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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 429 Volume 17, New Series, March 20, 1852   By:

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NO. 429. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.


The passing age is acknowledged to be remarkable in various respects. Great advances in matters of practical science; a vast development of individual enterprise, and general prosperity; at the same time, strange retardations in things of social concern; a singular want of earnestness in carrying out objects of undeniable utility. Much grandeur, but also much meanness of conception; much wealth, but also much poverty. A struggle between greatness and littleness; intelligence and ignorance; light and darkness. Sometimes we feel as if going forward, sometimes as if backward. One day, we seem as if about to start a hundred years in advance; on the next, all is wrong somewhere, and we feel as if hurriedly retreating to the eighteenth century!

Upon the whole, however, we are ourselves inclined to look at the bright side of affairs; and in doing so, we are not without hope of being able to make some proselytes. Let us just see what are the prospects of the next twenty years a long enough space for a man to look forward to in anything else than a dream. War, it is true, may intervene, or some other terrible catastrophe; but we shall not admit this into our hypothesis, which proceeds on the assumption, that although people may wrangle here and there, and here and there fly at each other's throats, still the bulk of civilised mankind will go on tranquilly enough to present no direct barrier to the advancing tide. Here is a list of a few trifles in expectation.

A line of communication by railway from England to the principal cities in India, interrupted only by narrow sea channels, and these bridged by steamboats. It will then be possible to travel from London to Calcutta in a week.

At the same time, there will be railways to other parts of Asia Ispahan, Bagdad, Damascus, and Jerusalem. From the last mentioned city, a line will probably proceed through the land of Edom, to Suez and Cairo; thence to Alexandria. This last portion is already in hand. Think of a railway station in the Valley of Jehoshaphat! As the course of the Jordan presents few 'engineering difficulties,' there might be a single line all the way from Nazareth to the Dead Sea, on which a steamer might take passengers to the neighbourhood of Petra. At a point near the shore of that mysterious sheet of water, a late traveller indicates the spot where Lot's wife was transformed into a pillar of salt. How interesting it would be to make this a stopping place for tourists to view the adjacent scenery rocky, wild, and scorched, as if fresh from the wondrous work of devastation!

It cannot be doubted that in a period much short of twenty years, railways will have penetrated from Berlin northwards to Russia; and therefore a communication of this kind through the whole of Europe, even to the shores of the Indian Ocean, will be among the ordinary things of the day.

As for communication by electric telegraph, where will it not be? Every town of any importance, from Moscow to Madras, will be connected by the marvellous wires. These wires will cross seas; they will reach from London to New York, and from New York to far western cities possibly to California. The sending of messages thousands of miles, in the twinkling of an eye, will be an everyday affair. 'Send Dr So and so on by the next train,' will be the order despatched by a family in Calcutta, when requiring medical assistance from London; and accordingly the doctor will set off in his travels per express, from the Thames to the banks of the Ganges. Spanning the globe by thought will then be no longer a figure of speech it will be a reality. Science will do it all... Continue reading book >>

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