Esperanto in the "generation of materialism"

As civilization was becoming worldwide, why shouldn't the world have a common language? And if everything else could be manufactured, why not language? Very progressive people were as expectant of synthetic philology as of synthetic rubber, and inventors of either were not lacking. A German priest, Johann Schleyer, invented the odd looking language of "Volapük" in 1879-1880. A first congress of its devotees was held on Lake Constance in 1884, a second at Munich in 1887, a third at the Paris Exposition of 1889. By this date there were 316 textbooks in the new language.

But in the 1890's Volapük was largely supplanted by a still newer language, the invention of a Polish Jew, Louis Lazarus Zamenhof. He published in 1887 a pamphlet entitled "La Lingvo Internacia de la Doktoro Esperanto," meaning, of course, to English speaking people, "The International Language of Dr. Hopeful"; and Esperanto was created. It was subsequently improved and perfected, like any industrial product, and in 1898 it began to be advertised by a French Society for the Propagation of Esperanto. It was the subject of a paper read before the French Academy in 1889; and at the Paris Exposition of 1900 it was, so to speak, placed upon the world market. Great expectations were attached to the future of Esperanto.

At least to many optimists in the year 1900, a made to order world language was but the natural accompaniment of a trend toward a new world order which would be not only mechanically productive but spiritually pacific. One felt pretty sure of this trend as one looked back from 1900 over the preceding quarter century. One beheld so many ripening fruits of international co-operation—­the Universal Postal Union of 1875, the convention of 1883 for the standardization of patent laws and that of 1887 for uniform copyright laws, the succession of world's fairs from the Viennese of 1873 to the Parisian of 1900.

SOURCE: Hayes, Carlton J. H. A Generation of Materialism, 1871-1900 (New York: Harper & Row, 1963 [orig.1941], p. 335. See full text of chapter 9.

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