This book was written in 1913-1914 — that's one CENTURY ago! — even before
the two World Wars — but some excerpts are nonetheless either premonitory or
still valid nowadays. It predicts the age of atomic bombs and, though in the
fiction it works differently in its consequences on the battlefield, it tackles
the brand new impact of this strategic weapon as of its deterrence and its
Here are some quotes, a list of vocabulary which can has usefulness for
non-native English readers, and finally resources for further reading.
If there was a vast development of production there was also a huge
destruction of values.
Between these high lights accumulated disaster, social catastrophe. The coal
mines were manifestly doomed to closure at no very distant date, the vast
amount of capital invested in oil was becoming unsaleable, millions of coal
miners, steel workers upon the old lines, vast swarms of unskilled or
under-skilled labourers in innumerable occupations, were being flung out of
employment by the superior efficiency of the new machinery
The world in these days was not really governed at all, in the sense in
which government came to be understood in subsequent years. Government was a
treaty, not a design; it was forensic, conservative, disputatious, unseeing,
unthinking, uncreative; throughout the world, except where the vestiges of
absolutism still sheltered the court favourite and the trusted servant, it was
in the hands of the predominant caste of lawyers, who had an enormous advantage
in being the only trained caste. Their professional education and every
circumstance in the manipulation of the fantastically naive electoral methods
by which they clambered to power, conspired to keep them contemptuous of facts,
conscientiously unimaginative, alert to claim and seize advantages and
suspicious of every generosity.
For more than a century the French system exhausted its vitality in
belligerent convulsions, and then the infection passed to the German-speaking
peoples who were the heart and centre of Europe, and from them onward to the
the ultimate aim of art, religion, philosophy, and science alike was to
A population map of the world in 1950 would have followed seashore and river
course so closely in its darker shading as to give an impression that homo
sapiens was an amphibious animal.
Man who is ceasing to be an agricultural animal becomes more and more a
builder, a traveller, and a maker.
And the chemists' triumphs of synthesis, which could now give us an entirely
artificial food, remain largely in abeyance because it is so much more pleasant
and interesting to eat natural produce and to grow such things upon the soil.
Each year adds to the variety of our fruits and the delightfulness of our
Membership of the government, it was decided, must be for life, save in the
exceptional case of a recall; but the elections, which were held quinquenially,
were arranged to add fifty members on each occasion. The method of proportional
representation with one transferable vote was adopted, and the voter might also
write upon his voting paper in a specially marked space, the name of any of his
representatives that he wished to recall. A ruler was recallable by as many
votes as the quota by which he had been elected, and the original members by as
many votes in any constituency as the returning quotas in the first
In that age they seem to have been perpetually making laws when we should
This phase of history, which has been not inaptly termed the
'Efflorescence,' is still, to a large extent, with us. The majority of our
population consists of artists, and the bulk of activity in the world lies no
longer with necessities but with their elaboration, decoration, and
The earlier novelists tried to show 'life as it is,' the latter showed life
as it changes.
'We have so many men working now,' said Fowler. 'I suppose at present there
must be at least a thousand thinking hard, observing, experimenting, for one
who did so in nineteen hundred.'
Here—I must show you it to-day, because it will interest you—we have our
copy of the encyclopaedic index—every week sheets are taken out and replaced by
fresh sheets with new results that are brought to us by the aeroplanes of the
Research Department. It is an index of knowledge that grows continually, an
index that becomes continually truer. There was never anything like it
So long as you are alive you are just the moment, perhaps, but when you are
dead then you are all your life from the first moment to the last....'
I suppose that nothing less than the violence of those bombs could have
released it and made it a healthy world again.
everything seemed turning to evil in those last years of the old time.
Everywhere there were obsolete organisations seizing upon all the new fine
things that science was giving to the world, nationalities, all sorts of
political bodies, the churches and sects, proprietorship, seizing upon those
treat powers and limitless possibilities and turning them to evil uses. And
they would not suffer open speech, they would not permit of education, they
would let no one be educated to the needs of the new time....
'It was not only that the mass of people would not attend, would not
understand, but that those who did understand lacked the power of real belief.
They said the things, they saw the things, and the things meant nothing to
All this new region of London they are opening up now is plastered with
advertisements of pills. Everybody must have been taking pills.
Everybody in those days, wise or foolish, believed that the division of the
world under a multitude of governments was inevitable, and that it was going on
for thousands of years more. It WAS inevitable until it was impossible. Any one
who had denied that inevitability publicly would have been counted—oh! a SILLY
'You know, sir, I've a fancy—it is hard to prove such things—that
civilisation was very near disaster when the atomic bombs came banging into it,
that if there had been no Holsten and no induced radio-activity, the world
would have—smashed—much as it did. Only instead of its being a smash that
opened a way to better things, it might have been a smash without a
Mankind used up material—insanely. They had got through three-quarters of
all the coal in the planet, they had used up most of the oil, they had swept
away their forests, and they were running short of tin and copper. Their wheat
areas were getting weary and populous, and many of the big towns had so lowered
the water level of their available hills that they suffered a drought every
summer. The whole system was rushing towards bankruptcy. And they were spending
every year vaster and vaster amounts of power and energy upon military
preparations, and continually expanding the debt of industry to capital.
And then we came, man came, and opened eyes that were a question and hands
that were a demand and began a mind and memory that dies not when men die, but
lives and increases for ever, an over-mind, a dominating will, a question and
an aspiration that reaches to the stars....
'The key that opens the door,' said Karenin, 'is not the goal of the
'I do not care a rap about your future—as women. I do not care a rap about
the future of men—as males. I want to destroy these peculiar futures. I care
for your future as intelligences, as parts of and contribution to the universal
mind of the race. Humanity is not only naturally over-specialised in these
matters, but all its institutions, its customs, everything, exaggerate,
intensify this difference. I want to unspecialise women. No new idea. Plato
wanted exactly that. I do not want to go on as we go now, emphasising this
natural difference; I do not deny it, but I want to reduce it and overcome
'Karenin?' asked Rachel, 'do you mean that women are to become men?' 'Men
and women have to become human beings.'
I want to abolish the woman whose support is jealousy and whose gift
possession. I want to abolish the woman who can be won as a prize or locked up
as a delicious treasure.
To think of yourselves as women is to think of yourselves in relation to
men. You can't escape that consequence. You have to learn to think of
yourselves—for our sakes and your own sakes—in relation to the sun and stars.
You have to cease to be our adventure, Rachel, and come with us upon our
adventures. ...' He waved his hand towards the dark sky above the mountain
Shan't we presently take a tabloid or lie in some field of force that will
enable us to do with an hour or so of slumber and rise refreshed again?'
'In a little while men who will know how to bear the strange gravitations,
the altered pressures, the attenuated, unfamiliar gases and all the fearful
strangenesses of space will be venturing out from this earth. This ball will be
no longer enough for us; our spirit will reach out.... Cannot you see how that
little argosy will go glittering up into the sky, twinkling and glittering
smaller and smaller until the blue swallows it up. They may succeed out there;
they may perish, but other men will follow them.... 'It is as if a great window
opened,' said Karenin.
chisel claw fierce beset glimmering beget veils hewed bargaining
propitiating aped amidst untrammelled hitherto warlocks covetousness heeded
unwittingly timber lids swirl begotten chaps altar dismay fretted umpires
opiate festoons lattice stroller ecstatic bethought reckoned unruly purposive
trickling stonily heedless wards schemer diffident paraphernalia lull scanty
dread blunder dropped crimson uproar craned tarpaulin ricks interspersed
tussocks of corn and poppy wretch feeble preposterously meadows anointed plough
thence shattering compelled alstribution contention smouldering thwarted
dwindled hinder cowered self-forgetfulness misfit toiled nodded jostling lurk
litter gnawing scarred peevish glimpses belittled mists quivers husks selvage
unwholesome uncongenial daguerreotype stoutly riddles Helenism obstinacy