Clement M. Hammond, “Then and Now” (1884)

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THEN AND NOW:

OR,

THE TRAVELS THROUGH TIME OF MISS JOSEPHINE D’AUJOURD’HUI
AS TOLD BY HERSELF.

[Written by Clement M. Hammond]

____________

“Fortunatus had a Wishing Hat, which when he put on, and wished himself Anywhere, behold he was There. By this means had Fortunatus triumphed over Space, he had annihilated Space; for him there was no Where, but all was Here. Were a Hatter to establish himself in the Wahngasse of Weissnichtwo, and make felts of this sort for all mankind, what a world we should have of it! Still stranger, should, on the opposite side of the street, another Hatter establish himself; and, as his fellow-craftsman made Space-annihilating Hats, make Time-annihilating! Of both would I purchase, were it with my last groschen; but chiefly of this latter. To clap-on your felt, and,simply by wishing that you were Anywhere, straightway to be There! Next to clap-on your other felt, and, simply by wishing that you were Anywhen, straightway to be Then! This were indeed the grander: shooting at will from the Fire-Creation of the World to its Fire-Consummation; here historically present in the First Century, conversing face to face with Paul and Seneca; there prophetically in the Thirty-first, conversing also face to face with other Pauls and Senecas, who as yet stand hidden in the depth of that late Time! Had we but the Time-annihilating lint, to put on for once only, we should see ourselves in a World of Miracles, wherein all fabled or authentic Thaumaturgy, and feats of Magic, were outdone.”—Carlyle’s “Sartor Resartus.”

 


I.

Boston, July 12, 2084.

My Dear Louise:

So many things to write about crowd into my mind all at once that I really can’t tell where to begin. Such a world! Such a country! Such a city! Such a journey as I had, too, from Boston of 1884! A journey of two hundred miles, or even two hundred leagues, through space is a very ordinary thing, and we can conceive of a journey of two hundred millions of miles or leagues, but to travel two hundred years through time! It is inconceivable to humanity. I was lifted into the sky, and time sped by, working the most wonderful changes so rapidly that my eyes seemed blurred. Decades flew past like minutes. When two centuries had wrought upon the universe, I descended again into Boston.

You know, Louise, we have often wondered what changes two hundred years would bring, what kind of hats, dresses, and cloaks the women would wear, and whether women would have the right to vote. Louise, one of the most astonishing facts of the thousands that I am going to tell you about is that no one votes in this, the year of our lord 2084. I just mention this to excite your curiosity.

I have been here now just one month, and am becoming somewhat acquainted with the people and customs of this strange world. I, of course, am a great curiosity. In fact, I am the sensation of the times. Newspapers use columns in describing me and commenting upon me. In connection with notices of my sudden and mysterious appearance are many very bitter attacks upon the world of your time. Let me give you a little instance of this feeling. A gentleman was introduced to me a few days ago as one of the most learned men of the times. His knowledge upon some subjects was surely astonishing, but I was shocked at many of his sentiments. In the course of our conversation I asked him to give his opinion of the leading men of the nineteenth century.

“A remarkably fine, strong, brave, clear-sighted set of men,” said he; “what they did, under great difficulties, makes it possible for us to enjoy what we do to-day.”

The names of Bismarck, Gladstone, Elaine, Garfield, Edmunds, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jay Gould, John Roach, Mr. Vanderbilt, James Russell Lowell, Alfred Tennyson, H. W. Longfellow, Henry Ward Beecher, and a hundred others, leaders in government, politics, literature, finance, science, art, and music, came into my mind, and I began to mention them. This very learned man with whom I was talking looked puzzled. I remarked that I was merely rehearsing their names.

“Whose names?” asked my acquaintance.

“Why, those of the leaders of the best thought and action of the nineteenth century!” said I, much surprised.

The man laughed, fairly roared with laughter, then apologized and looked serious.

“Some of those you have mentioned I have never heard of,” said he. “The others I know to have been robbers, hypocritical thieves, charlatans, and narrow-minded men,—the dead weight that held back the nineteenth century.”

“Why,” said I, “you don’t mean that Mr. Lodge and Mr. Edmunds were anything of this kind.”

“I am sure I don’t know. They may both have been great and good men. We never heard of either of them.”

I was thunderstruck for a moment, and before I could reply, the man—I really can’t call him gentleman—continued:

“I presume Messrs. Lodge and Edmunds were political jugglers, either shallow or designing men, who hoodwinked the people and stepped into power over them through the votes of the people, who were so near-sighted that they could not see the result of their own ballots. Politicians are forgotten, because the tribe has long since been cleaved from the face of the earth. They could not exist long, you see, without governments.

“The names that we remember as the leaders of the best thought and action of the nineteenth century are”—and here he gave a long list, the most of which I never heard before. Those that I had heard made me shudder. They were names of Anarchists who plotted the destruction of kingdoms, the murder of czars and kings,—men who, I verily believe, were in league with the evil one when on earth and whose souls now suffer endless punishment,—if there is such. They were such as Bakounine, Kropotkine, and their terrible associates. I am afraid there must be something radically wrong about this world to-day, for all of its apparent happiness and prosperity, if it worships, as it appears to, the memory of such bad men.

I shall write again soon.

Josephine.

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About Shawn P. Wilbur 2300 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.