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A Letter from the Man in the Moon

(Left for the Editor at the Railway Station)

[Reprinted from the Exe Valley Magazine]


Dear Cousin,—

Knowing how exceedingly anxious you must be to find out all you can respecting this little planet on which I live, I take this opportunity to send you a few lines to give you some little account of it.

The moon, in many particulars, is like the earth on which you dwell; and perhaps there is no better way to give you a little more information about this planet than by instituting a comparison between it and the earth.


I must presume you are aware that the earth is a globe, nearly round, like an orange; its circumference is about 24,000 miles, and its diameter 8,000. The moon in this respect is like the earth, being also a globe, but it is only 2,160 miles in diameter, and about 7,000 miles in circumference. It would therefore take forty-nine moons to compose a globe the size of the earth. If you will take two threads and suspend an orange and a small cherry at six feet apart, you will then have a fair representation of the relative size and distance from each other of the earth and the moon. But the earth and the moon are not suspended by any visible or tangible object, but were launched forth in the beginning, and are kept in their places by the balance of attraction, constantly revolving, and travelling onward by the direction of Him who also created the insignificant worm, and whose tender care is over all His works.


You know, dear cousin, that the surface of the earth is diversified with large continents, which are dotted with chains of mountains and high hills, some of which are in a state of volcanic eruption. You have also great oceans of water lying in the hollows of your world. In the moon, too, we have mountains and hills, some of them very high and steep, thrown up ages ago by volcanic agency, though at present there is not a trace of existing fire or volcanic action, and you may safely consider the whole mass of the moon to be a huge, exhausted, burnt-out cinder. Your mountains and hills are denuded—worn down—their sharp points and angles are worn away by frost, rain, and snow, and other atmospheric influences which have been constantly acting upon them for ages; but here in the moon we have no such thing as an atmosphere: we therefore have neither clouds nor rain, nor frost nor snow; and in the words of the poet

Here are no storms, no noise,
But silence and eternal sleep.

All here is as quiet and silent as the grave. Sometimes, from the great heat of the sun, great masses of rock will split and crack, and come tumbling down from the sides of the cliffs; yet if you were close on the spot you would not hear the slightest sound, because there is no atmosphere by which sound can be propagated and conveyed. Your fields are clad with verdure, and your pastures with flocks, so that as one of your inspired poets has sung


The valley stands so thick with corn
That they do laugh and sing,


but neither verdure nor corn can exist upon the moon, as no plant-life can grow in a vacuum where there is no moisture.


The crater mountains of the moon are its grand peculiarities. We see here that its whole surface has been upturned, convulsed and dislocated with forces of the greatest activity, the results of which remain to this day; so that our rocks are not levelled down by the fury of tempests, nor smoothed by the constant flow of water, as your earthly mountains are, but stand up in all their primitive sharpness. These volcanic craters are of all sizes, from fifty yards to as many miles across, and in the centre of some of them there stand up lofty hills. Now if you could take up your position upon the highest peak of one of these central hills at the time the sun was rising, you would see the tops of the distant mountains forming a circle round you all illuminated by the sun's light; but as there is no atmosphere, there is no twilight, and consequently the great valley immediately beneath your feet would be in the very blackest of darkness.


I know that you and others have often wondered what those dark grey patches are which you can see upon the moon, even with the unassisted eye. Some people call them "The man in the moon, and his bundle of sticks," and the story goes that I went stealing sticks on a Sunday, and for my wickedness was banished (sticks and all) into the moon! Now I most strongly protest against this cruel libel; I never stole any sticks, even on a week-day, much less on a Sunday, and I must say the people must have dreadful weak eyesight, and a dreadfully strong imagination, to see anything in these dark patches that can possibly be stretched into the shape of a man with a bundle of sticks at his back. So I hope you will kindly contradict this calumnious story whenever you can; indeed, in writing, it was partly my object to ask you to do so.


One of the smallest dark markings that you can see on the moon with the naked eye is known to selenographers by the name of Mare Crisium, or the Crisian Sea; its width across from north to south is 280 miles, and its length is 354 miles from east to west, and it contains about 78,000 square miles - more than half as much again as the area of England and Wales—rather a large size for a bundle of sticks, I opine. There are several other dark or grey patches on the moon, some smaller and some larger than the Mare Crisium, but they are all the beds or bottoms of what were once oceans, seas, and lakes, the waters of which have been dried up or evaporated many years ago. Some think they have all gone over to that side of the moon which never turns round towards you, but I can tell you that is not the case; for if any water did exist on the moon's surface, the attraction of the earth would certainly draw it round to that side nearest to you, and so you would be able to see some signs of it, as well as clouds and vapours which would rise from it during the time of full moon.


There are many other objects of interest, which I could mention to you, but I must draw my letter to a close; I will therefore only just give you the names of a few of those dark hollows which you can see with the unaided eye when the full moon is shining brightly.


There is the "Sea of Tranquillity": its width from north to south is 432 miles, and from east to west 425 miles. There are also the "Sea of Serenity," the "Sea of Fogs," the "Frozen Sea," the "Sea of Vapours" and the "Gulf of Rainbows." This last named will appear to you of a greenish tint, and it is surrounded on nearly all sides with very lofty and steep mountains, some of them more than 15,000 feet high. Then there are the "Ocean of Storms," the "Gulf of Dew," and the "Sea of Humours." This last will also appear of a green tint; it is very level, and is 280 miles across.


Next come the "Sea of Nectar" and the "Sea of Fertility." All these were named "seas," because the ancient astronomers thought they contained water, and that they really were seas; but you are aware now that they contain no trace of water, so I need not inform you of that fact. And now dear cousin, I sincerely hope that what I have written will interest you, and if it does, and you will kindly let me know, I will write you another letter at some future time; but for the present I will say—Farewell!

Your faithful servant and attached cousin,

"The Man in the Moon."

R. Langdon



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