Roundabout Papers.—No. VIII. De Juventute
[William M Thackeray]
Regular Feature, Editorial, Essay, Drollery
Railways, Steamships, Transport, Technology, Progress, Aeronautics, Invention, Futurism, Zoological Gardens, Palaeontology
Reflects that 'your railroad starts the new era, and we of a certain age belong to the new time and the old one [...]. We are of the age of steam. We have stepped out of the old world on to Brunel's vast deck, and across the waters ingens patet tellus. Towards what continent are we wending?'. The narrator relates how he 'used to know a man who had invented a flying-machine', but who failed to make it for the want of five hundred pounds, and then remarks, 'somebody else must make the flying-machine. But that will only be a step forward on the journey already begun since we quitted the old world'. Suggests that 'We who lived before railways [...] are like Father Noah and his family out of the Ark'. (504) These 'prærailroadites' are compared with 'the hippopotamus, and the elephant, and the long-necked giraffe' in a zoological gardens, who, 'when the keepers are asleep [...] lay their heads together and have a colloquy about the great silent antediluvian world which they remember, where mighty monsters floundered around the ooze, crocodiles basked on the banks, and dragons darted out of the caves and waters before men were made to slay them' (504–05).
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