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Authors: David I. Masson

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BOOK: Caltraps of Time
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For the rest of the Books and Tracts he settled upon some tens of Pounds each, but more for the Silver and Glass, and especially for the Snuff-Box, which surpriz’d me not a little. The Hanger too, which had a good Blade, pleas’d him mightily. In the end I was rich enough for a long Stay, as he assur’d me, as soon as he cou’d draw out his Money, from a House, where he had lent it, and that he wou’d do at the middle of the day. Then he told me, I shou’d do best, to stay quietly in his Inner Room for that morning, while he did much Business in his Shop. But first he takes me to the Zerrocks, which was like a Vat cover’d with Glass, with nothing in it, but great Coyls, and Peices of Metal, and a Green Light, which came and went. He gives my Book to another, and bids him take much care with it, and begin to copy it therewith. The Light goes to and fro like a Loom, and after a time Sheets of Paper come down at one Side, with (as I saw) a very perfect Picture, of what was turn’d towards the Light.

 

My Host gave me a Dictionarie, printed very small on thin Paper, a Duodecimo Atlas of the World, and the Courant he had had that morning, but had not read. There was much, that I cou’d not understand, but I learnt, that there was now a great Nation in America, many Nations in Africa and in the West and East Indies, an Antipodaean Continent call’d Australia betwixt India and the Southern Pole, and a barren Continent about that Pole. Ships ply’d betwixt these Continents, and all knew each others business. Terra Incognita there was none, for the whole Globe was mapp’d out, or well-nigh so. Men, and Women too, were trying to cross the Seas from Dover to Calais by Swimming, for the meer Sport oft; if there were no Gyants, they were Gyants in strength.

 

About Noon, as he knew by a marvellous small Watch, that was held to his left Wrist by a close Chain of metallick Peices, my Host carry’d me to an Ordinary, which he call’d, Launsh. Men and Women together, and even Children, came up behind each other in a long Line, and waited, to take from a long Bench, what ever Meats wou’d take their fancy, with Knives and Forks, and pay’d at last, when they sought a small Table, whereat to sit and eat. I cou’d understand little yet, but what my Host (or his Wife at home) spoke to me slowly, so I sate like one abroad in a far Countrey. Afterwards he brought me to his Bank, the House where he had his Money in loan. He told them, he wou’d draw an extraordinary Fund out of his Moneys, which he was pleas’d to name, the Antiquitys Account, and before me he paid into this Fund, all the Moneys he had agreed to pay me for my Goods, but all was done meerly upon Paper, with much writing and signing. He told me privatly, he durst not make me a Customer of this House, for fear, too many Questions shou’d be ask’d, but I stood by and they were to think, I was a Man of his. Then he draws out twenty Pound for smaller Expences, which he gives to me, some of it Coyn, but what they call Pounds, are nothing but Scraps of Paper, with green Pictures on ‘em; yet he assures me, they shou’d buy a Pounds worth of Goods, and indeed ‘twas so, as I found (except that a Pound goes such a little way with them). He takes me to the Taylors, and buys me a Suit of Cloathes, with all kind of Linnen, and pays for all out of a new Book of Papers, that he calls Checks, subscrib’d for this new Account, and shews me, how much it comes to, which was a great number of Pounds, that I was still not us’d to.

 

When at length we were got back, to his Shop, ‘twas half an hour after Three. I spent the next three hours studying, but got little further. He carries me back to his Home in his Car. I was standing by it near to the House, when I saw in the Heavens a Meteor, like a shining Thread, growing ever at one end. I was astonish’d but he told me, ‘twas a Plentrail, or a Plaintrail, or some such thing, which I did not understand. But anon there came a Rumbling, and in another Part of the Sky a Thing like a huge Bird, but that mov’d not it’s Parts. Says he, that was another Plain. He gave me to understand, that Men may travell in these Plains, which are like Shipps that go in the Air, but driven like his Car by a manner of Burning. In truth, they also call ‘em Air-Craft.

 

When we were come in, where his Wife had a Welcome for us, she gives us a Glass full (but very small) of a Sherry Wine, but the Tast was strange to me. While she prepares a Meal, he turns to a Box with a Window in’t, and there Shines in it’s Window a Picture, that mov’d and chang’d continually, and Sounds withall, like as it had been a Comedy play’d within the Box by Dwarfs, but the Colour was but Black, and White, with a Blew Cast to’t. Some part was News, but chiefly Folly. This too they have in every House, and from this great Servant Electricity. I fetch’d now my old Cloathes and Shoes and ty’d them in a Bundle, which I left on the Floor of the Machine. My Host took a great Cloth, and cover’d the Machine, that it be not try’d of curious Fingers, or set too many Tongues wagging.

 

At the Meal and after it (when they were not staring upon this Box with the Window, which they call a Tellie) they talk’d with me, upon the State of the World. I shou’d make too great an Excursion, if I shou’d take upon me to Communicate every Thing that befell me in this Adventure. You will wonder especially, what sort of People they were indeed, that I was fallen among; and tho’ it took many Weeks in the Learning, yet I shall make bold to take only as many Minutes, in the Telling it. They spoke much then, of the Insolence of Youth, which they thought new, but it seem’d to me, that there was nothing new but Wealth and Idleness, that feed this Insolence. There are no poor unruly Apprentices here, but good Money is to be earn’d easily by a Stripling. If these live too easily, so too in a manner do the Children (for all their Schooling is so hard, as I shall tell you later); which is the Seed of the other Trouble. They are not brought up to Obedience and Godliness, but (as I found) to Rail upon their Parents, when they are scarce five year old, and make Sport with them. But the Spring of this, is in the Wives, for these own no Man’s Controul, not even in Law, but manage all things equally with ‘em, and take all manner of Work, as bold as Men (for they are as well school’d), and High and Low dress them selves in Finery, and leave their Children to bring them selves up (so that many run wild), and are fix’d upon Folly and Man-catching, as I saw from a Journal, made in Colours (and more like a great Quarto, then a Journal) that is printed for Women alone. They go bare-legg’d or with Legs cover’d in bright Stockings but marvellous fine, and close-fitting; and their Legs shewing immodestly above the Knee. In this Journal I saw all manner of sawcy Pictures. (But some Journals for Men, are full of Lewdness and Filth, both in Pictures and Writing.) As to Man-catching, Marriages are made every where, not as the Parents shall agree, but as a Young Man and Girl shall fancy each other, and Divided as lightly, by an easie Divorce. Religion has little to say to all this, for our Tollerance, is become their Indifference, and tho’ there be Churches, few go to ‘em, and of Enthusiasts there are scarce any. They have for this cause nought to live for, but to get as much as they can, whether it be Pleasure, or Money.

 

Yet do they have a sweeter and a quieter Living, than any we see. I saw few Persons diseas’d or distemper’d, or even crippled. The King’s Evil, Agues, Plagues and Small Pox, are all but gone. Not one of a Man’s Children die before they come of age, if you can believe me; and yet his House is never crowded, for they have found means, that their Women shall not Conceive, but when they will. This seem’d to me an Atheistical Invention, and one like to Ruin the People; yet they regard it as nothing, save only the Papists and a few others. Every Man and Woman can read, tho’ the use the Generality make oft, is only to Wager by Letter, which they call Pulls, and in Assemblys, which they call Bingow, and to read the Notices, that are every where planted, like Texts, but prophane ones, to tell ‘em where they may go, and what Business is in hand. They have great Safety, in the Streets and in the Fields, so that Thefts and Violence to the meanest Person are the cause of News in the Gourants; but they slaughter one another with their Cars for that they rowl by so fast, and altho’ they are safe from Invasion, by their Neighbour Nations in Europe, yet they are ever under the Sword of Damocles from a Destruction, out of the other End of the Earth, by these same Air-Craft, or from a kind of Artillery, that can shoot many Thousands of Leagues, and lay wast half a Countrey, where it’s Shot comes to ground, or so they wou’d have me believe.

 

They have a sovran Queen, yet is the Power of the Crown so diminish’d, that they have rather a Common-Wealth, then a Monarchy. They have a Parliament, with what they call the Torys, I know not why, for they are nothing for a Papist Succession, but for Wealth; and against ‘em no Excluding Whiggs, but a Party, that wou’d have all the business of the Kingdom (or Queendom) in the hands of them that govern. One third of what a Man earns, goes in Taxes, such as England never heard the like of in my Time. Every Man however lowly, and, what is worse, every Woman, has a power of Vote for who they shall have in Parliament, yet the Members do little, but Vote in Parliament again the way their Leaders tell ‘em. But Money is King of half England, for the great Merchants and Heads of Business Houses can do pretty much what they will. The King of the other half, is the Labourer, for if he like not his Lot, he engages his Guild to command all the Men to lay down their Tools and depart, it may be ‘till months are gone by, untill he has it his own way; his Guild will give ‘em Moneys to provide for ‘em. In the mean time the Customers suffer, from both Sides: the one sending Prices up; and the other taking labour away, so that nothing is done.

 

But for all this they live fine enough. They are grown so nice, that they make great outcry, at the least Dirt or Violence. In their Punishments they have no Burnings, no Quarterings, no Whippings, Pilloryings, or Brandings, and they put up no Heads of Ill-doers. Their Hangings are but few, and are perform’d in secret; and there are those in the Government that wou’d bring in a Bill, to put a stop even to that, so that the worst Felon, shou’d escape with nothing worse, then a long Imprisonment. Tho’ they are in fear, of what will come of it, and trouble them selves much about Ill-doers in the Land, I never saw a Brawl, or a Rabble, or the least Insult offer’d to any Body, the whole time I was there, nor any Man taken in Drink, beyond a little Exaltation. Altho’ my Cloathes were so strange to them, yet I verily believe, I cou’d have walk’d abroad in ‘em, without meeting any untoward entertainment in the Streets. They are so many, those who wou’d get a Place, at a Playhouse, or in one of their Busses, must wait in a Throng; but in stead of Jostling, they stand orderly in a long Line, without the need of enforcement. I saw not one Man begging, and but few that seem’d poor, or wasted by Sickness.

 

Yet in truth they are a Staid, and Phlegmatick Folk, that will not easily laugh, or weep, or fly in a passion, and whether it be from their being so press’d together, or from the Sootyness of the Air, or from their great Hurrying to and from work, their Faces shew much Uncontent and Sowerness, and they regard little their Neighbours. All their Love, is reserv’d to those at Home, or their Mercy, to those far off; they receive many Pleas, for Money and Goods, that they may send, for ailing Persons, that they never knew, and for Creatures in Africa and the Indies, whom they never will see. Every Saturday little Children stand in the Streets, to give little Flags an Inch across, made of Paper, in return for Coyns, for such a Charity. As for their Hatred, ‘tis altogether disarm’d, for none may carry a Sword, or Knife, a Pistol, or a Musquet, under Penalty, tho’ indeed there be Ruffians here and there, that do so in secret, but only that they may committ a Robbery impunedly upon a Bank, or a great Store of Goods, and so gain thousands of Pounds in a moment. (As for my Hanger, ‘twere only an Ornament to them.) So is there no Point of Honour with them, but what may be settled by Law and so line the Lawyers pockets, if the matter be grave enough.

 

That their ways are so soft and peaceable, comes perhaps from the being so well supply’d. They have Light, or Heat to cook with, or to keep their Chambers warm withall, at the meer touch upon a Button; tho’ for these they must pay, when the Reckoning is brought to ‘em. In the very Heat of Summer, they keep their Meat sweet, in a Chest, which is ever so cold that Frost and Rime encrust the inside parts of it; and this comes, as their Light and much of their Heat, from this same Electricity. If they wou’d have discourse with a Friend, or wou’d buy or sell any thing, without a Journey, they have an Engine that they call a Found, or a Tellie-found, in their Houses, where they can both speak, and hear, any other Person that they chuse, by the turning a Dial with Numbers writ upon it. And this too is from Electricity. They may listen to Musick on their Raydeow Boxes, or see Plays in their Tellie Windows, any week, more then you cou’d meet with in London in a season in our Time. They have all manner of Things, both for work, and sport, and Meats too, that I can scarce describe to you. In their Shops I saw a vast number, both of sorts of things, and of different fashions of the same, and of single examples of each fashion. Some of these, are so Costly, that only the richest can buy ‘em; but many may be purchas’d by any but the poorest. With all this High-living, every Man is thus like a great Prince; and tho’ he have not Servants (for few of ‘em will serve another) Electricity is his Servant. Yet are they no more content, then a great Prince might be, or less, for they know no better, then to conceive this soft Life is their Birthright, and that if they live not as well as, or better then their Neighbour, the State is to blame.

 

For that they buy and sell at such a rate, and keep them selves so mighty well supply’d with all manner of Engines, and Stuffs, the different Houses, that supply ‘em, are in great rivalry one with another. From this comes a great Shew that they make every where, with Words and Pictures, with bright Colours, like those of some Painter at Court, but in thousands of Copys for all to see, in their Journals and on huge Placards, that stand by the Roads, especially in the Towns. This they call meerly, Advertisement, as who shou’d call a Shout, a Murmur.

BOOK: Caltraps of Time
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