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Title: Underground Man
Author: Tarde, Gabriel
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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UNDERGROUND MAN

By

GABRIEL TARDE

(1843-1904)

MEMBER OF THE INSTITUTE
PROFESSOR AT THE COLLEGE OF FRANCE

TRANSLATED BY CLOUDESLEY BRERETON
M.A., L. ÈS L.

WITH A PREFACE BY H.G. WELLS

LONDON

DUCKWORTH & CO.


1905



The whole of Tarde is in this little book.

He has put into it along with a charming fancy his genialness and depth
of spirit, his ideas on the influence of art and the importance of love,
in an exceptional social milieu.

This agreeable day-dream is vigorously thought out. On reading it we
fancy we are again seeing and hearing Tarde. In order to indulge in a
repetition of the illusion, a pious friendship has desired to clothe
this fascinating work in an appropriate dress.

                                                       A.L.



CONTENTS


DEDICATION
PREFACE By H.G. WELLS
INTRODUCTORY
I. PROSPERITY
II. THE CATASTROPHE
III. THE STRUGGLE
IV. SAVED
V. REGENERATION
VI. LOVE
VII. THE ÆSTHETIC LIFE
NOTE ON TARDE By JOSEPH MANCHON



PREFACE


It reflects not at all on Mr Cloudesley Brereton's admirable work of
translation to remark how subtly the spirit of such work as this of M.
Tarde's changes in such a process. There are certain things peculiar, I
suppose, to every language in the world, certain distinctive
possibilities in each. To French far more than to English, belong the
intellectual liveliness, the cheerful, ironical note, the professorial
playfulness of this present work. English is a less nimble, more various
and moodier tongue, not only in the sound and form of its sentences but
in its forms of thought. It clots and coagulates, it proliferates and
darkens, one jests in it with difficulty and great danger to a sober
reputation, and one attempts in vain to figure Professor Giddings and Mr
Benjamin Kidd, Doctor Beattie Crozier and Mr Wordsworth Donisthorpe
glittering out into any so cheerful an exploit as this before us. Like
Mr Gilbert's elderly naval man, they "never larks nor plays", and if
indeed they did so far triumph over the turgid intricacies of our speech
and the conscientious gravity of our style of thought, there would still
be the English public to consider, a public easily offended by any lack
of straightforwardness in its humorists, preferring to be amused by
known and recognised specialists in that line, in relation to themes of
recognised humorous tendency, and requiring in its professors as the
concomitant of a certain dignified inaccessibility of thought and
language, an honourable abstinence from the treacheries, as it would
consider them, of irony and satire. Imagine a Story of the Future from
Mr Herbert Spencer! America and the north of England would have swept
him out of all respect.... But M. Tarde being not only a Member of the
Institute and Professor at the College of France, but a Frenchman, was
free to give these fancies that entertained him, public, literary, and
witty expression, without self-destruction, and produce what has, in its
English dress, a curiously unfamiliar effect. Yet the English reader who
can overcome his natural disinclination to this union of intelligence
and jesting will find a vast amount of suggestion in M. Tarde's
fantastic abundance, and bringing his habitual gravity to bear may even
succeed in digesting off the humour altogether, and emerging with
edification of--it must be admitted--a rather miscellaneous sort.

It is perhaps remarkable that for so many people, so tremendous a theme
as the material future of mankind should only be approachable either
through a method of conscientiously technical, pseudo-scientific
discussion that is in effect scarcely an approach at all or else in this
mood of levity. I know of no book in this direction that can claim to be
a permanent success which combines a tolerable intelligibility with a
simple good faith in the reader. One may speculate how this comes about?
The subject it would seem is so grave and great as to be incompatibly
out of proportion to the affairs and conditions of the individual life
about which our workaday thinking goes on. We are interested indeed, but
at the same time we feel it is outside us and beyond us. To turn one's
attention to it is at once to get an effect of presumption, strain, and
extravagant absurdity. It is like picking up a spade to attack a
mountain, and one's instinct is to put oneself right in the eyes of
one's fellow-men at once, by a few unmistakably facetious flourishes. It
is the same instinct really as that protective "foolery" in which
schoolboys indulge when they embark upon some hopeless undertaking, or
find themselves entirely outclassed at a game.

The same instinct one finds in the facetious "parley vous Francey" of a
low class Englishman who would in secret like very much to speak French,
but in practice only admits such an idea as a laughable absurdity. To
give a concrete form to your sociological speculations is to strip them
of all their poor pretensions, and leave them shivering in palpable
inadequacy. It is not because the question is unimportant, but because
it is so overwhelmingly important that this jesting about the Future,
this fantastic and "ironical" fiction goes on. It is the only medium to
express the vague, ill-formed, new ideas with which we are all
labouring. It does not give any measure of our real sense of the
proportion of things that the Future should appear in our literature as
a sort of comic rally and harlequinade after the serious drama of the
Present--in which the heroes and heroines of the latter turn up again in
novel and undignified positions; but it seems to be the only method at
present available by which we may talk about our race's material Destiny
at all.

M. Tarde, in this special case before us, pursues a course of elusive
ironies; sometimes he jests at contemporary ideas by imagining them in
burlesque realisation, sometimes he jests at contemporary facts by
transposing them into strange surroundings, sometimes he broaches
fancies of his own chiefly for their own sake, yet with the well-managed
literary equivalent of the palliating laugh of conversational
diffidence. It is interesting to remark upon the clearness, the French
reasonableness and order of his conceptions throughout. He thinks, as
the French seem always to think, in terms of a humanity at once more
lucid and more limited than the mankind with which we English have to
deal. There are no lapses, no fogs and mysteries, no total inadequacies,
no brutalities and left-handedness--and no dark gleams of the divinity,
about these amused bright people of five hundred years ahead, who are
overtaken by the great solar catastrophe. They have established a world
state and eliminated the ugly and feeble. You imagine the gentlemen in
that Utopia moving gracefully--with beautifully trimmed nails and
beards--about the most elegant and ravishing of ladies, their charm
greatly enhanced by the _pince-nez_, that is in universal wear. They all
speak not Esperanto--but Greek, which strikes one as a little out of the
picture--and all being more or less wealthy and pretty women and
handsome men, "as common as blackberries" and as available, "human
desire rushed with all its might towards the only field that remained
open to it",--politics. From that it was presently turned back again by
a certain philosophical financier, who, most delightfully, secured his
work for ever, as the reader may learn in detail, by erecting a statue
of Louis Philippe in wrought aluminium against any return of the
flood--and then what remained? The most brilliant efflorescence of
poetry and art!

One does not quite know how far M. Tarde is in this first part of his
story jesting at his common countrymen's precisions and finalities and
unenterprising, exact arrangements, and how far he is sharing them.
Throughout he seems to assume that men can really make finished plans,
and carry them out, and settle things for ever, and so assure us this
state of elegant promenading among the arts, whereas the whole charm and
interest of making plans and carrying out, lies to the more typical kind
of Englishman, in his ineradicable, his innate, instinctive conviction,
that he will, try as he may, never carry them out at all, but something
else adventurously and happily unexpected and different. M. Tarde gives
his world the unexpected, but it comes, not insidiously as a unique
difference in every individual and item concerned, but from without.
Just as Humanity, handsome and charming, has grouped itself pleasantly,
rationally, and in the best of taste for ever in its studios, in its
_salons_, at its little green tables, at its _tables d'hôte_, in its
_cabinets particuliers_--the sun goes out!

In the idea of that solar extinction there are extraordinary imaginative
possibilities, and M. Tarde must have exercised considerable restraint
to prevent their running away with him and so jarring with the ironical
lightness of his earlier passages. The conception of the sun seized in a
mysterious, chill grip and flickering from hue to hue in the skies of a
darkened, amazed and terrified world, could be presented in images of
stupendous majesty and splendour. There arise visions of darkened cities
and indistinct, multitudinous, fleeing crowds, of wide country-sides of
chill dismay, of beasts silent with the fear of this last eclipse, and
bats and night-birds abroad amidst the lost daylight creatures and
fluttering perplexed on noiseless wings. Then the abrupt sight of the
countless stars made visible by this great abdication, the thickening of
the sky to stormy masses of cloud so that these are hidden again, the
soughing of a world-wide wind, and then first little flakes and then the
drift and driving of the multiplying snow into the dim illumination of
lamps, of windows, of street lights lit untimely. Then again, the shiver
of the cold, the clutching of hands at coats and wraps, the blind
hurrying to shelter and the comfort of a fire--the blaze of fires. One
sees the red-lit faces about the fires, sees the furtive glances at the
wind-tormented windows, hears the furious knocking of those other
strangers barred out, for, "we cannot have everyone in here". The
darkness deepens, the cries without die away, and nothing is left but
the shift and falling of the incessant snow from roof to ground. Every
now and then the disjointed talk would cease altogether, and in the
stillness one would hear the faint yet insistent creeping sound of the
snowfall. "There is a little food downstairs," one would say. "The
servants must not eat it.... We had better lock it upstairs. We may be
here--for days." Grim stuff, indeed, one might make of it all, if one
dealt with it in realistic fashion, and great and increasing toil one
would find to carry on the tale. M. Tarde was well advised to let his
hand pass lightly over this episode, to give us a simply pyrotechnic
effect of red, yellow, green and pale blue, to let his people flee and
die like marionettes beneath the paper snows of a shop window dressed
for Christmas, and to emerge after the change with his urbanity
unimpaired. His apt jest at the endurance of artists' models, his easy
allusion to the hardening effects of fashionable decolletage, is the
measure of his dexterous success; his mention of hotel furniture on the
terminal moraines of the returning Alpine glaciers, just a happy touch
of that flavouring of reality which in abundance would have altogether
overwhelmed his purpose.

Directly one thinks at all seriously of such a thing as this solar
extinction, one perceives how preposterously hopeless it is to imagine
that mankind would make any head against so swift and absolute a fate.
Our race would behave just as any single man behaves when death takes
him suddenly through some cardiac failure. It would feel very queer, it
would want to sit down and alleviate its strange discomfort, it would
say something stupid or inarticulate, make an odd gesture or so, and
flicker out. But it is compatible with the fantastic and ironical style
for M. Tarde to mock our conceit in our race's capacity and pretend men
did all sorts of organized and wholesale things quite beyond their
capabilities. People flee in "hordes" to Arabia Petræa and the Sahara,
and there perform prodigies of resistance. There arises the heroic
leader and preserver, Miltiades, who preaches Neo-troglodytism and loves
the peerless Lydia, and leads the remnant of humanity underground. So M.
Tarde arrives at the idea he is most concerned in developing, the idea
of an introverted world, and people following the dwindling heat of the
interior, generation after generation, through gallery and tunnel to the
core. About that conception he weaves the finest and richest and most
suggestive of his fantastic filaments.

Perhaps the best sustained thread in this admirably entertaining tissue
is the entire satisfaction of the imaginary historian at the new
conditions of life. The earth is made into an interminable honeycomb,
all other forms of life than man are eliminated, and our race has
developed into a community sustained at a high level of happiness and
satisfaction by a constant resort to "social tonics". Half mockingly,
half approvingly, M. Tarde here indicates a new conception of human
intercourse and criticises with a richly suggestive detachment, the
social relationships of to-day. He moves indicatively and lightly over
deeps of human possibility; it is in these later passages that our
author is essentially found. One may regret he did not further expand
his happy opportunity of treating all the social types to-day as ice
embedded fossils, his comments on the peasant and artisan are so fine as
to provoke the appetite. He rejects the proposition that "society
consists in an exchange of services" with the confidence of a man who
has thought it finely out. He gives out clearly what so many of us are
beginning dimly perhaps to apprehend, that "society consists in the
exchange of reflections". The passages subsequent to this pronouncement
will be the seed of many interesting developments in any mind
sufficiently attuned to his. They constitute the body, the serious
reality to which all the rest of this little book is so much dress,
adornment and concealment. Very many of us, I believe, are dreaming of
the possibility of human groupings based on interest and a common
creative impulse rather than on justice and a trade in help and
services; and I do not scruple therefore to put my heavy underline and
marginal note to M. Tarde's most intimate moment. A page or so further
on he is back below his ironical mask again, jesting at the "tribe of
sociologists"--the most unsociable of mankind. Thereafter jest,
picturesque suggestion, fantasy, philosophical whim, alternate in a
continuously delightful fashion to the end--but always with the gleam of
a definite intention coming and going within sight of the surface--and
one ends at last a half convinced Neo-troglodyte, invaded by a passion
of intellectual regret for the varied interests of that inaccessible
world and its irradiating love. The description of the development of
science, and particularly of troglodytic astronomy, robbed of its
material, is a delightful freak of intellectual fantasy, and the
philosophical dream of the slow concentration of human life into the
final form of a single culminating omniscient, and therefore a
completely retrospective and anticipatory being, a being that is, that
has cast aside the time garment, is one of these suggestions that have
at once something penetratingly plausible, and a sort of colossal and
absurd monstrosity. If I may be forgiven a personal intrusion at this
point, there is a singular parallelism between this foreshadowed Last
Man of M. Tarde's stalactitic philosopher, and a certain _Grand Lunar_ I
once wrote about in a book called "The First Men in the Moon". And I
remember coming upon the same idea in a book by Merejkowski, the title
of which I am now totally unable to recall.... But I will not write
further on this curiously attractive and deep seated suggestion. My
proper business here is, I think, chiefly to direct the reader past the
lightness and cheerful superficiality of the opening portions of this
book, and its--at the first blush, rather disappointing but critically
justifiable, treatment of the actual catastrophe, to these obscure but
curiously stimulating and interesting caves, and tunnels, and galleries
in which the elusive real thought of M. Tarde lurks--for those who care
to follow it up and seize it and understand.

H.G. WELLS.



INTRODUCTORY


It was towards the end of the twentieth century of the prehistoric era,
formerly called the Christian, that took place, as is well known, the
unexpected catastrophe with which the present epoch began, that
fortunate disaster which compelled the overflowing flood of civilisation
to disappear for the benefit of mankind. I have briefly to relate this
universal cataclysm and the unhoped-for redemption so rapidly effected
within a few centuries of heroic and triumphant efforts. Of course, I
shall pass over in silence the particular details which are known to
everybody, and shall merely confine myself to the general outlines of
the story. But first of all it may be as well to recall in a few words
the degree of relative progress already attained by mankind, while still
living above ground and on the surface of the earth, on the eve of this
momentous event.



I

PROSPERITY


The zenith of human prosperity seemed to have been reached in the
superficial and frivolous sense of the word. For the last fifty years,
the final establishment of the great Asiatic-American-European
confederacy, and its indisputable supremacy over what was still left,
here and there, in Oceania and central Africa of barbarous tribes
incapable of assimilation, had habituated all the nations, now converted
into provinces, to the delights of universal and henceforth inviolable
peace. It had required not less than 150 years of warfare to arrive at
this wonderful result. But all these horrors were forgotten. True, there
had been many terrific battles between armies of three and four million
men, between trains with armour-clad carriages, flung, at full speed,
against one another, and opening fire on every side; engagements between
squadrons of sub-marines which blew one another up with electric
discharges; between fleets of iron-clad balloons, harpooned and ripped
up by aerial torpedoes, hurled headlong from the clouds, with thousands
of parachutes which violently opened and enveloped each other in a storm
of grape-shot as they fell together to earth. Yet of all this warlike
mania there only remained a vague poetic remembrance. Forgetfulness is
the beginning of happiness, as fear is the beginning of wisdom.

As a solitary exception to the general rule, the nations, after this
gigantic blood-letting, did not experience the lethargy that follows
from exhaustion, but the calm that the accession of strength produces.
The explanation is easy. For about a hundred years the military
selection committees had broken with the blind routine of the past and
made it a practice to pick out carefully the strongest and best made
among the young men, in order to exempt them from the burden of military
service which had become purely mechanical, and to send to the depot all
the weaklings who were good enough to fulfil the sorely diminished
functions of the soldier and even of the non-commissioned officer. That
was really a piece of intelligent selection; and the historian cannot
conscientiously refuse gratefully to praise this innovation, thanks to
which the incomparable beauty of the human race to-day has been
gradually developed. In fact, when we now look through the glass cases
of our museums of antiquities at those singular collections of
caricatures which our ancestors used to call their photographic albums,
we can confirm the vastness of the progress thus accomplished, if it is
really true that we are actually descended from these dwarfs and
scare-crows, as an otherwise trustworthy tradition attests.

From this epoch dates the discovery of the last microbes, which had not
yet been analysed by the neo-Pasteurian school. Once the cause of every
disease was known, the remedy was not long in becoming known as well,
and from that moment, a consumptive or rheumatic patient, or an invalid
of any kind became as rare a phenomenon as a double-headed monster
formerly was, or an honest publican. Ever since that epoch we have
dropped the ridiculous employment of those inquiries about health with
which the conversations of our ancestors were needlessly interlarded,
such as "How are you?" or "How do you do?" Short-sightedness alone
continued its lamentable progress, being stimulated by the extraordinary
spread of journalism. There was not a woman or a child, who did not wear
a _pince-nez_. This drawback, which besides was only momentary, was
largely compensated for by the progress it caused in the optician's art.

Alongside of the political unity which did away with the enmities of
nations, there appeared a linguistic unity which rapidly blotted out the
last differences between them. Already since the twentieth century the
need of a single common language, similar to Latin in the Middle Ages,
had become sufficiently intense among the learned throughout the whole
world to induce them to make use of an international idiom in all their
writings. At the end of a long struggle for supremacy with English and
Spanish, Greek finally established its claims, after the break-up of the
British Empire and the recapture of Constantinople by the Græco-Russian
Empire. Gradually, or rather with the rapidity characteristic of all
modern progress, its usage descended from strata to strata till it
reached the lowest layers of society, and from the middle of the
twenty-second century there was not a little child between the Loire and
the River Amour who could not express itself with ease in the language
of Demosthenes. Here and there a few isolated villages in the hollows of
the mountains still persisted, in spite of the protests of their
schoolmasters, to mangle the old dialect formerly called French, German,
or Italian, but the sound of this gibberish in the towns would have
raised a hearty laugh.

All contemporary documents agree in bearing witness to the rapidity, the
depth, and the universality of the change which took place in the
customs, ideas, and needs, and in all the forms of social life, thus
reduced to a common level from one pole to the other, as a result of
this unification of language. It seemed as if the course of civilisation
had been hitherto confined within high banks and that now, when for the
first time all the banks had burst, it readily spread over the whole
globe. It was no longer millions but thousands of millions that the
least newly discovered improvement in industry brought in to its
inventor; for henceforth there was no barrier to stop in its star-like
radiation the expansion of any idea, no matter where it originated. For
the same reason it was no longer by hundreds but by thousands, that were
reckoned the editions of any book, which appealed but moderately to the
public taste, or the performance of a play which was ever so little
applauded. The rivalry between authors had therefore risen to its
fullest diapason. Their fancy, moreover, could find full scope, for the
first effect of this deluge of universalised neo-Hellenism had been to
overwhelm for ever all the pretended literatures of our rude ancestors.
They became unintelligible, even to the very titles of what they were
pleased to call their classical masterpieces, even to the barbarous
names of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Hugo, who are now forgotten, and whose
rugged verses are deciphered with such difficulty by our scholars. To
plagiarise these folks whom hardly anyone could henceforth read, was to
render them service, nay, to pay them too much honour. One did not fail
to do so; and prodigious was the success of these audacious imitations
which were offered as original works. The material thus to turn to
account was abundant, and indeed inexhaustible.

Unfortunately for the young writers the ancient poets who had been dead
for centuries, Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, had returned to life, a
hundred times more hale and hearty than at the time of Pericles himself;
and this unexpected competition proved a singular thorn in the side of
the new-comers. It was in fact in vain that original geniuses produced
on the stage such sensational novelties as _Athalias, Hernanias,
Macbethès_; the public often turned its back on them to rush off to
performances of _Oedipus Rex_ or the _Birds_ (of Aristophanes). And
_Nanais_, though a vigorous sketch of a novelist of the new school, was
a complete failure owing to the frenzied success of a popular edition of
the Odyssey. The ears of the people were saturated with Alexandrines
classical, romantic, and the rest. They were bored by the childish
tricks of cæsura and rhyme which sometimes attempted a see-saw effect by
producing now a poor and now a full rhyme, or again made a pretence of
hiding away and keeping out of sight in order to induce the hearer to
hunt it out. The splendid, untrammelled, and exuberant hexameters of
Homer, the stanzas of Sappho, the iambics of Sophocles, furnished them
with unspeakable pleasure, which did the greatest harm to the music of a
certain Wagner. Music in general fell to the secondary position to which
it really belongs in the hierarchy of the fine arts. To make up for it,
in the midst of this scholarly renaissance of the human spirit, there
arose an occasion for an unexpected literary outburst which allowed
poetry to regain its legitimate rank, that is to say, the foremost. In
fact it never fails to flower again when language takes a new lease of
life, and all the more so when the latter undergoes a complete
metamorphosis, and the pleasure arises of expressing anew the eternal
truisms.

It was not merely a simple means of diversion for the cultured. The
masses took their share in it with enthusiasm. Certainly they now had
leisure to read and appreciate the masterpieces of art. The transmission
of force at a distance by electricity, and its enlistment under a
thousand forms, for instance, in that of cylinders of compressed air,
which could be easily carried from place to place, had reduced manual
labour to a mere nothing. The waterfalls, the winds and the tides had
become the slaves of man, as steam had once been in the remote ages and
in an infinitely less degree. Intelligently distributed and turned to
account by means of improved machines, as simple as they were ingenious,
this enormous energy freely furnished by nature had long rendered
superfluous every kind of domestic servant and the greater number of
artisans. The voluntary workmen, who still existed, spent barely three
hours a day in the international factories, magnificent co-operative
workshops, in which the productivity of human energy, multiplied
tenfold, and even a hundredfold, surpassed the expectations of their
founders.

This does not mean that the social problem had been thereby solved. In
default of want, it is true, there were no longer any quarrels; wealth
or a competence had become the lot of every man, with the result that
hardly anyone henceforth set any store by them. In default of ugliness,
also, love was scarcely an object of either appreciation or jealousy,
owing to the abundance of pretty women and handsome men who were as
common as blackberries and not difficult to please, in appearance at
least. Thus expelled from its two former principal paths, human desire
rushed with all its might towards the only field which remained open to
it, the conquest of political power, which grew vaster every day owing
to the progress of socialistic centralisation. Overflowing ambition,
swollen all at once with all the evil passions pouring into it alone,
with the covetousness, lust, envious hunger, and hungry envy of
preceding ages, reached at that time an appalling height. It was a
struggle as to who should make himself master of that _summum bonum_,
the State; as to who should make the omnipotence and omniscience of the
Universal State minister to the realisation of his personal programme or
his humanitarian dreams. The result was not, as had been prophesied, a
vast democratic republic. Such an immense outburst of pride could not
fail to set up a new throne, the highest, the mightiest, the most
glorious that has ever been. Besides, inasmuch as the population of the
Single State was reckoned by thousands of millions, universal suffrage
had become impracticable and illusory. To obviate the greater
inconvenience of deliberative assemblies, ten or a hundred times too
numerous, it had been found necessary so to increase the electoral
districts that each deputy represented at least ten million electors.
That is not surprising if one reflects that it was the first time that
the very simple idea had won acceptance of extending to women and
children the right of voting exercised in their name, naturally enough,
by their father or by their lawful or natural husband. Incidentally one
may note that this salutary and necessary reform, as much in accordance
with common sense as with logic, required alike by the principle of
national sovereignty and by the needs of social stability, nearly failed
to pass, incredible as it may seem, in the face of a coalition of
celibate electors.

Tradition informs us that the bill relating to this indispensable
extension of the franchise would have been infallibly rejected, if,
luckily, the recent election of a multi-millionaire suspected of
imperialistic tendencies had not scared the assembly. It fancied it
would injure the popularity of this ambitious pretender by hastening to
welcome this proposal in which it only saw one thing, that is, that the
fathers and husbands, outraged or alarmed by the gallantries of the new
Cæsar, would be all the stronger for impeding his triumphant march. But
this expectation was, it appears, unrealised.

Whatever may be the truth of this legend, it is certain that, owing to
the enlargement of the electoral districts, combined with the
suppression of the electoral privileges, the election of a deputy was a
veritable coronation, and ordinarily produced in the elect a species of
megalomania. This reconstituted feudalism was bound to end in a
reconstitution of monarchy. For a moment the learned wore this cosmic
crown, following the prophecy of an ancient philosopher, but they did
not keep it. The popularisation of knowledge through innumerable schools
had made science as common an object as a charming woman or an elegant
suite of furniture. It had been extraordinarily simplified by the
thorough way in which it had been worked out, complete as regards its
general outlines, in which no change could be expected, and its
henceforth rigid classification abundantly garnished with data. Only
advancing at an imperceptible pace, it held, in short, but an
insignificant place in the background of the brain, in which it simply
replaced the catechism of former days. The bulk of intellectual energy
was therefore to be found in another direction, as were also its glory
and prestige. Already the scientific bodies, venerable in their
antiquity, began, alas! to acquire a slight tinge and veneer of
ridicule, which raised a smile and recalled the synods of bonzes or
ecclesiastical conferences, such as are represented in very ancient
pictures. It is, therefore, not surprising that this first dynasty of
imperial physicists and geometricians, genial copies of the Antonines,
were promptly succeeded by a dynasty of artists who had deserted art to
wield the sceptre, as they lately had wielded the bow, the roughing
chisel, and the brush. The most famous of all, a man possessed of an
overflowing imagination which was yet well under control, and ministered
to by an unparalleled energy, was an architect who among other gigantic
projects formed the idea of rasing to the ground his capital,
Constantinople, in order to rebuild it elsewhere, on the site of ancient
Babylon, which for three thousand years had been a desert--a truly
luminous idea. In this incomparable plain of Chaldea watered by a second
Nile there was another still more beautiful and fertile Egypt awaiting
resurrection and metamorphosis, an infinite expanse extending as far as
the eye could see, to be covered with striking public buildings
constructed with magical speed, with a teeming and throbbing population,
with golden harvests beneath a sky of changeless blue, with an iron
net-work of railways radiating from the town of Nebuchadnesor to the
furthest ends of Europe, Africa and Asia, and crossing the Himalayas,
the Caucasus, and the Sahara. The stored energy, electrically conveyed,
of a hundred Abyssinian waterfalls, and of, I do not know, how many
cyclones, hardly sufficed to transport from the mountains of Armenia the
necessary stone, wood and iron for these numerous constructions. One day
an excursion train, composed of a thousand and one carriages, having
passed too close to the electric cable at the moment when the current
was at its maximum, was destroyed and reduced to ashes in the twinkling
of an eye. None the less Babylon, the proud city of muddy clay, with its
paltry splendours of unbaked and painted brick, found itself rebuilt in
marble and granite, to the utmost confusion of the Nabopolassars, the
Belshazzars, the Cyruses, and the Alexanders. It is needless to add that
the archæologists made on this occasion the most priceless discoveries,
in the several successive strata, of Babylonian and Assyrian
antiquities. The mania for Assyriology went so far that every sculptor's
studio, the palaces, and even the King's armorial bearings were invaded
by winged bulls with human heads, just as formerly the museums were full
of cupids or cherubims, "with their cravat-like wings". Certain school
books for primary schools were actually printed in cuneiform characters
in order to enhance their authority over the youthful imagination.

This imperial orgy in bricks and mortar having unhappily occasioned the
seventh, eighth, and ninth bankruptcy of the State and several
consecutive inundations of paper-money, the people in general rejoiced
to see after this brilliant reign the crown borne by a philosophical
financier. Order had hardly been re-established in the finances, when he
made his preparation for applying on a grand scale his ideal of
government, which was of a highly remarkable nature. One was not long in
noticing, in fact, after his accession, that all the newly chosen ladies
of honour, who were otherwise very intelligent but entirely lacking in
wit, were chiefly conspicuous for their striking ugliness; that the
liveries of the court were of a grey and lifeless colour; that the court
balls reproduced by instantaneous cinematography to the tune of millions
of copies furnished a collection of the most honest and insignificant
faces and unappetising forms that one could possibly see; that the
candidates recently appointed, after a preliminary despatch of their
portraits, to the highest dignities of the Empire, were pre-eminently
distinguished by the commonness of their bearing; in short, that the
races and the public holidays (the date of which were notified in
advance by secret telegrams announcing the arrival of a cyclone from
America), happened nine times out of ten to take place on a day of thick
fog, or of pelting rain, which transformed them into an immense array of
waterproofs and umbrellas. Alike in his legislative proposals, as in his
appointments, the choice of the prince was always the following: the
most useful and the best among the most unattractive. An insufferable
sameness of colour, a depressing monotony, a sickening insipidity were
the distinctive note of all the acts of the government. People laughed,
grew excited, waxed indignant, and got used to it. The result was that
at the end of a certain time it was impossible to meet an office-seeker
or a politician, that is to say, an artist or literary man, out of his
element and in search of the beautiful in an alien sphere, who did not
turn his back on the pursuit of a government appointment in order to
return to rhyming, sculpture and painting. And from that moment the
following aphorism has won general acceptance, that the superiority of
the politician is only mediocrity raised to its highest power.

This is the great benefit that we owe to this eminent monarch. The lofty
purpose of his reign has been revealed by the posthumous publication of
his memoirs. Of these writings with which we can so ill dispense, we
have only left this fragment which is well calculated to make us regret
the loss of the remainder: "Who is the true founder of Sociology?
Auguste Comte? No, Menenius Agrippa. This great man understood that
government is the stomach, not the head of the social organism. Now, the
merit of a stomach is to be good and ugly, useful and repulsive to the
eye, for if this indispensable organ were agreeable to look upon, it
would be much to be feared that people would meddle with it and nature
would not have taken such care to conceal and defend it. What sensible
person prides himself on having a beautiful digestive apparatus, a
lovely liver or elegant lungs? Such a pretension would, however, not be
more ridiculous than the foible of cutting a great dash in politics.
What wants cultivating is the substantial and the commonplace. My poor
predecessors." ... Here follows a blank; a little further on, we read:
"The best government is that which holds to being so perfectly humdrum,
regular, neuter, and even emasculated, that no one can henceforth get up
any enthusiasm either for or against it."

Such was the last successor of Semiramis. On the re-discovered site of
the Hanging-gardens he caused to be erected, at the expense of the
State, a statue of Louis Philippe in wrought aluminium, in the middle of
a public garden planted with common laurels and cauliflowers.

The Universe breathed again. It yawned a little no doubt, but it
revelled for the first time in the fulness of peace, in the almost
gratuitous abundance of every kind of wealth. It burst into the most
brilliant efflorescence, or rather display of poetry and art, but
especially of luxury, that the world had as yet seen. It was just at
that moment an extraordinary alarm of a novel kind, justly provoked by
the astronomical observations made on the tower of Babel, which had been
rebuilt as an Eiffel Tower on an enlarged scale, began to spread among
the terrified populations.



II

THE CATASTROPHE


On several occasions already the sun had given evident signs of
weakness. From year to year his spots increased in size and number, and
his heat sensibly diminished. People were lost in conjecture. Was his
fuel giving out? Had he just traversed in his journey through space an
exceptionally cold region? No one knew. Whatever the reason was, the
public concerned itself little about the matter, as in all that is
gradual and not sudden. The "solar anæmia," which moreover restored some
degree of animation to neglected astronomy, had merely become the
subject of several rather smart articles in the reviews. In general, the
_savants_, in their well-warmed studies, affected to disbelieve in the
fall of temperature, and, in spite of the formal indications of the
thermometer, they did not cease to repeat that the dogma of slow
evolution, and of the conservation of energy combined with the classical
nebular hypothesis, forbade the admission of a sufficiently rapid
cooling of the solar mass to make itself felt during the short duration
of a century, much more so during that of five years or a year. A few
unorthodox persons of heretical and pessimistic temperament remarked, it
is true, that at different epochs, if one believed the astronomers of
the remote past, certain stars had gradually burnt out in the heavens,
or had passed from the most dazzling brilliance to an almost complete
obscurity, during the course of barely a single year. They therefore
concluded that the case of our sun had nothing exceptional about it;
that the theory of slow-footed evolution was not perhaps universally
applicable; and that, sometimes, as an old visionary mystic called
Cuvier had ventured to put forward in legendary times, veritable
revolutions took place in the heavens as well as on earth. But orthodox
science combated with indignation these audacious theories.

However, the winter of 2489 was so disastrous, it was actually necessary
to take the threatening predictions of the alarmists seriously. One
reached the point of fearing at any moment a "solar apoplexy." That was
the title of a sensational pamphlet which went through twenty thousand
editions. The return of the spring was anxiously awaited.

The spring returned at last, and the starry monarch reappeared, but his
golden crown was gone, and he himself well-nigh unrecognisable. He was
entirely red. The meadows were no longer green, the sky was no longer
blue, the Chinese were no longer yellow, all had suddenly changed colour
as in a transformation scene. Then, by degrees, from the red that he was
he became orange. He might then have been compared to a golden apple in
the sky, and so during several years he was seen to pass, and all nature
with him, through a thousand magnificent or terrible tints--from orange
to yellow, from yellow to green, and from green at length to indigo and
pale blue. The meteorologists then recalled the fact, in the year 1883,
on the second of September, the sun had appeared in Venezuela the whole
day long as blue as the moon. So many colours, so many new decorations
of the chameleon-like universe which dazzled the terrified eye, which
revived and restored to its primitive sharpness the rejuvenated
sensation of the beauties of nature, and strongly stirred the depths of
men's souls by renewing the former aspect of things.

At the same time disaster succeeded disaster. The entire population of
Norway, Northern Russia, and Siberia perished, frozen to death in a
single night; the temperate zone was decimated, and what was left of its
inhabitants fled before the enormous drifts of snow and ice, and
emigrated by hundreds of millions towards the tropics, crowding into the
panting trains, several of which, overtaken by tornadoes of snow,
disappeared for ever.

The telegraph successively informed the capital, now that there was no
longer any news of immense trains caught in the tunnels under the
Pyrenees, the Alps, the Caucasus, or Himalayas, in which they were
imprisoned by enormous avalanches, which blocked simultaneously the two
issues; now that some of the largest rivers of the world--the Rhine, for
instance, and the Danube--had ceased to flow, completely frozen to the
bottom, from which resulted a drought, followed by an indescribable
famine, which obliged thousands of mothers to devour their own children.
From time to time a country or continent broke off suddenly its
communication with the central agency, the reason being that an entire
telegraphic section was buried under the snow, from which at intervals
emerged the uneven tops of their posts, with their little cups of
porcelain. Of this immense network of electricity which enveloped in its
close meshes the entire globe, as of that prodigious coat of mail with
which the complicated system of railways clothed the earth, there was
only left some scattered fragments, like the remnant of the Grand Army
of Napoleon during the retreat from Russia.

Meanwhile, the glaciers of the Alps, the Andes, and of all the mountains
of the world hitherto vanquished by the sun, which for several thousand
centuries had been thrust back into their last entrenchments, resumed
their triumphant march. All the glaciers that had been dead since the
geological ages came to life again, more colossal than ever. From all
the valleys in the Alps or Pyrenees, that were lately green and peopled
with delightful health resorts, there issued these snowy hordes, these
streams of icy lava, with their frontal moraine advancing as it spread
over the plain, a moving cliff composed of rocks and overturned engines,
of the wreckage of bridges, stations, hotels and public edifices,
whirled along in the wildest confusion, a heart-breaking welter of
gigantic bric-à-brac, with which the triumphant invasion decked itself
out as with the loot of victory. Slowly, step by step, in spite of
sundry transient intervals of light and warmth, in spite of occasionally
scorching days which bore witness to the supreme convulsions of the sun
in its battle against death, which revived in men's souls misleading
hopes, athwart and even by means of these unexpected changes the pale
invaders advanced. They retook and recovered one by one all their
ancient realms in the glacial period, and if they found on the road some
gigantic vagrant block lying in sullen solitude, near some famous city,
a hundred leagues from its native hills, mysterious witness of the
immense catastrophe of former times, they raised it and bore it onward,
cradling it on their unyielding waves, as an advancing army recaptures
and enfurls its ancient flags, all covered with dust, which it has found
again in its enemies' sanctuaries.

But what was the glacial period compared with this new crisis of the
globe and the sky? Doubtless it had been due to a similar attack of
weakness, to a similar failure of the sun, and many species of animals
had necessarily perished at the time, from being insufficiently clad.
That had been, however, but a warning bell, so to say, a simple
notification of the final and fatal attack. The glacial periods--for we
know there have been several--now explained themselves by their
reappearance on a large scale. But this clearing up of an obscure point
in geology was, one must admit, an insufficient compensation for the
public disasters which were its price.

What calamities! What horrors! My pen confesses its impotence to retrace
them. Besides how can we tell the story of disasters which were so
complete they often simultaneously overwhelmed under snow-drifts a
hundred yards deep all that witnessed them, to the very last man. All
that we know for certain is what took place at the time towards the end
of the twenty-fifth century in a little district of Arabia Petræa.

Thither had flocked for refuge, in one horde after another, wave after
wave, with host upon host frozen one on the top of another, as they
advanced, the few millions of human creatures who survived of the
hundreds of millions that had disappeared. Arabia Petræa had, therefore,
along with the Sahara, become the most populous country of the globe.
They transported hither by reason of the relative warmth of its climate,
I will not say the seat of Government--for, alas! Terror alone
reigned--but an immense stove which took its place, and whatever
remained of Babylon now covered over by a glacier. A new town was
constructed in a few months on the plans of an entirely new system of
architecture, marvellously adapted for the struggle against the cold. By
the most happy of chances some rich and unworked coal mines were
discovered on the spot. There was enough fuel there, it seems, to
provide warmth for many years to come. And as for food, it was not as
yet too pressing a question. The granaries contained several sacks of
corn, while waiting for the sun to revive and the corn to sprout again.
The sun had certainly revived after the glacial periods; why should it
not do so again? asked the optimists.

It was but the hope of a day. The sun assumed a violet hue. The frozen
corn ceased to be eatable. The cold became so intense that the walls of
the houses as they contracted cracked and admitted blasts of air which
killed the inhabitants on the spot. A physicist affirmed that he saw
crystals of solid nitrogen and oxygen fall from the sky which gave rise
to the fear that the atmosphere would shortly become decomposed. The
seas were already frozen solid. A hundred thousand human creatures
huddling around the huge government stove, which was no longer equal to
restoring their circulation, were turned into icicles in a single night;
and the night following, a second hundred thousand perished likewise. Of
the beautiful human race, so strong and noble, formed by so many
centuries of effort and genius by such an intelligent and extended
selection, there would soon have been only left a few thousands, a few
hundreds of haggard and trembling specimens, unique trustees of the last
ruins of what had once been civilisation.



III

THE STRUGGLE


In this extremity a man arose who did not despair of humanity. His name
has been preserved for us. By a singular coincidence he was called
Miltiades, like another saviour of Hellenism. He was not, however, of
Hellenic race. A cross between a Slave and a Breton he had only half
sympathised with the prosperity of the Neo-Græcian world with its
levelling and enervating tendencies, and amid this wholesale
obliteration of previous civilisation, and universal triumph of a kind
of Byzantine renaissance brought up to date, he belonged to those who
reverently guarded in the depths of their heart the germs of recusancy.
But, like the barbarian stilicho, the last defender of the foundering
Roman world against the barbaric hordes, it was precisely this
disbeliever in civilisation who alone undertook to arrest it on the
brink of its vast downfall. Eloquent and handsome, but nearly always
taciturn, he was not without certain resemblances in pose and features,
so it was said, to Chateaubriand and Napoleon (two celebrities, as one
knows, who in their time were famous throughout an entire continent).
Worshipped by the women of whom he was the hope, and by the men who
stood greatly in awe of him, he had early kept the crowd at arm's
length, and a singular accident had doubled his natural shyness. Finding
the sea less monotonously dull at any rate than terra firma, and in any
case more unconfined, he had passed his youth on board the last
iron-clad of State of which he was captain, in patrolling the coasts of
continents, in dreaming of impossible adventures, and of conquests when
all was conquered, of discoveries of America when all was discovered,
and in cursing all former travellers, discoverers and conquerors,
fortunate reapers in all the fields of glory in which there was nothing
more left to glean. One day, however, he believed he had discovered a
new island--it was a mistake--and he had the joy of engaging in a fight,
the last of which ancient history makes mention, with an apparently
highly primitive tribe of savages, who spoke English and read the Bible.
In this fight he displayed such valour that he was unanimously
pronounced to be mad by his crew, and was in great danger of losing his
rank after a specialist in insanity, who had been called in, was on the
point of publicly confirming popular opinion by declaring he was
suffering from suicidal mono-mania of a novel kind. Luckily an
archæologist protested and showed by actual documents that this
phenomenon, which had become so unusual but was frequent in past ages
under the name of bravery, was a simple case of ancestral reversion
sufficiently serious to merit examination. As luck would have it, the
unfortunate Miltiades had been wounded in the face in the same
encounter; and the scar which all the art of the best surgeons never
succeeded in removing, drew down upon him the annoying and almost
insulting nick-name of "scarred face". It may be readily understood how
from this time forward, soured by the consciousness of his partial
disfigurement, as the ancient bard Byron had formerly been for a nearly
similar reason, he avoided appearing in public, and thereby giving the
crowd an opportunity of pointing the finger of scorn at the visible
traces of his former attack of madness. He was never seen again till the
day when, his vessel being hemmed in by the icebergs of the Gulf Stream,
he was obliged with his companions to finish the crossing on foot over
the solidly frozen Atlantic.

In the middle of the central state shelter, a huge vaulted hall with
walls ten yards thick, without windows, surrounded with a hundred
gigantic furnaces, and perpetually lit up by their hundred flaming maws,
Miltiades one day appeared. The remnant of the flower of humanity, of
both sexes, splendid even in its misery, was huddled together there.
They did not consist of the great men of science with their bald pates,
nor even the great actresses, nor the great writers, whose inspiration
had deserted them, nor the consequential ones now past their prime, nor
of prim old ladies--broncho-pneumonia, alas! had made a clean sweep of
them all at the very first frost--but the enthusiastic heirs of their
traditions, their secrets, and also of their vacant chairs, that is to
say, their pupils, full of talent and promise. Not a single university
professor was there, but a crowd of deputies and assistants; not a
single minister, but a crowd of young secretaries of state. Not a single
mother of a family, but a bevy of artists' models, admirably formed, and
inured against the cold by the practice of posing for the nude; above
all, a number of fashionable beauties, who had been likewise saved by
the excellent hygienic effect of daily wearing low dresses, without
taking into account the warmth of their temperament. Among them it was
impossible not to notice the Princess Lydia, owing to her tall and
exquisite figure, the brilliancy of her dress and her wit, of her dark
eyes and fair complexion, owing in fact to the radiance of her whole
person. She had carried off the prize at the last grand international
beauty competition, and was accounted the reigning beauty of the
drawing-rooms of Babylon. What a different set of individuals from that
which the spectator formerly surveyed through his opera-glass from the
top of the galleries of the so-called Chamber of Deputies! Youth,
beauty, genius, love, infinite treasures of science and art, writers
whose pens were of pure gold, artists with marvellous technique, singers
one raved about, all that was left of refinement and culture on the
earth, was concentrated in this last knot of human beings, which
blossomed under the snow like a tuft of rhododendrons, or of Alpine
roses at the foot of some mountain summit. But what dejection had fallen
on these fair flowers! How sadly drooped these manifold graces!

At the sudden apparition of Miltiades every brow was lifted, every eye
was fastened upon him. He was tall, lean, and wizened, in spite of the
false plumpness of his thick white furs. When he threw back his big
white hood, which recalled the Dominican cowl of antiquity, they caught
sight of his huge scar athwart the icicles on his beard and eyebrows. At
the sight of it first a smile and then a shudder, which was not due to
cold alone, ran through the ranks of the women. For must we confess it,
in spite of the efforts of a rational education, the inclination to
applaud bravery and its indications could not be entirely uprooted from
their hearts. Lydia, notably, remained imbued with this sentiment of
another age, by a kind of moral ancestral reversion which served as a
pendant to her physical atavism. She concealed so little her feelings of
admiration, that Miltiades himself was struck by it. Her admiration was
combined with astonishment, for he was believed to have been dead for
years. They asked one another by what accumulation of miracles he had
been able to escape the fate of his companions. He requested leave to
speak. It was granted him. He mounted a platform, and such a profound
silence ensued, one might have heard the snow falling outside, in spite
of the thickness of the walls. But let us at this point allow an
eye-witness to speak; let us copy an extract of the account that he
phonographed of this memorable scene. I pass over the part of Miltiades'
discourse in which he related the thrilling story of the dangers he had
encountered from the time he left his vessel. (_Continuous applause_.)
After stating that in passing by Paris on a sledge drawn by
reindeer--thanks to it being the season of the dog-days--he had
recognised the site of this buried city by the double-pointed mound of
snow which had formed over the spires of Notre-Dame--(_excitement in the
audience_)--the speaker continued:--

"The situation is serious," said he, "nothing like it has been seen
since the geological epochs. Is it irretrievable? No! (_Hear! hear!_)
Desperate diseases require desperate remedies. An idea, a glimmer of
hope has flashed upon me, but it is so strange, I shall never dare to
reveal it to you. (_Speak! speak!_) No, I dare not, I shall never dare
to formulate this project. You would believe me to be still insane. You
desire it, you promise me to listen to the end to my absurd and
extravagant project? (_Yes! yes!_) Even to give it a fair trial? (_Yes!
yes!_) Well! I will speak. (_Silence!_)

"The hour has come to ascertain to what extent it is true to say and to
keep on repeating, as has been the practice for the last three centuries
since the time of a certain Stephenson, that all our energy, all our
strength, whether physical or moral, comes to us from the sun....
(_Numerous voices: 'That is so'_). The calculation has been made: in two
years, three months, and six days, if there still remains a morsel of
coal there will not remain a morsel of bread! (_Prolonged sensation_.)
Therefore, if the source of all force, of all motion, and all life is in
the sun, and in the sun alone, there is no ground for self-delusion: in
two years, three months, and six days, the genius of man will be
quenched, and through the gloomy heavens the corpse of mankind, like a
Siberian mammoth, will roll for everlasting, incapable for ever of
resurrection. (_Excitement_.)

"But is that the case? No, it is not, it cannot be the case. With all
the energy of my heart, which does not come from the sun--that energy
which comes from the earth, from our mother earth buried there below,
far, far away, for ever hidden from our eyes--I protest against this
vain theory, and against so many articles of faith and religion which I
have been obliged hitherto to endure in silence. (_Slight murmurs from
the centre_.) The earth is the contemporary of the sun, and not its
daughter; the earth was formerly a luminous star like the sun, only
sooner extinct. It is only on the surface that the earth is devoid of
movement, frozen and paralysed. Its bosom is ever warm and burning. It
has only concentrated its fire within itself in order to preserve it
better. (_Signs of interest in the audience_.) There lies a virgin force
that is unexploited, a force superior to all that the sun has been able
to generate for our industry by waterfalls which to-day are frozen, by
cyclones which now have ceased, by tides which to-day are suspended; a
force in which our engineers, with a little initiative, will find a
hundredfold the equivalent of the motive power they have lost. It is no
more by this gesture (_the speaker raises his finger to heaven_), that
the hope of salvation should henceforth be expressed, it is by this one.
(_He lowers his right hand towards the earth.... Signs of astonishment:
a few murmurs of dissent which are immediately repressed by the women_.)
We must say no more: 'Up there!' but, 'below!' There, below, far below,
lies the promised Eden, the abode of deliverance and of bliss: there,
and there alone, there are still innumerable conquests and discoveries
to be made! (_Bravos on the left_.) Ought I to draw my conclusion?
(_Yes! yes!_) Let us descend into these depths; let us make these
abysses our sure retreat. The mystics had a sublime presentiment when
they said in their Latin: 'From the outward to the inward.' The earth
calls us to its inner self. For many centuries it has lived separated,
so to say, from its children, the living creatures it produced outside
during its period of fecundity before the cooling of its crust! After
its crust cooled, the rays of a distant star alone, it is true, have
maintained on this dead epidermis their artificial and superficial life
which has been a stranger to her own.

"But this schism has lasted too long. It is imperative that it should
cease. It is time to follow Empedocles, Ulysses, Æneas, Dante, to the
gloomy abodes of the underworld, to plunge mankind again in the fountain
from which it sprang, to effect the complete restoration of the exiled
soul to the land of its birth! (_Applause here and there_.) Besides,
there is but this alternative: life underground or death. The sun is
failing us: let us dispense with the sun. The plan, which it remains for
me to propose, has been worked out for several months past by the most
eminent men. To-day it is finished; it is final. It is complete in all
its details. Does it interest you? (_On all sides: 'Read it, read it.'_)
You will see that with discipline, patience, and courage--yes, courage,
I risk this evil-sounding word (_'Risk it, risk it.'_)--and above all,
with the aid of that splendid heritage of science and art which comes to
us from the past, for which we are accountable to the most distant of
our descendants, to the boundless universe, and I was going to say, to
God (_signs of surprise_), we can be saved if we will." (_Thunder of
applause_.)

The speaker next entered into lengthy details, which it is useless to
reproduce here, on the Neo-troglodytism which he pretended to inaugurate
as the acme of civilisation, "which had," said he, "began with caves,
and was destined to return to these subterranean retreats, but at a far
deeper level." He displayed designs, quantities and drawings. He had no
trouble in proving that, on condition of burrowing sufficiently deep
into the ground below, they would find a deliciously gentle warmth, an
Elysian temperature. It would be enough to excavate, enlarge, heighten,
and extend the galleries of already existing mines in order to render
them habitable and comfortable into the bargain. The electric light,
supplied entirely without expense by the scattered centres of the fire
within, would provide for the magnificent illumination both by day and
night of these colossal crypts, these marvellous cloisters, indefinitely
extended and embellished by successive generations. With a good system
of ventilation, all danger of suffocation or of foulness of air would be
avoided. In short, after a more or less long period of settling in,
civilised life could unfold anew in all its intellectual, artistic, and
fashionable splendour, as freely as it did in the capricious and
intermittent light or natural day, and even perhaps more surely. At
these last words, the Princess Lydia broke her fan, by dint of
applauding. An objection then came from the right, "With what shall we
be fed?" Miltiades smiled disdainfully and replied: "Nothing is simpler.
For ordinary drinking purposes we first of all shall have melted ice.
Every day we shall transport enormous blocks of it in order to keep the
orifices of the crypts free from obstruction, and to supply the public
fountains. I may add that chemists undertake to manufacture alcohol from
anything, even from mineralised rocks, and that it is the A.B.C. of the
grocer's trade to manufacture wine from alcohol and water. (_'Hear!
hear!' from all the benches_). As for food, is not chemistry also
capable of manufacturing butter, albumen, and milk from no matter what?
Besides, has the last word been said on the subject? Is it not highly
probable that before long, if it takes up the matter, it will succeed in
satisfying, both on the score of quantity and expense, the desires of
the most refined gastronomy? And, meanwhile.... (_a voice timidly:
'Meanwhile?'_) Meanwhile does not our disaster itself, by a kind of
providential occurrence, place within our reach the best stocked, the
most abundant, the most inexhaustible larder that the human race has
ever had? Immense stores, the most admirable which have hitherto been
laid down, are lying for us under the ice or the snow. Myriads of
domestic or wild animals--I dare not add, of men and women (_a general
shudder of horror_)--but at least of bullocks, sheep and poultry, frozen
instantaneously in a single mass, are lying here and there in the public
markets a few steps away. Let us collect, as long as such work is still
possible out of doors, this boundless quarry which was destined to feed
for years several hundreds of millions, and which will well suffice, in
consequence, to feed a few thousands only for ages, even should they
multiply unduly, in despite of Malthus. If stacked in the neighbourhood
of the orifice of the chief cavern, they will be easy to get at and will
provide a delightful fare for our fraternal love-feasts."

Still further objections were formulated from different quarters. They
were forcibly disposed of with the same irresistible easy assurance. The
conclusion is worthy of a verbatim quotation: "However extraordinary the
catastrophe which has befallen us and the means of escape which is left
us may seem in appearance, a little reflection will suffice to prove to
us that the predicament in which we are, must have been repeated a
thousand times already in the immensity of the universe, and must have
been cleared up in the same fashion, being inevitably and normally the
final phase in the life-drama of every star. The astronomers know that
every sun is bound to become extinct; they know, therefore, that in
addition to the luminous and visible stars, there are in the heavens an
infinitely greater number of extinct and rayless stars which continue
endlessly to revolve with their train of planets, doomed to an eternity
of night and cold. Well, if this is the case, I ask you: Can we suppose
that life, thought, and love, are the exclusive privilege of an infinite
minority of solar systems still possessed of light and heat, and deny to
the immense majority of gloomy stars every manifestation of life and
animation, the very highest reason for their existence? Thus
lifelessness, death, the void in movement would be the rule; and life
the exception! Thus the nine-tenths, the ninety-nine hundredths,
perhaps, of the solar systems, would idly revolve like senseless and
gigantic mill-wheels, a useless encumbrance of space. That is impossible
and idiotic, that is blasphemous. Let us have more faith in the unknown!
Truth, here as everywhere else, is without doubt the antipodes of
appearance. All that glitters is not gold. These splendid constellations
which attempt to dazzle us are themselves relatively barren. Their
light, what is it? A transient glory, a ruinous luxury, an ostentatious
squandering of energy, born of illimitable senselessness. But when the
stars have sown their wild oats, then the serious task of their life
begins, they develop their inner resources. For frozen and sunless
without, they literally preserve in their inviolate centres their
unquenchable fire, defended by the very layers of ice. There, finally,
is to be relit the lamp of life, banished from the surface above. For a
last time, therefore, let us look upwards in order there to find hope.
Up there innumerable races of mankind under ground, buried, to their
supreme joy, in the catacombs of invisible stars, encourage us by their
example. Let us act like them, let us like them withdraw to the interior
of our planet. Like them, let us bury ourselves in order to rise again,
and like them let us carry with us into our tomb, all that is worthy to
survive of our previous existence. It is not merely bread alone that man
has need of. He must live to think, and not merely think to live.

"Recall the legend of Noah: to escape from a disaster almost equal to
our own, and to dispute with it all that the earth had most precious in
his eyes; what did he do, though he was but a simple-minded fellow and
addicted to drink? He turned his ark into a museum, containing a
complete collection of plants and animals, even of poisonous plants, of
wild beasts, boa-constrictors, and scorpions, and by reason of this
picturesque but incongruous cargo of creatures mutually harmful and
seeking one and all to devour each other, of this miscellany of living
contradictions which for so long was so foolishly worshipped under the
name of Nature, he believed in good faith to have deserved well of the
future.

"But we, in our new ark, mysterious, impenetrable, indestructible, shall
carry with us neither plants nor animals. These types of existence are
annihilated; these rough drafts in creation, these fumbling experiments
of Earth in quest of the human form are for ever blotted out. Let us not
regret it. In place of so many pairs of animals which take up so much
room, of so many useless seeds, we will carry with us into our retreat
the harmonious garland of all the truths in perfect accord with one
another; of all artistic and poetic beauties, which are all members one
of another, united like sisters, which human genius has brought to light
in the course of ages and multiplied thereafter in millions of copies:
all of which will be destroyed save a single one, which it will be our
task to guarantee against all danger of destruction. We shall establish
a vast library containing all the principal works, enriched with
cinematographic albums. We shall set up a vast museum composed of single
specimens of all the schools, of all the styles of the masters in
architecture, sculpture, painting, and even music. These are our real
treasures, our real seed for future harvests, our gods for whom we will
do battle till our latest breath."

The speaker stepped down from the platform in the midst of indescribable
enthusiasm: the ladies crowded round him. They deputed Lydia to bestow
on him a kiss in the name of them all. Blushing with modesty the latter
obeyed--a further sign of moral atavism on her part--and the applause
redoubled. The thermometers of the shelter rose several degrees in a few
minutes.

It is well to recall to the younger generation these resolute words,
between the lines of which they will read the gratitude they owe to the
heroic "Scarred face," who so nearly died with the reputation of a
mono-maniac. They, too, are beginning to grow enervated and accustomed
to the delights of their underground Elysium, to the luxurious
spaciousness of these endless catacombs, the legacy of gigantic toil on
the part of their fathers, they too, are, inclined to think that all
this happened of its own accord, or at least was inevitable, that after
all there was no other way of escaping from the cold above ground, and
that this simple expedient did not require a great outlay of
imagination. Profound error! At its first appearance, the idea of
Miltiades had been hailed, and rightly enough, as a flash of genius. But
for him, but for his energy, and his eloquence, which was placed at the
service of his imagination, but for his forcefulness, his charm, and his
perseverance, which seconded his energy, let us add, but for the
profound passion that Lydia, the noblest and most valiant of women, had
been able to inspire in him, and which increased his heroism tenfold,
humanity would have suffered the fate of all the other animal or
vegetable species. What strikes us to-day in his discourse is the
extraordinary and truly prophetic lucidity with which he sketched in
general terms the conditions of existence in the new world. Without
doubt, these expectations have been immensely surpassed. He did not
foresee, he could not foresee, the prodigious accessions which his
original idea has received owing to its development by thousands of
auxiliary geniuses. He was far more right than he fancied, like the
majority of reformers--who are generally wrongly accused, of being too
much wrapt up in their own ideas. But on the whole, never was so
magnificent a plan so promptly carried out.

From that very day all these exquisite and delicate hands set to work,
aided, it is true, by incomparable machines. Everywhere, at the head of
all the workings, were to be found Lydia and Miltiades. Henceforth
inseparable, they vied with one another in ardour; and before a year was
out the galleries of the mines had become sufficiently large and
comfortable, sufficiently decorated even and brilliantly lighted, to
receive the vast and priceless collections of all kinds, which it was
their object to place in safety there, in view of the future.

With infinite precautions they were lowered one after another, bale by
bale, into the bowels of the earth. This salvage of the goods and
chattels of humanity was methodically carried out. It included all the
quintessence of the ancient grand libraries of Paris, Berlin, and
London, which had been brought together at Babylon, and then carried for
safety into the desert with the rest. The cream of all former museums,
of all previous exhibitions of industry and art, was concentrated there
with considerable additions. There were manuscripts, books, bronzes, and
pictures. What an expenditure of energy and incessant toil, in spite of
the assistance of inter-terrestrial forces, had been necessary for
packing, transporting, and housing it all! And yet, for the greater
part, it was useless to those who voluntarily this task imposed upon
themselves. They all knew it. They were well aware that they were
probably condemned for the rest of their days to a hard and
matter-of-fact existence, for which their lives as artists,
philosophers, and men of letters, had scarcely prepared them. But--for
the first time--the idea of duty to be done found its way into these
hearts, the beauty of self-sacrifice subdued these dilettanti. They
sacrificed themselves to the Unknown, to that which is not yet, to the
posterity towards which were turned all the desires of their electrified
spirits, as all the atoms of the magnetised iron turn towards the pole.
It was thus that, at the time when there were still countries, in the
midst of some great national peril, a wave of heroism swept over the
most frivolous cities. However admirable may have been, at the epoch of
which I speak, this collective need of individual self-sacrifice, ought
we to be astonished at it, when we know from the treatises on natural
history that have been preserved, that mere insects giving the same
example of foresight and self-renunciation, used before their death to
employ their latest energies to collect provisions useless to
themselves, and only useful in the future to their larvæ at their birth.



IV

SAVED!


The day at length arrived on which, all the intellectual inheritance of
the past, all the real capital of humanity having been rescued from the
general shipwreck, the castaways were able to go down in their turn,
having henceforth only to think of their own preservation. That day
which forms, as everyone knows, the starting point of our new era,
called the era of salvation, was a solemn holiday. The sun, however, as
if to arouse regret, indulged in a few last bursts of sunshine. On
casting a final glance on this brightness, which they were never to
behold again, the survivors of mankind could not, we are told, restrain
their tears. A young poet on the brink of the pit that yawned to swallow
them up, repeated in the musical language of Euripides, the farewell to
the light of the dying Iphigenia. But that was a short-lived moment of
very natural emotion which speedily changed into an outburst of
unspeakable delight.

How great in fact was their amazement and their ecstasy! They expected a
tomb; they opened their eyes in the most brilliant and interminable
galleries of art they could possibly see, in _salons_ more beautiful
than those of Versailles, in enchanted palaces, in which all extremes of
climate, rain, and wind, cold and torrid heat were unknown; where
innumerable lamps, veritable suns in brilliancy and moons in softness,
shed unceasingly through the blue depths their daylight that knew no
night. Assuredly the sight was far from what it has since become; we
need an effort of imagination in order to represent the psychological
condition of our poor ancestors, hitherto accustomed to the perpetual
and insufferable discomforts and inconveniences of life on the surface
of the globe, in order to realise their enthusiasm, at a moment, when
only counting on escaping from the most appalling of deaths by means of
the gloomiest of dungeons, they felt themselves delivered of all their
troubles, and of all their apprehensions at the same time! Have you
noticed in the retrospective museum that quaint bit of apparatus of our
fathers, which is called an umbrella? Look at it and reflect on the
heart-breaking element, in a situation, which condemned man to make use
of this ridiculous piece of furniture. Imagine yourself obliged to
protect yourselves against those gigantic downpours which would
unexpectedly arrive on the scene and drench you for three or four days
running. Think likewise of sailors caught in a whirling cyclone, of the
victims of sunstroke, of the 20,000 Indians annually devoured by tigers
or killed by the bite of venomous serpents; think of those struck by
lightning. I do not speak of the legions of parasites and insects, of
the acarus, the phylloxera, and the microscopic beings which drained the
blood, the sweat, and the life of man, inoculating him with typhus,
plague, and cholera. In truth, if our change of condition has demanded
some sacrifices, it is not an illusion to declare that the balance of
advantage is immensely greater. What in comparison with this
unparalleled revolution is the most renowned of the petty revolutions of
the past which to-day are treated so lightly, and rightly so, by our
historians. One wonders how the first inhabitants of these underground
dwellings could, even for a moment, regret the sun, a mode of lighting
that bristled with so many inconveniences. The sun was a capricious
luminary which went out and was relit at variable hours, shone when it
felt disposed, sometimes was eclipsed, or hid itself behind the clouds
when one had most need of it, or pitilessly blinded one at the very
moment one yearned for shade! Every night,--do we really realise the
full force of the inconvenience?--every night the sun commanded social
life to desist and social life desisted. Humanity was actually to that
extent the slave of nature! To think it never succeeded in, never even
dreamed of, freeing itself from this slavery which weighed so heavily
and unconsciously on its destinies, on the course of its progress thus
straitened and confined! Ah! Let us once more bless our fortunate
disaster!

What excuses or explains the weakness of the first immigrants of the
inner world is the fact that their life was necessarily rough and full
of hardships, in spite of a notable improvement after their descent into
the caverns. They had perpetually to enlarge them, to adjust them to the
requirements of the two civilisations, ancient and modern. That was not
the work of a single day. I am well aware how happily fortune favoured
them; how they again and again had the good luck when driving their
tunnels to discover natural grottoes of the utmost beauty, in which it
was enough to illuminate with the usual methods of lighting (which was
absolutely cost-free, as Miltiades had foreseen) in order to render them
almost habitable: delightful squares, as it were, enshrined and sparsely
disseminated throughout the labyrinth of our brilliantly lighted
streets; mines of sparkling diamonds, lakes of quicksilver, mounds of
golden ingots. I am well aware that they had at their disposition a sum
of natural forces very superior to all that the preceding ages had been
acquainted with. That is very easy to understand. In fact, if they
lacked waterfalls, they replaced them very advantageously by the finest
falls in temperature that physicists have ever dreamed of. The central
heat of the globe could not, it is true, by itself alone be a mechanical
force, any more than formerly a large mass of water falling by
hypothesis to the greatest possible depth. It is in its passage from a
higher to a lower level that the mass of water becomes (or rather
became) available energy: it is in its descent from a higher to a lower
degree of the thermometer that heat likewise becomes so. The greater
distance between any two degrees the greater amount of surplus energy.
Now, the mining physicists had hardly descended into the bowels of the
earth ere they at once perceived that thus placed between the furnaces
of the central fire, as it were, a forge of the Cyclops, hot enough to
liquefy granite, and the outer cold, which was sufficient to solidify
oxygen and nitrogen, they had at their disposal the most enormous
extremes in temperature, and consequently thermic cataracts by the side
of which all the cataracts of Abyssinia and Niagara were only toys. What
caldrons did they own in the ancient volcanoes! What condensers in the
glaciers! At first sight they must have seen that if a few distributing
agencies of this prodigious energy were provided, they had power enough
there to perform the whole work of mankind--excavation, air supply,
water supply, sanitation, locomotion, descent and transport of
provisions, etc.

I am well aware of that. I am further aware that ever favoured by
fortune, the inseparable friend of daring, the new Troglodytes have
never suffered from famine, nor from shortness of supplies. When one of
their snow-covered deposits of carcasses threatened to give out, they
used to make several trial borings, drive several shafts in an upward
direction. They never failed presently to meet with rich finds of food
reserves, extensive enough to close the mouths of the alarmists, whereby
there resulted on each occasion, according to the law of Malthus, a
sudden increase in the population, coupled with the excavation of new
underground cities, more flourishing than their older sisters. But, in
spite of all this, we remain overwhelmed with wonder when we consider
the incalculable degree of courage and intelligence lavished on such a
work, and solely called into being by an idea which, starting one day
from one individual brain, has leavened the whole globe. What giant
falls of earth, what murderous explosions, what a death-roll there must
have been at the outset of the enterprise! We shall never know what
bloodthirsty duels, what rapes, what doleful tragedies, took place in
this lawless society, which had not yet been reorganised. The history of
the early conquerors and colonists of America, if it could be told in
detail, would pale entirely beside it. Let us draw a veil over the
proceedings. But this pitch of horrors was perhaps necessary to teach us
that in the forced intimacy of a cave there is no mean between warfare
and love, between mutual slaughter or mutual embraces. We began by
fighting; to-day we fall on each other's necks. And in fact, what human
ear, nose, or stomach could have longer withstood the deafening roar and
smoke of melanite explosions beneath our crypts; the sight and stench of
mangled bodies piled up within our narrow confines? Hideous and odious,
revolting beyond all expression, the underground war finished by
becoming impossible.

It is, however, painful to think that it lasted right up to the death of
our glorious preserver. Everyone is acquainted with the heroic adventure
in which Miltiades and his companion lost their lives. It has been so
often painted, sculptured, sung, and immortalised by the great masters,
that it is not allowable to pass it over in silence. The famous struggle
between the centralist and federalist cities, that is to say, at bottom,
between the industrial and artist cities, having ended in the triumph of
the latter, a still more bloodthirsty conflict sprang up between the
free thinking and the cellular cities. The former fought to assert the
freedom of love with its uncertain fecundity; the second, for its
prudent regulation. Miltiades, misled by his passion, committed the
fault of siding with the former, a pardonable error which posterity has
forgiven him. Besieged in his last grotto--a perfect marvel in
strongholds--and at the end of his provisions, the besiegers having
intercepted the arrival of all his convoys, he essayed a final effort:
he prepared a formidable explosion intended to blow up the vault of his
cavern, and forcibly to open a way upwards by which he might have the
chance of reaching a deposit of provisions. His hope was deceived. The
vault blew up, it is true, and disclosed a cavern above it, the most
colossal one had hitherto seen, that dimly resembled a Hindoo temple.
But the hero himself perished miserably, buried with Lydia beneath
enormous rocks on the very spot on which now stands their double statue
in marble, the masterpiece of our new Phidias, which is now the crowded
meeting-place of our national pilgrimages.

From these fruitful though troublous times, and from this beneficial
disorder, an advantage has accrued to us which we shall never
sufficiently appreciate. Our race, already so beautiful, has been
further strengthened and purified by these numerous trials.
Short-sightedness itself has disappeared under the prolonged influence
of a light that is pleasing to the eye, and of the habit of reading
books which are written in very large characters. For, from lack of
paper, we are obliged to write on slates, on pillars, obelisks, on the
broad panels of marble, and this necessity, in addition to compelling us
to adopt a sober style and contributing to the formation of taste,
prevents the daily newspapers from reappearing, to the great benefit of
the optic nerves and the lobes of the brain. It was, by the way, an
immense misfortune for "pre-salvationist" man to possess textile plants
which allowed him to stereotype without the slightest trouble on rags of
paper without the slightest value, all his ideas, idle or serious, piled
indiscriminately one on the other. Now, before graving our thoughts on a
panel of rock, we take time to reflect on our subject. Yet another bane
among our primitive forefathers was tobacco. At present we no longer
smoke, we can no longer smoke. The public health is accordingly
magnificent.



V

REGENERATION


It does not fall within the scope of my rapid sketch to relate date by
date the laborious vicissitudes of humanity since its settlement within
the planet from the year 1 of the era of Salvation to the year 596, in
which I write these lines in chalk on slabs of schist. I should only
like to bring out for my contemporaries, who might very well fail to
notice them (for we barely observe what we have always before our eyes),
the distinctive and original features of this modern civilisation of
which we are so justly proud. Now that after many abortive trials and
agonizing convulsions it has succeeded in taking its final shape, we can
clearly establish its essential characteristics. It consists in the
complete elimination of living nature, whether animal or vegetable, man
only excepted. That has produced, so to say, a purification of society.
Secluded thus from every influence of the natural milieu into which it
was hitherto plunged and confined, the social milieu was for the first
time able to reveal and display its true virtues, and the real social
bond appeared in all its vigour and purity. It might be said that
destiny had desired to make in our case an extended sociological
experiment for its own edification by placing us in such extraordinarily
unique conditions.[1] The problem, in a way, was to learn, what would
social man become if committed to his own keeping, yet left to
himself--furnished with all the intellectual acquisitions accumulated
through a remote past by human geniuses, but deprived of the assistance
of all other living beings, nay, even of those beings half endowed with
life, that we call rivers and seas and stars, and thrown back on the
conquered, yet passive forces of chemical, inorganic and lifeless
Nature, which is separated from man by too deep a chasm to exercise on
him any action from the social point of view. The problem was to learn
what this humanity would do when restricted to man, and obliged to
extract from its own resources, if not its food supplies, yet at least
all its pleasures, all its occupations, all its creative inspirations.
The answer has been given, and we have realised at the same time what an
unsuspected drag the terrestrial fauna and flora had hitherto been on
the progress of humanity.

[1] In appearance only: we must not forget that in accordance
with all probability many extinct stars must have served as the scene of
this normal and necessary phase of social life.

At first human pride and the faith of man in himself hitherto held in
check by the constant presence, by the profound sense of the superiority
of the forces round it, rebounded with a force of elasticity really
appalling. We are a race of Titans. But, at the same time, whatever
enervating element there might have been in the air of our grottoes has
been thereby victoriously combated. Otherwise our air is the purest that
man has ever breathed; all the bad germs with which the atmosphere was
loaded were killed by the cold. Far from being attacked by anæmia as
some predicted, we live in a state of habitual excitement maintained by
the multiplicity of our relations and of our "social tonics" (friendly
shakes of the hand, talks, meetings with charming women, etc.). With a
certain number among us it passes into a state of unintermittent
delirium under the name of Troglodytic fever. This new malady, whose
microbe has not yet been discovered, was unknown to our forefathers,
thanks perhaps to the stupefying (or soothing, if you prefer it)
influence of natural and rural distractions. Rural! what a strange
anachronism! Fishermen, hunters, ploughmen, and shepherds--do we really
understand to-day the meaning of these words? Have we for a moment
reflected on the life of that fossil creature who is so frequently
mentioned in books of ancient history and who was called the peasant?
The habitual society of this curious creature which comprised half or
three-quarters of the population was not man, but four-footed beasts,
pot herbs and green crops, which, owing to the conditions necessary for
their production in the country (yet another word which has become
meaningless) condemned him to live a wild, solitary life, far from his
fellows. As for his herds, they were acquainted with the charms of
social life, but he had not the slightest inkling of what it meant.

The towns, to which people were so astonished that there should be a
desire to emigrate, were the only centres, rare and widely scattered as
they were, in which life in society was then known. But to what extent
does it not appear to have been adulterated, and attenuated by animal
and vegetable life? Another fossil peculiar to these regions is the
artisan. Was the relation of the worker to his employer, of the artisan
class to the other classes of the population, of these classes between
themselves a really social relation? Not the least in the world! Certain
sophists, who were called economists, and who were to our sociologists
of to-day what the alchemists formerly were to the chemists or the
astrologers to the astronomers, had given credit, it is true, to this
error--that society essentially consists in an exchange of services.
From this point of view, which, moreover, is quite out of date, the
social bond could never be closer than that between the ass and the ass
driver, the ox and drover, the sheep and the shepherd. Society, we now
know, consists in the exchange of reflections. Mutually to ape one
another, and by dint of accumulated apings diversely combined to create
an originality is the important thing. Reciprocal service is only an
accessory. That is why the urban life of former days being principally
founded on the organic and natural, rather than on the social relation
of producer to consumer, or of workman to employer, was itself only a
very imperfect kind of social life, and accordingly the source of
endless disagreements.

If it has been possible for us to realise the most perfect and the most
intense social life that has ever been seen, it is thanks to the extreme
simplicity of our strictly so-called wants. At a time when man was
"panivorous" and omnivorous, the craving for food was broken up into an
infinity of petty ramifications. To-day it is confined to eating meat
which has been preserved in the best of refrigerators. Within the space
of an hour each morning, a single member of society by the employment of
our ingenious transport machinery feeds a thousand of his kind. The need
of clothing has been pretty nearly abolished by the softness of an ever
constant climate, and, we must also admit it, by the absence of
silkworms and of textile plants. That would perhaps be a disadvantage
were it not for the incomparable beauty of our bodies, which lends a
real charm to this grand simplicity of costume. Let us observe, however,
that it is fairly customary to wear coats of asbestos spangled with
mica, of silver interwoven and enriched with gold, in which the refined
and delicate charms of our women appear as though moulded in metal,
rather than completely screened from view. This metallic iridescence
with its infinite tints has a most delightful effect. These are,
however, costumes that never wear out. How many clothiers, milliners,
tailors, and drapery establishments are thereby abolished at a single
stroke! The need of shelter remains, it is true, but it has been greatly
reduced. One is no longer obliged to sleep at "starlight-hotel". When a
young man grows weary of the life in common which has hitherto sufficed
him in the spacious working-drawing-room of his fellows, and desires for
matrimonial reasons to have a dwelling to himself, he has only to apply
the boring-machine somewhere against the rocky wall and his cell is
excavated in a few days. There is no rent and few articles of furniture.
The joint-stock furniture, which is magnificent, is almost the only one
of which the pair of lovers make use.

The quota of absolute necessities being thus reduced to almost nothing,
the quota of superfluities has been able to be extended to almost
everything. Since we live on so little, there remains abundant time for
thought. A minimum of utilitarian work and a maximum of æsthetic, is
surely civilisation itself in its most essential element. The room left
vacant in the heart by the reduction of our wants is taken up by the
talents--those artistic, poetic, and scientific talents which, as they
day by day multiply and take deeper root, become really and truly
acquired wants. They really spring, however, from a necessity to
produce, and not from a necessity to consume. I underline this
difference. The manufacturer is ever toiling, not for his own pleasure
nor for that of the world about him, of his fellow-men or his natural
rivals, but for a society different from his own--on mutual terms, but
that is immaterial. His work, therefore, constitutes a non-social, an
almost anti-social relationship with those who are not of his kind, to
the great hurt and hindrance of his relations with those who are. The
increasing intensity of his work tends to accentuate and not to
attenuate the dissimilarities between the different grades of society,
which act as an obstacle to the general reunion. We have clearly seen
the truth of this in the course of the twentieth century of the ancient
era, when the whole population was divided into trades-unions of the
different professions, which waged desperate warfare on one another, and
whose members in the bosom of each union hated one another as only
brothers can.

But for the scientist, the artist, the lover of beauty in all its forms,
to produce is a passion, to consume is only a taste. For every artist
has a dilettante double. But his dilettantism in respect to arts other
than his own only plays by comparison a secondary part in his life. The
artist creates through sheer delight, and he alone creates for such
motives.

We can now comprehend the depth of the truly social revolution which was
accomplished from the days when the æsthetic activity, by dint of ever
growing, ended by vanquishing utilitarian activity. Henceforth in place
of the relation of producer to consumer has been substituted, as
preponderating element in human dealings, the relation of the artist to
the art-lover. The ancient social ideal was to seek amusement or
self-satisfaction apart and to render mutual service. For this we
substitute the following: to be one's own servant and mutually to
delight one another. Henceforward, to insist once more, society reposes,
not on the exchange of services, but on the exchange of admiration or
criticism, of favourable or unfavourable judgments. The anarchical
regime of greed in all its forms has been succeeded by the autocratic
government of enlightened opinion which has become supreme. For our
worthy ancestors deceived themselves finely when they persuaded
themselves that social progress led to what they termed freedom of
thought. We have something better; we possess the joy and the strength
of the mind which attains a certainty of its own, founded, as it is, on
its only sure basis, the unanimity of other minds on certain essential
matters. On this rock we can rear the highest constructions of thought,
nay, the most gigantic systems of philosophy.

The error, at present recognised, of those ancient visionaries called
socialists was their failure to see that this life in common, this
intense social life, they dreamt of so ardently, had for its
indispensable condition the æsthetic life and the universal propagation
of the religion of truth and beauty. The latter assumes the drastic
lopping off of numerous personal wants. Consequently in rushing, as they
did, into an exaggerated development of commercial life, they were
marching in the opposite direction to their own goal.

They must have begun, I am well aware, by uprooting the fatal habit of
eating bread, which made man a slave to the tyrannical whims of a plant,
of beasts which were necessary for the manuring of this plant, and of
other plants which served as fodder for their beasts.... But as long as
this unhappy craving was rampant and they refrained from combating it,
it was obligatory to abstain from arousing others which were not less
anti-social, that is to say, not less natural. It was far better to
leave men at the ploughtail than to attract them to the factory, for the
dispersion and isolation of individualist types are more preferable to
bringing them together, which can only result in setting them by the
ears. But let us hurry on. All the advantages for which we are indebted
to our anti-natural position are now clear. We alone have realised all
the quintessence of refinement and reality, of strength and of
sweetness, that the social life contains. Formerly, here and there, in a
few rare cases in the midst of deserts an individual had certainly had a
distant foretaste of this ineffable thing, not to mention three or four
salons in the eighteenth century under the ancient regime, two or three
painters' studios, one or two green-rooms. They represented, in a way,
imperceptible cores of social protoplasm lost amid a mass of foreign
matter. But this marrow has become the entire bone at present. Our
cities, all in all, are one vast workshop, household and reception hall.
And this has happened in the simplest and most inevitable manner in the
world. Following the law of separation of the old Herbert Spencer, the
selection of heterogeneous talents and vocations was bound to take place
of its own accord. In fact, at the end of a century there was already
underground in course of development and continuous excavation a city of
painters, a city of sculptors, a city of musicians, of poets, of
geometricians, of physicists, of chemists, even of naturalists, of
psychologists, of scientific or æsthetic specialists of every kind,
except, strictly speaking, in philosophy. For we were obliged after
several attempts to give up the idea of founding or maintaining a city
of philosophers, notably owing to the incessant trouble caused by the
tribe of sociologists who are the most unsociable of mankind.

Let us not forget, by the way, to mention the city of "sappers" (we no
longer speak of architects), whose speciality is to work out the plans
for excavating and repairing all our crypts and to direct the carrying
out of the work by our machines. Quitting the hackneyed paths of former
architecture, they have created in every detail our modern architecture
so profoundly original of which nothing could give an idea to our
forefathers. The public building of the ancient architect was a kind of
massive and voluminous work of art. It was entirely a thing by itself.
Its exterior, and especially its front, occupied his attention far more
than the inside. For the modern architect the interior alone exists, and
each work is linked on to those which have gone before. None stands by
itself. They are only an extension and ramification, one of another, an
endless continuation like the epics of the East. The work of the ancient
architect with its misplaced individuality, with its symmetry, which
gave it a mock air of being a living thing, yet only rendered it more
out of keeping with the surrounding landscape, the more symmetrical and
more skilfully designed it was, produced the effect of a verse in prose,
or of a hackneyed theme in a fantasia. Its special function was to
represent correctness, coldness, and stiffness amid the luxuriant
disorder of nature and the freedom of the other arts. But to-day,
instead of being the most tight-laced of the arts, architecture is the
freest and most wanton of them all. It is the chief element of
picturesqueness in our life, its artificial and veritably artistic
scenery lends to all the masterpieces of our painters and sculptors the
horizon of its perspective, the sky of its vaults, the tangled
vegetation of its innumerable colonnades, whose shafts are a copy of the
idealised trunk of all the antique essence of tree-life, whose capitals
imitate the idealised form of all the antique flowers. Here is nature
winnowed and perfected, which has become human in order to delight
humanity, and which humanity has deified in order to shelter love
beneath its shade. This perfection has only been, however, attained
after much groping in the dark. Many falls of rock, occasioned by
foolhardy excavations, which unduly reduced the number of supports,
swallowed up whole towns during the first two centuries. They will serve
for our descendants as Pompeii to rediscover. At the least shock
produced by earthquakes (the only natural plague which engages our
attention), a few cases of crushing to death still occur here and there,
but such accidents are very rare.

To return to our subject. Each of our cities in founding colonies in the
region round it, has become the mother of cities similar to itself, in
which its own peculiar colour has been multiplied in different tints
which reflect and render it more beautiful. It is thus with us that
nations are formed whose differences no longer correspond to
geographical accidents but to the diversity of the social aptitudes of
human nature and of nothing else. Nay, more, in each of them the
division of cities is founded on that of schools, the most flourishing
of which, at any given moment, raises its particular town to the rank of
capital, thanks to the all-powerful favour of the public.

The beginnings and devolution of power, questions which have so deeply
agitated humanity of yore, arise with us in the most natural way in the
world. There is always amid the crowd of our genius, a superior genius
who is hailed as such by the almost unanimous acclamation of his pupils
at first, and next of his comrades. A man is judged in fact by his peers
and according to his productions, not by the incompetent or according to
his electoral exploits. In the light of the intimate sense of corporate
life which binds and cements us one to another, the elevation of such a
dictator to the supreme magistracy has nothing humiliating about it for
the pride of the senators who have elected him, and who are the chiefs
of all the leading schools they themselves have created. The elector who
is a pupil, the elector who is an intelligent and sympathetic admirer
identifies himself with the object of his choice. Now it is the
particular characteristic of a "Geniocratic" Republic to be based on
admiration, not on envy, on sympathy, and not on dislike--on
enlightenment, not on illusion.

Nothing is more delightful than a tour through our domains. Our towns,
which are quite close to one another are severally connected by broad
roads which are always illuminated and dotted with light and graceful
monocycles, with trains without smoke or whistle, with pretty electric
carriages which glide silently along, like gondolas between walls
covered with admirable bas-reliefs, with charming inscriptions, with
immortal fancies, the outpourings and accumulations of ten generations
of wandering artists. Similarly one might have seen in the olden times
the scanty remains of some convent where, in the course of ages the
monks had translated their weariness of spirit into grinning figures,
with hooded heads, into beasts from the Apocalypse, clumsily sculptured
on the capitals of the little pilasters or around the stone chair of the
Abbot. But what a distance lies between this monkish nightmare and this
artistic revelation! At the very most the pretty little gallery which
joined across the Arno, the museum of the Pitti Palace, with that of the
Uffizi at Florence, could give our ancestors a faint idea of what we
see.

If the corridors of our abode possess this wealth and splendour, what
shall we say of the dwelling-places, or of the cities? They are filled
with heaps of artistic marvels, of frescoes, enamels, gold and silver
plate, bronzes and pictures, the acme and quintessence of musical
emotions, of philosophic conceptions, of poetic dreams, enough to baffle
all description, and weary all admiration. We have difficulty in
believing that the labyrinth of galleries, subterranean palaces and
marble catacombs, all named and numbered, whose manifold nomenclature
recalls all the geography and history of the past, have been excavated
in so few centuries. That is what perseverance can do! However
accustomed we may be to this extraordinary sight, it still at times
happens when wandering alone, during the hours of the siesta, in this
sort of infinite cathedral, with its irregular and endless architecture,
through this forest of lofty columns, massive or in close formation,
displaying in turn the most diversified and grandiose styles, Egyptian,
Greek, Byzantine, Arab, Gothic, and reminiscent of all the vanished and
venerated floras and faunas, when it is not above all profoundly
original ... it happens, I repeat, that panting, and beside ourselves
with ecstasy, we come to a standstill, like the traveller of yore when
he entered the twilight of a virgin forest, or of the pillared hall of
Karnak.

To those who on reading the ancient accounts of travels might perchance
have regretted the wanderings of caravans across the deserts or the
discoveries of new worlds, our universe can offer boundless excursions
under the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans frozen to their very lowest
depths. Venturesome explorers, I was going to say discoverers, have in
every direction and in the easiest imaginable fashion honeycombed these
immense ice-caps with endless passages much in the same way as the
termites, according to our palæontologists, bored through the floors of
our fathers. We extend at will these fantastic galleries of crystal,
which, wherever they cross one another, form so many crystal palaces, by
casting on the walls a ray of intense heat which makes them melt. We
take good care to drain the water due to the liquefaction into one of
those bottomless pits which here and there yawn hideously beneath our
feet. Thanks to this method and the improvements it has undergone we
have succeeded in cutting, hewing and carving the solidified sea-water.
We are able to glide through it, to manoeuvre in it, to course through
it on skates or velocipedes with an ease and agility that are always
admired in spite of our being accustomed to it. The severe cold of these
regions is scarcely tempered by millions of electric lamps which are
mirrored in these emerald-green icicles with their velvet-like tints and
renders a permanent stay impossible. It would even prevent us crossing
them if, by good luck, the earliest pioneers had not discovered in them
crowds of seals which had been caught while still alive by the freezing
of the waters in which they remain imprisoned. Their carefully prepared
skins have furnished us with warm clothing. Nothing is more curious than
thus suddenly to catch sight of, as it were through a mysterious glass
case, one of these huge marine animals, sometimes a whale, a shark or a
devil fish, and that star-like flora which carpets the seas. Though
appearing crystallized in its transparent prison, in its Elysium of pure
brine, it has lost none of its secret charm, that was quite unknown to
our ancestors. Idealised by its very lack of motion, immortalised by its
death, it dimly shines here and there with gleams of pearl and mother of
pearl in the twilight of the depths below, to the right, the left,
beneath the feet or above the head of the solitary skater who roams with
his lamp on his forehead in pursuit of the unknown. There is always
something new to look forward to from these miraculous soundings, so
different from the soundings of former time. Never a tourist has come
home without having discovered some interesting object--a piece of
wreckage, the steeple of some sunken town, a human skeleton to enrich
our prehistoric museums, sometimes a shoal of sardines or cod. These
splendid and timely reserves come in very handy for replenishing our
bill of fare. But the chief fascination of such adventurous exploration
is the sense of the boundless and the everlasting, of the unfathomable
and the changeless by which one is arrested and overwhelmed in these
bottomless depths. The savour of this silence and solitude, of this
profound peace, the sequel to so many tempests, of this almost starless
gloaming and twilight with its fleeting gleams, reposes the eye after
our underground illuminations. I will not speak of the surprises which
the hand of man has lavished there. At the moment when one least expects
it one sees the submarine tunnel along which one is gliding, enlarged
beyond all measure and transformed into a vast hall in which the fancy
of our sculptors has found full play, a temple of vast dimensions with
transparent pillars, with walls of enthralling beauty that the eye in
ecstasy attempts to fathom. That is often the trysting place of friends
and lovers, and the excursion begun in dreamy loneliness is continued in
loving companionship.

But we have wandered long enough in these halls of mysteries. Let us
return to our cities. One would look, by the bye, in vain for a city of
lawyers there, or even, for a court of justice. There is no more arable
land and therefore no more lawsuits about property or ancient rights.
There are no more walls, and therefore no more lawsuits about party
walls. As for felonies and misdemeanours, we do not know exactly why,
but it is an obvious fact that with the spread of the cult of art they
have disappeared as by enchantment, while formerly the progress of
industrial life had tripled their numbers in half a century.

Man in becoming a town dweller has become really human. From the time
that all sorts of trees and beasts, of flowers and insects no longer
interpose between men, and all sorts of vulgar wants no longer hinder
the progress of the truly human faculties, every one seems to be born
well-bred, just as every one is born a sculptor or musician, philosopher
or poet, and speaks the most correct language with the purest accent. An
indescribable courtesy, skilled to charm without falsehood, to please
without obsequiousness, the most free from fawning one has ever seen, is
united to a politeness which has at heart the feeling, not of a social
hierarchy to be respected, but of a social harmony to be maintained. It
is composed not of more or less degenerate airs of the court, but of
more or less faithful reflections of the heart. Its refinement is such
as the race who lived on the surface of earth never even dreamed of. It
permeates like a fragrant oil all the complicated and delicate machinery
of our existence. No unsociableness, no misanthropy can resist it. The
charm is too profound. The single threat of ostracism, I do not say of
expulsion to the realms above, which would be a death sentence, but of
banishment beyond the limits of the usual corporate life, is sufficient
to arrest the most criminal natures on the slope of crime. There is in
the slightest inflexion of voice, in the least inclination of the head
of our women a special charm, which is not only the charm of former
times, whether roguish kindness or kindly roguishness, but a refinement
at once more exquisite and more healthful in which the constant practice
of seeing and doing beautiful things or loving and being loved is
expressed in an ineffable fashion.



VI

LOVE


Love, in fact, is the unseen and perennial source of this novel
courtesy. The capital importance it has assumed, the strange forms it
has worn, the unexpected heights to which it has risen, are perhaps the
most significant characteristics of our civilisation. In the glittering
and superficial epochs, age of paper and electro-plating, which
immediately preceded our present era, love was held in check by a
thousand childish needs, by the contagious mono-mania of unsightly and
cumbersome luxury or of ceaseless globe-trotting, and by that other form
of madness which has now disappeared, the so-called political ambition.
It suffered accordingly an immense decline, relatively speaking. To-day
it benefits from the destruction or gradual diminution of all the other
principal impulses of the heart which have taken refuge and concentrated
themselves in it as banished mankind has done in the warm bosom of the
earth. Patriotism is dead, since there is no longer any native land, but
only a native grot. Moreover the guilds which we enter as we please
according to our vocations have taken the place of Fatherlands.
Corporate spirit has exterminated patriotism. In the same fashion the
school is on the road not to exterminate but to transform the family,
which is only right and proper. The best that can be said for the
parents of old was that they were compulsory and not always cost-free
friends. One was not wrong in preferring in general to them friends who
are a species of optional and unselfish relations. Maternal love itself
has undergone a good many transformations among our women artists, and
one must admit, sundry partial set backs.

But love is left to us. Or rather, be it said without vanity, it is we
who discovered and introduced it. Its name has preceded it by a good
many centuries. Our ancestors gave it its name, but they spoke of it as
the Hebrews spoke of the Messiah. It has revealed itself in our day. In
our day it has become incarnate, it has founded the true religion,
universal and enduring, that pure and austere moral which is
indistinguishable from art. It has been favoured at the outset, beyond
all doubt and beyond all expectation by the charm and beauty of our
women, who are all differently yet almost equally accomplished. There is
nothing _natural_ left in our world below if it be not they. But it
appears they have always been the most beautiful thing in nature even in
the most unfavourable and ill-favoured ages. For we are assured that
never was the graceful curve of hill or stream, of wave or rippling
cornfield, that never was the hue of the dawn or of the Mediterranean
equal in sweetness, in strength, in richness of visible music and
harmony to the female form. There must therefore have been a special
instinct which is quite incomprehensible which formerly retained the
poor beside their natal river or rock and prevented their emigrating to
the big towns, where they might well have hoped to admire at their ease
tints and outlines of beauty assuredly far superior to the charm of the
locality to whose attractions they fell a victim. At present there is no
other country than the woman of one's affections; there is no other
home-sickness than that caused by her absence.

But the foregoing is insufficient to explain the unparalleled power and
persistence of our love which time intensifies more than it wears out,
and consummates as it consumes it. Love, we now at last know, is like
air, essential to life; we must look to it for health and not for mere
nourishment. It is as the sun once was, we must use it to give us light,
not allow it to dazzle us. It resembles that imposing temple that the
fervour of our fathers raised in its honour when they worshipped it,
unwittingly, at the Paris Opera-house. The most beautiful part of it is
the staircase--when one mounts it. We have therefore attempted to make
the staircase monopolise the whole edifice without leaving the tiniest
room for the hall. The wise man, an ancient writer has said, is to the
woman what the asymptote is to the curve, it draws ever nearer but never
touches. It was a half crazy fellow named Rousseau who uttered this
splendid aphorism and our society flatters itself that it has practised
it far better than he. All the same the ideal thus outlined, we are
compelled to confess, is rarely attained in all its entity. This degree
of perfection is reserved for the most saintly souls, the ascetics, men
and women, who wander together, two and two, in the most marvellous
cloisters, in the most Raphaelesque cells in the city of painters, in a
sort of artificial dusk produced by a coloured twilight in the midst of
a throng of similar couples, and on the banks of a stream so to say of
audacious and splendid revelations of the nude. They pass their life in
feasting their eyes on these waves of beauty, the living bank of which
is their own passion. Together they climb the fiery steps of the
heavenly staircase to the very summit on which they halt. Then supremely
inspired they set to work and produce masterpieces. Heroic lovers are
they whose whole pleasure in love consists in the sublime joy of feeling
their love growing within them, blissful because it is shared, inspiring
because it is chaste.

But for the greater number of us it has been necessary to come down to
the level of the insurmountable weakness of the old Adam. None the less
the inelastic limits of our food supplies have made it a duty for us
rigorously to guard against a possible excess in our population which
has reached to-day fifty millions, a figure it can never exceed without
danger. We have been obliged to forbid in general under the most severe
penalties a practice which apparently was very common and indulged in
_ad libitum_ by our forefathers. Is it possible that after manufacturing
the rubbish heaps of law with which our libraries are lumbered up, they
precisely omitted to regulate the only matter considered worthy to-day
of regulation? Can we conceive that it could ever have been permissible
to the first comer without due authorisation to expose society to the
arrival of a new hungry and wailing member--above all at a time when it
was not possible to kill a partridge without a game licence, or to
import a sack of corn without paying duty? Wiser and more far-sighted,
we degrade, and in case of a second offence we condemn to be thrown into
a lake of petroleum, whoever allows himself to infringe our
constitutional law on this point, or rather we should say, should allow
himself, for the force of public opinion has got the better of the crime
and has rendered our penalties unnecessary. We sometimes, nay very
often, see lovers who go mad from love and die in consequence. Others
courageously get themselves hoisted by a lift to the gaping mouth of an
extinct volcano and reach the outer air which in a moment freezes them
to death. They have scarcely time to regard the azure sky--a magnificent
spectacle, so they say--and the twilight hues of the still dying sun or
the vast and unstudied disorder of the stars; then locked in each
other's arms they fall dead upon the ice! The summit of their favourite
volcano is completely crowned with their corpses which are admirably
preserved always in twos, stark and livid, a living image still of love
and agony, of despair and frenzy, but more often of ecstatic repose.
They recently made an indelible impression on a celebrated traveller who
was bold enough to make the ascent in order to get a glimpse of them. We
all know how he has since died from the effects.

But what is unheard of and unexampled in our day is for a woman in love
to abandon herself to her lover before the latter has under her
inspiration produced a masterpiece which is adjudged and proclaimed as
such by his rivals. For here we have the indispensable condition to
which legitimate marriage is subordinated. The right to have children is
the monopoly and supreme recompense of genius. It is besides a powerful
lever for the uplifting and exaltation of the race. Futhermore a man can
only exercise it exactly the same number of times as he produces works
worthy of a master. But in this respect some indulgence is shown. It
even happens pretty frequently that touched by pity for some grand
passion that disposes only of a mediocre talent, the affected admiration
of the public partly from sympathy and partly from condescension accords
a favourable verdict to works of no intrinsic value. Perhaps there are
also (in fact there is no doubt about it) for common use other methods
of getting round the law.

Ancient society reposed on the fear of punishment, on a penal system
which has had its day. Ours, it is clear, is based on the expectation of
happiness. The enthusiasm and creative fire aroused by such a
perspective are attested by our exhibitions, and borne witness to by the
rich luxuriance of our annual art harvests. When we think of the
precisely opposite effects of ancient marriage, that institution of our
ancestors, more ridiculous still than their umbrellas, one can measure
the distance between this excessive and pretended exclusive _debitum
conjugale_ and our mode of union, at once free and regulated, energetic
and intermittent, passionate and restrained, the true corner-stone of
our regenerated humanity. The sufferings it imposes on those who are
sacrificed, the unsuccessful artists, is not for the latter a cause of
complaint. Their despair itself is dear to the desperate; for if they do
not die of it, they draw life and immortality from it and from the
bottomless pit of their inner depth of woe, they gather deathless
flowers, flowers of art or poesy for some, mystic roses for others. To
the latter perhaps is given at that moment, as they grope in their
inward darkness to touch most nearly the essence of things, and these
delights are so vivid that our artists and our metaphysical mystics
wonder whether art and philosophy were made to console love or if the
sole reason for love's existence is not to inspire art and the pursuit
of ultimate truth. This last opinion has generally prevailed.

The extent to which love has refined our habits, and to which our
civilisation based on love is superior in morality to the former
civilisation based on ambition and covetousness, was proved at the time
of the great discovery which took place in the Year of Salvation 194.
Guided by some mysterious inkling, some electric sense of direction, a
bold sapper by dint of forcing his way through the flanks of the earth
beyond the ordinary galleries suddenly penetrated into a strange open
space buzzing with human voices and swarming with human faces. But what
squeaky voices! What sallow complexions! What an impossible language
with no connection with our Greek! It was, without doubt, a veritable
underground America, quite as vast and still more curious. It was the
work of a little tribe of burrowing Chinese who had had, one imagines,
the same idea as our Miltiades. Much more practical than he, they had
hastily crawled underground without encumbering themselves with museums
and libraries, and there they had multiplied enormously. Instead of
confining themselves as we to turning to account the deposits of animal
carcasses, they had shamelessly given themselves up to ancestral
cannibalism. They were thus enabled, seeing the thousand of millions of
Chinese destroyed and buried beneath the snow, to give full vent to
their prolific instincts. Alas! who knows if our own descendants will
not one day be reduced to this extremity? In what promiscuity, in what a
slough of greed, falsehood and robbery were these unfortunates living!
The words of our language refuse to depict their filth and coarseness.
With infinite pains they raised underground diminutive vegetables in
diminutive beds of soil they had brought thither together with
diminutive pigs and dogs.... These ancient servants of mankind appeared
very disgusting to our new Christopher Columbus. These degraded beings
(I speak of the masters and not of the animals, for the latter belong to
a breed that has been much improved by those who raised them) had lost
all recollection of the Middle Empire and even of the surface of the
earth. They heartily laughed when some of our _savants_ sent on a
mission to them spoke to them of the firmament, the sun, the moon and
the stars.... They listened, however, to the end of these accounts, then
in an ironical tone they asked our envoys: "Have you seen all that?" And
the latter unfortunately could not reply to the question, since no one
among us has seen the sky except the lovers who go to die together.

Now, what did our settlers do at the sight of such cerebral atrophy?
Several proposed, it is true, to exterminate these savages who might
well become dangerous owing to their cunning and to their numbers, and
to appropriate their dwelling-place after a certain amount of cleaning
and painting and the removal of numerous little bells. Others proposed
to reduce them to the status of slaves or servants in order to shift on
to them all our menial work. But these two proposals were rejected. An
attempt was made to civilize and to render less savage these poor
cousins, and once the impossibility of any success in that direction had
been ascertained the partition was carefully blocked up.



VII

THE ÆSTHETIC LIFE


Such is the moral miracle wrought by our excellence which itself is
begotten of love and beauty. But the intellectual marvels which have
issued from the same source, merit a still more extended notice. It will
be enough for me to indicate them as I go along.

Let us first speak of the sciences. One might have thought that from the
day that the stars and celestial bodies, the faunas and floras, ceased
to play a certain part in our lives or that the manifold sources of
observation and experience ceased to flow, astronomy and meteorology
would henceforth be brought to a standstill while zoology and botany
would have become palæontology pure and simple, without speaking of
their application to the navy, army and agriculture, which are all
to-day entirely obsolete; in fact, that they would have ceased to make a
step forward and would have fallen into complete oblivion. Luckily these
apprehensions proved groundless. Let us admire the extent to which the
sciences which the past has bequeathed to us, formerly eminently useful
and inductive, have for the first time had the advantage of passionately
interesting and exciting the general public since they have acquired
this double characteristic of being an object of luxury and a deductive
subject. The past has accumulated such undigested masses of astronomical
tables, papers and proceedings dealing with measurements, vivisections,
and innumerable experiments, that the human mind can live on this
capital till the end of time. It was high time that it began at last to
arrange and utilize these materials. Now, for the sciences of which I am
speaking, the advantage is great from the point of view of their success
that they are entirely based on written testimony, and in no way on
sense perception, and that they on all occasions invoke the authority of
books (for we talk to-day of whole bibliographies when formerly people
spoke of a single Bible--evidently an immense difference). This great
and inestimable advantage consists in the extraordinary riches of our
libraries in documents of the most diverse kinds which never leaves an
ingenious theorist in the lurch, and is equal to supporting in a plenary
and authoritative fashion the most contradictory opinions at one and the
same symposium. Its abundance recalls the admirable wealth of antique
legislation and jurisprudence in texts and decisions of every hue which
rendered the lawsuits so interesting, almost as much as the battles of
the populace of Alexandria on the subject of a theological iota. The
debates of our _savants_, their polemics relative to the Vitellin yolk
of the egg of the Arachneida, or the digestive apparatus of the
Infusoria, constitute the burning questions which distress us, and which
if we had the misfortune to possess a regular press, would not fail to
drench our streets in gore. For the questions which are useless and even
harmful have always the knack of rousing the passions, provided they are
insoluble.

These are our religious quarrels. In fact the sum total of the sciences
bequeathed to us by the past has become definitely and inevitably a
religion. Our _savants_ to-day who work deductively on these data from
henceforth changeless and inviolate, exactly recall on a much larger
scale the theologians of the ancient world. This new encyclopædic
theology, not less fertile than others in schisms and heresies, is the
unique but inexhaustible source of divisions in the bosom of our Church
which is otherwise so compact. It is perhaps the most profound and
fascinating charm of our intellectual leaders.

"All the same, they are dead sciences!" say certain malcontents. Let us
accept the epithet. They are dead, if one likes, but after the fashion
of those languages in which a whole people chanted its hymns although no
one speaks them any longer. This is also the case with certain faces
whose beauty only appears in its fulness when their last sleep has come.
Let none therefore be surprised if our love fastens on these majestic
dogmas, by which we are more and more overshadowed, on these higher
inutilities which are our vocation. Above all, mathematics, as being the
most perfect type of the new sciences, has progressed with giant steps.
Descending to fabulous depths, analysis has allowed the astronomers at
length to attack and to solve problems whose mere statement would have
provoked an incredulous smile in their predecessors. And so they
discover every day, chalk in hand, not with the telescope to the eye, I
know not how many intra-mercurial or extra-neptunian planets, and begin
to distinguish the planets of the nearer stars. There are in this
department, in the comparative anatomy and physiology of numerous solar
systems, the most novel and profound views. Our Leverriers are reckoned
by hundreds. Being all the better acquainted with the sky because they
no longer see it, they resemble Beethoven, who only wrote his finest
symphonies when he had lost his hearing. Our Claude Bernards and
Pasteurs are almost as numerous. Although we are careful as a matter of
fact not to accord to the natural sciences the exaggerated and
fundamentally anti-social importance they formerly usurped during two or
three centuries, we do not completely neglect them. Even the applied
sciences have their votaries. Recently one of the latter has at last
discovered--such is the irony of destiny--the practical means of
steering balloons. These discoveries are useless, I admit, yet are ever
beautiful and fertile, fertile in new, if superfluous, beauties. They
are welcomed with transports of feverish enthusiasm and win for their
originators something better than glory,--the happiness that we know so
well.

But among the sciences there are two which are still experimental and
inductive and in addition pre-eminently useful. It is to this
exceptional standing that they perhaps owe, we must admit, the
unparalled rapidity with which they have grown. These two sciences which
were formerly the antipodes of one another, are to-day on the high road
to becoming identical by dint of pushing their joint researches ever
deeper and crushing to atoms the last problems left. Their names are
chemistry and psychology.

Our chemists, inspired perhaps by love and better instructed in the
nature of affinities, force their way into the inner life of the
molecules and reveal to us their desires, their ideas, and under a
fallacious air of conformity, their individual physiognomy. While they
thus construct for us the psychology of the atom, our psychologists
explain to us the atomic theory of self, I was going to say the
sociology of self. They enable us to perceive, even in its most minute
detail, the most admirable of all societies, this hierarchy of
consciousness, this feudal system of vassal souls, of which our
personality is the summit. We are indebted to them both for priceless
benefits. Thanks to the former we are no longer alone in a frozen world.
We are conscious that these rocks are alive and animated, we are
conscious that these hard metals which protect and warm us are likewise
a prolific brotherhood. Through their mediation these living stones have
some message for our heart, something at once alien and intimate, which
neither the stars nor the flowers of the field ever told to our
forefathers. And by their mediation also, and the service is not to be
despised--we have learnt certain processes which allow us (in a scanty
measure, it is true, for the moment) to supplement the insufficiency of
our ordinary food supplies, or to vary their monotony by several
substances agreeable to the taste and entirely compounded by artificial
means. But if our chemists have thus reassured us against the danger of
dying of hunger, our psychologists have acquired still further claims on
our gratitude in freeing us from the fear of death. Permeated by their
doctrines we have followed their consequences to their final conclusion
with the deductive vigour that is second nature with us. Death appears
to us as a dethronement that leads to freedom. It restores to itself the
fallen or abdicated self that retires anew into its inner consciousness,
where it finds in depths more than the equivalent of the outward empire
it has lost. In thinking of the terrors of former man, face to face with
the tomb, we compare them with the dread experienced by the comrades of
Miltiades when they were compelled to bid adieu to the fields of ice, to
the snowy horizons, in order to enter for ever the gloomy abysses in
which such a myriad of glittering and marvellous surprises awaited them.

That is a well-established doctrine and one on which no discussion would
be tolerated. It is, with our devotion to beauty and our faith in the
divine omnipotence of love, the foundation of our peace of mind and the
starting point of our enthusiasms. Our philosophers themselves avoid
touching on it, as on all which is fundamental in our institutions. To
this perhaps may be traced an agreeable air of harmlessness which adds
to the charm of their refinement and contributes to their success in
public. With such certainties as ballast we can spring with a light
heart into the æther of systems, and so we do not fail to do so. One may
be surprised, however, that I made a distinction between our
philosophers and those deductive _savants_ of whom I have spoken above.
Their subject-matter and their methods are identical. They chew the
cud--if I may be allowed the expression--in the same fashion at the same
mangers. But the one group, I mean the _savants_, are ordinary
ruminants, that is, slow and clumsy. The others have the peculiar
quality of being at once ruminants and nimble, like the antelope. And
this difference of temperament is indelible.

There is not, I have already said, a city, but there is a grotto of
philosophers, a natural one to which they come, and sit apart from one
another or in groups, according to their schools, on chairs formed of
granite blocks beside a petrifying well. This spacious grotto contains
astounding stalactites, the slow product of continuous droppings which
vaguely imitate, in the eyes of those who are not too critical, all
kinds of beautiful objects, cups and chandeliers, cathedrals and
mirrors--cups which quench no man's thirst, chandeliers which give no
light, cathedrals in which no one prays, but mirrors in which one sees
oneself more or less faithfully and pleasantly portrayed. There also is
to be seen a gloomy and bottomless lake over which hang like so many
question-marks, the pendants in the sombre roof and the beards of the
thinkers. Such is the ample cave which is exactly identical to the
philosophy it shelters, with its crystals sparkling amid its uncertain
shadows--full of precipices, it is true. It recalls better than anything
else to the new race of men, but with a still greater portion of
mirage-like fascination, that diurnal miracle of our forefathers--the
starry night. Now the crowd of systematic ideas which slowly form and
crystallise there in each brain like mental stalactites is indescribably
enormous. While all the former stalactites of thought are for ever
ramifying and changing their shape, turning as it were from a table into
an altar, or from an eagle into a griffin, new ideas appear here and
there still more surprising. There are always, of course,
Neo-Aristotelians, Neo-Kantians, Neo-Cartesians, and Neo-Pythagoricians.
Let us not forget the commentators of Empedocles to whom his passion for
the volcanic underworld has procured an unexpected rejuvenation of his
antique authority on the minds of men, above all since an archæologist
has maintained he has found the skeleton of this grand man in pushing an
exploring gallery to the very foot of Ætna which to-day is completely
extinct. But there is ever arising some great reformer with an
unpublished gospel that each attempts to enrich with a new version
destined to take its place. I will cite for example the greatest
intellect of our time, the chief of the fashionable school in sociology.
According to this profound thinker the social development of humanity,
starting on the outer rind of the earth and continuing to-day beneath
its crust, at no great distance from the surface, is destined in
proportion to the growing solar and planetary cooling, to pursue its
course from strata to strata down to the very centre of the earth, while
the population forcibly contracts and civilisation on the contrary
expands at each new descent. It is worth seeing the vigour and
Dante-like precision with which he characterises the social type
peculiar to each of these humanities, immured within its own circle,
growing ever nobler and richer, happier and better balanced. One should
read the portrait which he has limned with a bold brush of the last man,
sole survivor and heir of a hundred successive civilisations, left to
himself yet self-sufficient in the midst of his immense stores of
science and art. He is happy as a god because he is omniscient and
omnipotent, because he has just discovered the true answer of the Great
Enigma, yet dying because he cannot survive humanity. By means of an
explosive substance of extraordinary potency he blows up the globe with
himself in order to sow the immensity of space with the last remnants of
mankind. This system very naturally has a good many adherents. The
graceful Hypatias, however, who form his female followers, idly lying
round the master's stone, are agreed it would be proper to associate
with the last man, the last woman, not less ideal than he.

But what shall I say of art and poetry? Here to be just, praise must
become panegyric. Let us limit ourselves to indicating the general
tendency of the transformations that have taken place. I have related
what has become of our architecture which has been turned "outside in",
so to say, and brought into keeping with its surroundings, the idealised
image in stone, the essence and consummation of former Nature. I shall
not return to the subject. But I must still say a word about this
immortal and overflowing population of statues, this wealth of frescoes,
enamels, and bronzes which in concert with our poetry celebrate in this
architectural transfiguration of the nether world the apotheosis of
love. There would be an interesting study to make on the gradual
metamorphoses that the genius of our painters and sculptors has imposed
for the last three centuries on these traditional types of lions,
horses, tigers, birds, trees and flowers, with which it is never weary
of disporting itself, without being either helped or hindered by the
sight of any animal or any plant. Never, in fact, have our artists, who
protest strongly against being taken for photographers, depicted so many
plants, animals and landscapes, than since these were no more.
Similarly, they have never painted or sculptured so many draperies,
since everyone goes about almost naked, while formerly at the time when
humanity wore clothes the nude abounded in art. Does it mean that
nature, now dead and formerly alive, from which our great masters drew
their subjects and themes, has become a simple hieroglyphic and coldly
conventional alphabet? No. Daughter to-day of tradition and no longer of
productive nature, humanised and harmonised, she has a still firmer hold
on the heart. If she recalls to each his day-dreams rather than his
recollections, his imaginings rather than his impressions, his
admiration as an artist rather than his terror as a child, she is only
the better calculated to fascinate and subdue. She has for us the
profound and intimate charm of an old legend, but it is a legend in
which one believes.

Nothing is more inspiring. Such must have been the mythology of the
worthy Homer when his hearers in the Cyclades still believed in
Aphrodite and Pallas, in the Dioscuri and the Centaurs, of whom he spoke
to them and wrung from them tears of sheer delight. Thus our poets make
us weep, when they speak to us now of azure skies, of the sea-girt
horizon, of the perfume of roses, of the song of birds, of all those
objects that our eye has never seen, our ear has never heard, of which
all our senses are ignorant, yet our mind conjures them up within us by
a strange instinct at the least suggestion of love.

And when our painters show us these horses whose legs grow ever slimmer,
these swans whose necks become ever rounder and longer, these vines
whose leaves and branches grow ever more intricate with their lace-like
edges and arabesques interwoven round still more exquisite birds, a
matchless emotion rises within us such as a young Greek might have felt
before a bas-relief crowded with fauns and nymphs or with Argonautes
bearing off the Golden Fleece, or with Nereids sporting around the cup
of Amphitrite.

If our architecture in spite of all its splendours seems but a simple
foil of our other fine arts, they in their turn, however admirable, have
the air of being barely worthy to illustrate our poetry and literature
graven on stone. But in our poetry and even in our literature there are
glories which in comparison with less obvious beauty are as the corona
is to the ovary, or the frame to the picture. Read our romantic dramas
and epics in which all ancient history is magically unrolled down to the
heroic struggle and love story of Miltiades. You will decide that
nothing more sublime could ever be written. Read also our idylls, our
elegies, our epigrams inspired by antiquity, and our poetry of every
kind written in a dozen dead languages which when desired revive in
order to vivify with their clear notes and their manifold harmonies, the
pleasure of our ear, to accompany, so to say, with their rich
orchestration in English, German, Swedish, Arabic, Italian and French,
the music of our pure Attic. You will imagine nothing more fascinating
than this renaissance and transfiguration of forgotten idioms, once the
glory of antiquity. As for our dramas and our poems which are often at
once the collective and individual work of a school, incarnate in its
chief and animated with a single idea like the sculptures of the
Parthenon, there is nothing comparable in the masterpieces of Sophocles
or Homer. What the extinct species of nature formerly alive are to our
painters and sculptors, the no less extinct sentiments of former human
nature are to our dramatists. Jealousy, ambition, patriotism,
fanaticism, the mad lust of battle, the exalted love of family, the
pride of an illustrious name, all the vanished passions of the heart
when called up upon the stage, no longer cause tears or terror in a
single soul, any more than the heraldic tigers and lions painted up on
our public squares frighten our children. But in a new accent with quite
a different ring, they speak to us their ancient language; and to tell
the truth, they are only a grand piano on which our new passions play.
Now there is but a single passion for all its thousand names, as there
is above but a single sun. It is love, the soul of our soul and source
of our art. That is the true sun which will never fail us, which is
never weary of touching and reanimating with the light of its
countenance its lower creations of yore, the first-born incarnations of
the heart, in order to make them young once more, in order to re-gild
them with its dawns, and reincarnadine them with its setting splendours;
almost in the same fashion as it sufficed the other sun to compass with
a single ray that august summons to deck the earth, addressed to every
ancient plant of the field, awakening it to bloom anew, that grand
yearly transformation scene, so deceptive and entrancing, which they
named the Spring, when there was still a Spring to name!

And so for our highly refined writers, all that I have just praised a
moment ago has no value if their heart is left untouched. They would
give for one true and personal note all these feats of skill and sleight
of hand. What they look for under the most grandiose conceptions and
stage effects, and under the most audacious novelties in rhyme; what
they adore on bended knee when they have found it, is a short passage, a
line, half a line, on which an imperceptible hint of profound passion,
or the most fleeting phase, though unexpressed, of love in joy, in
suffering or in death has left its impress. Thus at the beginning of
humanity each tint of the dawn or the dusk, each hour of the day was,
for the first man who gave it a name, a new solar god who soon possessed
worshippers, priests and temples of his own. But to analyse sensations
after the manner of the old-fashioned erotic writers gives us no
trouble. The real difficulty and merit lie in gathering along with our
mystics, from the lowest depths of sorrow, its flowers of ecstasy, the
pearls and coral that lie at the bottom of its sea, and to enrich the
soul in its own eyes. Our purest poetry thus joins hands with our most
profound psychology. One is the oracle, the other the dogma of one and
the same religion.

And yet is it credible? In spite of its beauty, harmony and incomparable
charm, our society has also its malcontents. There are here and there
certain recusants who declare they are soaked and saturated with the
essence, so remarkably pure and so much above proof, of our excessive
and compulsory society. They find our realm of beauty too static, our
atmosphere of happiness too tranquil. In vain to please them we vary
from time to time the intensity and colouring of our illuminations and
ventilate our colonnades with a kind of refreshing breeze. They persist
in condemning as monotonous our day devoid of clouds or night; our year,
devoid of seasons; our towns devoid of country-life. Very curiously when
the month of May comes round, this feeling of restlessness which they
alone experience at ordinary times, becomes contagious and well-nigh
general. And so it is the most melancholy and least busy month of the
year. One would say that the Spring driven from every place, from the
gloomy immensity of the heavens and from the frozen surface of the earth
has, as we, sought refuge under ground; or rather that her wandering
ghost returns at stated seasons to visit us and tantalise us by her
haunting presence. It is then that the city of the musicians grows full
and their music becomes so sweet, pathetic, mournful, and desperately
harrowing that we see lovers by hundreds at a time take each other by
the hand and go up to gaze upon the death-dealing sky.... In reference
to this I ought to say that there was recently a false alarm caused by a
madman who pretended he had seen the sun coming back to life and melting
the ice. At this news which had not been otherwise confirmed, quite a
considerable portion of the population became unsettled and gave itself
up to the pleasing task of forming plans for an early exodus. Such
unhealthy and revolutionary dreams evidently only serve to foment
artificial discontent.

Luckily a scholar in rummaging in a forgotten corner of the archives put
his hand on a big collection of phonographic and cinematographic records
which had been amassed by an ancient collector. Interpreted by the
phonograph and cinematograph together, these cylinders and films have
enabled us suddenly to hear all the former sounds in nature accompanied
by their corresponding sights, the thunder, the winds, the mountain
torrents, the murmurs that accompany the dawn, the monotonous cry of the
osprey and the long drawn out lament of the nightingale amid the
manifold whisperings of night. At this resurrection of another age to
the ear and eye, of extinct species and vanished phenomena, an immense
astonishment quickly followed by an immense disillusion arose among the
most ardent partisans of a return to the ancient regime. For that was
not what one had hitherto believed on the strength of what even the most
realist poets and novelists had told us. It was something infinitely
less ravishing and less worthy of our regret. The song of the
nightingale above all provoked a most unpleasant surprise. We were all
angry with it for showing itself so inferior to its reputation.
Assuredly the worst of our concerts is more musical than this so-called
symphony of nature with full orchestral accompaniment.

Thus has been quelled by an ingenious expedient entirely unknown to
former governments, this first and only attempt at rebellion. May it be
the last. A certain leaven of discord is beginning, alas, to contaminate
our ranks, and our moralists observe not without apprehension sundry
symptoms which indicate the relaxation of our morals. The growth in our
population is very disquieting, notably since certain chemical
discoveries, following upon which we have been too much in a hurry to
declare that bread might be made of stones, and that it was no longer
worth while to husband our food supplies or to trouble ourselves to
maintain at a certain limit the number of mouths to feed.

Simultaneously with the increase in the number of children, there is a
diminution in the number of masterpieces. Let us hope that this
lamentable movement will soon abate. If the sun once more, as after the
different glacial epochs, succeeds in awakening from his lethargy and
regains fresh strength, let us pray that only a small part of our
population, that which is the most light-headed, the most unruly, and
the most deeply attacked by incurable "matrimonialitis", will avail
itself of the seeming yet deceptive advantages offered by this open air
cure and will make a dash upwards for the freedom of those inclement
climes! But this is highly improbable if one reflects on the advanced
age of the sun and the danger of those relapses common to old age. It is
still less desirable. Let us repeat in the words of Miltiades our august
ancestor, blessed are those stars which are extinct, that is to say, the
almost entire number of those which people space. Radiance, as he truly
said, is to the stars what the flowering season is to the plants. After
having flowered, they begin to bear fruit. Thus, doubtless, weary of
expansion and the useless squandering of their strength through the
infinite void, the stars collect the germs of higher life in order to
fertilize them in the depth of their bosom. The deceptive brilliancy of
these widely scattered stars, so relatively few in number, which are
still alight, which have not finished sowing what Miltiades called their
wild oats of light and heat, prevented the first race of men from
thinking of this, to wit of the numberless and tranquil multitude of
dark stars to whom this radiance served as a cloak. But as for us,
delivered from their spell and freed from this immemorial optical
delusion, we continue firmly to believe that, among the stars as among
mankind, the most brilliant are not the best, and that the same causes
have brought about elsewhere the same results, compelling other races of
men to hide themselves in the bosom of their earth, and there in peace
to pursue the happy course of their destiny under unique conditions of
absolute independence and purity, that in short in the heavens as on the
earth true happiness lives concealed.



NOTE ON TARDE


Gabriel Tarde was originally a member of the legal profession. For a
long time he was examining magistrate at Sarlat. His works on sociology
and criminology revealed him to the public. He was appointed head of the
Statistical bureau at the Ministry of Justice, a post in which he was
able to obtain first hand the most precious documents for his social
studies. Later he was elected to the chair of modern philosophy at the
College of France, then he was elected member of the Academy of moral
and political sciences in the philosophical section. He died in 1904.

Tarde wrote a great deal. His flexibility of spirit and style add charm
to his work on technical subjects. In criminology his principal works
are: "The Philosophy of Punishment", "The Professional Criminal",
"Comparative Criminality" (1898);--then come the political works, such
as "The Transformation of Power" (1899). His "Transformation of Law"
dates from 1894. His study in social psychology entitled "Opinion and
the Masses" appeared in 1901. His most celebrated work is perhaps "The
Laws of Imitation" (1900) which was preceded by his "Social Logic"
(1898) and his "Universal Opposition" (1897).

According to Tarde the social phenomena proceed from individual
inventions which in their turn are the offspring of imitation: the
latter is for Tarde a capital factor in social life. Original ideas or
inventions germinate ceaselessly in the social _milieu_, but only some,
either by their superior adaptability or through the peculiar authority
of their inventor, are accepted by the public as a whole. Sociology is
thus reduced to a Psychology of the _processus_ of invention and
imitations. This explains why the great effort of Tarde has been to
discover the "Laws of Invention". Thereby he has given in sociology a
preponderating place to the individual, and the accidental, and has thus
separated himself from the most general tendencies of thought in our
times which are those of Comte.

The style of Tarde is abstract but supple. This fragment of future
History forms a kind of exception to his general work which is very
abstract. Tarde reveals himself in it one of the masters of literary
French. The style is picturesque, intense, broad, even periodic, novel
in respect to the thought, and entirely classical in its purity.

Joseph Manchon.





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