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
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 (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.
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 … ‘
The Victorians loved to shop. And there were now many new things the growing middle class could buy. Globalisation, improved transport, mass production, new materials – had transformed what was in the shops. Often in lovely, bright (sometimes toxic) new colours!
The Arcade from London Town (1883) by Thomas Crane (1843–1903) & Ellen Houghton (1853-1922). English artists.
‘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.
A dandy’s toilette (1818). A colour engraving, alas the artist is unknown. Used in the book: The corset, A cultural history by Valerie Steele.
The dandy, might be George “Beau” Brummel (1778-1840), an iconic figure in Regency England and an arbiter of men’s fashion. He was a friend of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV.