“Recollections of Six Days’ Journey in the Moon,” by an Aerio-Nautical Man (1844)

Recollections of Six Days’ Journey in the Moon

By an Aerio-Nautical Man.

INASMUCH as this terrestrial world of ours has lately been so thoroughly explored by all sorts of ingenious and inquisitive travellers, who have left nothing for those that may come after them either to describe or invent, it has happened that those who, like myself, are fond of new sights and new sensations, can find little or nothing here below to awaken their wonder or produce any excitement. Even the remotest regions of the earth have been so thoroughly explored, that it may be said with perfect truth, of my countrymen most especially, that they are more intimately acquainted with the interior of Asia and Africa than the land of their birth, and know a great deal more about Paris, London, Florence and Rome, than any of our great emporiums.

Being a devoted lover of travelling, partly on account of the agreeable dissipation of mind it produces, but more especially the dignity and consequence derived from breathing the air of foreign lands, I have been seriously aggrieved at this lamentable exhaustion of novelty, and more than once, like Alexander, sat down and wept that there were no more worlds to explore. The planets and other heavenly bodies most especially attracted my attention, and of these the Moon, which is at the bottom of so many sublunary influences, and without whose aid the adepts of Natural Philosophy would be so often at a loss to account for various phenomena, appeared to me the most interesting. I wished, if possible, to ascertain the fact of such influence, and the mode in which it is exercised on the tides, the growth of grain and vegetables, and above all, the wits of mankind; and I was anxious for an intercourse with the Man in the Moon, who from his great age, and other collateral circumstances must, notwithstanding the perpetual insinuations about his ignorance, have acquired a prodigious mass of knowledge and experience. In short, I became exceedingly unhappy at that mysterious non-intercourse which it would seem had been rendered eternal between the different planets, and to tell the honest truth, nearly lost my wits in devising expedients to surmount it, by applying some of the new principles of science to this interesting object. While in this painful state of mind, I accidentally saw in one of the public papers a notice of some ingenious experiments in a new and hitherto unknown science, called Aeriotism, or the faculty of self-suspension in the air. It immediately occurred to me that I might convert this interesting discovery to my purpose, and pursuing the hint, I instituted a series of experiments which finally resulted in complete success, and enabled me to accomplish my long cherished object of a visit to the MOON, from which I have just returned, after a most refreshing tour of six days, five hours, and forty-seven minutes. No time has been lost in laying the results of this journey before the enlightened public, of late so surfeited with all kinds of fictions, that it must needs feel a desire for a little wholesome truth, if only for the sake of novelty, I can not but flatter myself the information communicated will be entirely new, as hitherto we have known nothing of this planet, except from Astronomers and anonymous scribblers; of the former of whom I wish to speak with all possible respect, but who, I must be permitted to say, have told some strange stories about volcanoes and what not. As to the latter, I pledge my word to my readers I am the first native of this world who ever visited that planet, without losing his wits irrevocably; and that these egregious romancers know no more of the subject, than divers of those English travellers who have deluded mankind with pretended accounts of their discoveries and inventions, know of the country.

It is not my intention to disclose the progress and final success of my experiments in Aeriotism, inasmuch as I contemplate extending my visits to all the other planets in succession, and do not wish to be forestalled by others, since it can not be doubted that were I to divulge the secret, they would all in a short time be overrun by inquisitive Englishmen, who, according to custom, would leave the poor people scarcely a remnant of character, especially, as judging by those of the moon, they are far more refined, polite, moral and intelligent than those of that country, and withal better fed and more comfortable. It will be sufficient, I trust, to insure the utmost confidence in my veracity, merely to state, as the basis of my process, that I followed the example of the aforesaid travellers, more especially the renowned “Boz,” in procuring through the exertions of my numerous friends and admirers, divers public demonstrations of admiration, and a prodigious number of complimentary notices, whereby I at length became so puffed up with self-conceit, that I grew specifically lighter than the air, and felt just as I have sometimes done in my sleep, when dreaming of flying over the heads of my fellow creatures with a pair of imaginary wings. I became so light and airy, that I could not keep my feet to the ground without great difficulty, and was once blown across Cayuga Lake by a sudden gust of wind. I was fain to wear heavy leaden soles to my boots, by means of which, though sometimes blown down, like the little witches bought by children at the toy-shops, I always popt up again in an instant, my head being so much lighter than my heels. Having thus surmounted the great obstacle of specific gravity, the next difficulty was to propel myself forward, and above all govern my motions while in progress through the air. I succeeded beyond my most sanguine anticipations, by an ingenious application of machinery and mesmerism, which I shall keep a profound secret, lest future travellers should follow in my track, and contradict all I say, as they are too apt to do, in order to appear wiser than their betters.

Having perfected my machinery, and furnished myself with a bladder bag of a whip-syllabub, the lightest food I could think of, together with a map of the Moon, and some cheap publications to supply me with light reading by the way, I left this world, on the night of the sixth full Moon, in the year 1844, when there was not a cloud in the sky and the air was calm, and commenced my daring undertaking. The first step, I found was every thing; I rose slowly and with great difficulty, until gradually receding from the attraction of the earth, I was borne along with such inconceivable swiftness, that had I not provided against the contingency, by an ingenious process of shortening sail, I should soon have left my breath behind me. As I rose in the air, I also found the great advantage of the Bozzian process I had undergone, for had not my head been already as light as a feather, I should inevitably have become so dizzy in looking down from such a fearful height, that I might probably have lost all consciousness, or at least become totally incapable of distinguishing truth from falsehood.

For the same reason that I have not explained the minutiae of my machinery, I shall refrain from all detail of the particulars of my journey through the air, the dangers I encountered and my expedients for avoiding them. It is sufficient to my purpose at present, merely to state, that after having encountered a vast deal of difficulty in crossing the milky way, where the stars are as close together as the thousand islands in the St. Lawrence, and having my whiskers scorched by too near an approach to the Dog star, I proceeded on at a great rate, but was much alarmed to find that the Moon sailed much faster than I did, and seriously contemplated lying to in her track and awaiting her coming round again. Fortunately however, while debating the subject, I suddenly found myself rapidly approaching the land, and just at the dawn of day distinctly heard the cocks crowing. In a few minutes I was so near, as to be obliged to shorten sail, and immediately after landed, where I found the Moon, like a fly in a spider web, so entangled in the beard of the comet which was marauding through the skies about this time, that she could not budge an inch. Had it not been for this providential circumstance, I verily believe I should never have overtaken her. I had almost forgot to mention having been nearly demolished by a falling star which just grazed my head, and gave a great light, but no heat that I could discover. It may be proper also to state that I reached the Moon in two days and ten hours, in consequence of its being caught by the beard of the comet, being exactly half the time it would take, according to the calculations of Astronomers, for the planet to fall to the earth, if let go suddenly. Admitting then, that the Moon was thus arrested half way on her nightly course, I must have travelled at a pretty good rate, to overtake her in so short a period. As this planet is said to be unequal in its motions, it is possible however it did not travel at this time as fast as usual.

Having a great deal of business on hand, as I contemplated a visit to the other planets, and had but little time to do it in, I determined to proceed in my inquiries into the state of the country and the character of its inhabitants without delay. Accordingly, availing myself of that facility of locomotion, I had acquired by applying the principles of Aeriotism to practical purposes, I managed in the course of six days, to distance all previous travellers, even those who have heretofore visited my own country, and become miraculously acquainted with its morals, manners, institutions and government, as it were by intuition.

Beginning with the geography of the country, I shall content myself with stating that the map of the Moon I carried with me, and which exhibited all the latest discoveries in the science of astronomy, is extremely inaccurate in many essential particulars. The physiognomy of this planet strikingly resembles the human face on a great scale, and hence doubtless the vulgar error of the Man in the Moon, who I assure my readers is only a creature of the imagination. The sockets of the eyes are two large seas, and the protuberances of the cheek bones and nose, nothing more than high mountains, one of the latter of which, having a reddish appearance, has doubtless been mistaken for a volcano by the astronomers. I pledge my word, however, there is no such thing as a volcano in the whole planet. I had also occasion to notice that the portion of the moon which astronomers call the land is water, and their water good solid terra firma. Numerous other blunders have been committed, which I forbear to notice out of respect for the learned.

The Moon comprises several states and kingdoms, the former republican, the latter generally, though not always despotic. These mutually abhor each other, and are perpetually quarrelling, and not unfrequently falling together by the ears, about which is the most enlightened and happy, or other matters still more difficult to decide, or still more insignificant. On one occasion, I found two nations cutting each other’s throats most valiantly, and mutually desolating fields and habitations without mercy. On inquiring the occasion of this violent animosity, I found the people knew nothing at all about it, except that they were ordered to do so by their respective sovereigns, one of whom was an infant, the other a madman. In another part of the Moon, I found them at loggerheads about the honor and interests of the country, concerning which scarcely any two agreed in opinion; or rather there were two parties who differed altogether on the subject, one maintaining that the honor of the nation consisted altogether in its interests, the other that the interests of the nation consisted entirely in its honor. I was not a little struck with the resemblance I observed in these and many other particulars between the inhabitants of the earth and those of the Moon, which at first I ascribed to that family likeness which is found in all creatures of the same species. Further inquiries have however satisfied me, that the people of the Moon are the genuine descendants of Adam and Eve, and that their ancestors were certainly accomplices in erecting the Tower of Babel. The proofs and deductions through which I arrived at this conclusion, I shall, however, reserve for a separate dissertation.

The most remarkable kingdom in this planet, I found to be an island, called the Isle of Engines, in what is vulgarly supposed to be the left eye of the Man in the Moon, which, as I observed before, is a great sea of salt water. It is not so large as some of the other states, but has extended its dependencies to the utmost bounds of the great ocean in which it lies. I heard so much of it, at every step in my progress, that I became extremely anxious to pay it a visit, and accordingly took the first opportunity that offered, embarking on a magnetic steamboat, which progressed at the rate of an hundred miles an hour, against winds and currents. Touching this word, “progressed,” I would observe that it is in general use among all classes, is incorporated with all their dictionaries, and recognized as legitimate by the most learned and illustrious of all their academies, which is exclusively composed of persons who have lost their wits in searching for the Philosopher’s Stone, Perpetual Motion, the wisdom of Congress, and the first principles of Political Economy.

This island which is called by its inhabitants the most free, happy, and enlightened of all the countries of the Moon, I found not a little worthy the study of an enlightened traveller. Every thing is done there by machinery; and the men themselves, if not machines, are as much their slaves, as the genius of Aladdin’s lamp. These machines have in a great measure taken the place of men, and snatched the bread from their mouths, because they work so much cheaper and faster. I saw several which I was assured by the proprietor of a manufactory who was reckoned worth millions, could do the work of a thousand men. I asked what became of the thousand men in the meantime; upon which he entered into a long dissertation to prove, that they were infinitely benefitted by the cheapness of every thing occasioned by these labor-saving machines. I took the liberty of observing that the capital of a large portion of mankind was labor; and that if they could get no work, or were deprived of its adequate rewards, it was of little consequence to them that things were cheap, as they would have no money to purchase them. The millionaire looked at me with surprise, mingled as I thought with contempt, and answered rather superciliously, “My good friend, I perceive you don’t understand the first principles of Political Economy.” I acknowledged my ignorance, and begged him to enlighten me: whereupon, he went on to entangle himself in a web of knotty arguments, sufficient to confound the whole universe, but by which he imagined that he had demonstrated his whole theory. “You see,” concluded he, “the thing is as clear—as clear as”—”mud,” said I, perceiving he halted for a comparison.

Believing, however, in the truth of the old proverb, “that the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” I determined to see a little further into this matter; so I left the Political Economist, and proceeded through the various departments of his immense establishment, where I found hundreds, I might almost say, thousands of men, women and children, male and female, employed in tending the machinery. They could not be said to govern, but to be directed by it; and it seemed that their very souls had transmigrated into the Steam Engines and Spinning Jennies. There were a great many female children, not more than seven or eight years old, half-clothed, and, if I might judge from their wretched squalid appearance, less than half-fed, but who, as I understood, labored sixteen or eighteen hours of the day, at this monotonous employment, which seemed to consist in perpetual watchfulness, and all for a pittance which I am afraid to name, lest no one should believe me. As I stood contemplating the scene, the millionaire came suddenly behind me, and said, “ah!—Mr.—Mr.—I forget your name—I think you said you came from the United States. I think I have heard of such a place some where or other, though I can’t tell where. They say it is a large country almost as big as this; but it is a great pity they tolerate slavery there. Now, in this free and happy land, there is no such thing as a slave. The moment a man, woman, or child touches this sacred soil of freedom, the chains fall from their limbs, and they stand redeemed, regenerated and disenthralled by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation.” At this moment of sublime exultation, it happened that a little pale, emaciated girl, apparently worn out with toil and hunger, or both, was observed to fall asleep, as she was standing watching the evolutions of a Spinning Jenny. Upon this a fellow came up and pinched her until she awoke with a scream, and the millionaire directed that a deduction of three pence should he made from her wages, which, on inquiry, I found amounted to two shillings a week.

I had the curiosity to follow a family to their home. It consisted of the husband, his wife, and three children, two of them girls, neither apparently over ten years of age. They had labored eighteen hours a day for months past. Yet returned to a wretched home, where two other families beside themselves lived in the same room. The weather was cold, yet they were without fire and almost destitute of any other clothing than dirty rags; their food was of the most miserable kind, and entirely insufficient to satisfy the cravings of hunger; a wretched straw bed lay in one corner, when they had eaten their scanty meal, they laid themselves down altogether, supplying the want of covering by a mutual communication of animal heat. Turning from the scene in sickening disgust, mingled with indignation, I proceeded towards my lodgings, when I was attracted by a concourse of splendid equipages, before the doors of a great public building, into which a considerable number of people were entering. Prompted by curiosity, I followed the crowd into a splendid hall, where I found a large assemblage of distinguished persons, who, as I soon learned, were holding a meeting to raise funds for some philanthropic society, whose name I forget, but whose object was enlightening the minds or relieving the necessities of people some where at the antipodes. A Royal Duke, as I afterwards learned, presided on the occasion, and a most eloquent address was delivered, in which the orator lauded the philanthropy of his country to the skies, and praised the illustrious individuals there met together, for their munificent liberality. After this, several thousand winds were subscribed; the meeting broke up, and I observed that as his Royal Highness came forth, a family similar in wretchedness, ignorance and poverty to that I have described, begged his charity. But he had done enough for one day; he had got his name before the public as a Prince of unparalleled humanity, and passed on muttering something about the poor rates. For my part, I honestly confess, that I went away with my respect for that much calumniated maxim, about charity beginning at home, greatly increased.

I look upon this island to be the best study in the Moon, for a politician, a philosopher, and a philanthropist; but the desire to anticipate other travellers who may possibly find their way to that planet and forestall my work, obliges me to curtail it in many interesting particulars, which I may probably supply in a future edition. At present I shall only say, that while this nation pretends to be the freest under the sun, it abounds in a species of slaves more abjectly wretched by far than those of any other country; that while it affects to take precedence of the rest of the world in learning, science and knowledge, a large portion of the people of all ages are in a state of most unparalleled ignorance; that while its power and glory are said to have reached far above all that have gone before it, such are the discontents of the people that the laws can only be executed by a military force; and that finally while boasting of its happiness, it comprises a portion of actual misery, greater than that of any other nation of the Moon or the Earth.


In our last, we left the Aeronaut in the Isle of Engines, in the Moon. Next, as we have already intimated, he visits and describes a certain Republic in that bright world.

[Ed. Mess.

Having enjoyed the hospitalities of the Island as far as my time would permit—that is to say, having paid dearer for my accommodations than I ever did any where else, notwithstanding the wonder working machinery,—I took passage in the magnetic vessel, for the purpose of visiting a famous Republic of which I heard such terrible accounts in the Island, that I felt a great curiosity to see it with my own eyes; for I could scarcely believe, that a people so ignorant and vicious could exist in a state of society and civilization. I had observed too, that the people of the Island were especially vain of their superiority over all others in the Moon, which they took care to maintain by an ingenious process of elevating themselves at the expense of other people. This Republic, or Confederation as it is called, lies at the western extremity of the Ocean, at a distance of about three thousand miles, yet we reached it in about twenty-four hours. I inquired of the Captain if they knew any thing about steamboats, and he told me they were used about a hundred years ago, but had now become, as he expressed it in the common phrase of the inhabitants of the Moon, “obsolete ideas.”

Arriving at a great city, called the emporium, I was agreeably surprised to find what a great man I was. As soon as the better sort of people learned I was a traveller, and had come from the Isle of Engines, they took the horses from the hackney coach in which I was proceeding to my lodgings, and dragged me along with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of admiration and applause. At the hotel I was met by a committee, the chairman of which made a long speech, in which he complimented me in such high terms on my literary eminence, that if I had not been a remarkably modest man I should have been quite out of countenance, and concluded his address by respectfully inquiring when it would suit my convenience to partake of a public dinner. In less than six hours, I had invitations enough to last me six weeks, and received so many other proofs of profound devotion, especially from the ladies, who, by the way, were remarkably handsome, that I could not help thinking there must be a severe scarcity of great men in the Republic, and finally came to the conclusion, that the people who made such a fuss with me, must labor under a deep sense of their inferiority.

This I however soon found was by no means the case, for they turned out to be almost as great boasters as the inhabitants of the Isle of Engines, and called themselves the most enlightened nation under the sun, as indeed they are in many respects. It seems they were formerly subject to the sovereign of the Isle of Engines, but became independent some fifty or sixty years ago, after a struggle in which they displayed great gallantry and perseverance. They are justly proud of this achievement, and boast much of their independence, which is however merely political, for I found them little better than abject slaves to the fashions and opinions of the Isle of Engines, frequently adopting them long after they have become obsolete ideas, (to use the Captain’s expression,) like menials who strut about in the cast-off clothes of their masters.

It is proper to premise, that the Moon is separated into two great divisions, called the Old and New World; of the latter of which, the Great Republic considers itself, and justly too, the representative—being the most powerful and enlightened state in that quarter. The inhabitants of these two great divisions either really have, or pretend to have, a great contempt for each other, the people of the Old World looking upon those of the New as mere upstarts of yesterday, without any ancestors, ancestral monuments, or ancestral achievements. Those of the New World, on the other hand, have various flings at the aforesaid old gentleman. They call him a superannuated dotard, strutting about in the threadbare garments of ha ancestors, and living upon their reputation, instead of establishing one of his own. They say he is always looking backwards, if not going backwards too, while they are perpetually going ahead, and looking straight forwards. That one nibbles at the dry crust of memory, while the other luxuriates on the luscious banquet of hope; and that, in short, one lives in the past, the other in the future.

Almost all their jealousies and antipathies nay he traced to those sources, though it must be confessed, they are combined with others, arising from the opposition of great national interests, and above all, of political principles, the states of the New World being for the most part Republics—those of the Old, Monarchies. They are perpetually disputing about the superiority of these modes of government; the Monarchists stigmatizing the Republicans as semi-barbarians, anarchists and agrarians; the latter returning the compliment by dabbing the others ignorant, spiritless slaves, without courage to assert their freedom, or sense enough to enjoy it if attained.

But notwithstanding this, I soon observed, that the people of the New World, with all their pride of liberty, had not achieved its last and greatest triumph, that of independence of mind. They still cherish a sort of sneaking deference, a paltry spirit of imitation in respect to the inhabitants of the Old World, which is perpetually leaking out in spite of all their boastings of superiority. I scarcely met a man or woman, especially among those of the more enlightened classes, who ventured to adopt an opinion in opposition to the authority of the Old World, or a dress not sanctioned by its example. Both their tastes and opinions seem entirely subservient to foreign example, and the influence of the Isle of Engines is at this moment far more despotic over the minds, manners, and morals of the people of these her ancient colonies, than was her political authority at any period of their dependence.

The government of this Great Republic of the Moon is strictly democratic, while almost all the early education, as well as subsequent reading, of its inhabitants inculcates the usages of monarchy. Their political principles are those of perfect equality, while their domestic habits and associations are almost all founded on a broad and palpable distinction of rank. In theory they are all the same, in practice they are all different. At an election poll, the servant is equal to his master; in the drawing room he waits on him at table, and does his bidding. One might be tempted to conclude, that it was impossible any system of society or government could subsist for any length of time in the midst of such incongruities, and this has uniformly been asserted by the philosophers of the Old World of the Moon. But it is singular how easy it is for all these apparent contradictions to become reconciled by custom and practice, the two great agents in smoothing down the asperities of conflicting principles. Strange to say, these Republicans seem to get along very well, though it would be easy to prove such a result absolutely impossible. Setting aside their penitent propensity to adopt the opinions, and follow the fashions of those they affect to despise; their ignorant, vulgar admiration of foreigners, especially literary tourists, and inferior writers of the Isle of Engines; and their profound devotion to those titles of nobility which are incompatible with their government and institutions, they may be called an enlightened people, among whom intelligence is far more widely diffused than elsewhere; whose morals, though tinted, have not reached the incurable corruption of the Old World of the Moon; whose portion of happiness is most assuredly at least equal; and whose progress in numbers, wealth and prosperity, is unparalleled in the history of mankind. I could give such examples of the growth of states and cities, as would without doubt place me on a level with the celebrated Baron Munchausen, notwithstanding the sage and highly original remark of my Lord Byron, so often quoted by his admirers, that “Truth is strange—stranger than fiction.” I will therefore only venture to give one example. Travelling along the banks of a great river, to the examination of which I had devoted a full half hour, I was overcome by heat and fatigue and fell asleep, in the midst of a sublime forest of primeval trees, whose heads seemed almost to reach the skies. On waking and looking about, I found myself, to my utter astonishment, in the midst of a thriving town, with a canal and a rail road running side by side, and the stumps standing in the streets. The impression on my mind at first was, that I had taken one of Peter Claus’s naps, but I trust the reader will believe me when I declare, on the veracity of a traveller, that on looking at my watch, I found I had slept only two hours.

Intending this as a mere sketch of my personal travels and adventures, it will not be expected that I should here aspire to a complete development of the state of trade, science, literature, the fine arts, and the general statistics of the various countries of the Moon it was my fortune to visit. These I shall reserve for a separate work, to be published in one hundred and seventy-five numbers, embellished with original designs borrowed from every accessible source, and so cheap that purchasers will wonder at the sum they have paid when they come to the end of the series. The reader must therefore be content with a few general observations, commencing with the subject of money, that being the first principle of all things among the inhabitants of the Moon.

The ordinary currency is paper money, though there is one remarkable exception which came to my knowledge in a way I shall hereafter explain. In some places, I found it greatly depreciated, but the people having no other standard of value to compare with it, were quite ignorant of the fact, and so delighted with the high prices they received for every thing, that they actually forgot what they paid. They consequently all fancied themselves growing rich apace, and were so happy, that they turned every man out of office, as a common disturber of the public peace of mind, who had the audacious wisdom to predict that such a state of things could not last forever. In some places the privilege of making paper money was confined to a few; in others I believe every man manufactured it for himself, it was so plenty. In all these places, particularly the latter, there was nothing seen but paper money, and such was the scarcity of silver and gold, that the only specimen I saw, was a shilling carefully preserved in a cabinet of curious medals collected by a learned antiquary, who had written a dissertation to prove that the Aboriginals of the country were acquainted with the art of coining money. In most of the countries I visited, there were two great parties, one called the hard money men, the other the shin-plaster dynasty, with which opprobrious epithet the believers in paper money were scandalized by their opponents. Sometimes one, sometimes the other gained the ascendancy; but I was told by a person of veracity, that paper money maintained its stand through all these vicissitudes, which puzzled me not a little. The shinplaster boys insinuated that the others were called hard money men, because it was so hard to get at their money; while the latter retorted by asserting that the others never paid their debts at all except by act of Congress. This is all I mean to say on the subject at present, with the single exception of an anecdote I shall relate, too curious to be omitted, without great injustice to the reader.

I had heard of a strange people, that lived among the recesses of a range of high mountains at a great distance and were considered a hundred years at least behind the spirit of the age. They were held to be little better than barbarians and infidels, for they knew nothing about running in debt without paying, and did not believe in paper money. It was my intention to pay these people a flying visit, but finding this great Republic of the west extended in every direction so far that it seemed impossible ever to get out of it, I reluctantly relinquished my design. It happened, however, that I luckily fell in with one of these originals, of whom I bought a superb beaver skin as a present to my wife on my return home. On offering payment in paper money he declined to my great surprise, and continued turning up his nose contemptuously, at a new bank note, just from the mint, which I pressed on his acceptance. I assured him it was as good as the bank, and far preferable to silver or gold, which were considered obsolete ideas. He shook his head however, and at length asked me with great gravity—

“Can you convert it into silver spoons?

“No—I believe not,” replied I.

“Or watches?”

“I cant say I have ever known such a thing done.”

“Or any thing useful or ornamental?”

“They make very excellent shin-plasters.”

“Are they intrinsically of any earthly value?”

“Not that I know of, with this single exception. Yet you may exchange them for every thing valuable.”

“That is to say if any body will take them. Pray give me my beaver skin. I can at all events make it into a cap, a waistcoat, or something useful.” Saying this, he almost snatched it from my hand, and left me wondering at his blindness as well as pitying his deplorable ignorance of first principles of circulation and currency.

The inhabitants of the Moon have made great progress in science, arts and literature. In one nation especially, they paint exquisite pictures, though there is not a man among them that can make a tolerable box to pack them in. They carve the most exquisite statues; yet are totally ignorant of the most common machinery for raising blocks of marble from the quarries. They can unroll the most ancient manuscript without injuring it, but a common tack, or a scientific horse shoe, is beyond their comprehension, or beneath their attention. In short, they are as deficient in the useful mechanical, as we of the United States are rather flippantly said to be in the fine arts. I should here observe, that these remarks are confined to one nation of the Moon in particular, which is celebrated throughout the whole planet for its taste and skill in the fine arts, most especially music. The rest take pride in various other matters in which they fancy they excel all their neighbors, consoling themselves with the idea that the progress of the fine arts is coeval with that of luxury and effeminacy, and that where greater honors are paid to fiddlers and prima donnas, than to the benefactors of mankind, or the giver of freedom to nations, the former will become plenty, the latter very scarce. However this may be, it is certain that the nation of fiddlers and prima donnas both pities and envies its neighbors, while they, in return, despise and imitate it to the extent of their ability. Of the vast progress made by the inhabitants of the Moon in science and knowledge, it will be sufficient to state, in order to convey some faint idea of the truth, that they are so far in advance of those of our Earth, that they have discarded nearly one half the knowledge we hold to be essential to the reputation of a wise man, and consider a great portion of the other half, of extremely questionable utility. It is beginning to be a prevailing opinion among the philosophers, that the world has been on the wrong tack for the last six thousand years; that society is altogether constituted on erroneous principles, and that it will soon be absolutely necessary, either to re-organize the old, or make an entire new world, founded on the solid basis of human experience. As respects the sciences, I was surprised to find them so far in advance of us, that they had nearly completed the circle, and were fast returning to those venerable exploded systems, which in the benighted ages of ignorance and superstition, were considered as no better than arrant witchcraft and necromancy, the diabolical progeny of an incestuous communion with the powers of darkness. There are men of such stupendous, scientific attainments among them, that they can tell what others are thinking of without dealing with the devil, and the gift of second-sight, or clairvoyance, as it is there called, has become so common, that it is much more usual to meet with people who cannot see what is to be seen, than such as can see what was once invisible to all but those who, in the days of ignorance and superstition, were supposed to partake of supernatural powers. Every day some new science is discovered, which renders easy what was considered impossible before, and I have little doubt that if they continue on for half a century more in the same rapid pace, they will be able to dispense altogether with a Supreme Being, and construct not only worlds, but people to live in them, on purely scientific principles.

With regard to the Literature of the Moon, I have only space to say, that it has ceased to be a separate avocation. Every man is there his own author, and as for booksellers, if any one should be silly enough to publish a book for the purpose of even giving it away, it would be considered a gross insult, as conveying a direct insinuation that men could not do this for themselves. In truth, the entire system is reversed. Authors give a premium to their readers for their trouble; and critics always prepare their strictures before the work is written, having in the course of the development of the human mind, discovered that it is much better to teach an author what is right, before he has done wrong, than to arraign and punish him afterwards. It is moreover a curious fact, for which I can vouch the very best authority, that there are at least ten critics to one author, all gaining not only fame but bread, by correcting his faults or proclaiming his beauties, without the least expense of taste or judgment.

At the period I visited the Great Republic, (which by the way is too young to have been christened, and is yet without a specific name,) the better sort of people, to wit, those who had most money, or credit, were laboring under a singular sort of monomania, that is to say, they were what is called music mad. A few days after my arrival at the Great Emporium, walking one bright moonlight evening* through a fashionable street, I encountered a vast crowd of people, pushing and thronging after a person, who was stalking along with much dignity, and huzzaing with great vociferation, while they scattered flowers in his path, and the ladies showered bouquets on his head from the open windows. Feeling somewhat curious to know who this could be, I ventured to inquire of a respectable looking man, who had ensconced himself by my side, behind the stone steps of a hotel, to get out of the way of the crowd.

“I suppose, that is some great hero, just returned from a victory over the enemies of his country,” said I.

“Not at all,” replied the old gentleman with a look of surprise.

“Some illustrious patriot, who has passed his life in the service of the State!”

“Not at all, sir.”

“Some great public benefactor, who has ensured the happiness of his countrymen by freeing them from despotism and securing their rights and property by a wise system of laws and government?

“Not at all, sir.”

“Surely then he must have done some glorious act, or achieved some great triumph of virtue or intellect.”

“Not at all, sir,” again replied the old gentleman with a significant smile. “He is only the greatest fiddler in the world, and has just got through a piece of music, so difficult that every body pronounced it impossible.”

“Indeed! You must be a very musical people.”

“That depends on the people of the Old World, from whom we derive all our tastes and opinions. On the arrival of the next magnetic packet, we shall all become deaf for aught I know.”

Here we were interrupted by a shout that rent the skies, and looking in that direction, I saw the great fiddler elevated on the shoulders of six ladies dressed in the most fashionable mode, and fiddling in great style. Whereupon all the people fell down and worshipped his fiddle.

“Really,” said I to my companion, “You are indeed a very musical people. What will be the consequence of such enthusiasm?”

“That we shall have plenty of fiddlers, and a special scarcity of heroes, poets, statesmen and public benefactors. The ambition of our great men will be confined to playing the fiddle. Sir,” continued he, “do you see that decrepit old man, stealing along unnoticed through the crowd, as if ashamed of himself or his countrymen? That man bore a great share in giving freedom to his country, which owes him a debt of gratitude it can never pay. Yet you see he passes unnoticed. Good night, sir, I am going home to learn to play the fiddle.”

It was originally my intention to spend six weeks, or two months in making a thorough investigation of this new, or at least hitherto unvisited region. But it unluckily, or rather luckily happened, that at the close of my six days’ researches, on opening my pocket for some purpose or other, I was suddenly appalled at the sight of a polite invitation from a bank to call and pay a note which would become due the sixteenth of the month. It wanted only three days of the time, and not a moment was to be lost. Accordingly, I set forth with the least possible delay, and having the advantage of my previous experience, arrived just in time to borrow the money of a friend, thus preserving my credit triumphantly, and fairly becoming entitled to a new discount. I found little trouble in my descent, and confidently assure my readers, that if they can only once arrive at the Moon they will find no difficulty in getting back again.


Source: Southern Literary Messenger, July & August, 1844.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.