chor. Mór Jókai (1825-1904), a Hungarian novelist, is little-discussed in England or America, but is viewed with far more respect among Eastern European literary scholars. Compared to both Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott, Jókai was prolific and popular. In his A Jovo Szazad Regeneye (The Novella of the Coming Century or The Novel of the Next Century, 1872-4), a work that I've been (so far) been unable to lay eyes on, he told the story of a Hungarian scientist who discovers "ichor," a glass-like super-metal that can do anything; it is flexible and can be bent but is unbreakable and is the perfect material for armor and bullets--bullets made from ichor only anaesthetize, they do not kill. The hero of The Novel of the Next Century builds himself a flying machine powered by electricity and armed with such terrible weapons that the world is forced to consider completely disarming, albeit only after an air battle which demonstrates the ichor-powered airship's complete superiority. A comet eventually arrives in the solar system; once here it destroys Saturn's rings and threatens to destroy the earth, but in the end it provides the moon with its own atmosphere and begins orbiting the sun as a new planet (a precursor to Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision). The Novel of the Next Century is the first work of Hungarian science fiction.
nnominato. The Innominato was created by William Gilbert (1804-1890). Gilbert, to quote one critic, "is now known only as the father of William Schwenk Gilbert of `Gilbert and Sullivan' fame; but he was once an important novelist of the 1860s and 1870s." The Innominato appeared in several stories in various magazines and formats in the 1860s, including the magazine Argosy and the collection The Wizard of the Mountain (1867). The Innominato (which means "Nameless;" thanks to John Burt for clearing up my confusion on this point) is an astrologer, wizard, and mystic who lives in Italy in the 13th century. The Innominato is the master of his own castle and is well-respected and feared by all those in the area. The local nobles are wary of him, and the local peasants and burghers come to him for advice and help. The powers of the Innominato are never spelled out, but they seem to include clairvoyance, prophecy, and various sorcerous arts, including curses, setting magically intelligent animals to watch over the Innominato's targets, and so on.
His origin is that as a young man he had planned to become a priest, but he got diverted to the secular life and drawn in to the study of magic. A Malatesta helped him to gain magical powers, but only by foreswearing all religion. Malatesta then took things a step further and tried to get the Innominato to sell his soul. The Innominato, being no dummy, refused to, seeing that the Devil was behind Malatesta and being strengthened by the ghost of his wife. Since that time he tried to live a good life and to use his powers to help people, rather than hurt them. In this resolve he was only partially successful, though often the bad results of his involvement are not his fault. When Doctor Onofrio, an evil lawyer, is made young by the Innominato, it is with the condition that his lifespan will be halved for each evil deed he commits. Naturally, Doctor Onofrio runs through his allotment of years in next to no time at all. When an old married couple ask for renewed youth, the best that the Innominato can do is to give one a young body and the other a young mind. When the evil head of a local group of robbers takes on the Innominato, he is killed and his ghost is condemned to haunt a palace until his evil is expiated. And son on.
The Last Lords
Here I thought I'd stolen a march on the rest of the world by finding another obscure but interesting character to put on the site. And yet, when I go looking for an e-presence for the Innominato, I find that the great folks at Gaslight have beat me to the punch and e-texted one of his stories. Oh, well. Go and read it. You'll be glad you did.
nvisible Man. The Invisible Man was created by H.G. Wells and appeared in The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance (1897). Wells, of course, was one of the fathers of modern science fiction (although he would not have appreciated the title, thinking of his work as “scientific romances” or, as one critic had it, “ideological fables”).
The Invisible Man is about Griffin, a scientist who discovers the key to invisibility. (Griffin’s first or last name is never given; in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen he is called “Hawley Griffin” as Alan Moore’s nod to Dr. Hawley Crippen). (In case I haven’t mentioned it before, my book on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Heroes and Monsters, goes on sale this June. I put a good deal of work into it, it’s pretty good, and its good sales will enable me to keep writing. Plus it has three essays which will be of interest to those Victorianists who aren’t interested in the comic series. One essay is on the history of the concept of the crossover in popular culture, one essay is on the Victorian literary archetypes in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and one essay is on the history of the concept of the Yellow Peril. So, please, buy it and help me to keep this site going!) However, because the treatment only turns his body invisible, rather than his clothes as well, Griffin finds that invisibility is not only not the great boon he anticipated it to be, but rather a nuisance. So Griffin goes to a small village to work on an antidote, only to be continually bothered by its inhabitants. He is finally revealed to be invisible and flees the village. Griffin attempts to recruit a tramp, but the tramp’s help is minor, and he is afraid of Griffin and finally flees from him. Griffin attempts to punish the tramp but is shot and takes refuge in the house of an old acquaintance, Dr. Kemp. Dr. Kemp betrays him to the police, and after Griffin terrorizes the village of Burdock, where Kemp lives, and then attempts to kill Kemp, a crowd sets on Griffin and kills him.
There has been a great deal of criticism written on Wells and The Invisible Man. Wells’ welcome into the Canon has meant that academics who wouldn’t be caught tenureless writing about Stanley Weyman, a superior stylist, will produce monograph after monograph analyzing Wells’ lesser work. While some of this work is insightful, too much of it is mental masturbation, hackwork for the c.v. or to qualify for tenure, or ludicrous over-interpretations written to fit an author’s thesis or ideological hobby-horse. (Yes, Leon Stover, I’m looking at you). It may be that every word in The Invisible Man has a deeper meaning, and that Griffin’s sneeze, after a night in the woods, naked, is an example of either hubris or an ironical example of the “comic/sinister mix” of the novel. Perhaps Wells’ intended every word and phrase to symbolize something. But I doubt it.
The novel does have certain themes, to be certain. Broadly, they are the conflict between science/knowledge and ignorance, and the folly and hubris of Griffin.
Griffin, ill-tempered though he is, is a brilliant scientist, and if not for the petty demands of the provincial, ignorant villagers and of the capitalist society in which he lives, Griffin could have achieved great things. But the prying of the villagers and the need for money, to pay for rent and food as well as for materials for his experiments, goad Griffin and finally drive him over the edge.
Conversely, Griffin does suffer from hubris and does experience the fall. He is willing to sacrifice almost anything to gain his ends, including stealing from his father. He does not care about its cost, and he does not think about the effects. Invisibility, to Griffin, is the means to an end, and because he trying to gain the secret of invisibility, he is more important than others, and so they must be sacrificed.
There are a few other aspects of the novel worth noting. There is the anti-Semitism of the novel. That Wells disliked the Jews will come as a surprise to some, if not many, but it is true. Wells is a part of that tradition of pre-WW2 English anti-Semitism which one can find in writers as various as Hillaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, and T.S. Eliot. Wells’ anti-Semitism does not invalidate what he wrote, nor does the quality of his work justify his anti-Semitism. It’s simply a fact.
The book as a whole is very believable. Wells is quite good at piling up small, believable details of every day life and in making his science fiction based on sound scientific principles, so that the more fantastic elements of the novel are more easily accepted. It’s an old lesson–the more realistic a novel is the more easily readers will suspend their disbelief of the unrealistic elements–but one that too many writers, Victorian and modern, ignore.
A number of critics have written about the comedy of the novel. This may be a case of the British sense of humor versus the American sense of humor, but I didn’t find much humorous in this novel. The dialect may have been done for comedic purposes, but the what was said (as opposed to how it was said) was not particularly funny, and didn’t seem to be intended so. Perhaps Wells did intend the early sections of the novel to be humorous. If so, the humor is dated and ineffectual.
Griffin is not, it should be said, a sociopath. His initial concern for the policeman he strangled, and his crying jag before his final assault on Kemp, are evidence of at least some kind of conscience. Griffin doesn’t have much of a conscience, but he does have one. And his assaults come from as a result of a bad temper pushed too far, rather from sadism. Had Griffin merely been left alone, the murders to come would not have taken place.
Finally, The Invisible Man might be seen as a combination of the condition-of-England novel and the terrorism novel. In condition-of-England novels writers from Elizabeth Gaskell to Charles Dickens looked at the state of the nation and the changes in the social classes. The Invisible Man is about the clash between modern science and the backwards culture and ideology of provincial England which Wells so disliked. The terrorism novel is closely related to the anarchism novels (see for example the Professor Stein entry); the Fenian dynamite campaigns of the 1880s led to a series of novels examining the effects of anarchy and terrorism. In the final section of the book Griffin lays siege to the town of Burdock, declaring “This is day one of year one of the new epoch,–the Epoch of the Invisible Man!” Because of this act of terrorism, some critics have seen Griffin as influenced by Sergei Nechaev (1847-1882), a Russian revolutionary. (Not something I agree with, mind you–Nechaev’s Catechism of a Revolutionary is far more amoral than Griffin ever got–but it is a somewhat common comment).
t. It was created by Fitz-James O’Brien and appeared in “What Was It?” (Harper’s, March 1859). Michael Fitz-James O’Brien (1828-1862) is one of the sadder literary might-have-beens: a talented Irish-American writer who was killed at a young age in the Civil War, leaving behind him a series of very good stories and sad thoughts about what he might have created had he lived as long as Ambrose Bierce.
“What Was It?” is a dandy gem of horror, surprisingly modern in tone and content. Harry, the narrator of “What Was It?” lives with several other boarders at a house in New York City. The house is reputed to be haunted, but when the boarders moved into the house they did not treat the house with respect, but instead waited avidly for manifestations of chains and spectral forms. Nothing appeared, so the boarders began to take the house for granted, until one night, when Harry and his friend Dr. Hammond retire to the house’s garden to smoke opium together. Their conversation turns to the possible existence of “the greatest element of terror” and the “one Something more terrible than any other thing.” Harry, more than a little unhappy with this topic, turns in, and is trying to sleep when “a Something dropped, as it seemed, from the ceiling, plumb upon my chest, and the next instant I felt two bony hands encircling my throat, endeavoring to choke me.” A terrible struggle follows, with Harry barely mastering it and then turning on the light.
Nothing’s there. It can be felt but not seen. Other boarders, having heard Harry’s screams, rush into the room and are confronted by the invisible It. This unnerves them (understandably). Dr. Hammond helps Harry tie It up, and then the pair keep it in their room while they decide what to do. They consult Doctor X—, who administers chloroform to it (after getting over the shock of its existence) and then takes a clay cast of it, divining its shape. But Harry and Dr. Hammond have no idea what to do with It, and they keep It prisoner for two weeks, until It dies of starvation. It is buried in the garden, and then Harry departs on “a long journey from which I may not return,” leaving behind his narrative.
“What Was It?” is told in a very modern fashion, without any of the bloated rhetoric of the mid-19th century writers and with a directness and matter-of-fact tone that his contemporaries lacked. The story moves quickly and the lack of overwrought description helps make the horror of It more effective and makes the story more effective than something from Poe. O’Brien was clearly knowledgeable about other horror writers–he namedrops Bulwer-Lytton, Mrs. Crowe, and Brockden Brown–but he was doing something quite different from them, something de Maupassant saw when he wrote the similar (but superior) “The Horla.” There’s no over-arching morality, Christian or otherwise, in the story; It appears, attacks Harry, is mastered, and then dies, with no explanation given. The story ends on a note of anti-closure, in fact, as a kind of rebuke to the sometimes forced inscribed morality of O’Brien’s contemporaries. O’Brien’s universe is our own, one where bad things, like attacks in the night, simply happen, without any reason for them.
It is a horrible, humanoid thing, perhaps the “King of Terrors” and perhaps merely a malign spirit whose matter is “so entirely transparent as to be totally invisible.” It is “shaped like a man–distorted, uncouth, and horrible, but still a man. It was small, not over four feet and some inches in height, and its limbs revealed a muscular development that was unparalleled. Its face surpassed in hideousness anything that I had ever seen.”
vanhoe. Ivanhoe was created by Sir Walter Scott and appeared in Ivanhoe: A Romance (1819). Scott (1771-1832) I've mentioned here before, as the author of Rob Roy and the creator of the modern genre of historical romances. Ivanhoe is not seen by the critics as one of Scott's major works, but it is certainly his best known and most popular novel. It is also his most influential, in large part spawning the historical romance genre as well as the mock-Shakespearean language which appears in so many lesser historical adventures. Surprisingly, Ivanhoe has been very successful in translation, most likely because the underlying story, of oppressed Saxons struggling with the occupying Normans, speaks to oppressed peoples around the world. Mark Twain went so far as to blame Ivanhoe for causing the American Civil War, on the grounds that a generation of Southerners took false ideas of chivalry from the book.
Now, within the past month I've read Rob Roy, and my feelings about that book may be summarized by Harpo Marx's classic line about Abie's Wild Irish Rose: no worse than a bad cold. I was dreading Ivanhoe, not least because I've seen it mentioned on several lists and in several books as one of the most overrated "classics" of all. But the truth is that Ivanhoe really isn't that bad. The atrocious Scots dialect of Rob Roy is absent, for one, and that's a massive addition by omission. (The faux-Shakespearean dialogue of Ivanhoe is a lark in comparison). The coincidence and unbelieveable plot developments which mar Rob Roy are missing, as is the turgid pace. In fact, the only real negative about Scott's style in Ivanhoe is the very long descriptions of clothing, buildings, scenery, and near anything else he can describe. Scott was undoubtedly trying to set the scenes as vividly as he could, but after the fourth or fifth three-page-long infodump of information I began longing for a red pen to mark through them all.
All that said, however, Ivanhoe is fairly readable. It's a classic, even archetypal knights-in-armor story, set in the days of Richard the Lion-Hearted. Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe returns from the Crusades to reclaim his birthright (although there's the small problem of his having been disinherited by his father for actually running off to the Crusades in the first place). But the vile Normans are oppressing the honest Saxons, and so Wilfred begins fighting for them. He enters a tournament and defeats various Norman knights but is wounded in doing so. He's taken in and cared for by Rebecca, the very attractive Jewish daughter of the rich moneylender Isaac of York. Meanwhile the arrogant Norman knight and Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert has feelings for the saintly Saxon maiden Rowena, but he's involved in a conspiracy, along with King John and various other Norman lords, to consolidate their grasp of England and ensure that Richard the Lion-Hearted never returns from France. The plot threads intertwine and there's a siege of the conspirators' castle, and the Black Knight who helped Wilfred in the tournament is revealed to be Richard, and Robin Hood and his Merry Men are involved, and the evil Normans are killed and Richard reassumes his throne, and Wilfred ends up marrying Rowena while the sorrowful Rebecca departs for Spain.
Wilfred is a standard heroic knight character, good-humored, stout at arms, a devout Christian--in other words, not particularly interesting as a character. More interesting, at least as a critical reader, are the possible analyses which the novel gives. There are various critical tacks to take when writing about Ivanhoe: comparing the conflicts of the present, when Scott wrote Ivanhoe, and the past, and the way Scott historicizes the present; the racial/ethnic subtext of Norman and Jewish "aliens" invading the ethnically pure Saxon England; the way in which Scott makes the feminine characters more sympathetic and appealing than the male characters; and the anti-Semitism of the novel. But there's one comment that is common to most criticism of Ivanhoe: that Wilfred should have married Rebecca rather than Rowena. Rowena isn't a complete milksop, but she's prim and prissy and Scott never shows us why she is to be desired. Rebecca, on the other hand, is not just beautiful but also sympathetic, compassionate, and smart. She's far more desirable than Rowena, but Scott's own anti-Semitism (see below) forbade him from marrying a Christian to a Jew, so he packed Rebecca off to a celibate life in Spain and foisted Rowena on Ivanhoe. Thank goodness Thackeray wrote Rebecca and Rowena (1850), a sequel to Ivanhoe in which Rowena is a shrew, jealous of Rebecca, but Rowena eventually dies and Rebecca converts to Christianity, allowing Ivanhoe to marry her and Live Happily Ever After.
Finally, there's the issue of Ivanhoe's anti-Semitism. Many people point at the portrayal of Rebecca as evidence that the book is pro-Jewish. This argument overlooks the facts that a) Rebecca is almost impossibly idealized, and therefore not an accurate reflection of how the book or the author feels about the Jews; b) Isaac, Rebecca's father, has many of the classic anti-Semitic attributes--grasping, greedy, servile and craven--with only his love for Rebecca and his willingness to give up his money for her (but only, it must be said, after some consideration) to redeem him; c) the many anti-Semitic slurs which the narrator and the secondary characters use in describing all Jews except Rebecca; and d) the way the heroic characters, like Wilfred and Robin Hood, treat Isaac. This is not a book friendly to the Jews--quite the opposite.
ahn, Madame. Madame Jahn was created by Vincent O’Sullivan and appeared in “The Business of Madame Jahn” (A Book of Bargains, 1896). O’Sullivan was the creator of Alistair and I have information on him there. Gustave Herbout is a frustrated young man whose tastes are greater than his wallet. He lives for the nights in the café, the outings with the little lady with the yellow hair, dress and habits of the boulevardier. But his bank clerk’s salary restricts what he can do. His only extra income is in the form of gifts from his aunt, Madame Jahn. Gustave only gets these gifts after long, stupefyingly dull dinners with her, followed by games of dominoes (and more very tedious conversation) with the fat local priest. As these evenings end, Madame Jahn appears and slips him 50 or 100 francs–and sometimes nothing at all. Gustave, feeling pressure to buy more gifts for his little lady with the yellow hair, goes to the race track, and after briefly winning some money, which he spends on her, he loses heavily, and she goes off on the arm of a German. Gustave thinks seriously about his future; his aunt is only just sixty, and his mother had lived to be ninety, and so he might not see his aunt’s money for many years. So Gustave makes his plan, and visits his aunt, and listens carefully to her stories, and then stabs her through the heart. Gustave wrecks the room in which he killed his aunt, and then abuses her body, and then wanders to a bar and picks a fight, which results in his being in jail when his aunt’s body is discovered. After the funeral Gustave gets his aunt’s profitable shop, and all its money...but then he begins being visited. First by a pretty young girl who looks like his aunt did when she was young. Then by a somewhat older woman, who looks as his aunt did many years ago. And so on across several nights, and each time the woman stares at him silently, with great reproachless eyes, until finally one night a corpse enters his room, “as if borne by unseen men, and lay in the air across the writing-desk, while the small drawer flew open of its own accord.” Gustave looks at the eyes, and sees them pressed down with pennies. He flees, but it follows him, and he finally asks it if it is alive, and it says, “No, no! I have been dead many days!” And Gustave hangs himself.
As in “When I Was Dead,” O’Sullivan creates, in “The Business of Madame Jahn,” a sharp and in some ways powerful story which grows upon reflection. “Madame Jahn” lacks the intensity and insanity of “When I Was Dead,” but has instead a very plausible protagonist, a horrible scenario–a revenant come back to haunt her murderer–told in a matter of fact manner (which heightens its horrificness), and a powerful ending. It’s whizzo, is “When I Was Dead.”
Madame Jahn–such a sweet, dear, patient woman. So kind to her nephew. So innocent. Even in death she does not punish her murderer, simply looks at him, and suffers. Of course, the revelation of her suffering is enough to cause Gustave to hang himself, so perhaps she’s not so sweet after all....
aunty, Jack. Created by E. H. Burrage, of Ching-Ching fame, Jack Jaunty debuted in "Jack Jaunty; or, Friend and Foe," in Best for Boys #28 (1893). Jaunty is in all the important ways a virtual duplicate of Tom Floremall, Tom Wildrake, and Dick Stornaway, one of the myriad of schoolboys-in-trouble-who-make-good-in-the-end. Jack is a stout-hearted, good-natured British schoolboy of a sound mind and body and strong moral fiber, but he is framed for cheating at school by his arch-enemy "Big Jim," who is clearly a bad sort (he smokes and drinks--horrors!) but who nonetheless fools the schools' headmasters into expelling Jack. (It would seem that Burrage ran out of story ideas and reused the Dick Stornaway plot). Jack's father John decides to make a man out of Jack and takes him on his ship. Jack, of course, proves to his father and to everyone that he was innocent by being his usual moral and upright self, by helping the less fortunate (those of the lower class without the innate advantages of a Jack Jaunty, don't you know) during storms, helping to fight off would-be pirates, uncovering a Russian spy on the ship, and finally helping his father to close an important business deal. John and Jack return to England and John helps persuade the headmaster that Jack was framed. Big Jim is expelled from school, the angels sing hallelujah, etc.
igong. Jigong, or Jidian (hereafter Jigong), is actually a figure of Chinese folklore. In this case I'm referring to the Jigong who appears in Wang Mengji's Ji gong zhuan (The Story of Mr. Ji, or Jigong Drum-Song, c. 1859), Guo Guangrui's Pingyan Jigong zhuan (Storyteller's Jigong, 1898), and the thirty-eight sequels to Storyteller's Jigong which appeared in China (mostly Shanghai) between 1905 and 1926. (Storyteller's Jigong was very popular).
The real Jigong was Daoji (?-1209 C.E.), an eccentric, meat-eating, courtesan-frequenting Buddhist monk. Daoji did good works along the coastal parts of Zhejiang, becoming popular with the people and unpopular with other monks; Daoji was subversive and disrespectful toward mainstream Buddhism and the monastic institution. As time went by Daoji became Jidian/Jigong ("Sir Ji"), a figure of folktales, oral performances, and eventually literature. The cult of Jigong spread even to Malaysia, where he was a popular figure for many years. The Daoji of tradition is a mad monk, a clown, a figure of contradiction (a meat-eating, sex-having Buddhist monk?), and one of the figures gamblers pray to, but also a moral exemplar and a symbol of popular resistance to corrupt authority.
The Jigong of The Story of Mr. Ji and Storyteller's Jigong(about half of Storyteller's Jigong is the plot of The Story of Mr. Ji) appears is an insane monk who comes down from his mountaintop hermitage to help the disadvantaged of China while bringing order and justice to the corrupt and powerful. Jidian is forced, in the course of these events, to deal with and occasionally defeat supernatural forces, beings and monsters. He is also, needless to say, a powerful fighter and a strong magician.
In Storyteller's Jigong Jigong is fights against Hua Yunlong, a bandit from western Sichuan known as the "Heaven and Earth Bandit Rat." Hua is an audacious thief as well as a brutal murderer; when a chaste widow refuses to have sex with him, he murders her. Hua is wily and tough, and was once a sworn brother of Jigong's disciples, and through most of the 240 chapters of Storyteller's Jigong Jigong and his disciples are hard-pressed to stop him. Eventually, after a series of pitched battles, Jigong's superior magic skills defeat Hua, who is brought to justice and decapitated.
Jigong is referred to by his disciples as an "arhat," or "living Buddha." He is a doughty fighter, although his only magic weapon is his hat. His magic is strong, but unlike Taoist sorcerers, who have to master techniques and rely on recited charms for their power, Jigong's abilities and powers are innate. He is capable of miracles, some of which include reviving boiled snails, coating statues with cold, and transporting logs from Sichuan to the well of a monastery. He is an enemy of cruelty and corruption, but he has an especial hatred for sexual crimes, for selling women into slavery, and for rapists in particular. Banditry, to Jigong, is an acceptable profession; sexual violence is not. (That's where Hua Yunlong went wrong, to Jigong). Jigong has a number of disciples, wuxia martial artists (The Story of Mr. Ji usefully defines wuxia as those who "fly over eaves and walk on walls") who he sends out on various individual missions. These disciples have names like "Mountain-Climbing Leopard," "Cloud-Chasing Swallow," "Star-Plucking Constellation Pacer," "Eight Directions Awe-Exerting," and "Incarnated Plague God." Jigong also gains followers in the persons of the various female spirits and monsters he defeats; Jigong spares their lives rather than killing them, and in return they become ardent followers of his.
immieboy. Jimmieboy was created by John Kendrick Bangs and appeared in a series of short stories which were collected in Bikey the Skycycle and Other Tales of Jimmieboy (1902). Bangs (1862-1922) wrote widely but is best known as a humorist and as the author of the House-Boat on the Styx (1895). The Jimmieboy stories are science fiction recast as fairy tales, undoubtedly for a juvenile audience. Jimmieboy, a five- or six-year-old, receives a new bicycle, which has wonderful "rheumatic" tires. Jimmieboy dubs the bicycle "Bikey." That night Bikey suggests that he and Jimmieboy take a trip into space. Jimmieboy fills the tires with a glowing gas, and then it's off to Saturn, where Jimmieboy rides around the rings, which are roads; the Saturnians are humanoid but have wheels rather than feet. Then Jimmieboy is spoken to by a tiny creature via his telephone; the little thing eventually takes Jimmieboy to his apartment, which is full of robotic and automated appliances, including a talking dictionary, robot cooks, self-reading books, and the equivalent of a VCR. Still later Jimmieboy, in a hotel, rings for room service but gets Santa Claus instead, due to crossed wires.
innee. The Jinnee, aka Fakrash-e-Aamash, one of the Green Jinn, formerly of the Palace of the Mountain of the Clouds above the City of Babel in the Garden of Irem, originally appeared in Brass Bottle (1900) by "F. Anstey," the pseudonym for Thomas Anstey Guthrie (1856-1934). Guthrie was a very successful British humorist, who wrote dozens of plays, short stories, novels, and essays. Guthrie specialised in humorous fantasy and has been called the "father of the modern humorous fantasy novel."
Brass Bottle is the story of Horace Ventimore, a somewhat hapless but well-meaning architect of desire and competence but few professional prospects. While on the Continent he falls in love with Sylvia Futvoye, and accompanies her, her mother, and her father, the famous Orientalist Professor Futvoye, on various walks. Back home in England Prof. Futvoye asks Horace to bid for him on various items at an auction. (The Professor, a crusty and unlikable bastard, has a dinner to go to). Horace attends the auction, but everything is too expensive for him or the Professor. One final item becomes available, however: a brass bottle, "an old, squat, pot-bellied vessel, about two feet high, with a long thick neck, the mouth of which was closed by a sort of metal stopper or cap." Horace is seized by a whim and successfully bids on it. He takes it home and manages with chisel and hammer to pry open the lid. Out comes a plume of hissing black smoke and a "pungent and peculiarly overpowering perfume." When the smoke clears he sees
the figure of a stranger, who seemed of abnormal and almost colossal height. But this must have been an optical illusion caused by the magnifying effects of the smoke; for, as it cleared, his visitor proved to be of no more than ordinary stature. He was elderly, and, indeed, venerable of appearance, and wore an Eastern robe and head-dress of a dark-green hue. He stood there with uplifted hands, uttering something in a loud tone and a language unknown to Horace.(Modern readers, accustomed to decades of stories on the theme of the genie, know what's coming next).
The strange figure turns out to be a genie--"jinnee," in the words of Professor Futvoye. Horace is at first reluctant to believe Fakrash-el-Aamash, but after a few quite beneficial turns of events (Fakrash is quite grateful to Horace for having freed him from the bottle). Horace accepts that he has a jinnee willing to do favors for him.
However, Horace is, as previously mentioned, hapless (though genial) and his efforts to capitalize on his new companion engender chaos and confusion (worsened by Fakrash himself, who is in some ways quite simple). Worse still, Horace continues to mislead and lie to Fakrash (about the fact, for example, that Suleyman, who originally imprisoned Fakrash, is in fact long dead), and when Fakrash forbids Horace to give away his existence Horace, desperate to save himself from the Lord Mayor of London, goes ahead and tries to do so.
Fakrash then abducts Horace and prepares to kill him. Horace fast-talks his way out of the situation, managing to persuade Fakrash back into the bottle and to undo all the bad events that he's caused. The novel ends with Horace happily married to Sylvia and Fakrash and his bottle at the bottom of the Thames. (Waiting, it might be said, to be found by someone else).
Brass Bottle is not a great novel, but it has a certain wit about it and is carried off with some skill. Fakrash speaks in an entertaining faux-Classic: "In the sky it is written upon the pages of the air: `He who doth kind actions shall experience the like.' Am I not an Efreet of the Jinn? Demand, therefore, and thou shalt receive." The jinnee has great powers, but is constrained by his own lack of knowledge of the Victorian world, as Horace is constrained by his own lack of intelligence, and so Horace does not become incredibly wealthy or powerful--not through authorial manipulation but through his own limitations. The novel also has the occasional moment of wit: Fakrash sees railway engines and steamers as being imprisoned and enslaved Jinn, and is afraid of the power of "that malignant monster with the myriad ears and eyes and tongues, which thou callest `The Press.'"
ock o' th' Beach. Jock was introduced in "Morice Gerard"'s Jock o' th' Beach: A Story For Boys (1897). "Gerard" was the pseudonym of John J. Teague (1856-1929), a British writer of boys' fiction, historical novels, and adult mystery fiction. Jock, as a baby, is thrown up on the shore of Lancashire, with no indication as to where he came from or who he really was except for an initialed scarf of exceptional quality which is found on the beach with him. Jock is taken in by poor, simple, religious (read: tedious) folk, who try to raise him as best they can. The book focuses on him from age 13 on. Jock, because of his innate superiority (he's not from the working class, you see, so he must be morally and physically superior), is always doing noble deeds, defending the weak, protecting local youths from bullies, preventing crimes, and the like. When he finds out that the couple raising him are not his biological parents Jock begins looking for his bioparents (somewhat ingratefully, but his adopted mom and dad don't seem to mind). Jock gets involved in solving a murder, fighting smugglers, and seeing a ship through two storms, one of which is the "worst in a century." Jock eventually does find his bioparents, who are not nobility, but rather sturdy upper middle class folks; his father is a ship's captain. At the end of the book Jock, with his buddy Jem (they became best pals through the course of the novel), get baptised, and surely there can be no better or more fitting ending for a proper British novel than for the young hero to be baptised, yes? (Whatever)
ohnson, Rollo. Rollo appeared in the Chicago Record in the late 1890s in stories like “Rollo Johnson, The Boy Inventor; or, the Demon Bicycle and its Daring Rider.” He was created by George Ade (see the Clarence Allen entry for brief information on him). Rollo is an eight-year-old inventor living somewhere in Chicago. After four years (!) of work on a miracle bike he finishes it, and after defeating a “millionaire capitalist” wins the race for the “championship of America,” making a 14-second mile. The bike is electric, and obviously capable of high speeds; it also has a kind of stun-gun and can fly. Rollo is very much in the dime novel tradition of heroes. Forthright, brave, careful, inventive (he runs electrical current through the floor of his lab in case anyone attacks him), good in a fight and with a gun, and (of course) victorious in the end.
onkin, Professor Jephtha. The good Professor, one of the more amusing mad scientists of the era (deliberately so), appeared in a variety of short stories (never collected, more's the pity) in Argosy from August 1905 to March 1907. He was created by Howard R. Garis (1873-1962), an American writer who wrote widely in the dime novels and for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, most notably for the Tom Swift and Great Marvel series; Garis is best known for the Uncle Wiggly books. Professor Jonkin first appeared in "Professor Jonkin's Cannibal Plant;" in it he decides to feed a carnivorous plant, a "Saracenia nepenthes," until it grows to enormous size. After a steady diet of steak and pork chops the plant is over twenty feet tall, with pitchers nearly ten feet long. However, the Professor, ever desirous of getting the plant just that little bit longer, leans too far forward while feeding it and falls in. (And, no, the plant doesn't call Jonkin "Seymour"). The Professor insists that he be extricated without the plant being killed, so chloroform is applied and the Professor freed. After that the Professor resolves to punish it by not feeding it for a few days, and vows to only feed it at pitchfork-length.
The second story, "Professor Jonkin and his Busier Bees," involves Jonkin's attempt to crossbreed honey and lightning bees. He is of course successful; Jonkin is on the level of Moreau when it comes to bioengineering. The new species is the "lightning bee." However, when they fly around at night people try to catch them, thinking they are only lightning bugs, and get badly shocked. Eventually the men of the village, fed up, storm the Professor's labs and knock over the beehive, freeing the bees, who then fly away (obviously with a queen in tow) and are never seen again. The third story, "Quick Transit by Beanstalk Limited," details Jonkin's attempt (inspired by too much reading of fairy tales) to develop a beanstalk that will grow in the same way that Jack's did. After several months' work the Professor succeeds, creating a bean that sprouts a stalk that grows several feet per minute. Unfortunately the Professor becomes entangled in the stalk and is carried into the air. Luckily his weight is too much for the stalk, which bends and brings him back safely to the ground. After that he resolves to never again grow that breed of bean, as it is too dangerous.
The final story, "His Winged Elephant," shows the results of his crossbreeding an elephant (whether African or Indian is not shown) with the culex anopheles mosquito to create the Culex anopheles pachydermia, the winged elephant. It's the size and shape of an ordinary elephant, but has a long stinger/probscis instead of a trunk; it sucks blood through its stinger. The professor keeps it chained down, but a mouse chews through the straw it beds on and the elephant, terrified, breaks loose. It bites Jonkin and then flies away. Jonkin's bite swells up larger than his head, and is only reduced with difficulty. The elephant heads for Jersey Meadows, "that paradise for mosquitos," but the Meadows were being sprayed with kerosene, which kills the elephant.
The Jonkin stories are whimsical, professionally done, and written with a light touch. They aren't long, and certainly could be cheaply reprinted.
oslyn, Rob. Young Master Joslyn first appeared in The Master Key (1901), written by L. Frank Baum (1856-1919). Baum, of course, is best known for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its 13 sequels. Baum also wrote other children's books under a variety of pseudonyms and was successful as a journalist.
The Master Key, a briskly-told children's book, is about Rob, a natural born inventor, who invents numerous electrical devices (to the annoyance of his mother & sister and the delight of his father) until one day, almost purely by accident, he crosses several wires and summons up the Demon of Electricity. The Demon, who is actually more of a genie, tells him that he has "touched the Master Key of Electricity," and that therefore the Demon must "obey the laws of nature that compel me to respond to your summons."
The Demon, despite his name, is a rather kindly (if sometimes single-mindedly straightforward) sort who is willing to serve Joslyn, finding the centuries of waiting for someone to command his services rather boring. So he gives the Joslyn three gifts each week for three weeks in a row ("Could you accomplish that [deliberately striking the Master Key] you might command my services forever. But, having once succeeded, you are entitled to the nine gifts--three each week for three weeks").
The first three gifts are:
There's a bit of wry humor in The Master Key, and the story is told with a suitable briskness and punchiness. It's a good book for children, even today, and there are enough elements in it--the character of the Demon, for one, and some of Joslyn's adventures--to entertain adults.
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