A Modern Utopia

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7.

It is necessary to turn the botanist's thoughts into a worthier channel. It is necessary to override these modest regrets, this intrusive, petty love story. Does he realise this is indeed Utopia? Turn your mind, I insist, to this Utopia of mine, and leave these earthly troubles to their proper planet. Do you realise just where the propositions necessary to a modern Utopia are taking us? Everyone on earth will have to be here;—themselves, but with a difference. Somewhere here in this world is, for example, Mr. Chamberlain, and the King is here (no doubt incognito), and all the Royal Academy, and Sandow, and Mr. Arnold White.

But these famous names do not appeal to him.

My mind goes from this prominent and typical personage to that, and for a time I forget my companion. I am distracted by the curious side issues this general proposition trails after it. There will be so-and-so, and so-and-so. The name and figure of Mr. Roosevelt jerks into focus, and obliterates an attempt to acclimatise the Emperor of the Germans. What, for instance, will Utopia do with Mr. Roosevelt? There drifts across my inner vision the image of a strenuous struggle with Utopian constables, the voice that has thrilled terrestrial millions in eloquent protest. The writ of arrest, drifting loose in the conflict, comes to my feet; I impale the scrap of paper, and read—but can it be?—“attempted disorganisation?… incitements to disarrange?… the balance of population?”

The trend of my logic for once has led us into a facetious alley. One might indeed keep in this key, and write an agreeable little Utopia, that like the holy families of the mediæval artists (or Michael Angelo's Last Judgement) should compliment one's friends in various degrees. Or one might embark upon a speculative treatment of the entire Almanach de Gotha, something on the lines of Epistemon's vision of the damned great, when

“Xerxes was a crier of mustard. Romulus was a salter and a patcher of patterns… .”

That incomparable catalogue! That incomparable catalogue! Inspired by the Muse of Parody, we might go on to the pages of “Who's Who,” and even, with an eye to the obdurate republic, to “Who's Who in America,” and make the most delightful and extensive arrangements. Now where shall we put this most excellent man? And this?…

But, indeed, it is doubtful if we shall meet any of these doubles during our Utopian journey, or know them when we meet them. I doubt if anyone will be making the best of both these worlds. The great men in this still unexplored Utopia may be but village Hampdens in our own, and earthly goatherds and obscure illiterates sit here in the seats of the mighty.

That again opens agreeable vistas left of us and right.

But my botanist obtrudes his personality again. His thoughts have travelled by a different route.

“I know,” he says, “that she will be happier here, and that they will value her better than she has been valued upon earth.”

His interruption serves to turn me back from my momentary contemplation of those popular effigies inflated by old newspapers and windy report, the earthly great. He sets me thinking of more personal and intimate applications, of the human beings one knows with a certain approximation to real knowledge, of the actual common substance of life. He turns me to the thought of rivalries and tendernesses, of differences and disappointments. I am suddenly brought painfully against the things that might have been. What if instead of that Utopia of vacant ovals we meet relinquished loves here, and opportunities lost and faces as they might have looked to us?

I turn to my botanist almost reprovingly. “You know, she won't be quite the same lady here that you knew in Frognal,” I say, and wrest myself from a subject that is no longer agreeable by rising to my feet.

“And besides,” I say, standing above him, “the chances against our meeting her are a million to one… . And we loiter! This is not the business we have come upon, but a mere incidental kink in our larger plan. The fact remains, these people we have come to see are people with like infirmities to our own—and only the conditions are changed. Let us pursue the tenour of our inquiry.”

With that I lead the way round the edge of the Lake of Lucendro towards our Utopian world.

(You figure him doing it.)

Down the mountain we shall go and down the passes, and as the valleys open the world will open, Utopia, where men and women are happy and laws are wise, and where all that is tangled and confused in human affairs has been unravelled and made right.

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