(1846-1930) English author both in books and for the stage, very prolific during the 1890s and around the turn of the century, with many stories and serials in newspapers not reprinted in book form. Noted at the time for her detective stories including her first, The Missing Note (1881). She produced two books of sf interest. Pharisees Unveiled (1889), which sold out on the day of publication, is presented as a detective novel but concerns a doctor who uses an Invisibility potion in order to right wrongs. Mrs Corbett's strong Feminist views come through in the Sleeper Awakes novel New Amazonia: A Foretaste of the Future (1889), written in reaction to violent anti-suffragette literature that was being published at the time. It is set in the year 2472 in what was once Ireland, settled almost entirely by women after the population was devastated in the early twentieth century. These women have developed into seven-foot giants who have long lifespans but never seem to age. In this future, War and poverty have been abolished from the land, as has the monarchy. Corbett's approval of New Amazonia may be more equivocal than that of her enraged feminist visitor: advanced forms of Transportation and Weather Control are mentioned admiringly, as is equality between the sexes (though women are properly dominant); but New Amazonia's ruthless application of Eugenics means that illegitimate children, and the ill, are euthanized, only whites are considered eugenically sound (see Race in SF), and only unmarried women who have never had sex (ie "animal pleasures") are eligible to rule. The tale is presented primarily as a Utopia for women, though a second visitor from the nineteenth century, who is male, is exaggeratedly horrified.
Corbett's later novel for adolescent girls (of which she wrote an increasing number), Little Miss Robinson Crusoe (1898), in which a young girl is shipwrecked on a once-inhabited tropical Island, is a Robinsonade but barely qualifies as a Lost World story, even though she does discover a valley of precious stones. It is perhaps a surprise that Mrs Corbett, who held such strong feminist views, published all her work under her husband's name. He was a marine engineer. [MA/JC]
Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett
born Wigan, Lancashire: 1846
died Bures St Mary, Suffolk: 1930
Previous versions of this entry