When comparing the present condition of society with that of past centurie_he question naturally arises, what will the future be ? Will the sam_rogress which, in our own times especially, has been of such vast dimensions,
and manifested itself in so many directions, continue to he 'progressive ? An_f so— for who could think of reaction, since the art of printing has guarde_gainst any future of the human mind being ever effaced—where is to be th_ltimate goal of the progress of our successors ? Where are we to look for th_ruits of those innumerable germs which the present generation is sowing fo_he benefit of those that will come after them ?
These, and similar other questions, occupied my mind when, seated on_fternoon in my comfortable arm-chair, I allowed my thoughts freely to wande_mid the manes of those that preceded us. I thought of our own Musschen-broek,
Gravesande, Huyghens, and Stevin, and of what would be their surprise wer_hey to reappear on this earth, and gaze upon the marvellous works of moder_achinery; I passed in review a Newton and Galileo, with so many others,
founders of an edifice which they themselves would not now recognise. _hought of steam engines and electric telegraphs, of railways and steamboats,
of mountain tunnels and suspension bridges, of photography and gasworks, o_he amazing strides lately made by chemistry, of telescopes and microscopes,
of diving bells and aeronautics; aye, and of a hundred other things, which, i_otley array, wildly crossed my mind, though all corresponding in this tha_hey loudly proclaimed the vast and enormous difference between the presen_nd the past. The line of demarcation between the one and the other reveale_tself still more clearly to me as my thoughts carried me further back int_he past and the ghost of Roger Bacon seemed to rise before my imagination.
This thirteenth-century child was a scholar who surpassed all hi_ontemporaries in sound judgment and knowledge of natural science; alas ! Hi_ate was the ordinary one in store for all those whose light shone above tha_f others in those darkest of ages. He was accused of witchcraft, and cas_nto a dungeon, there doomed to sigh for ten weary years, after which, as th_umour goes, he died in his prison. The memory of that illustrious man calle_o my mind some passages of his writings, from which it will be seen how he,
as if endowed with the seer's gift, did actually foretell, some six hundre_ears ago, that which since, and chiefly in our own time, has become an arra_f realities. [](footnotes.xml#footnote_1)* For example:
"It is possible," says he, " to construct spying-glasses by which the mos_istant objects can be drawn near to us, so that we shall be able to read th_ost minute writing at an almost incredible distance, to see all kinds o_iminutive objects, and to make the stars appear wherever we choose."
"We might make waggons that could move along with great velocity, and withou_eing drawn by animals."
"Similar other machines ntight be had, as, for example, bridges withou_illars or supports of any kind."
"There might be contrivances for the purpose of navigation without navigators,
so that the greatest vessels would be handled by one single man, and at th_ame time move onward with greater speed than those with numerous crews."
As I pondered over such remarkable observations as those, I sank into absolut_everie; all surrounding objects seemed gradually to disappear from my sight,
until I got into that peculiar condition in which, while everything materia_bout us is at rest and passive, the mind, on the contrary, proves uncommonl_ctive and alert. I felt myself suddenly in the midst of an immense city;
where I did not know, but about me I saw a vast square, and in it a statel_difice with a lofty tower, on which I fancied I read the followin_nscription:
** A.D. 2071.**
I could scarcely believe my own eyes, and must have approached the tower wit_ooks highly expressive of curiosity and amazement; for an elderly gentleman,
accompanied by a young lady, stepped forward to speak to me.
" I see, sir, that you are a stranger in Londinia; if any information could b_f service to you "
These kind words caused me to stop; I looked at the man who stood before me,
and was at once struck and impressed by his thoughtful and noble features. No_as I slow in recognising him. He was the very man with whom I had been fo_ome time past engaged in my thoughts.
" You are Roger Bacon," said I.
"To be sure!" was his reply; "at the same time allow me the pleasure o_ntroducing you to this young lady friend of mine, Miss Phantasia."
I happened to be in that frame of mind to which one might apply the Horatia_nil mirari_. Nothing of what I saw surprised me, not even the appearance i_he flesh of a man like Bacon, who had taken his departure from our plane_ome five hundred years ago. I therefore simply accepted his obliging offer,
and began by asking for an explanation of the figures and words on the tower.
" On yonder tower, over the clock-face ? " answered he. " Why, that mean_imply this, that we have arrived at the first day of the new year 2071."