"A PIONEERING WORK OF SCIENCE FICTION": RARE 1828 SECOND EDITION OF JANE WEBB LOUDON'S THE MUMMY!—"AN EXPLICIT EFFORT TO INVENT A NEW KIND OF HERO IN A NEW KIND OF FICTION"
[WEBB, Jane] (Mrs. John Claudius LOUDON). The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century. London: Henry Colburn, 1828. Three volumes. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter red calf, raised bands, black and burgundy morocco spine labels, marbled boards.
Rare second edition of this landmark early science fiction novel, published only one year after the similarly elusive first edition and with a substantially altered text, Loudon's anonymously published classic, authored while still in her teens, widely praised and aligned with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in influence and originality, with Loudon introducing the first known revivified mummy in literature, along with a prophetic vision of automatons and even space travel in a virtually "ideal novel of the future." Handsomely bound by James Clyde.
Jane Webb Loudon's The Mummy! is heralded as "a pioneering work of science fiction that brought together political commentary, Egyptomania, and interest in technology" (ODNB), and stands as "one of the two most noteworthy English efforts between Frankenstein (1818) and the scientific romances of H.G. Wells" (Alkon, Science Fiction Before 1900, 38). The Mummy! also signals "a milestone in the development of futuristic fiction… surpassed only by Frankenstein in the annals of early science fiction by female authors" (Alkon in Science Fiction Studies, V23, No.1:123). This second edition, published anonymously like the 1827 first edition, remains "the earliest literary work thus far identified as dealing with revived mummies" (MacDonald & Rice, eds., Consuming Ancient Egypt, 24). The novel also vividly "illustrates the reactive nature of science fiction and how it would become an effective political tool in its near-future explorations, setting the tone for near-future, dystopic SF to come like Orwell's 1984 and the work of Philip K. Dick" (Chambers, Corpse of the Future).
Inspired by the Creature in Frankenstein, Loudon's mummy appears threatening, yet "what he actually offers people is help, and he also appears to possess a near-omniscience which allows him unfailingly to diagnose what kind of help is needed." There are, as well, "strong parallels with Mary Shelley's third novel, The Last Man (1826)." Both The Mummy! and The Last Man "represent visions of an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic future… and both reflect on the nature of the political and other changes which are likely to have taken place in the period between the present and their imaginary futures" (Hopkins, Jane C. Loudon's The Mummy!, in Cardiff Corvey 10:9). Notable, however, The Mummy! "has more of an interest in technology than either of Shelley's novels." Loudon introduces devices such as "steam-powered automaton surgeons and lawyers… and at one point she even anticipates space travel" (Hopkins, 11). Her "prophecy of the new Egypt makes her the first sibyl in the history of modern technology" (Clarke, Pattern of Expectation: 1644-2001, 556). The novel's "originality of a future setting… deserves very high praise… in an explicit effort to invent a new kind of hero in a new kind of fiction, Loudon almost achieved the ideal novel of the future as Bodin was to define it [in Le Roman de l'Avenir] only seven years later" (Alkon, Origins of Futuristic Fiction, 231-41). The Mummy! also "contains snippets of almost every popular fictional form of its period… [it] offers utopian thought, Gothicism, anti-intellectualism, Egyptological discoveries, fantastic inventions, memories of Napoleon, Byronism, a dynastic theory of history, and much else" (Bleiler, Guide to Supernatural Fiction 1205). Loudon is perhaps better-known today as a botanist, both in her own right and as a contributor to the work of her husband, John Claudius Loudon. "Second Edition" stated on title pages. First published in 1827, an edition exceedingly hard to find. Occasional mispagination as issued without loss of text: i.e. page 73 as "37" (II); bound without rear publisher's ads. Following this 1828 edition, the full text of The Mummy! was reprinted once, a one-volume cheap edition published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1872. The only modern edition is abridged. The binder of this set, James Clyde, was the foreman to the long-established firm of Herings, and took over their business and premises in 1845, dating the binding of this set to perhaps 20 years after publication. Barron, Anatomy of Wonder II-1218. Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Early Years 2313. Negley, Utopian Literature: A Bibliography 708. Sargent, British and American Utopian Literature, 1516-1985, 40. Block, The English Novel 1740-1850, 143. Not in Sadleir or Wolff. Owner ink signature in Volume II; pencil annotations to title pages.
Foxing to first few and last few leaves, text generally clean. Spines gently toned, a few light rubs, bindings sound and attractive. A very nice copy of this pioneering work.