Christmas present ideas One : The Tale of the Next Great War

One of the more contemporary aspects of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was the prevalence of invasion and disaster literature as a public pastime. WH Smith made sure that railway newsstands were full of tales of the next great war, and they make fascinating reading, from stories of airships delivering biological attacks on China to worries about inflation, terrorism or alien invasion. H.G.Wells was in on the act, of course, with 'The War of the Worlds', but so was A.A.Milne, with 'The Tale of the Army Aeroplane', and Jack London, with 'The Unparalleled Invasion'.

For those interested, I can recommend I.F. Clarke's Tale of the Next Great War, which as a collection of these things is a cracking read. It's just the thing for a comfy chair as you digest Christmas dinner (although I am aware in my present near-exhausted state how many of my posts involve comfy chairs and horrible tales). You'll have to find it in a second hand bookshop though, since no link I uncovered to it actually had the book available. It's late, I can't sleep, and this is by definition a timewasting blog so what do you expect?

The one thing I would say is that these stories were just stories a hundred years or more ago, even if they played to contemporary fears. Today, they would be neoconservative foreign policy.

Reading the book--I have a copy from years ago-- was almost as much fun as being shown the pictures of Judge Nicholas Hyde and Justice Jekyll that hang in the smoking room of the Middle Temple and that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson when he was a member, a way I spent some of my life today, reader. That's him at the top of the blog. He was Lord Chief Justice of England and a suitable case therefore for traducing as a chemical nut who wandered the east end streets preying on the poor.

Anyway, here's a link ( it opens in pdf format) to the 1871 classic that kicked a forty-year obsession off after the Franco Prussian war, The Battle of Dorking. This blog is about proper time wasting, and a-wasting you should go!


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