The Mummy by Mrs. Loudon
Download The Mummy ebook. The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century is an 1827 three-volume novel written by Jane Webb (later Jane C. Loudon). It concerns the Egyptian mummy of Cheops, who is brought back to life in the year 2126. The novel describes a future filled with advanced technology, and features one of the earliest known examples of a “Mummy’s curse”.
After her father’s death, making her an orphan at the age of 17, Webb found that:
on the winding up of his affairs that it would be necessary to do something for my support. I had written a strange, wild novel, called the Mummy, in which I had laid the scene in the twenty-second century, and attempted to predict the state of improvement to which this country might possibly arrive.
She may have drawn inspiration from the general fashion for anything Pharaonic, inspired by the French researches during the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt; the 1821 public unwrappings of Egyptian mummies in a theatre near Piccadilly, which she may have attended as a girl; and, very likely, the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. As Shelley had written of Frankenstein’s creation, “A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch,” which may have triggered young Miss Webb’s later concept. In any case, at many points she deals in greater clarity with elements from the earlier book: the loathing for the much-desired object, the immediate arrest for crime and attempt to lie one’s way out of it, etc. However, unlike the Frankenstein monster, the hideous revived Cheops is not shuffling around dealing out horror and death, but giving canny advice on politics and life to those who befriend him. In some ways The Mummy! may be seen as her reaction to themes in Frankenstein: her mummy specifically says he is allowed life only by divine favour, rather than being indisputably vivified only by mortal science, and so on, as Hopkins’ 2003 essay covers in detail.
Unlike many early science fiction works (Shelley’s The Last Man, and The Reign of King George VI, 1900-1925, written anonymously in 1763), Loudon did not portray the future as her own day with only political changes. She filled her world with foreseeable changes in technology, society, and even fashion. Her court ladies wear trousers and hair ornaments of controlled flame. Surgeons and lawyers may be steam-powered automatons. A kind of Internet is predicted in it. Besides trying to account for the revivification of the mummy in scientific terms—galvanic shock rather than incantations–“she embodied ideas of scientific progress and discovery, that now read like prophecies” to those later down the 1800s. Her social attitudes have resulted in this book being ranked among feminist novels.
The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century was published anonymously in 1827 by Henry Colburn in three volumes, as was usual in that day so that each small volume could be easily carried around. It drew many favourable reviews, including one in 1829 in The Gardener’s Magazine on the inventions proposed in it. In 1830, the reviewer, John Claudius Loudon, sought out Webb, and they married the next year.
Within a decade of the 1818 publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, another Englishwoman invented a foundational work of science fiction. Seventeen-year-old Jane Webb Loudon took up the theme of reanimation, moved it three hundred years into the future, and applied it to Cheops, an ancient Egyptian mummy. Unlike Shelley’s horrifying, death-dealing monster, this revivified creature bears the wisdom of the ages and is eager to share his insights with humanity. Cheops boards a hot-air balloon and travels to twenty-second-century England, where he sets about remedying the ills of a corrupt government.
In recounting Cheops’ attempts to put the futuristic society to rights, the young author offers a fascinating portrait of the preoccupations of her own era as well as some remarkably prescient predictions of technological advances. The Mummy! envisions a world in which automatons perform surgery, undersea tunnels connect England and Ireland, weather-control devices provide crop irrigation, and messages are transmitted with the speed of cannonball fire. The first novel to feature the concept of a living mummy, this pioneering tale offers an engaging mix of comedy, politics, and science fiction.
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Jane Wells Webb Loudon (19 August 1807 – 13 July 1858) was an English author and early pioneer of science fiction. She wrote before the term was invented, and was discussed for a century as if she wrote Gothic fiction, or fantasy or horror. She also created the first popular gardening manuals, as opposed to specialist horticultural works, reframing the art of gardening as fit for young women.
Jane Webb was born in 1807 to Thomas Webb, Esq., a wealthy manufacturer from Edgbaston, Birmingham and his wife. (Sources vary on her place of birth: according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), she was born at Ritwell House—possibly the same as Kitwell House at Bartley Green.) After the death of her mother in 1819, she travelled Europe for a year with her father, learning several languages. On their return his business faltered, and as a consequence of over speculation, his fortune was lost. He sold the house in Edgbaston and they moved to another of his properties, Kitwell House at Bartley Green, 6 miles away. He died penniless in 1824, when Jane Webb was only 17.
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