CONSOLATIONS IN TRAVEL or THE LAST DAYS OF A PHILOSOPHER (1830) – Written by THE Sir Humphrey Davy, this is largely a work of philosophical discourse but with one section devoted to a science fiction tale: The Vision.
In that section of the book Sir Humphrey relates a first-person story in which he is taking in the Colosseum in Rome. An extra-terrestrial being calling itself a Genius and claiming to be from the Sun appears to him.
First this honey-voiced being fills him with a series of visions regarding humanity’s history, from prehistoric times to the recent past. After that the visitor from the Sun takes him on a tour of our solar system.
The first planet they travel to is Saturn, where Davy is awestruck by the alien landscape. Strange clouds fill the skies and among the oddest planetary features are large columns of liquid which flow from the ground upward. Saturn is inhabited by intelligent beings with three pairs of wings and organs like elephant trunks dangling from their bodies.
Those “trunks” are for senses far beyond the five that we mere Earthlings possess. The Saturnians are very advanced scientifically, and manufacture artificial food products in the gravity-defying liquid columns. The cloud formations are sculpted by alien science as a form of art.
Jupiter is inhabited by similarly odd and scientifically advanced creatures and our narrator is told that these life-forms are what sufficiently enlightened human beings reincarnate as. Martians and Venusians, on the other hand, are mostly just extraterrestrial counterparts to Earth people in appearance, culture and technology.
Sir Humphrey learns that comets are homes to globular flame beings who communicate with varying degrees of fire. The Moon is inhabited by creatures similar to Earth’s lower animals. The solar entity refused to take Davy to the Sun since its heat would annihilate him.
Dropping off our main character back on Earth, the being tells him that the universe is filled with life-forms at various stages of development. With that, the Sun Person flies back to their home, leaving Davy reeling from what he has seen.
The bulk of the book consists of Sir Humphrey batting around ideas with a pair of friends – one religious, the other an atheist. Consolations in Travel is often praised for its impact on scientists and science fiction writers of the 19th Century but is not a very entertaining read by 21st Century standards.
FOR MY ORIGINAL LIST OF TEN DIFFERENT WORKS OF “ANCIENT” SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE *** FOR THE FOLLOWUP LIST OF EIGHT DIFFERENT WORKS OF “ANCIENT” SCI FI CLICK HERE *** AND FOR TWENTY MORE CLICK HERE
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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