1899


The Book of Dragons: Wonderful dragon stories for kids

The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit

Edith Nesbit writes the most clever and charming children's stories. I love them. The Book of Dragons is a collection of eight delightful tales about dragons:

“The Book of Beasts” — Lionel, a young boy, is summoned to be the king after his great-great-great-something-grandfather dies. In the library of his new castle, he discovers the Book of Beasts and opens it. Out flies a red dragon who eats a soccer team and an orphanage. King Lionel must outwit the dragon with some help from a hippogriff and a manticore. This story is pretty funny and it, as well as the narrator’s voice in the audio edition I listened to, reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman.

“Uncle James, or the Purple Stranger” — This ... Read More

Doctor Therne: A terrific medical novel by a great adventure fantasist

Doctor Therne by H. Rider Haggard

Free Kindle version.

Hard as it may be to believe, there was a time in English history when the populace vigorously refused to be protected against the smallpox scourge that so often ravaged the countryside. Indeed, to this day in the 21st century, there are still many people around the world who view vaccination against disease an unsafe practice, and refuse to partake of its proven benefits. Back in 1796, when English doctor Edward Jenner first demonstrated the usefulness of introducing cowpox into an individual to prevent smallpox, his discovery was viewed as a great advancement. By the early 1800s, vaccination of this type was widespread, despite the possible dangers of infection. But when Britain passed Vaccination Acts from 1840 - 1853 that made these vaccinations compulsory, well, that's when the trouble started. The Anti-Vaccination Leag... Read More

Swallow: Action, romance, and some mystical elements, too

Swallow: A Tale of the Great Trek by H. Rider Haggard

No, this is not the Linda Lovelace biography. (Oops, sorry ... bad joke.) Rather, Swallow is yet another fine piece of adventure fantasy from the so-called "father of lost-race fiction," H. Rider Haggard. In addition to some 14 novels depicting the adventures of hunter Allan Quatermain, Haggard penned some dozen or so other books that were set in the wilds of Africa. Swallow, his 22nd novel, was written in 1896, but did not see publication until January 1899. It is a somewhat unique book in the Haggard canon, being narrated, as it is, by an old Boer woman, the Vrouw Botmar, who is anything but sympathetic to the cause of British imperialism. She tells her story of the Great Trek of 1836, and all the many incidents surrounding it. And what a tale this i... Read More

Pharos the Egyptian: Mummies! Morons! Mediocrity.

Pharos the Egyptian by Guy Boothby

Once upon a time, when the British Empire was at its zenith, adventure fiction and fantastical writings began to deal with the idea that London — and tacitly, all Britain — was under threat by some ancient, terrifying force (frequently from a place where Britain had established a colony). There was an immense fascination with the occult versus the modern, the venerable old kingdoms versus the new British Empire, and most of all, the diabolical arcane opponent versus the plucky, civilized Englishman. It’s a trend that gave us such well-known works as Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Henry Rider Haggard's She, but prior to these there was Guy Boothby and his mummy novel Pharos the Egyptian (1899).

The story is fairly straightforward: a young Englishman named Cyril Forrester comes into contact wi... Read More