Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are often said to be the fathers of science fiction – and Mary Shelley the mother. Verne was more interested in scientific theories and technical details, whereas Wells and Shelley were less bothered about such specifics.
So much for 1800s, in fact you can go back a lot further to find early tales that could be considered as sci-fi.
‘A True Story’ is a novel written in the 2nd century by Lucian of Samosata (a Greek-speaking author of Syrian origin). It is the earliest known work of fiction to include travel to outer space, alien life-forms, and interplanetary warfare. Lucian develops the Greek notion that the moon is a mirror world to our own. Setting out on a voyage, the story-teller is caught up in a storm that propels him through the sky, and his ship ends up landing on the moon.
The wonderful illustration shown here is ‘A Voyage to the Moon’ (1868) by Gustave Doré (France, 1832-1883).
Some favourite moon and space quotes:
“There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”
― Octavia E. Butler
“I had aimed at Mars and was about to hit Venus; unquestionably the all-time cosmic record for poor shots.”
― Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pirates of Venus
“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
― Mark Twain
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
― John F. Kennedy
“As different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”
― Emily Brontë
This Saturday, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ begins again [known as ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in the USA] – but over 200 years ago dance enthusiasts would have been excited to feast their eyes on dancing illustrations in magazines.
The illustration we have here shows the correct technique for waltzing (1816). An important social skill for people of a certain class. Perhaps Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley or Lord Byron might have seen this when it first came out.
Some dancing quotes:
“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy!
There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one
of the first refinements of polished society.”
“Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue
amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage
can dance.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
“Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.”
― George Bernard Shaw
“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
“Work like you don’t need the money. Dance like no one is watching. And love like you’ve never been hurt.”
― Mark Twain
Apparently Beards Are Back! And you must keep on top of your beard or they become unmanageable; plucking and trimming – shampoo and beard oil required.
The great age of the beard was the Victorian era. And to judge from this illustration the Victorians struggled with beard grooming as we do today. Perhaps seeing so much out of control facial hair is what inspired the above illustration and limerick from Edward Lear’s A Book of Nonsense, 3rd ed (1861).
“There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared! —
Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard.”
The original handwritten first page of The Lord of the Rings (1937) by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), Professor of Old and Middle English language and literature at The University of Oxford. Tolkien’s personal and academic papers are archived at the Bodleian Library.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door” – The Lord of the Rings
A long job handwriting 1178 pages, let alone dreaming up the wonderful world of Middle-Earth, phew.
“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”
― The Lord of the Rings
1920s illustration predicting what a robot would look like: “The Robot rising from it’s seat and bowing.”
Looks a bit like the Tin Man from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to me.
“Now I know I’ve got a heart because it is breaking”. [Tin Man]
― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Illustration (1894) of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. [Artist, Hugh Thomson]. Depicted here is the cousin of Mr Bennet – and clergyman of the parsonage near Rosing’s Park – protesting that he never reads novels.
‘ By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies. Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it .. he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. — Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. — Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with … ‘
I rather like this from the excellent Mr Collins:
‘My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world of your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding … ‘
‘A duel between nuns’ from the Illustrated Police News (1869). Not something you read every day! The full title: is ‘A duel between nuns within their convent near Genoa [Italy] according to the information of the time, no blood was poured’.
The Illustrated Police News was founded in 1864 – it was a popular British magazine full of lurid stories and produced famously sensational stories during the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. It ceased publication in 1938.