From The War of the Worlds (1898) by H.G. Wells:
It is worthy of remark that a certain speculative writer of quasi-scientific repute, writing long before the Martian invasion, did forecast for man a final structure not unlike the actual Martian condition. His prophecy, I remember, appeared in November or December, 1893, in a long-defunct publication, the Pall Mall Budget, and I recall a caricature of it in a pre-Martian periodical called Punch.
This prophecy, as published in the Pall Mall Budget and later in the Tuapeka Times, was written by Wells himself. Originally called The Man of the Year Million it was later published as a chapter in Certain Personal Matters (1897), retitled as Of A Book Unwritten.
I have struggled to find an archive of the original 1893 Pall Mall Budget version. However, an archive of the 1894 Tuapeka Times version was available courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand. The 1897 version of the text, Of A Book Unwritten, can be found on Project Gutenberg as a chapter in Certain Personal Matters.
In researching this topic, the best readily available online archive of the Pall Mall Budget version of the text was a stock image available through Alamy. As well as containing two illustrations the image shows the issue date to be the 16th of November 1893. There is an earlier publication of the text on the 6th of November in the Pall Mall Gazette.
The caricature from Punch, as can be seen below, was from the 25th of November 1893. This can be found in full at the Internet Archive.
Full references and direct links to all sources can be found at the bottom of this page.
What follows is a transcription of The Man of the Year Million as it was published in the Tuapeka Times in February of 1894. I can only apologise in advance for any mistakes that may be present in the text.
Freazy Warr, 20th March 2021.
Accomplished literature is all very well in its way, no doubt, but much more fascinating to the contemplative man are the books that have not been written. These latter are no trouble to hold; there are no pages to turn over. Once can read them in bed on sleepless nights without candle. Turning to another topic, primitive man, in the works of the descriptive anthropologist, is certainly a very entertaining and quaint person; but the man of the future, if we only had the facts, would appeal to us more strongly. Yet where are the books? As Ruskin has said somewhere, apropos of Darwin, it is not what man has been, but what he will be, that should interest us.
The contemplative man in his easy chair, pondering this saying, suddenly beholds in the fire, through the blue haze of his pipe, one of these great unwritten volumes. It is large in size, heavy in lettering, seemingly by one Professor Holzkopf, presumably professor at Weissnichtwo. ‘The Necessary Characters of the Man of the Remote Future deduced from the Existing Stream of Tendency’ is the title. The worthy professor is severely scientific in his method, and deliberate and cautious in his deductions, the contemplative man discovers as he pursues his theme, and yet conclusions are, to say the least, remarkable. We must figure the excellent professor expanding the matter at great length, voluminously technical, but the contemplative man – since he has access to the only copy – is clearly at liberty to make such extract and abstracts as he chooses for the unscientific reader. Here, for instance, is something of practicable lucidity that he considers admits of quotation.
“The theory of evolution,” writes the professor, “is now universally accepted by zoologists and botanists, and it is applied unreservedly to man. Some question, indeed, whether it fits his soul, but all agree it accounts for his body. Man, we are assured, is descended from ape-like ancestors, moulded by circumstances into men, and these apes again are derived from ancestral forms of a lower order, and so up from the primordial protoplasmic jelly. Clearly, then, man, unless the order of the universe has come to an end, will undergo further modifications in the future, and at last cease to be man, giving rise to some other type of animated being. At once the fascinating question arises: What will this being be? Let us consider for a little the plastic influences at work upon our species.
“Just as the bird is the creature of the win, and is all moulded and modified to flying, and just as the fish is the creature that swims, and has had to meet the inflexible conditions of a problem in hydrodynamics, so man is the creature of the brain; he will live by intelligence, and not by physical strength, if he live at all. So that much that is purely ‘animal’ about him is being, and must be, beyond all question, suppressed in his ultimate development. Evolution is no mechanical tendency making for perfection according to the ideas current in the year of grace 1892; it is simply the continual adaption of plastic life, for good or evil, to the circumstances that surround it…. We notice this decay of the animal part around us now, in the loss of teeth and hair, in the dwindling hands and feed of men, in their smaller jaws, and slighter mouths and ears. Man now does by wit and machinery and verbal agreement what he once did by bodily toil; for once he had to catch his dinner, capture his wife, run away from his enemies, and continually exercise himself, for love of himself, to perform these duties well. But now all this is changed. Cabs, trains, trams, render speed unnecessary, the pursuit of food becomes easier; his wife is no longer hunted, but rather, in view of the crowded matrimonial market, seeks him out. One needs wits now to live, and physical activity is a drug, a snare even; it seeks artificial outlets and overflows in games. Athleticism takes up time and cripples a man in his competitive examinations, and in business. So is your fleshy man handicapped against his subtler brother. He is unsuccessful in life, does not marry. The better adapted survive.”
The coming man, then, will clearly have a larger brain and a slighter body than the present. But the professor makes on exception to this. “The human hand, since it is the teacher and interpreter of the brain, will become constantly more powerful and subtle as the rest of the musculature dwindles.”
Then in the physiology of these children of men, with their expanding brains, their great sensitive hands and diminishing bodies, great changes were necessarily worked. “We see now.” says the professor, “in the more intellectual sections of humanity an increasing sensitiveness to stimulants, a growing inability to grapple with such a matter as alcohol, for instance. No longer can men drink a bottleful of port; some cannot drink tea – it is too exciting for their highly-wrought nervous systems. The process will go on, and the Sir Wilfrid Lawson of some near generation may find it is his duty and pleasure to make the silvery spray of his wisdom tintinnabulate against the teatray. These facts lead naturally to the comprehension of others. Fresh raw meat was once a dish for a kind. Now refined persons scarcely touch meat unless it is cunningly disguised. Again, consider the case of turnips. The raw root is now a thing almost uneatable, but once upon a time a turnip must have been a rare and fortunate find, to be turn up with delirious eagerness and devoured with ecstasy. The time will come when the change will affect all the other fruits of the earth. Even now only the young of mankind eat apples raw – the young always preserving ancestral characteristics after their disappearance in the adult. Some day boys even will regard apples without emotion. The boy of the future, one must believe, will gaze on an apple with the same unspeculative languor with which he now regards a flint” – in the absence of a cat.
“Furthermore, fresh chemical discoveries came into action as modifying influences upon men. In the prehistoric period, even, man’s mouth had ceased to be an instrument for grasping food. It is still growing continually less prehensile. His front teeth are smaller, his lips thinner and less muscular. He has a new organ, a mandible not of irreparable tissue, but of bone and steel – a knife and fork. There is no reasons why things should stop at partial artificial division thus afforded; there is every reason, the contrary, to believe my statement that some cunning exterior mechanism will presently masticate and insalivate his dinner, relieve his diminishing salivary glands and teeth, and at last altogether abolish them.”
Then what is not needed disappears. What use is there for external ears, nose, and brow ridges now? The two latter once protected the eye from injury in conflict and in falls, but in these days we keep on our legs, and at peace. Directing his thoughts in this way, the reader may presently conjure up a dim, strange vision of the latter-day face: “Eyes large, lustrous, beautiful, soulful; above them, no longer separated by rugged brow ridges, is the top of the head, a glistening, hairless dome, terete and beautiful; no craggy nose rises to disturb by its unmeaning shadows the symmetry of that calm face, no vestigial ears project; the mouth is a small, perfectly rounded aperture, toothless and gumless, jawless, unanimal, no futile emotions disturbing its roundness as it lies, like the harvest moon or the evening star, in the wide firmament of face.” Such is the face the professor beholds in the future.
Of course parallel modifications will also affect the body and limbs. “Every day so many hours and so much energy are required for digestion; a gross torpidity, a carnal lethargy, seizes on mortal men after dinner. This man and can be avoided. Man’s knowledge of organic chemistry widens daily. Already he can supplement the gastric glands by artificial devices. Every doctor who administers physic implies that the bodily functions may be artificially superseded. We have pepsine, pancreatine, artificial gastric acid – I know not what like mixtures. Why, then, should not the stomach by ultimately superannuated altogether? A man who could not only leave his dinner to be cooked, but also leave it to be masticated and digested, would have vast social advantages over his food-digesting fellow. This is, let me remind you here, the calmed, most passionless, and scientific working out of the future forms of things from the data of the present. At this stage of the following facts man, perhaps, stimulate your imagination. There can be no doubt that many of the antropods, a division of animal more ancient and even now more prevalent than the vertebrata, have undergone more phylogenetic modifications” – a beautiful phrase – “than even the most modified of vertebrated animals. Simple forms like the lobsters display a primitive structure parallel with that of the fishes. However, in such a form as the degraded ‘Chondracanthus,’ the structure has diverged far more widely from its original type than in man. Among some of these most highly modified crustaceans the whole of the alimentary canal – that is, all the food-digesting and food-absorbing parts – form a useless solid cord: the animals is nourished – it is a parasite – by absorption of the nutritive fluid in which it swims. Is there any absolute impossibility in supposing man to be destined for a similar change; to imagine him no longer dining, with unwieldly paraphernalia of servants and plates, upon food queerly dyed and distorted, but nourishing himself in elegant simplicity by immersion in a tub of nutritive fluid? There grows upon the impatient imagination a building, a dome of crystal, across the translucent surface of which flushes of the most glorious and pure prismatic colors pass and fade and change. In the centre of this transparent chameleon-tinted dome is a circular white marble basin filled with some clear, mobile, amber liquid, and in this plunge and float strange beings. Are they birds? They are the descendants of man – at dinner. Watch them as they hop on their hands – method of progression advocated already by Bjornsen – about the white marble floor. Great hands they have, enormous brains, soft, liquid, soulful eyes. Their whole muscular system, their legs, their abdomens are shrivelled to nothing, a dangling, degrading pendant to their minds.”
The further visions of the professor are less alluring. “The animals and plants die away before men, except such as he preserves for his food or delight, or such as maintain a precarious footing about him as commensals and parasites. These vermin and pests must succumb sooner or later to his untiring discipline. When he learns (the chemists are doubtless getting towards the secret now) to do the work of chlorophyll without the plan, then his necessity for other animals and plants upon the earth will disappear. Sooner or later, where there is no power of resistance and no necessity, there comes extinction. In the last days man will be alone on the earth, and his food will be won by the chemist from the dead rocks and the sunlight. And – one may learn the full reason in that explicit and painfully right book, the ‘Data of Ethics’ – the irritation fellowship of man will give place to an intellectual co-operation, and emotion fall within the scheme of reason. Undoubtedly it is a long time yet, but a long time is nothing in the face of eternity, and every man who thinks of these things must look eternity in the face.”
Then the earth is ever radiating away heat into space, the professor reminds us. And so at last comes a vision of earthly cherubim, hopping heads, great unemotional intelligences, and little hearts, fighting together perforce and fiercely against the cold that grips them tighter and tighter. For the world is cooling – slowly and inevitably it grows colder as the years rolls by. “We must imagine these creatures,” says the professor, “in galleries and laboratories deep down in the bowels of the earth. The whole world will be snow-covered and piled with ice, all animals, all vegetation vanished, except the last branch of the tree of life. The last men have gone even deeper, following the diminishing heat of the planet, and vast steel shafts and ventilators make way for the air they need.”
So with the glimpse of these human tadpole, in their deep close gallery, with their boring machinery ringing away, and artificial lights glaring and casting black shadows, the professor’s horoscope concludes. Humanity in dismal retreat before the cold, changed beyond recognition. Yet the professor is reasonable enough – his facts of current science, his methods orderly. The contemplative man shivers at the prospect, starts up to poke the fire, and the whole of this remarkable book that is not written vanishes straightway in the smoke of his pipe. This is the great advantage of this unwritten literature – there is no bother in changing the books. Our contemplative man consoles himself for the destiny of the species with the lost potion of Kubla Khan. – Exchange.
The War of the Worlds (1898) by H.G. Wells, available through Project Gutenberg.
The Man of the Year Million by H.G. Wells in Tuapeka Times (1894), available through Papers Past courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.
Of A Book Unwritten in Certain Personal Matters (1897) by H.G. Wells, available through Project Gutenberg.
Stock Image of The Man of the Year Million by H.G. Wells in Pall Mall Budget (1893), available through Alamy.
The Man of the Year Million by H.G. Wells in Pall Mall Gazette (1893), available through Gale. Requires institution access.
1,000,000 A.D. in Punch (1893) by unknown, available through the Internet Archive. It should be on page 250, but I recommend searching for the keyword ‘pepsine’ in the PDF they provide.
This webpage, with proof of when it was published, can be viewed on here on Github.
Anon, 1893. 1,000,000 A.D.. Punch. [online]. Available at: <https://archive.org/details/punchvol104a105lemouoft/page/n5/mode/2up> [Accessed 20 March 2021]
Wells, H.G., 1893. The Man of the Year Million. Pall Mall Gazette. [online] p.250. Available at: <https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/Y3200447564/BNCN?u=anglia_itw&sid=BNCN&xid=9f1fd902> [Accessed 20 March 2021]
Wells, H.G., 1893. The Man of the Year Million. Pall Mall Budget. [image]. Available at: <https://www.alamy.com/the-man-of-the-year-million-a-scientific-forecast-dinner-in-the-year-million-pall-mall-budget-london-16th-november-1893-science-a-19th-century-forecast-of-how-human-beings-will-develop-in-the-future-source-pall-mall-budget-pages-1796-1797-language-english-image231189213.html> [Accessed 20 March 2021]
Wells, H.G., 1894. The Man of the Year Million. Tuapeka Times. [online] 26(4079). Available at: <https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TT18940228.2.30> [Accessed 20 March 2021].
Wells, H.G., 1897. Certain Personal Matters. [online] Project Gutenberg. Available at: <https://www.gutenberg.org/files/17508/17508-h/17508-h.htm> [Accessed 20 March 2021].
Wells, H.G., 1898. The War of the Worlds. [online] Project Gutenberg. Available at: <https://www.gutenberg.org/files/36/36-h/36-h.htm> [Accessed 20 March 2021].