How The Stranger Vainly Endeavoured To Reveal To Me In Words The Mysteries Of Spaceland


As soon as the sound of the Peace-cry of my departing Wife had died

away, I began to approach the Stranger with the intention of taking a

nearer view and of bidding him be seated: but his appearance struck me

dumb and motionless with astonishment. Without the slightest symptoms

of angularity he nevertheless varied every instant with graduations of

size and brightness scarcely possible for any Figure within the scope

f my experience. The thought flashed across me that I might have

before me a burglar or cut-throat, some monstrous Irregular Isosceles,

who, by feigning the voice of a Circle, had obtained admission somehow

into the house, and was now preparing to stab me with his acute angle.

In a sitting-room, the absence of Fog (and the season happened to be

remarkably dry), made it difficult for me to trust to Sight

Recognition, especially at the short distance at which I was standing.

Desperate with fear, I rushed forward with an unceremonious, "You must

permit me, Sir--" and felt him. My Wife was right. There was not the

trace of an angle, not the slightest roughness or inequality: never in

my life had I met with a more perfect Circle. He remained motionless

while I walked around him, beginning from his eye and returning to it

again. Circular he was throughout, a perfectly satisfactory Circle;

there could not be a doubt of it. Then followed a dialogue, which I

will endeavour to set down as near as I can recollect it, omitting only

some of my profuse apologies--for I was covered with shame and

humiliation that I, a Square, should have been guilty of the

impertinence of feeling a Circle. It was commenced by the Stranger

with some impatience at the lengthiness of my introductory process.

Stranger. Have you felt me enough by this time? Are you not

introduced to me yet?

I. Most illustrious Sir, excuse my awkwardness, which arises not from

ignorance of the usages of polite society, but from a little surprise

and nervousness, consequent on this somewhat unexpected visit. And I

beseech you to reveal my indiscretion to no one, and especially not to

my Wife. But before your Lordship enters into further communications,

would he deign to satisfy the curiosity of one who would gladly know

whence his visitor came?

Stranger. From Space, from Space, Sir: whence else?

I. Pardon me, my Lord, but is not your Lordship already in Space, your

Lordship and his humble servant, even at this moment?

Stranger. Pooh! what do you know of Space? Define Space.

I. Space, my Lord, is height and breadth indefinitely prolonged.

Stranger. Exactly: you see you do not even know what Space is. You

think it is of Two Dimensions only; but I have come to announce to you

a Third--height, breadth, and length.

I. Your Lordship is pleased to be merry. We also speak of length and

height, or breadth and thickness, thus denoting Two Dimensions by four


Stranger. But I mean not only three names, but Three Dimensions.

I. Would your Lordship indicate or explain to me in what direction is

the Third Dimension, unknown to me?

Stranger. I came from it. It is up above and down below.

I. My Lord means seemingly that it is Northward and Southward.

Stranger. I mean nothing of the kind. I mean a direction in which you

cannot look, because you have no eye in your side.

I. Pardon me, my Lord, a moment's inspection will convince your

Lordship that I have a perfectly luminary at the juncture of my two


Stranger: Yes: but in order to see into Space you ought to have an

eye, not on your Perimeter, but on your side, that is, on what you

would probably call your inside; but we in Spaceland should call it

your side.

I. An eye in my inside! An eye in my stomach! Your Lordship jests.

Stranger. I am in no jesting humour. I tell you that I come from

Space, or, since you will not understand what Space means, from the

Land of Three Dimensions whence I but lately looked down upon your

Plane which you call Space forsooth. From that position of advantage I

discerned all that you speak of as SOLID (by which you mean "enclosed

on four sides"), your houses, your churches, your very chests and

safes, yes even your insides and stomachs, all lying open and exposed

to my view.

I. Such assertions are easily made, my Lord.

Stranger. But not easily proved, you mean. But I mean to prove mine.

When I descended here, I saw your four Sons, the Pentagons, each in his

apartment, and your two Grandsons the Hexagons; I saw your youngest

Hexagon remain a while with you and then retire to his room, leaving

you and your Wife alone. I saw your Isosceles servants, three in

number, in the kitchen at supper, and the little Page in the scullery.

Then I came here, and how do you think I came?

I. Through the roof, I suppose.

Strange. Not so. Your roof, as you know very well, has been recently

repaired, and has no aperture by which even a Woman could penetrate. I

tell you I come from Space. Are you not convinced by what I have told

you of your children and household?

I. Your Lordship must be aware that such facts touching the belongings

of his humble servant might be easily ascertained by any one of the

neighbourhood possessing your Lordship's ample means of information.

Stranger. (TO HIMSELF.) What must I do? Stay; one more argument

suggests itself to me. When you see a Straight Line-- your wife, for

example--how many Dimensions do you attribute to her?

I. Your Lordship would treat me as if I were one of the vulgar who,

being ignorant of Mathematics, suppose that a Woman is really a

Straight Line, and only of One Dimension. No, no, my Lord; we Squares

are better advised, and are as well aware of your Lordship that a

Woman, though popularly called a Straight Line, is, really and

scientifically, a very thin Parallelogram, possessing Two Dimensions,

like the rest of us, viz., length and breadth (or thickness).

Stranger. But the very fact that a Line is visible implies that it

possesses yet another Dimension.

I. My Lord, I have just acknowledged that a Woman is broad as well as

long. We see her length, we infer her breadth; which, though very

slight, is capable of measurement.

Stranger. You do not understand me. I mean that when you see a Woman,

you ought--besides inferring her breadth--to see her length, and to SEE

what we call her HEIGHT; although the last Dimension is infinitesimal

in your country. If a Line were mere length without "height," it would

cease to occupy Space and would become invisible. Surely you must

recognize this?

I. I must indeed confess that I do not in the least understand your

Lordship. When we in Flatland see a Line, we see length and

BRIGHTNESS. If the brightness disappears, the Line is extinguished,

and, as you say, ceases to occupy Space. But am I to suppose that your

Lordship gives the brightness the title of a Dimension, and that what

we call "bright" you call "high"?

Stranger. No, indeed. By "height" I mean a Dimension like your

length: only, with you, "height" is not so easily perceptible, being

extremely small.

I. My Lord, your assertion is easily put to the test. You say I have

a Third Dimension, which you call "height." Now, Dimension implies

direction and measurement. Do but measure my "height," or merely

indicate to me the direction in which my "height" extends, and I will

become your convert. Otherwise, your Lordship's own understand must

hold me excused.

Stranger. (TO HIMSELF.) I can do neither. How shall I convince him?

Surely a plain statement of facts followed by ocular demonstration

ought to suffice. --Now, Sir; listen to me.

You are living on a Plane. What you style Flatland is the vast level

surface of what I may call a fluid, or in, the top of which you and

your countrymen move about, without rising above or falling below it.

I am not a plane Figure, but a Solid. You call me a Circle; but in

reality I am not a Circle, but an infinite number of Circles, of size

varying from a Point to a Circle of thirteen inches in diameter, one

placed on the top of the other. When I cut through your plane as I am

now doing, I make in your plane a section which you, very rightly, call

a Circle. For even a Sphere--which is my proper name in my own

country--if he manifest himself at all to an inhabitant of

Flatland--must needs manifest himself as a Circle.

Do you not remember--for I, who see all things, discerned last night

the phantasmal vision of Lineland written upon your brain--do you not

remember, I say, how when you entered the realm of Lineland, you were

compelled to manifest yourself to the King, not as a Square, but as a

Line, because that Linear Realm had not Dimensions enough to represent

the whole of you, but only a slice or section of you? In precisely the

same way, your country of Two Dimensions is not spacious enough to

represent me, a being of Three, but can only exhibit a slice or section

of me, which is what you call a Circle.

The diminished brightness of your eye indicates incredulity. But now

prepare to receive proof positive of the truth of my assertions. You

cannot indeed see more than one of my sections, or Circles, at a time;

for you have no power to raise your eye out of the plane of Flatland;

but you can at least see that, as I rise in Space, so my sections

become smaller. See now, I will rise; and the effect upon your eye

will be that my Circle will become smaller and smaller till it dwindles

to a point and finally vanishes.

There was no "rising" that I could see; but he diminished and finally

vanished. I winked once or twice to make sure that I was not dreaming.

But it was no dream. For from the depths of nowhere came forth a

hollow voice--close to my heart it seemed--"Am I quite gone? Are you

convinced now? Well, now I will gradually return to Flatland and you

shall see my section become larger and larger."

Every reader in Spaceland will easily understand that my mysterious

Guest was speaking the language of truth and even of simplicity. But

to me, proficient though I was in Flatland Mathematics, it was by no

means a simple matter. The rough diagram given above will make it

clear to any Spaceland child that the Sphere, ascending in the three

positions indicated there, must needs have manifested himself to me, or

to any Flatlander, as a Circle, at first of full size, then small, and

at last very small indeed, approaching to a Point. But to me, although

I saw the facts before me, the causes were as dark as ever. All that I

could comprehend was, that the Circle had made himself smaller and

vanished, and that he had now re-appeared and was rapidly making

himself larger.

When he regained his original size, he heaved a deep sigh; for he

perceived by my silence that I had altogether failed to comprehend him.

And indeed I was now inclining to the belief that he must be no Circle

at all, but some extremely clever juggler; or else that the old wives'

tales were true, and that after all there were such people as

Enchanters and Magicians.

After a long pause he muttered to himself, "One resource alone remains,

if I am not to resort to action. I must try the method of Analogy."

Then followed a still longer silence, after which he continued our


Sphere. Tell me, Mr. Mathematician; if a Point moves Northward, and

leaves a luminous wake, what name would you give to the wake?

I. A straight Line.

Sphere. And a straight Line has how many extremities?

I. Two.

Sphere. Now conceive the Northward straight Line moving parallel to

itself, East and West, so that every point in it leaves behind it the

wake of a straight Line. What name will you give to the Figure thereby

formed? We will suppose that it moves through a distance equal to the

original straight line. --What name, I say?

I. A square.

Sphere. And how many sides has a Square? How many angles?

I. Four sides and four angles.

Sphere. Now stretch your imagination a little, and conceive a Square

in Flatland, moving parallel to itself upward.

I. What? Northward?

Sphere. No, not Northward; upward; out of Flatland altogether.

If it moved Northward, the Southern points in the Square would have to

move through the positions previously occupied by the Northern points.

But that is not my meaning.

I mean that every Point in you--for you are a Square and will serve the

purpose of my illustration--every Point in you, that is to say in what

you call your inside, is to pass upwards through Space in such a way

that no Point shall pass through the position previously occupied by

any other Point; but each Point shall describe a straight Line of its

own. This is all in accordance with Analogy; surely it must be clear

to you.

Restraining my impatience--for I was now under a strong temptation to

rush blindly at my Visitor and to precipitate him into Space, or out of

Flatland, anywhere, so that I could get rid of him--I replied:--

"And what may be the nature of the Figure which I am to shape out by

this motion which you are pleased to denote by the word 'upward'? I

presume it is describable in the language of Flatland."

Sphere. Oh, certainly. It is all plain and simple, and in strict

accordance with Analogy--only, by the way, you must not speak of the

result as being a Figure, but as a Solid. But I will describe it to

you. Or rather not I, but Analogy.

We began with a single Point, which of course--being itself a

Point--has only ONE terminal Point.

One Point produces a Line with TWO terminal Points.

One Line produces a Square with FOUR terminal Points.

Now you can give yourself the answer to your own question: 1, 2, 4,

are evidently in Geometrical Progression. What is the next number?

I. Eight.

Sphere. Exactly. The one Square produces a SOMETHING-WHICH-YOU-


terminal Points. Now are you convinced?

I. And has this Creature sides, as well as Angles or what you call

"terminal Points"?

Sphere. Of course; and all according to Analogy. But, by the way, not

what YOU call sides, but what WE call sides. You would call them


I. And how many solids or sides will appertain to this Being whom I am

to generate by the motion of my inside in an "upward" direction, and

whom you call a Cube?

Sphere. How can you ask? And you a mathematician! The side of

anything is always, if I may so say, one Dimension behind the thing.

Consequently, as there is no Dimension behind a Point, a Point has 0

sides; a Line, if I may so say, has 2 sides (for the points of a Line

may be called by courtesy, its sides); a Square has 4 sides; 0, 2, 4;

what Progression do you call that?

I. Arithmetical.

Sphere. And what is the next number?

I. Six.

Sphere. Exactly. Then you see you have answered your own question.

The Cube which you will generate will be bounded by six sides, that is

to say, six of your insides. You see it all now, eh?

"Monster," I shrieked, "be thou juggler, enchanter, dream, or devil, no

more will I endure thy mockeries. Either thou or I must perish." And

saying these words I precipitated myself upon him.