Sailing to the moon (1868); an Ancient Greek idea

A Voyage to the Moon (1868) by Gustave Doré

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

Victorian street performers on stilts – magic on sticks

I particularly like this print. It brings back memories of my having a coffee in an upstairs cafe in Leicester a few years ago – turning and looking out the window – and seeing a similar scene to this outside! Stilt walkers a few feet away, our heads at the same height, and within a moment I went from pondering stressful work issues to a huge grin.

Victorian street performers on stilts.

“Damn everything but the circus!. . .The average ‘painter’ ‘sculptor’ ‘poet’ ‘composer’ ‘playwright’ is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with a clown’s mouth, orchestrate twenty lions.”
E.E. Cummings

“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy!” – Waltzing (1816)

Illustration of the correct technique for waltzing (1816).

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

 

Troublesome beards & delightful limericks: Edward Lear’s A Book of Nonsense (1861)

Illustration of 'There was an Old Man with a Beard ' - a limerick from Edward Lear’s A Book of Nonsense

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.”

 

I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake. A ladder to the stars.

Image of I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake

I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake (English, 1757-1827). The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.

In Blake’s 1793 engraving, the poet and artist finds an inspired solution to getting to the moon: a really big ladder! Elon Musk could learn something. Or is this piece of art about something else? Seems quite apt for today.

A witch advertising Pears Soap (1899-1900)

Witch in Pears Soap 1899-1900

“Wither! Oh wither! Fair maiden so high?

To write the name of PEARS on the sky.

Why go so far from the land of your birth?

Because it is written all over the Earth.”

A witch on her broomstick advertising Pears Soap (1899-1900).

“Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft were written by men.” ― Neil Gaiman