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First and Last

Hilaire Belloc

Book Overview: 

“When a man weighs anchor in a little ship or a large one he does a jolly thing! He cuts himself off and he starts for freedom and for the chance of things. He pulls the jib a-weather, he leans to her slowly pulling round, he sees the wind getting into the mainsail, and he feels that she feels the helm. He has her on a slant of the wind, and he makes out between the harbor piers.”

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .When I asked him what had struck him most of the great material developments, he told me the phonograph and the aeroplane among inventions; Mendel's observations in the sphere of experimental knowledge; and, in the sphere of pure theory, the breakdown of many things that had been dogmas of physical science in his early manhood.

Since I did not quite understand what he meant by this last, he gave me, after some hesitation, a few examples: That the interior of the earth was molten; that a certain limited number of elements--not all yet isolated, but certainly few in their total--were at the base of all material forms, and were immutable; that the ultimate unit of each of these was a certain indivisible, eternal thing called the Atom; and so forth.

He assured me that views of this sort, extending over a hundred or a thousand other points, were so universally accepted in his time that to dispute them was to be ranked with the unlettered or the fanta. . . Read More