Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation by Edwin Lester Arnold

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Literature, Review, Science Fiction
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Dare I say it? Dare I say that I, a plain, prosaic lieutenant in the republican service have done the incredible things here set out for the love of a woman–for a chimera in female shape; for a pale, vapid ghost of woman-loveliness? At times I tell myself I dare not: that you will laugh, and cast me aside as a fabricator; and then again I pick up my pen and collect the scattered pages, for I MUST write it–the pallid splendour of that thing I loved, and won, and lost is ever before me, and will not be forgotten. The tumult of the struggle into which that vision led me still throbs in my mind, the soft, lisping voices of the planet I ransacked for its sake and the roar of the destruction which followed me back from the quest drowns all other sounds in my ears! I must and will write–it relieves me; read and believe as you list.

At the moment this story commences I was thinking of grilled steak and tomatoes–steak crisp and brown on both sides, and tomatoes red as a setting sun!

– Edwin Lester Arnold,  Lieut Gullivar Jones: His Vacation

Edwin Lester Arnold (1857-1955) is mainly remembered for his science fantasy novels The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician (1890) and  Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (also known as Gulliver of Mars, 1905).

Arnold travelled extensively with his parents.  A Summer Holiday In Scandinavia (1877)

Arnold’s father, the poet and journalist Sir Edwin Arnold is best known for The Light of Asia (1879), a free translation of the Lalitavistara (The Birth of Buddha), the ‘biography’ of Gautama Buddha, and is credited with bringing Buddhism to the attention of the West. Buddhist themes, particularly Reburth, were to play a large part in the fiction of his son. The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician (1890) concerns the repeated ressurection of a warrior hero at times of need.

Gullivar Jones is a US Navy Lieutenant on shore leave with nothing more pressing on his mind than an evening meal when a small being wrapped in a carpet plunges to Earth beside him. He takes the creature to hospital but it dies and Jones takes the carpet home with him. Idly pacing his room, wishing he was on Mars, the carpet wraps him up like a cucoon and whisks him off to the Red Planet.

Magic carpets are not generally, of course, regarded as legitimate forms of extraterrestrial transport in science fiction but Arnold is writing in an older tradition – that of the Fantastic Voyage. Indeed the language he uses is largely archaic compared with the more journalistic prose of Arnold’s contemporary, H.G. Wells. The Wells books Gullivar Jones most closely resemble are The Time Machine (1895) and The First Men in the Moon (1901).

Roger Lancelyn Green (1976) has suggested that the Jupiter of John Jacob Astor IV‘s planetary romance A Journey in Other Worlds (1894) might be a possible influence on the jungles of Arnold’s Mars.

Richard A Lupoff (1965) has made a persuasive case for Liet. Gullivar Jones being the inspiration for Edgar Rice BurroughsJohn Carter of Mars stories. Certainly both protagonists are veterans of the American Civil War who travel magically to an exotic Mars, have exciting adventures and rescue beautiful alien princesses.

Arnold’s novel is more satirical, however, and as the title suggests it belongs to a tradition extending back to Jonathan Swift‘s Gullivar’s Travels (1726, revised 1735) and up to H.G. WellsThe First Men in the Moon (1901). Gullivar Jones is a flawed hero, his successes more modest.

Arnold’s novel was loosely adapted by Marvel Comics as Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars in the monthly comic  Creatures on the Loose  beginning in #16, March 1972. The scripts were by Roy Thomas,  Gerry Conway and sf novelist George Alec Effinger; the artwork was by Gil Kane and Bill Everett.

Gullivar Jones also appears in Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill‘s Steampunk comic The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999), and in Jean-Marc Lofficier‘s Steampunk novel Edgar Allan Poe on Mars: The Further Memoirs of Gullivar Jones (2007).

  • Arnold, Sir Edwin (1879) The Light of Asia: A Renunciation
  • Arnold, Edwin Lester (1877) A Summer Holiday In Scandinavia
  •  (1886) Coffee: Its Cultivation and Profit
  •  (1887) Bird Life In England
  •  (1887) England as She Seems: Being Selections from the Notes of an Arab Hadji
  •  (1890) The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician
  • — (1892) Rutherford the Twice-Born
  •  (1893) On the Indian Hills: or, Coffee-planting in Southern India
  •  (1894) The Constable of St. Nicholas
  •  (1895) The Story of Ulla and Other Tales
  •  (1901) Lepidus the Centurion: A Roman of Today
  •  (1905) Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation
  • Astor, John Jacob IV (1894) A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future
  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice (1917) A Princess of Mars
  • Clute, John (1977) ”Edwin Lester Arnold” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (online edition)
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn Green (1976) ”Introduction” to Arnold, Edwin Lester (1905, New English Library SF Master Series edition)
  • Lofficier, Jean-Marc (2007) Edgar Allan Poe on Mars: The Further Memoirs of Gullivar Jones
  • Lupoff, Richard A. (1965) Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure
  • Moore, Alan & Kevin O’Neill (1999) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Swift, Jonathan (1726, revised 1735) Gulliver’s Travels
  • Thomas, Roy, Gerry Conway, George Alec Effinger, Gil Kane & Bill Everett (1972) Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars in Creatures on the Loose #16-
  • Wells, H.G. (1895) The Time Machine
  •  (1901) The First Men in the Moon

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