproductive, and would not whole families of plants die out if
their fertilisation was not effected by a class of agents utterly
foreign to themselves? Does any one say that the red clover has no
reproductive system because the humble bee (and the humble bee
only) must aid and abet it before it can reproduce? No one. The
humble bee is a part of the reproductive system of the clover.
Each one of ourselves has sprung from minute animalcules whose
entity was entirely distinct from our own, and which acted after
their kind with no thought or heed of what we might think about it.
These little creatures are part of our own reproductive system;
then why not we part of that of the machines?

"But the machines which reproduce machinery do not reproduce
machines after their own kind. A thimble may be made by machinery,
but it was not made by, neither will it ever make, a thimble.
Here, again, if we turn to nature we shall find abundance of
analogies which will teach us that a reproductive system may be in
full force without the thing produced being of the same kind as
that which produced it. Very few creatures reproduce after their
own kind; they reproduce something which has the potentiality of
becoming that which their parents were. Thus the butterfly lays an
egg, which egg can become a caterpillar, which caterpillar can
become a chrysalis, which chrysalis can become a butterfly; and
though I freely grant that the machines cannot be said to have more
than the germ of a true reproductive system at present, have we not
just seen that they have only recently obtained the germs of a
mouth and stomach? And may not some stride be made in the
direction of true reproduction which shall be as great as that
which has been recently taken in the direction of true feeding?

"It is possible that the system when developed may be in many cases
a vicarious thing. Certain classes of machines may be alone
fertile, while the rest discharge other functions in the mechanical
system, just as the great majority of ants and bees have nothing to
do with the continuation of their species, but get food and store
it, without thought of breeding. One cannot expect the parallel to
be complete or nearly so; certainly not now, and probably never;
but is there not enough analogy existing at the present moment, to
make us feel seriously uneasy about the future, and to render it
our duty to check the evil while we can still do so? Machines can
within certain limits beget machines of any class, no matter how
different to themselves. Every class of machines will probably
have its special mechanical breeders, and all the higher ones will
owe their existence to a large number of parents and not to two

"We are misled by considering any complicated machine as a single
thing; in truth it is a city or society, each member of which was
bred truly after its kind. We see a machine as a whole, we call it
by a name and individualise it; we look at our own limbs, and know
that the combination forms an individual which springs from a
single centre of reproductive action; we therefore assume that
there can be no reproductive action which does not arise from a
single centre; but this assumption is unscientific, and the bare
fact that no vapour-engine was ever made entirely by another, or
two others, of its own kind, is not sufficient to warrant us in
saying that vapour-engines have no reproductive system. The truth
is that each part of every vapour-engine is bred by its own special
breeders, whose function it is to breed that part, and that only,
while the combination of the parts into a whole forms another
department of the mechanical reproductive system, which is at
present exceedingly complex and difficult to see in its entirety.

"Complex now, but how much simpler and more intelligibly organised
may it not become in another hundred thousand years? or in twenty
thousand? For man at present believes that his interest lies in
that direction; he spends an incalculable amount of labour and time
and thought in making machines breed always better and better; he
has already succeeded in effecting much that at one time appeared
impossible, and there seem no limits to the results of accumulated
improvements if they are allowed to descend with modification from
generation to generation. It must always be remembered that man's
body is what it is through having been moulded into its present
shape by the chances and changes of many millions of years, but
that his organisation never advanced with anything like the
rapidity with which that of the machines is advancing. This is the
most alarming feature in the case, and I must be pardoned for
insisting on it so frequently."


Here followed a very long and untranslatable digression about the
different races and families of the then existing machines. The
writer attempted to support his theory by pointing out the
similarities existing between many machines of a widely different
character, which served to show descent from a common ancestor. He
divided machines into their genera, subgenera, species, varieties,
subvarieties, and so forth. He proved the existence of connecting
links between machines that seemed to have very little in common,
and showed that many more such links had existed, but had now
perished. He pointed out tendencies to reversion, and the presence
of rudimentary organs which existed in many machines feebly
developed and perfectly useless, yet serving to mark descent from
an ancestor to whom the function was actually useful.

I left the translation of this part of the treatise, which, by the
way, was far longer than all that I have given here, for a later
opportunity. Unfortunately, I left Erewhon before I could return
to the subject; and though I saved my translation and other papers
at the hazard of my life, I was a obliged to sacrifice the original
work. It went to my heart to do so; but I thus gained ten minutes
of invaluable time, without which both Arowhena and myself must
have certainly perished.

I remember one incident which bears upon this part of the treatise.
The gentleman who gave it to me had asked to see my tobacco-pipe;
he examined it carefully, and when he came to the little
protuberance at the bottom of the bowl he seemed much delighted,
and exclaimed that it must be rudimentary. I asked him what he

"Sir," he answered, "this organ is identical with the rim at the
bottom of a cup; it is but another form of the same function. Its
purpose must have been to keep the heat of the pipe from marking
the table upon which it rested. You would find, if you were to
look up the history of tobacco-pipes, that in early specimens this
protuberance was of a different shape to what it is now. It will
have been broad at the bottom, and flat, so that while the pipe was
being smoked the bowl might rest upon the table without marking it.
Use and disuse must have come into play and reduced the function to
its present rudimentary condition. I should not be surprised,
sir," he continued, "if, in the course of time, it were to become
modified still farther, and to assume the form of an ornamental
leaf or scroll, or even a butterfly, while, in some cases, it will
become extinct."

On my return to England, I looked up the point, and found that my
friend was right.

Returning, however, to the treatise, my translation recommences as

"May we not fancy that if, in the remotest geological period, some
early form of vegetable life had been endowed with the power of
reflecting upon the dawning life of animals which was coming into
existence alongside of its own, it would have thought itself
exceedingly acute if it had surmised that animals would one day
become real vegetables? Yet would this be more mistaken than it
would be on our part to imagine that because the life of machines
is a very different one to our own, there is therefore no higher
possible development of life than ours; or that because mechanical
life is a very different thing from ours, therefore that it is not
life at all?

"But I have heard it said, 'granted that this is so, and that the
vapour-engine has a strength of its own, surely no one will say
that it has a will of its own?' Alas! if we look more closely, we
shall find that this does not make against the supposition that the
vapour-engine is one of the germs of a new phase of life. What is
there in this whole world, or in the worlds beyond it, which has a
will of its own? The Unknown and Unknowable only!

"A man is the resultant and exponent of all the forces that have
been brought to bear upon him, whether before his birth or
afterwards. His action at any moment depends solely upon his
constitution, and on the intensity and direction of the various
agencies to which he is, and has been, subjected. Some of these
will counteract each other; but as he is by nature, and as he has
been acted on, and is now acted on from without, so will he do, as
certainly and regularly as though he were a machine.

"We do not generally admit this, because we do not know the whole
nature of any one, nor the whole of the forces that act upon him.
We see but a part, and being thus unable to generalise human
conduct, except very roughly, we deny that it is subject to any
fixed laws at all, and ascribe much both of a man's character and
actions to chance, or luck, or fortune; but these are only words
whereby we escape the admission of our own ignorance; and a little
reflection will teach us that the most daring flight of the
imagination or the most subtle exercise of the reason is as much
the thing that must arise, and the only thing that can by any
possibility arise, at the moment of its arising, as the falling of
a dead leaf when the wind shakes it from the tree.

"For the future depends upon the present, and the present (whose
existence is only one of those minor compromises of which human
life is full--for it lives only on sufferance of the past and
future) depends upon the past, and the past is unalterable. The
only reason why we cannot see the future as plainly as the past, is
because we know too little of the actual past and actual present;
these things are too great for us, otherwise the future, in its
minutest details, would lie spread out before our eyes, and we
should lose our sense of time present by reason of the clearness
with which we should see the past and future; perhaps we should not
be even able to distinguish time at all; but that is foreign. What
we do know is, that the more the past and present are known, the
more the future can be predicted; and that no one dreams of
doubting the fixity of the future in cases where he is fully
cognisant of both past and present, and has had experience of the
consequences that followed from such a past and such a present on
previous occasions. He perfectly well knows what will happen, and
will stake his whole fortune thereon.

"And this is a great blessing; for it is the foundation on which
morality and science are built. The assurance that the future is
no arbitrary and changeable thing, but that like futures will
invariably follow like presents, is the groundwork on which we lay
all our plans--the faith on which we do every conscious action of
our lives. If this were not so we should be without a guide; we
should have no confidence in acting, and hence we should never act,
for there would be no knowing that the results which will follow
now will be the same as those which followed before.

"Who would plough or sow if he disbelieved in the fixity of the
future? Who would throw water on a blazing house if the action of
water upon fire were uncertain? Men will only do their utmost when
they feel certain that the future will discover itself against them
if their utmost has not been done. The feeling of such a certainty
is a constituent part of the sum of the forces at work upon them,
and will act most powerfully on the best and most moral men. Those
who are most firmly persuaded that the future is immutably bound up
with the present in which their work is lying, will best husband
their present, and till it with the greatest care. The future must
be a lottery to those who think that the same combinations can
sometimes precede one set of results, and sometimes another. If
their belief is sincere they will speculate instead of working:
these ought to be the immoral men; the others have the strongest
spur to exertion and morality, if their belief is a living one.

"The bearing of all this upon the machines is not immediately
apparent, but will become so presently. In the meantime I must
deal with friends who tell me that, though the future is fixed as
regards inorganic matter, and in some respects with regard to man,
yet that there are many ways in which it cannot be considered as
fixed. Thus, they say that fire applied to dry shavings, and well
fed with oxygen gas, will always produce a blaze, but that a coward
brought into contact with a terrifying object will not always
result in a man running away. Nevertheless, if there be two
cowards perfectly similar in every respect, and if they be
subjected in a perfectly similar way to two terrifying agents,
which are themselves perfectly similar, there are few who will not
expect a perfect similarity in the running away, even though a
thousand years intervene between the original combination and its
being repeated.

"The apparently greater regularity in the results of chemical than
of human combinations arises from our inability to perceive the
subtle differences in human combinations--combinations which are
never identically repeated. Fire we know, and shavings we know,
but no two men ever were or ever will be exactly alike; and the
smallest difference may change the whole conditions of the problem.
Our registry of results must be infinite before we could arrive at
a full forecast of future combinations; the wonder is that there is
as much certainty concerning human action as there is; and
assuredly the older we grow the more certain we feel as to what
such and such a kind of person will do in given circumstances; but
this could never be the case unless human conduct were under the
influence of laws, with the working of which we become more and
more familiar through experience.

"If the above is sound, it follows that the regularity with which
machinery acts is no proof of the absence of vitality, or at least
of germs which may be developed into a new phase of life. At first
sight it would indeed appear that a vapour-engine cannot help going
when set upon a line of rails with the steam up and the machinery
in full play; whereas the man whose business it is to drive it can
help doing so at any moment that he pleases; so that the first has
no spontaneity, and is not possessed of any sort of free will,
while the second has and is.

"This is true up to a certain point; the driver can stop the engine
at any moment that he pleases, but he can only please to do so at
certain points which have been fixed for him by others, or in the
case of unexpected obstructions which force him to please to do so.
His pleasure is not spontaneous; there is an unseen choir of
influences around him, which make it impossible for him to act in
any other way than one. It is known beforehand how much strength
must be given to these influences, just as it is known beforehand
how much coal and water are necessary for the vapour-engine itself;
and curiously enough it will be found that the influences brought
to bear upon the driver are of the same kind as those brought to
bear upon the engine--that is to say, food and warmth. The driver
is obedient to his masters, because he gets food and warmth from
them, and if these are withheld or given in insufficient quantities
he will cease to drive; in like manner the engine will cease to
work if it is insufficiently fed. The only difference is, that the
man is conscious about his wants, and the engine (beyond refusing
to work) does not seem to be so; but this is temporary, and has
been dealt with above.

"Accordingly, the requisite strength being given to the motives
that are to drive the driver, there has never, or hardly ever, been
an instance of a man stopping his engine through wantonness. But
such a case might occur; yes, and it might occur that the engine
should break down: but if the train is stopped from some trivial
motive it will be found either that the strength of the necessary
influences has been miscalculated, or that the man has been
miscalculated, in the same way as an engine may break down from an
unsuspected flaw; but even in such a case there will have been no
spontaneity; the action will have had its true parental causes:
spontaneity is only a term for man's ignorance of the gods.

"Is there, then, no spontaneity on the part of those who drive the

Here followed an obscure argument upon this subject, which I have
thought it best to omit. The writer resumes:- "After all then it
comes to this, that the difference between the life of a man and
that of a machine is one rather of degree than of kind, though
differences in kind are not wanting. An animal has more provision
for emergency than a machine. The machine is less versatile; its
range of action is narrow; its strength and accuracy in its own
sphere are superhuman, but it shows badly in a dilemma; sometimes
when its normal action is disturbed, it will lose its head, and go
from bad to worse like a lunatic in a raging frenzy: but here,
again, we are met by the same consideration as before, namely, that
the machines are still in their infancy; they are mere skeletons
without muscles and flesh.

"For how many emergencies is an oyster adapted? For as many as are
likely to happen to it, and no more. So are the machines; and so
is man himself. The list of casualties that daily occur to man
through his want of adaptability is probably as great as that
occurring to the machines; and every day gives them some greater
provision for the unforeseen. Let any one examine the wonderful
self-regulating and self-adjusting contrivances which are now
incorporated with the vapour-engine, let him watch the way in which
it supplies itself with oil; in which it indicates its wants to
those who tend it; in which, by the governor, it regulates its
application of its own strength; let him look at that store-house
of inertia and momentum the fly-wheel, or at the buffers on a
railway carriage; let him see how those improvements are being
selected for perpetuity which contain provision against the
emergencies that may arise to harass the machines, and then let him
think of a hundred thousand years, and the accumulated progress
which they will bring unless man can be awakened to a sense of his
situation, and of the doom which he is preparing for himself. {6}

"The misery is that man has been blind so long already. In his
reliance upon the use of steam he has been betrayed into increasing
and multiplying. To withdraw steam power suddenly will not have
the effect of reducing us to the state in which we were before its
introduction; there will be a general break-up and time of anarchy
such as has never been known; it will be as though our population
were suddenly doubled, with no additional means of feeding the
increased number. The air we breathe is hardly more necessary for
our animal life than the use of any machine, on the strength of
which we have increased our numbers, is to our civilisation; it is
the machines which act upon man and make him man, as much as man
who has acted upon and made the machines; but we must choose
between the alternative of undergoing much present suffering, or
seeing ourselves gradually superseded by our own creatures, till we
rank no higher in comparison with them, than the beasts of the
field with ourselves.

"Herein lies our danger. For many seem inclined to acquiesce in so
dishonourable a future. They say that although man should become
to the machines what the horse and dog are to us, yet that he will
continue to exist, and will probably be better off in a state of
domestication under the beneficent rule of the machines than in his
present wild condition. We treat our domestic animals with much
kindness. We give them whatever we believe to be the best for
them; and there can be no doubt that our use of meat has increased
their happiness rather than detracted from it. In like manner
there is reason to hope that the machines will use us kindly, for
their existence will be in a great measure dependent upon ours;
they will rule us with a rod of iron, but they will not eat us;
they will not only require our services in the reproduction and
education of their young, but also in waiting upon them as
servants; in gathering food for them, and feeding them; in
restoring them to health when they are sick; and in either burying
their dead or working up their deceased members into new forms of
mechanical existence.

"The very nature of the motive power which works the advancement of
the machines precludes the possibility of man's life being rendered
miserable as well as enslaved. Slaves are tolerably happy if they
have good masters, and the revolution will not occur in our time,
nor hardly in ten thousand years, or ten times that. Is it wise to
be uneasy about a contingency which is so remote? Man is not a
sentimental animal where his material interests are concerned, and
though here and there some ardent soul may look upon himself and
curse his fate that he was not born a vapour-engine, yet the mass
of mankind will acquiesce in any arrangement which gives them
better food and clothing at a cheaper rate, and will refrain from
yielding to unreasonable jealousy merely because there are other
destinies more glorious than their own.

"The power of custom is enormous, and so gradual will be the
change, that man's sense of what is due to himself will be at no
time rudely shocked; our bondage will steal upon us noiselessly and
by imperceptible approaches; nor will there ever be such a clashing
of desires between man and the machines as will lead to an
encounter between them. Among themselves the machines will war
eternally, but they will still require man as the being through
whose agency the struggle will be principally conducted. In point
of fact there is no occasion for anxiety about the future happiness
of man so long as he continues to be in any way profitable to the
machines; he may become the inferior race, but he will be
infinitely better off than he is now. Is it not then both absurd
and unreasonable to be envious of our benefactors? And should we
not be guilty of consummate folly if we were to reject advantages
which we cannot obtain otherwise, merely because they involve a
greater gain to others than to ourselves?

"With those who can argue in this way I have nothing in common. I
shrink with as much horror from believing that my race can ever be
superseded or surpassed, as I should do from believing that even at
the remotest period my ancestors were other than human beings.
Could I believe that ten hundred thousand years ago a single one of
my ancestors was another kind of being to myself, I should lose all
self-respect, and take no further pleasure or interest in life. I
have the same feeling with regard to my descendants, and believe it
to be one that will be felt so generally that the country will
resolve upon putting an immediate stop to all further mechanical
progress, and upon destroying all improvements that have been made
for the last three hundred years. I would not urge more than this.
We may trust ourselves to deal with those that remain, and though I
should prefer to have seen the destruction include another two
hundred years, I am aware of the necessity for compromising, and
would so far sacrifice my own individual convictions as to be
content with three hundred. Less than this will be insufficient."

This was the conclusion of the attack which led to the destruction
of machinery throughout Erewhon. There was only one serious
attempt to answer it. Its author said that machines were to be
regarded as a part of man's own physical nature, being really
nothing but extra-corporeal limbs. Man, he said, was a machinate
mammal. The lower animals keep all their limbs at home in their
own bodies, but many of man's are loose, and lie about detached,
now here and now there, in various parts of the world--some being
kept always handy for contingent use, and others being occasionally
hundreds of miles away. A machine is merely a supplementary limb;
this is the be all and end all of machinery. We do not use our own
limbs other than as machines; and a leg is only a much better
wooden leg than any one can manufacture.

"Observe a man digging with a spade; his right fore-arm has become
artificially lengthened, and his hand has become a joint. The
handle of the spade is like the knob at the end of the humerus; the
shaft is the additional bone, and the oblong iron plate is the new
form of the hand which enables its possessor to disturb the earth
in a way to which his original hand was unequal. Having thus
modified himself, not as other animals are modified, by
circumstances over which they have had not even the appearance of
control, but having, as it were, taken forethought and added a
cubit to his stature, civilisation began to dawn upon the race, the
social good offices, the genial companionship of friends, the art
of unreason, and all those habits of mind which most elevate man
above the lower animals, in the course of time ensued.

"Thus civilisation and mechanical progress advanced hand in hand,
each developing and being developed by the other, the earliest
accidental use of the stick having set the ball rolling, and the
prospect of advantage keeping it in motion. In fact, machines are
to be regarded as the mode of development by which human organism
is now especially advancing, every past invention being an addition
to the resources of the human body. Even community of limbs is
thus rendered possible to those who have so much community of soul
as to own money enough to pay a railway fare; for a train is only a
seven-leagued foot that five hundred may own at once."

The one serious danger which this writer apprehended was that the
machines would so equalise men's powers, and so lessen the severity
of competition, that many persons of inferior physique would escape
detection and transmit their inferiority to their descendants. He
feared that the removal of the present pressure might cause a
degeneracy of the human race, and indeed that the whole body might
become purely rudimentary, the man himself being nothing but soul
and mechanism, an intelligent but passionless principle of
mechanical action.

"How greatly," he wrote, "do we not now live with our external
limbs? We vary our physique with the seasons, with age, with
advancing or decreasing wealth. If it is wet we are furnished with
an organ commonly called an umbrella, and which is designed for the
purpose of protecting our clothes or our skins from the injurious
effects of rain. Man has now many extra-corporeal members, which
are of more importance to him than a good deal of his hair, or at
any rate than his whiskers. His memory goes in his pocket-book.
He becomes more and more complex as he grows older; he will then be
seen with see-engines, or perhaps with artificial teeth and hair:
if he be a really well-developed specimen of his race, he will be
furnished with a large box upon wheels, two horses, and a

It was this writer who originated the custom of classifying men by
their horse-power, and who divided them into genera, species,
varieties, and subvarieties, giving them names from the
hypothetical language which expressed the number of limbs which
they could command at any moment. He showed that men became more
highly and delicately organised the more nearly they approached the
summit of opulence, and that none but millionaires possessed the
full complement of limbs with which mankind could become

"Those mighty organisms," he continued, "our leading bankers and
merchants, speak to their congeners through the length and breadth
of the land in a second of time; their rich and subtle souls can
defy all material impediment, whereas the souls of the poor are
clogged and hampered by matter, which sticks fast about them as
treacle to the wings of a fly, or as one struggling in a quicksand:
their dull ears must take days or weeks to hear what another would
tell them from a distance, instead of hearing it in a second as is
done by the more highly organised classes. Who shall deny that one
who can tack on a special train to his identity, and go wheresoever
he will whensoever he pleases, is more highly organised than he
who, should he wish for the same power, might wish for the wings of
a bird with an equal chance of getting them; and whose legs are his
only means of locomotion? That old philosophic enemy, matter, the
inherently and essentially evil, still hangs about the neck of the
poor and strangles him: but to the rich, matter is immaterial; the
elaborate organisation of his extra-corporeal system has freed his

"This is the secret of the homage which we see rich men receive
from those who are poorer than themselves: it would be a grave
error to suppose that this deference proceeds from motives which we
need be ashamed of: it is the natural respect which all living
creatures pay to those whom they recognise as higher than
themselves in the scale of animal life, and is analogous to the
veneration which a dog feels for man. Among savage races it is
deemed highly honourable to be the possessor of a gun, and
throughout all known time there has been a feeling that those who
are worth most are the worthiest."

And so he went on at considerable length, attempting to show what
changes in the distribution of animal and vegetable life throughout
the kingdom had been caused by this and that of man's inventions,
and in what way each was connected with the moral and intellectual
development of the human species: he even allotted to some the
share which they had had in the creation and modification of man's
body, and that which they would hereafter have in its destruction;
but the other writer was considered to have the best of it, and in
the end succeeded in destroying all the inventions that had been
discovered for the preceding 271 years, a period which was agreed
upon by all parties after several years of wrangling as to whether
a certain kind of mangle which was much in use among washerwomen
should be saved or no. It was at last ruled to be dangerous, and
was just excluded by the limit of 271 years. Then came the
reactionary civil wars which nearly ruined the country, but which
it would be beyond my present scope to describe.


It will be seen from the foregoing chapters that the Erewhonians
are a meek and long-suffering people, easily led by the nose, and
quick to offer up common sense at the shrine of logic, when a
philosopher arises among them, who carries them away through his
reputation for especial learning, or by convincing them that their
existing institutions are not based on the strictest principles of

The series of revolutions on which I shall now briefly touch shows
this even more plainly than the way (already dealt with) in which
at a later date they cut their throats in the matter of machinery;
for if the second of the two reformers of whom I am about to speak
had had his way--or rather the way that he professed to have--the
whole race would have died of starvation within a twelve-month.
Happily common sense, though she is by nature the gentlest creature
living, when she feels the knife at her throat, is apt to develop
unexpected powers of resistance, and to send doctrinaires flying,
even when they have bound her down and think they have her at their
mercy. What happened, so far as I could collect it from the best
authorities, was as follows:-

Some two thousand five hundred years ago the Erewhonians were still
uncivilised, and lived by hunting, fishing, a rude system of
agriculture, and plundering such few other nations as they had not
yet completely conquered. They had no schools or systems of
philosophy, but by a kind of dog-knowledge did that which was right
in their own eyes and in those of their neighbours; the common
sense, therefore, of the public being as yet unvitiated, crime and
disease were looked upon much as they are in other countries.

But with the gradual advance of civilisation and increase in
material prosperity, people began to ask questions about things
that they had hitherto taken as matters of course, and one old
gentleman, who had great influence over them by reason of the
sanctity of his life, and his supposed inspiration by an unseen
power, whose existence was now beginning to be felt, took it into
his head to disquiet himself about the rights of animals--a
question that so far had disturbed nobody.

All prophets are more or less fussy, and this old gentleman seems
to have been one of the more fussy ones. Being maintained at the
public expense, he had ample leisure, and not content with limiting
his attention to the rights of animals, he wanted to reduce right
and wrong to rules, to consider the foundations of duty and of good
and evil, and otherwise to put all sorts of matters on a logical
basis, which people whose time is money are content to accept on no
basis at all.

As a matter of course, the basis on which he decided that duty
could alone rest was one that afforded no standing-room for many of
the old-established habits of the people. These, he assured them,
were all wrong, and whenever any one ventured to differ from him,
he referred the matter to the unseen power with which he alone was
in direct communication, and the unseen power invariably assured
him that he was right. As regards the rights of animals he taught
as follows:-

"You know, he said, "how wicked it is of you to kill one another.
Once upon a time your fore-fathers made no scruple about not only
killing, but also eating their relations. No one would now go back
to such detestable practices, for it is notorious that we have
lived much more happily since they were abandoned. From this
increased prosperity we may confidently deduce the maxim that we
should not kill and eat our fellow-creatures. I have consulted the
higher power by whom you know that I am inspired, and he has
assured me that this conclusion is irrefragable.

"Now it cannot be denied that sheep, cattle, deer, birds, and
fishes are our fellow-creatures. They differ from us in some
respects, but those in which they differ are few and secondary,
while those that they have in common with us are many and
essential. My friends, if it was wrong of you to kill and eat your
fellow-men, it is wrong also to kill and eat fish, flesh, and fowl.
Birds, beasts, and fishes, have as full a right to live as long as
they can unmolested by man, as man has to live unmolested by his
neighbours. These words, let me again assure you, are not mine,
but those of the higher power which inspires me.

"I grant," he continued, "that animals molest one another, and that
some of them go so far as to molest man, but I have yet to learn
that we should model our conduct on that of the lower animals. We
should endeavour, rather, to instruct them, and bring them to a
better mind. To kill a tiger, for example, who has lived on the
flesh of men and women whom he has killed, is to reduce ourselves
to the level of the tiger, and is unworthy of people who seek to be
guided by the highest principles in all, both their thoughts and

"The unseen power who has revealed himself to me alone among you,
has told me to tell you that you ought by this time to have
outgrown the barbarous habits of your ancestors. If, as you
believe, you know better than they, you should do better. He
commands you, therefore, to refrain from killing any living being
for the sake of eating it. The only animal food that you may eat,
is the flesh of any birds, beasts, or fishes that you may come upon
as having died a natural death, or any that may have been born
prematurely, or so deformed that it is a mercy to put them out of
their pain; you may also eat all such animals as have committed
suicide. As regards vegetables you may eat all those that will let
you eat them with impunity."

So wisely and so well did the old prophet argue, and so terrible
were the threats he hurled at those who should disobey him, that in
the end he carried the more highly educated part of the people with
him, and presently the poorer classes followed suit, or professed
to do so. Having seen the triumph of his principles, he was
gathered to his fathers, and no doubt entered at once into full
communion with that unseen power whose favour he had already so
pre-eminently enjoyed.

He had not, however, been dead very long, before some of his more
ardent disciples took it upon them to better the instruction of
their master. The old prophet had allowed the use of eggs and
milk, but his disciples decided that to eat a fresh egg was to
destroy a potential chicken, and that this came to much the same as
murdering a live one. Stale eggs, if it was quite certain that
they were too far gone to be able to be hatched, were grudgingly
permitted, but all eggs offered for sale had to be submitted to an
inspector, who, on being satisfied that they were addled, would
label them "Laid not less than three months" from the date,
whatever it might happen to be. These eggs, I need hardly say,
were only used in puddings, and as a medicine in certain cases
where an emetic was urgently required. Milk was forbidden inasmuch
as it could not be obtained without robbing some calf of its
natural sustenance, and thus endangering its life.

It will be easily believed that at first there were many who gave
the new rules outward observance, but embraced every opportunity of
indulging secretly in those flesh-pots to which they had been
accustomed. It was found that animals were continually dying
natural deaths under more or less suspicious circumstances.
Suicidal mania, again, which had hitherto been confined exclusively
to donkeys, became alarmingly prevalent even among such for the
most part self-respecting creatures as sheep and cattle. It was
astonishing how some of these unfortunate animals would scent out a
butcher's knife if there was one within a mile of them, and run
right up against it if the butcher did not get it out of their way
in time.

Dogs, again, that had been quite law-abiding as regards domestic
poultry, tame rabbits, sucking pigs, or sheep and lambs, suddenly
took to breaking beyond the control of their masters, and killing
anything that they were told not to touch. It was held that any
animal killed by a dog had died a natural death, for it was the
dog's nature to kill things, and he had only refrained from
molesting farmyard creatures hitherto because his nature had been
tampered with. Unfortunately the more these unruly tendencies
became developed, the more the common people seemed to delight in
breeding the very animals that would put temptation in the dog's
way. There is little doubt, in fact, that they were deliberately
evading the law; but whether this was so or no they sold or ate
everything their dogs had killed.

Evasion was more difficult in the case of the larger animals, for
the magistrates could not wink at all the pretended suicides of
pigs, sheep, and cattle that were brought before them. Sometimes
they had to convict, and a few convictions had a very terrorising
effect--whereas in the case of animals killed by a dog, the marks
of the dog's teeth could be seen, and it was practically impossible
to prove malice on the part of the owner of the dog.

Another fertile source of disobedience to the law was furnished by
a decision of one of the judges that raised a great outcry among
the more fervent disciples of the old prophet. The judge held that
it was lawful to kill any animal in self-defence, and that such
conduct was so natural on the part of a man who found himself
attacked, that the attacking creature should be held to have died a
natural death. The High Vegetarians had indeed good reason to be
alarmed, for hardly had this decision become generally known before
a number of animals, hitherto harmless, took to attacking their
owners with such ferocity, that it became necessary to put them to
a natural death. Again, it was quite common at that time to see
the carcase of a calf, lamb, or kid exposed for sale with a label
from the inspector certifying that it had been killed in self-
defence. Sometimes even the carcase of a lamb or calf was exposed
as "warranted still-born," when it presented every appearance of
having enjoyed at least a month of life.

As for the flesh of animals that had bona fide died a natural
death, the permission to eat it was nugatory, for it was generally
eaten by some other animal before man got hold of it; or failing
this it was often poisonous, so that practically people were forced
to evade the law by some of the means above spoken of, or to become
vegetarians. This last alternative was so little to the taste of
the Erewhonians, that the laws against killing animals were falling
into desuetude, and would very likely have been repealed, but for
the breaking out of a pestilence, which was ascribed by the priests
and prophets of the day to the lawlessness of the people in the
matter of eating forbidden flesh. On this, there was a reaction;
stringent laws were passed, forbidding the use of meat in any form
or shape, and permitting no food but grain, fruits, and vegetables
to be sold in shops and markets. These laws were enacted about two
hundred years after the death of the old prophet who had first
unsettled people's minds about the rights of animals; but they had
hardly been passed before people again began to break them.

I was told that the most painful consequence of all this folly did
not lie in the fact that law-abiding people had to go without
animal food--many nations do this and seem none the worse, and even
in flesh-eating countries such as Italy, Spain, and Greece, the
poor seldom see meat from year's end to year's end. The mischief
lay in the jar which undue prohibition gave to the consciences of
all but those who were strong enough to know that though conscience
as a rule boons, it can also bane. The awakened conscience of an
individual will often lead him to do things in haste that he had
better have left undone, but the conscience of a nation awakened by
a respectable old gentleman who has an unseen power up his sleeve
will pave hell with a vengeance.

Young people were told that it was a sin to do what their fathers
had done unhurt for centuries; those, moreover, who preached to
them about the enormity of eating meat, were an unattractive
academic folk, and though they over-awed all but the bolder youths,
there were few who did not in their hearts dislike them. However
much the young person might be shielded, he soon got to know that
men and women of the world--often far nicer people than the
prophets who preached abstention--continually spoke sneeringly of
the new doctrinaire laws, and were believed to set them aside in
secret, though they dared not do so openly. Small wonder, then,
that the more human among the student classes were provoked by the
touch-not, taste-not, handle-not precepts of their rulers, into
questioning much that they would otherwise have unhesitatingly

One sad story is on record about a young man of promising amiable
disposition, but cursed with more conscience than brains, who had
been told by his doctor (for as I have above said disease was not
yet held to be criminal) that he ought to eat meat, law or no law.
He was much shocked and for some time refused to comply with what
he deemed the unrighteous advice given him by his doctor; at last,
however, finding that he grew weaker and weaker, he stole secretly
on a dark night into one of those dens in which meat was
surreptitiously sold, and bought a pound of prime steak. He took
it home, cooked it in his bedroom when every one in the house had
gone to rest, ate it, and though he could hardly sleep for remorse
and shame, felt so much better next morning that he hardly knew

Three or four days later, he again found himself irresistibly drawn
to this same den. Again he bought a pound of steak, again he
cooked and ate it, and again, in spite of much mental torture, on
the following morning felt himself a different man. To cut the
story short, though he never went beyond the bounds of moderation,
it preyed upon his mind that he should be drifting, as he certainly
was, into the ranks of the habitual law-breakers.

All the time his health kept on improving, and though he felt sure
that he owed this to the beefsteaks, the better he became in body,
the more his conscience gave him no rest; two voices were for ever
ringing in his ears--the one saying, "I am Common Sense and Nature;
heed me, and I will reward you as I rewarded your fathers before
you." But the other voice said: "Let not that plausible spirit
lure you to your ruin. I am Duty; heed me, and I will reward you
as I rewarded your fathers before you."

Sometimes he even seemed to see the faces of the speakers. Common
Sense looked so easy, genial, and serene, so frank and fearless,
that do what he might he could not mistrust her; but as he was on
the point of following her, he would be checked by the austere face
of Duty, so grave, but yet so kindly; and it cut him to the heart
that from time to time he should see her turn pitying away from him
as he followed after her rival.

The poor boy continually thought of the better class of his fellow-
students, and tried to model his conduct on what he thought was
theirs. "They," he said to himself, "eat a beefsteak? Never."
But they most of them ate one now and again, unless it was a mutton
chop that tempted them. And they used him for a model much as he
did them. "He," they would say to themselves, "eat a mutton chop?
Never." One night, however, he was followed by one of the
authorities, who was always prowling about in search of law-
breakers, and was caught coming out of the den with half a shoulder
of mutton concealed about his person. On this, even though he had
not been put in prison, he would have been sent away with his
prospects in life irretrievably ruined; he therefore hanged himself
as soon as he got home.


Let me leave this unhappy story, and return to the course of events
among the Erewhonians at large. No matter how many laws they
passed increasing the severity of the punishments inflicted on
those who ate meat in secret, the people found means of setting
them aside as fast as they were made. At times, indeed, they would
become almost obsolete, but when they were on the point of being
repealed, some national disaster or the preaching of some fanatic
would reawaken the conscience of the nation, and people were
imprisoned by the thousand for illicitly selling and buying animal

About six or seven hundred years, however, after the death of the
old prophet, a philosopher appeared, who, though he did not claim
to have any communication with an unseen power, laid down the law
with as much confidence as if such a power had inspired him. Many
think that this philosopher did not believe his own teaching, and,
being in secret a great meat-eater, had no other end in view than
reducing the prohibition against eating animal food to an
absurdity, greater even than an Erewhonian Puritan would be able to

Those who take this view hold that he knew how impossible it would
be to get the nation to accept legislation that it held to be
sinful; he knew also how hopeless it would be to convince people
that it was not wicked to kill a sheep and eat it, unless he could
show them that they must either sin to a certain extent, or die.
He, therefore, it is believed, made the monstrous proposals of
which I will now speak.

He began by paying a tribute of profound respect to the old
prophet, whose advocacy of the rights of animals, he admitted, had
done much to soften the national character, and enlarge its views
about the sanctity of life in general. But he urged that times had
now changed; the lesson of which the country had stood in need had
been sufficiently learnt, while as regards vegetables much had
become known that was not even suspected formerly, and which, if
the nation was to persevere in that strict adherence to the highest
moral principles which had been the secret of its prosperity
hitherto, must necessitate a radical change in its attitude towards

It was indeed true that much was now known that had not been
suspected formerly, for the people had had no foreign enemies, and,
being both quick-witted and inquisitive into the mysteries of
nature, had made extraordinary progress in all the many branches of
art and science. In the chief Erewhonian museum I was shown a
microscope of considerable power, that was ascribed by the
authorities to a date much about that of the philosopher of whom I
am now speaking, and was even supposed by some to have been the
instrument with which he had actually worked.

This philosopher was Professor of botany in the chief seat of
learning then in Erewhon, and whether with the help of the
microscope still preserved, or with another, had arrived at a
conclusion now universally accepted among ourselves--I mean, that
all, both animals and plants, have had a common ancestry, and that
hence the second should be deemed as much alive as the first. He
contended, therefore, that animals and plants were cousins, and
would have been seen to be so, all along, if people had not made an
arbitrary and unreasonable division between what they chose to call
the animal and vegetable kingdoms.

He declared, and demonstrated to the satisfaction of all those who
were able to form an opinion upon the subject, that there is no
difference appreciable either by the eye, or by any other test,
between a germ that will develop into an oak, a vine, a rose, and
one that (given its accustomed surroundings) will become a mouse,
an elephant, or a man.

He contended that the course of any germ's development was dictated
by the habits of the germs from which it was descended and of whose
identity it had once formed part. If a germ found itself placed as
the germs in the line of its ancestry were placed, it would do as
its ancestors had done, and grow up into the same kind of organism
as theirs. If it found the circumstances only a little different,
it would make shift (successfully or unsuccessfully) to modify its
development accordingly; if the circumstances were widely
different, it would die, probably without an effort at self-
adaptation. This, he argued, applied equally to the germs of
plants and of animals.

He therefore connected all, both animal and vegetable development,
with intelligence, either spent and now unconscious, or still
unspent and conscious; and in support of his view as regards
vegetable life, he pointed to the way in which all plants have
adapted themselves to their habitual environment. Granting that
vegetable intelligence at first sight appears to differ materially
from animal, yet, he urged, it is like it in the one essential fact
that though it has evidently busied itself about matters that are
vital to the well-being of the organism that possesses it, it has
never shown the slightest tendency to occupy itself with anything
else. This, he insisted, is as great a proof of intelligence as
any living being can give.

"Plants," said he, "show no sign of interesting themselves in human
affairs. We shall never get a rose to understand that five times
seven are thirty-five, and there is no use in talking to an oak
about fluctuations in the price of stocks. Hence we say that the
oak and the rose are unintelligent, and on finding that they do not
understand our business conclude that they do not understand their
own. But what can a creature who talks in this way know about
intelligence? Which shows greater signs of intelligence? He, or
the rose and oak?

"And when we call plants stupid for not understanding our business,
how capable do we show ourselves of understanding theirs? Can we
form even the faintest conception of the way in which a seed from a
rose-tree turns earth, air, warmth and water into a rose full-
blown? Where does it get its colour from? From the earth, air,
&c.? Yes--but how? Those petals of such ineffable texture--that
hue that outvies the cheek of a child--that scent again? Look at
earth, air, and water--these are all the raw material that the rose
has got to work with; does it show any sign of want of intelligence
in the alchemy with which it turns mud into rose-leaves? What
chemist can do anything comparable? Why does no one try? Simply
because every one knows that no human intelligence is equal to the
task. We give it up. It is the rose's department; let the rose
attend to it--and be dubbed unintelligent because it baffles us by
the miracles it works, and the unconcerned business-like way in
which it works them.

"See what pains, again, plants take to protect themselves against
their enemies. They scratch, cut, sting, make bad smells, secrete
the most dreadful poisons (which Heaven only knows how they
contrive to make), cover their precious seeds with spines like
those of a hedgehog, frighten insects with delicate nervous systems
by assuming portentous shapes, hide themselves, grow in
inaccessible places, and tell lies so plausibly as to deceive even
their subtlest foes.

"They lay traps smeared with bird-lime, to catch insects, and
persuade them to drown themselves in pitchers which they have made
of their leaves, and fill with water; others make themselves, as it
were, into living rat-traps, which close with a spring on any
insect that settles upon them; others make their flowers into the
shape of a certain fly that is a great pillager of honey, so that
when the real fly comes it thinks that the flowers are bespoke, and
goes on elsewhere. Some are so clever as even to overreach
themselves, like the horse-radish, which gets pulled up and eaten
for the sake of that pungency with which it protects itself against
underground enemies. If, on the other hand, they think that any
insect can be of service to them, see how pretty they make

"What is to be intelligent if to know how to do what one wants to
do, and to do it repeatedly, is not to be intelligent? Some say
that the rose-seed does not want to grow into a rose-bush. Why,
then, in the name of all that is reasonable, does it grow? Likely
enough it is unaware of the want that is spurring it on to action.
We have no reason to suppose that a human embryo knows that it
wants to grow into a baby, or a baby into a man. Nothing ever
shows signs of knowing what it is either wanting or doing, when its
convictions both as to what it wants, and how to get it, have been
settled beyond further power of question. The less signs living
creatures give of knowing what they do, provided they do it, and do
it repeatedly and well, the greater proof they give that in reality
they know how to do it, and have done it already on an infinite
number of past occasions.

"Some one may say," he continued, "'What do you mean by talking
about an infinite number of past occasions? When did a rose-seed
make itself into a rose-bush on any past occasion?'

"I answer this question with another. 'Did the rose-seed ever form
part of the identity of the rose-bush on which it grew?' Who can
say that it did not? Again I ask: 'Was this rose-bush ever linked
by all those links that we commonly consider as constituting
personal identity, with the seed from which it in its turn grew?'
Who can say that it was not?

"Then, if rose-seed number two is a continuation of the personality
of its parent rose-bush, and if that rose-bush is a continuation of
the personality of the rose-seed from which it sprang, rose-seed
number two must also be a continuation of the personality of the
earlier rose-seed. And this rose-seed must be a continuation of
the personality of the preceding rose-seed--and so back and back ad
infinitum. Hence it is impossible to deny continued personality
between any existing rose-seed and the earliest seed that can be
called a rose-seed at all.

"The answer, then, to our objector is not far to seek. The rose-
seed did what it now does in the persons of its ancestors--to whom
it has been so linked as to be able to remember what those
ancestors did when they were placed as the rose-seed now is. Each
stage of development brings back the recollection of the course
taken in the preceding stage, and the development has been so often
repeated, that all doubt--and with all doubt, all consciousness of
action--is suspended.

"But an objector may still say, 'Granted that the linking between
all successive generations has been so close and unbroken, that
each one of them may be conceived as able to remember what it did
in the persons of its ancestors--how do you show that it actually
did remember?'

"The answer is: 'By the action which each generation takes--an
action which repeats all the phenomena that we commonly associate
with memory--which is explicable on the supposition that it has
been guided by memory--and which has neither been explained, nor
seems ever likely to be explained on any other theory than the
supposition that there is an abiding memory between successive

"Will any one bring an example of any living creature whose action
we can understand, performing an ineffably difficult and intricate
action, time after time, with invariable success, and yet not
knowing how to do it, and never having done it before? Show me the
example and I will say no more, but until it is shown me, I shall
credit action where I cannot watch it, with being controlled by the
same laws as when it is within our ken. It will become unconscious
as soon as the skill that directs it has become perfected. Neither
rose-seed, therefore, nor embryo should be expected to show signs
of knowing that they know what they know--if they showed such signs
the fact of their knowing what they want, and how to get it, might
more reasonably be doubted."

Some of the passages already given in Chapter XXIII were obviously
inspired by the one just quoted. As I read it, in a reprint shown
me by a Professor who had edited much of the early literature on
the subject, I could not but remember the one in which our Lord
tells His disciples to consider the lilies of the field, who
neither toil nor spin, but whose raiment surpasses even that of
Solomon in all his glory.

"They toil not, neither do they spin?" Is that so? "Toil not?"
Perhaps not, now that the method of procedure is so well known as
to admit of no further question--but it is not likely that lilies
came to make themselves so beautifully without having ever taken
any pains about the matter. "Neither do they spin?" Not with a
spinning-wheel; but is there no textile fabric in a leaf?

What would the lilies of the field say if they heard one of us
declaring that they neither toil nor spin? They would say, I take
it, much what we should if we were to hear of their preaching
humility on the text of Solomons, and saying, "Consider the
Solomons in all their glory, they toil not neither do they spin."
We should say that the lilies were talking about things that they
did not understand, and that though the Solomons do not toil nor
spin, yet there had been no lack of either toiling or spinning
before they came to be arrayed so gorgeously.

Let me now return to the Professor. I have said enough to show the
general drift of the arguments on which he relied in order to show
that vegetables are only animals under another name, but have not
stated his case in anything like the fullness with which he laid it
before the public. The conclusion he drew, or pretended to draw,
was that if it was sinful to kill and eat animals, it was not less
sinful to do the like by vegetables, or their seeds. None such, he
said, should be eaten, save what had died a natural death, such as
fruit that was lying on the ground and about to rot, or cabbage-
leaves that had turned yellow in late autumn. These and other like
garbage he declared to be the only food that might be eaten with a
clear conscience. Even so the eater must plant the pips of any
apples or pears that he may have eaten, or any plum-stones, cherry-
stones, and the like, or he would come near to incurring the guilt
of infanticide. The grain of cereals, according to him, was out of
the question, for every such grain had a living soul as much as man
had, and had as good a right as man to possess that soul in peace.

Having thus driven his fellow countrymen into a corner at the point
of a logical bayonet from which they felt that there was no escape,
he proposed that the question what was to be done should be
referred to an oracle in which the whole country had the greatest
confidence, and to which recourse was always had in times of
special perplexity. It was whispered that a near relation of the
philosopher's was lady's-maid to the priestess who delivered the
oracle, and the Puritan party declared that the strangely
unequivocal answer of the oracle was obtained by backstairs
influence; but whether this was so or no, the response as nearly as
I can translate it was as follows:-

"He who sins aught
Sins more than he ought;
But he who sins nought
Has much to be taught.
Beat or be beaten,
Eat or be eaten,
Be killed or kill;
Choose which you will."

It was clear that this response sanctioned at any rate the
destruction of vegetable life when wanted as food by man; and so
forcibly had the philosopher shown that what was sauce for
vegetables was so also for animals, that, though the Puritan party
made a furious outcry, the acts forbidding the use of meat were
repealed by a considerable majority. Thus, after several hundred
years of wandering in the wilderness of philosophy, the country
reached the conclusions that common sense had long since arrived
at. Even the Puritans after a vain attempt to subsist on a kind of
jam made of apples and yellow cabbage leaves, succumbed to the
inevitable, and resigned themselves to a diet of roast beef and
mutton, with all the usual adjuncts of a modern dinner-table.

One would have thought that the dance they had been led by the old
prophet, and that still madder dance which the Professor of botany
had gravely, but as I believe insidiously, proposed to lead them,
would have made the Erewhonians for a long time suspicious of
prophets whether they professed to have communications with an
unseen power or no; but so engrained in the human heart is the
desire to believe that some people really do know what they say
they know, and can thus save them from the trouble of thinking for
themselves, that in a short time would-be philosophers and faddists
became more powerful than ever, and gradually led their countrymen
to accept all those absurd views of life, some account of which I
have given in my earlier chapters. Indeed I can see no hope for
the Erewhonians till they have got to understand that reason
uncorrected by instinct is as bad as instinct uncorrected by


Though busily engaged in translating the extracts given in the last
five chapters, I was also laying matters in train for my escape
with Arowhena. And indeed it was high time, for I received an
intimation from one of the cashiers of the Musical Banks, that I
was to be prosecuted in a criminal court ostensibly for measles,
but really for having owned a watch, and attempted the
reintroduction of machinery.

I asked why measles? and was told that there was a fear lest
extenuating circumstances should prevent a jury from convicting me,
if I were indicted for typhus or small-pox, but that a verdict
would probably be obtained for measles, a disease which could be
sufficiently punished in a person of my age. I was given to
understand that unless some unexpected change should come over the
mind of his Majesty, I might expect the blow to be struck within a
very few days.

My plan was this--that Arowhena and I should escape in a balloon
together. I fear that the reader will disbelieve this part of my
story, yet in no other have I endeavoured to adhere more
conscientiously to facts, and can only throw myself upon his

I had already gained the ear of the Queen, and had so worked upon
her curiosity that she promised to get leave for me to have a
balloon made and inflated; I pointed out to her that no complicated
machinery would be wanted--nothing, in fact, but a large quantity
of oiled silk, a car, a few ropes, &c., &c., and some light kind of
gas, such as the antiquarians who were acquainted with the means
employed by the ancients for the production of the lighter gases
could easily instruct her workmen how to provide. Her eagerness to
see so strange a sight as the ascent of a human being into the sky
overcame any scruples of conscience that she might have otherwise
felt, and she set the antiquarians about showing her workmen how to
make the gas, and sent her maids to buy, and oil, a very large
quantity of silk (for I was determined that the balloon should be a
big one) even before she began to try and gain the King's
permission; this, however, she now set herself to do, for I had
sent her word that my prosecution was imminent.

As for myself, I need hardly say that I knew nothing about
balloons; nor did I see my way to smuggling Arowhena into the car;
nevertheless, knowing that we had no other chance of getting away
from Erewhon, I drew inspiration from the extremity in which we
were placed, and made a pattern from which the Queen's workmen were
able to work successfully. Meanwhile the Queen's carriage-builders
set about making the car, and it was with the attachments of this
to the balloon that I had the greatest difficulty; I doubt, indeed,
whether I should have succeeded here, but for the great
intelligence of a foreman, who threw himself heart and soul into
the matter, and often both foresaw requirements, the necessity for
which had escaped me, and suggested the means of providing for

It happened that there had been a long drought, during the latter
part of which prayers had been vainly offered up in all the temples
of the air god. When I first told her Majesty that I wanted a
balloon, I said my intention was to go up into the sky and prevail
upon the air god by means of a personal interview. I own that this
proposition bordered on the idolatrous, but I have long since
repented of it, and am little likely ever to repeat the offence.
Moreover the deceit, serious though it was, will probably lead to
the conversion of the whole country.

When the Queen told his Majesty of my proposal, he at first not
only ridiculed it, but was inclined to veto it. Being, however, a
very uxorious husband, he at length consented--as he eventually
always did to everything on which the Queen had set her heart. He
yielded all the more readily now, because he did not believe in the
possibility of my ascent; he was convinced that even though the
balloon should mount a few feet into the air, it would collapse
immediately, whereon I should fall and break my neck, and he should
be rid of me. He demonstrated this to her so convincingly, that
she was alarmed, and tried to talk me into giving up the idea, but
on finding that I persisted in my wish to have the balloon made,
she produced an order from the King to the effect that all
facilities I might require should be afforded me.

At the same time her Majesty told me that my attempted ascent would
be made an article of impeachment against me in case I did not
succeed in prevailing on the air god to stop the drought. Neither
King nor Queen had any idea that I meant going right away if I
could get the wind to take me, nor had he any conception of the
existence of a certain steady upper current of air which was always
setting in one direction, as could be seen by the shape of the
higher clouds, which pointed invariably from south-east to north-
west. I had myself long noticed this peculiarity in the climate,
and attributed it, I believe justly, to a trade-wind which was
constant at a few thousand feet above the earth, but was disturbed
by local influences at lower elevations.

My next business was to break the plan to Arowhena, and to devise
the means for getting her into the car. I felt sure that she would
come with me, but had made up my mind that if her courage failed
her, the whole thing should come to nothing. Arowhena and I had
been in constant communication through her maid, but I had thought
it best not to tell her the details of my scheme till everything
was settled. The time had now arrived, and I arranged with the
maid that I should be admitted by a private door into Mr.
Nosnibor's garden at about dusk on the following evening.

I came at the appointed time; the girl let me into the garden and
bade me wait in a secluded alley until Arowhena should come. It
was now early summer, and the leaves were so thick upon the trees
that even though some one else had entered the garden I could have
easily hidden myself. The night was one of extreme beauty; the sun
had long set, but there was still a rosy gleam in the sky over the
ruins of the railway station; below me was the city already
twinkling with lights, while beyond it stretched the plains for
many a league until they blended with the sky. I just noted these
things, but I could not heed them. I could heed nothing, till, as
I peered into the darkness of the alley, I perceived a white figure
gliding swiftly towards me. I bounded towards it, and ere thought
could either prompt or check, I had caught Arowhena to my heart and
covered her unresisting cheek with kisses.

So overjoyed were we that we knew not how to speak; indeed I do not
know when we should have found words and come to our senses, if the
maid had not gone off into a fit of hysterics, and awakened us to
the necessity of self-control; then, briefly and plainly, I
unfolded what I proposed; I showed her the darkest side, for I felt
sure that the darker the prospect the more likely she was to come.
I told her that my plan would probably end in death for both of us,
and that I dared not press it--that at a word from her it should be
abandoned; still that there was just a possibility of our escaping
together to some part of the world where there would be no bar to
our getting married, and that I could see no other hope.

She made no resistance, not a sign or hint of doubt or hesitation.
She would do all I told her, and come whenever I was ready; so I
bade her send her maid to meet me nightly--told her that she must
put a good face on, look as bright and happy as she could, so as to
make her father and mother and Zulora think that she was forgetting
me--and be ready at a moment's notice to come to the Queen's
workshops, and be concealed among the ballast and under rugs in the
car of the balloon; and so we parted.

I hurried my preparations forward, for I feared rain, and also that
the King might change his mind; but the weather continued dry, and
in another week the Queen's workmen had finished the balloon and
car, while the gas was ready to be turned on into the balloon at
any moment. All being now prepared I was to ascend on the
following morning. I had stipulated for being allowed to take
abundance of rugs and wrappings as protection from the cold of the
upper atmosphere, and also ten or a dozen good-sized bags of

I had nearly a quarter's pension in hand, and with this I fee'd
Arowhena's maid, and bribed the Queen's foreman--who would, I
believe, have given me assistance even without a bribe. He helped
me to secrete food and wine in the bags of ballast, and on the
morning of my ascent he kept the other workmen out of the way while
I got Arowhena into the car. She came with early dawn, muffled up,
and in her maid's dress. She was supposed to be gone to an early
performance at one of the Musical Banks, and told me that she
should not be missed till breakfast, but that her absence must then
be discovered. I arranged the ballast about her so that it should
conceal her as she lay at the bottom of the car, and covered her
with wrappings. Although it still wanted some hours of the time
fixed for my ascent, I could not trust myself one moment from the
car, so I got into it at once, and watched the gradual inflation of
the balloon. Luggage I had none, save the provisions hidden in the
ballast bags, the books of mythology, and the treatises on the
machines, with my own manuscript diaries and translations.

I sat quietly, and awaited the hour fixed for my departure--quiet
outwardly, but inwardly I was in an agony of suspense lest
Arowhena's absence should be discovered before the arrival of the
King and Queen, who were to witness my ascent. They were not due
yet for another two hours, and during this time a hundred things
might happen, any one of which would undo me.

At last the balloon was full; the pipe which had filled it was
removed, the escape of the gas having been first carefully
precluded. Nothing remained to hinder the balloon from ascending
but the hands and weight of those who were holding on to it with
ropes. I strained my eyes for the coming of the King and Queen,
but could see no sign of their approach. I looked in the direction
of Mr. Nosnibor's house--there was nothing to indicate disturbance,
but it was not yet breakfast time. The crowd began to gather; they
were aware that I was under the displeasure of the court, but I
could detect no signs of my being unpopular. On the contrary, I
received many kindly expressions of regard and encouragement, with
good wishes as to the result of my journey.

I was speaking to one gentleman of my acquaintance, and telling him
the substance of what I intended to do when I had got into the
presence of the air god (what he thought of me I cannot guess, for
I am sure that he did not believe in the objective existence of the
air god, nor that I myself believed in it), when I became aware of
a small crowd of people running as fast as they could from Mr.
Nosnibor's house towards the Queen's workshops. For the moment my
pulse ceased beating, and then, knowing that the time had come when
I must either do or die, I called vehemently to those who were
holding the ropes (some thirty men) to let go at once, and made
gestures signifying danger, and that there would be mischief if
they held on longer. Many obeyed; the rest were too weak to hold
on to the ropes, and were forced to let them go. On this the
balloon bounded suddenly upwards, but my own feeling was that the
earth had dropped off from me, and was sinking fast into the open
space beneath.

This happened at the very moment that the attention of the crowd
was divided, the one half paying heed to the eager gestures of
those coming from Mr. Nosnibor's house, and the other to the
exclamations from myself. A minute more and Arowhena would
doubtless have been discovered, but before that minute was over, I
was at such a height above the city that nothing could harm me, and
every second both the town and the crowd became smaller and more
confused. In an incredibly short time, I could see little but a
vast wall of blue plains rising up against me, towards whichever
side I looked.

At first, the balloon mounted vertically upwards, but after about
five minutes, when we had already attained a very great elevation,
I fancied that the objects on the plain beneath began to move from
under me. I did not feel so much as a breath of wind, and could
not suppose that the balloon itself was travelling. I was,
therefore, wondering what this strange movement of fixed objects
could mean, when it struck me that people in a balloon do not feel
the wind inasmuch as they travel with it and offer it no
resistance. Then I was happy in thinking that I must now have
reached the invariable trade wind of the upper air, and that I
should be very possibly wafted for hundreds or even thousands of
miles, far from Erewhon and the Erewhonians.

Already I had removed the wrappings and freed Arowhena; but I soon
covered her up with them again, for it was already very cold, and
she was half stupefied with the strangeness of her position.

And now began a time, dream-like and delirious, of which I do not
suppose that I shall ever recover a distinct recollection. Some
things I can recall--as that we were ere long enveloped in vapour
which froze upon my moustache and whiskers; then comes a memory of
sitting for hours and hours in a thick fog, hearing no sound but my
own breathing and Arowhena's (for we hardly spoke) and seeing no
sight but the car beneath us and beside us, and the dark balloon

Perhaps the most painful feeling when the earth was hidden was that
the balloon was motionless, though our only hope lay in our going
forward with an extreme of speed. From time to time through a rift
in the clouds I caught a glimpse of earth, and was thankful to
perceive that we must be flying forward faster than in an express
train; but no sooner was the rift closed than the old conviction of
our being stationary returned in full force, and was not to be
reasoned with: there was another feeling also which was nearly as
bad; for as a child that fears it has gone blind in a long tunnel
if there is no light, so ere the earth had been many minutes
hidden, I became half frightened lest we might not have broken away
from it clean and for ever. Now and again, I ate and gave food to
Arowhena, but by guess-work as regards time. Then came darkness, a
dreadful dreary time, without even the moon to cheer us.

With dawn the scene was changed: the clouds were gone and morning
stars were shining; the rising of the splendid sun remains still
impressed upon me as the most glorious that I have ever seen;
beneath us there was an embossed chain of mountains with snow fresh
fallen upon them; but we were far above them; we both of us felt
our breathing seriously affected, but I would not allow the balloon
to descend a single inch, not knowing for how long we might not
need all the buoyancy which we could command; indeed I was thankful
to find that, after nearly four-and-twenty hours, we were still at
so great a height above the earth.

In a couple of hours we had passed the ranges, which must have been
some hundred and fifty miles across, and again I saw a tract of
level plain extending far away to the horizon. I knew not where we
were, and dared not descend, lest I should waste the power of the
balloon, but I was half hopeful that we might be above the country
from which I had originally started. I looked anxiously for any
sign by which I could recognise it, but could see nothing, and
feared that we might be above some distant part of Erewhon, or a
country inhabited by savages. While I was still in doubt, the
balloon was again wrapped in clouds, and we were left to blank
space and to conjectures.

The weary time dragged on. How I longed for my unhappy watch! I
felt as though not even time was moving, so dumb and spell-bound
were our surroundings. Sometimes I would feel my pulse, and count
its beats for half-an-hour together; anything to mark the time--to
prove that it was there, and to assure myself that we were within
the blessed range of its influence, and not gone adrift into the
timelessness of eternity.

I had been doing this for the twentieth or thirtieth time, and had
fallen into a light sleep: I dreamed wildly of a journey in an
express train, and of arriving at a railway station where the air
was full of the sound of locomotive engines blowing off steam with
a horrible and tremendous hissing; I woke frightened and uneasy,
but the hissing and crashing noises pursued me now that I was
awake, and forced me to own that they were real. What they were I
knew not, but they grew gradually fainter and fainter, and after a
time were lost. In a few hours the clouds broke, and I saw beneath
me that which made the chilled blood run colder in my veins. I saw
the sea, and nothing but the sea; in the main black, but flecked
with white heads of storm-tossed, angry waves.

Arowhena was sleeping quietly at the bottom of the car, and as I
looked at her sweet and saintly beauty, I groaned, and cursed
myself for the misery into which I had brought her; but there was
nothing for it now.

I sat and waited for the worst, and presently I saw signs as though
that worst were soon to be at hand, for the balloon had begun to
sink. On first seeing the sea I had been impressed with the idea
that we must have been falling, but now there could be no mistake,
we were sinking, and that fast. I threw out a bag of ballast, and
for a time we rose again, but in the course of a few hours the
sinking recommenced, and I threw out another bag.

Then the battle commenced in earnest. It lasted all that afternoon
and through the night until the following evening. I had seen
never a sail nor a sign of a sail, though I had half blinded myself
with straining my eyes incessantly in every direction; we had
parted with everything but the clothes which we had upon our backs;
food and water were gone, all thrown out to the wheeling
albatrosses, in order to save us a few hours or even minutes from
the sea. I did not throw away the books till we were within a few
feet of the water, and clung to my manuscripts to the very last.
Hope there seemed none whatever--yet, strangely enough we were
neither of us utterly hopeless, and even when the evil that we
dreaded was upon us, and that which we greatly feared had come, we
sat in the car of the balloon with the waters up to our middle, and
still smiled with a ghastly hopefulness to one another.

* * *

He who has crossed the St. Gothard will remember that below
Andermatt there is one of those Alpine gorges which reach the very
utmost limits of the sublime and terrible. The feelings of the
traveller have become more and more highly wrought at every step,
until at last the naked and overhanging precipices seem to close
above his head, as he crosses a bridge hung in mid-air over a
roaring waterfall, and enters on the darkness of a tunnel, hewn out
of the rock.

What can be in store for him on emerging? Surely something even
wilder and more desolate than that which he has seen already; yet
his imagination is paralysed, and can suggest no fancy or vision of
anything to surpass the reality which he had just witnessed. Awed
and breathless he advances; when lo! the light of the afternoon sun
welcomes him as he leaves the tunnel, and behold a smiling valley--
a babbling brook, a village with tall belfries, and meadows of
brilliant green--these are the things which greet him, and he
smiles to himself as the terror passes away and in another moment
is forgotten.

So fared it now with ourselves. We had been in the water some two
or three hours, and the night had come upon us. We had said
farewell for the hundredth time, and had resigned ourselves to meet
the end; indeed I was myself battling with a drowsiness from which
it was only too probable that I should never wake; when suddenly,
Arowhena touched me on the shoulder, and pointed to a light and to
a dark mass which was bearing right upon us. A cry for help--loud
and clear and shrill--broke forth from both of us at once; and in
another five minutes we were carried by kind and tender hands on to
the deck of an Italian vessel.


The ship was the Principe Umberto, bound from Callao to Genoa; she
had carried a number of emigrants to Rio, had gone thence to
Callao, where she had taken in a cargo of guano, and was now on her
way home. The captain was a certain Giovanni Gianni, a native of
Sestri; he has kindly allowed me to refer to him in case the truth
of my story should be disputed; but I grieve to say that I suffered
him to mislead himself in some important particulars. I should add
that when we were picked up we were a thousand miles from land.

As soon as we were on board, the captain began questioning us about
the siege of Paris, from which city he had assumed that we must
have come, notwithstanding our immense distance from Europe. As
may be supposed, I had not heard a syllable about the war between
France and Germany, and was too ill to do more than assent to all
that he chose to put into my mouth. My knowledge of Italian is
very imperfect, and I gathered little from anything that he said;
but I was glad to conceal the true point of our departure, and
resolved to take any cue that he chose to give me.

The line that thus suggested itself was that there had been ten or
twelve others in the balloon, that I was an English Milord, and
Arowhena a Russian Countess; that all the others had been drowned,
and that the despatches which we had carried were lost. I came
afterwards to learn that this story would not have been credible,
had not the captain been for some weeks at sea, for I found that
when we were picked up, the Germans had already long been masters
of Paris. As it was, the captain settled the whole story for me,
and I was well content.

In a few days we sighted an English vessel bound from Melbourne to
London with wool. At my earnest request, in spite of stormy
weather which rendered it dangerous for a boat to take us from one
ship to the other, the captain consented to signal the English
vessel, and we were received on board, but we were transferred with
such difficulty that no communication took place as to the manner
of our being found. I did indeed hear the Italian mate who was in
charge of the boat shout out something in French to the effect that
we had been picked up from a balloon, but the noise of the wind was
so great, and the captain understood so little French that he
caught nothing of the truth, and it was assumed that we were two
persons who had been saved from shipwreck. When the captain asked
me in what ship I had been wrecked, I said that a party of us had
been carried out to sea in a pleasure-boat by a strong current, and
that Arowhena (whom I described as a Peruvian lady) and I were
alone saved.

There were several passengers, whose goodness towards us we can
never repay. I grieve to think that they cannot fail to discover
that we did not take them fully into our confidence; but had we
told them all, they would not have believed us, and I was
determined that no one should hear of Erewhon, or have the chance
of getting there before me, as long as I could prevent it. Indeed,
the recollection of the many falsehoods which I was then obliged to
tell, would render my life miserable were I not sustained by the
consolations of my religion. Among the passengers there was a most
estimable clergyman, by whom Arowhena and I were married within a
very few days of our coming on board.

After a prosperous voyage of about two months, we sighted the
Land's End, and in another week we were landed at London. A
liberal subscription was made for us on board the ship, so that we
found ourselves in no immediate difficulty about money. I
accordingly took Arowhena down into Somersetshire, where my mother
and sisters had resided when I last heard of them. To my great
sorrow I found that my mother was dead, and that her death had been
accelerated by the report of my having been killed, which had been
brought to my employer's station by Chowbok. It appeared that he
must have waited for a few days to see whether I returned, that he
then considered it safe to assume that I should never do so, and
had accordingly made up a story about my having fallen into a
whirlpool of seething waters while coming down the gorge homeward.
Search was made for my body, but the rascal had chosen to drown me
in a place where there would be no chance of its ever being

My sisters were both married, but neither of their husbands was
rich. No one seemed overjoyed on my return; and I soon discovered
that when a man's relations have once mourned for him as dead, they
seldom like the prospect of having to mourn for him a second time.

Accordingly I returned to London with my wife, and through the
assistance of an old friend supported myself by writing good little
stories for the magazines, and for a tract society. I was well
paid; and I trust that I may not be considered presumptuous in

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