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Meaning of “A Leap in The Dark” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

A Leap in The Dark

“No doubt, we are making a great experiment, and taking a leap in the dark.”—EDWARD, 14111 EARL OP DERBY (the celebrated “Rupert of Debate”), House of Lords, August 6, 1867, speaking with reference to the Reform Bill of that year.

In the whirligig of time, these words have been bandied about from pillar to post. Colloquially, any “leap in the dark” is a venture into an enterprise with no clear prospect of success: a hazard.

The originator of this phrase was Sir John Vanbrugh, the 17th-century dramatist, who wrote The Provoked Wife, in which (Act v, sc. iii)- he makes Heart free, who was contemplating marriage, say to Belinda: “Madam, you have made me so foolhardy, I dare do anything.” Belinda replies: “Then, sir, I challenge you; and matrimony’s the spot where I expect you.” Heart free then says: “This enough; I’ll not fail.” Then, in an “aside,” he adds: “So, now I am in for Hobbes’s voyage—a great leap in the dark.”

Emerson once wrote that “a great man is always willing to become little,” which is another way of saying that he is willing to learn—even to copy—from another, great man. Thus, Vanbrugh was merely echoing the reputed “last words” of Thomas Hobbes, the more famous author of Leviathan, which was produced earlier in the same century. The great philosopher is said to have remarked on his deathbed: “Nov, I am going to take my last voyage—a great leap into obscurity.” Hobbes, again, may in turn have been influenced by a saying attributed to Rabelais on his deathbed, in the previous century: “I am going to seek a great perhaps.”

When statesmen at any time let slip the dogs of war, they leap into a more profound obscurity than they reck; for they unchain thereby other ferocious beasts, in the shape of uncontrollable dynamic social forces, which can so easily overwhelm many cherished institutions, and ultimately throw the very structure of civilisation.


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