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Arnold, Edwin L

Entry updated 10 October 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1857-1935) UK author, son of the poet and journalist Sir Edwin Arnold (1832-1904), a poet and popularizer of Buddhism (his book-length mystical poem The Light of Asia was popular during his lifetime) who is sometimes confused with his son. Arnold's own fantasies include three Reincarnation tales clearly influenced by his father, who introduced the first of these: The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician (1890; vt Phra the Phoenician 1910). This is a very early example of what would become a frequent topos in the latticework of Fantastika: a tale whose protagonist, through reincarnations willed or not, careens through lifetimes, sometimes as here adventurous (see Sword and Sorcery) or, sometimes, as in Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography (1928), comprising passacaglia-like successions of scryings of perhaps deeper issues. "Rutherford the Twice-Born" (May 1892 The Idler) and Lepidus the Centurion: A Roman of Today (1901) are similar to their predecessor.

Arnold's best-known novel is Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905; vt Gulliver of Mars 1964) (see Gulliver), in which Jones tells the story of his brief disgruntlement with the US Navy, his trip by flying carpet to Mars, his rescue of a princess, his witnessing of the destruction of her domain, their adventures together, and his return to a trustful fiancée and promotion. With its emphasis on highly-coloured, sexually-charged adventures off-Earth, it may be the first genuine Planetary Romance. In the preface to the retitled 1965 edition, Richard A Lupoff claims this story as a source for Edgar Rice Burroughs's Barsoom. The provenance is visible in hindsight, and Burroughs may have in fact read Arnold before 1912. [JC]

see also: History of SF.

Edwin Lester Linden Arnold

born Swanscombe, Kent: 14 May 1857

died London: 1 March 1935



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