A smooth grassy slope, bounded, at the upper end, by venerable ruins half buried in ivy, at the lower, by a stream seen through arching trees—a dozen gaily-dressed people, seated in little groups here and there—some open hampers—the debris of a picnic—such were the Facts accumulated by the Scientific Researcher. And now, what deep, far-reaching Theory was he to construct from them? The Researcher found himself at fault. Yet stay! One Fact had escaped his notice. While all the rest were grouped in twos and in threes, Arthur was alone: while all tongues were talking, his was silent: while all faces were gay, his was gloomy and despondent. Here was a Fact indeed! The Researcher felt that a Theory must be constructed without delay.A passage in Lewis Carroll's "Silvie and Bruno," located today, by me, commenting in the comments thread to my
What's going on in that passage? The full text of the book appears at the first link, and here's the Wikipedia article:
The novel has two main plots; one set in the real world at the time the book was published (the Victorian era), the other in the fantasy world of Fairyland. While the latter plot is a fairy tale with many nonsense elements and poems, similar to Carroll's Alice books, the story set in Victorian Britain is a social novel, with its characters discussing various concepts and aspects of religion, society, philosophy and morality.The Wikipedia article refers us to the short story "On Exactitude in Science" by Jorge Luis Borges:
The story elaborates on a concept in Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno Concluded: a fictional map that had "the scale of a mile to the mile." One of Carroll's characters notes some practical difficulties with this map and states that "we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well."ADDED: Here is video of Borges reading the story. He's the audio track, and the visuals are interesting. Via BoingBoing, which links to the text in English here, in case you find it hard to understand the Spanish.
The Borges story, credited fictionally as a quotation from "Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lérida, 1658", imagines an empire where the science of cartography becomes so exact that only a map on the same scale as the empire itself will suffice. "[S]ucceeding Generations… came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome... In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar..."