This is, above all other ages, the age of thrills. The Romans, no doubt, had their Colosseum, but I doubt if even the Romans expected to be thrilled so continuously as we do nowadays. They had no cinemas running all day long in all parts of the city, or publishing-houses pouring out Tarzans and Sheiks by the hundred thousand. They know nothing of those excitements of speed which you can get nowadays from a race on a motor-omnibus. They did not possess a single aero-plane, and so were never able to sit with their hearts in their mouths watching “stunts” in the air. They seem to have had very little choice between reading Virgil and Caesar and other authors of famous schoolbooks, and going to see the gladiators. No schoolboy, however humane, will be surprised to learn that most of them preferred to go and see the gladiators.
I doubt, however, if we are any happier as a result of the multiplication of thrills in our daily lives. Few of our happiest memories are memories of sensations. Everybody who saw the first Zeppelin brought down over London in flames seemed very happy the next day: they had had the experience of having seen something unique, and for the moment they were able to flatter themselves on their superiority to those of their fellow-creatures who had missed the sensational spectacle. But who now feels happier in his memory for having enjoyed the horror and the triumph of that thrill? I sawonly two Zeppelins brought down in flames, but to remember them gives me no happiness that I would not gladly part with for a Jubilee sixpence. I prefer infinitely to remember lying on my back on a grass grown railway bridge on an Easter Monday, in the sun more than ten years before and eating two sorts of sandwiches wrapped in a newspaper. I do not remember the flavor of the sandwiches, but I remember the cousin who was with me and the sunshine and the grass and the feeling that I couldn't have been happier if I had been in Heaven. Looking backward, we are happier because we have liked somebody or something than because we have participated in the thrill of some at public event.