CHAPTER XXII "The Colleges of Unreason Continued"
It was during my stay in City of the Colleges of Unreason — a city whose
Erewhonian name is so cacophonous that I refrain from giving it — that I
learned the particulars of the revolution which had ended in the
destruction of so many of the mechanical inventions which were formerly
in common use.
Mr. Thims took me to the rooms of a gentleman who had a great
reputation for learning, but who was also, so Mr. Thims told me, rather a
dangerous person, inasmuch as he had attempted to introduce an adverb
into the hypothetical language. He had heard of my watch and been
exceedingly anxious to see me, for he was accounted the most learned
antiquary in Erewhon on the subject of mechanical lore. We fell to talking
upon the subject, and when I left he gave me a reprinted copy of the work
which brought the revolution about.
It had taken place some five hundred years before my arrival: people had
long become thoroughly used to the change, although at the time that it
was made the country was plunged into the deepest misery, and a
reaction which followed had very nearly proved successful. Civil war raged
for many years, and is said to have reduced the number of the inhabitants
by one-half. The parties were styled the machinists and the
antimachinists, and in the end, as I have said already, the latter got the
victory, treating their opponents with such unparalleled severity that they
extirpated every trace of opposition.
The wonder was that they allowed any mechanical appliances to remain in
the kingdom, neither do I believe that they would have done so, had not
the Professors of Inconsistency and Evasion made a stand against the
carrying of the new principles to their legitimate conclusions. These
Professors, moreover, insisted that during the struggle the anti-machinists
should use every known improvement in the art of war, and several new
weapons, offensive and defensive, were invented, while it was in progress.
I was surprised at there remaining so many mechanical specimens as are
seen in the museums, and at students having rediscovered their past uses
so completely; for at the time of the revolution the victors wrecked all the
more complicated machines, and burned all treatises on mechanics, and
all engineers’ workshops—thus, so they thought, cutting the mischief out
root and branch, at an incalculable cost of blood and treasure.
Certainly they had not spared their labour, but work of this description can
never be perfectly achieved, and when, some two hundred years before
my arrival, all passion upon the subject had cooled down, and no one save
a lunatic would have dreamed of reintroducing forbidden inventions, the
subject came to be regarded as a curious antiquarian study, like that of
some long-forgotten religious practices among ourselves. Then came the
careful search for whatever fragments could be found, and for any
machines that might have been hidden away, and also numberless
treatises were written, showing what the functions of each rediscovered
machine had been; all being done with no idea of using such machinery
again, but with the feelings of an English antiquarian concerning Druidical
monuments or flint arrow heads.
On my return to the metropolis, during the remaining weeks or rather
days of my sojourn in Erewhon I made a resume in English of the work
which brought about the already mentioned revolution. My ignorance of
technical terms has led me doubtless into many errors, and I have
occasionally, where I found translation impossible, substituted purely
English names and ideas for the original Erewhonian ones, but the reader
may rely on my general accuracy. I have thought it best to insert my