… is from page 151 of H.L. Mencken’s August 1927 American Mercury essay titled “Aubade” as this essay is reprinted in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (1995):
The name of the man who first made a slave of fire … is unknown to historians: burrow and sweat as they will, their efforts to unearth it are always baffled. And no wonder. For isn’t it easy to imagine how infamous that name must have been while it was still remembered, and how diligent and impassioned the endeavor to erase it from the tablets of the race? One pictures the indignation of the clergy when so vast an improvement upon their immemorial magic confronted them, and their herculean and unanimous struggle, first to put it down as unlawful and against God, and then to collar it for themselves. Bonfires were surely not unknown in the morning of the Pleistocene, for there were lightnings then as now, but the first one kindled by mortal hands must have shocked humanity. One pictures news flashing from cave to cave and from tribe to tribe – out of Central Asia and then across the grasslands, and they around the feet of the glaciers into the gloomy, spook-haunted wilderness that is now Western Europe, and so across in Africa. Something new and dreadful was upon the human race, and by the time the Ur-Mississippians of the Neander Valley heard of it, you may be sure, the discoverer has sprouted horns and was in the pay of the Devil.
DBx: And so were innovations and innovators generally thought of throughout almost all of human history, until the past two or three centuries. Things changed for the better only when bourgeois virtues and pursuits conferred dignity.