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The Immortal Bard by Isaac Asimov.

This is a very short story by Isaac Asimov. It's one of my favourites, and I think it's pretty funny. Please excuse any dumb typos. I scanned it in myself and the OCR software is far from perfect, so if you see any errors please email me .

  'OH, YES,' said Dr Phineas Welch, 'I can bring back the spirits of the 
illustrious dead.'
  He was a little drunk, or maybe he wouldn't have said it. Of couse, it
was perfectly all right to get a little drunk at the annual Christmas
  Scott Robertson, the school's young English instructor, adjusted his
glasses and looked to right and left to see if they were overheard.
'Really, Dr Welch.'
  'I mean it. And not just the spirits. I bring back the bodies, too.'
  'I wouldn't have said it were possible,' said Robertson primly.
 'Why not? A simple matter of temporal transference.'
 'You mean time travel? But that's quite - uh - unusual.
 'Not if you know how.'
 'Well, how, Dr Welch?'
 'Think I'm going to tell you?' asked the physicist gravely. He looked
vaguely about for another drink and didn't find any. He said, 'I brought
quite a few back. Archimedes, Newton, Galileo. Poor fellows.'
 'Didn't they like it here? I should think they'd have been fascinated
by our modem science,' said Robertson. He was beginning to enjoy the
 'Oh, they were. They were. Especially Archimedes. I thought he'd go
mad with joy at first after I explained a little of it in some Greek I'd
boned up on, but no - no - '
 'What was wrong?'
 'Just a different culture. They couldn't get used to our way of life.'
They got terribly lonely and frightened. I had to send them back.'
  'That's too bad.'
  'Yes. Great minds, but not flexible minds. Not universal. So I tried
  'What!' yelled Robertson. This was getting closer to home.
  'Don't yell, my boy,' said Welch. 'It's bad manners.'
  'Did you say you brought back Shakespeare?'
  'I did. I needed someone with a universal mind; someone who knew
people well enough to be able to live with them centuries away from his
own time. Shakespeare was the man. I've got his signature. As a
mometo, you know.'
  'On you?' asked Robertson, eyes bulging.
  'Right here.' Welch fumbled in one vest pocket after another. 'Ah,
here it is.'
 A little piece of pasteboard was passed to the instructor. On one side
it said: 'L. Klein & Sons, Wholesale Hardware.' On the other side, in
straggly script, was written, 'Will' Shakesper.'
 A wild surmise filled Robertson. 'What did he look like?'
 'Not like his pictures. Bald and an ugly mustache. He spoke in a thick
brouge. Of course, I did my best to please him with our times. I told him
we thought highly of his plays and still put them on the boards. In fact, I
said we thought they were the greatest pieces of literature in the English
language, maybe in any language.'
 'Good. Good,' said Robertson breathlessly.
 'I said people had written volurnes of commentaries on his plays.
Naturally he wanted to see one and I got one for him from the
 'Oh, he was fascinated. Of course, he had trouble with the current
idioms and references to events since 1600, but I helped out. Poor
fellow. I don't think he ever expected such treatment. He kept saying,
"God ha' mercy! What cannot be racked from words in five centuries?
One could wring, methinks, a flood from a damp clout!" '
 'He wouldn't say that.'
 'Why not? He wrote his plays as quickly as he could. He said he had
to on account of the deadlines. He wrote Hamlet in less than six months.
The plot was an old one. He just polished it up.'
 'That's all they do to a telescope mirror. Just polish it up,' said the
English instructor indignantly.
 The physicist disregarded him. He made out an untouched cocktail
on the bar some feet away and sidled toward it. 'I told the immortal
bard that we even gave college courses in Shakespeare.'
 'I give one.'
 'I know. I enrolled him in your evening extension course. I never saw
a man so eager to find out what posterity thought of him as poor Bill
was. He worked hard at it.'
  'You enrolled William Shakespeare in my courseT' mumbled Rob-
ertson. Even as an alcoholic fantasy, the thought staggered him. And
was it an alcoholic fantasy? He was beginning to recall a bald man with a
queer way of talking. . .
  'Not under his real name, of course,' said Dr. Welch. 'Never mind
what he went under. It was a mistake, that's all. A big mistake. Poor
fellow.' He had the cocktail now and shook his head at it.
  'Why was it a mistake? What happened?'
  'I had to send him back to 1600,' roared Welch indignantly. 'How
much humiliation do you think a man can stand?'
  'What humiliation are you talking about?' 
  Dr Welch tossed off the cocktail. 'Why, you poor simpleton
flunked him.'

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