A Few Utopian Impressions
But now we are in a better position to describe the houses and ways
of the Utopian townships about the Lake of Lucerne, and to glance a
little more nearly at the people who pass. You figure us as
curiously settled down in Utopia, as working for a low wage at
wood-carving, until the authorities at the central registry in Paris
can solve the perplexing problem we have set them. We stay in an inn
looking out upon the lake, and go to and fro for our five hours'
work a day, with a curious effect of having been born Utopians. The
rest of our time is our own.
Our inn is one of those inns and lodging houses which have a minimum
tariff, inns which are partly regulated, and, in the default
of private enterprise, maintained and controlled by the World
State throughout the entire world. It is one of several such
establishments in Lucerne. It possesses many hundreds of practically
self-cleaning little bedrooms, equipped very much after the fashion
of the rooms we occupied in the similar but much smaller inn at
Hospenthal, differing only a little in the decoration. There is
the same dressing-room recess with its bath, the same graceful
proportion in the succinct simplicity of its furniture. This
particular inn is a quadrangle after the fashion of an Oxford
college; it is perhaps forty feet high, and with about five stories
of bedrooms above its lower apartments; the windows of the rooms
look either outward or inward to the quadrangle, and the doors give
upon artificially-lit passages with staircases passing up and down.
These passages are carpeted with a sort of cork carpet, but are
otherwise bare. The lower story is occupied by the equivalent of a
London club, kitchens and other offices, dining-room, writing-room,
smoking and assembly rooms, a barber's shop, and a library. A
colonnade with seats runs about the quadrangle, and in the middle
is a grass-plot. In the centre of this a bronze figure, a sleeping
child, reposes above a little basin and fountain, in which water
lilies are growing. The place has been designed by an architect
happily free from the hampering traditions of Greek temple building,
and of Roman and Italian palaces; it is simple, unaffected,
gracious. The material is some artificial stone with the dull
surface and something of the tint of yellow ivory; the colour is a
little irregular, and a partial confession of girders and pillars
breaks this front of tender colour with lines and mouldings of
greenish gray, that blend with the tones of the leaden gutters and
rain pipes from the light red roof. At one point only does any
explicit effort towards artistic effect appear, and that is in the
great arched gateway opposite my window. Two or three abundant
yellow roses climb over the face of the building, and when I look
out of my window in the early morning--for the usual Utopian working
day commences within an hour of sunrise--I see Pilatus above this
outlook, rosy in the morning sky.
This quadrangle type of building is the prevalent element in Utopian
Lucerne, and one may go from end to end of the town along corridors
and covered colonnades without emerging by a gateway into the open
roads at all. Small shops are found in these colonnades, but the
larger stores are usually housed in buildings specially adapted to
their needs. The majority of the residential edifices are far finer
and more substantial than our own modest shelter, though we gather
from such chance glimpses as we get of their arrangements that the
labour-saving ideal runs through every grade of this servantless
world; and what we should consider a complete house in earthly
England is hardly known here.
The autonomy of the household has been reduced far below terrestrial
conditions by hotels and clubs, and all sorts of co-operative
expedients. People who do not live in hotels seem usually to live in
clubs. The fairly prosperous Utopian belongs, in most cases, to one
or two residential clubs of congenial men and women. These clubs
usually possess in addition to furnished bedrooms more or less
elaborate suites of apartments, and if a man prefers it one of these
latter can be taken and furnished according to his personal taste. A
pleasant boudoir, a private library and study, a private garden
plot, are among the commonest of such luxuries. Devices to secure
roof gardens, loggias, verandahs, and such-like open-air privacies
to the more sumptuous of these apartments, give interest and variety
to Utopian architecture. There are sometimes little cooking corners
in these flats--as one would call them on earth--but the ordinary
Utopian would no more think of a special private kitchen for his
dinners than he would think of a private flour mill or dairy farm.
Business, private work, and professional practice go on sometimes in
the house apartments, but often in special offices in the great
warren of the business quarter. A common garden, an infant school,
play rooms, and a playing garden for children, are universal
features of the club quadrangles.
Two or three main roads with their tramways, their cyclists' paths,
and swift traffic paths, will converge on the urban centre, where
the public offices will stand in a group close to the two or three
theatres and the larger shops, and hither, too, in the case of
Lucerne, the head of the swift railway to Paris and England and
Scotland, and to the Rhineland and Germany will run. And as one
walks out from the town centre one will come to that mingling of
homesteads and open country which will be the common condition of
all the more habitable parts of the globe.
Here and there, no doubt, will stand quite solitary homesteads,
homesteads that will nevertheless be lit and warmed by cables from
the central force station, that will share the common water supply,
will have their perfected telephonic connection with the rest of
the world, with doctor, shop, and so forth, and may even have
a pneumatic tube for books and small parcels to the nearest
post-office. But the solitary homestead, as a permanent residence,
will be something of a luxury--the resort of rather wealthy garden
lovers; and most people with a bias for retirement will probably get
as much residential solitude as they care for in the hire of a
holiday chalet in a forest, by remote lagoons or high up the
The solitary house may indeed prove to be very rare indeed in
Utopia. The same forces, the same facilitation of communications
that will diffuse the towns will tend to little concentrations of
the agricultural population over the country side. The field workers
will probably take their food with them to their work during the
day, and for the convenience of an interesting dinner and of
civilised intercourse after the working day is over, they will most
probably live in a college quadrangle with a common room and club. I
doubt if there will be any agricultural labourers drawing wages in
Utopia. I am inclined to imagine farming done by tenant
associations, by little democratic unlimited liability companies
working under elected managers, and paying not a fixed rent but a
share of the produce to the State. Such companies could reconstruct
annually to weed out indolent members. [Footnote: Schemes for the
co-operative association of producers will be found in Dr. Hertzka's
Freeland.] A minimum standard of efficiency in farming would be
insured by fixing a minimum beneath which the rent must not fall,
and perhaps by inspection. The general laws respecting the standard
of life would, of course, apply to such associations. This type of
co-operation presents itself to me as socially the best arrangement
for productive agriculture and horticulture, but such enterprises
as stock breeding, seed farming and the stocking and loan of
agricultural implements are probably, and agricultural research and
experiment certainly, best handled directly by large companies or
the municipality or the State.
But I should do little to investigate this question; these are
presented as quite incidental impressions. You must suppose that for
the most part our walks and observations keep us within the more
urban quarters of Lucerne. From a number of beautifully printed
placards at the street corners, adorned with caricatures of
considerable pungency, we discover an odd little election is in
progress. This is the selection, upon strictly democratic lines,
with a suffrage that includes every permanent resident in the
Lucerne ward over the age of fifteen, of the ugliest local building.
The old little urban and local governing bodies, we find, have long
since been superseded by great provincial municipalities for all the
more serious administrative purposes, but they still survive to
discharge a number of curious minor functions, and not the least
among these is this sort of aesthetic ostracism. Every year every
minor local governing body pulls down a building selected by local
plebiscite, and the greater Government pays a slight compensation to
the owner, and resumes possession of the land it occupies. The idea
would strike us at first as simply whimsical, but in practice it
appears to work as a cheap and practical device for the aesthetic
education of builders, engineers, business men, opulent persons, and
the general body of the public. But when we come to consider its
application to our own world we should perceive it was the most
Utopian thing we had so far encountered.
The factory that employs us is something very different from the
ordinary earthly model. Our business is to finish making little
wooden toys--bears, cattle men, and the like--for children. The
things are made in the rough by machinery, and then finished by
hand, because the work of unskilful but interested men--and it
really is an extremely amusing employment--is found to give a
personality and interest to these objects no machine can ever
We carvers--who are the riffraff of Utopia--work in a long shed
together, nominally by time; we must keep at the job for the length
of the spell, but we are expected to finish a certain number of toys
for each spell of work. The rules of the game as between employer
and employed in this particular industry hang on the wall behind us;
they are drawn up by a conference of the Common Council of Wages
Workers with the employers, a common council which has resulted in
Utopia from a synthesis of the old Trades Unions, and which has
become a constitutional power; but any man who has skill or humour
is presently making his own bargain with our employer more or less
above that datum line.
Our employer is a quiet blue-eyed man with a humorous smile. He
dresses wholly in an indigo blue, that later we come to consider a
sort of voluntary uniform for Utopian artists. As he walks about
the workshop, stopping to laugh at this production or praise that,
one is reminded inevitably of an art school. Every now and then
he carves a little himself or makes a sketch or departs to the
machinery to order some change in the rough shapes it is turning
out. Our work is by no means confined to animals. After a time I am
told to specialise in a comical little Roman-nosed pony; but several
of the better paid carvers work up caricature images of eminent
Utopians. Over these our employer is most disposed to meditate, and
from them he darts off most frequently to improve the type.
It is high summer, and our shed lies open at either end. On one hand
is a steep mountain side down which there comes, now bridging a
chasm, now a mere straight groove across a meadow, now hidden among
green branches, the water-slide that brings our trees from the
purple forest overhead. Above us, but nearly hidden, hums the
machine shed, but we see a corner of the tank into which, with a
mighty splash, the pine trees are delivered. Every now and then,
bringing with him a gust of resinous smell, a white-clad machinist
will come in with a basketful of crude, unwrought little images, and
will turn them out upon the table from which we carvers select
(Whenever I think of Utopia that faint and fluctuating smell of
resin returns to me, and whenever I smell resin, comes the memory of
the open end of the shed looking out upon the lake, the blue-green
lake, the boats mirrored in the water, and far and high beyond
floats the atmospheric fairyland of the mountains of Glarus, twenty
The cessation of the second and last spell of work comes about
midday, and then we walk home, through this beautiful intricacy of a
town to our cheap hotel beside the lake.
We should go our way with a curious contentment, for all that we
were earning scarcely more than the minimum wage. We should have, of
course, our uneasiness about the final decisions of that universal
eye which has turned upon us, we should have those ridiculous sham
numbers on our consciences; but that general restlessness, that
brooding stress that pursues the weekly worker on earth, that aching
anxiety that drives him so often to stupid betting, stupid drinking,
and violent and mean offences will have vanished out of mortal
I should find myself contrasting my position with my preconceptions
about a Utopian visit. I had always imagined myself as standing
outside the general machinery of the State--in the distinguished
visitors' gallery, as it were--and getting the new world in a series
of comprehensive perspective views. But this Utopia, for all the
sweeping floats of generalisation I do my best to maintain, is
swallowing me up. I find myself going between my work and the room
in which I sleep and the place in which I dine, very much as I went
to and fro in that real world into which I fell five-and-forty years
ago. I find about me mountains and horizons that limit my view,
institutions that vanish also without an explanation, beyond the
limit of sight, and a great complexity of things I do not understand
and about which, to tell the truth, I do not formulate acute
curiosities. People, very unrepresentative people, people just as
casual as people in the real world, come into personal relations
with us, and little threads of private and immediate interest spin
themselves rapidly into a thickening grey veil across the general
view. I lose the comprehensive interrogation of my first arrival; I
find myself interested in the grain of the wood I work, in birds
among the tree branches, in little irrelevant things, and it is only
now and then that I get fairly back to the mood that takes all
Utopia for its picture.
We spend our first surplus of Utopian money in the reorganisation
of our wardrobes upon more Utopian lines; we develop acquaintance
with several of our fellow workers, and of those who share our
table at the inn. We pass insensibly into acquaintanceships and the
beginnings of friendships. The World Utopia, I say, seems for a time
to be swallowing me up. At the thought of detail it looms too big
for me. The question of government, of its sustaining ideas, of
race, and the wider future, hang like the arch of the sky over these
daily incidents, very great indeed, but very remote. These people
about me are everyday people, people not so very far from the
minimum wage, accustomed much as the everyday people of earth are
accustomed to take their world as they find it. Such enquiries as
I attempt are pretty obviously a bore to them, pass outside their
range as completely as Utopian speculation on earth outranges a
stevedore or a member of Parliament or a working plumber. Even the
little things of daily life interest them in a different way. So
I get on with my facts and reasoning rather slowly. I find myself
looking among the pleasant multitudes of the streets for types that
promise congenial conversation.
My sense of loneliness is increased during this interlude by the
better social success of the botanist. I find him presently falling
into conversation with two women who are accustomed to sit at a
table near our own. They wear the loose, coloured robes of soft
material that are the usual wear of common adult Utopian women; they
are both dark and sallow, and they affect amber and crimson in their
garments. Their faces strike me as a little unintelligent, and there
is a faint touch of middle-aged coquetry in their bearing that I do
not like. Yet on earth we should consider them women of exceptional
refinement. But the botanist evidently sees in this direction scope
for the feelings that have wilted a little under my inattention, and
he begins that petty intercourse of a word, of a slight civility, of
vague enquiries and comparisons that leads at last to associations
and confidences. Such superficial confidences, that is to say, as he
This throws me back upon my private observations.
The general effect of a Utopian population is vigour. Everyone one
meets seems to be not only in good health but in training; one
rarely meets fat people, bald people, or bent or grey. People who
would be obese or bent and obviously aged on earth are here in
good repair, and as a consequence the whole effect of a crowd
is livelier and more invigorating than on earth. The dress is
varied and graceful; that of the women reminds one most of the
Italian fifteenth century; they have an abundance of soft and
beautifully-coloured stuffs, and the clothes, even of the poorest,
fit admirably. Their hair is very simply but very carefully and
beautifully dressed, and except in very sunny weather they do not
wear hats or bonnets. There is little difference in deportment
between one class and another; they all are graceful and bear
themselves with quiet dignity, and among a group of them a European
woman of fashion in her lace and feathers, her hat and metal
ornaments, her mixed accumulations of "trimmings," would look like a
barbarian tricked out with the miscellaneous plunder of a museum.
Boys and girls wear much the same sort of costume--brown leather
shoes, then a sort of combination of hose and close-fitting trousers
that reaches from toe to waist, and over this a beltless jacket
fitting very well, or a belted tunic. Many slender women wear the
same sort of costume. We should see them in it very often in such
a place as Lucerne, as they returned from expeditions in the
mountains. The older men would wear long robes very frequently, but
the greater proportion of the men would go in variations of much the
same costume as the children. There would certainly be hooded cloaks
and umbrellas for rainy weather, high boots for mud and snow, and
cloaks and coats and furry robes for the winter. There would be no
doubt a freer use of colour than terrestrial Europe sees in these
days, but the costume of the women at least would be soberer and
more practical, and (in harmony with our discussion in the previous
chapter) less differentiated from the men's.
But these, of course, are generalisations. These are the mere
translation of the social facts we have hypotheticated into the
language of costume. There will be a great variety of costume and
no compulsions. The doubles of people who are naturally foppish on
earth will be foppish in Utopia, and people who have no natural
taste on earth will have inartistic equivalents. Everyone will not
be quiet in tone, or harmonious, or beautiful. Occasionally, as I go
through the streets to my work, I shall turn round to glance again
at some robe shot with gold embroidery, some slashing of the
sleeves, some eccentricity of cut, or some discord or untidiness.
But these will be but transient flashes in a general flow of
harmonious graciousness; dress will have scarcely any of that effect
of disorderly conflict, of self-assertion qualified by the fear of
ridicule, that it has in the crudely competitive civilisations of
I shall have the seeker's attitude of mind during those few days at
Lucerne. I shall become a student of faces. I shall be, as it were,
looking for someone. I shall see heavy faces, dull faces, faces with
an uncongenial animation, alien faces, and among these some with an
immediate quality of appeal. I should see desirable men approaching
me, and I should think; "Now, if I were to speak to _you_?" Many of
these latter I should note wore the same clothing as the man who
spoke to us at Wassen; I should begin to think of it as a sort of
Then I should see grave-faced girls, girls of that budding age when
their bearing becomes delusively wise, and the old deception of
my youth will recur to me; "Could you and I but talk together?"
I should think. Women will pass me lightly, women with open and
inviting faces, but they will not attract me, and there will come
beautiful women, women with that touch of claustral preoccupation
which forbids the thought of any near approach. They are private and
secret, and I may not enter, I know, into their thoughts....
I go as often as I can to the seat by the end of old Kapelbrucke,
and watch the people passing over.
I shall find a quality of dissatisfaction throughout all these days.
I shall come to see this period more and more distinctly as a pause,
as a waiting interlude, and the idea of an encounter with my double,
which came at first as if it were a witticism, as something verbal
and surprising, begins to take substance. The idea grows in my mind
that after all this is the "someone" I am seeking, this Utopian self
of mine. I had at first an idea of a grotesque encounter, as of
something happening in a looking glass, but presently it dawns on me
that my Utopian self must be a very different person from me. His
training will be different, his mental content different. But
between us there will be a strange link of essential identity, a
sympathy, an understanding. I find the thing rising suddenly to a
preponderance in my mind. I find the interest of details dwindling
to the vanishing point. That I have come to Utopia is the lesser
thing now; the greater is that I have come to meet myself.
I spend hours trying to imagine the encounter, inventing little
dialogues. I go alone to the Bureau to find if any news has come to
hand from the Great Index in Paris, but I am told to wait another
twenty-four hours. I cease absolutely to be interested in anything
else, except so far as it leads towards intercourse with this being
who is to be at once so strangely alien and so totally mine.
Wrapped up in these preoccupations as I am, it will certainly be the
botanist who will notice the comparative absence of animals about
He will put it in the form of a temperate objection to the Utopian
He is a professed lover of dogs and there are none. We have seen no
horses and only one or two mules on the day of our arrival, and
there seems not a cat in the world. I bring my mind round to his
suggestion. "This follows," I say.
It is only reluctantly that I allow myself to be drawn from my
secret musings into a discussion of Utopian pets.
I try to explain that a phase in the world's development is
inevitable when a systematic world-wide attempt will be made to
destroy for ever a great number of contagious and infectious
diseases, and that this will involve, for a time at any rate, a
stringent suppression of the free movement of familiar animals.
Utopian houses, streets and drains will be planned and built to make
rats, mice, and such-like house parasites impossible; the race of
cats and dogs--providing, as it does, living fastnesses to which
such diseases as plague, influenza, catarrhs and the like, can
retreat to sally forth again--must pass for a time out of freedom,
and the filth made by horses and the other brutes of the highway
vanish from the face of the earth. These things make an old story to
me, and perhaps explicitness suffers through my brevity.
My botanist fails altogether to grasp what the disappearance of
diseases means. His mind has no imaginative organ of that compass.
As I talk his mind rests on one fixed image. This presents what the
botanist would probably call a "dear old doggie"--which the botanist
would make believe did not possess any sensible odour--and it has
faithful brown eyes and understands everything you say. The botanist
would make believe it understood him mystically, and I figure his
long white hand--which seems to me, in my more jaundiced moments, to
exist entirely for picking things and holding a lens--patting its
head, while the brute looked things unspeakable....
The botanist shakes his head after my explanation and says quietly,
"I do not like your Utopia, if there are to be no dogs."
Perhaps that makes me a little malicious. Indeed I do not hate dogs,
but I care ten thousand times more for a man than for all the brutes
on the earth, and I can see, what the botanist I think cannot, that
a life spent in the delightful atmosphere of many pet animals may
have too dear a price....
I find myself back again at the comparison of the botanist and
myself. There is a profound difference in our imaginations, and I
wonder whether it is the consequence of innate character or of
training and whether he is really the human type or I. I am not
altogether without imagination, but what imagination I have has the
most insistent disposition to square itself with every fact in the
universe. It hypothesises very boldly, but on the other hand it will
not gravely make believe. Now the botanist's imagination is always
busy with the most impossible make-believe. That is the way with all
children I know. But it seems to me one ought to pass out of it. It
isn't as though the world was an untidy nursery; it is a place of
splendours indescribable for all who will lift its veils. It may be
he is essentially different from me, but I am much more inclined to
think he is simply more childish. Always it is make-believe. He
believes that horses are beautiful creatures for example, dogs are
beautiful creatures, that some women are inexpressibly lovely, and
he makes believe that this is always so. Never a word of criticism
of horse or dog or woman! Never a word of criticism of his
impeccable friends! Then there is his botany. He makes believe that
all the vegetable kingdom is mystically perfect and exemplary, that
all flowers smell deliciously and are exquisitely beautiful, that
Drosera does not hurt flies very much, and that onions do not smell.
Most of the universe does not interest this nature lover at all. But
I know, and I am querulously incapable of understanding why everyone
else does not know, that a horse is beautiful in one way and quite
ugly in another, that everything has this shot-silk quality, and is
all the finer for that. When people talk of a horse as an ugly
animal I think of its beautiful moments, but when I hear a flow of
indiscriminate praise of its beauty I think of such an aspect as one
gets for example from a dog-cart, the fiddle-shaped back, and that
distressing blade of the neck, the narrow clumsy place between the
ears, and the ugly glimpse of cheek. There is, indeed, no beauty
whatever save that transitory thing that comes and comes again; all
beauty is really the beauty of expression, is really kinetic and
momentary. That is true even of those triumphs of static endeavour
achieved by Greece. The Greek temple, for example, is a barn with a
face that at a certain angle of vision and in a certain light has a
great calm beauty.
But where are we drifting? All such things, I hold, are cases of
more and less, and of the right moment and the right aspect, even
the things I most esteem. There is no perfection, there is no
enduring treasure. This pet dog's beautiful affection, I say, or
this other sensuous or imaginative delight, is no doubt good, but it
can be put aside if it is incompatible with some other and wider
good. You cannot focus all good things together.
All right action and all wise action is surely sound judgment and
courageous abandonment in the matter of such incompatibilities. If
I cannot imagine thoughts and feelings in a dog's brain that cannot
possibly be there, at least I can imagine things in the future of
men that might be there had we the will to demand them....
"I don't like this Utopia," the botanist repeats. "You don't
understand about dogs. To me they're human beings--and more! There
used to be such a jolly old dog at my aunt's at Frognal when I was
But I do not heed his anecdote. Something--something of the nature
of conscience--has suddenly jerked back the memory of that beer I
drank at Hospenthal, and puts an accusing finger on the memory.
I never have had a pet animal, I confess, though I have been fairly
popular with kittens. But with regard to a certain petting of
Perhaps I was premature about that beer. I have had no pet animals,
but I perceive if the Modern Utopia is going to demand the sacrifice
of the love of animals, which is, in its way, a very fine thing
indeed, so much the more readily may it demand the sacrifice of many
other indulgences, some of which are not even fine in the lowest
It is curious this haunting insistence upon sacrifice and
It is slowly becoming my dominant thought that the sort of people
whose will this Utopia embodies must be people a little heedless of
small pleasures. You cannot focus all good things at the same time.
That is my chief discovery in these meditations at Lucerne. Much of
the rest of this Utopia I had in a sort of way anticipated, but not
this. I wonder if I shall see my Utopian self for long and be able
to talk to him freely....
We lie in the petal-strewn grass under some Judas trees beside the
lake shore, as I meander among these thoughts, and each of us,
disregardful of his companion, follows his own associations.
"Very remarkable," I say, discovering that the botanist has come to
an end with his story of that Frognal dog.
"You'd wonder how he knew," he says.
I nibble a green blade.
"Do you realise quite," I ask, "that within a week we shall face our
Utopian selves and measure something of what we might have
The botanist's face clouds. He rolls over, sits up abruptly and puts
his lean hands about his knees.
"I don't like to think about it," he says. "What is the good of
reckoning ... might have beens?"
It is pleasant to think of one's puzzling the organised wisdom of
so superior a planet as this Utopia, this moral monster State my
Frankenstein of reasoning has made, and to that pitch we have come.
When we are next in the presence of our Lucerne official, he has the
bearing of a man who faces a mystification beyond his powers, an
incredible disarrangement of the order of Nature. Here, for the
first time in the records of Utopian science, are two cases--not
simply one but two, and these in each other's company!--of
duplicated thumb-marks. This, coupled with a cock-and-bull story
of an instantaneous transfer from some planet unknown to Utopian
astronomy. That he and all his world exists only upon a hypothesis
that would explain everyone of these difficulties absolutely, is
scarcely likely to occur to his obviously unphilosophic mind.
The official eye is more eloquent than the official lips and asks
almost urgently, "What in this immeasurable universe have you
managed to do to your thumbs? And why?" But he is only a very
inferior sort of official indeed, a mere clerk of the post, and he
has all the guarded reserve of your thoroughly unoriginal man. "You
are not the two persons I ascertained you were," he says, with the
note of one resigned to communion with unreason; "because you"--he
indicates me--"are evidently at your residence in London." I smile.
"That gentleman"--he points a pen at the botanist in a manner that
is intended to dismiss my smile once for all--"will be in London
next week. He will be returning next Friday from a special mission
to investigate the fungoid parasites that have been attacking the
cinchona trees in Ceylon."
The botanist blesses his heart.
"Consequently"--the official sighs at the burthen of such nonsense,
"you will have to go and consult with--the people you ought to
I betray a faint amusement.
"You will have to end by believing in our planet," I say.
He waggles a negation with his head. He would intimate his position
is too responsible a one for jesting, and both of us in our several
ways enjoy the pleasure we poor humans have in meeting with
intellectual inferiority. "The Standing Committee of Identification,"
he says, with an eye on a memorandum, "has remitted your case to the
Research Professor of Anthropology in the University of London, and
they want you to go there, if you will, and talk to him."
"What else can we do?" says the botanist.
"There's no positive compulsion," he remarks, "but your work here
will probably cease. Here----" he pushed the neat slips of paper
towards us--"are your tickets for London, and a small but sufficient
supply of money,"--he indicates two piles of coins and paper on
either hand of him--"for a day or so there." He proceeds in the
same dry manner to inform us we are invited to call at our earliest
convenience upon our doubles, and upon the Professor, who is to
investigate our case.
He pulls down the corners of his mouth in a wry deprecatory smile,
eyes us obliquely under a crumpled brow, shrugs his shoulders, and
shows us the palms of his hands.
On earth, where there is nationality, this would have been a
Frenchman--the inferior sort of Frenchman--the sort whose only
happiness is in the routine security of Government employment.
London will be the first Utopian city centre we shall see.
We shall find ourselves there with not a little amazement. It will
be our first experience of the swift long distance travel of Utopia,
and I have an idea--I know not why--that we should make the journey
by night. Perhaps I think so because the ideal of long-distance
travel is surely a restful translation less suitable for the active
We shall dine and gossip and drink coffee at the pretty little
tables under the lantern-lit trees, we shall visit the theatre, and
decide to sup in the train, and so come at last to the station.
There we shall find pleasant rooms with seats and books--luggage
all neatly elsewhere--and doors that we shall imagine give upon a
platform. Our cloaks and hats and such-like outdoor impedimenta will
be taken in the hall and neatly labelled for London, we shall
exchange our shoes for slippers there, and we shall sit down like
men in a club. An officious little bell will presently call our
attention to a label "London" on the doorway, and an excellent
phonograph will enforce that notice with infinite civility. The
doors will open, and we shall walk through into an equally
"Where is the train for London?" we shall ask a uniformed fellow
"This is the train for London," he will say.
There will be a shutting of doors, and the botanist and I, trying
not to feel too childish, will walk exploring through the capacious
The resemblance to a club will strike us both. "A _good_ club," the
botanist will correct me.
When one travels beyond a certain speed, there is nothing but
fatigue in looking out of a window, and this corridor train, twice
the width of its poor terrestrial brother, will have no need of that
distraction. The simple device of abandoning any but a few windows,
and those set high, gives the wall space of the long corridors to
books; the middle part of the train is indeed a comfortable library
with abundant armchairs and couches, each with its green-shaded
light, and soft carpets upon the soundproof floor. Further on will
be a news-room, with a noiseless but busy tape at one corner,
printing off messages from the wires by the wayside, and further
still, rooms for gossip and smoking, a billiard room, and the dining
car. Behind we shall come to bedrooms, bathrooms, the hairdresser,
and so forth.
"When shall we start?" I ask presently, as we return, rather like
bashful yokels, to the library, and the old gentleman reading the
Arabian Nights in the armchair in the corner glances up at me with a
The botanist touches my arm and nods towards a pretty little
lead-paned window, through which we see a village sleeping under
cloudy moonlight go flashing by. Then a skylit lake, and then a
string of swaying lights, gone with the leap of a camera
Two hundred miles an hour!
We resort to a dignified Chinese steward and secure our berths. It
is perhaps terrestrial of us that we do not think of reading the
Utopian literature that lines the middle part of the train. I
find a bed of the simple Utopian pattern, and lie for a time
thinking--quite tranquilly--of this marvellous adventure.
I wonder why it is that to lie securely in bed, with the light out,
seems ever the same place, wherever in space one may chance to be?
And asleep, there is no space for us at all. I become drowsy and
incoherent and metaphysical....
The faint and fluctuating drone of the wheels below the car,
re-echoed by the flying track, is more perceptible now, but it is
not unpleasantly loud, merely a faint tinting of the quiet....
No sea crossing breaks our journey; there is nothing to prevent a
Channel tunnel in that other planet; and I wake in London.
The train has been in London some time when I awake, for these
marvellous Utopians have discovered that it is not necessary to
bundle out passengers from a train in the small hours, simply
because they have arrived. A Utopian train is just a peculiar kind
of hotel corridor that flies about the earth while one sleeps.
How will a great city of Utopia strike us?
To answer that question well one must needs be artist and engineer,
and I am neither. Moreover, one must employ words and phrases that
do not exist, for this world still does not dream of the things that
may be done with thought and steel, when the engineer is
sufficiently educated to be an artist, and the artistic intelligence
has been quickened to the accomplishment of an engineer. How can one
write of these things for a generation which rather admires that
inconvenient and gawky muddle of ironwork and Flemish architecture,
the London Tower Bridge. When before this, temerarious anticipators
have written of the mighty buildings that might someday be, the
illustrator has blended with the poor ineffectual splutter of the
author's words, his powerful suggestion that it amounted simply to
something bulbous, florid and fluent in the vein of the onion, and
L'Art Nouveau. But here, it may be, the illustrator will not
Art has scarcely begun in the world.
There have been a few forerunners and that is all. Leonardo, Michael
Angelo; how they would have exulted in the liberties of steel! There
are no more pathetic documents in the archives of art than
Leonardo's memoranda. In these, one sees him again and again
reaching out as it were, with empty desirous hands, towards the
unborn possibilities of the engineer. And Durer, too, was a Modern,
with the same turn towards creative invention. In our times these
men would have wanted to make viaducts, to bridge wild and
inaccessible places, to cut and straddle great railways athwart the
mountain masses of the world. You can see, time after time, in
Durer's work, as you can see in the imaginary architectural
landscape of the Pompeian walls, the dream of structures, lighter
and bolder than stone or brick can yield.... These Utopian town
buildings will be the realisation of such dreams.
Here will be one of the great meeting places of mankind. Here--I
speak of Utopian London--will be the traditional centre of one of
the great races in the commonalty of the World State--and here will
be its social and intellectual exchange. There will be a mighty
University here, with thousands of professors and tens of thousands
of advanced students, and here great journals of thought and
speculation, mature and splendid books of philosophy and science,
and a glorious fabric of literature will be woven and shaped, and
with a teeming leisureliness, put forth. Here will be stupendous
libraries, and a mighty organisation of museums. About these centres
will cluster a great swarm of people, and close at hand will be
another centre, for I who am an Englishman must needs stipulate that
Westminster shall still be a seat of world Empire, one of several
seats, if you will--where the ruling council of the world assembles.
Then the arts will cluster round this city, as gold gathers about
wisdom, and here Englishmen will weave into wonderful prose and
beautiful rhythms and subtly atmospheric forms, the intricate,
austere and courageous imagination of our race.
One will come into this place as one comes into a noble mansion.
They will have flung great arches and domes of glass above the wider
spaces of the town, the slender beauty of the perfect metal-work far
overhead will be softened to a fairy-like unsubstantiality by the
mild London air. It will be the London air we know, clear of filth
and all impurity, the same air that gives our October days their
unspeakable clarity and makes every London twilight mysteriously
beautiful. We shall go along avenues of architecture that will be
emancipated from the last memories of the squat temple boxes of the
Greek, the buxom curvatures of Rome; the Goth in us will have taken
to steel and countless new materials as kindly as once he took to
stone. The gay and swiftly moving platforms of the public ways will
go past on either hand, carrying sporadic groups of people, and very
speedily we shall find ourselves in a sort of central space, rich
with palms and flowering bushes and statuary. We shall look along an
avenue of trees, down a wide gorge between the cliffs of crowded
hotels, the hotels that are still glowing with internal lights, to
where the shining morning river streams dawnlit out to sea.
Great multitudes of people will pass softly to and fro in this
central space, beautiful girls and youths going to the University
classes that are held in the stately palaces about us, grave and
capable men and women going to their businesses, children meandering
along to their schools, holiday makers, lovers, setting out
upon a hundred quests; and here we shall ask for the two we more
particularly seek. A graceful little telephone kiosk will put us
within reach of them, and with a queer sense of unreality I shall
find myself talking to my Utopian twin. He has heard of me, he wants
to see me and he gives me clear directions how to come to him.
I wonder if my own voice sounds like that.
"Yes," I say, "then I will come as soon as we have been to our
We indulge in no eloquence upon this remarkable occasion. Yet I feel
an unusual emotional stir. I tremble greatly, and the telephonic
mouthpiece rattles as I replace it.
And thence the botanist and I walk on to the apartments that have
been set aside for us, and into which the poor little rolls of the
property that has accumulated about us in Utopia, our earthly
raiment, and a change of linen and the like, have already been
delivered. As we go I find I have little to say to my companion,
until presently I am struck by a transitory wonder that he should
have so little to say to me.
"I can still hardly realise," I say, "that I am going to see
myself--as I might have been."
"No," he says, and relapses at once into his own preoccupation.
For a moment my wonder as to what he should be thinking about brings
me near to a double self-forgetfulness.
I realise we are at the entrance of our hotel before I can formulate
any further remark.
"This is the place," I say.