LADY STEPNEY told me meantime that the Arctic voyagers had gone through hardships such as could never be told: but it only proved (and to this in particular she required my assent)
`that the Deity is everywhere, and more particularly in barren places'. She went on to say how very wrong she thought it to send men into such places, without any better reason than she had ever heard of. `They say it is to discover the North Pole,' she proceeded; `and, by the bye, it is curious that Newton should have come within thirty miles of the North Pole in his discoveries. They say, you know,' and here she looked exceedingly sagacious and amused; `they say that they have found the magnetic pole. But you and I know what a magnet is, very well. We know that a little thing like that would be pulled out of its place in the middle of the sea.'
When I reported this conversation to my mother, we determined to get one of this lady's novels immediately, and see what she could write that would sell for seven hundred pounds. If she was to be believed as to this, it really was a curious sign of the times. I never saw any of her books, after all. I can hardly expect to be believed about the anecdote of the magnet (which I imagine she took to be a little red horse-shoe), and I had some difficulty in believing it myself, at the moment; but I have given her very words. And they were no joke. She shook her head-dress of marabou feathers and black bugles with her excitement as she talked.
From Harriet Martineau, Autobiography (1887), i. 372-373.
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