Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  9 (1884–85), 21–36.

A Few Days' More Driving

William Black


Short Fiction, Travelogue


Scientific Practitioners, Theory, Vaccination, Evolution, Anti-Scientism, Hypothesis

    Among the miscellaneous passengers on a leisurely tour through Southern England is a 'great scientific Philosopher who can find you a reason for everything that exists in this mortal world—except for his own inability to perceive facts that won't square with his theories' (22). Later, an 'English girl with pince-nez is [...] severely lectured by the Philosopher on the iniquity of state-enforced vaccination, she having innocently mentioned M. Pasteur's experiments' (24). The Philosopher and the bespectacled English maiden nevertheless become romantically involved when he 'discourse[s] to her of the future triumphs of the doctrine of evolution', although for this lovelorn 'man of molecules' an 'obstacle existed, a substantial obstacle weighing fifteen stone—a Mrs. Philosopher, living at Clapham, and the mother of three young men in business in the City' (28). The Philosopher's best day of the tour comes at the ancient monument of Stonehenge, over which he 'fairly exulted and gloated [...] and no wonder; for it is a subject that is all theory and nothing else. He was not hampered with a single fact, for there is not a single fact known about the history of these stones'. During this 'frenzy of theorizing', the Philosopher 'declared that modern science was wise in its audacity; that it did well to make guesses; that it was time to question conventional explanations'. (34)

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