A Discovery of New Worlds
In this charming and witty dialogue translated by the first professional woman writer in English, a 17th century astronomer staying at the chateau of a beautiful Marchioness accompanies her into her garden at night and introduces her to the new discoveries of astronomy Although more than 300 years old, Fontenelle's dialogues in a garden over five nights are still a surprisingly painless way to learn about the sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars, even though new planets were later discovered and modern science has filled out many details Fontenelle could not have known. Only the confidence with which he discusses inhabitants of the planets, the moon, and even the sun is now seen as misplaced. This is no lecture, but a conversation with the cut and thrust of intelligent argument as the Marchioness challenges each of the astronomer's assertions and requires him to explain the evidence. Fontenelle's work has been through the hands of many different translators, but Aphra Behn's translation, one of the earliest, adds the feminine wit of a leading dramatist to the work, in the first modern edition of this translation.