Thursday, October 27, 2011

Weird Tales from the Victorian Age

Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Born May 25, 1803, London
Died January 18, 1873, Torquay, England

For Weird Tales
"The Haunted and the Haunters, or The House and the Brain" (story, May 1923)

Bulwer-Lytton was a prolific author known more today for the opening line of one of his novels than for any other work. The line is Snoopy's favorite opening line as well:

It was a dark and stormy night . . . 

Bulwer-Lytton worked in a number of forms and genres, including the horror story and the science fiction novel. Weird Tales reprinted "The Haunted and the Haunters, or The House and the Brain" (1859) in a very early issue of the magazine, May 1923. Equally interesting is his authorship of The Coming Race, or Vril: The Power of the Coming Race (1871), a science fiction novel concerning a subterranean race and its designs on the surface upon which we live. Theories of a hollow earth preceded the publication of Bulwer-Lytton's book. Edgar Rice Burroughs was among later popularizers of the idea. In the 1940s, Richard S. Shaver and science fiction editor Raymond A. Palmer advanced the idea that Deros, or detrimental robots, inhabit the inner earth and are forever scheming against humanity. Briefly popular, "The Shaver Mystery" faded from the public eye to be replaced by the first of two great science fiction-based belief systems, flying saucers. Raymond Palmer was instrumental in keeping flying saucers before the public for years after the first sighting in 1947. Occultists now weave the hollow earth theory, subterranean races, flying saucers, ancient astronauts, interdimensional travel, and cryptozoological creatures into a unified field theory of the paranormal.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Born August 6, 1809, Somersby, Lincolnshire, England
Died October 6, 1892, Haslemere, Surrey, England

For Weird Tales
"The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls" (poem, Oct. 1938)

Tennyson was and is one of the most admired and accomplished poets in the English language. He served as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1850 until his death in 1892, the longest tenure of any poet to hold the post. Frequently quoted, Tennyson's verse dealt with classical, historical, and contemporary subjects. Tennyson's short poem, "The Eagle: A Fragment" (1851), brings to mind Andrew Brosnatch's drawing for "The Eyrie," the letters column of Weird Tales from 1924 to 1954.

The Eagle: A Fragment
by Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Edward FitzGerald
Born March 31, 1809, Bredfield, Suffolk, England
Died June 14, 1883, Merton, Norfolk, England

For Weird Tales
Three stanzas translated from "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" (Mar. 1934; June/July 1939; Jan. 1940)

Edward FitzGerald was vastly wealthy and towards the end of his life a skeptic, yet he lived  here and there and was buried in a churchyard. A dilettante, a gardener, an idler, and a writer of letters, he produced a translation of 700-year-old Persian poetry that is still read today. Weird Tales reprinted three stanzas from that work, "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam," in 1934 (No. 24), 1939 (No. 68), and 1940 (No. 31).

Charles Dickens
Born February 7, 1812, Landport, Portsmouth, England
Died June 9, 1870, Gad's Hill Place, Higham, Kent, England

For Weird Tales
"The Bagman's Story" (Oct. 1926)
"The Signal-Man" (Apr. 1930)
"A Child's Dream of a Star" (July 1930)

In his lifetime, Charles Dickens was probably the most famous and popular writer in the English language. In addition to his many well-read and often-filmed novels A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1861), David Copperfield (1849-1850), and The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1837-1839), Dickens wrote the most famous ghost story in the English language, A Christmas Carol (1843). Weird Tales reprinted three of his short pieces, "The Bagman's Story" (Oct. 1926), "The Signal-Man" (Apr. 1930), and "A Child's Dream of a Star" (July 1930). Dickens would not have been a stranger to magazines: during his lifetime, he serialized many of his novels in monthly and weekly publications, his installments often ending in a cliffhanger.

Charles Kingsley
Born June 12, 1819, Holne, Devon, England
Died January 23, 1875, Eversley, Hampshire, England

For Weird Tales
"The Sands of Dee" (poem, Jan. 1926)

Charles Kingsley was a minister and son of a minister, and a writer and both brother and father of writers. He authored more than thirty-five books of non-fiction, sermons, verse, and fiction, most famously The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby (1863) and Westward, Ho! (1855), which lent its title to the only town in England with an exclamation point in its name. His work reprinted in Weird Tales consisted of a single poem, "The Sands of Dee," from January 1926. 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Born May 12, 1828, London
Died April 9, 1882, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England

For Weird Tales
"The Blessed Damozel" (poem, Dec. 1938)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti championed FitzGerald's "Rubaiyat" and helped the older poet earn later printings of his work. Rossetti was the son of Italian immigrants and only one of a talented and accomplished family that included the poet Christina Rossetti. A medievalist, artist, poet, and translator, Dante Gabriel Rossetti co-founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Among his associates were William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and William Morris, a multitalented author, artist, designer, and--as a fantasist--an influence upon writers of the twentieth century, especially J.R.R. Tolkein.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Born November 13, 1850, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died December 3, 1894, Vailima, Spain

For Weird Tales
"Markheim" (story, Apr. 1927)

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote what you might call genre fiction, or what in the 1920s and '30s could have been called pulp fiction, including pirate stories (Treasure Island), historical adventure (The Black Arrow, Kidnapped, The Master of Ballantrae), Ruritanian romance (Prince Otto), and of course horror (The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde). Weird Tales reprinted his story "Markheim" (1887) in its April 1927 issue.

Weird Tales reprinted the work of other writers from the Victorian Age, but I'll write about them in future postings, either because they lived into subsequent ages (Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells), or because they were Irish rather than British (Oscar Wilde, Fitz-James O'Brien).

"The Blessed Damozel" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, poet, artist, and co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 
"La Belle Dame Sans Merci," another work by Rossetti and subject of Keats' poem, listed in yesterday's posting.
An illustration for Charles Kingsley's Water Babies by the American illustrator Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935). Other artists have tried their hands at Kingsley's book, but none is as closely identified with the book as she. 

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

No comments:

Post a Comment