Lydia Sigourney’s 1854 lament about progress speaks to the emergence of a desire for mobility, for travel at increasing rates of speed: “We plod after it in our antique, lumbering stage-coaches, and can scarcely keep in sight the smoke of its engine. We can not overtake it, and it will not stay for us.” It isn’t just about the speed though; it’s a matter of climate control. Food, one of our most basic “goods,” is endlessly tangled up in the need for speed and narrow spectrums of climate.
“Every year of my life,” says Cecil, “I grow more convinced that it is wisest and best to fix our attention on the beautiful and the good, and dwell as little as possible on the dark and the base.” Yet it is said that the past-meridians are prone to be querulous, dissatisfied, and to multiply complaints. I think I have heard a few of these. Supposing we should listen to and examine them. ” The world is not what it used to be.” No. It is in a state of palpable progress. It has thrown off its seven-mile boots, and travels by steam. We plod after it in our antique, lumbering stage-coaches, and can scarcely keep in sight the smoke of its engine. We can not overtake it, and it will not stay for us. The world is in a different phase of action. It pleads guilty to this accusation.
What next? ” We do not receive the respect that was once paid to age.” Perhaps we expect too much. Is not something due from us? We think the young neglect us. Do we not owe something to the young ourselves? Those who linger at a banquet after others are gone, should take especial pains to make themselves agreeable. If we find less courtesy than we wish, let us show more. It becomes us to be very meek and patient, to make amends for our long entertainment at life’s board. “I had a beautiful dream,” said a bright boy. “I thought we children were all in heaven, and so happy. By and by, grandfather came in frowning, and said as he always does, ‘Can’t these children stop their noise?’ So, we all ran away.” (24-25)