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From the Chinese film version of "The Gallant Maid" titled "The Heroine"

He Yufeng was created by “Yanbei Xianren” and appeared in Ernü ying xiong zhuan (The Gallant Maid, 1851-1879). “Yanbei Xianren” was the pseudonym of Wen K’ang (1798- 1872), a local official in Anhui who came from a prominent Manchu family and was appointed imperial agent to Lhasa. The Gallant Maid is little-known outside of China but is popular inside it, having inspired sixteen sequels.

The Gallant Maid is about He Yufeng (“Jade Phoenix”) and An Ji. An Ji is the son of the righteous official and Manchu bannerman An Xuehai. An Xuehai is in charge of the repair of a dam, but a flood destroys the dam and An Xuehai is made the scapegoat for its destruction. An Xuehai is imprisoned and ordered to pay a large fine. An Ji travels a long way to help his father, carrying a large load of silver to ransom him, but he repeatedly runs into misfortune, with his donkey drivers and later some evil monks both trying to rob him. Both times he is rescued by He Yufeng, who also frees an old farmer whose wife and daughter, Chinfeng (“Golden Phoenix”), had been captured by the monks. He Yufeng explains herself to the farmer. Years ago her father, General Ho, had been killed by sorcery. General Ho had been a high official of the Solid Yellow Banner, but his superior had ordered him to marry He Yufeng to the official’s son. The son was crude and barbaric and was unworthy of He Yufeng, who is beautiful and educated. General Ho refused to countenance the wedding, so his superior had him jailed on false charges and then killed him via sorcery. He Yufeng, loyal to her father in the proper Confucian way, retreats to a rustic village with her mother and then goes to the underworld and trains herself as a nüxia, or female knight-errant, to avenge her father. While her mother is alive, however, He Yufeng cannot carry our her revenge, and instead makes a good living robbing corrupt and evil government officials. He Yufeng is so strong and such a good fighter that all the other outlaws greatly respect and fear her. In the underworld she is known as Shisan Mei, “the Thirteenth Sister.”

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Inquisition Scene by Francisco Goya
Inquisition Scene by Francisco Goya

Pedro Arbuez d’Espila was created by Villiers de l’Isle Adam and appeared in “The Torture of Hope” (Nouveaux Contes Cruels, 1888). “The Torture of Hope” is in many ways the quintessential conte cruel.

There was a real Pedro Arbuez d’Espila, Don Pedro Arbues de Epilae (1441/2-1485, one of the most notorious and vicious of the Spanish Grand Inquisitors. Arbues engaged in compulsory baptism of Jews and used judicial torture to ensure that the conversions were sincere. Arbues was killed by a group of Jews in 1485; Pope Pius IX canonized Arbues as St. Peter of Arbues in 1867.

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Illustration by Maxfield Parrish from The Arabian Nights, 1909

Sufrah was created by Marcel Schwob and appears in “Sufrah, Geomancer” (Vie Imaginaire, 1896). Schwob was also the creator of the King in the Golden Mask and Septima.

“Sufrah, Geomancer” is a sequel to the Arabian Nights. Moghrabi Sufrah is the magician who is Aladdin’s enemy in the Arabian Nights, but as “Sufrah, Geomancer” tells us, at the end of the Arabian Nights Sufrah’s body was not burned black by the drug he consumed, but rather put into a deep sleep. Sufrah escapes from Aladdin’s palace through a window while Aladdin is making love to the princess. But when Aladdin’s palace disappears to China, as happens in the Arabian Nights, Sufrah is left alone in the open desert, without any food or water. Nor does he have any magic charms he can cast or magic items he can use to rescue himself.

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Hellenes. The Hellenes were created by G.G.A. Murray and appeared in Gobi or Shamo: A Story of Three Songs (1889). George Gilbert Aime Murray (1866-1957) was a scholar of the Classics, a Fellow at Oxford, a playwright, a translator and popularizer of Hellenism, and a passionate liberal, campaigning tirelessly for the League of Nations.

Gobi or Shamo is the search for a lost colony of Greeks. Mavrones is a young English scholar who yearns to discover an unknown historical curiosity or treasure. He stumbles upon the possible existence of a lost group of Greeks while perusing a set of manuscripts in a former Byzantine monastery on the Greek island of Arganthus. Mavrones sets out to locate the Greeks, assisted by his friend Quentin Baj, “a man of six feet two, with dark moustaches and a crushing manner, and...further...the possessor of an acer et contemptor animus, with few good-natured weaknesses to spoil the edge of a resolve.” Mavrones, Quentin Baj, and their annoying friend Wibbling set out for Mongolia, and after a series of life-threatening adventures they find the Hellenes.

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Close up of Danae Stratou's "Desert Breath", which would be an apt illustration for this novelette. Image courtesy of io9. Click for link.

The Xipéhuz were created by “J. H. Rosny (aîné)” and appeared in “Les Xipéhuz” (“The Shapes,” L’Immolation, 1887). “J. H. Rosny (aîné)” was the pen name of Joseph Henri Honoré Böex (1866-1940), a French author. For many years after his death Böex was forgotten, primarily because the majority of his work was written in disrespected genres like science fiction and the prehistoric romance. But in recent years critics and academics have begun paying him more attention and giving him the credit he deserves. Böex produced some remarkable science fiction and is considered (with Jules Verne) to be one of the most influential figures in the development of science fiction in France. “Les Xipéhuz” is one of his most famous, and best, stories.

“Les Xipéhuz” is set in the Middle East, circa 5000 B.C.E. A nomad tribe, the Pjehu, discover a group of “translucent bluish cones, point uppermost, each nearly half the bulk of a man...each one had a dazzling star near its base,” clustered around a spring. When the Pjehu draw close to the cones, or “the Shapes” as the narrator calls them, the Shapes attack them, killing many, although they only target warriors and avoid killing women, children, the sick and the aged. But the Shapes do not pursue the Pjehu beyond a certain distance and ignore them if they leave the Shapes alone. The Pjehu, shaken, consult a group of local priests who decide that the Shapes are gods and that they must be sacrificed to. But the Shapes kill those priests who approach them.

The priests experiment with slaves and determine the distance beyond which the Shapes will not pursue humans, and then the priests set that boundary with stakes and decree that the Shapes are to be left alone. But other tribes are not told about the priests’ decree or ignore it, and members of those tribes cross the boundary and are massacred. Then the Shapes begin expanding their territory. When the tribes try to resist, hundreds of their warriors are killed by the Shapes. All the tribes of Mesopotamia begin fearing for the existence of Man, and some men turn to dark cults.

The tribes’ wise men at last consult the hermit Bakhun. Long ago he had abandoned a nomadic life for a pastoral one, and in so doing flourished. Bakhun believes in odd and unusual things, like the sun, moon, and stars being “luminous masses” rather than gods, and that “men should really believe only in those things tested by measurement.” Bakhun tells the wise men that he will dedicate his life to studying the Shapes. He does so, and draws a number of significant conclusions, most important of which is that the Shapes are living beings rather than spirits or gods.

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Lost Race Story. Stories in which unknown lands and races are discovered have been written for centuries, but in the last two decades of the 19th century a new type of story involving their discovery was created. The genre began with the 1885 publication of H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and the 1887 publication of Haggard’s Allan Quatermain. These stories created the blueprint for dozens of writers to follow and established the Lost Race story. Lost Race stories can be defined as stories in which travelers from the modern world discover lost, forgotten, or hidden races, cities, cultures and civilizations in hidden or remote valleys or undersea or underground areas on or beneath the Earth.

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Note: Read Part 1 of this essay here.


Cartoon from The Wasp. Image courtesy of Berkeley University. Click for link.

Historical and cultural trends fed into the development during the 19th century of the Yellow Peril in the United States and Europe. The first Asian immigrants to the United States were the Chinese who took part in the Gold Rush in California in the late 1840s. They were the first free nonwhites to arrive in the United States in large numbers, and the racial, religious, cultural, and linguistic differences between white Americans and the Chinese immigrants, as well as the perception that the Chinese were taking jobs away from white Americans, led to hostility and racism directed at the newcomers. Among the manifestations of this hostility was a new set of anti-Chinese stereotypes. (The lack of Japanese immigrants in America as well as the perception in America that Japan was an ally of the West kept stereotypes about the Japanese to a minimum until the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905).

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Note: Jess Nevins' entry on the Yellow Peril was just too fascinating to be abridged, and so it will be posted in two parts. Follow along next Wednesday for Part II.

Film poster for The Face of Fu Manchu, who is one of the best known examples of the Yellow Peril stereotype. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Yellow Peril. Although the anti-Asian stereotype of the “Yellow Peril,” the threat posed to the West by Asian countries and peoples, was made commonplace in the 20th century, the source of the modern Yellow Peril stereotype lies in the literature and cultural trends of the 19th century.

There are actually two different Yellow Perils. The first is of Asians as a group, and though usually applied to the Chinese or Japanese does not differentiate between nationalities and ethnic groups and has been applied to Indians, Vietnamese, and Slavic Russians. This stereotype, of Asians en masse, portrays them as a faceless horde of decadent and sexually rapacious barbarians. The roots of this stereotype lie in the historical threats posed to Western Europe from Eastern Europe and Asia: Visigoths and Huns from the 3rd through the 5th century C.E., and Mongols in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. Although the practical threat of a Mongolian or Asian invasion of Europe was nil by the mid-15th century, the unexpectedness of the Mongolian attacks and their vicious thoroughness left a deep impression on the Western psyche, so that the stereotype of an Eastern threat to “civilization” remained common in the Western for centuries.

In contrast, the more modern Yellow Peril is an individual: the evil Asian mastermind who schemes to conquer the West. Although there are numerous sources for this stereotype, its origins lie in Italy in the 14th century C.E.

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Image from the Gerstäcker Magazine from the Gerstäcker Museum, featuring his illustrated Westerns. Click for source (in German).

Assowaum was created by Friedrich Gerstäcker and appeared in Die Regulatoren in Arkansas ("The Regulators of Arkansas, 1845"). Gerstäcker (1816-1872) was a German who went to America in 1837. For six years he lived a checkered life in America, working as a schoolteacher, chocolate maker, silversmith, fireman, woodcutter, hotel manager, and, for the majority of his time, a hunter in the Arkansas wilderness. He returned to Germany in 1843 and began writing novels for children and novels for adults set in the American frontier and in the South Seas. The Regulators of Arkansas remains his best known novel. It was first published in English as “Alapaha the Squaw,” “The Border Bandits,” and “Assowaum the Avenger,” in American Tales 67-69 (23 July-16 September 1870).

The Regulators of Arkansas is set in Arkansas in the early years of statehood, in the 1830s, when murder was common and bad men more so. Opposing them were local vigilante groups, the “Regulators.” The main characters of The Regulators are searching for a particularly violent gang of thieves who are involved with Rawson, a sociopathic Methodist minister who marries and then kills women. Rawson is engaged to Marion Harper, a sweet woman who only knows him as a devout Methodist. Rawson and his gang steal a band of horses, and when the Regulators pursue them, aided by Assowaum, a native warrior, Rawson murders Alapaha, Assowaum’s wife. The Regulators pursue Rawson and the horse thieves and corner them in a farmhouse, where they are holding hostages, including Marion. Assowaum helps the Regulators break into the farmhouse, and the gang is captured. All of the thieves are hanged with the exception of Rawson, who is burned alive by Assowaum. Marion marries Brown, one of the Regulators, and they live happily ever after.

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Gertrude Atherton

The Doomswoman was created by Gertrude Atherton and appeared in “The Doomswoman” (Lippincott’s, September, 1892, as a novel, 1900). Atherton (1857-1948) was a notable American novelist and won the Légion d’Honneur for her hospital work during WW1. The Doomswoman is a historical romance of Old California.

The Doomswoman is set in the days when America and Spanish-controlled Mexico vied for control of California. Doña Chonita Iturbi y Moncada is the daughter of an old Castilian family, one with long roots in Mexico and a great patriotic feeling for Mexico and Spain. But when she meets Don Diego Estenega, the scion of her house’s hated rival, it is love/hate at first sight. The Romeo and Juliet plot plays out amidst a backdrop of political intrigue.

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Vathek was created by William Beckford and appeared in Vathek: An Arabian Tale from an Unpublished Manuscript, with Notes Critical and Explanatory (1786). Beckford (1760-1844) was one of English literature's real oddities. He lived a life of scandal and extravagance, both financial and sexual, and even in the 21st century his name retains the faint air of scandal. But more important than Beckford’s personal life is the fact that he wrote Vathek, one of the greatest of all Gothic novels.

Vathek, the grandson of Haroun al-Raschid, is the Caliph of Samarah. He is dedicated to sensual pleasure and has built five palaces, one for the enjoyment of each sense. Vathek has a “pleasing and majestic” figure, and a keen intellect. When angered his glance can kill. He has an enormous amount of determination and is willing to sacrifice much for his goals. But he is magnificently dissolute and addicted to pleasure, sensuality, and new sensations. He is enormously self-centered and considers the lives of others small prices to pay for his own happiness and the achievement of his goals. He is unable to resist temptation, and his own “unquiet and impetuous disposition” will not allow him to be content with the wealth and comfort he already has.

Vathek builds a mighty tower to better pursue his interest in astrology and to penetrate the secrets of Heaven, and Mahomet Himself sends genii to help Vathek, but the tower only shows Vathek how much he enjoys looking down on humanity from the its summit. But one day an intensely ugly creature arrives at Vathek’s court bearing wondrous objects, knives that cut without the hand being moved and sabers which harm those who the wielder wished harmed. The stranger does not speak to Vathek, so the hot-tempered Vathek has him imprisoned, only to find him vanished the next morning and his guards slain.

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Alfons Mucha's Salammbo (1896). Click for source.

Salammbô was created by Gustave Flaubert and appeared in Salammbô (1862). Flaubert (1821-1880) is one of the major writers of the 19th century. Although he is best known for Madame Bovary he has a respectable body of work, from short stories to dramas. His work is generally placed in the realist genre, but his skill as a stylist and technician is far above most of the other realists. Salammbô is one of the two or three greatest historical romances of the 19th century.

Salammbô is the story of Carthage in 237 B.C.E, during the mercenary rebellion described by the Greek historian Polybius in his History. The novel is not really about Salammbô, who is the priestess of Tanit, the moon, and is the daughter of the mighty general Hamilcar Barca.Salammbô is about the mercenary rebellion itself. Salammbô only appears as a subplot, albeit a compelling one and one which Flaubert himself saw as important to the novel.

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One representation of Agartha, based on writings of Raymond W. Bernard, which assumed that Agartha existed inside the Earth with an opening entrance in the Himalayas. Click for source.

Agartha was created by “Saint Yves d'Alveydre” and appeared in Mission de l'Inde en Europe, Mission de l'Europe en Asie (Mission to India from Europe, Mission to Europe from Asia, 1885). Joseph Alexandre Saint-Yves, Marquis d’Alveydre (1824-1909) was a French thinker and mystic, similar to (if less influential than) Eliphas Lévi. Agartha is an ancient underground kingdom in Tibet.

The kingdom has a strange effect on outsiders: they either do not notice it as they travel through it, or they forget about it once they have seen it. Even so, there are many rumors about Agartha. It is said that its capital, Paradesa, holds the University of Knowledge, where the occult and spiritual treasures of mankind are guarded. Those in charge of these treasures are the Secret Masters, superior beings who are the spiritual leaders of humanity. They are in telepathic communication with enlightened humans around the world, who in turn try to spiritually uplift humanity until “the Anarchy which exists in our world is replaced by the Synarchy,” the proper system of government for all of humanity.

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Image courtesy of Phountains. Click for source.

Hagar Stanley was created by Fergus Hume and appeared in Hagar of the Pawnshop, The Gypsy Detective (1898). Hume (1859-1932) was born in England but grew up in New Zealand and moved to Australia to practice law. In 1886 he published The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, which became the best-selling detective novel of the 19th century. But Hume did not retain the rights to Hansom Cab and did not become rich by it, and his later attempts to duplicate the success of Hansom Cab were not successful.

Hagar Stanley is a Romany (Gypsy). She is the niece of the miserly pawn shop owner Jacob Dix. While young Jacob had taken a Romany wife and brought her to London. They had a son, Jimmy, but his wife could not stand the air of London and died, and Jimmy grew up to be a brutal man and a scoundrel who left his father and took up with the Romany. Hagar was of the same Romany tribe as Dix’s wife, and was happy in the New Forest, but then Goliath appeared:
"He is half a Gorgio and half Romany—a red-haired villain, who chose to fall in love with me. I hated him. I hate him still!"—the woman's bosom rose and fell in short, hurried pantings—“and he would have forced me to be his wife. Pharaoh—our king, you know—would have forced me also to be this man's rani, so I had no one to protect me, and I was miserable. Then I recalled what the chal had told me about you who wed with one of us; so I fled hither for your protection, and to be your servant."

Dix is an awful person to be around, but he values her servitude and keeps her at his shop. In a short time Hagar became as clever as Jacob himself, and he was never afraid to trust her with the task of making bargains, or with the care of the shop. She acquired a knowledge of pictures, gems, silverware, china—in fact, all the information about such things necessary to an expert. Without knowing it, the untaught gypsy girl became a connoisseur.

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Vintage print of a Mexican cowgirl

Lady Jaguar was created by William H. Manning and appeared in “Lady Jaguar, the Robber Queen. A Romance of the Black Chaparral” (Beadle’s New York Dime Library v14 n176, 8 March 1882). Manning (1852-1929) was a Bostonian author of frontier stories and dime novels.

Doña Luisa Villena, a Mexican noblewoman, is drugged and forced to marry Don Manuel, the leader of a local group of bandits. The marriage is a fraud and the “priest” is one of the Don Manuel’s bandits dressed up in ministerial garb, but Doña Luisa does not know that, and she flees in shame and anger when she recovers from the drugs. (The marriage is never consummated, but just the idea of the marriage is bad enough).

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Amelia B. Edwards, author of "The Story of Salome". Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Salome da Costa was created by Amelia B. Edwards and appeared in “The Story of Salome” (Storm Bound, Tinsley’s Christmas Annual, 1867). Edwards (1831-1892) was an author who became notable in her lifetime as an Egyptologist. During a trip to Egypt she became horrified at the destruction wrought to monuments by looters, and so founded the Egypt Exploration Fund, one of the first major archeological societies.

“The Story of Salome” is about Harcourt Blunt, who is doing the Grand Tour of Europe with his friend Coventry Turnour. In Venice Turnour sees a lovely Jewish woman in a Oriental merchandise shop in the Merceria, and Turnour, being the type who falls in love easily and often, is taken with her. Blunt goes with him to the shop and is forced to agree with Turnour that the woman, whose name he discovers is Salome, is beautiful. But Blunt discourages Turnour from pursuing the match, and within a week’s time Turnour agrees with him. The pair continue the tour and then separate in Greece, with Blunt continuing on to the East. A year later Blunt is back in Venice, doing some sketching. He recalls Salome and goes looking for her. The shop in the Merceria is gone, and Blunt, who does not even know Salome’s last name, decides to give up looking for her. He goes to the Jewish cemetery to do some sketches, and finds a newer cemetery beyond that, and in that cemetery he sees Salome, in her mourning clothes, sitting next to a grave.

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Cahina was created by Leo Charles Dessar and appears in A Royal Enchantress (1900). Dessar (1847-1924) was a New York judge who was a part of the corrupt Tammany Hall political system.

There was a real Cahina (alternatively, “Kahena” or “Kahina”), a Queen of the Berbers in the 7th and 8th Century C.E. who fought against the Muslim invasion. Gibbons wrote about her in Volume 2, Chapter 514 of his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
The Greeks were expelled, but the Arabians were not yet masters of the country. In the interior provinces the Moors or Berbers, so feeble under the first Caesars, so formidable to the Byzantine princes, maintained a disorderly resistance to the religion and power of the successors of Mohammed. Under the standard of their queen Cahina the independent tribes acquired some degree of union and discipline; and as the Moors respected in their females the character of a prophetess, they attacked the invaders with an enthusiasm similar to their own. The veteran bands of Hassan were inadequate to the defence of Africa: the conquests of an age were lost in a single day; and the Arabian chief overwhelmed by the torrent, retired to the confines of Egypt, and expected, five years, the promised succours of the caliph. After the retreat of the Saracens, the victorious prophetess assembled the Moorish chiefs, and recommended a measure of strange and savage policy.

"Our cities," said she, "and the gold and silver which they contain, perpetually attract the arms of the Arabs. These vile metals are not the objects of our ambition; we content ourselves with the simple productions of the earth. Let us destroy these cities; let us bury in their ruins those pernicious treasures; and when the avarice of our foes shall be destitute of temptation, perhaps they will cease to disturb the tranquility of a warlike people." The proposal was accepted with unanimous applause. From Tangier to Tripoli the buildings, or at least the fortifications, were demolished, the fruit trees were cut down, the means of subsistence were extirpated, fertile and populous garden was changed into desert, and the historians of a more recent period could discern the frequent traces of the prosperity and devastation of their ancestors. Such is the tale of the modern Arabians.


In the foreword to A Royal Enchantress Dessar wrote that he was struck by Gibbon’s passage: “the meager account of this beautiful Prophetess Queen of the Berbers was inspiring, yet irritating: it suggested so much, yet told so little.” From this Dessar spun an entertaining historical fantasy.

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Sculpture of Ji Gong in Ling Yin Temple. Click for source.

Jigong appears in Wang Mengji’s Jigong zhuan (Jigong Drum-Song, c. 1859), Guo Guangrui's Pingyan Jigong zhuan (Storyteller's Jigong, 1898), and the thirty-eight sequels to Storyteller's Jigong which appeared in China (mostly Shanghai) between 1905 and 1926. No information is available on Wang Mengji. Guo Guangrui (?-?) may have been a scholar in Yannan.

There was a real Jigong. Daoji (?-1209 C.E.) was an eccentric Buddhist monk who ate meat and was a regular customer of prostitutes. Daoji did good works along the coastal parts of Zhejiang Province. He became enormously popular with the common people, who called him “Jidian” (“Crazy Ji”), and his fellow monks saw him as a miracle worker. But because Daoji was subversive and disrespectful toward mainstream Buddhism, Daoji was disliked by the Buddhist establishment. After his death he was almost immediately incorporated into popular culture. He became “Jigong,” “Sir Ji,” a figure of folktales, oral performances, and eventually literature. The cult of Jigong spread even to Malaysia, where he was a popular figure for many centuries.

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Tokeah, or The White Rose opening page

Tokeah was created by “Charles Sealsfield” and appeared in Tokeah; or the White Rose (1829). “Charles Sealsfield” was the pseudonym of Karl Anton Postl (1793-1864), a German novelist. Sealsfield’s life is for the most part a mystery, largely of Sealsfield’s own making. He was a Moravian monk who fled from Metternich’s regime in Austria and emigrated to the United States under mysterious circumstances. He wrote journalism and a number of novels. Historically Sealsfield is important in German literature as a post-Sir Walter Scott (see: Rob Roy, Edward Waverley) writer of historical novels. Sealsfield attempted to widen the scope of his historical novels beyond what Scott had attempted and wrote about political movements on the national level in addition to individual characters. Tokeah began the tradition of German novels about the American frontier, a tradition which became a cultural obsession and which has only slightly diminished today.

Tokeah is the chief of a band of Oconee Indians in Georgia. Tokeah and his men discover a white baby girl, and they bring her to Copeland, a white trader, for safekeeping. After seven years of war with Anglos Tokeah takes the girl back from Copeland and renames her “the White Rose.”

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The Almirante Latorre (Chilean Navy), as the HMS Canada by the time this photo was taken. This was one of Chile's first modern battleships, built in the early 1900s. Click for source.

“A Question of Reciprocity” was a serial written by Robert Duncan Milne and appeared in San Francisco Examiner, November 15-22, 1891. Milne (1844-1899) was a San Franciscan journalist and writer whose alcoholism first destroyed his substantial talent and then killed him. During his lifetime Milne was the best of the surprisingly large number of science fiction writers of end-of-the-century San Francisco.

The new Chilean government, brought to power by a revolution, refuses to pay for a huge new battleship that the previous government had ordered. The battleship is instead purchased by a group of Chilean business magnates. They are embittered with the United States because of America’s economic and political policies with Chile, and they have decided to use the battleship to recoup some of their financial losses by holding part of the United States for ransom.

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