The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century

The Mummy!Written by Jane Wells Web Loudon but published anonymously in 1827, the book gives an interesting look at the future. The story is of a mummy, Cheops, reanimated in the 22nd century, inspired by the exciting development of the era, and a positive look at the future.

Jane may have drawn inspiration from the general fashion for anything Pharaonic. French researchers were bringing back numerous discoveries from Egypt; in 1821 there were public unwrappings of Egyptian mummies in Piccadilly; and Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1818. 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 Jane’s concept. Unlike the Frankenstein monster, the 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 favor, rather than mortal science.

Unlike many early science fiction works, 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. Jane was 21 at the time of publishing.

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