Lippincott's Magazine (May 1885), p. 528.
There is undeniable wit in Flatland, but it is a mathematical fantasy, and the
prosperity of its jests must lie in the ear of the professor of trigonometry or some other
branch of the exact sciences. Conundrums are delightful when a clever answer rewards
some stout cudgeling of the brains; but a book of continuous and unanswerable
conundrums mocks and humiliates even the bravest. Flatland, however, is not shrouded
in complete and painful mystery: there is an occasional lifting of the cloud, when we see
triangles and parallelograms as men walking, and we are ready to declare it an amusing
social satire, when all at once the fog which reigns in that region shuts down, and all
meaning and human likeness vanishes in unrecognizable whim. People who understand
Flatland will henceforth form a cultus by themselves, like the pioneer readers of Mr.
Browning, and will look down on their fellowmen. Whether those who are barred out
form this paradise will pine to get in remains to be seen. In this dim Flatland, where no
sun shines and universal fog reigns, there are two ways of recognizing the various
mathematical figures who make up the population. ``Feeling,'' being rudimentary, belongs
to the uneducated, while ``seeing,'' being a purely intellectual process, is the
accomplishment of the aristocratic and academical. Women being straight lines, like
needles, all point, are more safely approached by academical pure reason and inference
than by actual contact or feeling. The woman question is, in fact, as interesting in
Flatland as elsewhere. It was long ago decided that, since women were deficient in
reason but abundant in emotion, they must not be treated as rational beings: hence they
receive no education, except enough rudimentary mathematics to enable them to define the
angles of their husbands and children. The supreme male sex have thus been forced to
adopt a language which females can understand. ``With women,'' the author remarks, ``we
speak of love, duty, right, and other irrational and emotional conceptions which have no
existence and the fiction of which has no object except to control feminine exuberances.''
Among men love implies ``the anticipation of benefits.'' Women are always spoken to in
terms of adoration, but are alluded to in masculine circles as ``mindless organisms.'' There
is, as may be seen, plenty of point and humor in this, and the development of the story
leads to a narrative which bristles with good things.