A Hundred Years Hence - T. Baron Russell - ebook

The following was at first intended to be no more than an attempt to foresee the probable trend of mechanical invention and scientific discovery during the present century. But as the work took shape it was seen to involve a certain amount of what may be called moral conjecture, since the material progress of the new age could not very well be imagined without taking into account its mental characteristics. In these expectations of an optimist, a great ethical improvement of the civilised human race has been anticipated, and a rate of progress foreseen which perhaps no previous writers have looked for. Both in regard to moral development and material progress, it has been the aim of the author to predict nothing that the tendencies of existing movement do not justify us in expecting.

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A Hundred Years Hence

The Expectations of an Optimist


T. Baron Russell


Table of Contents















There is a history in all men’s lives,

Figuring the nature of the times deceased;

The which observed, a man may prophesy,

With a near aim, of the main chance of things

As yet not come to life; which in their seeds

And weak beginnings lie intreasured.

Shakespeare, 2 Henry IV., III. i.

They pass through whirl-pools, and deep woes do shun,

Who the event weigh, ‘ere the action’s done.

Webster, Duchess of Malfi, II. 4.



The following was at first intended to be no more than an attempt to foresee the probable trend of mechanical invention and scientific discovery during the present century. But as the work took shape it was seen to involve a certain amount of what may be called moral conjecture, since the material progress of the new age could not very well be imagined without taking into account its mental characteristics. In these expectations of an optimist, a great ethical improvement of the civilised human race has been anticipated, and a rate of progress foreseen which perhaps no previous writers have looked for. Both in regard to moral development and material progress, it has been the aim of the author to predict nothing that the tendencies of existing movement do not justify us in expecting.

An attempt of this kind is exposed to facile criticism. It will be easy for objectors to signalise this or that expected invention as beyond scientific possibility, that or the other moral reform as fit only for Utopia. But those who will consent to perpend the enormous and utterly unforeseen advance of the nineteenth century will recognise the danger of limiting their anticipations concerning the possibilities of the twenty-first. A fanciful description in (I think) Addison’s Spectator of an invention by which the movements of an indicator on a lettered dial were imagined to be reproduced on a similar dial at a distance, and employed as a means of communication, must have seemed wholly chimerical to its readers; and even as recently as fifty years ago, anyone who predicted the telephone would have been laughed at. When the principle of the accumulator was already discovered a very competent practical electrician told the writer that he need not worry himself much about the idea: there was not the least likelihood that electricity could ever be “bottled up in cisterns”! On the whole there is more likelihood of error in timidity than in boldness when we attempt to foresee what will be attained after the increasingly rapid movement of scientific progress during this twentieth century shall have gathered full force.

For the rest, criticism of this sort is disarmed, because the reader has been in any case invited to enter a realm of more or less pure imagination. No one can exactly know with what births, monstrous or beautiful, the future may teem. Admitting a certain point of view—that of almost unrestrained optimism—the predictions here offered will, it is believed, be found to be along the line of existing progress.

Beaufort House,Brentford.


To anyone who has considered at all attentively the enormous material advances of the nineteenth century, a much more remarkable thing than any invention or improvement which that century brought forth must be the speed of human progression during the hundred years between 1800 and 1900, and the extraordinary acceleration of that speed which began to establish itself about the year 1880. But indeed, during the whole century, our forward movement was steadily gaining impetus. The difference between the state of the world in 1700 and its state in 1800 is insignificant compared with the differences established between the latter date and the opening of the twentieth century. But it is hardly less insignificant than the progress of the decade 1800–1810 compared with that of the decade 1890–1900. We are, in fact, picking up speed at an enormous rate. The beginning of the twenty-first century will exhibit differences, when compared with our own day, which even the boldest imagination can hardly need to be restrained in conjecturing. The latter part of the nineteenth century was the age of electricity, just as the middle part was the age of steam. The first part of the twentieth century is evidently going to be the age of wave manipulation, of which wireless telegraphy, as we know it, is but the first infantile stirring.

What the developments promised (and they are already quite easily presageable) by wireless telegraphy will give us, and what they will be superseded by, can only be very dimly imagined; what their effects will be upon the human race in itself no one has yet ventured even to hint at. Few things are more remarkable in the numerous and highly-varied experiments of vaticinatory fiction and more serious efforts of prognostication than the utter absence of any adequate attempt to forecast the future of the race itself. Social and political changes, the enormous differences which are certain to be effected in the manner of human life, have been from time to time more or less boldly imagined, and a couple of volumes of very able forecasts of the future have recently been published by a writer of singular vision and highly-trained scientific imagination. But it does not hitherto appear to have been at all fully perceived that the moral constitution of man himself is quite certain to be profoundly modified, not alone by the influence of a material environment which will have been changed as the environment of man has never been changed since the first inhabitation of this planet, but also by the steady development of inward changes which have already begun to manifest themselves. Since the year 1800 ideas which, so far as we have any means of knowing, had been regarded as irrefragable ever since man first began to think and to set his thoughts upon record, have been utterly shattered. One has only to compare the opinions of even average thinkers of our own day on such subjects as marriage, the status of woman, and the education of children, with the opinions, practically current without material change since the dawn of history, in 1800, to perceive the truth of this statement; and the change of attitude on the part of civilised people, outside the Roman Catholic Church (and, to some extent, even within it), towards religion is not less remarkable. An enlightened man of the present day is so radically different in all his ideas from a similar individual of the early nineteenth century, that it is hardly possible for a modern student to write with any intelligence on the deeper significance of events and life prior to 1800. Grotesquely inadequate as most historical novels of our own day are, they are perhaps hardly less inadequate than our own understanding of the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Scott could probably write of crusaders and the age of chivalry without committing serious blunders of sentiment. What the world thought in the age of Saladin the world practically thought in the age of Napoleon. But the irresistible infection of modern ideas has made it hardly possible for us to enter with any fulness into the sentiments of Scott; and the sentiments put into the mouth, and the thoughts into the mind, of the hero of any historical novel of our own day would be utterly incomprehensible to that hero, could he by some miracle be resuscitated, and could we translate them literally to him. We unconsciously endow the personages of our historical fiction with ideas for which they had not even the names.

And the development of the human mind proceeds apace. It will be even more difficult for the ordinary cultured man of a hundred years hence to form any full conception of our ideas than it is for us to appraise the mental attitude of the men of the eighteenth century. To take a single example: the humanest warrior of the Napoleonic wars appears a monster of cruelty if compared with the sternest of modern generals. Napoleon devastated provinces without a word of censure from competent critics of the art of war. A howl of execration went up, not from continental Europe alone, at the measures—seriously embarrassing to our military operations, and enormously helpful to our enemy—which the British generals took in order to diminish the sufferings of the non-combatant population of the Transvaal; camps of refuge, it appears, did not sufficiently excel in comfort the hospitals of our own wounded! And there is a section of the Press in this country which still occasionally remembers, to complain of it, the fact that our generals found it necessary, for military reasons, to burn farm-houses. I should not like to attempt the conjecture, what Wellington would have said in answer to such a complaint, or what he would have done to a self-appointed emissary who visited his camps for the purpose of criticising his action! It would have been no more impossible for him to foresee the day of such things, however, than it is for us to predict the moral sense of the year 2000. The fact is that we have greatly deteriorated in war, although, or rather because, we have even more greatly improved in morals and feeling. William Morris conceived of man in the coming time as a sort of recreated mediæval. Mr Wells conceives him as practically a nineteenth-century man, with his ideas merely adjusted to new material conditions. Bellamy described him in terms of a being inconceivable by any sort of reason. No one appears to have seen that his moral nature will have been not merely revolutionised, but recreated, just as our own morality has been recreated during the last hundred years, not so much by the influence of material environment or the march of invention, as by the regeneration of human conscience.

In no way will the acceleration of the speed of progress be more apparent than in the thoughts and emotions of men. But to say this is not to belittle the progress which science and invention have in store for the new age. In applying a sort of imaginative telescope to the mental eye it will be necessary to keep constantly in view the utter inconceivableness of modern achievement by the civilised world of the past. When electricity was no more than a sort of scientific plaything—when notions of its possible uses were (as in Davy’s time) far less substantially imagined than, for instance, the possible uses of radium are to-day, even scientific thinkers, endowed with what Huxley so luminously applauded as scientific imagination, had no rudiment of the materials for conceiving such inventions as the electric telegraph—far less the possibilities of transmitted and picked-up wave energy. And here, at the beginning of wireless telegraphy, we are no less in the dark as to what will develop from it and what will supersede it. The nineteenth century progressed, almost from first to last, on the strength of the discovery of how to utilise {*}the stored energy of coal, whether directly in the steam engine or indirectly in the dynamo-electric machine and the electric motor. With the end of the coal age already well in view, we can only conjecture what the sources of mechanical power will be a hundred years hence. Before we have quite exhausted our coal measures and begun to draw more liberally on our stores of petroleum, we shall no doubt have abandoned altogether so wasteful a contrivance as the steam engine. There is a clumsiness almost barbarous in the roundabout employment of coal to produce heat, the steam engine to utilise only a miserable fraction of the potential energy even of the part of the coal which we do not fatuously allow to escape as smoke; of the dynamo to use up a part of the motion yielded by the steam engine in producing electricity (while a small but recognisable portion of that motion is converted wastefully back again into heat), and of the electro-motor to re-convert the electricity into motion, heat, light and chemical energy, according to our requirements. It cannot be many years before we learn to use coal far more economically than we do nowadays, abolishing the furnace and the steam engine, and obtaining electricity directly from coal itself by some sort of electro-chemical decomposition. But even so, our coal will not last much longer. The speed of our progress will exhaust it much sooner than most people imagine, and probably in another twenty-five years the end of our petroleum will also begin to be looked forward to with apprehension.

About this period, or perhaps immediately after, progress will have been accelerated to an enormous degree by the invention of some new method of decomposing water. The economical analysis of water into its two component gases, whose chemical affinity and antipodal electrical attractions are already utilised to some extent in such appliances as the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe and electrical storage batteries, is a secret capable of extraordinary beneficences to the new age. By burning hydrogen in oxygen we can already produce the greatest heat practically needed in the arts; the electric furnace only superseding this process because it happens to be more manageable. But when we want oxygen and hydrogen, we do not, in practice, now obtain them from water: we only combine them as water in the act of utilisation. The rational line of progress is obviously to seek means of directly decomposing water. When we can do this compendiously and economically we shall have an inexhaustible supply of energy—for water thus used is not destroyed as water, as coal is destroyed, quâ coal, when we utilise its stored energy. The very act of utilising the gases recombines them: and we can use them thus for the production of almost every kind of energy that man at present needs. We can use them for heat by burning them together. We can use them for light by burning them in the presence of any substance capable of being made incandescent. We shall be able to use them to generate electricity by some sort of contrivance akin to the accumulator of the present day (a highly rudimentary invention); and it would be even now a very simple matter to utilise their explosive recombination for the direct production of power as motion. Utilised apart, the constituent gases of water have many other uses and possible uses. Hydrogen, under suitable treatment, yields the greatest obtainable cold, as oxygen and hydrogen together yield the greatest heat. If our flying-machines need a sort of ballast to reinforce their mechanical lifting apparatus, hydrogen is the best possible assistant. And the probable uses of oxygen are yet more numerous. So long as we still burn anything at all except a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen—and ultimately we shall have nothing else left to burn—oxygen is capable of multiplying the efficiency of all combustion. One of the greatest problems of our own day is the disposal of waste products of all sorts—the sources of inconvenience, disease and dirt. Oxygen, if readily and copiously obtainable, is capable of destroying them all. Indeed, it seems likely that medicine, the least progressive of the sciences to-day, will find in oxygen the great propulsive force of its forward movement. In considerably less than a hundred years hence such makeshifts as drugging, and the fighting of one disease by the instalment in the organism of another, will certainly have gone by the board. Antisepsis and Asepsis (the latter almost infinitely the greatest invention in the history of therapeutics) will have pushed their way from surgery into medicine. There are numerous diseases which can be not merely cured, but ultimately abolished when we have once discovered how to use oxygen adequately. The readjustment of the conditions of life determined by the removal from the civilised world of the greater number of diseases, and perhaps of all diseases except those arising out of wilful misconduct (as improper diet) and even by the elimination of most of the evils of hurry and overwork (for what are medically and chemically known as fatigue products can almost certainly be eliminated from the system by the proper use, yet to be discovered, of oxygen) must inevitably have an enormous influence not merely upon the physical life of man, but also, and even more, upon his mental constitution. The rate of progress will thus in yet another way be vastly accelerated.

Most likely the universal source of power, then, before the middle of the century, will be the recomposition of water—in other words, we shall get all the power we want by splitting up water into oxygen and hydrogen, and then allowing those gases to recombine, thereby returning to us the energy we have employed in the analysis. How we shall employ this power is largely for the future to decide, and certainly in the earlier future we shall employ it in the generation of etheric waves of various kinds. The world of science is visibly on the threshold of new and revolutionary discoveries on the nature and composition of matter, and whither these discoveries will lead us it is not usefully possible to conjecture. But certainly, after the usual incubation period of a scientific discovery—when it is merely a sort of wonderful toy, as argon and radium are at present—there will come the practical men, suckled at the large and noble breasts of disinterested, unremunerative truth, and ready to turn that nutriment into world-moving material usefulness: so, again, the rate of progress will receive a vast and valuable acceleration. Electricity, whose gift to the world has been so great, will probably not, until after several decades, approach the limits of its realm, and so long as electricity remains a considerable element in the utilisation of those stores of dissipating energy by which the planet lives, it is possible to foresee something of what will become of man during the next age.

We have here the limits of such an inquiry as the present. Placing the end of the age of electricity at provisionally about a hundred years hence (but it is quite conceivable that the rate of progress may overtake it earlier and shut the door on conjecture) it is possible to forecast, not indeed with certainty, but with a measure of imaginative probability, what will happen as the resources of electricity are developed and the other material amenities of the world are worked along the line of natural progress. So far as the light of analogy can point the way the reader is invited on a sort of conjectural journey. Of the developments of the moral ideas of man likely to be determined, not so much by the coming change in his material environment, as by the evolution of inner forces already at work, I propose to say something at the end of the book. In the meantime, the probable material changes in the next hundred years (or less, according to the rate of our progress) in various departments of life will be the subject of some intermediate conjectures.


When every allowance has been made for the material changes which the progress of this century threatens, it is easy to see that certain present-day problems will continue to trouble our successors. Some things which perplex ourselves will, I think, work out their own remedy. Others will remain the subject of solutions not difficult to be imagined in advance.

One chief difficulty which will infallibly confront the immediate future, and even the future that is more remote, arises out of the simple fact that the race of man tends to increase numerically at a speed greater than our devices for its accommodation can quite conveniently cope with. The population of the world not only increases, but increases at compound interest. Nor is this all. Improved sanitation, better habits of life, and the progress of medicine, prolong lives that in the conditions of last century would have been shortened, and the rate of increase is thus further accelerated, as individuals who in different conditions would have died, live on, perhaps reproducing their species, and thus intensifying the population problem. Against these influences may be set the effect of the restrictions imposed by some civilised peoples on the birth rate, which Mr Roosevelt calls “race suicide.” These practices, just now increasingly prevalent, retard the rate of increase, but do not at present stop our increase: they alleviate, but do not cure the difficulty of over-population. Artificial physiological checks on population, if I am right in certain other conjectures to be presently developed, will not form part of the permanent morality of the new age, partly because, with more enlightenment, they will be voluntarily abandoned or superseded, and partly because the necessity for them will have disappeared, having worked out its own cure.

But with all this it would be folly to anticipate that the population of the civilised world will not have greatly increased before the end of the period contemplated by the present inquiry: and this brings us face to face with two very important questions—those of housing and transport. Where shall we live, and how shall we move from place to place—above all, how shall we proceed from home to the scene of work and thence home again every day, in the future? Shall we indeed thus move back and forth at all?

The answer to the last question bifurcates somewhat. In the earlier future of (say) twenty or thirty years hence, probably the greatest tendencies will be towards concentration on the one hand and exceedingly rapid transport on the other. What the ultimate practice will be, it should not be difficult to guess when we see how these tendencies are likely to work themselves out.

During the last twenty-five or thirty years of the nineteenth century the tendency of workers in great cities was more and more towards suburban life, men travelling to and from the cities in increasing numbers, to increasing distances, and at increasing speeds. Even mechanics, even labourers and the other humbler wage-earners (to say nothing of clerks not earning much more, but spending their money in a different manner) nowadays travel considerable distances to their work. But in spite of what is complacently regarded (by railway and tramway directors) as rapid conveyance, there is lately manifest an increasing impatience against the time subtracted from men’s leisure by the two daily journeys, an impatience very naturally increased in the case of manual workers of both sexes by the utter inadequacy of the legislative control imposed upon railway and tramway companies.

Crowded trams and trains, with desperate men and weak women fighting a daily battle for conveyance before all the cheap trips have been made, inflict a shameful degradation upon the class for which Parliament makes illusory provision in railway and tramway Acts. As a consequence of this difficulty, and also because of the early hour at which the companies are allowed to cease carrying working-folk at the workmen’s fare, many men and women are compelled to waste some hours of their scanty leisure every day between the arrival of their trains and the opening of their workshops, a cruelty for which the blame may be pretty equally apportioned to Parliament and the company directors. The result of it is that many of the poor prefer the evil of overcrowding in cities before the greater evil of wasted time and degrading travel. As time goes on, no doubt the monopolists of transportation will be compelled, as their own necessities increase and so bring them under the hand of the legislature, to serve more adequately the necessities of the majority. But even so, and as long as the effective speed of conveyance is limited by the lack of permanent-way space and the necessity for frequent stations, the impatience even now manifested, and manifested chiefly by the class which suffers least from loss of time in travel, will lead to concentration. Taking London as an example, it may be said that the Victorian age was the age of the suburbs. But few people now live in the suburbs of London who can afford to live anywhere else. Either they move right out into the country, seeking a spot on some main line where the greater distance and less-frequent train service is made up for by speedy and uninterrupted journeys; or they come into London and occupy houses or flats within easy reach of their working head-quarters. The suburbs are given over to those who cannot afford either of these expedients, or who, having been brought up there, are retained by a sort of inertia. Ultimately, as the demand for town space becomes intensified, two things will happen. First of all, the restrictions which many cities, ignoring the freedom of New York and Chicago, impose upon the erection of excessively high buildings, will go by the board. The shutting out of sunlight and fresh air will be the subject of compensations to be presently explained, and thirty, forty, fifty or a hundred-storey houses, and houses which perhaps burrow to some distance underground, will, by virtue of the same compensations, house a vast, concentrated population impatient of daily travel. As the demand for homes increases, and even the high buildings cannot cope with it, the cities will push their way outwards, repopulating the rebuilt suburbs. This kind of thing will have a tendency to correct itself. Rents will be high in proportion to position near the centre. But a limit of toleration will be reached, and as certain improvements will have been effected in transport, there will ultimately be a reaction, and people will again go right out to the country, as long as there is any country left.

Before discussing these improvements, however, it will be convenient to examine the conveniences, social and sanitary, of the homes of the new age. The greatest convenience of all, no doubt, will be the modification and partial elimination of the domestic servant. There is every reason to believe that the great difficulties of the servant question as at present experienced will solve themselves, forming in part an instance of the moral changes, accompanying material invention but only partly resulting from it, which the new age is certain to experience. It is usual to lay the blame of the unsatisfactory character and atrocious inefficiency of the domestic servants of our own day on the institution of free education. They are much more due to the absence of any education worthy of the name, and to the imperfect civilisation of modern houses. Thirty-five years or so are but an instant in the life of an institution so overwhelmingly more important in its possibilities than any other subject of legislation as State-compelled education of the people. No one appears to have recognised that character-making, which Herbert Spencer called the most important object which can engage the attention of the legislator, is the only true object of education, free or otherwise. When politicians have talked of the necessity of national education, the argument they have used was that Germans are better chemists than we are. When they praised the usefulness of modern languages it was in terms of commercial utility. “Modern languages, in fact” (a recent critic remarked), “make a good bagman.” It is inept to despair of free education because free education has produced no very satisfactory results while conceived of as a process of shoving undesired knowledge into the children of the poor. Looking, as everyone not hidebound by pessimism must look, for a great enlightenment of the law-giving class when the system of party politics, already beginning to show signs of decay, has ceased to hold all legislation in its blighting hand, we have every reason to expect that the true uses of education will be perceived and attained long before the end of the period contemplated when we speak of the new age. And then, one very great factor in the servant question will have been satisfactorily solved, even if other conditions have not conducted us nearly all the way to the solution beforehand.

For, while making every allowance for the evil effects of education, wrongly conceived and improperly administered, on the character of women destined to become servants, it must be allowed that much of what we call the servant difficulty could be cured now, and will unquestionably be cured before long, by inventions capable of abolishing the grievances which lead to it. These grievances are real and remediable. I do not refer to the confinement, restraint and gross lack of consideration on the part of employers which lead young women of the class from which servants are drawn to prefer labour in factories and elsewhere, in conditions far less comfortable, before domestic service; but to our utter lack of ingenuity in removing the irksomeness and degradation of much domestic labour. Some coming inventions calculated to improve the lot of Mary Jane will now be described.

In the first place (as Mr H. G. Wells has pointed out, without apparently being aware that buildings already exist in which some of his ideas have been anticipated), modern rooms, equally with those of all time, seem to have been constructed so as to make it as difficult as possible to keep them clean. Square corners and rectangular junctions of wall and floor, wall and ceiling, will certainly before long be replaced everywhere by curves. But the work of house cleaning will be rendered easy and unlaborious by another invention, already indeed in existence on a large scale, but eventually capable of being rendered portable. I mean a contrivance for applying a vacuum to any desired spot. There is a very ingenious but rather noisy engine already in use for pumping the dust out of carpets, curtains and furniture. In the houses of the future handy contrivances of various shapes, all independent of any engine, will be found, furnished with elastic nozzles on the outside and with some sort of appliance capable of instantly exhausting the air within. Such a utensil wheeled over the floor will remove instantly every particle of dust from the surface and below the surface of the carpet, at the same time picking up any such débris as scraps of paper, pins, and other decidua of the previous day. A similar instrument, differently shaped, will clean the curtains, supposing curtains to be still in use at the time, and will dust the chairs and tables—though there will not be anything like so much dust as there is now, nearly all kinds of combustion being abolished. The kitchen fire will of course be an electric furnace: “o’ my word we’ll not carry coals.” Lighting will all be electric, and no doubt wireless. The abolition of horse traffic in cities, and the use of the vacuum apparatus which will be continuously at work in all streets, keeping them dry and free from mud, will practically remove the necessity for boot brushing, even supposing that we shall still wear boots: every man and woman in dressing will pass a vacuum instrument over his and her clothes and get rid of even the little dust existing—for we shall be more and more intolerant of dirt in any form, having by that time fully realised how dangerous dirt is. The new age will be a clean age. A lady of the year 2000 who could be miraculously transported back to London at the present moment would probably faint (they will not have ceased fainting) at the intolerable disgustingness of what is, I suppose, now one of the cleanest cities in the world, even if the cruelty of employing horses for traction, and the frightful recklessness of allowing them to soil the streets in which people walk, did not overpower her susceptibilities in another way.

Cooking will perhaps not be done at all on any large scale at home, in flat-homes at all events; and in any case, for reasons which will hereafter become apparent, cooking will be a much less disgusting process than it is to-day. In no case will the domestic servant of a hundred years hence be called upon to stand over a roaring fire, laid by herself, and to be cleaned up by herself when done with, in order to cook the family dinner. Every measure of heat—controllable in gradations of ten degrees or so—will be furnished in electrically-fitted receptacles, with or without water jackets or steam jackets: and unquestionably all cooking will be done in hermetically-closed vessels. We shall not much longer do most of our cooking by such a wasteful and unwholesome method as boiling, whereby the important soluble salts of nearly all food are callously thrown away. As, for reasons to be developed hereafter, it is quite certain that animal food will have been wholly abandoned before the end of this century, the débris of the kitchen will be much more manageable than at present, and the kitchen sink will cease to be, during a great part of the day, a place of unapproachable loathsomeness. On the other hand, its conveniences will have been greatly increased. It is difficult to understand how the old-world fashion of (for instance) “washing up” plates and dishes can have endured so long. Of course, in the new age, these utensils will be simply dropped one by one into an automatic receptacle; swilled clean by water delivered with force and charged with nascent oxygen; dried by electric heat; and polished by electric force; being finally oxygen-bathed as a superfluous act of sanitary cleanliness before being sent to table again. And all that has come off the plates will drop through the scullery floor into the destructor beneath to be oxygenated and made away with.

Here we have most of the distasteful elements of domestic service got rid of. Naturally lifts of various kinds, driven by the same force (whatever it is) which lights and warms the house, will be everywhere in evidence. The plan of attaining the upper part of a small house by climbing, on every occasion, a sort of wooden hill, covered with carpet of questionable cleanliness, will of course have been abandoned: it is doubtful whether staircases will be built at all after the next two or three decades. And it is likely that the more refined sentiment of the new age will recoil before the spectacle of menial service at the table. Not because they will despise, but because they will respect, their domestic assistants, hostesses will dislike to have their guests waited upon in a servile manner during meals by plush-breeched flunkeys of the male, or neat-handed Phyllises of the female, sex. Well-arranged houses will have the kitchen on a level with the dining-room, and the dividing wall will be so contrived that a table, ready laid at each course, can be made to slide through it into the presence of the seated guests. An immense amount of running to and fro between kitchen and dining-room, and of lifting food and table-ware into and out of elevators, will thus be obviated, to the vast gastronomic improvement of the meal and the salvation of servants’ time.

Naturally the bedrooms of the new age will have many amenities lacking to our own. It is not too much to anticipate that we shall have learned enough of plumbing to be able to connect baths, wash-basins and other necessary fittings with the drains without poisoning ourselves, and the inconvenient modern “wash-stand” with its unreticent adjuncts will decently disappear. It cannot be very long—probably it will only be a few years—before some kind of reasonable control is exercised over the technical education of plumbers.[1]

Thus the bedroom of the new age will be a much more convenient and satisfactory apartment than the one we slept in last night, and another irksome and unelevating part of the domestic work of our servants will be eliminated. But the sleeping-apartments, and indeed all apartments in city homes, will contain yet another very valuable and necessary article of furniture—the oxygenator. Nearly all the unhealthiness and the pinched, weary greyness of town-dwellers to-day could be cured by fresh air. Everyone is familiar with the improvement which can be effected in the health and appearance of a city family by even a short visit to the seaside or the country—an improvement which it happens to be fashionable just now to attribute, in the former case, to the presence of ozone in the sea air. The fact that holiday-makers are able to endure the smell of slowly-decaying seaweed with a dash of putrescent fish about it, which is called “sea-air,” without injury, and even to pick up health in the presence of it, is more due to the absence of carbon dioxide and other deleterious gases of the towns than to anything else. The beneficent effects of country air are practically all due to the power possessed by green vegetation of superoxygenating the surrounding air. The atmosphere of cities, or at all events of city homes, will presently be freed from the products of combustion and respiration, and endowed with a slightly-increased proportion of oxygen, by artificial means. And especially in bedrooms, rendered to-day stuffy and unhealthy by the idiotic fear of night air which an effete tradition has handed down to us, will this reform be in evidence. Prudent people to-day insist on large bedroom windows—preferably of the French-door pattern—and keep them wide open all night. But this is attended by inconveniences in cold and wet weather; and while our grandchildren will still keep their windows open all night in all weathers, they will not be content with this alone. There will be a chemical apparatus hidden away in some corner, or built into the wall, which will absorb carbon dioxide and at the same time slowly give off a certain amount of oxygen—just enough to raise the oxygenation of the air to the standard of the best country places. And similar appliances will be at work in the streets of our cities, so that town air will be just as wholesome, just as tonic and invigorating, as country air. If the theory that the presence of ozone (that is, allotropic oxygen) in the sea air is beneficent stand the test of time, no doubt ozonators will form part of these appliances: but in any case, as the high buildings of the new age will keep out the sunlight, electric light, carrying all the ray-activity of sunlight, and just as capable of fostering life and vegetation, will serve the streets. Thus, so far as hygiene goes, town life will be on a par with country life: but many people will prefer the country, and means will have to be provided to render homes in the country compatible with work in the cities. This brings us to the question of transport.

I do not think that people will, within the next hundred years at all events, travel to and from work in flying-machines. But no doubt the system of railway transport will be revolutionised. What makes suburban travel so slow is, not so much lack of speed on the part of the trains, as the necessity for frequent stoppage. You cannot satisfactorily run a train at sixty miles an hour and stop it every minute or so: otherwise sixty miles an hour would be quite fast enough, for some decades at least, to satisfy all requirements of suburban traffic, though it would be, and indeed is, ridiculously inadequate for long-distance travelling. The expense of increased permanent-way hampers railway management, and as there is no possibility of getting more land to increase the number of available tracks, some method will have to be devised for running one train over the top of another—perhaps to the height of several storeys, not necessarily provided with supporting rails: for we may very conceivably have discovered means by which vehicles can be propelled above the ground in some kind of guide-ways, doing away with the great loss of power caused by wheel friction; that is to say, the guides will direct, but not support, the carriages. The clumsy device of locomotive engines will have been dispensed with. Whatever power is employed to drive the trains of the next century will certainly be conveyed to them from central power-houses.

But, as the reader has been already reminded, it is the stoppages which are so wasteful of time on a suburban railway: and they are also wasteful of force. Now in all respects the new age will be economical. One thing that will have to be perfected is the art of getting up speed. Look, as you go home to-night, at the way your train gathers speed on leaving a station. Observe what a long time it is before it can attain its full velocity. A large part of the total time you require in order to reach the suburbs is consumed in this manner. A hundred years hence trains will almost jump to full speed, somewhat as a motor-car jumps to-day. In collecting passengers at suburban stations, the train, a hundred years hence, will perhaps not stop at all. It will only slacken speed a little; but the platform will begin to move as the train approaches, and will run along beside it, at the same speed as the train itself, so that passengers can get in and out as if the train were standing still. When all are aboard, the doors will be closed all together by the guard, and the platform will reverse its motion, and return to its original position ready for the next train.