Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Jane Webb Loudon

"Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?" 1 Sam. xxviii. 15.
Jane Webb Loudon (1807-1858)
Born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, in 1807 to wealthy parents, Jane Webb Loudon is most remembered for her series of instructive books on gardening and natural history. However, by the time she was 20 she had published her first novel, The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century (1828).

This early science fiction novel was partly inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and also by all things Pharaonic which was considered fashionable after Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. Although it draws from Frankenstein in that there is a re-animation, it is regarded as science fiction rather than horror for its dystopian view of the future with elements in common with Yevengy Zamyatin's We (1920) and George Orwell's 1984 (1948).
A fear of the future was understandable given Jane Webb's changing circumstances early in her life. Her mother died when Jane was 12. Her father's fortune dwindled which prompted the Webbs to move from Ritwell House in Edgbaston to Kitwell House in Bartley Green where The Mummy! was written. Further catastrophe occurred when Thomas Webb died leaving Jane an orphan at the age of 17. Forced to fend for herself she sought the publication of her fantastic story.
Kitwell House
The technological prophesies contained in the novel, especially the automatic milking machines, attracted the attention of her future husband John Claudius Loudon, a well-known and much-respected landscape gardener, who was then constructing Edgbaston's Botanical Gardens (for expenses only!). Inspired by her new husband's work, Jane Loudon turned to writing popular natural history, realising there only existed texts for those who had already been trained through apprenticeship. A series of books on the subject followed which won her much respect and supported her when John Loudon died in 1843.

Here are only a few of the online resources for Jane Webb Loudon and The Mummy!:


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