Quotes Science and Memory


‘How is he chained?’

‘With an iron band round his waist fixed to the bench he sits on, and a sort of handcuff on his left wrist chaining him to the oar. He’s on the lower deck where the worst men are sent, and the only light comes from the hatchways and through the oar-holes. Can’t you imagine the sunlight just squeezing through between the handle and the hole and wobbling about as the ship moves?’”


This is from  “The Finest  Story in the World”.” collected in Many Inventions.

The story-teller has made friends with a young bank clerk who wants to be a writer. He brings him vivid lines describing the world of a galley-slave in ancient times.

They are memories of a past life.

Good! Good! Oh, by God, that’s good!’ His voice rose and he spoke rightly and fully without a falter:—

Candied apple, quince and plum and gourd,With jellies smoother than the creamy curd,, And lucent syrops tinct with cinnamon…


This is from “Wireless” collected in Traffics and Discoveries.

On a freezing Winter night, during an experiment with radio waves in the next room, a young consumptive, a pharmacist like the poet Keats, whom he has never read, writes lines from “The Eve of St Agnes” written by Keats seventy years before.

Like the radio waves across space, a mysterious connection over time.

‘We can’t tell on what system this dam’ dynamo of our universe is wound, but we know we’re in the middle of every sort of wave, as we call ’em.’


This is from “Unprofessional,  in Kipling’s last collection. Limits and Renewals.

It explores the idea that forces from space, which as we know pull the seas to and fro, may also cause tides in our bodies.

The story has a modern scientific echo of old astrological beliefs in the influence of the stars.