Fantastic Victoriana: E

asterley, Robert. Robert Easterley and his best pal Jack Wilbraham were created by Robert Potter and appeared in The Germ Growers (1892). Potter (1856-1908) was born in Ireland but moved to Australia and eventually became canon of St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne. The Germ Growers was Potter’s only sfnal novel, and despite being little known deserves consideration as the first serious attempt at portraying the alien invasion of Earth. (The Germ Growers was published six years before H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds). It may also be the first novel involving alien abductions as well as one of the first dealing with germ warfare.

Easterley and Wilbraham are two young men from Wales. As a teenager Easterley muses about the tradition of stories of strange disappearances from villages along the Welsh coast and wonders if aliens were responsible for them, even centuries ago. Then Easterley actually witnesses an abduction. He doesn’t see the man taken into the ship, but he sees the man walk around a hill and then not reappear. More interestingly, Easterley sees evidence of the aliens’ ships. They are invisible to the eye, but they cast shadows on the ground as they fly over: “it was just such a shadow as might be cast by a yawl-built boat lying on the body of a large wheelbarrow.”

After the abduction there is an outbreak of epidemics in Wales. Easterley and Wilbraham leave for Oxford. After graduation they decide to go to Australia to start sheep and cattle farming. They spend time learning about their new country, meeting people, and trying out farming. They meet the natives and display the sadly-to-be-expected racism: "as a general rule...they have no really great qualities, none of those which are sometimes attributed to other barbarous races, as, for instance, to the American red man and even to the negro." Their opinion of the natives does not change even while they are being helped by Gioro, a native of the highest qualities. Gioro is honest, a gentlemen, loyal to Easterley and Wilbraham, gentle and suave but with a spark of self-assertion and an unassuming dignity. Easterley and Wilbraham hire Gioro as a guide, and he takes them across much of the outback before being he is attacked and killed by a tribe of evil natives. Easterley and Wilbraham bury Gioro and cry over him and then continue on. They are lost somewhere in Kimberleys, the plateau region of northern Western Australia (you can find more information on them, including some very nice pictures, at this site) when they see the shadows of the aliens’ ships moving across the ground.

They follow the shadows into a hidden valley in which they discover a strange base manned by what the pair believe is a secret society attempting to conquer the world by creating new forms of plague. The leader of the secret society is Signor Niccolo Davelli, an evil man who tries to recruit Easterley and Wilbraham. They refuse, and are threatened with the fate of the abductees, including the man Easterley saw taken: to become mind-controlled slaves. The pair continue to refuse and finally discover that Davelli and the other members of the secret society are not humans, but aliens. They have advanced technology, can control the minds of humans, change their shape, and teleport, and Signor Davelli in particular is quite wicked–“evil incarnate” in Easterley’s words. Davelli tries to use his mind control powers to turn Easterley against Wilbraham and to control them both, and things look dire for the pair, but luckily God intervenes, shielding Easterley’s mind, and Davelli’s mind control fails.

Then another alien race appears and drives off Davelli and the other bad aliens. Leäfar, the representative of the good aliens, tells Easterley and Wilbraham that his race and Davelli’s race have been interfering in human history for centuries. Davelli’s race, you see, are warring on “the Infinite One,” a.k.a. God, and carry out a proxy war on Earth. Davelli was very active in Renaissance Italy. Leäfar intervened to "warn your first father of the designs of an enemy of the same order as this one of yours, but far mightier than he. Later on in the plains of Assyria, under the name and form of a man, I baffled the designs of another of the same evil race." Both sets of aliens are "inhabitants not of earth, but of ether; as they have themselves told you, we are dwellers in space."

The Germ Growers is of interest not for the writing, which is strictly average, but for the ideas. There is the theme of alien abduction. There is the biological warfare theme; the epidemics are grown in "artificial seed-beds of pestilence" to wipe out humans. And there are the lesser marvels, like the flying cars and the paint which once applied renders things invisible.

berhart, Master Sacristan. Master Sacristan Eberhart was created by Sabine Baring-Gould and appeared in “Master Sacristan Eberhart” (Hurst Johnian, December 1858). Baring-Gould (1834-1924) was a British clergyman and writer of a wide range of works, from theology to folklore studies to hymns (he was the one who wrote “Onward, Christian Soldiers), but he also wrote some horror and ghost stories. “Master Sacristan Eberhart” is an entertaining ghost story that I found kinda sweet. E.F. Bleiler would undoubtedly say it was too sentimental, but it pleased me. Master Eberhart is the Sacristan (Oxford English Dictionary: “the sexton of a parish church. Obscure or archaic”) of “the ancient church of S. Sebaldus,” and lives, “as others of his profession have done before, and do still on the continent, in the tower, above the big bells.” His duty is to watch for fires in the villages around him, and to sound the church bells if a house or village is on fire. This is a lonely life; very few people ascend the three hundred and sixty five steps to see him, for he is somewhat odd, being very pious and easily vexed by the bell-ringers, who he finds too earthy. And when the Priest visits, Master Eberhart talks to him “not as if he were flesh and blood, but as if he were a stone man; not a gargoyle exactly, but a church monument.” Master Eberhart does have one friend, however. His tower has four statues on it, a horse, a dragon, an eagle, and a monk. Master Eberhart does not talk to the horse or dragon or eagle, but he carries on long conversations with the monk, whose nose has been carried off by frost. “On a sunny day, it was so agreeable to sit on the leads, leaning against the battlements, right over against the monk, and discuss the world below.” Master Eberhart discusses everything with the stone monk, chant psalms and hymns with him. One day the Priest comes and reads Master Eberhart the life story of St. Simon Stylites, and as the Priest leaves he says, to the stone monk, “Good morrow, Father Simon,” and from that day forward Master Eberhart calls the stone monk “Father Simon.” One day, however, Master Eberhart notices a long crack on the back of the monk. Panicked, he rings the church bells, and pleads with the church sexton to send a mason at once to fix Father Simon. The next day the mason and his man arrive, and they bring Father Simon into Master Eberhart’s room. Master Eberhart offers to fix him with his life savings, which he points out to the men, but the mason laughs off the idea of reattaching Father Simon to the church, and points out that he would have to have iron clamps put through him.

That night Master Eberhart lights his fire, as usual, and enjoys his bread, which he offers to Father Simon (who does not accept). Master Eberhart begins his evening prayers after he finishes his simple meal. “Long and earnestly did the old man pray, his silver hair trailing over his thin fingers. He said his prayers aloud and sang a psalm or two on his knees, then remained silent for a moment or two. A shadow fell along his book–something cold touched his head–he felt two heavy hands on his hair–like a priest’s, blessing him.” Master Eberhart quite happily goes to bed, thinking “That is just as it ought to have been.” That night Master Eberhart wakes up and hears Father Simon going down into the belfry, touching the bells, then returning to Master Eberhart’s room and laying himself down on the Sacristan’s bed. Master Eberhart feels how cold the night air is and offers his coverlid to the monk, but the statue does not respond, so the Sacristan wraps the blanket around the monk and goes to sleep. The next day passes ordinarily, and that night the Sacristan lights a fire and warms himself at it. After his prayers he is again blessed by Father Simon. But during the night Master Eberhart awakes to find Father Simon sitting in front of the hearth, his face changed, the features “resolute, inflexible, determined...the monk had some errand to perform.” After midnight Master Eberhart hears someone crawling into the tower, and is about to see who it is when Father Simon “turned his head cautiously round and beckoned with his stone finger.” It turns out to be the mason’s assistant, come to kill Master Eberhart and steal his life’s savings. “A heavy tread behind him made him turn sharply round, and a fearful shriek broke from him, as his eyes encountered the stone monk leaning towards him, the cold eyes fixed on his, the granite hands extended, the knees bent as if for a leap.” Father Simon’s fingers touch the man’s throat, and then the statue becomes rigid and falls on top of the man, tumbling him down to the belfry.

In the morning he sees “a heap–the stone monk on top, crouching, one hand on his knee, the other clenched at the mason’s throat.” The man is dead, and Father Simon is snapped in half. “The old man said gravely to himself, ‘I daresay that all creatures in nature, or in art, whatever they may be, cheerful flowers, happy birds, or only bits of stone, may become to us angels of good, if we only love them with true heart and reverence.'”

Yes, it’s manipulative and sentimental, and you don’t find this sort of writing done by Jews or Muslims, only Christian propagandists (at least, during the 19th century you don’t), but Master Eberhart is such a sweet, unassuming character that you find yourself rooting for him, even if (like me) you have a deeply ingrained distrust-verging-on-loathing for Christian propaganda and religiously didactic stories. Baring-Gould has an easy going style which makes “Master Sacristan Eberhart” a very agreeable read; Baring-Gould’s style is conversational but also includes the occasional aside (“Now, the Sacristan was a pious man, although he was odd too–at least, ‘the people down below’ called him so–I think he was very sensible, but as we may differ on the point, I leave you to judge for yourself”) which helps leave the impression of the story being something told to the reader by someone else. And it is obvious that Baring-Gould means for the story to be genial, rather than brutal, so that the pleasant narration works well in the context of the story. Interestingly, though, my first reaction (and, as usual, I’m presuming to speak for at least a significant minority of other readers) to Father Simon’s movements, especially the blessing, was to be chilled. In other circumstances the addition of horror story elements into a benevolent religious fable would be a mistake, or result in an uneasy combination, but in this story it works.

Master Sacristan Eberhart is an innocent. He may get annoyed with earthy people, but his philosophy is gentle one. He is a devout Christian, of course, and firmly believes that all God’s works praise Him, but he’s a generous and nice person generally. He’s not all there, however, between his conversation with the unmoving Father Simon and his later acceptance, with startling equanimity, of the statue’s coming to life.

dison, Tom. (sorta). Pseudo-Edison appeared in Garrett P. Serviss' Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898). Serviss was an American lawyer, lecturer, and freelance journalist who wrote a variety of sf novels. Edison's Conquest of Mars is an Edisonade written for adults--a rarity for the time. It was originally published in the New York Evening Journal, believe it or not. Its later collection into novel form sold quite well, despite Serviss' dismissal of scientific explanations and technical details as being beyond the reader's knowledge and interest (an irritating authorial tactic, I've always found, and one more-or-less at odds with the way in which other Edisonade authors, like Luis Senarens and Edward S. Ellis, wrote their stories).

Edison's Conquest of Mars was written as a kind of unofficial sequel to Wells' The War of the Worlds, which was, in 1897, creating quite a stir via an unofficial reprinting/rewriting in Cosmopolitan (and inspiring various "imitations," to boot, copyright laws being absent at this time).  In Edison's Conquest of Mars the Martian invasion was much more widespread and damaging; most of the world was badly harmed. The Martians themselves are different, being humanoid and fifteen feet tall. They are more intelligent than humans but are uniformly vicious and evil. They were killed by bacteria, as in Wells' novel.

The Earth is reeling from the "profound mental and moral depression" caused by the invaders' technological superiority. When strange lights are seen on the surface of Mars--the signal for a new invasion---the "universal despair" becomes "tenfold blacker."  But

Suddenly from Mr. Edison's laboratory at Orange flashed the startling intelligence that he had not only discovered the manner in which the invaders had been able to produce the mighty energies which they employed with such terrible effect, but that, going further, he had found a way to overcome them.
Serviss makes it clear from the very beginning of the novel that his protagonist is not someone coincidentally named "Thomas Alva Edison," but rather the Tom Edison. Edison studies abandoned Martian equipment and discovers an electric repulsion force that works as a source of antigravity, which he then uses to design and build a spaceship. Because this is Edison, his new shape is faster and more maneuverable than the Martian crafts; Edison single-handedly bypasses the centuries of Martian technology and inventiveness. Edison also discovers a "vibratory disintegrator" capable of working at long ranges, that is superior to the Martians' electric ray.

When the other countries learn of Edison's inventions, they are cheered, and the various heads of state, including Queen Victoria, the Kaiser, and the Mikado, go to Washington and get financing for a war against the Martians. 100 ships are built, using Edison's new antigravity force, and Edison is put in charge of them; the ships are manned by twenty men of various countries, including the world's greatest scientists. The fleet goes to Mars, but first they Edison and the narrator take a side-trip to the moon where they test out their space suits and find the remains of an ancient civilisation and one enormous footprint.

The fleet invades Mars; initially they are stalemated by the numbers of Martian warships, achieving a number of Pyrrhic victories and managing to capture only one Martian, but Edison (of course) comes up with the means by which to defeat the Martians for good: flooding the planet. Edison leads the raiding party on the building that controls the polar floodgates (don't ask), and throws the switch, flooding Mars, killing millions of Martians, wrecking their civilisation, and forcing their surrender. It turns out that Martian evolution matched that of Earth's (except for that little part about the Martians being so much bigger than humans), and the issue, for Edison and Serviss, is of who is to triumph: Martians or Earthlings. (The issue is presented as an either/or). Edison and his allies discover that the Martians had brought humans to Mars after the Martians had built the pyramids--they'd gone on a harvesting run in Kashmir--and were using them as slaves.

Edison's Conquest of Mars is of interest only for some of the ideas; as fiction it's crude and sloppy.

dison, Jr., Tom. Tom Edison, Jr., was created by "Philip Reade" and appeared in Tom Ed appeared in eleven stories in Nugget Library, two stories in New York Five Cent Library, and a serial in Good News, all Street and Smith magazines, from 1891 to 1892. "Philip Reade" was the house name for writers at Street and Smith; it's not known who created or wrote most of the Tom Edison, Jr. stories, although we do know that "Tom Edison Jr.'s Air-Ship in Australia" & "Tom Edison Jr.'s Electric Eagle," both 1892, were written by Henry L. Williams (1842-?), a prolific but untalented writer and editor whose best work was in his translations (Victor Hugo, Dumas père, Balzac, and others). The other nine stories, "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Sky-Scraping Trip; or Over the Wild West Like a Flying Squirrel," (1891), "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Prairie-Skimmer Team; A Sequel to Tom Edison, Jr.'s Sky-Scraping Trip" (1891), "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Sky Courser; or, The Air Pirate's Nemesis" (1891), "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Air Frigate; or, The Sky Corsair's Doom" (1891), "Tom Edison, Jr., and his Air-Yacht; or, the Wonderful Cruise of the Sea-Witch" (1891), "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Electric Mule; or, the Snorting Wonder of the Plains" (1892), "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Electric Sea Spider" (1892), "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Chilian [sic] Explorer, or, the Sea and Air Terror" (1892) were written by "Reade." "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Sky-Scraping Trip" (which first appeared in Nugget Library #102), "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Prairie-Skimmer Team" (Nugget Library #110), "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Sky Courser" (Nugget Library #115), and "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Air Frigate" (Nugget Library #119) are four parts of a linked novel, something quite rare in this sort of dime novel.

Tom Edison, Jr. was the third major Edisonade character, appearing after Johnny Brainerd and the first two Frank Reades but before Jack Wright and Electric Bob (see below). While not as important to the genre as Frank Reade, he is very much a stereotypical Edisonade, and so despite his relatively few adventures he's still worth studying.

Tom Ed. Jr. is a young inventor/adventurer who follows in his father's footsteps, although his adventures are far more vigorous than his father ever managed. Tom's father, the celebrated inventor Tom Edison, Sr., disappeared years before under mysterious circumstances; he had invented a "wonder balloon" and was working on a heavier-than-air craft when he disappeared. (And yet despite the similarities in names neither Tom is related to Thomas Alva Edison. Street and Smith were happy to vicariously ride on T.A. Edison's figurative coattails, just as they were happy for readers to associate the name "Philip Reade" with that of Frank Reade). At the start of "Tom Edison, Jr.'s Sky-Scraping Trip," the first Tom Ed Jr. novel, Junior is a teen-aged orphan (Mom's death occurred at birth) living on the left bank of the Mississippi. He has, however, inherited his father's considerable skill in mechanical matters. Junior decides to find out what happened to his father, so he puts on his first invention, a "flying-squirrel suit" filled with a gas that permits the wearer to leap for very long distances or even float in the air, and heads west. He takes with him a team of horses who wear "footsprings" that allow for speeds of up to 50 m.p.h. and also brings a "landrover," which in the usual Edisonade fashion is armored, durable, very mobile and quick, and filled with various weapons. (The footsprings, by the way, seems to be a reference by Reade to Spring-Heeled Jack) Junior wades through the various roughnecks and Indians who bother him, leaping sixty feet into the air while wearing his suit and shooting his weapons. Of more danger to Junior is the mysterious outlaw Blue Mask (called "Blue Skin" in one place) who rides above the party in a huge aircraft and drops bombs on them. It is an open secret that the Blue Mask is actually Junior's cousin Louis Gubrious. (Get it? Lou Gubrious--lugubrious? Get it? Oh, my sides…) Gubrious' aircraft is the Cloud Jumper; it is filled with gas but electrically operated and propels itself with rotary blades and flapping wings.

Junior eventually finds his father in Wyoming. Tom Ed Senior, however, has gone insane, and uses his old, patched balloon to fight against both Gubrious and Junior, who takes to the air, along with his men, wearing the squirrel-suits and using machine guns. Everyone gets captured at least once, but at the end Junior captures his pa and Gubrious is driven off, most of his crew killed. Gubrious leaves swearing that he'll turn pirate, and Senior leaves the story altogether. Tom builds the Sky Courser, the greatest airship yet; it's 120 feet long, has a vacuum lift, is powered by electricity, steered by rotating helices and flapping wings, is armored and bears cannon. Tom uses this to hunt down and destroy Gubrious' fleet; Gubrious is terrorizing commercial trade with the Cloud Jumper and several other aircraft, including the Wind Hawk, the Storm Fiend, and worst of all the Red Vulture, which is twice as large as the Sky Courser. Junior pursues Gubrious from the Rockies to the pampas of Brazil, destroying the Cloud Jumper, the Wind Hawk, and the Storm Fiend, but not harming the Red Vulture or Gubrious himself. An eccentric Brazilian air buff named Don Jago di Ortoviedo, who has built his own airship, the Trinidad, to look like a Spanish galleon (with a crew dressed to match). Gubrious, on the Red Vulture, attacks and eventually destroys the Trinidad, and then moves on to Junior. After a colossal air battle, in which Junior's crew take on the Red Vulture in their squirrel-suits, the Red Vulture is destroyed and the defiant Gubrious plummets to the ground in a defective parachute, presumably to his death.

In "Electric Sea Spider" Junior is out cruising the oceans in the titular vessel, a newly-built, crab-shaped craft which works on the principle of the water beetle and other water bugs, which glide along the surface of the water by propelling their legs. It is staffed by Junior's crew, a group of "bright-looking young Yankees" with names like Liston and Donnerblitz and stereotypical behavior and speech patterns to match. Of course, Tom Ed being an Edisonade, the Sea Spider can submerge and crawl along the sea floor as well as shoot through the ocean; it's a submarine and a ship, all at once. It's got a giant claw with which Tom Ed can manipulate or crush things, it can deliver electric shocks, it has "dynamite guns," a powerful "water gun," and it can fire torpedoes. Tom Ed being an Edisonade, he's not just content with sailing around the world, so when he encounters the survivor of Kiang Ho, he goes out and tries to stop Kiang Ho. He uses the Sea Spider to bombard and destroy Kiang Ho's fleet and "pirate town" port, and then sinks the sub of Kiang Ho. Junior raids Kiang Ho's home islands and liberates some captured yankees. The crew of the Sea Spider are armed with machine guns and have underwater armor with oxygen packs. Kiang Ho is finally killed in hand to hand combat with Junior; Kiang Ho is back-shot by Georgie, the daughter of a consul in China and Tom's teenaged female cousin, who stowed away on-board the Sea Spider.

In "Air-Ship in Australia" Tom flies his Shooting Star against the "notorious rogue" Naaman Nixon and his black ship, who are feloniously trying to gain some gold. The Shooting Star is similar to Verne's Clipper of the Clouds and most of the other Edisonade inventions; it is a flap-winged, propeller-driven liner-like airship, and has on board it, as a lifeboat, the Starlet, which is a much smaller version of the Shooting Star and can, like the Shooting Star, double as a submarine. (Tom gets tortured in this issue, but not to the death)  (Unfortunately). In "Electric Eagle" Tom is working as a soldier of fortune in Africa and goes in search of a mountain of gold, somewhere in the Congo. The mountain is guarded by a race of pygmies who use plant-based flame-throwers and are commanded by a sacred queen. Tom fails in getting the gold, and his crew is murdered by the villainous Dutchman Hardhaart (get it? Hard-heart? Get it?), but he wins in the end, killing Hardhaart in an electrical duel. The eponymous airship, like the Shooting Star, has flapping wings and propellers, and Tom also uses a metal-detector to find the gold.

I'll spare you the descriptions of the other stories. Junior grows up a bit, fights against other airships, goes to India and the Indian Territories, fights outlaws, uses an "electrical mule" (twelve feet high, races 50 mph, has a unicorn horn, pulls an armored carriage), run into Lou Gubrious again who is now riding a 20' long 8' high metal centipede with wheels and legs (Gubrious gets knifed and seems to die), and battles against the Chilean military, who are being loutish and use a  super-submarine against Junior (luckily for him, his Shooting Star, a whizzo aircraft/sub, is the French sub's superior).

In personality Tom Ed is very much like Frank Reade, Jr; so much so that they might as well be the same character. Physically Junior is "a young man not more than twenty years of age at the outside and, perhaps, even younger than his looks might indicate, for Tom Edison, Jr., like his renowned father possesses a head much after the model of a Napoleon." "Reade" was a better writer than Luis Senarens, who wrote the Frank Reade, Jr. stories, but the sense of humor some have claimed to find in the Tom Edison, Jr. stories is, to my eyes, missing, as is the alleged "lively writing." The Tom Edison, Jr. stories are stereotypical Edisonades, and that means as much bad (in terms of morals and storytelling) as good (in terms of ideas and vehicle inventions).

dison, Young. Young Edison was introduced in J. Weldon Cobb's To Mars With Tesla; or, the Mystery of Hidden Worlds, which appeared in New Golden Hours from March 30 to May 18, 1901. Cobb (1866-1902) was a Chicagoan who wrote both journalism and dime novels; he contributed to the Tousey books as well as acting as publisher himself. Young Edison probably shouldn't be the subject of his own entry, as he's not so much an inventor as the teenaged focus of To Mars With Tesla, but it didn't feel quite right to lead with Tesla. To Mars With Tesla has a number of subplots in it and is chock full o'action, and so I'll just touch on the highlights. Nikola Tesla--the Nikola Tesla, and not someone like Tesla (ala "Thomas Edison" in Eve of the Future)--is interested in communicating with Mars; he is quite certain that Mars is inhabited, as evidenced by the canals on the planet. Tesla is putting together a light-projecting device similar to a laser with which he hopes to send a signal to Mars; he's also putting together a light-detector which will work something like radar to tell whether the signal gets there. In this Tesla is aided by Young Edison, his college boy nephew. (Why Tesla, who had a great and bitter rivalry with Edison, would put up with a cousin named after his hated rival, is beyond me, but never mind) Tesla is also assisted by Professors Combe and Weir.

Unfortunately, Tesla is opposed in his plans by a few figures. There's Heinrickson, a generally bad fellow, a murderer, thug and bounder. There's Zadir and Hazir, two criminals of non-American ancestry who've somehow come by advanced flying machines and are zooming across the skies of America pretending to be Martians. And, finally, there's Herschel de Vega, a mad scientist who is building a spaceship (inside his laboratory, which is inside a hollow mountain) to get to Mars. Most of the novel involves various individuals, especially Edison, getting kidnaped by each other. At one point Young Edison is captured by Heinrickson and fired into the air by a giant slingshot, but fortunately for everyone but the reader Young Edison lands on top of Tesla's private propeller-driven balloon. (Tesla's also got propeller-driven individual flying suits and "electric pistols") Eventually de Vega snares both Tesla and Young Edison and puts them in his spaceship, which has a rubber nose to reduce the shock of impact. They take off and then land in a desolate and strange desert, with de Vega swearing he's landed on Mars and Tesla disagreeing. Tesla's right, of course, as they're only in a gigantic meteorite crater in the American Southwest. Young Edison saves Tesla's life and gets him to safety, de Vega dying of a scorpion bite. Soon enough the signal is sent to Mars. The novel ends with Tesla and Young Edison waiting for a response. To Mars With Tesla is a novel best read in summary.

dwards, Alice. Created by James Greenwood (1832-1929), Alice Edwards appeared in "Alice; or, The adventures of an English girl in Persia," a 13-part serial published in Something to Read Office in 1885. Alice is the daughter of a wealthy English banker, and in her early 20s is still eager to have fun and (must emphasize this) Not Get Married. She is "spirited," head-strong, well-educated, well-to-do, and resolute that she will not sacrifice her life for a man for a few years yet. Her father is a blustery type but loves her and cannot deny her anything, and so he grants her wish that she be allowed to travel to the Near East, especially Persia. However, he insists that she take along her favorite suitor, Jack Stedfast (I couldn't make that name up, I really couldn't); he points out that despite the treaty Persia signed with Britain a "few years ago" (actually 1857), many of the more remote sections, including the mountains and the "desert wastes," are not safe. Stedfast is a strapping young Chunk Throbchest of a man, a young noble with too much time and money (sorry, I'll try to skip the editorialising), and he is good in a fight, so Papa Edwards believes that he should be able to protect her.

He is right, for the most part; the serial falls into the general pattern of: Alice and John and native bearers and servants explore a new part of Iran (the coast, the Strait of Hormuz, the "Bash-a-kurd" Range, the "Dash-E-Kavir" hills, and the city of Meshed); Alice's inquisitive nature, excessive education (excessive according to the requirements of the story and, I think, Greenwood's sexism), temper, Christianity or sex get her into trouble with the natives (including the Karakalpak, the Afshari, Tadzhik, and Semnani), who kidnap her or threaten to kill her; Steadfast rescues her, usually after midnight rides across moonlit deserts, fights aboard slavers' ships in the Persian Gulf, or after tracking her and her captors across rocky hills and through defiles. At the end of the serial Edwards has learnt her lesson and agrees to marry Stedfast (boo!).

Alice isn't really that bad, I suppose, and some of the chase and fight scenes approach thrilling. But for all the thrilling horror of a white woman being threatened with The Fate Worse Than Death by dark heathen infidels, and for all the sensation of sword fights and blood being spilled on shining sands, Alice is still mostly a chore to read. Stedfast is clearly meant to be a rousing figure meant to be idolised, but he's mostly dull, and Alice Edwards, who should be a feminist icon, is so poorly sketched that we never get an image of her as anything but a cardboard figure going through the motions the author puts her through.

lectric Bob. Electric Bob was introduced in "Electric Bob and His White Alligator; or, Hunting for Confederate Treasure in the Mississippi River" in the New York Five-Cent Library v1 n50 (July 22, 1893) by "Robert T. Toombs," an author about whom nothing is known. E.B. appeared in "Electric Bob's Big Black Ostrich; or, Lost on the Desert" (1893); "Electric Bob's Revenue Hawk; or, the Young Inventor among the Moonshiners" (1893); "Electric Bob's Big Bicycle; or, the Nerviest Boy in the World" (1893), and "Electric Bob's Sea-Cat; or, the Daring Invasion of Death Valley" (1893). Electric Bob was in the second rank of boy inventor characters; never as popular as Frank Reade Jr. or Jack Wright, he nonetheless had a certain cachet for readers in the early 1890s and was popular enough for his adventures to appear in magazines like the New York Five Cent Library and Brave and the Bold. Because of this, his stories are very hard to find, but not impossible, and are worth the effort, since Toombs wrote them with a certain wit, levity, and a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek tone that is absent from the other boy inventors' adventures. In one story, for example, it is implied that Bob spends the night with a Lady Of Negotiable Affection in Chicago. (We're not likely to see Frank Reade, Jr. doing that) It might reasonably be concluded that the entire Electric Bob series is a satire of the boy inventors subgenre.

Electric Bob is a 10-year-old who lives near (but not in) New York City. He's brilliant, of course, and capable of creating the most advanced technology possible, but unlike the other boy inventors he does not build his own equipment and weaponry; he draws up the blueprints in very detailed fashion and then sends them to the most efficient and skillful shops to construct for him. (He apparently patents them ahead of time, so he does not have to worry about his creations being stolen) Although, like Reade Jr. and Wright, he creates the usual electric weaponry and equipment, his specialty is vehicles in the form of animals. The exception is is Big Bicycle, which is electrically-operated with a canopy, storage space for food and equipment, steel-covered tires; its only weapon is that it can be electrified, but Bob also carries his "electric pistol," which shoots lethal bullets at extremely high speeds. Bob also wears a coat of bullet-proof armor under his clothing.  His other vehicles are the sea-going "White Alligator," the land-roving "Big Black Ostrich," the flying "Revenue Hawk," the submarine Sea-Cat (the only vehicle Bob names, unlike Reade Jr. and Wright), and the land-roving "Desert Camel." They fall into the same general Marvelous Invention pattern, being armored, durable, stocked with supplies, and capable of traversing rough terrain and enduring harsh weather and conditions. Bob, of course, has the usual diving suits with oxygen packs and one-man flying suits (flapping wings powered by electric batteries). Bob is a more upbeat and joyful character than the priggish Reade Jr., and his servant Dandy, despite being saddled with the usual racist epithets, is shown more respect than is usually the case with boy inventor dime novels. Similarly, non-whites are not, by and large, the victim of most of Electric Bob's weaponry; white men (West Virginia moonshiners, Mississippi swamp rats, Yankee swindlers) generally are. All in all, the Electric Bob novels are much superior to the other boy inventor novels.

lectric Elephant. The Electric Elephant was introduced in Frances T. Montgomery's The Wonderful Electric Elephant (1903) and appeared in On a Lark to the Planets. A Sequel to "The Wonderful Electric Elephant." (1904)  Montgomery was an author of children's books who is remembered today (when she is remembered at all) for her novel about anthropomorphic goats, Billy Whiskers (1905), and its sequels. The Wonderful Electric Elephant is likewise a children's book, although much closer to the boy inventor genre than Montgomery's other work. The Electric Elephant is just that--a robot elephant controlled from its interior. (I don't know whether Montgomery read Verne's The Steam House; see its entry below) Harold Fredericks, a very Frank Reade, Jr. kind of teenager, is riding a narrow trail along the Grand Canyon when he is confronted by an elephant on the path ahead of him. Fredericks does not stop to wonder at an elephant being present in the Grand Canyon, but instead pulls his revolver and begins shooting the elephant. His bullets bounce off its hide, but it does stop, and a rope ladder drops down from its belly. Harold finally notices that the elephant is mechanical. He climbs into it and discovers an old man at the controls. The nameless man is very ill and begs Harold to hand him a bottle that on a counter nearby. Harold tries, but the old man spills the drink and then dies. Harold roots around inside the elephant and discovers the man's will, which dictates that the first person to find the elephant gets it. So Harold takes command of the elephant and, joined by his girlfriend, Ione de Valley, goes on a series of Frank Reade, Jr.-style adventures--disrupting a circus, harassing people at a beach, and electrocuting "Indians." Harold and Ione fly to Hawaii, where they are married, and then continue on to Japan, China, and Siam, where they free a captured prince and princess, who join them. The quartet then fly off into space (their adventures are continued in the more fairy-tale-like sequel).

The elephant is a very dime novel creation; it is comfortable inside and furnished with food and drink. It is powered by electricity, bulletproof, armed with electrified horns and wires, and can go underwater as well as flying (it has a balloon rig as well as wings).

liasson, Gerard. Gerard Eliasson was created by Charles Reade and appeared in "A Good Fight," in the serial Once a Week in 1859; Reade later expanded the story into the novel The Cloister and the Hearth (1861). Reade (1814-1884), a long-time Fellow at Oxford's Magdalen College, is notable in English letters as the inventor of reform literature (a.k.a. "Fiction with a Purpose"), as a friend of Wilkie Collins (who advised Reade on his writings), and as the author of The Cloister and the Hearth, which was Reade's most famous work. The Cloister and the Hearth was well-received in its time, with Sir Walter Besant calling it the greatest historical novel in the English language and with Swinburne placing it above the work of Scott and Dumas: "a story better conceived or better composed, better constructed or better related, than The Cloister and the Hearth, it would be difficult to find anywhere." Even today The Cloister and the Hearth is viewed as one of the best historical novels of the 19th century.

The Cloister and the Hearth certainly has its virtues. It is the story of the parents of Erasmus, the Dutch theologian and philosopher. Little is known about Erasmus' parents, and that only from the writings of Erasmus himself. Reade used Erasmus' work as the basis for The Cloister and the Hearth, which is why the novel does not display the excessive melodrama which can be found in many of Reade's other works and which is one of Reade's notable flaws. Reade had too much respect for the historical truth to mar it with invention. The story is about the travails of Margaret Brandt and Gerard Eliasson. Gerard, the son of Elias and Catherine, two decent and respectable Dutch, lives in Tergou with his family in the 15th century. Elias wants to join the clergy when he is old enough. But on the way to Rotterdam to enter an art competition he meets Margaret Brandt, the daughter of "Peter the Magician," and does the pair of them a good turn.

Gerard and Margaret fall in love, but Gerard’s parents are opposed to it. They are in desperate financial straits, and will be dependent on the revenue from Gerard’s benefice (which came courtesy of the favor of a family friend), and so can see that Gerard is dooming them and his brothers and sisters to permanent poverty and want. Gerard and Margaret decide to sneak off and get married without Elias and Catherine’s permission, but before the banns can be completely announced objections arise, and then Gerard is arrested by Ghysbrecht van Swieten, the local burgomaster, who has it in for Gerard and Margaret, in large part because he had defrauded Margaret of money and lands which were rightfully hers. Margaret and Gerard’s crippled younger sister Kate and dwarf brother Giles rescue Gerard, and Gerard and Margaret make their escape, unsuccessfully pursued by the burgomaster. They separate, Margaret to return home and Gerard to go to Rome, where his artistic talents will be appreciated more than they are in Holland.

From there it’s One Damned Thing After Another keeping Gerard and Margaret separated. Gerard befriends a Burgundian soldier, Denys, and encounters a variety of picaresque people and incidents. Margaret practices medicine illegally and is arrested for her troubles. Gerard undergoes shipwreck on his way to Rome and is forced to decorate playing cards for a living. Gerard is fooled (by a letter secretly sent by Ghysbrecht) into thinking that Margaret is dead and tries to kill himself, but is saved and then takes his monastic vows with the Dominicans. Margaret gives birth to Gerard’s son, Gerard. Gerard Sr. begins preaching his way across Europe, crosses paths with Margaret without either recognizing the other, and finally settles down to a hermit’s life outside of Rotterdam. Margaret eventually finds him and proves herself to him by showing him Gerard, Jr. The two are reconciled and live together (but apart: Gerard doesn’t live the Dominicans) until Gerard, Jr. is ten, at which point Margaret dies of the plague and Gerard, Sr., of a broken heart. Gerard, Jr. grows up to become the great Erasmus, as Reade informs us in the epilogue.

Gerard is for the most part a fairly average young man, artistically talented but not greatly so, strong-willed but not exceptionally so, and in most respects like most other people. He’s only exceptional in his persistence--and Margaret is charmingly drawn, so it is understandable that Gerard is eager to return to her, and we identify with his heartbreak when he learns she is “dead”–and his staying with the Dominicans after learning his wife is alive. Margaret is the more attractive of the pair, being intelligent and willful rather than docile, but Denys, Gerard’s soldier friend, is filled with more vitality and joy than either Gerard or Margaret.

The Cloister and The Hearth has several things to recommend it. Reade did an enormous amount of research for his writing, and The Cloister and The Hearth is the better for it. It’s full of very real-seeming details and descriptions of people, places, events and things. The fair at Rotterdam and the scenes at the Burgundian Inn, where Gerard and Denys fight off a gang of thieves, feel very accurate. The brutality of the era and its painful transition to the Renaissance are effectively portrayed, as are the very real concerns of people living through those times. A few of the characters–Margaret, Denys, Gerard’s mother Catherine–are likeably characterized. And Reade effectively makes the case (as was his intention) that the celibacy rules of the Church do far more harm than good to men and women.

Yet The Cloister and The Hearth was ultimately uninteresting to me. Gerard didn’t hold my attention the way Denys did, nor was Gerard as lively as Denys. Reade too often seemed to be stacking the deck against his characters for the sake of making his point and showing the misery of some people’s lives. And the genuine pathos of the novel’s beginning, when Elias and Catherine do everything to feed their children, only to have their children leave them, one by one, and break their hearts, is frittered away during the plot complications required to separate Margaret and Gerard. Reade’s prose style is infinitely smoother than Scott, but Scott’s storytelling sense is much better than Reade’s, whose dedication to Fiction With A Purpose led him astray.

lspeth's Son. Elspeth’s Son. Elspeth’s son was created by A.T. Quiller-Couch and appeared in "The Laird’s Luck” (The Laird’s Luck, 1901). Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) was the creator of John Christian, and I have information on him there. It’s hard to go wrong with Q, and “The Laird’s Luck” is seen as one of his better works–and so it is.

In the official history of the Moray Highlanders is a memorandum from Lieutenant-Colonel Sir James Ross in which he relates a curious story which he witnessed. In 1814 he was invalided home on a shattered ankle gotten at Salamanca, and so Ross spent time in Inverness. He had his brother were rescued from a boating accident by a local, Mr. Gillespie, but the first landing they came to was that of David Mackenzie, and Gillespie gave Ross and his brother to Mackenzie in a very rude manner. Mackenzie, a young laird obviously fallen on hard times, brought the pair to his home, an outlandish and badly designed manor on the lip of a ravine. The Rosses are shown to their rooms by Elspeth, Mackenzie’s maid, and fear for the worst, given the obviously impoverished state of the manor, but they discover their rooms to be very clean and well-stocked, with recently lit candles, hot water, and clean towels waiting for them. This surprises them, since they can’t figure out how all that was done so quickly. At dinner Ross notices that “poverty and decent appearance kept up a brave fight throughout,” since the tablecloth and napkins are aged and ragged but darned exquisitely, the silverware “scanty and worn with high polishing.” The groaning table itself is surprisingly well-stocked, given the laird’s poverty. The laird, on being complimented on the quality of his venison, says that he has no deer-forest, and Elspeth is his only housekeeper. The laird’s only guest, the local priest, Reverend Saul, leaves abruptly, and Mackenzie complains that he has been at the manor for only a year, and wants to do well by the locals, but they all distrust him and treat him coolly. Ross responds by suggesting that Mackenzie join the Moray Regiment, something Mackenzie is only too happy to agree to. But the following morning the Rosses’ clothes are cleaned and folded, despite the doors to their rooms having been locked, and when Ross compliments Mackenzie on having “a remarkably clever valet” Mackenzie takes the compliment amiss. Ross politely covers himself and the moment passes.

The following January Mackenzie is appointed to an ensigncy in the Moray Highlanders, and he joins them in Inverness. MacKenzie is popular with the men and positively impresses Ross as potential officer material. The other officers, who are also lairds, are not so bright prospects, especially as they are given to card-playing, something Ross frowns upon. One of them, Urquhart, is friends, after a fashion with Mackenzie. After Napoleon escapes from Elba the Highlanders go off to war in France. In Brussels, two nights before Waterloo, Urquhart and Mackenzie get into a fight while playing cards. Ross breaks up the fight and demands to know the cause of it. Urquhart accuses Mackenzie of cheating, something quite serious and which Mackenzie is furious about. Ross asks his brother about how this could have happened, and his brother admits that there are stories against Mackenzie and that men don’t like to play him. Ross grills Urquhart, who will only say that Mackenzie was cheating but did not know that he was cheating. Urquhart will go into no further detail, since he says Ross won’t believe him. Ross sends Urquhart back, intending to question Mackenzie, but when Urquhart sees Mackenzie and Mackenzie challenges Urquhart to a duel, Urquhart refuses to fight him. The officer watching Urquhart and Mackenzie tells Ross about a stolen coin which was in Mackenzie’s pot, and about how the officer’s watch had been stolen one night and showed up in Mackenzie’s room. (Mackenzie, finding it in the morning, returned it to the officer). Ross decides to question Mackenzie in his room, but on walking up the stairs he hears a voice in Mackenzie’s room:

The voice was so unlike his, or any grown man’s, that it arrested me on the lowermost stair against my will. It resembled rather the sobbing of an infant mingled with short strangled cries of contrition and despair.

“What shall I do? What shall I do? I didn’t mean it–I meant to do good! What shall I do?”

Mackenzie is passive and uncooperative when Ross questions him about the incident, but swears that he stole nothing and did not cheat. Ross brings Mackenzie and Urquhart back together and is haranguing them both when they hear an alarm bugle, and so his interview with them is cut short and they have to rush off to form up the regiment. Urquhart begs Ross not to let Mackenzie go to war, but Ross tells him to shut up (“As for you, the most charitable construction I can put on your behavior is to believe you mad”) and goes to war. The Highlanders fight Ney’s forces, and when Urquhart, the bearer of the Kings colours, is overthrown, Mackenzie dies preventing the standard from falling into French hands. That night Urquhart approaches Ross again and tells him that he, Urquhart, saw Mackenzie’s wraith during the poker game (“You are a Highlander, sir: you may be sceptical about the second sight; but at least you must have heard many claim it.”). That’s why Urquhart begged Ross not to send Mackenzie off to war. Urquhart is killed at Waterloo before he can tell Ross everything. After the war ends Ross discovers that the Reverend Saul had visited Inverness several times, trying to find out what happened and when the Highlanders would be returning. Ross meets with Saul and Elspeth, and the Elspeth explains that she bore a son to Mackenzie’s father; it was born out of wedlock and died without being baptized, and so became a brownie, a “familiar spirit” which served Mackenzie “most faithfully but at times erratically, having no conscience nor any Christian principle to direct him.” So Elspeth’s son took to the laird, “Mackenzie to Mackenzie,” and “loved his own father’s son” and wanted to serve him the best way possible. This included cleaning around the house and making hot water and the like, but also included stealing food from neighboring estates (hence the overloaded groaning board when Ross first met him) and apples from the Reverend Saul’s tree (which is why Saul left so abruptly–he saw his own apples on Mackenzie’s table) and coins and watches from officers in the Moray Regiment. But the boy meant no wrong, and when Mackenzie was in trouble the boy came home to his mother.

I very much enjoyed “The Laird’s Luck.” It wasn’t frightening–but then, neither was “The Roll Call of the Reef.” I’m not sure scaring us was really Q’s intention; I think he rather intended to tell a story about fidelity and the lack of God’s grace. Setting the latter aside, the story is still excellent. Q tells the story with his usual style–he combines clarity and well-turned phrases and is a real pleasure to read–and historical detail.

Elspeth’s son doesn’t mean wrong. As his mother says, “He was just a poor luck-child, born by mischance and put away without baptism. He had nae conscience. How should he?...when the young Laird came, and my own bairn clave to him as Mackenzie to Mackenzie, and wrought and hunted and mended for him–it was not to be thought that the poor innocent, without knowledge of God’s ways–” He was just a brownie, was all–well-intentioned but heedless.

ngine. The Engine was created by “W. Grove” and appeared in A Mexican Mystery (1888) and The Wreck of a World (1889). Apart from the fact that Grove (?-?) was a British writer, absolutely nothing is known about him, and if "Grove" was a pseudonym nobody has ever found anything indicating his real identity. The two novels are moderately entertaining novels and are early examples of the Revolt Of The Machines subgenre of science fiction.

A Mexican Mystery is the diary of John Brown, a Scots locomotive engineer who is sent to Mexico to oversee the construction of a new railway line for the “new Emperor” (implicitly the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph). Brown is sent to the small town of Xiqipu, which will be the location of his headquarters during the project. It’s in Xiqipu that he meets Pedro da Luz, the local engineer for the project. Da Luz is a descendant of Montezuma and is independently wealthy, and although proud and smart welcomes Brown to the project. Brown, for his part, sees that da Luz is close to brilliant and respects his intelligence. Brown goes off to the front of the line, which is high in the mountains, to oversee its construction. Da Luz, meanwhile, stays in Xiqipu and works on his special creation. The Emperor is holding a contest for the best new locomotive, and da Luz intends to win the contest. When he shows the design to Brown, Brown is impressed. Da Luz’s engine is wonderfully designed as well as a self-feeder, so that it would need next to no supervision to drive. When the line is completed the Emperor goes on the rails for a trial run and then begins the contest. The other entrants are good, but da Luz’s Engine is a sensation. It feeds itself and pilots itself. Unfortunately, the Engine is too good at feeding itself, and it uses its claws (see the Engine’s description below) to tear up the telegraph poles and throw them into its tender, panicking the bystanders. Naturally, the contest judges (and the Emperor) are most unimpressed by this, and they give the prize to another contestant and order da Luz to remove the Engine from the rails. Inez, da Luz’s sweetie, and the other Mexicans are so frightened by the appearance and actions of the Engine that they feel it is “possessed by Satan.” A failure in the contest and rejected by his countrymen, Pedro is very embittered, so much so that he begins ranting to Inez about wanting the chairman of the contest to die. Inez is repulsed by this display of spleen and breaks off the engagement with da Luz. Pedro, seemingly contrite, apologizes to the chairman for the Engine’s actions and requests a delay in removing the Engine from the tracks. The chairman grants it, and da Luz uses the time to complete the Engine’s design. When the time comes the Engine is gone, and da Luz leaves Mexico for another country.

But he turns up dead in the town of Mestra, stabbed through the heart. The Engine is gone, and Brown can find no trace of it. And then bad things begin to happen to depots and other trains, mysterious accidents and supplies of wood and water depleted overnight. Rumors trickle in about the Engine being sighted moving around the countryside. The workers on the railway blame da Luz and tell Brown that he had made a “pact with Satan,” and so they dig up his grave, burn his body, and scatter it to the winds. Then people begin disappearing, and the railway workers say that the Engine is feeding on humans. The countryside all around Xiqipu is deserted for fear of the Engine, and so the Bishop of Mexico and various high-ranking Church members are called in to exorcize the “demon” Engine. The exorcism is performed, with a large crowd watching, but Brown makes the mistake of attending the exorcism, and the natives, who remember Brown being friendly with da Luz, call him a “heretic” and try to kill him. A mob is about to tear him to pieces when the Engine comes roaring down the track, directly at the mob. The priests flee, but one nine-year-old boy isn’t quick enough to get out of the way, and the Engine–unmanned, of course–grabs him, chops him up, and feeds his body parts into its tender as fuel. The Engine moves on, and a horrified Brown, now believing that there’s something wrong with the Engine, sets out to destroy it. He takes a group of workers with him and goes a-hunting.  Brown deduces where the Engine is likely to appear and sets a trap for it, leaving a tree across the tracks where the Engine is lying to run across it and derail. But when the Engine arrives it slows down and stops in front of the tree. The Engine vents steam in such a way that Brown is sure it is snorting defiance at him, and then reverses itself. Brown admits temporary defeat and has the tree removed from the tracks, which are also used by legitimate traffic. The Engine then zooms on down the track. Brown sets another trap for the Engine, but when the Engine arrives at the trap it vents steam as if it is scenting the danger, and when the Engine sees Brown it reverses course and avoids the trap.

Brown finally lays mines on some trees along the side of the track; the Engine feeds on all the trees within reach of its claws. The claw with which it killed the boy is the one destroyed by a mine, but the Engine is too clever to be taken in by the other mines and moves on. Brown then receives a letter da Luz had sent to him before his murder. In the letter da Luz talks about how he invented the Engine, how he accomplished “the imagined deed of Frankenstein.” The Engine tried to kill da Luz with its claws, but Pedro was too quick and clever for the Engine. Da Luz compares men to machines and says that the Engine is like man, using the Darwinian instinct of self-preservation to keep itself alive. Da Luz also raises the frightening prospect of the Engine reproducing. Brown continues hunting for the Engine, but the Engine now flees whenever it sees Brown, and the Engine is too clever for Brown’s traps. Brown has all the trees within reach of the Engine’s claws chopped down from the side of the railway, and has all the water towers temporarily emptied, but the Engine’s pipes allow it to suck water from ditches on the side of the tracks. Brown sets up still another trap, and this time the Engine attacks, using an “unknown vent” to spray steam on Brown’s workers, killing them. Brown shoots the Engine with an elephant gun, causing it to shriek and flee. Brown follows it and finds that it went off the tracks into the wilderness of the mountains. Brown assumes that the Engine is at the bottom of a ravine, but some time later he hears word that the Engine has appeared to the Indians of the mountains, who assume it is Huitzlipochtli and feed it daily victims. When white men come close to it, it moves earth and wood with its claws and moves across the countryside.

In The Wreck of the World the Engine’s malign consciousness spreads, first to other locomotives and then to other machines, and within a century mankind is driven from North America.

A Mexican Mystery is an entertaining light read, told efficiently and at a brisk pace. It’s not complimentary of Catholics or of the average Mexican (although those of Spanish descent are okay), but in other respects it could be read and enjoyed even today. If Grove doesn’t play up the horrific aspects of the Engine, he still allows it to have some frightening moments, as when it kills the boy for fuel. Most interesting to modern readers will be the book’s status as one of the first “Revolt of the Machines” stories. The idea that machines might develop sentience and rebel against humanity is somewhat common in 20th century science fiction and horror fiction. A Mexican Mystery and The Wreck of the World are, as far as I can tell, the first novels to treat this theme.

The Engine itself is fairly intimidating. It is a black locomotive engine with a long pipe in its front like an elephant’s trunk, “great arms of steel terminating in formidable claws projecting many feet from the body of the machine, and giving it a hideous resemblance to some great land-crab.” The arms are there to gather fuel, and each one is equipped with a circular saw to chop wood. Although it’s mean and bad from the beginning, trying twice to kill its creator, the Engine only becomes inimical to humanity after Pedro da Luz’s death. Da Luz designed the Engine well, making it able to ascend or descend any incline. It is self-feeding and will continue on course indefinitely, unless a human engineer stops it. It also has batteries at its termini which allow it to reverse course. And, by design, once the Engine is started it cannot be stopped except by its engineer. Unfortunately the Engine doesn’t allow humans onboard. It has “fiery eyes” and a “Satanic scream,” and is frightening in its hateful consciousness.

nglish Jack. English Jack was created by William L. Emmett, a writer of dreadfuls about whom I've been able to find little. English Jack appeared in "English Jack among the Afghans; or, The British flag - touch it who dare," which was originally serialised in Boys of England from November 1878-May 1879. English Jack is an adventure story clearly meant to appeal to the patriot in every British reader. A century and more on, however, such a naked appeal to jingoistic patriotism is received with at the very least wry amusement, and the reaction of an educated Brit is somewhere between hilarity and derision.

Jack Robinson is an English ne'er-do-well who accompanies his family to India. His father is a merchant in New Delhi trying to strike it rich by selling various items to other English and to the better-off Indians; he brought his family along because he wanted their help in turning a profit. (This is a rather odd choice on Emmett's part; most men left their families behind when they went to India). He brought Jack along because Jack is not to be trusted among his gambling, smoking, and carousing friends. Jack takes the news with poor grace, but goes along. Once in India Jack lounges around the house, insults the servants, angers his father and shames his mother and sister, and in general acts like the sullen and obnoxious teenager that he is.

However, when his father declares his intention to lead a caravan into Afghanistan to buy rugs and cloth, Jack is intrigued; he wants to see the "savage Ghazis" up close. On the way to Kandahar, however, the caravan is attacked by a band of Ghazis, who capture everyone after a brisk fight and drag them all back to their camp, high up a mountain path.

Now, in later literature Jack's reactions might have been more realistically drawn, but this is the age of Victoria, and English Jack is a penny dreadful, and so we can't reasonably expect anything approaching real life. So Jack does not reveal his cowardly ways, nor does the entire Robinson family die after hideous agony. No, plot takes precedence over realism. Jack is outraged over the thought of the torture that his father and mother are going to have to face (the deaths of their Indian servants is given little space) but his soul truly burns with indignation at the thought of the English flag being "despoiled" by the Ghazis. So after the requisite number of thrills and spills, including hair-breadth escapes, saber duels, midnight swims through icy-cold rivers, and a long march to Quetta for help, the heathen Afghans are defeated, the Robinson family saved, their fortune made (Jack's father uses the opportunity to make valuable business contacts) and Jack a much more mature (if no more likable) man.

spila, Pedro Arbuez d'. Pedro Arbuez d’Espila was created by Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and appeared in “The Torture of Hope” (Nouveaux Contes Cruels, 1888). Villiers (1838-1889), a French writer, was more influential than successful; I probably have more on him in the Axël entry. “The Torture of Hope” is in many ways the quintessential conte cruel.

Many years ago “the venerable Pedro Arbuez d’Espila, sixth prior of the Dominicans of Segovia, and third Grand Inquisitor of Spain,” goes to a cell deep in the dungeons of the Inquisition, accompanied by a prior and the fra redemptor. In the cell is held Rabbi Aser Abarbanel, an Aragonese “who–accused of usury and pitiless scorn for the poor–had been daily subjected to torture for more than a year. Yet ‘his blindness was as dense as his hide,’ and he had refused to abjure his faith.” D’Espila, with tears in his eyes at the thought of the Rabbi rejecting salvation, informs the Rabbi that the following day he will be included in the auto da fe, “exposed to the quemadero, the symbolical flames of the Everlasting Fire: it burns, as you know, only at a distance, my son; and Death is at least two hours (often three) in coming, on account of the wet, iced bandages with which we protect the heads and hearts of the condemned.” D’Espila has the Rabbi unchained, tenderly embraces him, and then leaves. The prior embraces the Rabbi and the fra redemptor begs the Rabbi’s forgiveness “for what he had made him suffer for the purpose of redeeming him.” The Rabbi is left alone, bewildered and suffering, in the darkness. He notices, however, that the door to his cells was not completely closed. He carefully and slowly drags himself through the dungeons of the Inquisition, evading the guards and the inquisitors, and finally makes it to the outside. The mountains are near, the night is starry, freedom is nigh, and the Rabbi’s heart swells with gratitude. Then the tall figure of Pedro Arbuez d’Espila emerges from out of the darkness and embraces the Rabbi. “And while Aser Abarbanel with protruding eyes gasped in agony in the ascetic’s embrace, vaguely comprehending that all phases of this fatal evening were only a prearranged torture, that of HOPE, the Grand Inquisitor, with an accent of touching reproach and a look of consternation, murmured in his ear, his breath parched and burning from long fasting: ‘What, my son! On the eve, perchance, of salvation–you wished to leave us?’”

Modern readers’ familiarity with the basic concept of “The Torture of Hope” should not let their knowledge of the story’s ending blind them to the savagery of the story. As a statement of the cruelty of fate, “The Torture of Hope” is rarely if ever exceeded in fiction. That was the theme, the point, of the contes cruel, of course: that life makes no sense, that justice is not to be found, that fortune does not smile at you but instead frowns, that Murphy’s a right bastard who hates you. And Villiers, in “The Torture of Hope,” drives this point home as strongly as anyone ever has. It’s vicious and merciless and quite, quite effective.

The venerable Pedro Arbuez d’Espila truly hopes for the conversion of the heathen. His faith is genuine, and he goes to great lengths to be a good Christian, from mortifying his own flesh to forgiving the enemies of the True Faith to using harsh methods on them to get them to admit the errors of their ways–and, of course, setting up lengthy exercises, such as false escapes, toward that end. All this, so that the enemies of the Faith might gain God’s grace. Isn’t that good of d’Espila?

A. Abällino to Axel
B. Hajji Baba to Amelia Butterworth
C. Cahina to Inspector John Cutting
D. The Damned Thing to Dyson
E. Robert Easterley to Pedro Arbuez d'Espila
F. Fantomas to the Fulgurator
G. "G" to Dr. Ginochio Gyves
H. Les Habits Noir to the Hypnotist
I-J. Ichor to Rob Joslyn
K. Kai Lung to Kreuzgang.
L. Lady Detectives to Arsène Lupin
M. Madame Koluchy to Dora Myrl
N. Nameless Child to Alice Nutter
O. Jack O'Halloran to Ozmar the Mystic
P. Pan to Psammead
Q. Dr. Jack Quartz to Quong Lung
R. A.J. Raffles to Lord Ruthven
S. Mr. Sabin to Count Szémioth
T-U. Adrian Temple to Undine
V. Vaila to Vril
W. Hilda Wade to Wung-Ti
X-Y. Xipéhuz to Yuki-onna
Z. Zaleski to Zoe

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