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Dreams

It is "those twin-jailers of the daring" thought, Knowledge and Experience, that teach us
surprise. We are surprised and incredulous when, in novels and plays, we come across
good men and women, because Knowledge and Experience have taught us how rare and
problematical is the existence of such people. In waking life, my friends and relations
would, of course, have been surprised at hearing that I had committed a murder, and was,
in consequence, about to be hanged, because Knowledge and Experience would have
taught them that, in a country where the law is powerful and the police alert, the Christian
citizen is usually pretty successful in withstanding the voice of temptation, prompting
him to commit crime of an illegal character.
But into Dreamland, Knowledge and Experience do not enter. They stay without,
together with the dull, dead clay of which they form a part; while the freed brain, released
from their narrowing tutelage, steals softly past the ebon gate, to wanton at its own sweet
will among the mazy paths that wind through the garden of Persephone.
Nothing that it meets with in that eternal land astonishes it because, unfettered by the
dense conviction of our waking mind, that nought outside the ken of our own vision can
in this universe be, all things to it are possible and even probable. In dreams, we fly and
wonder not--except that we never flew before. We go naked, yet are not ashamed, though
we mildly wonder what the police are about that they do not stop us. We converse with
our dead, and think it was unkind that they did not come back to us before. In dreams,
there happens that which human language cannot tell. In dreams, we see "the light that
never was on sea or land," we hear the sounds that never yet were heard by waking ears.
It is only in sleep that true imagination ever stirs within us. Awake, we never imagine
anything; we merely alter, vary, or transpose. We give another twist to the kaleidoscope
of the things we see around us, and obtain another pattern; but not one of us has ever
added one tiniest piece of new glass to the toy.
A Dean Swift sees one race of people smaller, and another race of people larger than the
race of people that live down his own streets. And he also sees a land where the horses
take the place of men. A Bulwer Lytton lays the scene of one of his novels inside the
earth instead of outside. A Rider Haggard introduces us to a lady whose age is a few
years more than the average woman would care to confess to; and pictures crabs larger
than the usual shilling or eighteen-penny size. The number of so called imaginative
writers who visit the moon is legion, and for all the novelty that they find, when they get
there, they might just as well have gone to Putney. Others are continually drawing for us
visions of the world one hundred or one thousand years hence. There is always a
depressing absence of human nature about the place; so much so, that one feels great
consolation in the thought, while reading, that we ourselves shall be comfortably dead
and buried before the picture can be realized. In these prophesied Utopias everybody is
painfully good and clean and happy, and all the work is done by electricity.
There is somewhat too much electricity, for my taste, in these worlds to come. One is
reminded of those pictorial enamel-paint advertisements that one sees about so often
now, in which all the members of an extensive household are represented as gathered
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