D.G. Jerz > Resources > Texts > Looking Backward
||0||When we arrived home, Dr. Leete had not yet returned, and
Mrs. Leete was not visible. "Are you fond of music, Mr. West?"
||1||I assured her that it was half of life, according to my notion.
||2||"I ought to apologize for inquiring," she said. "It is not a
question that we ask one another nowadays; but I have read that
in your day, even among the cultured class, there were some who
did not care for music."
||3||"You must remember, in excuse," I said, "that we had some
rather absurd kinds of music."
||4||"Yes," she said, "I know that; I am afraid I should not have
fancied it all myself. Would you like to hear some of ours now,
||5||"Nothing would delight me so much as to listen to you," I
||6||"To me!" she exclaimed, laughing. "Did you think I was going
to play or sing to you?"
||7||"I hoped so, certainly," I replied.
||8||Seeing that I was a little abashed, she subdued her merriment
and explained. "Of course, we all sing nowadays as a matter of
course in the training of the voice, and some learn to play
instruments for their private amusement; but the professional
music is so much grander and more perfect than any performance
of ours, and so easily commanded when we wish to hear
it, that we don't think of calling our singing or playing music
at all. All the really fine singers and players are in the musical
service, and the rest of us hold our peace for the main part.
But would you really like to hear some music?"
||9||I assured her once more that I would.
||10||"Come, then, into the music room," she said, and I followed
her into an apartment finished, without hangings, in wood, with
a floor of polished wood. I was prepared for new devices in musical
instruments, but I saw nothing in the room which by any
stretch of imagination could be conceived as such. It was evident
that my puzzled appearance was affording intense amusement to
||11||"Please look at to-day's music," she said, handing me a card,
"and tell me what you would prefer. It is now five o'clock, you
||12||The card bore the date "September 12, 2000," and contained
the longest programme of music I had ever seen. It was as
various as it was long, including a most extraordinary range of
vocal and instrumental solos, duets, quartettes, and various
orchestral combinations. I remained bewildered by the prodigious
list until Edith's pink finger tip indicated a particular
section of it, where several selections were bracketed, with the
words "5 P.M." against them; then I observed that this prodigious
programme was an all-day one, divided into twenty-four sections
answering to the hours. There were but a few pieces of music in
the "5 P.M." section, and I indicated an organ piece as my
||13||"I am so glad you like the organ," said she. "I think there is
scarcely any music that suits my mood oftener."
||14||She made me sit down comfortably, and, crossing the room, so
far as I could see, merely touched one or two screws, and at once
the room was filled with the music of a grand organ anthem;
filled, not flooded, for, by some means, the volume of melody
had been perfectly graduated to the size of the apartment. I
listened, scarcely breathing, to the close. Such music, so perfectly
rendered, I had never expected to hear.
||15||"Grand!" I cried, as the last great wave of sound broke and
ebbed away into silence. "Bach must be at the keys of that
organ; but where is the organ?"
||16||"Wait a moment, please," said Edith; "I want to have you
listen to this waltz before you ask any questions. I think it is
perfectly charming"; and as she spoke the sound of violins filled
the room with the witchery of a summer night. When this had
also ceased, she said: "There is nothing in the least mysterious
about the music, as you seem to imagine. It is not made by
fairies or genii, but by good, honest, and exceedingly clever
human hands. We have simply carried the idea of labor saving
by cooperation into our musical service as into everything else.
There are a number of music rooms in the city, perfectly
adapted acoustically to the different sorts of music. These halls
are connected by telephone with all the houses of the city whose
people care to pay the small fee, and there are none, you may be
sure, who do not. The corps of musicians attached to each hall is
so large that, although no individual performer, or group of
performers, has more than a brief part, each day's programme
lasts through the twenty-four hours. There are on that card for
to-day, as you will see if you observe closely, distinct programmes
of four of these concerts, each of a different order of music from
the others, being now simultaneously performed, and any one of
the four pieces now going on that you prefer, you can hear by
merely pressing the button which will connect your house-wire
with the hall where it is being rendered. The programmes are so
coordinated that the pieces at any one time simultaneously
proceeding in the different halls usually offer a choice, not only
between instrumental and vocal, and between different sorts of
instruments; but also between different motives from grave to
gay, so that all tastes and moods can be suited."
||17||"It appears to me, Miss Leete," I said, "that if we could have
devised an arrangement for providing everybody with music in
their homes, perfect in quality, unlimited in quantity, suited to
every mood, and beginning and ceasing at will, we should have
considered the limit of human felicity already attained, and
ceased to strive for further improvements."
||18||"I am sure I never could imagine how those among you who
depended at all on music managed to endure the old-fashioned
system for providing it," replied Edith. "Music really worth
hearing must have been, I suppose, wholly out of the reach of
the masses, and attainable by the most favored only occasionally,
at great trouble, prodigious expense, and then for brief periods,
arbitrarily fixed by somebody else, and in connection with all
sorts of undesirable circumstances. Your concerts, for instance,
and operas! How perfectly exasperating it must have been, for
the sake of a piece or two of music that suited you, to have to sit
for hours listening to what you did not care for! Now, at a
dinner one can skip the courses one does not care for. Who
would ever dine, however hungry, if required to eat everything
brought on the table? and I am sure one's hearing is quite as
sensitive as one's taste. I suppose it was these difficulties in the
way of commanding really good music which made you endure
so much playing and singing in your homes by people who had
only the rudiments of the art."
||19||"Yes," I replied, "it was that sort of music or none for most of
||20||"Ah, well," Edith sighed, "when one really considers, it is not
so strange that people in those days so often did not care for
music. I dare say I should have detested it, too."
||21||"Did I understand you rightly," I inquired, "that this musical
programme covers the entire twenty-four hours? It seems to on
this card, certainly; but who is there to listen to music between
say midnight and morning?"
||22||"Oh, many," Edith replied. "Our people keep all hours; but if
the music were provided from midnight to morning for no
others, it still would be for the sleepless, the sick, and the dying.
All our bedchambers have a telephone attachment at the head of
the bed by which any person who may be sleepless can command
music at pleasure, of the sort suited to the mood."
||23||"Is there such an arrangement in the room assigned to me?"
||24||"Why, certainly; and how stupid, how very stupid, of me not
to think to tell you of that last night! Father will show you
about the adjustment before you go to bed to-night, however;
and with the receiver at your ear, I am quite sure you will be able
to snap your fingers at all sorts of uncanny feelings if they
trouble you again."
||25||That evening Dr. Leete asked us about our visit to the store,
and in the course of the desultory comparison of the ways of the
nineteenth century and the twentieth, which followed, something
raised the question of inheritance. "I suppose," I said, "the
inheritance of property is not now allowed."
||26||"On the contrary," replied Dr. Leete, "there is no interference
with it. In fact, you will find, Mr. West, as you come to
know us, that there is far less interference of any sort with
personal liberty nowadays than you were accustomed to. We
require, indeed, by law that every man shall serve the nation for
a fixed period, instead of leaving him his choice, as you did,
between working, stealing, or starving. With the exception of
this fundamental law, which is, indeed, merely a codification of
the law of nature--the edict of Eden--by which it is made
equal in its pressure on men, our system depends in no particular
upon legislation, but is entirely voluntary, the logical outcome of
the operation of human nature under rational conditions. This
question of inheritance illustrates just that point. The fact that
the nation is the sole capitalist and land-owner of course restricts
the individual's possessions to his annual credit, and what
personal and household belongings he may have procured with
it. His credit, like an annuity in your day, ceases on his death,
with the allowance of a fixed sum for funeral expenses. His other
possessions he leaves as he pleases."
||27||"What is to prevent, in course of time, such accumulations of
valuable goods and chattels in the hands of individuals as might
seriously interfere with equality in the circumstances of citizens?"
||28||"That matter arranges itself very simply," was the reply.
"Under the present organization of society, accumulations of
personal property are merely burdensome the moment they
exceed what adds to the real comfort. In your day, if a man had
a house crammed full with gold and silver plate, rare china,
expensive furniture, and such things, he was considered rich, for
these things represented money, and could at any time be turned
into it. Nowadays a man whom the legacies of a hundred
relatives, simultaneously dying, should place in a similar position,
would be considered very unlucky. The articles, not being
salable, would be of no value to him except for their actual use
or the enjoyment of their beauty. On the other hand, his income
remaining the same, he would have to deplete his credit to hire
houses to store the goods in, and still further to pay for the
service of those who took care of them. You may be very sure
that such a man would lose no time in scattering among his
friends possessions which only made him the poorer, and that
none of those friends would accept more of them than they
could easily spare room for and time to attend to. You see, then,
that to prohibit the inheritance of personal property with a view
to prevent great accumulations would be a superfluous precaution
for the nation. The individual citizen can be trusted to see
that he is not overburdened. So careful is he in this respect, that
the relatives usually waive claim to most of the effects of
deceased friends, reserving only particular objects. The nation
takes charge of the resigned chattels, and turns such as are of
value into the common stock once more."
||29||"You spoke of paying for service to take care of your houses,"
said I; "that suggests a question I have several times been on the
point of asking. How have you disposed of the problem of
domestic service? Who are willing to be domestic servants in a
community where all are social equals? Our ladies found it hard
enough to find such even when there was little pretense of social
||30||"It is precisely because we are all social equals whose equality
nothing can compromise, and because service is honorable, in a
society whose fundamental principle is that all in turn shall serve
the rest, that we could easily provide a corps of domestic servants
such as you never dreamed of, if we needed them," replied Dr.
Leete. "But we do not need them."
||31||"Who does your house-work, then?" I asked.
||32||"There is none to do," said Mrs. Leete, to whom I had
addressed this question. "Our washing is all done at public
laundries at excessively cheap rates, and our cooking at public
kitchens. The making and repairing of all we wear are done
outside in public shops. Electricity, of course, takes the place of
all fires and lighting. We choose houses no larger than we need,
and furnish them so as to involve the minimum of trouble to
keep them in order. We have no use for domestic servants."
||33||"The fact," said Dr. Leete, "that you had in the poorer classes
a boundless supply of serfs on whom you could impose all sorts
of painful and disagreeable tasks, made you indifferent to devices
to avoid the necessity for them. But now that we all have to do
in turn whatever work is done for society, every individual in the
nation has the same interest, and a personal one, in devices for
lightening the burden. This fact has given a prodigious impulse
to labor-saving inventions in all sorts of industry, of which the
combination of the maximum of comfort and minimum of
trouble in household arrangements was one of the earliest
||34||"In case of special emergencies in the household," pursued Dr.
Leete, "such as extensive cleaning or renovation, or sickness in
the family, we can always secure assistance from the industrial
||35||"But how do you recompense these assistants, since you have
||36||"We do not pay them, of course, but the nation for them.
Their services can be obtained by application at the proper
bureau, and their value is pricked off the credit card of the
||37||"What a paradise for womankind the world must be now!" I
exclaimed. "In my day, even wealth and unlimited servants did
not enfranchise their possessors from household cares, while the
women of the merely well-to-do and poorer classes lived and died
martyrs to them."
||38||"Yes," said Mrs. Leete, "I have read something of that;
enough to convince me that, badly off as the men, too, were in
your day, they were more fortunate than their mothers and
||39||"The broad shoulders of the nation," said Dr. Leete, "bear
now like a feather the burden that broke the backs of the women
of your day. Their misery came, with all your other miseries,
from that incapacity for cooperation which followed from the
individualism on which your social system was founded, from
your inability to perceive that you could make ten times more
profit out of your fellow men by uniting with them than by
contending with them. The wonder is, not that you did not live
more comfortably, but that you were able to live together at all,
who were all confessedly bent on making one another your
servants, and securing possession of one another's goods.
||40||"There, there, father, if you are so vehement, Mr. West will
think you are scolding him," laughingly interposed Edith.
||41||"When you want a doctor," I asked, "do you simply apply to
the proper bureau and take any one that may be sent?"
||42||"That rule would not work well in the case of physicians,"
replied Dr. Leete. "The good a physician can do a patient
depends largely on his acquaintance with his constitutional
tendencies and condition. The patient must be able, therefore,
to call in a particular doctor, and he does so just as patients did
in your day. The only difference is that, instead of collecting his
fee for himself, the doctor collects it for the nation by pricking
off the amount, according to a regular scale for medical attendance,
from the patient's credit card."
||43||"I can imagine," I said, "that if the fee is always the same, and
a doctor may not turn away patients, as I suppose he may not,
the good doctors are called constantly and the poor doctors left
||44||"In the first place, if you will overlook the apparent conceit of
the remark from a retired physician," replied Dr. Leete, with a
smile, "we have no poor doctors. Anybody who pleases to get a
little smattering of medical terms is not now at liberty to
practice on the bodies of citizens, as in your day. None but
students who have passed the severe tests of the schools, and
clearly proved their vocation, are permitted to practice. Then,
too, you will observe that there is nowadays no attempt of
doctors to build up their practice at the expense of other doctors.
There would be no motive for that. For the rest, the doctor has
to render regular reports of his work to the medical bureau, and
if he is not reasonably well employed, work is found for him."
D.G. Jerz > Resources > Texts > Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
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D.G. Jerz > Resources > Texts > Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy