Edwin Lester Arnold's Gulliver of Mars (Lieut. Gulliver Jones: His Vacation) was published in London in 1905. His image of Mars as a planet inhabited by ancient races on the verge of death is considered quaint by today's standards. Even school children would find the idea of Martians using canals as means of transportation funny.
However, this was a widely held view at the turn of the last century. Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910), the famous Italian astronomer, discovered what he called canali on Mars in 1860. Percival Lowell (1855-1916), the American astronomer, wrote two books about Mars and its canals (Mars and Its Canals and Mars as the Abode of Life). Lest you think these two men were crackpots, Schiaparelli catalogued 1,200 binary stars (1877-97) and discovered the relation between the orbits of comets and meteors (1866). Lowell predicted a planet had an orbit that crossed the orbital path of Neptune. The planet Pluto was discovered fifteen years after his death.
On page 13-179 of the 1953 edition of The American Peoples Encyclopedia is the following remark, "The seasonal changes in color on Mars are now quite generally conceded to be due to seasonal changes in some kind of vegetation that must be able to survive in an arid climate." At the time Arnold's view of Mars as a dying world that could support a vanishing civilization was scientific.
In Gulliver of Mars, Arnold created a tale that owes as much to the travelogue works of the early 1800s as it does to the novels and stories of Verne and Wells. Gulliver takes great pains to describe the Martian landscape and culture in detail. The Martian population Gulliver encounters is the remains of a once great civilization that is on the decline. After describing what he finds, he participates in a very Victorian adventure that is strong on description, but weak on action. The novel is also a hybrid of science fiction and fantasy, since it has a scientific basis, but uses fantastic elements, the most obvious being the magic carpet that transports Gulliver to Mars and back again. And here lies the importance of Gulliver of Mars. Historically, it serves as a transition from the romantic adventures of the 19th century and the science fiction of the early 20th century.
It is clear that Schiaparelli and Lowell put forth a vision of Mars that influenced Arnold, but did Arnold influence others? Some science fiction historians believe that the importance of Gulliver of Mars is that it influenced A Princess of Mars. Did Burroughs use Arnold as a source for his Barsoom? Some like Richard A. Lupoff believe so. I do not. Read it yourself and tell us what you think.
Gulliver of Mars stands on its own. It does not need to be compared to A Princess of Mars to be enjoyed but if you enjoy comparing various works, be my guest. Oh, by the by, if you are into the comparison game, I suggest you look at H. G. Wells' The Time Machine.
G. Edward Kymala
Editor's Note: Edwin L. Arnold wrote in what we would today consider an archaic style. Some liberties have been taken in the typesetting of the work, mainly in the correction of many hyphenated words that are no longer hyphenated in common usage. Additionally, Gulliver of Mars was published without any chapter titles, and any chapter titles given to the work are the creation of the editors. We apologize in advance for any problems these changes may cause to the reader.