Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 33. Edward Bellamy

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXI. Political Writing Since 1850

§ 33. Edward Bellamy

In the meantime a vision of a new and radically different social and industrial order was popularized in 1888 in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward. The book was a romance in which the hero, after going to sleep in 1887, awakes in the year 2000 to find vast changes. He learned that

  • there were no longer any who were or could be richer or poorer than others, but that all were economic equals. He learned that no one any longer worked for another, either by compulsion or for hire, but that all alike were in the service of the national working for the common fund, which all equally shared, and even necessary personal attendance, as of the physician, was rendered as to the state, like that of a military surgeon. All these wonders, it was explained, had very simply come about as the results of replacing private capitalism by public capitalism, and organizing the machinery of production and distribution, like the political government, as business of general concern to be carried on for the public benefit instead of private gain.
  • The book was extremely popular for a few years. Bellamy Clubs were organized to discuss the question it suggested, and it became the confession of faith of the Nationalist party.